I am planning to buy my first DSLR camera and have pinned down on Nikon. However, I am not able to make up my mind between the Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100. While D90 is more expensive, I am not sure if the additional $250 are worth it ? Any suggestions ?

  • 2
    Hi Kabir, welcome to the site. It would be better if you stated what your goals are and how they differ from the other questions already asked (See the list of Related questions on the right).
    – Francesco
    Jun 24 '11 at 17:10
  • 1
  • See the answer to this question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4937/… - The reasoning is the same, just replace T2i with D5100.
    – Itai
    Jun 24 '11 at 17:18
  • @Itai - The image quality of the D5100 is significantly different than the T2i that I think it plays more of a role in this question. The D90 and T2i were roughly from the same generation products (even though from different manufacturers), but the D5100 is from the new crop and brings some new toys to the table that are relevant to the discussion.
    – rfusca
    Jun 24 '11 at 17:22

Tough choice, especially considering the D90 is still more expensive where you are (its actually cheaper than a D5100 in the USA). D90 is typically considered more of a 'prosumer' model and the D5100 would be perhap, 'high end consumer', but they're from different generations - so things get interesting.

  • The D90 offers a more professional body with more external controls, a in-body focus motor, and a larger, brighter viewfinder.

  • The D5100 has a newer, better sensor (especially in low light), better video mode, higher resolution, and an articulating LCD.

  • The pure image quality of the D5100 is much better than the D90, especially at low light, but the D90 is easier to operate and use in the long run.

  • If you're planning on doing any video, I'd probably go ahead and get the D5100 since its more geared for that.

  • If lens price is going to be a big factor, the D90 has an inbody focus motor which will allow you to autofocus with AF lenses instead of just AF-S lenses - MUCH cheaper to buy AF lenses, but they're slower on autofocus.

Only you can decide if the points above make it 'worth it' or not to you.

  • My experience: At the prompting of my girlfriend, buy a Nikon D5000. Within a week, I'm already annoyed at the workflow to do something like change the ISO, White Balance or metering mode. The majority of manual mode "stuff" is buried in menus. Tough it out for 9 months. Buy a D90. Now most of the configuration I do all the time can be done without menus. I can make creative adjustments without chimping the LCD for 2 minutes between shots. If I hand my D90 to a noob, there's a full auto mode that I can select that turns it into a point and shoot. Sep 13 '12 at 18:20

I'll tell you what I wish someone had told me from the start (they did but I didn't listen) Lenses are forever, bodies are transient. I've owned a D40 and went up to D7000, and 6 lenses in between. Whatever anyone says it will always be their 2C, so here's mine:

Buy the cheapest DSLR you can with the most expensive lens you can afford. In my opinion that's the 3100 or the low level canon t3i?. Spend the rest of your money on a NICE lens. If you get a Canon low-end camera buy yourself an L lens... It simply wont disappoint you. Or an equiv Nikon for about $1100-$1400. Its a large initial investment tho.

  • 5
    -1 - I have a D3100 and I wish somebody had talked me into a nicer body. Bodies matter too.
    – rfusca
    Jun 24 '11 at 18:46
  • 3
    @rfusca - same for me. it kills me, when I look for lenses, to lose all the AF ones with better quality/price ratio (even more so if they're used) because my body lacks a motor. They make amazing AF-Ss, but they cost some good money. Other than that, I love the D3100.
    – MattiaG
    Jun 24 '11 at 19:00
  • 2
    @Mattia Gobbi - Ya, the lack of AF lenses REALLY hurts if you're on a budget. Its part of the price tag of the entry level Nikons.
    – rfusca
    Jun 24 '11 at 19:03
  • 1
    @Mattia Gobbi, From what I understand that you say that it is better to buy a more expensive camera body with motor in it than a cheaper body with no motor and then only be able to use more expensive lenses that have the motors in it ? Which means that in the long run , you end up spending significantly more on the lenses of the same type, just because you need to have them with the motor option ? Correct ?
    – kabir
    Jun 25 '11 at 14:27
  • 1
    @kabir - a good summary. Except most times you actually get different lenses (not the same plus af motor) because most of the ones built with the af motor are made for DX sensors so focal lenghts and the whole lens design change. e.g. the 85 mm f/1.8 AF (no built in motor) is slightly cheaper than the 85 mm f/3.5 AF-S DX (built in motor) which is an overall inferior lens.
    – MattiaG
    Jun 25 '11 at 18:15

from my comment on another (similar) thread i posted as a comment to the question:

the d90 belongs to a superior category of cameras (now its price got lower so it's quite a bargain). As a result the build quality is actually higher if compared to the 5100; the sensor is a bit old but still good, the body is sturdy, it handles better being a little havier and bigger, it supports an additional battery pack, it has top backlit lcd screen, DoF preview button, advanced firmware customization, big clear viewfinder w/ customizable hud info, internal AF motor, two (back and front) control dials, buttons to change image quality, ISO, white balance and metering mode w/o using the menu, AF mode switch. This is what a photographer needs more than a lot of pixels, high iso and a flipping screen.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.