Nikon D90 vs Nikon D5100

  • APS-C
  • 12 megapixels
  • Nikon F
  • 40
    Overall
  • 13
    Imaging
  • 30
    Features
  • 72
    Size
  • 0
    Price
  • APS-C
  • 16 megapixels
  • Nikon F
  • 43
    Overall
  • 17
    Imaging
  • 47
    Features
  • 72
    Size
  • 1
    Price

Nikon D90 vs Nikon D5100: a Complete Review and Comparison

Are you looking for the best camera to suit your needs? Due to a wide range of options, making a wise and weighted decision can be rather challenging. Which specs to keep in mind? What are the key pros and cons of each model? This comparison should give some helpful hints!

The goal of this overview is to provide a detailed comparison of two popular camera models introduced by the same brand - Nikon. Although both products are offered by the same brand, they come from different categories. Thus, Nikon, is a camera from Semi-Pro DSLR category, while D5100 is a Entry-Level DSLR camera. Both products that we are going to review are equipped with the same type of sensor - CMOS. However, they have different resolution. The first compared model, Nikon D90, features has a resolution of 12.0 MP. Another model that we are reviewing, Nikon D5100, features a sensor with a resolution of 16.0 MP.

Now, before we can move on to our comparison, let's take a moment to look at the key characteristics of Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100.

Nikon D90 Key Features:

  • 12.0 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO 200 - 3200 (Expands to 6400)
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • 3″ Fixed Type Screen
  • ViewFinder: Yes
  • 4.5 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 1280 x 720 (24 fps), 640 x 424 (24 fps), 320 x 216 (24 fps)
  • Built-in Wireless: Yes
  • Dimensions: 132 x 103 x 77 mm
  • Weight: 703 g
  • Environmental Sealing: No
  • Built-in GPS: Yes
  • Replaced Nikon D80. Compare
  • Replaced by Nikon D7000. Compare

Nikon D5100 Key Features:

  • 16.0 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100 - 6400 (Expands to 25600)
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • 3″ Fully Articulated Screen
  • ViewFinder: Yes
  • 4.0 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (30, 25, 24 fps), 640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)
  • Built-in Wireless: Yes
  • Dimensions: 128 x 97 x 79 mm
  • Weight: 560 g
  • Environmental Sealing: No
  • Built-in GPS: Yes
  • Replaced Nikon D5000. Compare
  • Replaced by Nikon D5200. Compare

Since Nikon D90 has been around for some time, it was substituted by Nikon D7000. Be sure to check out some of our other comparisons that may also interest you:
Nikon D90 vs. D7000
Nikon D7000 vs. Nikon D5100

Being a newer model, Nikon D90 substituted Nikon D80. Be sure to check out some of our other comparisons that may also interest you:
Nikon D90 vs. D80
Nikon D80 vs. Nikon D5100

Why is Nikon D90 a better choice than Nikon D5100

Sensor Area 372.88 mm2 vs 370.52 mm2 0.6% larger pixel area
Continuous Shooting 4.5 fps vs 4 fps 0.5 fps faster
Flash Range 17 vs 12 5 better flash range
Battery Life 850 shots vs 660 shots 190 more frames with a single charge
Viewfinder Optical (pentaprism) vs Optical (pentamirror) Better framing and control
Viewfinder Magnification 0.64 vs 0.52 0.12 better magnification

What are the key reasons to pick Nikon D5100 over Nikon D90

Timelapse Recording Yes vs No Creative shooting
Sensor Resolution 16.0 MP vs 12.0 MP 25% more pixels
Screen Type Fully Articulated vs Fixed Type Flexible shooting positions
Screen Resolution 921k dots vs 920k dots 0.1% higher resolution screen
Weight 560 g vs 703 g 143 g lighter
Max Video Resolution 1920 x 1080 vs 1280 x 720 Higher Resolution Video
Microphone Port Yes vs No High quality audio recording option
Dxo Color Depth 23.5 vs 22.7 Better color depth
Dxo Dynamic Range 13.6 vs 12.5 Better dynamic range
Dxo Low Light Iso 1183 vs 977 Better High ISO performance

