Nikon D5100 vs D780
The Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D780 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2011 and January 2020. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D5100) and a full frame (D780) sensor. The D5100 has a resolution of 16.1 megapixels, whereas the D780 provides 24.3 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D780? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D780 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D780 is notably larger (35 percent) than the Nikon D5100. Moreover, the D780 is substantially heavier (50 percent) than the D5100. It is noteworthy in this context that the D780 is splash and dust-proof, while the D5100 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D780) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D5100). You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
Concerning battery life, the D5100 gets 660 shots out of its EN-EL14 battery, while the D780 can take 2260 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15b power pack. The power pack in the D780 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Nikon D5100||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
|2.||Nikon D780||144 mm||116 mm||76 mm||840 g||2260||Y||Jan 2020||2,299|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||144 mm||111 mm||75 mm||765 g||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|4.||Canon T2i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|5.||Nikon D6||160 mm||163 mm||92 mm||1270 g||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||134 mm||101 mm||70 mm||705 g||410||Y||Oct 2020||1,999|
|7.||Nikon D5600||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||465 g||970||n||Nov 2016||699|
|8.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|9.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|10.||Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|11.||Nikon D3200||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|12.||Nikon D5200||129 mm||98 mm||78 mm||555 g||500||n||Nov 2012||749|
|13.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|14.||Nikon D3100||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|15.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|16.||Sony NEX-5R||111 mm||59 mm||39 mm||276 g||330||n||Aug 2012||749|
|17.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D5100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 67 percent) than the D780, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D5100 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D780 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D780 is 131 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Technology-wise, the D780 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 6) than the D5100 (EXPEED 2), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
With 24.3MP, the D780 offers a higher resolution than the D5100 (16.1MP), but the D780 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 4.80μm for the D5100) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D780 is a much more recent model (by 8 years and 9 months) than the D5100, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D780 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D780 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.1 inches or 76.8 x 51.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 40.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 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 D780 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Nikon D5100 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D780 are ISO 100 to ISO 51200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
|2.||Nikon D780||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|5.||Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|9.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the D780 provides a better video resolution than the D5100. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the D5100 is limited to 1080/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D5100 and the D780 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 viewfinder in the D780 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D5100 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D780 has a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.51x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D5100 and Nikon D780 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||n||n|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||3690||Y||3.2||2100||tilting||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D5100 has one, while the D780 does not. While the built-in flash of the D5100 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The D5100 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the D780 does not have a selfie-screen.
The Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D780 both have 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 D5100 and the D780 write their files to SDXC cards. The D780 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D5100 only has one slot. The D780 supports UHS-II cards (on both slots), while the D5100 can use UHS-I cards.
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 D5100 and Nikon D780 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||-||Y|
It is notable that the D780 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D5100 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D780 (unlike the D5100) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
The D780 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the D5100 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D5100 was succeeded by the Nikon D5200. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D5100 better than the Nikon D780 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of 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.
- More compact: Is smaller (128x97mm vs 144x116mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 280g or 33 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (67 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in April 2011).
Advantages of the Nikon D780:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.3 vs 16.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 23%.
- Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 6 vs EXPEED 2).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.51x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- 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 (2359k vs 921k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (2260 versus 660) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.1 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports a more advanced SD data transfer standard (UHS-II vs UHS-I).
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 9 months of technical progress since the D5100 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D780 is the clear winner of the contest (27 : 7 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 when reflecting and deciding 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D780 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D5100 or the D780 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Nikon D5100||5/5||+ +||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749|
|2.||Nikon D780||5/5||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2020||2,299|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||4/5||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|4.||Canon T2i||..||+ +||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|5.||Nikon D6||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||4.5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2020||1,999|
|7.||Nikon D5600||4/5||..||79/100||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2016||699|
|8.||Nikon D5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|9.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|10.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|11.||Nikon D3200||5/5||+ +||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|12.||Nikon D5200||4/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2012||749|
|13.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|14.||Nikon D3100||5/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|15.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|16.||Sony NEX-5R||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2012||749|
|17.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Nikon D5100 vs Nikon D780
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 Model||Nikon D5100||Nikon D780|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||April 2011||January 2020|
|Launch Price||USD 749||USD 2,299|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D5100||Nikon D780|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.6 x 15.7 mm||35.9 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||370.52 mm2||858.01 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.3 mm||43.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||16.1 Megapixels||24.3 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4928 x 3264 pixels||6048 x 4024 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.80 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.34 MP/cm2||2.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 6,400 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||50 - 204,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 2||EXPEED 6|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||80||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.5||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.6||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1183||..|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D5100||Nikon D780|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||921k dots||2359k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D5100||Nikon D780|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||4 shutter flaps/s||12 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||Dual UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D5100||Nikon D780|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.1|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D5100||Nikon D780|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||660 shots per charge||2260 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
128 x 97 x 79 mm
(5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 in)
144 x 116 x 76 mm
(5.7 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||560 g (19.8 oz)||840 g (29.6 oz)|
Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.