You know you’re in a pickle when the retailer is holding 4 different DSLR cameras, with only one to go for. The story normally takes off with, “Hey sir, may I interest you in Nikon a D5100; a very versatile camera for startup photographers?”

You, on the other hand probably heard someone singing praises about the D7000, the D90 or the infamous Nikon D3100. Naturally you would be inclined to inquire about these other Nikon models that you have in mind. Guess what? The sales guy gives you a tough one by pulling out all three of them beasties from the shelves.


The way I see it, you need some help there, buddy. There are four absolutely great cameras with astonishing results, the sanctity of your trusty wallet at stake and you are at your wits’ ends. You need someone to help you make the right choice. After all, you wouldn’t want to drive all the way back to the same retailer with a sloppy apologetic smile, asking him for a refund or a replacement.

Oh, and don’t forget about the tarnished reputation that you’re gonna have… With a smile pulled straight out of toothpaste commercials these retailers may look like your best friends. But once they see a customer, who can’t decide for himself or asks too much for replacements, they pull up their defenses immediately.


Decide Now or Hold Your Peace Forever – Choosing Between Nikon D5100, D3100, D7000 or D90?

Okay, here are some basics, which need to be laid out loud, before we take off with the comparative review thingy:

  • You have a maximum of $1,000 to spend.
  • There are 4 DSLR Cameras. As much as you love them all, you are out there to buy one only:
    • Nikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
    • Nikon D90 12.3MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only)
    • Nikon D3100 14.2MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
    • Nikon D7000 16.2MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only)

·         You have no clue as to which camera is going to suit your photography ventures…

We start with the Nikon D5100; a camera known for its high quality results, a 16.2 MP lens and an admirable low light performance. What you get with this camera is a couple of nice perks. There is full HD video recording feature for you to explore. However, we all know that for a camera to generate results to its full potential, a high capacity storage medium is essential. Don’t forget to buy a cushy SD card for any camera you purchase.

Compared to the Nikon D7000 body only camera, the D5100 exhibits all frame rates that were seen in the D7000. Nikon wanted to create the latter device for enthusiasts, and yeah it was a nice way to deal with all the complaints concerning limited frame rates, ISOs and stuff like that. What people needed was a genuinely interesting digital SLR camera with features of all previous and upcoming models.

To be honest, even though the D5100 is an excellent choice for many photographers out there, you cannot say that it is “the camera”. Of course, any company wouldn’t want to release a device having features from all the upcoming and previous models – This would be completely against the company’s sales strategies, as profit from other camera model sales will start declining over the passage of time.

Anyhow, leaving all the technical bullpizzle behind, we move on to exploring what these 4 cameras, in relation to one another, are all about…

Ready, Set, GO! Nikon D5100, D7000, D90 and D3100 Mashed Up Against Each Other:

We set the Nikon D5100 body only Digital SLR Camera as our base model in this article. For readers, it would be easy to keep one camera in mind and then compare the remaining 3 against it. This helps in keeping the understanding pattern in shape, as you wouldn’t want to get lost in the story, would you?

Compared to the D3100 Nikon camera, D5100 sits a little above its predecessors, while being shy of the age old D90’s classic features. As I mentioned earlier, the D5100 has a 16.2 MP sensor/ lens or whatever you would like to call it. The device has a rate of 4 Frames per second, which attributes to some nice shooting in continuous mode.

When we circle around the D5100’s video shooting performance, the frame rate ranges from 24 Fps to 30 Fps. Moreover, the fully rotatable LCD screen on the D5100 lets you remain focused on the subject without actually making you move from your position. This helps in avoiding that highly irritating shaky shots or video recordings.

Here Comes the General Notion…

Okay, the general idea is that price tags have a lot to do with a digital camera’s features. Yes, in a way, they do have to play their role. But you can’t rely on this theory completely. What if you have a $1,000 camera and in some way, it lacks a couple of common hardware or software features, which a $500 camera is delivering successfully?

In a way, you will have to buy the $500 device because the earlier model did not have the features you were craving so much. On a different level, there might be some technical perks in the expensive models out there, but in the end, it is your sense of evaluation and requirements which matter the most. You need a device; you better judge your requirements firsthand.

However, on the contrary, a school of photographers begs to differ. Some people believe that when the cameras oversee an increase in their price, their capability from Model “Zero” to Model “Ten” relatively increases in terms of autofocus mode, frame rates, shots per second, number of buttons, sophistication in style and ease of access in the menu. This is a valid argument and holds true in many cases – even I wouldn’t disagree with it wholeheartedly.

