Worth Upgrading to a Nikon D5100 from a D3100?

cbarnard7

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Hi Everyone,

I'm new to this site and figured I could rely on you all for some good advice!

I just recently purchased my first DSLR after using high-end point-and-shoot's for years. I decided to upgrade to a dslr after realizing photography wasn't just a fad, but something I truly enjoy and will for years.

Anyway, I purchased a D3100 (refurbished from adorama) a couple weeks ago and am pretty happy with it. I had heard great reviews about it being "the perfect entry-level dslr." I have a 18-55mm VR kit lens (which I love) and was looking to get a 55-200mm VR zoom lens for wildlife and soccer photography.

I am fairly competent with all the controls and usually shoot in manual mode while hiking here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (which is my main usage-wildlife/landscape/sports). I keep seeing that the D5100 supposedly has significantly better image quality (similar to D7000) and I have found one online for less than $500 with the VR kit lens. I understand that the D7000 is better than both (with the 39 AF points and other things), but it's not in my budget. However, I am still in the 30-day return window and was wondering if you all think I should trade my 3100 for the 5100 or just spend it on better glass?

I am looking to possibly trade for the better sensor and higher ISO. Do you all think it's worth it, or should I just wait a couple years and upgrade to a semi-pro kit like the D7000?

I'm going on a road-trip to Arches/Canyonlands/Grand Canyon and want to make a decision (or no decision) soon!

Thanks everyone for your input! You are all awesome!

(Here are two images I took yesterday while hiking)

$Windypeakpano.jpg$rockface2crop.JPG
 

Heitz

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Most people are going to tell you to spend your money on better glass. I usually would too, but in this case (having owned the D5100), I might encourage a switch. The reason I say that is because I haven't been that impressed with what I've seen of the sensor in the 3100, but was always very impressed with what the 5100 could do. Disclaimer: I have never actually used the 3100, so these are just my impressions.
 

KmH

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If you were shown 10 images, 5 made with a D3100 and 5 with a D5100, but not told which was which, it's not likely you would be able to tell which camera made which images.
 

goodguy

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I would upgrade to the D5100 in a heart beat.
 
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cbarnard7

cbarnard7

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Thanks all for the input!

Goodguy,

Have you used the 3100 or 5100 before, or do you love the 7000 so much (with 5100 being it's little brother) that you just assume that it's best to move up? I'm jealous of your 7000- That's why, when I saw reviews that the 5100 had the same sensor and image quality as the 7000, I had a second thought about my 3100 purchase. However, will the image quality really be that much different or is it just an advancement in MP's and buttons?

Thanks again!
 

jrizal

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If you can still trade it and remain on your budget, why not? This does not mean that the D3100 is a lemon. It is still a capable camera. I have one and it is my only DSLR. But given the right price (meaning the price you can afford), the D5100 can offer more as a first DSLR overall. But do remember two other things needed to take better photos also. The first is skill (which you should learn continuously) and the other is better glass and other related gear such as a speedlite which others strongly recommend.
 

sm4him

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The D5100 was my first DSLR, back about two years ago. Loved it, and would definitely have recommended it to ANYone with the 3100 as a great upgrade...back then.

Then I got my D7000. Night and Day. I've kept my D5100 as a backup, but can't imagine going back to it.

In addition, the D5200 and the D7100 have since come out, both significant upgrades to their predecessors from what I understand.

So these days, my advice would be: Hang in with the D3100 until you can *at least* make the move to either the D7000 or the D5200. My main reason for this opinion is that if you've only had the D3100 for a few weeks and you're already seeing those limitations, it won't be too terribly long before some of the limitations of the D5100 make you want to move on. No, let me rephrase that. It's not so much the limitations of the D5100--it's more the "allure" of the improvements you may get with the D7000, D5200, etc.

