DSLR Camera Review: Nikon D5100 vs. Canon Rebel T3i, a.k.a. EOS 600D

The Canon T3i vs. the Nikon D5100: two fine cameras with very similar feature sets and capabilities. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The Canon T3i vs. the Nikon D5100: two fine cameras with very similar feature sets and capabilities. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Here’s another in my series comparing Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras. I’ve written comparisons of the Nikon D3100 vs. the Canon T1i and another article looking at the Nikon D7000 vs. the Canon 60D. I asked my good friend Chris Bennett, owner of Bennett’s Camera in New Orleans, for another good pair of consumer-level DSLRs to review, and this matchup was his pick.

The Nikon D5100 and Canon T3i  fit perfectly in between my other two current reviews: more sophisticated than the entry-level T1i and D3100, but not as pricey as the 60D and D7000. Should you consider either of these cameras for your next DSLR purchase? We’ll try to answer that question here.

Like all of my camera reviews,I’ll try to keep everything in plain English. As someone who shoots cameras every day for a living, my goal is to eliminate as much techno-jargon as possible and give you a sense of what it’s like to actually get out and use both of these machines. I’ll go out and shoot both of them in Program Mode, switch to Full Manual Mode, then do a bit of video with both  for you to compare. To top it off, I’ll come back into the studio and shoot a simple still life. Hopefully, when we’re finished you’ll know a good bit more about both of these options.

The view from the top: that's the Canon on the left, Nikon on the right. The cameras are about the same size but the Nikon 18-55 kit zoom lens is bigger than its Canon counterpart. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The view from the top: that's the Canon on the left, Nikon on the right. The cameras are about the same size but the Nikon 18-55 kit zoom lens is bigger than its Canon counterpart. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

THE  TECHNICAL GIST

We’ll keep this short and sweet:

The D5100 has a 16.2 megapixel sensor; the T3i is about 10% bigger at 18 megapixels. (I’m not sure this is a difference that will be detectable, particularly with the 18-55mm kit zoom lenses that I’m testing with here.) The D5100 can shoot a motor drive burst at 4 frames-per-second compared to the T3i’s 3.7 fps. (Neither of these is nearly as fast as it sounds, should you try and point them at a fast-moving sporting event and get peak-action photos. You need at least 6 fps to capture that.) Although these photos make them appear to be the same size, in your hands, the Canon camera is slightly larger. (I have large hands so this becomes a factor for me.) Two things I like very much: both of these models have articulated rear LCD displays, meaning you can pivot them around to shoot (and see what you’re doing) with the camera up over your head and down below your feet. They also both have external microphone jacks, a TREMENDOUS feature if you plan on doing some serious video (you’ll definitely be using external mics if you want to shoot ‘real’ video.) Both can shoot 1920 x 1080 HD video in a variety of flavors. The Canon has an ISO range of 100-6400 with a 1-stop ‘boost’ possible; the Nikon has the same ISO range of 100-6400 but with 2 stops of extra ‘boost’ possible. Unlike the D7000, neither of these cameras is built on a metal body. (Unless you drop it, that’s actually not a big deal. These are sturdy machines.)

The rear view: Canon on top, Nikon on bottom. Both come with a nice big 3" articulated screen, a feature I really like. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The rear view: Canon on top, Nikon on bottom. Both come with a nice big 3" articulated screen, a feature I really like. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

ERGONOMIC & AUTOFOCUS CONSIDERATIONS

If you’ve spent any time at all on my site, you’ve probably already read some of my preaching about the superiority of back-button autofocus. Without going into all the details again here, suffice it to say I think separating the focus and shutter release functions on a camera is an essential requirement for any serious DSLR shooter. And on this score, the Canon is way ahead, at least for me, because I’m a left-eyed shooter. The button that you program to dedicate for autofocus on the Canon is just to the right of the spot your thumb naturally finds; on the Nikon, it’s a smaller button, closer to the eyepiece and away from the spot your thumb wants to rest. The practical result is that I find my thumb ends up jammed in against my forehead as I try to focus with the Nikon.  If you’re a normal person (that is, right-eyed shooter), this will be less of a problem for you.

