d5100 vs. t3i

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by allisonv7, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. allisonv7 macrumors 6502

    Jul 20, 2004
    Hey folks,

    I've done some research on which camera I should get and I'm really at a fork in the road.

    Things that are important to me:
    • Image quality
    • Battery life
    • Speed (startup time & between shots)

    I had a Rebel film camera half a dozen years ago that I used during my photography courses in college and liked. I just assumed I'd go with a Canon but when I was looking at the options decided to seriously consider the Nikon.

    I'll be shooting mostly just your typical stuff, fairly general: People, nature, landscapes, sports... nothing specific.

    Does anyone that has used these have any thoughts? My max spending limit is $800, and I would like this to be a camera (and lenses) that are able to grow with me.

    I have read many reviews but they is a lot of talk of video in them, that's not something I'm really interested in so I thought I would post here to see what you guys thought. I'm sure I'll use it every now and then, but it's not something I want to base a decision on.

    Any help is much appreciated, I know people are probably asking this all the time, so please bear with me, but after doing some research I'm really at a standstill.

    Thanks, Allison
  2. equilibrium17 macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2007
    Personally, I'm a T3i owner and I'm really happy with my choice. I'll probably upgrade to a better body in a couple of years, but right now my focus is on upgrading my lenses. Image quality with a good lens mounted is very solid (IQ is much more about a good lens than the body). Battery life is excellent. I usually carry a spare, but usually don't need it if I start the photo excursion with a full charge. Startup speed is fast enough that I've never really noticed it. It doesn't have the fastest fps in continuous mode, but it's comparable to others in its price range; you need to spend more money to get a significantly better fps when continuous shooting.

    But I have friends who really like the Nikons and swear by them. Both manufacturers make very good cameras and while there are some minor distinctions in the tech specs that give one or the other an advantage in certain areas, for me, at least, these differences weren't enough to be a significant impact on my purchase choice.

    What did have a strong influence on my choosing the T3i was the "in the hand feel" and UI layout of the camera. I would advise you to go to a good camera shop and give each body you're considering a test drive in the store. While they are very similar technically, there are some differences in the design of the control UI between Nikons and Canons (and other brands as well, if you choose to expand your search). Personally, I find the Canon layout and UI more intuitive. But I know people who strongly prefer Nikons in this way. It's personal preference and you just have to get them in your hands and try them out.

    Once you've actually tried the bodies in-hand, if it's actually STILL a dead heat in your mind, then you can start to worry about the minor details of which one has slightly better tech spec X, or is slightly cheaper, or whatever.
  3. lixuelai macrumors 6502a

    Oct 29, 2008
    Should look into older bodies like the Nikon D90 or Canon 60D. They are around the same price as the current generation low end models. IMO they are better choices for a camera that will "grow with you".
  4. equilibrium17 macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2007
    Can't speak to the Nikon side, but you unless you're extremely lucky and find some amazing Black Friday doorbuster deal, you won't be able to get a 60D with a lens new for the OP's stated budget limit of $800. You could get a 60D body only for that, but even with a basic kit lens you'll be well over that.

    Now, you might be able to get a used 60D + half-decent lens for $800. But buying used can be tricky for first-time DSLR purchasers. If you have a more experienced photographer friend who can help you evaluate any used equipment you're considering, though, this might be a possibility.
  5. lixuelai macrumors 6502a

    Oct 29, 2008
    You can find Nikon D90 kit w/ 18-105mm for $800 quite easily. You are right the 60D costs more, mostly because it is not discontinued yet. Anyway body + a Pixma 9000 was $700 AR at Buydig a few days ago.
  6. allisonv7 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 20, 2004
    Because of their price points I'm really interested in sticking with one of these two models, if anything I would downgrade on the body and put the extra money toward a nice prime lens. When I say $800 is my max, that's firm, with all my wiggle room built into it.

    To clarify a little here are the two options I am looking at:

    Canon T3i w/18-55mm kit lens & 55-250mm lens = $750

    Nikon d5100 w/18-55mm kit lens & 55-300mm lens = $800

    Nikon d5100 w/18-55mm kit lens & 55-200mm lens = $700
  7. crowley213 macrumors newbie

    Sep 28, 2012
    Hello Allison

    From my point of view:

    Regarding image quality, battery life and and speed there will be no really serious argument either pro or contra for one of your pre-selected choices! Personally I shoot Nikon, but I am sure that regarding these points you can go with either brand without being disappointed! As "equilibrium17" already stated, maybe it finally comes all back to some soft facts like how the camera feels in your hand, how you like the ergonomics, menus etc.

