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Nikon D3200 vs D5100

The Nikon D3200 and the Nikon D5100 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2012 and April 2011. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The D3200 has a resolution of 24.1 megapixels, whereas the D5100 provides 16.1 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D3200 versus Nikon D5100
Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
24.1 MP, APS-C Sensor 16.1 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 100-6,400 (100 - 12,800) ISO 100-6,400 (100 - 25,600)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 921k dots 3.0 LCD, 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 4 shutter flaps per second
540 shots per battery charge660 shots per battery charge
125 x 96 x 77 mm, 505 g 128 x 97 x 79 mm, 560 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3200 and the Nikon D5100? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3200 and the Nikon D5100 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The D3200 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the D5100 is only available in black.

Size Nikon D3200 vs Nikon D5100
Compare D3200 versus D5100 top
Comparison D3200 or D5100 rear

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 (3 percent) than the Nikon D3200. Moreover, the D5100 is markedly heavier (11 percent) than the D3200. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3200 nor the D5100 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 compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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 camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D3200 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 540 n Apr 2012 599i
 
Nikon D5100 5.0 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.8 oz 660 n Apr 2011 749i
 
Nikon D5600 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 16.4 oz 970 n Nov 2016 699 i
 
Nikon D3400 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499i
 
Nikon D5500 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 14.8 oz 820 n Jan 2015 899i
 
Nikon D3300 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.2 oz 700 n Jan 2014 499i
 
Nikon D5300 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 16.9 oz 600 n Oct 2013 799i
 
Nikon D5200 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 500 n Nov 2012 749i
 
Nikon D3100 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 550 n Aug 2010 599i
 
Nikon D3000 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 n Jul 2009 599i
 
Nikon D5000 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749i
 
Sony A58 5.1 in 3.7 in 3.1 in 17.4 oz 690 n Feb 2013 599i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D3200 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 20 percent) than the D5100, 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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the 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 D5100 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.

In terms of chip-set technology, the D3200 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 3) than the D5100 (EXPEED 2), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Nikon D3200 and Nikon D5100 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the Nikon D3200 offers a higher resolution of 24.1 megapixels, compared with 16.1 MP of the Nikon D5100. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.85μm versus 4.80μm for the D5100). However, it should be noted that the D3200 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the D5100, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3200 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3200 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.1 x 20 inches or 76.4 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.1 x 16 inches or 61.1 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.1 x 13.3 inches or 50.9 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D5100 are 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.6 x 41.5 cm for good quality, 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.2 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.6 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D3200 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D5100 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.

D3200 versus D5100 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Nikon D3200 APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/30p24.113.2113181
 
Nikon D5100 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380
 
Nikon D5600 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0130684
 
Nikon D3400 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286
 
Nikon D5500 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0143884
 
Nikon D3300 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.8138582
 
Nikon D5300 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.9133883
 
Nikon D5200 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60i24.213.9128484
 
Nikon D3100 APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.391967
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.156362
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
 
Sony A58 APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.312.575374

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/30p).

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3200 and the D5100 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the D3200 has a higher magnification than the one of the D5100 (0.53x vs 0.51x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D3200 and Nikon D5100 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Nikon D3200optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5100optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5600optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3400optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5500optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3300optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5300optical n 3.2 1037 swivel n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5200optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3100optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3000optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Sony A581440 n 2.7 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.0 Y Y
The D5100 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the D3200 does not have a selfie-screen.

The Nikon D5100 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D3200 and the D5100 write their files to SDXC cards. Both cameras can use UHS-I cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D3200 and Nikon D5100 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Nikon D3200YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D5100YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D5600YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYY
 
Nikon D3400Ymonomono--mini2.0--Y
 
Nikon D5500YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--
 
Nikon D3300YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D5300YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--
 
Nikon D5200YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3100Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3000Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony A58YstereomonoY-mini2.0---

Both the D3200 and the D5100 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D5100 was replaced by the Nikon D5200, while the D3200 was followed by the Nikon D3300. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3200 and the Nikon D5100? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Nikon D3200:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.1 vs 16.1MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 3 vs EXPEED 2).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.51x).
  • 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 modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year after the D5100).


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D5100:

  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (660 versus 540) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in April 2011).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D3200 comes out slightly ahead of the D5100 (6 : 5 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 before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

D3200 06:05 D5100

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3200 and the Nikon D5100 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3200 and the D5100 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D3200+ +73/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 599i
 
Nikon D5100+ +76/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749i
 
Nikon D5600..79/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Nov 2016 699 i
 
Nikon D3400+76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499i
 
Nikon D5500+79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jan 2015 899i
 
Nikon D3300+77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2014 499i
 
Nikon D5300+ +79/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 799i
 
Nikon D5200+ +79/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2012 749i
 
Nikon D3100+ +72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599i
 
Nikon D3000+72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599i
 
Nikon D5000+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749i
 
Sony A58....4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 599i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Nikon D3200:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D5100:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? 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. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Nikon D3200 vs Nikon D5100

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date April 2012 April 2011
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 749
    Sensor Specs Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.2 x 15.4 mm 23.6 x 15.7 mm
    Sensor Area 357.28 mm2 370.52 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 27.8 mm 28.3 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 24.1 Megapixels 16.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6016 x 4000 pixels 4928 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 3.85 μm 4.80 μm
    Pixel Density 6.74 MP/cm2 4.34 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 12,800 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED 3 EXPEED 2
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 81 80
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 24.1 23.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 13.2 13.6
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1131 1183
    Screen Specs Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x 0.51x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 921k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Swivel screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 4 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy100 000 actuations100 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port External MIC port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100
    Battery Type EN-EL14 EN-EL14
    Battery Life (CIPA)540 shots per charge660 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 125 x 96 x 77 mm
    (4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
    128 x 97 x 79 mm
    (5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 505 g (17.8 oz) 560 g (19.8 oz)

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