MENU NAVIGATION

Let’s take a quick lookat how both cameras handle navigation through the myriad screens and options that you’re presented with when you purchase either of these bodies.  Although both the Nikon and Canon will get you where you want to go through all of the choices for Image Quality, File Size, Autofocus options, Video options, etc., etc., I find the Canon approach is much easier to master.

The Nikon menus, top, can scroll right off the screen, making it hard to know where to find what; the Canon screens use tabs to prevent this irritating issue. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The Nikon menus, top, can scroll right off the screen, making it hard to know where to find what; the Canon screens use tabs to prevent this irritating issue. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The tabs on the Canon—just like in both of the other two Nikon/Canon reviews I’ve done—don’t scroll out of view. Every menu option on that particular tab is visible when you first open the tab. On the Nikon, the options can scroll right out of sight, making it much, much harder to find your way around. This is one thing I would really like to see Nikon address in their product line.

FINALLY, SOME EXAMPLES

With that out of the way,let’s go out into the field and shoot some photos! To start, I set both cameras on Program Mode, allowing the camera to select both the shutter speed and the aperture for the shot. The first two images are of the same sailboat heading back into harbor as a stiff wind kicks up.

The Nikon on the top is flatter and yellower; the Canon looks bluer but with more overall contrast. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The Nikon on the top is flatter and yellower; the Canon looks bluer but with more overall contrast. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

You’ll notice quite a bit of difference in how the two cameras handle the scene. This was actually a surprise to me: in both of my other two Canon/Nikon reviews, the Canon camera shot a warmer version of the scene in each case, the Nikon a cooler, although I found more accurate, version. Here, the Nikon is warmer, but also flatter (lower contrast) than the Canon, which look bluish to my eye, but with better contrast.

The histograms tell the story: the Nikon is flat, with no real shadow or highlight tones. The Canon is lacking highlight tone but has a true black in it's rendering of the scene. Both are usable. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The histograms tell the story: the Nikon is flat, with no real shadow or highlight tones. The Canon is lacking highlight tone but has a true black in it's rendering of the scene. Both are usable. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Looking at a simple Levels histogram of another image from the same location reveals that the Nikon is indeed flatter: there’s not a solid shadow or highlight in this image. The  Canon histogram is more full-range right out of the box. Keep in mind though, that either of these images will tone up fine in Photoshop or any other decent image editing software package you might be using.

Next I wanted to see how each camera would handle a backlit subject—something we all run into frequently while shooting.

The same backlit scene shot with both cameras.  (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The same backlit scene shot with both cameras. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Here’s what the two cameras produced, shooting up into this arbor framework with a brighter sky in the background. No adjustments have been made to the images at all—this is straight out of the camera. Although both of these are acceptable images, I find the Canon exposure to be a bit more balanced and useable. (I’ll have less work to do in Photoshop when my starting point is better.)

Next I went to full Manaul Mode to shoot this driftwood. The straight exposure didn’t give me enough ‘meat’ in my exposure: things looked a bit washed out and desaturated to my eye. Adjusting the manual setting, I was able to create these two images:

To my eye, these are virtually identical images. The Nikon is ISO 200, 1/320th @ f5.6; the Canon is ISO 200, 1/400th @ f4. Both are manual exposures and have had levels adjustments performed in Photoshop. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

To my eye, these are virtually identical images. The Nikon is ISO 200, 1/320th @ f5.6; the Canon is ISO 200, 1/400th @ f4. Both are manual exposures and have had levels adjustments performed in Photoshop. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

This goes to show how much more artistic control you have when shooting manual mode. I find these two images almost indistinguishable. The only thing that would improve these shots would be a much better piece of glass mounted on either of these  camera bodies.