Image Quality and Sensor Performance of Digital Cameras:

Keeping the Nikon D90 in mind, you are presented with the D5100 and D7000. The guy tells you that all of these devices have nice sensor quality. In other words, known as the camera lens’ megapixels, they don’t have a lot to do with numbers. I have personally seen outstanding Carl Zeiss lens cameras with so much as 8 MP to show for themselves.

When compared to a 12 MP camera, the one with 8 MP would be better off on generating amazing visuals. In a way, the higher number of MP does not contribute a lot to a camera’s image quality – other factors count too. But the one thing that holds true for higher megapixel range is that you can edit and crop those images easily in a photo editing program.

Both D5100 and Nikon D7000 have 16.2 megapixels, whereas the D90 has 12.3 MP and the D3100 has a 14.2 MP sensor range. When you take all 4 images, taken individually from these digital cameras, and edit them in Photoshop, the ones that came from a camera with smaller MP capacity will limit your options. You won’t be able to zoom in too much and get larger prints after you are done editing.

Exposure Metering | Comparing Nikon D3100, D7000, Nikon D5100 and the D90

Go ahead and compare the D7000 and the D5100 side by side. Both these cameras have similar sensors – so you are free to take a few shots and then analyze them later on. Here’s what makes things different a little bit – the exposure metering in Nikon D5100 and the D7000, even though they share the 420 Pixel RGB standard of the D3100, they generate different results.

Such complexities work for the kind of users who have a habit of exploring sub menu options and a variety of spot metering modes. If you are just a casual trigger happy photographer, at default settings and with body only packaging, both D5100 and D7000 won’t let you notice anything in their respective results.

But for a second there, assuming that you are a professional and your shooting demands require more exposure configuration, only the D7000 and the Nikon D90 will suit you. In fact, D7000’s exposure metering gets a +1 from my side because its performance is straightforward and works its way smoothly through tough lightening scenes. These cameras have matrix metering system, while the D5100 and the D3100 have spot metering system.

Autofocus Comparison Between Nikon D90, D5100, D7000 and D3100:

The good news is that Nikon D3100, D90 and the D5100 – they all come with 11 autofocus points. Add a slightly centered approach for accurate cross types and you will get phenomenal results. Once again, normal users like you will be better off with either one of these cameras because you are not really posing to photograph zebras, leopards and gazelles in action.

But if you are a wildlife photographer, or a sports photographer, you know that the subjects will always keep moving. You don’t want your pictures to be blurry, so the D7000 is there for you to tout out seamless, crispy and rather more accurate results. The Autofocus system in Nikon D7000 is blessed with a lot of improvements – so much so that there are 39 autofocus points in it, while 9 of them are meant for the cross types. Then there’s 3D tracking and automatic focusing mode, which kind of takes the sting off during intense shooting.

However, if you are short on budget, I would request you to buy the Nifty 50 lens and any one of the three cameras that suits your budget. We already talked about the Nifty 50 lens in one of our guides at this website – don’t forget to read it. The great thing about the Nifty 50 – 50mm DSLR camera lens is that it suits a variety of different camera models and brand names.

Which One Has the Best Controls?

Personally, I don’t think that controls matter much. Other than a few strategic button placements on certain camera models, I would never object to controls. For instance, if some camera has the “shoot” button at the left side, rather than on the right side, this would be a problem, wouldn’t it?

The controls on the D5100 and the Nikon D3100 are more of basic kind. But if you were to explore the menu options in the rear LCD, you will be able to set things your way. On the other hand, the D7000 comes with an “extensive array of buttons and controls.” All of them work the way a photographer would want to, since they are all customizable.

In this context, the D90’s controls are very much similar to the D7000. I mean, you can see the shooting mode ring right there under the dial in both of these cameras. What matters is how you are going to create your own macro shortcuts and assign custom roles to these buttons. That’s it.

Alright then… Which Camera Should I Buy?

Really? After I am done writing a 2000 word speech for you, you are still asking which camera should be bought? Look at it this way – if you have a limited budget, invest in the model that suits you the most. Save the money and invest it in buying a lens.

Take the camera home, test it out and make sure that your purchase comes with a grace period. Normally, when you order Digital Cameras from Amazon, they come with a grace period, a return and refund policies. Best of luck and have a great day.