Review Nikon D5100: Measurements

The measurements were carried out with the aid of Imatest. For the test method and explanation of terms, see FAQ. Look at our list of tested cameras for a comparison of these performances with those of other cameras. blog160-Nikond5100

Resolution of the sensor


The Nikon D5100, with a good lens like the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lens, gives a jpg file an average resolution of 1500 LW/PH. With a standard editing of the RAW files in Lightroom, a greater sharpness impression is obtained, which translates into an average resolution of approximately 2250 LW/PH. Despite its 12 megapixels (compared to the 18 of the D5100) the Nikon D700 scores better in terms of resolution of RAW files.

Dynamic range of the sensor

The Nikon D5100 performs a little less in terms of dynamic range than the Nikon D700. For a camera with an APS-C sensor, this performance is good however. The total dynamic range averages 12 stops for a RAW file and 11 stops for a jpg. For test method and explanation of terms, see FAQ. More important than the total dynamic range is the usable dynamic range, taking into account the signal/noise ratio.  
Because the signal/noise ratio decreases in the shadows, the dynamic range of JPG files is limited to a usable dynamic range of 8 stops at the lower ISO settings up to three stops at ISO 6400. The jpg files apparently perform better, due to in-camera noise reduction, at all ISO settings than the RAW files. Yet that is not the case. We test the raw files without using noise reduction. Because of this, you maintain the highest possible detail in the shots, while the noise is, although measurable, not visible in a print. If you carefully optimize contrast, sharpening and noise reduction of RAW files, it is possible to realize a usable dynamic range for RAW files, which is better or equal to that of the jpg files.


Comparison of the noise in jpg files with the measured noise in RAW files without noise reduction shows that noise occurs at the jpg files at all ISO settings. We know from experience that if the noise is less than 2.5%, a photo can be printed on A3+ size without the noise being experienced as disturbing.


Below are examples of a photographed gray card at a variety of ISO settings. The croppings show a detail if you would show the image full size on your screen. By applying noise reduction, an even better result can be realized for RAW files. Up to 3200, you can make a good print from a RAW file without applying noise reduction.


Color accuracy @ daylight

 dsc0233 colorerrormini
Daylight color accuracy (Delta E94)

Skin tones8.79.2
Natural Colors8.810.8
Bright Colors5.78.6
White Balance6.64.7

The above illustration shows the color errors of the ISO 100 RAW shot taken in daylight. The further the ideal color (square) is removed from the color reproduction of the camera (circle), the greater the color difference. For the test method and explanation of terms, see FAQ. The Nikon D5100 delivers highly saturated RAW files with a reasonably good color rendition. In particular, the saturated yellow, orange and red colors are too saturated. Hold your mouse over the left image for a larger version. The measured saturation of RAW files is between 115 and 121%.

The accuracy of the color reproduction of JPG files is also pretty good. Depending on the ISO setting, the jpg files (standard) have an average color error (delta E94) between 6 and 11 and an average saturation of 102% with a peak down to ISO 25600 (93%).

Color accuracy @ tungsten light

kunstlicht dsc0220 colorerror
Tungsten color accuracy (Delte E94)

Tungsten lightRAWjpg
Skin tones119
Natural Colors1111
Bright Colors810
White Balance2015
White Balance1410

The color reproduction is quite constant over the entire ISO range. In artificial light, you cannot blindly trust the automatic white balance, both with jpg and RAW files, as can be seen clearly in the results shown for a 200 ISO JPG file. All colors show an orange cast in artificial light, as you can also see in the practice image in the Nikon D5100 test.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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