VIDEO WITH THE D5100 & T3i

To shoot video,we first have to get into each camera’s respective ‘video mode,’ and the two machines handle this dance in different ways. With the Nikon, you simply slide a spring-loaded lever one time to enter ‘Live Mode,’ then press a dedicated button near the shutter release to shoot video. With the Canon, you must first switch the Function switch over to Video (the little camcorder icon), press the Live View button once to engage it, then press it again to start shooting video. This is a bit more cumbersome than the straightforward Nikon approach.

To shoot video with the T3i, you must go through a bit of a two-step dance to switch over from still shooting. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

To shoot video with the T3i, you must go through a bit of a two-step dance to switch over from still shooting. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Activating video shooting with the Nikon D5100 is easy. From any of the camera modes, a quick slide of the  video lever activates 'Live View,' then simply pushing the red 'Record' button begins video shooting. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Activating video shooting with the Nikon D5100 is easy. From any of the camera modes, a quick slide of the video lever activates 'Live View,' then simply pushing the red 'Record' button begins video shooting. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Now for a bit of video. It was windy and the little on-board mics that come built into these cameras were no match for the blow that was coming in with an approaching storm. But a color difference is apparent with the video as well. See which one you find most appealing:

Nikon D5100 vs. Canon T3i DSLR Video Quality Comparison from Andrew Boyd on Vimeo.

NOTE: If you do decide to get serious about video shooting with either of these cameras (or any DSLR, for that matter), external microphones are essential. The very first mic you should consider is the Sennheiser MKE 400 Shotgun Microphone. This is a GREAT little shotgun mic, built specifically for DSLR recording. It will give you wonderful results wherever you need decent quality overall audio. It does a decent job of audio interviews out on the street. And as mics go, it’s downright cheap at about $200.

Finally, I went back into my still life ‘studio’ for a couple of simple images. This is a great way to discern color and contrast differences in images without a lot of background distraction.

Peaches in the studio with both cameras. Very similar, but with the same biases that we saw in the other comparisons. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Peaches in the studio with both cameras. Very similar, but with the same biases that we saw in the other comparisons. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

These both look pretty nice to my eye. I see a bit of contrast difference, with the bit of extra contrast  in the Canon image exactly as we would expect to find, based upon our previous shots.

CONCLUSIONS

So what do you think? What do I think? I think these are both very nice cameras that offer a lot of value for the money. I love the articulated screens and external audio jacks. I won’t be shooting any sports with either of these at these motor drive speeds, but for most anything else, they’ll do fine. In fact, if you think you might be in the market for either a Canon 60D or Nikon D7000, you should go try these cheaper brethren out—they just might save you several hundred dollars!

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Equipment

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

111 Comments on "DSLR Camera Review: Nikon D5100 vs. Canon Rebel T3i, a.k.a. EOS 600D"

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  1. I just picked up one of these beauties and i can say that im extremely happy with it, the photos it takes have amazing quality, heck it makes me feel like a professional photographer myself : )

  2. Anindya says:

    Its a nice post. I’ve a D5100 and finds it to be quite nice. Good to know about the contrast though.

  3. I like this camera a lot. It’s a lot of camera for the money…think seriously about this camera if you’re looking at the D7000.

  4. Charla says:

    My eye is drawn to the Canon shots. Which camera would be better if you had to use a flash for shooting inside? Thanks

  5. As long as you buy a dedicated Canon or Nikon strobe that matches, they’ll both do fine for this.

  6. Susan says:

    You don’t seem to recommend this camera for indoor sports. What do you recommend in the same price range?

  7. For the money, you won’t do better. You’ll do ok with this for sports, just be aware that indoor sports if very, very challenging.

  8. Samrendra says:

    It’s a very nice article better description over these 2 cameras … if possible add comparison with multi color images. Such a unique experience i got from your article thanx for this because maximum buddies searching many sites for these.

  9. Jeanine says:

    Thanks , that was very interesting ! Look forward to reading more. I have a Nikon D7000 and I love it!

