Need help choosing between Nikon 5100 and 7000
March 19, 2012 8:50 PM   Subscribe

I have a Nikon D50. I am looking for an upgrade and am having a hard time choosing between D5100 and D7000. Would love to have your recommendation. Details inside.

I have been using a Nikon D50 for 6-7 years. I do like it; But I think it is time to move on.

I was in a photographic plateau for the last couple of years. But I took some classes on photography in the local community college late last year and was surprisingly motivated by that experience (and my class). So ..I have started doing interesting things with photography again. I have discovered quickly that high ISO performance of D50 kind of sucks compared to what my classmates were getting out of their cameras (and obviously there is a lot of other flexibility that you get with a current generation Nikon).

Shortlisting down to D5100 and D7000 was easy (based on what I want to pay and what I am looking for). But choosing one over the other has been difficult

The price point difference is significant for me. But with the D7000 I can continue to use my pre-DSLR glasses from my N60 days (the 50mm 1.8 which is a great portrait lens on the DSLR and the 24 mm 2.8, which is an ok general purpose lens for walking around - for when I dont want to carry the 18-200mm).

The remarks on the photography forums seem to suggest that D7000 is a better camera with lots of manual functionality one can grow to like. I like D5100 for the price and the weight, but the reviews of D5100 suggested that you have to drill down far more into menu options to focus manually with D5100.

The other consideration is that there'll apparently be a refresh of the D7000 line in August 2012. I certainly dont want to wait till August, but the D5100 is a relatively recent camera. Will it age better?

I would very much appreciate getting opinions/advise of any one who is using one of these cameras or have gone through the same purchase decision agony!
posted by justlooking to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No real experience with Nikon cameras but recently did a DSLR upgrade myself. Having a look at both at BHphotovideo, they both use an F mount for the lens and are both APS-C cameras so there is NO reason you cannot use your existing lenses for both (providing they are F-mounts)

Essentially you're trying to decide if you need pro-level features. The d5100 can do full manual mode just as easily as the d7000. They both use the same sensor so I would guess that image quality is going to be very similar.

Advice I heard that made a lot of sense to me is that glass is an investment, buy lenses that are high-quality and they will last you your lifetime. The camera body is an expense that will be obsolete at some point like every other electronic gadget... I decided to buy the just as capable lower model and put the savings towards a premium lens... I'm REALLY happy with my decision.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 10:48 PM on March 19, 2012

No real experience with Nikon cameras but recently did a DSLR upgrade myself. Having a look at both at BHphotovideo, they both use an F mount for the lens and are both APS-C cameras so there is NO reason you cannot use your existing lenses for both (providing they are F-mounts)

I don't know much about the newer Nikons (I'm considering upgrading my D50 myself actually), but this is not true. All Nikon cameras use F mount, but some models (including the D50) have a lens motor in the camera body in order to autofocus lenses that don't have the AF-S feature. Without this motor you have to use manual focus with these lenses (such as the ubiquitous 50mm f/1.8). The lower-end Nikon bodies tend to omit the motor because a) it saves cost and space, and b) most modern Nikon lenses are AF-S, or at least the expensive ones that Nikon wants to sell you do.

Fortunately, it's easy to tell which body is which by looking for the motor coupling (it's a screwdriver-shaped thing at about 7 o'clock). It looks like the D7000 has it and the D5100 does not, as the OP alludes to.
posted by neckro23 at 11:07 PM on March 19, 2012

I stand corrected, good catch

In that case, I'd still recommend getting the d5100 and putting the money towards some new glass!
posted by Beacon Inbound at 11:36 PM on March 19, 2012

If you have the budget for the D7k, go for it. Great sensor and AF, and the handling is pretty good. You sound quite serious about the photography, the D7k will definitely be a tool that will serve you well into the future.
posted by TrinsicWS at 2:27 AM on March 20, 2012

Best answer: Buy the D5100 and replace your two primes with newer versions that will AF on it.

It will cost close to the same as the D7000 and you will future-proof your lenses. Nikon's been replacing all their older screw-driven lenses with newer 'G' type lenses with built-in AF motors and phasing out the motor drive in all their camera bodies. I won't be surprised if the D7000 replacement ditches the motor drive as well.

While the D7000 has more features, you will have more than enough control with the d5100 to do anything you want at this point. Most DSLR's are being replaced by new models every 18 months, so it's worth buying the features you know you need, and not buying for features you don't know if you need yet. When you hit a point where you outgrow the camera, the replacement for the replacement will be out anyway.