Key PROs of Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100

Screen Size 3″ | 3″ Large display
Viewfinder Optical (pentaprism) | Optical (pentamirror) Better framing and control
Raw Support Yes | Yes Better image quality
AutoFocus Face Detection Yes | Yes Very handy for portraits
Bracketing Yes | Yes Useful for tough lighting conditions and HDR
Built-In Flash Yes | Yes External flash available
Flash Sync Port Yes | Yes Port for Flash Sync
Battery Life 850 shots | 660 shots Big number of frames with a single charge

Key CONs of Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100

Touch Screen No | No No touch screen
Screen Resolution 920k dots | 921k dots Small screen resolution
Sensor Resolution 12.0 MP | 16.0 MP Small sensor resolution
Headphone Port No | No No headphone port
Continuous Shooting 4.5 fps | 4.0 fps Low continuous shooting
Image Stabilization No | No No image stabilization
Environmental Sealing No | No No environmental sealing

Nikon D90 vs Nikon D5100: Comparing Two Models By Physical Characteristics

Before heading straight to the technical characteristics of each model, let’s start with comparing their physical specs. Let’s start with looking at the physical difference of the two products. Below are images that clearly show the sizes of Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100 from the front view.

Nikon D90
Nikon D5100
HTML
BB

Now, let’s go on and see how the reviewed models are different or similar by the top view.

Nikon D90
Nikon D5100
HTML
BB

After looking at these images, you should get a clear idea of each model’s dimensions and how they are different from each other. However, we are not going to stop there. The next characteristic worth looking at is the weight. Of course, not every photographer is concerned about the weight, for example, it wouldn't be a decisive point for those who shoot in a studio. However, it is still an important factor because if you happen to go on a long photo session or just love having the camera with you wherever you go, you want to be sure that the chosen model isn't too heavy.

Speaking of weight, Nikon D5100 is a lighter option of these two, as it weights 143g less than the Nikon D90. This difference, in fact, can become a significant disadvantage for the photographers, who prefer to have their cameras with them wherever they go.

Comparing Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100 by the type of Sensor and Resolution

Sensor is, without a doubt, the most significant element of every digital camera. Its type, size, and resolution are the factors that define the quality of future shots. Thus, it is barely possible to pick a suitable camera without looking at these specs.

Are Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100 any different in terms of sensor type?

In fact, that's exactly what makes these two models really different. Thus, it is a good point to consider if your are choosing between these two cameras. Nikon D90 features a 12.0 MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor . Nikon D5100, in its turn, comes with a 16.0 MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor , which makes it significantly different from the first model.

Take a look below to find the comparison of Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100 by the size of their sensors.

Nikon D90
Nikon D5100
HTML
BB

Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100 are identical by this indicator, as each feature a sensor of the same size. Thus, both cameras will provide the same level of control in terms of the depth of field if you use them with the same focal length and aperture.

For Which Fields Of Photography Are Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100 Suitable?

If you are interested in photography or has made a career in this field, you should know that different types of shooting actually require different camera characteristics. While one model can produce outstanding portraits, at the same time, it can be terrible for shooting landscapes, and so on. Thus, before you purchase a specific camera, it is vital to decide, which type of shooting you do most often and consider an option that suits it the most.

This section of our comparison is devoted to the performance of Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100 in different fields of photography. Here we are going to look at the five main areas and evaluate how well each of the reviewed models performs in them. This will help you choose an option that suits your needs the most depending on your interest in one or several of these fields.