  10. Sivai says:

    Thanks for the nice write up.. This is the perfect comparison I ever landed on (Here is the information what I need). In fact, I am in a fix between the two. I am a beginner and this is gonna be the first SLR for me.. I am interested in Low light photography.. It would be better if you throw some light on the same.. May be, if you can update the blog with a picture comparison of a low light photo, it will be really great and complete 🙂 (Though most of the reviews says Nikon has a edge over this area, it would be really helpful if there is a comparison image as those present above.. Thanks in advance!!!

  11. Charlotte says:

    Did you use the kit lenses for each camera? On the video did you use the wind reduction feature? I know canon has one but I don’t know if Nikon does,

  12. Rod says:

    Many thanks for an excellent resume.

  13. These were the kit lenses pictured in the review. I shot the video without any additional wind reduction turned on for either camera. There is some noticeable lens focusing noise which would depend upon the lens you were using.

  14. Jennifer says:

    I am looking for a camera to take pictures of my child playing softball. What do you recommend?

  15. Take a look at the Canon T1 series or the Nikon D3100. Both of these will do the job for you. Good luck!

  16. Komang Setiabudi says:

    I love Canon, but I would like to try Nikon. I used Nikon in the past.

  17. CAROLINE GRAY says:

    HI THINKING OF BUYING THE NIKON 7000 HAVE THE CANON REBEL T2I – WHY DO YOU LOVE THE NIKON IS IT WORTH THE EXTRA? YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW JUST WONDERED?

  18. I did my D7000 review and then later, the D5100 review. I’m not sure I would spend the extra money for the D7000–but you’re already a Canon shooter! Switching systems is expensive, not something to do lightly. The T2i is an excellent camera as well.

  19. Dan says:

    A great post. Thanks. My main use for the camera is documenting flat artwork (paintings) under studio condition. Excellent focusing and true color production are very important. Which of the two would you recommend for my uses?

  20. For your situation I would buy the Nikon. I think its color is a bit more neutral than the Canon. But either would work fine.

  21. John says:

    Thank you for the insightful review. I am looking to move from a point and shoot (Nikon CoolPix S8000) to a DSLR, and I am currently torn between these two cameras.

    Most of my shooting consists of family travel photos. But a significant (and growing) percentage are photos and videos in bars where my son plays in a band. The ambient lighting is generally low mixed with spotlights on the stage area.

    I imagine either cmaera will be fine for the family travel photos. Can you recommend one of these over the other for use in the bar situations?

    Thanks!

    John

  22. Either will work equally well, but you’re going to want to get an auxiliary microphone for this since neither of the on-board mics is really very good. I prefer the Sennheiser mic that is mentioned in this same review.

  23. Lorraine says:

    I am considering purchasing the T3i for taking pictures of my kids in sports (as well as vacations, etc!). They are runners (distance, mid distance, and hurdles). Often times it is cloudy here, so I need to be able to take sports pictures in low light.

    I have an old Canon SLR film camera, and would like to use my old lenses on the new camera, so I am trying to stick with a Canon DSLRs.

    I currently am using a PowerShot S5is, which is ok, but I miss some of the features of an SLR, especially the incredible image quality, and being able to use a good telephoto lens.

    Some of the reviews I have read have said that the T3i is not good for sports/action shots, but they don’t specify why. If it is just that it doesn’t have a fast burst mode, I may be able to live with that. I’m not sure if I want to spend a few hundred extra bucks to have a fast burst.

    My question is, will the T3i take good, clear, action shots, even in low light?

    Thanks!
    Lorraine

  24. Kim says:

    I love taking pictures but I always used a normal camera. I want to move up with the quality. I am looking to take pictures of family outings and my son is starting tball. My old camera was crap when he was in soccor couldnt get a good picture of him running. I want a camera that i dont have to wait for the focus. I was looking at the nikon 5100 not sure the difference between that and the 3100. and the canon im not sure at all. Please Help!!!! Thank You

  25. Oscar says:

    Thanks for such a good review! After seeing this I’m leaning more toward the Canon T3i. One thing I really like though is that I saw the Nikon D5100 has an HDR function, so that the contrast problem wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Does the Canon T3i have it too?

