Nikon has announced the latest addition to its entry-level D-SLR lineup in the form of the new D5100. The D5100 boasts the same 23.3 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor, 16.2-megpixel resolution and ISO range of 100–6400 (expandable to 25,600) as Nikon's D7000, plus a new Night Vision mode that can shoot up to a staggering 102,400 ISO. The D5100 also sports a new 3-inch, swing out style Vari-angle LCD screen with 1000:1 contrast ratio and 921,000-dot resolution that has the ability to rotate 180 degrees horizontally and vertically.
The D5100 is also the first of Nikon's D-SLR range with the ability to apply in-camera effects to both photos and movies. Effects that can be applied by selecting the Effects position on the mode dial located on top of the camera include Selective Color, which lets users choose up to three colors in a scene so the remaining colors are converted to monochrome, and Color Sketch, which applies a sketched drawing style to photos and stop motion movies.
In addition to the low light shooting enabled by Night Vision mode, users can also capture images with improved tonal range thanks to the camera's high dynamic range (HDR) function that automatically underexposes and overexposes up to 3EV stops two consecutive shots in rapid succession. This results in images with a range of mid-tones and highlights impossible to capture in a single shot.
For a more dramatic effect, the HDR function can also be combined with Nikon's Active D-Lighting feature, which helps to keep shadows and highlights consistent in difficult lighting conditions, such as when the subject is backlit.
To allow photographers to exercise their creativity the D5100 boasts full manual controls that offer the ability to set the camera's aperture and shutter speeds. For users after a simpler way to get creative, the D5100's Picture Control system lets users switch between Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait or Landscape settings, while Scene Mode options to deal with varying light conditions include Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up or Night Portrait.
The ability to continuously auto-focus in movie mode that made its debut in the D3100 is also included, along with manual exposure control and the ability to quickly switch focus modes, which include the ability to track up to 35 faces, subject-tracking and normal or wide-area autofocus. Activating D-Movie mode and Live-view is also made easier thanks to the location of a new switch on the top of the camera near the shutter button.
Movies of up to 20 minutes in length can be captured in 1080p or 720p at 24 or 30 fps and are recorded in the AVC-HD H.264 codec. Clips can be trimmed and edited in camera and viewed on a HDTV using the camera's HDMI output.
For more professional audio Nikon has also released its new ME-1 stereo microphone that has been engineered specifically for D-SLR cameras. Attaching to the hot shoe and powered through the camera, it incorporates noise dampening components designed to cut down on noise from autofocus operation and a low-cut filter to reduce wind noise. With a 3.5mm stereo jack the ME-1 can also be used with any camera sporting a standard 3.5mm stereo input jack.
Nikon will release the D5100 throughout the U.S. from mid April 2011 with an estimated price tag of US$799.95 for the body only, and $899.95 for the body and the AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens. The ME-1 microphone will retail for $179.95.
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