Note: While you can manual focus your older those lenses on the D5100, it will one more thing you'll be struggling with while trying to get the shot. It will not be fun and you will have a lot of trouble getting focus right (especially on a smaller crop-sized viewfinder).
posted by volition at 2:45 AM on March 20, 2012

Best answer: It's possible to worry too much about future-proofing the DSLR. The D80/D90/D7000 category has historically been on a two-year upgrade cycle, and yes, the two-year anniversary is coming up this summer. Even so, you can still find the D90 for sale in some places (it's still on Nikon's website!) even though it's the D7000's immediate predecessor. What happens is that the price of the camera drops slowly over the life of the camera. So yes, if you get a D7000 now, it'll quite likely be superseded by the D7100 or whatever else replaces it later this year. But that D7100 may cost more then than the D7000 does now, and the D7000 will continue to be on sale for some time afterward.

The fact that you have non-AF-S glass strongly suggests that you should get a digital SLR with autofocus motors. It's not just the matter of being able to autofocus your older lenses. The fact is, the D3100 and D5100 and their ilk are very much entry level cameras: anything else is overkill for anyone buying their first digital SLR. Compared to a D50 their controls will be more menu-based and more simplified, and that's something you may find frustrating, even if you're willing to autofocus your old primes.

I'd suggest going to a brick-and-mortar camera store and trying the two cameras out to see for yourself. I suspect that with your background, you'll find the D5100 too limiting.
posted by mcwetboy at 3:56 AM on March 20, 2012

Best answer: Go to the store and try them. They're both really common and you shouldn't have any problem getting your hands on them. I think my local Best Buy even carries both models.

I own a D5100 and a quite like it. It has the identical sensor as the D7000, so the ISO, etc will be the same between the cameras.

I have use an older 50mm lens on it that needed to be manually focussed. I took some really beautiful event photos and candid portraits with it, didn't really find it that troublesome. I'm not sure what is meant by having to "drill down far more into menu options". Just grab the ring and turn. You might have a different opinion of how manually focussing effects your work. Again, get your hands on them.

For me personally there are only three features I'd like to have the D7000. 1) Faster sustained frame rate. I think it's 3 FPS vs 6. That would be handy for some photos I take. 2) Aluminum body. I've bashed my D5100 around a bit and it has held up fine. It's simply a matter of feeling a little floaty when I pick it up. 3) Twin SD card slots. Mostly because I keep taking one out and forgetting to put a new one in.

But for me these things were no where near the price difference and allowed me to add a really great lens to my collection.

Remember you lenses are going to last a lot longer than your body. Put most of your money there.
posted by Ookseer at 7:44 AM on March 20, 2012

Best answer: I was in your shoes not long ago and had my own ask.mefi post.

I too had a tight budget and plenty of older Nikon lenses that were still in great shape. I decided on the D7K and waited until my budget was at the point where I could buy both the body and a prime lens at once. At no point have I regretted the decision or fretted over having made the correct one. The camera was a little too advanced for where I was as a photog, but I've gotten light years better since then and the camera is still ahead of me. The 'weathering' that comes with the D7K is something I've already put to the test in my mountain town and I don't think it was brought up in preceding posts.

They are both great camera's; I think it boils down to what others have already said: Do you care about autofocus with your existing lenses, weathering, menu layout, etc.

Good Luck : )
posted by MansRiot at 8:15 AM on March 20, 2012

Neither. Get a full frame body or stick with what you have til you can afford one, second hand if necessary. It's not about the megapixels, its about the physical sensor size, and it's important.
posted by w0mbat at 8:17 AM on March 20, 2012

More megapixels even on an APS-C-sized sensor means more flexibility cropping if I understand correctly. Your tight crop on your D50 files is going to lead to a lower pixel count in the region you actually need than the same crop from a newer body.
posted by galaksit at 9:17 AM on March 20, 2012

... that was a response to it being irrelevant to worry about upgrades until you can afford a full-size sensor body (FX rather than DX).
posted by galaksit at 9:18 AM on March 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you very much for your responses. I think I am inclined to go with D7000 at this point.

Although, as Volition, Oakseer etc noted, there are very legitimate arguments for choosing the d5100; among other things, I would have had more than enough money left to buy newer version lenses. But D7000 just seems like a better buy (I may not be able to check out a D7000 locally; the supply of D7000s have slowed down quite a bit. But I'll certainly look for them.)

Incidentally Trinsicws - the sensor is actually the same in both cameras. The D7000 has more focus points and more ways to meter. But the differences are really mostly about flexibility, construction and ease of use (although lightness - for D5100- also contributes to ease of use).

Thanks a ton for all your help!
posted by justlooking at 10:05 AM on March 20, 2012

Cropping is for the weak. Frame the picture correctly in the first place.
posted by w0mbat at 11:06 AM on March 20, 2012

No, cropping is for the creative.
posted by galaksit at 11:32 AM on March 20, 2012

Although if you are a habitual cropper, that's another reason to get a full-sized sensor, so at least you start off with more photons.
posted by w0mbat at 3:34 PM on March 20, 2012

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