    Regarding your budget: Don´t forget to consider also memory card(s), a spare battery, a camera bag, and so on.

    Also don´t forget one important point: camera bodies change in short intervalls while good glass is what stays for a longer time. No offense at all, but in these price categories you cannot expect glass that will stay with you for a long time, at least not regarding quality of the glass that also would be satisfying on a more sophisticated body or for more special needs.

    Last but not least: Think about that deciding for a system also means normally to stick with that system, at least for some time. This includes as well the brand as the format, in this case DX.

    Just let me ask a question: Have you also checked into other systems, except a DSLR? Is there a specific reason you want to go for a DSLR?

    As already mentioned, I shoot a Nikon DSLR (an "old" D300) with some really good glass. But to be honestly... today I am really looking into the smaller mirrorless systems, as they also cover a lot of photography needs with much less weight and also reasonable costs. Maybe think also about that...!

    Regards Herbert
  8. Caliber26 macrumors 68000


    Sep 25, 2009
    Orlando, FL
    For what it's worth, Nikon has just announced the D5200. It is only available outside of the U.S. right now (why, I don't know) but it's safe to assume that it will be introduced in January at the CES show in Las Vegas.

    I don't know if having the latest model is a must for you, but thought I'd give you the heads up. Personally, it would drive me nuts if I bought something and then a newer version becomes available right after.
  9. knowledgeseeker, Nov 19, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012

    knowledgeseeker macrumors newbie

    Sep 30, 2010
    These are both fine choices, and either will meet your needs. I agree with the earlier poster that you should test both of them -- you will spend many hours holding whatever you buy, and (at least for sports) comfort is critical --- a cramped hand is no fun.

    I have a D5100 and am very pleased. I take heavy advantage of the user-customizable auto-ISO feature, which seems to be absent or much less flexible in other camera lines. But both cameras are so good that your decision will necessarily be subjective, a matter of the heart, and of what feels right in your hands.

    Finally -- regarding the tele zoom -- for outdoor sports, or birds and other wildlife, you will want a 300 mm reach -- or at least 250. It is worth the extra cost. I use the 70-300 Nikkor (the 55-300 was not available when I bought it).
  10. Golfer00ksu macrumors regular

    Oct 13, 2008
  11. knowledgeseeker macrumors newbie

    Sep 30, 2010
  12. Golfer00ksu macrumors regular

    Oct 13, 2008
  13. equilibrium17 macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2007
    Can't comment on the Nikon stuff, but I'd say the T3i option is a good starter choice at a good price -- those 2 lenses will give you a nice, wide focal range to play with. This will give you plenty of room to experiment and if you decide to upgrade your lenses down the road, you'll know what focal rang(es) are most important to you.

    Personally, I went with the 18-135mm kit lens as a starter when I got my T3i. Less total range, but more range on the camera in one lens, which is a very handy thing. This bundle cost me about $850 with a spare battery thrown in as well. But this was quite a while ago, and now that the T4i is out you might be able to find a T3i + 18-135mm bundle for $800 or less if you look around.
  14. jtrainor56 macrumors regular


    Oct 23, 2010
    Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania
    Allisonv7, I purchased a used Nikon D5100 with a kit lens and the 55-200mm at the end of September and took it to an end of summer car show in Maryland. There is a lot to learn and I am extremely happy with the results so far. Slowly learning the menus and feel I made the right choice. You might want to consider the 55-300mm lens, kind of wish I had that for some of the shots I took so far but at this time I am happy with what I have.

    I have a site with a few pictures that I took with the camera, feel free to look at them and ask any questions. http://joetrainor.smugmug.com
  15. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
  16. allisonv7 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 20, 2004
    Thanks for all the responses and input guys. Right now I"m leaning toward the 5100 with the larger lens, but am definitely going to look into the Canon trade-in deal. Does that apply to film cameras too?

