Monthly Archives: April 2011

Hands on Impressions of the Nikon D 5100


I had the distinct pleasure of being one of the photographers shooting for the Nikon D5100 brochure produced by Nikon, Japan. As such, I got to play extensively with prototype versions of this new camera.

Note please that the headline said “impressions” pieces and not “review.” Why? Because I’m not technically adept enough to do reviews….but I do get hired to make pictures now and then with new gear:-), so I can at least give you my impressions of working with the gear, albeit prototype gear.

It’s hard to really do an exhaustive review when the firmware of the prototypes is getting upgraded in increments every hour of every day you’re trying to shoot with them. That’s one of the distinct, um, pleasures of shooting material for a camera before it’s officially finished, er, I mean released.

If you are the type of shooter who wants a big brick of a “pro” camera that weighs a ton and can drive nails, you can stop reading.

If you crave high performance, light weight, and affordability, you are going to be a happy camper. 

Image quality looks damn similar to the D7000, which is to say great. But I what I really really love about this camera is the small size AND the articulating screen. It wasn’t until I started using it that I discovered how useful it can be, and for shooting video, that screen is a joy. It makes doing floor level shots, flying a camera on a stabilizer, and doing hail mary angles—-useful for stills but absolutely necessary for video—easy as pie.

The added option of 1080p 30fps is welcome (but 60fps, for smooth slo-mo, would be even more welcome…I’m sure it’s coming in the next pro body release). They give you a mic jack too, so you can use your auxiliary mics with this baby and get usable sound.

The special effects menu—miniature effect (tilt and shift look), selective color, in camera HDR (the camera takes two frames and blends them), and color sketch effect —are a lot of fun, but for me, it’s only the miniature effect and the HDR that are of really interest. 


You have to double check me on this (again, I was working on prototypes) but I’m 90% sure that there’a built in intervalometer on the D5100, which makes it an awesome time-lapse shooting machine. 

Nikon continues to put more and more great innovations in their new consumer cam releases that you wish, you pray, would be available for older, higher end models. Would I like 30fps option for my D7000? Oh yeah.  The miniature effect? You bet. But I don’t think they’re going to issue firmware upgrades to do this retroactively. It’s the nature of camera marketing.

The D5100 uses the same small battery (EN-EL 14) as the D3100 family, so that means carrying an extra charger and carrying a second type of battery and charger (takes up just that much more space).

There wasn’t any time during my two weeks working with this camera that I felt like throwing it against a wall or tossing it into the Pacific…that’s high praise from me! The smaller lighter body is something I got used to very quickly and it’s going to make it easy to use a smaller stabilizer or steadicam to “fly” the camera. That’s a good thing, because you’d be surprised at how tired your arm can get working with a stabilizer.

In fact, after working with them for that long, my D7000s felt big and chunky in comparison when I got back.

So I’ve got one on order to be my third body (“two and a spare” is the way I’ve been traveling with cameras since…well since a long time ago). But I have to tell you, the D7000 better watch out, because the new kid in town is pretty damn cool!

You check the camera and brochure out here.  It was more kids and animals than I’ve shot in a long time….and you know what they say about working with kids and animals! They say it ‘cuz it’s true:-).


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The Nikon Coolpix P 300


On this last trip, I had an opportunity to carry the new Nikon Coolpix P300 and put it through its paces. A truly pocketable, high quality compact camera has been a dream of mine for some time now, and while I’m not ready to say my dream has come true, it’s gotten a lot closer.

I’ll post the specs at the end of this entry, but everyone wants to know how it stacks up against the closest competitor, the Canon S95.  The answer, in short, is pretty well.

Let’s look at the Nikon’s shortcomings first.  The Canon still has a larger sensor, it shoots RAW, and it has a more robust set of effects, and of course, Canon is very good about making waterproof cases for seemingly every compact it puts out.

The P 300 has a wider lens (24mm vs. 28), it’s faster (f/1.8 at the wide end vs. f/2), higher res video (1080p 30fps vs. 720 at 24fps). The P300 allows you to zoom while shooting video (nice!), locks the autoexposure down the minute you do video (about time!). The P300 also has a cool 120 fps mode for slow-mo, albeit only in VGA resolution.

The Nikon is about $75 cheaper, give or take.

Size-wise, it’s close. I haven’t shot the S95 but the P300 handled well and I’m pleased with it (I loved the P 7000 too, but it’s a brick and cannot be classified as “pocketable”). Do I miss RAW? Kinda, but this is a grab shot camera and it’s not a deal breaker for me.

Here’s the deal, though. With smartphones and all their apps absolutely kicking the asses of compact camera sales, one wonders why camera manufacturers are not pulling out all the stops to load as much stuff into these compacts as possible to make sure they can compete? Not with other compact cameras, but with smartphones!

Why not put an interval timer in a camera like this, so we can shoot timelapses? That’s one feature that smartphones don’t allow, and it’s a big deal.  Why not offer in camera HDR?  C’mon. The time to pull punches in this competitive market is over.

So while the P300 may not be a total homerun, it’s a good stand-up triple, and that’s earned it a pouch on my belt!