My guess is you wouldn't last even a year with the D5100 before you'd want to upgrade again. So just save the money, learn everything you can on the D3100 and THEN make the leap straight to something that would be an upgrade even over the D5100.
 

hirejn

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The real question is do your skills outgun what the D3100 is capable of? If not, then you're just playing a specs game and it's a matter of what specs make you feel good. That's up to you because there's no limit to the demands you can place on a camera, reasonable, realistic or not. How much is enough? That's life's question. A D4 is an awful lot of camera, and the high ISO performance is supreme, but tremendous power and file quality does you little good if the quality of light sucks, the subject is blurry, the exposure is off, the composition is uninteresting, etc. It's simply not the camera that makes the image. Great images have been made with all generations of cameras. If you just like having better specs, nobody can tell you not to upgrade, and nobody can tell you what you want. If you want better photography, I suggest education is the place to put your money.
 
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goodguy

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I never used the D3100, its a good capable camera but the D5100 is better and in many ways is close to my D7000.
For me its an easy and natural choice going for the D5100, the sensor is awsome and is so much fun at low light.
3200ISO is a normal settings I use in low light and the camera never stops to amaze me on that aspect.
 

SCraig

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While the D3100 is nowhere as capable as the D5100 (or D5200 or D7000 or D7100 or D600 or D800 or D800e or D3 or D3s or D4) it's also highly unlikely that you are running into camera-based limitations after only 2 weeks with it. When you can explicitly state that a lack of some specific feature is limiting you then there is no reason to replace your camera body. Use what you have. In 2 weeks you have only just begun to explore what it's capable of.
 

PropilotBW

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I like my 5100. I have never touched the 3100. I think that the 5100 isn't really an "upgrade" for you, so to speak. I don't think there is enough of a difference to justify spending money on a slightly better camera.
Like suggested, buy lenses, or save for a significant upgrade after you learn how to use yours fully.
 
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cbarnard7

cbarnard7

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Thanks guys! Great input from everyone! I wasn't trying to come across as someone who thinks I'm too far ahead of the 3100's specs. I was just torn because I hope to have my first DSLR for a while before the "big jump" to a semi-pro (or eventually pro model in a few years) model. I was wanting to make sure I made the best choice at the moment. I think I'm going to just stick with my 3100 and get a nice zoom lens and eventually maybe a wide-angle. Thanks for all your input!
 

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+1 cbarnard7. Really comes down to getting good glass,flash,tripod to extend the usability and range of the camera you do have.

First upgrades for me during my D40 days was replaced the 18-55 kit lens with a tamron 17-50 f2.8. And usability in more lower light situations and Image IQ took the next step up. Breathing new life in that old D40.

I see many tout the advantages of newer sensor performance or higher iso performance. Then see all or majority of their pics shot at 200 iso. So don't get the sensor performance obsession about High ISO when the majority seem to rarely use it.

I don't consider a sensor improvement as an upgrade reason. As one of the selling points sure but not the deciding factor. As for me the upgrade was to eliminate issues. Like less controls more menu digging with the entry cameras. No in body motor for many great AF or AF-D lenses out there. Or not having a flash commander mode for operating flashes off-shoe.

Now with my D90 I have a bigger brighter viewfinder. And can make settings changes on the fly without my eye leaving the viewfinder to go menu digging and missing the shot. Built in motor for the cheapy 50mm f1.8D or other outstanding AF or AF-D lenses out there that give me more options. Top lighted LCD for tripod work coupled with flash commander for operating flashes wirelessly.

Means even my D90 is an upgrade to the D3100 and I would easily take it over the D5100 also.
As there is more about photography and getting the shot then just sensor performance.
.
 

jrizal

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Thanks guys! Great input from everyone! I wasn't trying to come across as someone who thinks I'm too far ahead of the 3100's specs. I was just torn because I hope to have my first DSLR for a while before the "big jump" to a semi-pro (or eventually pro model in a few years) model. I was wanting to make sure I made the best choice at the moment. I think I'm going to just stick with my 3100 and get a nice zoom lens and eventually maybe a wide-angle. Thanks for all your input!

Switching to a D5100 would be fine simply because you have a "window" to exchange your D3100. Other than that, it would be wiser to get a higher model in the future and start investing in lenses, speedlites, tripod(s) which are things you can still use on future cameras.
 

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