When DSLRs are this small, do you really need a compact system camera? We put the diminutive Nikon D5100 through its paces in our comprehensive AP test

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Nikon D5100

AWB Colour:
LCD viewfinder:
Dynamic Range:


Nikon D5100 review


Price as reviewed:


Noise, Resolution and Sensitivity

Image: The camera handles noise very well, even in extreme low-light situations such as this. Taken at 1/50sec at f/4.5, ISO 6400

The combination of this image sensor and processor has already produced impressive results in terms of noise and resolution in the D7000, so expectations are high. On the detail front the results don’t disappoint, reaching 28 on our chart from the raw file, although the JPEG shows that little sharpening is added to the standard file with a maximum of 24.

As the sensitivity increases, the detail is impressively maintained, and even at ISO 1600 the raw file still reaches 26 on our chart, while the JPEG file gives a respectable 22. At the extended Hi2 setting (ISO 25,600 equivalent), despite signs of noise, detail still reaches 22 from the raw file and 20 from the JPEG.

Even at the highest sensitivities the noise levels in the files remain monochromic and unobtrusive. Although signs of luminance noise start to creep in from ISO 800, it merely adds texture to the image, much like film grain. Even images shot at ISO 6400 look crisp and bright, despite the fact that at 100% noise is visible and fine detail is slightly lacking. These results match what we have seen from the D7000 and prove that the D5100 is just as capable of delivering image quality even when using the standard kit lens. With a premium prime lens added, these results would be expected to be even higher.

Resolution charts: These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the 18-55mm VR kit lens. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and Handling
  4. 4. White balance and Colour
  5. 5. Metering
  6. 6. Autofocus
  7. 7. Noise, Resolution and Sensitivity
  8. 8. Dynamic range
  9. 9. Viewfinder, LCD, Live View and Video
  10. 10. Our verdict
  11. 11. The competition
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