Photography Type Nikon D90 Nikon D5100
Portrait Photography
66%
62%
Street Photography
75%
74%
Sports Photography
70%
57%
Daily Photography
56%
49%
Landscape Photography
85%
92%

Nikon D90 for Portrait Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.8 mm) sensor
  • Face Detection Focusing

Disadvantages:

  • You might not like Nikon skintone
  • No Image Stabilization

Nikon D5100 for Portrait Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.7 mm) sensor
  • Face Detection Focusing

Disadvantages:

  • You might not like Nikon skintone
  • No Image Stabilization

Nikon D90 for Street Photography

Advantages:

  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Large APS-C(23.6 x 15.8 mm) sensor
  • Big battery life (850 shots)

Disadvantages:

  • Big size (132 x 103 x 77 mm)
  • No Image Stabilization
  • Small Number of autofocus Points (11)

Nikon D5100 for Street Photography

Advantages:

  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Fully Articulated Screen
  • Large APS-C(23.6 x 15.7 mm) sensor

Disadvantages:

  • Big size (128 x 97 x 79 mm)
  • No Image Stabilization
  • Small Number of autofocus Points (11)

Nikon D90 for Sports Photography

Advantages:

  • Big size (132 x 103 x 77 mm)

Disadvantages:

  • Slow Continuous Shooting (4.5 fps)
  • No Environmental Sealing
  • Slow Max Shutter Speed (1/4000s)
  • Smal Number of autofocus Points (11)
  • Bad Low Light ISO (977)
  • Small battery life (850 shots)

Nikon D5100 for Sports Photography

Advantages:

  • Big size (128 x 97 x 79 mm)

Disadvantages:

  • Slow Continuous Shooting (4.0 fps)
  • No Environmental Sealing
  • Slow Max Shutter Speed (1/4000s)
  • Smal Number of autofocus Points (11)
  • Small Number of CrossFocus Points (1)
  • Bad Low Light ISO (1183)
  • Small battery life (660 shots)

Nikon D90 for Daily Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.8 mm) sensor
  • Built-in Flash
  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Wireless Connectivity
  • Video is available

Disadvantages:

  • Big weight (703 g)
  • Big size (132 x 103 x 77 mm)

Nikon D5100 for Daily Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.7 mm) sensor
  • Built-in Flash
  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Wireless Connectivity
  • Video is available

Disadvantages:

  • Big weight (560 g)
  • Big size (128 x 97 x 79 mm)

Nikon D90 for Landscape Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.8 mm) sensor
  • Good Dynamic Range (12.5)
  • Live View
  • RAW Support

Disadvantages:

  • Low resolution sensor (12 MP)
  • No Environmental Sealing
  • Bad Low Light ISO (977)

Nikon D5100 for Landscape Photography

Advantages:

  • Large APS-C (23.6 x 15.7 mm) sensor
  • Good Dynamic Range (13.6)
  • Live View
  • RAW Support

Disadvantages:

  • Low resolution sensor (16 MP)
  • No Environmental Sealing
  • Bad Low Light ISO (1183)

Comparison of Nikon D90 vs Nikon D5100: Final Verdict

Hopefully, our detailed overview of these models has helped you consider all the main specs, pros and cons of each cameras. Maybe, after reading this comparison, some of you have already decided which option to opt for depending on your needs and preferences. However, if you are still wondering which option is a better choice, Nikon D90 or Nikon D5100, below you can see what scores each of them received in five different aspects. To wrap up, we have used our unique Decision Algorithm that assesses different camera models upon 63 different factors including their price, and, if possible, DxO Mark scores. This algorithm allows us to make our verdict more consistent and objective.

What is our final verdict? Based on our comparison and the final scores of Nikon D90 and Nikon D5100 here is what we can say in conclusion:

According all the factors that we considered in the process of comparing these two cameras, Nikon D5100 deserves a higher Total Score than the Nikon D90. Thus, if you are choosing between these options, we would recommend you to choose the first model over the other one.

