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Nikon D3100 versus Nikon D5600

The Nikon D3100 and the Nikon D5600 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2010 and November 2016. 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 D5600 provides 24 MP.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3100 and the Nikon D5600 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D3100 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Nikon D3100 vs Nikon D5600 front
D3100 versus D5600 top view
D3100 and D5600 rear side
Body view (D3100 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D5600 is somewhat larger (1 percent) than the Nikon D3100. However, the D5600 is slightly lighter (8 percent) than the D3100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3100 nor the D5600 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
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt) 124 mm 96 mm 75 mm 505 g 550 no 2010 599discont. check
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft) 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 465 g 970 no 2016 699 latest check
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 445 g 1200 no 2016 499 latest check
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 420 g 820 no 2015 899discont. check
Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 430 g 700 no 2014 499discont. check
Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 125 mm 96 mm 77 mm 505 g 540 no 2012 599discont. check
Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 98 mm 78 mm 555 g 500 no 2012 749discont. check
Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 128 mm 97 mm 79 mm 560 g 660 no 2011 749discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 YES 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 no 2009 599discont. check
Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 no 2009 749discont. check
Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 115 mm 84 mm 47 mm 336 g .. no 2011 599discont. check
Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 90 mm 76 mm 442 g 330 no 2010 1,499discont. 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 14 percent) than the D5600, 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.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units 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 are more costly to manufacture and tent to 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 D5600 is 3 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.

Nikon D3100 and Nikon D5600 sensor measures
Sensor size

With 24MP, the D5600 offers a higher resolution than the D3100 (14.2MP), but the D5600 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 5.01μm for the D3100). Yet, the D5600 is a much more recent model (by 6 years and 2 months) than the D3100, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D5600 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

D3100 versus D5600 MP
Sensor resolution

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 D5600 offers substantially better image quality than the D3100 (overall score 17 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 2.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt) APS-C 14.2 4608 3072 1080/24p 22.5 11.3 919 67
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.1 14.0 1306 84
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 13.9 1192 86
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.1 14.0 1438 84
Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.3 12.8 1385 82
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 D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 1080/30p 23.5 13.6 1183 80
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 cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the D5600 provides a faster frame rate than the D3100. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the D3100 is limited to 1080/24p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3100 and the D5600 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D3100 and Nikon D5600 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt) optical no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 YES no
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft) optical no 3.2 1037 swivel YES 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 5.0 7 no
Nikon D5500 (⇒ 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 D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 4.0 YES no
Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 swivel no 4000 5.0 YES no
Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 swivel no 4000 4.0 YES 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 YES no
Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 230 full-flex no 4000 4.0 YES 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

The D5600 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D3100 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on ebay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D3100 was succeeded by the Nikon D3200.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D3100 better than the Nikon D5600 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Nikon D3100:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (14 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2010).

Reasons to prefer the Nikon D5600:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 14.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 30%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (17 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p vs 1080/24p).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 230k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (970 versus 550) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D3100 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D5600 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features.

D3100 03:14 D5600

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D3100 or the D5600. 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 why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt) 84/100 HiRec 72/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 599discont. check
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft) - 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4/5 2016 699 latest check
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 76/100 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 499 latest check
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 899discont. check
Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 77/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2014 499discont. check
Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 73/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 599discont. check
Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 749discont. check
Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 HiRec 76/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2011 749discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 80/100 Rec 72/100 HiRec 4/5 3.5/5 4.5/5 2009 599discont. check
Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec 75/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 749discont. check
Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec 75/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2011 599discont. check
Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2010 1,499discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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