  26. Sorry Oscar, I don’t have the camera in front of me and I don’t remember this HDR function. But understand, shooting ‘HDR’ usually refers to shooting and exposure bracket and combining the images in some type of HDR software.

  27. Any of these cameras you’re mentioning will eliminate the ‘shutter lag’ issue that’s common with point and shoot cameras…so take your pick.

  28. In a word, yes. But your guess is right about shooting sports with it: the frame rate, or burst mode, as you call it, is too slow for truly great sports action. But compared to what you’ve been using, it’ll be a huge step up. You should take your lenses to a camera store, however, and see how well they’re going to work on the modern camera–you’ll find that the old lenses will negate a lot of the new camera functionality.

  29. Lance says:

    I’m an actor and am interested in both of these cameras, but having a hard time about deciding based on the purposes I would use it for. I am mainly interested in having my own camera to take me and my friends’ headshots often and using video to record my auditions so that I can upload them to the internet. Obviously I am interested in the best picture quality I can get within both of these cameras’ price range. Any advice?

  30. Hi,

    Nice review. I was wondering if you liked the HDR ability Nikon offer and Canon as yet don’t?

    I currently do a lot of work using HDR software as a plug-in in Aperture, using three images bracketed by 2 stops. I realize the Nikon is using a simple version of this as does the iPhone 4s for that matter. I was curious if you tested this feature. I have Canon DSLR equipment now having moved from Nikon SLRs so I’d rather stay with Canon to utilize the lenses obviously.

    Best

    Michael

  31. AS far as I know, Canon don’t as of yet. I am wanting to know if it’s worth switching to Nikon for this. Currently you have far better control doing this with a plug in for LightRoom or Aperture from multiple exposures. The Nikon auto feature does seem to work well from what I have seen though. This is clearly the future of DSLRs since we have lived with this false limitation of camera’s versus our own eyes for too long . Canon will surely catch up soon!

  32. Caity says:

    Great review! However, I’m still having trouble deciding between the two. This will be my first time buying a dslr and I know absolutely nothing about them or lenses. I need something that will produce professional quality photos and videos, but not cost an arm and a leg in the long run. Which brand has a better selection and price for lenses?

    My purpose for the new camera will be primarily for taking pics of jewelry for my business, but I also love capturing quality personal moments on video, and taking pictures of my everyday life as well. Could you recommend a good combo (preferred camera + all purpose lens + macro lens for jewelry). Please, I really appreciate your input. Have a wonderful day!

  33. Either of these cameras will work…and the kit lens that comes with it has a macro feature as well. Eventually you’ll want a better lens–you get what you pay for on lenses, no way around it. I find the Canon glass is a bit cheaper overall, but not by much, if that helps.

  34. I do my HDR images inside of Photoshop, which seems to work fine.

  35. Opperdienaar says:

    I had the Canon 500d/rebel t1 and found the auto focus in life view mode rather unusable. Did you notice any difference between auto focus performance in live view between these two camera’s. DP review claims it is still pretty bad for Canon 600D, but I don’t know how it compares to the D5100.

  36. I was pretty pleased to uncover this site. I need to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new information in your website.

  37. I can’t speak specifically to the d5100, but can tell you that in general, the AF while in video modes is an issue with all of these machines.

  38. James says:

    I’m in the market of purchasing 1st SLR. However, I found difficult to pick. Nikon D5100 is sharper but the RAW color is not as good as Canyon. I found some deal in Costco Canon T3i + 18-200mm lens are $999 and Nikon D5100 + 18-55mm + 55-300mm lens are $949. They both have similar accessories. Which one would you recommend for regular + some minor sports shots. will Nikon gives more flexibility with more lens? Thanks.