Here’s the specs:


4 / 5

Supplied Accessories

  • Camera Strap AN-CP19
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12
  • Charging AC Adapter EH-69P
  • UC-E6 USB Cable
  • Audio Video Cable EG-CP16
  • Nikon ViewNX 2 Software CD


  • Type
    Compact Digital Camera 
  • Effective Pixels
    12.2 million 
  • Image Sensor
  • Sensor Size
    1/2.3 in. 
  • Total Pixels
    12.75 million (approx.) 
  • Lens
    4.2x optical Zoom, NIKKOR glass lens
  • Lens Focal Length
    4.3-17.9mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 24-100mm lens in 35mm [135] format) 
  • Lens f/-number
  • Lens Construction
    7 elements in 6 groups 
  • Lens Zoom
  • Digital Zoom
    Up to 2x (angle of view equivalent to that of approx. 200mm lens in 35mm [135] format) 
  • Vibration Reduction
    Lens-shift VR 
  • Autofocus (AF)
    Contrast-detect AF
  • Autofocus (AF) Focus-area selection
    Auto (9-area automatic selection)


    Face priority

    Face priority tracking

    Manual with 99 focus areas

    Subject tracking

  • Focus Range
    [W]: Approx. 1 ft. (30 cm.) to infinity


    [T]: Approx. 2 ft. (60 cm.) to infinity

    Macro close-up mode: [W]: Approx. 1.2 in. (3 cm.) to infinity

  • Focus Lock
  • Maximum Autofocus Areas/Points
  • Monitor Size
    3.0 in. diagonal
  • Monitor Type
    TFT-LCD with Anti-reflection coating
  • Monitor Resolution
  • Monitor Frame coverage (shooting mode)
    100% horizontal (Approx.)


    100% vertical (Approx.)

  • Monitor Frame coverage (playback mode)
    100% horizontal (Approx.)
  • Storage Media
    SD memory card


    SDHC memory card

    SDXC memory card

  • Internal Memory
    Approx. 90MB
  • Storage File System


    EXIF 2.3

    DPOF compliant

  • Storage File formats
    Still pictures: JPEG


    Sound files (Voice Memo): WAV

  • Movie
    Audio file format: AAC stereo


    Full HD: 1920x1080p / 30fps

    Movie file format: MPEG-4 AVC H.264

  • Voice Memo Function
  • Image Size (pixels)
    4000 x 3000 (12M)
  • ISO Sensitivity
    ISO 160-3200


    Auto (auto gain ISO 160-1600)

    Fixed range auto (ISO 160-400, 160-800)

  • Lowest ISO Sensitivity
  • Highest ISO Sensitivity
  • Exposure Metering
    224-segment matrix, center-weighted
  • Exposure Control
    Programmed auto exposure with flexible program


    aperture-priority auto

    exposure bracketing

    Exposure compensation (-2.0 to +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3 EV) 


    motion detection

    shutter priority auto

  • Exposure Modes
    Aperture-Priority Auto (A)


    Manual (M)

    Programmed Auto (P)

    Shutter-Priority Auto (S)

  • Automatic Exposure Scene Modes
  • Scene Modes
    Back Light



    Black and White Copy

    Close Up


    Fireworks Show




    Night Landscape

    Night Portrait



    Pet Portrait


    Scene Auto Selector


    Special Effects



  • In-Camera Image Editing



    Filter Effects

    Quick retouch

    Skin softening

    Small Pic

  • Exposure Compensation
    ± 2 EV in steps of 1/3
  • Exposure Lock
  • Exposure Bracketing
  • White Balance



  • Shutter
    Mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter
  • Shutter Speed
    1/2000-8 sec. (M mode)
  • Top Continuous Shooting Speed at full resolution
    Up to 7 shots at approx. 8 frames per second
  • Continuous Shooting Options


    Continuous H 60

    Continuous H 120

  • Self-timer
    Can be selected from 10 and 2 seconds duration
  • Built-in flash Range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto)
    [W]: 0.5 to 6.5m (1 ft. 8in. to 21ft.)


    [T]: 0.5 to 2.5m (1ft. 8in. to 8ft. 2in.)

  • Built-in Flash Control
    TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
  • Built-in Flash
  • Interface
    Hi-speed USB
  • Interface Data transfer protocol



  • Video Output



  • HDMI Output




  • I/O terminal
    Audio/video (A/V) output


    Digital I/O (USB)

    HDMI Mini Connector (HDMI output)

  • Supported Languages



    Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) 























  • Power Sources
    One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (supplied)
  • Charging Time
    4 hours (when using Charging AC Adapter EH-69P)(Approx.)
  • Battery / Batteries
    Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12
  • Battery Life (shots per charge)
    Nikon Rechargeable:


    240 shots (CIPA)


  • Tripod Socket
    ¼ (ISO 1222)
  • Approx. Dimensions
    Height: 2.3 in. (58.3mm)


    Width: 4.1 in. (103mm)

    Depth: 1.3 in. (32mm)

    Excluding projections. Method of noting dimensions and weight is in accordance with CIPA DCG-005-2009 guideline.

  • Approx. Weight
    6.7 oz. (189g)


    with battery and SD memory card. Method of noting dimensions and weight is in accordance with CIPA DCG-005-2009 guideline.

  • Operating environment
    Temperature: 0 to 40°C (32 to 104°F)
  • Supplied Accessories
    • Camera Strap AN-CP19
    • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12
    • Charging AC Adapter EH-69P
    • UC-E6 USB Cable
    • Audio Video Cable EG-CP16
    • Nikon ViewNX 2 Software CD

    *Supplied accessories may differ depending on country or area.



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