Nikon D90 vs Nikon D5100 Table Of Technical Specs

For better understanding of each model’s technical characteristics, find the detailed comparison below:

Nikon D90 Nikon D5100
General
Brand Nikon Nikon
Model D90 D5100
Announced Oct 13, 2008 Apr 26, 2011
Body Type Mid-size SLR Compact SLR
Sensor
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Sensor Size APS-C APS-C
Sensor Dimensions 23.6 x 15.8 mm 23.6 x 15.7 mm
Sensor Area 372.88 mm2 370.52 mm2
Sensor Resolution 12.0 MP 16.0 MP
Max Image Resolution 4288 x 2848 4928 x 3264
Max Native ISO 3,200 6,400
Max Boosted ISO 6,400 25,600
Min Native ISO 200 100
RAW Support Yes Yes
Lens
Manual Focus Yes Yes
Lens Mount Nikon F Nikon F
Number of Lenses 287 287
Focal Length Multiplier 1.5x 1.5x
Macro Focus Range
AutoFocus
AF Touch No No
AF Continuous Yes Yes
AF Single Yes Yes
AF Tracking No Yes
AF Selective Yes Yes
AF Center No Yes
AF Multi Area Yes Yes
AF Live View Yes Yes
AF Face Detection Yes Yes
AF Contrast Detection Yes Yes
AF Phase Detection Yes Yes
Number of Focus Points 11 11
Number of Cross Focus Points n/a 1
Screen
Screen Type Fixed Type Fully Articulated
Screen Size 3″ 3″
Screen Resolution 920k dots 921k dots
Live View Yes Yes
Touch Screen No No
ViewFinder
ViewFinder Optical (pentaprism) Optical (pentamirror)
ViewFinder Resolution 0k dots 0k dots
ViewFinder Coverage 96% 95%
ViewFinder Magnification 0.64 0.52
Photography Features
Min Shutter Speed 30 s 30 s
Max Shutter Speed 1/4000 s 1/4000 s
Continuous Shooting 4.5 fps 4.0 fps
Shutter Priority Yes Yes
Aperture Priority Yes Yes
Manual Exposure Mode Yes Yes
Exposure Compensation Yes Yes
Custom White Balance Yes Yes
Image Stabilization No No
Built-in Flash Yes Yes
Flash Range 17 12
Flash Modes Auto, Front curtain, Rear curtain, Red-Eye, Slow Sync Auto, Red-eye, Slow sync, Rear curtain
External Flash Yes Yes
AE Bracketing Yes Yes
WB Bracketing Yes Yes
Exposure Modes
Multi-Segment Yes Yes
Average No No
Spot Yes Yes
Partial No No
AF-Area No No
Center Weighted Yes Yes
DxO Sensor Scores
DxO Sensor Score 73 80
DxO Color Depth 22.7 23.5
DxO Dynamic Range 12.5 13.6
DxO Low Light ISO 977 1183
Video Features
Video Resolutions 1280 x 720 (24 fps), 640 x 424 (24 fps), 320 x 216 (24 fps) 1920 x 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (30, 25, 24 fps), 640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)
Max Video Resolution 1280 x 720 1920 x 1080
Video Formats Motion JPEG MPEG-4
Microphone Port No Yes
Headphone Port No No
Connectivity
Wireless Connectivity Yes Yes
HDMI Yes Yes
USB USB 2.0 USB 2.0
Physical
Environmental Sealing No No
Water Proof No No
Dust Proof No No
Shock Proof No No
Crush Proof No No
Freeze Proof No No
Weight 703 g 560 g
Physical Dimensions 132 x 103 x 77 mm 128 x 97 x 79 mm
Battery Life 850 shots 660 shots
Battery Type Battery Pack Battery Pack
Battery Model EN-EL3e EN-EL14
Other Features
Self Timer Yes Yes
Timelapse Recording No Yes
GPS Optional Optional
Storage Type SD/SDHC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Storage Slots 1 1

Most popular cameras

Canon EOS 70D 20.0 MP CMOS
APS-C
Pentax K-5 IIs 16.0 MP CMOS
APS-C
Sony SLT-A68 24.0 MP CMOS
APS-C
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S 10.0 MP CMOS
Four Thirds
Pentax K-5 II 16.0 MP CMOS
APS-C