  39. Tough choice. The 300mm focal length will definitely help with sports. All of the lenses you’re finding in these kits are consumer level (inexpensive) glass so you will need to be realistic about the results you’ll achieve. I would make the decision based upon which camera body you like better.

  40. I’ve scanned a lot of reviews about Nikon D5100 and Canon 600D and still I can’t decide which camera will I choose. I don’t want my money to come into waste, I really want a nice reason why should I need buy D5100 or 600D. Because this year I’ll be having my Concept Photography subject at school what camera do you think works the best, most of my friends are Canon user because of its megapixel. I know megapixels is not one of the reason to buy a camera. Please help me! I want to know which camera is easy to use and has good quality of photo between the two.

    Thank you in advance and sorry for my english I’m from the Philippines.

  41. EJ says:

    Hi, thanks for the nice review. However, I’m still torn between the two even after exhaustive research. First off, I’m a D-SLR beginner. My main use for the camera will be for taking storm pictures and video (if I ever see a tornado). Since tornadoes are rare, most of my shots will be stills of cloud structure and environment. Most of these pictures will be taken between 4:00 pm and 9:00 pm. I would also like to get lightning shots both at dusk and at night. While not storm hunting, I’ll be taking outdoor pictures of buildings and outdoor artwork (sculptures, architectural details, etc) in an urban environment. Which camera would you recommend for these purposes?

  42. For your situation either will be fine. I would probably make my decision based on which feels more comfortable in my hands and which set of controls I liked better.

  43. Have you tried both cameras yourself? Shot some photos with them? If possible, go to a store that will let you shoot a bit, take your own SD card and shoot some, see which you like better. They will both work fine for you.

  44. Wong says:

    I like Nikon’s functionality but this canon’s colour seems nicer… Which should i get?

  45. EJ says:

    This was probably the hardest consumer product purchase decision that I’ve ever made! Props to both Nikon and Canon for making this decision so tough.

    It was a VERY close decision but I ended up going with the D5100. The fact that it shares the same sensor with the D7000 was the deciding factor.

  46. I would take a couple of memory cards to a camera store that will let you shoot some photos with both. Shoot duplicate scenes with each camera, see which camera handles better, which feature set you prefer, than look at the photos you shot. Ultimately you’ll have to choose what worked better for you since there in no wrong answer here.

  47. sevrin says:

    what camera would be better for skateboarding videos and photography?

  48. I blog quite often and I seriously appreciate your information. This article has truly peaked my interest. I will book mark your website and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.

  49. Eyo says:

    Im a photography newbie…Jst purchased a D5100(based on ds article) wit a NIKON AF NIKKOR 28-200mm lens.Followd the manual’s instructions bt Iv stil been havin a hard tym setting the camera to autofocus…Desperately nid serious HELP!!

  50. Either would work but you might want something smaller and lighter for that. Depends upon your budget and how ambitious you want to get with the videos…

  51. I would return the equipment if it’s not autofocusing properly. It should work right out of the box if everything is good.

  52. Stephanie says:

    Hi there! Loved the reviews on both cameras. After extensive research, still trying to decide between the T3i and the 5100.

    My purpose for the camera is mainly for everyday life pictures of my kids. I’ve found the point and shoots aren’t very good with busy (aka “moving”) objects like kids. Pictures turn out blurry or the picture takes so long to shoot, the kids are already out of the frame.

    Which camera would you suggest for fidgety kids? 🙂

    Thanks!!

  53. Either can handle your kids, no problem. I’d go with the one that felt the best in my hands. Good luck!

  54. Julie says:

    Thank you for the great article.

    I am looking for my first DSLR Camera and am having a hard time deciding between these two, they both compare equally from what I can see.

    I am about to head overseas to Europe and am looking for a DSLR that is a good all rounder – portrait and landscape photos, can capture low light etc.

    Many people I have spoken to prefer one over the other, but I think I am finding this is because it is the one they own and use.