    I've read a few different places that the entry-level Nikon lenses are better than Canon so that's a plus (if true). I also have quite a few friends that are professional photographers that all use Nikon, so I think that is a bonus in that they would hopefully be more familiar with the system and may even let me borrow a lens to try it out!

    I'm going for the DSLR because I enjoyed my SLR back in the day. I think I saw a mirrorless bundle and the zoom maxed out at about 100-110mm, I'd like more reach than that.

    I looked at a couple online refurbished deals but for a little bit extra I can get it new from the local camera shop, which I prefer.

    I did see about the 5200 but in this case it doesn't bother me not to have the latest model, and more importantly it looks like it will be out of my price range anyways.

    Again, thanks for all the input!! If anyone has any other comments/suggestions I'd love to read them!
  17. Efrem macrumors regular

    Jul 30, 2009
    Regarding the D5100: The Cameta deal sounds good, though the one-year warranty is only through them. However, if you plan to get another lens right away, new ones sell for about $110 more (for example, at Target), come with a $100 discount on the 55-200mm lens plus other goodies, and have a Nikon warranty rather than the store's own.

    Question to consider: Do you plan to shoot RAW or JPG? Canon JPG processing punches up the colors more than Nikon. Some people prefer the Nikon look, saying Canon pictures are artificially colorful. Others prefer the Canon look, saying Nikon pictures are washed out. There's no question that they're different. RAW pictures are a lot closer.

    Since IQ is your top concern, I'd go to dpreview.com, look up a review of either candidate, and go to the sample pictures. Select the other camera for comparison in the window to the right. Check sharpness and everything else, side by side, at a variety of ISO settings. You may see a difference that will tip you one way or the other.

    (Full disclosure: I'm on the horns of this same dilemma. Leaning toward the D5100 right now, but awaiting an e-mail from a friend who may try to tip me the other way and just might succeed. If she says anything that might add to this discussion, I'll post it. The D5200 interests me only to the extent that having it in the line pushes D5100 street prices down a bit.)
  18. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012

    In Canon bodies you select which picture style you want to use for jogs. Each style has different amounts of sharpening, color tint, contrast...etc. you want. Remember that even if you shoot raw, the camera still makes a small jpg that is used for the preview and it is what drives the histogram. Since I shoot raw, I have the picture style set to neutral to give a thumbnail, and more importantly a histogram, that matches the raw file as much as possible.
  19. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    The "Picture Control" settings on the D5100 allow you to fine tune the output to suit your tastes, there's no reason to go with the default processing if you don't like the way it looks. The D5100 has six pre-set picture control settings that can be tweaked by the user in terms of sharpening, contrast, saturation, hue and brightness or you can make your own and name them yourself.

    Picture controls are discussed in the electronic version of the reference manual, found at:


    They start on page 91, and aren't in the user manual.

  20. geek36 macrumors member

    Oct 15, 2012
  21. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012

    You are half correct; it is a no brainer. ;)

    Seriously, Nikonian vs Canonese fanboy war can and will go on forever. I think the key is to stick with either Nikon or Canon. Those are two big boys where all the support and accessories happen. Other brands may take wonderful pictures;however, you will not have the same broad range of lenses and software tools.
  22. NoNameBrand macrumors 6502

    Nov 17, 2005
    Halifax, Canada
    I'd just reiterate that they're both good and you should try them in a store if possible and buy the most comfortable one. Most of the "I just bought a ...." posts can safely be ignored, since post-ex-facto purchase justification requires us to be super pleased. I would look at the serious review sites and look through their pro/con lists to see if anything jumps out at you.
  23. justinLONG macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2011

    always knew about Canon even before i got into photography... and they day i picked up my first slr (a hand me down FG-20)... Nikon has been it ever since.
  24. noodile macrumors regular

    Aug 4, 2012
    I was in the same spot as you a few months ago except i had D90, T4i, T3i, and D5100.

    I was dead set on either T3i or D5100. and when i went to store, i liked the feel of the d5100 in my hand more. ended up picking up the D5100 for $615 and the 55-200 lens. (its supposed to be much better than the 55-300)
  25. allisonv7 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 20, 2004
    Thanks everyone!

    Noodile, are you happy with the 55-200?? I'm leaning toward the 300mm for the extra reach.

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