Nikon D3100 versus Nikon D5100
The Nikon D3100 and the Nikon D5100 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2010 and April 2011. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The D3100 has a resolution of 14.2 megapixel, whereas the D5200 provides 16.1 MP.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3100 and the Nikon D5100 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D3100 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D5100 is somewhat larger (4 percent) than the Nikon D3100. Moreover, the D5200 is markedly heavier (11 percent) than the D3100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3100 nor the D5200 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt)||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||no||2010||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft)||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||no||2011||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||445 g||1200||no||2016||499||latest||check|
|Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||465 g||970||no||2016||699||latest||check|
|Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||430 g||700||no||2014||499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||no||2013||799||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||no||2012||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||129 mm||98 mm||78 mm||555 g||500||no||2012||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||YES||2010||1,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||no||2009||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||no||2009||749||discont.||check|
|Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||115 mm||84 mm||47 mm||336 g||..||no||2011||599||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||90 mm||76 mm||442 g||330||no||2010||1,499||discont.||check|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3100 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 20 percent) than the D5200, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the D5200 is 4 percent bigger. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 16.1MP, the D5200 offers a higher resolution than the D3100 (14.2MP), but the D5200 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.80μm versus 5.01μm for the D3100). Yet, the D5200 is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 months) than the D3100, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D5200 offers substantially better image quality than the D3100 (overall score 13 points higher). The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 2.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt)||APS-C||14.2||4608||3072||1080/24p||22.5||11.3||919||67|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft)||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||23.5||13.6||1183||80|
|Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||13.9||1192||86|
|Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.1||14.0||1306||84|
|Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.3||12.8||1385||82|
|Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.0||13.9||1338||83|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.1||6016||4000||1080/30p||24.1||13.2||1131||81|
|Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60i||24.2||13.9||1284||84|
|Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||10800/24p||23.5||13.9||1167||80|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||no||22.3||11.1||563||62|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||720/24p||22.7||12.5||868||72|
|Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60i||21||10.6||667||56|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||21.2||11.3||655||60|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the D5200 provides a faster frame rate than the D3100. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/30p, while the D3100 is limited to 1080/24p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3100 and the D5200 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D3100, the Nikon D5100, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt)||optical||no||3.0||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||12||no|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft)||optical||no||3.0||921||swivel||no||4000||4.0||12||no|
|Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||5.0||7||no|
|Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.2||1037||swivel||YES||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.2||1037||swivel||no||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||4.0||12||no|
|Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||swivel||no||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||921||fixed||no||8000||6.0||12||no|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||12||no|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.7||230||full-flex||no||4000||4.0||17||no|
|Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1440||no||3.0||460||swivel||YES||4000||4.0||11||no|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1534||no||3.0||460||swivel||no||4000||3.0||15.6||no|
Both the D3100 and the D5200 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D3100 was replaced by the Nikon D3200, while the D5200 was followed by the Nikon D5200.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3100 or the Nikon D5100 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3100:
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 55g or 10 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (20 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2010).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D5100:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (16.1 vs 14.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 7%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.3 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/30p vs 1080/24p).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (660 versus 550) out of a single battery charge.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (7 months) more recently.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D5200 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D3100 or the D5200. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt)||84/100 HiRec||72/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2010||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft)||86/100 HiRec||76/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2011||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2016||499||latest||check|
|Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||79/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||2016||699||latest||check|
|Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||77/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2014||499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||79/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2013||799||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||73/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||79/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||80/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2010||1,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||80/100 Rec||72/100 HiRec||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||2009||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100 HiRec||75/100 HiRec||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||2009||749||discont.||check|
|Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100 HiRec||75/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2011||599||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||86/100 HiRec||79/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2010||1,499||discont.||check|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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