While I did not go to the official launch of the D5100, my first thoughts are similar to those I had when I was at the D5000 launch event. That too me was a camera that could both help and hinder its target audience. Let me explain.
Aimed at the person who is beyond or bypasses the entry level models capabilities and price, the D5100 is going to appeal because of its improved and very extensive feature set.
While it shares the ‘point and shoot’ options of say the D3100, some of its ‘on paper’ aspects also make it better specified than more expensive models. It has enough that people can grow into the more advanced features, and they should rightly feel that they are getting a lot of camera for their outlay.
People enjoy the courses that we host, and their aim is getting the best from their photography, often that is about having a fundamental understanding and instinct for what I term ‘the craft’. With us driving the technology not visa versa. It works, it is reliable, and very fullfilling. Far more so than when any camera is used to brilliant effect on auto or similar settings, but you dont know what it has done, and more importantly how it has done it, in order to reproduce the effect.
And the danger with cameras of virtually all types in recent decades, has simply to pack more and more in, with more to wade through and learn about buttons and menus. There certainly is a lot here in the D5100, maybe too much?
Does that make you a better photographer? No, it simply means you have a camera with lots of features. So any D5100 user I suspect will to progress have to learn a little of the craft ,and that will probably mean ‘less is more’ in terms of the features they use. But that is the beauty as it is a camera that lets you ‘grow’ as a photographer.
But before anyone miss understands me, good technology (and it has never been better in many cases) is a valuable tool, and the D5100 punches above its weight in the market place. So, anyone looking at owning one will have great potential at their finger tips. The trick is going to be in avoiding the bits the user is not ready for yet, learn some craft as you go, then bit-by-bit, bring the rest into play when it is understood an appreciated. If it is needed of course.
That as a plan is the only way to get the best from any modern camera unless you are very experienced at using the various features for real already. If, on the other hand, you just use the more automated aspects and do not go beyond, you have simply payed over the odds, as similar can probably be had in a cheaper priced body.
Another purchaser may be the advanced enthusiast who normally uses top end equipment, and certainly the pro, in need of a more serious ‘compact’ camera for pleasure and leasure. I am looking forward therefore to having a chance to use this camera, as it is on paper at least, it has many useful ‘pro’ features in the menus that are found on the pro Nikon bodies.
And in some instances it has things most other models do not in the current Nikon D SLR line-up. For example, the variable angle LCD. I speak to a lot of serious photographers and at best, some do not mind it not being on their current camera as they get by. But many like myself, do see its benefits. Nikon have been slow extending this up the range. On this camera it may well be people use the optical finder less and the LCD more for focus and composition. There are also some interesting additions to the ‘retouch’ capabilities in camera.
If the menu system is logical, or can at least be simplified, the external controls uncluttered, plus a decent size and tactile feel, then the D5100 should for all its packed in potential, be user friendly to handle no matter your starting point.
Otherwise all those features could just be more a hinderance more than a help. This is something sadly I think we see on some models across numerous brands.
The announcement of the ME-1 microphone is also a clear indication of just how important Nikon see the video aspects of cameras going forward for them. So this is a sensible move. And with the sensor having the resolution of the D7000, it shows Nikon are moving away from the 12mp resolution, that has been used as a backbone for the last few years on so many models.