D3100 vs D5100 vs D3200?


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Jun 5, 2013
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Staffordshire, UK
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I'm going to buy an entry-level crop-sensor DSLR from Nikon in the next few days for a GCSE Photography course I'm taking (definitely worth choosing by the way, for people getting ready to choose options!). I've used a Canon 600D provided by the school with the standard kit zoom and a 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS, however I'm not too sure I like the Canon bodies as they're too focused on video for me, and I prefer the Nikon's rendition of skin tones, so Nikon's the way to go.
I'm just not sure which one of these bodies I should pick. I have a budget of £400 for the body, preferably with the kit lens, and I've set aside another £300 for a nifty fifty and a 55-300 which I can order at any given time. I'm mostly going to be using it for portrait photography, hence the extra lenses, and a bit of sports/wildlife, hence the crop sensor to give me 1.5x the reach on my lenses.

I'd really appreciate it if anyone could give me some insight as to what body to buy. Thanks,

EDIT- Sorry for the wall of text.
I would say you can't go wrong with either the 3200 or 5100. Both are very similar in specs. I like my 5100.
If you can afford a little more, I would consider looking into the 5200. It has some decent improvements over the 3200 and 5100, one of them being the much imporved 39 point autofocus system vs the 11 point on the other two.
The 24mp sensor on either the 3200 or the 5200 will allow for tighter crops as well.
I vote either D3100 or D5100.

D3200 is only interesting if you want to do video. Otherwise the sensor is inferior to the one in the D5100, and it doesnt have the nice flipscreen of the D5100.

D3100 is simply the cheapest of the bunch.
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I actually shoot with the Nikon D3100, and to me, it's good enough. I've been shooting the D3100 with several lenses especially with the amazing 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G kit lens. In fact, I've been thinking about upgrading to the Nikon D7100. And so I researched, researched, and asked multiple photographers on whether or not I should upgrade my DSLR. My answer? No. I don't have to. Instead, what's more important is that you invest on lenses. A cheap DSLR body (the Nikon D3100) with professional lenses is a smart choice. The kit lens is good enough for certain subjects as well as the 55-200mm f/4-5.6G.

Thus, you're going to invest on the 50mm lens for your DSLR. The Nikon D3100 is perfect with the 50mm. Some people are saying, "Oh, but the D3100 only has 14MP." Look, 14MP is good enough, but then again, it depends on the size of your prints (if you are going to be printing your photos). The Nikon D3100 does a good job on portraits, but then again, I would focus on lenses and accessories such as strobes, softboxes, tripods, etc. However, you said you wanted to shoot Wildlife as well, but once again, investing on fast lenses is a great advantage, but you don't have faster fps.

The truth is, I debated against myself whether or not I should upgrade, but I came down to the final answer: No. I was given a better answer: Invest in lenses and accessories. Fast lenses are a strong advantage in Wildlife photography. The 'Nifty Fifty' is great for Portraits as well. Therefore, your 50mm, 18-55mm, and 55-300mm are good enough until you invest on more lenses as well as accessories.

All the more, the D3200 and the D5200 won't disappoint you.

Here are some of my shots from the Nikon D3100. RARELY any post-processing on these images:


I thought I would use the pivoting screen more than I did. But.... the 3100 does not do as well at iso800+ compared to the 5100. May want to look at that on the 3200. I love the 50mm 1.8 prime lens. Cheap and really helps with low light that the kit lenses choke on.

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