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I'm relatively new to my Nikon D5100, and I have to photograph moths on a sheet for my job. I've begun to notice that my camera doesn't seem to let me take more than a few pictures in a row anymore, without my having to turn it off and on again (and sometimes I have to do this several times). Is this a common problem? Do any other D5100 users have suggestions for a solution?

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I would do two things:

  1. Buy a high-performance memory card. Something that's specifically rated for 45MB/s (megaBYTES, not megaBITS) or faster should make a huge difference if the problem is that you're filling up the buffer.

  2. Buy an external hotshoe flash. If you can, borrow one first to test if it makes a difference. Some cameras do prevent you from taking subsequent shots if the popup flash is still recharging, especially consumer-grade cameras.

For testing purposes, you might also try removing some additional barriers to testing to determine the culprit:

  1. Set the lens to manual focus
  2. Turn the flash or use it in manual power on the lowest setting
  3. Use manual exposure and see if it fires, regardless of the resulting picture
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I have experienced similar problems with my Nikon D7000 when I first bought it. However, the problem with my camera was that I was taking pictures in High Burst mode and the camera didn't have enough time to record the images on the SD card. Finally, I never had to switch it off and just give it some more time.

So my questions are:

  • are you shooting in High Burst mode?
  • are you shooting in RAW
  • what kind of an SD card are you using (what is the data transfer rate)

My suggestions are:

  • shoot in JPEG and see if the problem persists
  • try another SD card
  • switch to Slow Burst or deactivate the Burst mode

If the problem persist I think that the camera is faulty and you should service it.

Hope that helps.

PS. Sometimes when the camera struggles with autofocus it won't let you take pictures. You mentioned shooting Moths so I presume you are using a Macro lens. This is sometimes the case with autofocus in Macro photography.

  • Thanks, Greg! I'm not using High Burst mode, and I will try some of the other solutions tomorrow and report back. I don't actually know the data transfer rate for my SD card! – Atticus29 Nov 8 '13 at 0:04
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    No worries. If you are not shooting in burst mode then I don't see any reasons at all why your camera wouldn't let you take several pictures in a row. Well, try another SD card and let me know if the problem persists. – Greg Nov 8 '13 at 1:52
  • I tried another SD card this morning and toggled between the continuous and single-shot modes. The SD card was in the same Class (of speed), though, some I'm not convinced that that's not the problem yet. – Atticus29 Nov 8 '13 at 17:03
  • Just out of curiosity. How many pictures does the camera let you take before you have to turn it off? – Greg Nov 9 '13 at 2:30
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    Honestly, I have run out of ideas and your theory about the pop-up flash may be right. But then, I remember that my speed light also has a thermal cut-off option which disables it when it gets hot to prevent overheating. However, you still can take pictures, the flash just won't fire. I don't see the reason why it should be different with the pop-up flash. I think you should take it to your local authorised Nikon repair service and have it examined. – Greg Nov 13 '13 at 23:22
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Do you mean "freeze" as in nothing works, i.e. you can't access the menu, turn on/off live view etc.? That's not normal - I've had my D5100 for a couple of years and 20-30k pictures, and've never had it freeze on me.

But there are a few cases where pressing the shutter button won't take a picture:

  • When the autofocus can't aquire focus lock (Switch to manual focus, or set focus mode to AF-C and the menu Custom Settings > a1 AF-C priority selection to release rather than focus)
  • When using the built-in flash: The shutter button is disabled until the flash has been recharged. After several flash shots in a row there's a further waiting period for the flash to cool down. (It's not necessary to turn the camera off and on again, just wait a few seconds to half a minute and it's ready again.)
  • When the buffer is full in continous shooting. (Just wait a few seconds so the camera gets the chance to write the buffer to the memory card.)
  • When there's no memory card, or the camera can't use it; e.g. because it's full, locked, or there's something wrong with the card. (Try a different memory card.)

In short, if the camera actually freezes - you can't access the menus without restarting the camera - there's likely to be something wrong with the camera.

But if it's just that the shutter button is temporarily disabled, that's likely to be normal. There are a few more cases than the ones I've listed, see the Troubleshooting section of the D5100 manual ("Shutter-release disabled", page 220 in my copy).

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