I am a beginner in Photography and this would be my first DSLR.

I am confused whether to go for the Nikon D3200 or Nikon D5100. I would be taking mostly portraits and would need a camera which would take better pictures in low light. Also I will go on treks, hill trips often and it should be the best in snapping those landscapes.

Please suggest me the best option to go with.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you're concerned about pics in lowlight, get the 35mm f/1.8 or the 50mm f/1.8 and get whichever camera fits your leftover budget. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rfusca - Those are probably a little wide for portraits. The 50 is so-so on a crop for this, but the 35mm is really a non-starter there. Also, neither are especially good for landscape because they aren't very wide. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 2:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ JoanneC: The 50mm is fine for portraits, maybe not optimal like an 85mm, but fine. The 35mm is fine for everything but headshots and even then it doesn't show too much perspective distortion. For exampe: photo.blogoverflow.com/2012/05/portrait-perspective . Well for starting out landscapes, the kit lens with VR is probably your best bet - so I didn't bring that up. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rfusca - I hear ya, but I'd still go longer than 50mm and 35mm wouldn't be in my list. Like I said, a little wide for portraits, but that doesn't mean fisheye distortion. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 3:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ JoanneC and rfusca - On the APS-C sensors of the D3200 and D5100 the 50 makes a great little portrait lens. On a full frame sensor - the 85 makes a lot more sense, where the 50 becomes a bit too wide. I agree about the 35 though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 15:24

3 Answers 3


As far as low light portraits go, these cameras are very very similar. The D5100 is a somewhat older model, and it is reaching the end of it's lifespan. The D3200 is basically brand new. I would take a look at some high ISO comparisons here. This will give you an idea of how closely they do perform at high ISO shots.

Beyond that, the D3200 is a significant boost in megapixels, and if you plan to print very large images(ie landscapes) or blow up small portions of the image, that might make the D3200 beneficial to you. The D5100 does have some higher end features if you think you may need them, such as controls for white balance and exposure bracketing.

Strictly speaking, they should perform very similarly for low light portrait work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the reply! DPReview is one of the sites which i did saw before getting into a dilemma. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ One of the comments i got was 11 AF points is very less for 24 Mega pixels and they were mentioning it would affect the pics taken in low lights. Does this really apply ? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the AF of the D3200 is like the D3100 - its pretty lacking. Not really in low light, just in general. Its my biggest gripe with the camera after having used it for 1.5 years now. However, I don't know how it compares with the D5100. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 18:08

Others have handled the direct answer, but I think a more useful answer is to use more light. Cameras record light. They are really not see-in-the-dark devices.

For portraits, you don't want to have the subject in the sun, its too harsh, but you can take photos on cloudy days, or in the shade and get good results.

You don't have to spend much money, but you should get some lights. Off-camera strobes are a good place to start. The strobist site has tons of information, tutorials, etc. http://strobist.blogspot.com/

I strongly recommend that you not just buy Nikon's latest and greatest strobe and put it on the top of your camera body. Its a better flash than the built in one, but you want it off camera.

There is a decision between manual and automated strobes/flashes, addressing that is a topic that can fill a book.


A few days ago I came across the tests performed by DXO Labs. Note I have no affiliation with then but found their testing methodology, specifically for low light situations interesting at the very least. It seems to me to be a fairly objective measurement based approach that would be helpful when comparing one camera to another.

Looking at their data comparing the D3200 to the D5100 the test results look pretty close to me so I would probably make the decision on price or other features that you care about.


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