Nikon D5100 vs Panasonic GH4
The Nikon D5100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2011 and February 2014. The D5100 is a DSLR, while the GH4 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D5100) and a Four Thirds (GH4) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 16.1 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 15.9 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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4? 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 Panasonic GH4 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 D5100 and the Panasonic GH4 are of equal size. Similarly, the two cameras are very close in terms of weight. It is noteworthy in this context that the GH4 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 will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D5100) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GH4). Mirrorless cameras, such as the GH4, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Nikon D5100||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
|2.||Panasonic GH4||133 mm||93 mm||84 mm||560 g||500||Y||Feb 2014||1,499|
|3.||Canon T2i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|4.||Nikon D5600||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||465 g||970||n||Nov 2016||699|
|5.||Nikon D5500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||470 g||820||n||Jan 2015||899|
|6.||Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|7.||Nikon D3200||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|8.||Nikon D5200||129 mm||98 mm||78 mm||555 g||500||n||Nov 2012||749|
|9.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|10.||Nikon D3100||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|11.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|12.||Olympus E-M5 II||124 mm||85 mm||45 mm||469 g||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|13.||Olympus E-M1||130 mm||94 mm||63 mm||497 g||350||Y||Sep 2013||1,399|
|14.||Panasonic GH5||139 mm||98 mm||87 mm||725 g||410||Y||Jan 2017||1,999|
|15.||Panasonic G6||122 mm||85 mm||71 mm||390 g||340||n||Apr 2013||599|
|16.||Panasonic GH3||133 mm||93 mm||82 mm||550 g||540||Y||Sep 2012||1,299|
|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.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D5100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 50 percent) than the GH4, which puts it into a different market segment. 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.
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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D5100 features an APS-C sensor and the Panasonic GH4 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GH4 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D5100 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the GH4 offers a 4:3 aspect.
With 16.1MP, the D5100 offers a slightly higher resolution than the GH4 (15.9MP), but the D5100 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.80μm versus 3.76μm for the GH4) due to its larger sensor. However, the GH4 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 10 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 pixels.
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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 are ISO 200 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.
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. Of the two cameras under review, the D5100 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the GH4 (overall score 6 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.3 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|2.||Panasonic GH4||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||23.2||12.8||791||74|
|12.||Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|13.||Olympus E-M1||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|14.||Panasonic GH5||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/60p||23.9||13.0||807||77|
|15.||Panasonic G6||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||21.3||11.5||639||61|
|16.||Panasonic GH3||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||22.7||12.4||812||71|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the GH4 provides a better video resolution than the D5100. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the GH4 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k dots), while the D5100 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinder in the GH4 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 GH4 has a higher magnification (0.67x 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 D5100 and Panasonic GH4 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|1.||Nikon D5100||optical||n||3.0 / 921||swivel||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n|
|2.||Panasonic GH4||2359||n||3.0 / 1036||swivel||Y||1/8000s||12.0||Y||n|
|3.||Canon T2i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n|
|4.||Nikon D5600||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|5.||Nikon D5500||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|6.||Nikon D5300||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||n||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|7.||Nikon D3200||optical||n||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n|
|8.||Nikon D5200||optical||n||3.0 / 921||swivel||n||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|9.||Nikon D7000||optical||Y||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||Y||n|
|10.||Nikon D3100||optical||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n|
|11.||Nikon D5000||optical||n||2.7 / 230||full-flex||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n|
|12.||Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|13.||Olympus E-M1||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|14.||Panasonic GH5||3680||n||3.2 / 1620||swivel||Y||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
|15.||Panasonic G6||1440||n||3.0 / 1036||swivel||Y||1/4000s||7.0||Y||n|
|16.||Panasonic GH3||1746||n||3.0 / 614||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n|
|17.||Sony NEX-5N||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The GH4 has a touchscreen, while the D5100 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the GH4 is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Nikon D5100 and the Panasonic GH4 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 GH4 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.
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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Nikon D5100||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Panasonic GH4||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|3.||Canon T2i||Y||stereo / -||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Nikon D5600||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|5.||Nikon D5500||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|6.||Nikon D5300||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Nikon D3200||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Nikon D5200||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Nikon D7000||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Nikon D3100||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Nikon D5000||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|13.||Olympus E-M1||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|14.||Panasonic GH5||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||full||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|15.||Panasonic G6||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|16.||Panasonic GH3||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|17.||Sony NEX-5N||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the GH4 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 Panasonic GH4 (unlike the D5100) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D5100 and the GH4 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D5100 was replaced by the Nikon D5200, while the GH4 was followed by the Panasonic GH5. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Panasonic websites.
So how do things add up? Is the Nikon D5100 better than the Panasonic GH4 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D5100:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (660 versus 500) on a single battery charge.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (50 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in April 2011).
Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4:
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- 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 (0.67x vs 0.51x).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1036k 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.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 10 months of technical progress since the D5100 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the GH4 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 7 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape 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 Panasonic GH4 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D5100 and the GH4 in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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.||Panasonic GH4||5/5||+ +||..||85/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||1,499|
|3.||Canon T2i||..||+ +||..||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|4.||Nikon D5600||4/5||..||4/5||79/100||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2016||699|
|5.||Nikon D5500||5/5||+||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899|
|6.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|7.||Nikon D3200||5/5||+ +||..||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|8.||Nikon D5200||4/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2012||749|
|9.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|10.||Nikon D3100||5/5||+ +||..||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|11.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|12.||Olympus E-M5 II||5/5||+ +||4.5/5||81/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|13.||Olympus E-M1||5/5||+ +||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||1,399|
|14.||Panasonic GH5||4.5/5||+ +||..||85/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2017||1,999|
|15.||Panasonic G6||4/5||+ +||..||..||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||599|
|16.||Panasonic GH3||5/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||1,299|
|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.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
- Canon 2000D vs Panasonic GH4
- Canon 30D vs Panasonic GH4
- Canon R5 vs Nikon D5100
- Canon S120 vs Panasonic GH4
- Canon T1i vs Nikon D5100
- Leica Q Typ 116 vs Panasonic GH4
- Nikon D3S vs Panasonic GH4
- Nikon D5100 vs Olympus E-1
- Nikon D5100 vs Panasonic G2
- Nikon D5100 vs Panasonic G6
- Nikon D5100 vs Sony A3000
- Nikon D610 vs Panasonic GH4
Specifications: Nikon D5100 vs Panasonic GH4
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||Panasonic GH4|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||April 2011||February 2014|
|Launch Price||USD 749||USD 1,499|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D5100||Panasonic GH4|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.6 x 15.7 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||370.52 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.3 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||16.1 Megapixels||15.9 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4928 x 3264 pixels||4608 x 3456 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.80 μm||3.76 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.34 MP/cm2||7.08 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 6,400 ISO||200 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 2||Venus IX|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||80||74|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.5||23.2|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.6||12.8|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1183||791|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D5100||Panasonic GH4|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||921k dots||1036k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Swivel screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D5100||Panasonic GH4|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-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|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/8000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||Built-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 D5100||Panasonic GH4|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D5100||Panasonic GH4|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||660 shots per charge||500 shots per charge|
128 x 97 x 79 mm
(5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 in)
133 x 93 x 84 mm
(5.2 x 3.7 x 3.3 in)
|Camera Weight||560 g (19.8 oz)||560 g (19.8 oz)|
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