    This is a hobby for me, but I am interested in taking classes so I can take better more balanced photos. Which one do you think would be better in these circumstances? Thank you

  55. Have you had a chance to shoot a bit with both of them? Even in a camera store, using your own CF card? You’ll ultimately need to make a decision based upon how you like the feel and functionality of one over the other since both are solid, decent machines.

  56. Ashraf says:

    Thank you…The comparison was awesome. Could you tell me, which of these cameras will be better for low light photography.

  57. Both will be fine. If you don’t already own lenses, pick the one that feels better in your hands.

  58. issa says:

    Kudos for giving a review stripped of jargons!

    I am planning to buy my first SLR. I am a beginner and would like to take images of better quality than those of point-and-shoot ones. I am interested in the 600D. However, my main use will be just for family outings, holidays, and some landscape pics and a few good portraits too. My nephews are into sports, so that too. Do you think I don’t need a 600D, and go to cheaper models like the canon 1100D or the nikon d3100? As of now the price difference in my country is about $200, and I don’t know if that is worth it.

    Please help. Thanks 🙂

  59. Joanne Slackman says:

    I found your blog web site on google and examine a couple of of your early posts. Continue to keep up the excellent operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. In search of forward to studying more from you afterward!

  60. Neither of these models is really fast enough for sports, so don’t let that be your reason. For what you’re doing the 1100D or d3100 will
    be fine. Good luck!

  61. Ariane says:

    Thanks for the superb review and advices!
    Quick question: Can both camera work well in winter condition taking photos / videos of snowing scenery, human/ objects? Any special lens needed to do a decent job?

  62. Both will work equally well under snowy conditions. You should consider getting yourself a polarizing filter for the snow though since the higher UV
    that you’ll encounter on bright days can create problems for your camera’s light sensor. Good luck!

  63. Chuck H says:

    Regarding the contrast differences. I want to know if the images displayed (say the peaches in studio) were more realistic in the Nikon while Canon seems to even it out? I have an older Nikon. I know I can achieve the same look in the second Canon pics if I want them by adjusting, say active d lighting, even if the first out of the box unfiltered shot is, in fact, more precisely what I see in front of me. Of course, what I see may not be the effect that I wish to capture. I have oftened wondered if the Canon was doing too much “pre” adjusting the image with the out of the box shot. What do you think? If the Nikon shot is, in your opinion, a failure to capture the reality in front of the lens, I must give much more consideration to Canon for my next purchase. My only personal comparisons between Nikon and Canon is “in store” where the Nikon seemed to give me what I was seeing with my eye and the Canon seemed to begin with some additional interpretation to color and light right up front. I am a rank novice, so this is a question based on the “unlearned” inexperience that goes with that. Is my experience and observation simply unhelpful anecdotal quips with no weight or worth consideration? Thanks. By the way, I was right now thinking of getting the 5100, but I can be converted to CAnon.

  64. Gaurav says:

    Wonderful Comparison!!! Well done!! Cleared the confusion in my mind!! Thanks a lot!!

  65. Teresa Mustaffa says:

    I’m looking to get a good quality beginners camera for both taking pictures and doing videos. My daughter plays gymnastics a lot and some of the pics I take do not have a close up shot. Is there a quality camera that I can video and take pics but will give me good indoor sports shots when they are far away and want a close up?

    I don’t want to spend $600 – $900. Prefer something a little cheaper.

    Any recommendations?

    Teresa

  66. The Canon is warmer, the Nikon result actually more ‘neutral’ to my eye. The 5100 is a great camera, go for it.

  67. Alan R says:

    I’ve read countless reviews with regards the 600d v 5100 and so much so its confused me to the point where i’m more or less tossing a coin
    This is my first step up to the DSLR range and after careful consideration where I wanted to enter these 2 camera’s fited the bill .
    I had in my mind the Canon 600d only because I have had a canon powershot that has been great to use to this point . Not the best of reasons I Know
    I have vouchers to use at Jessops via Tesco which basically mean I’ll get my purchase half price .
    Anyway when i went into the store to checkout the assistant told me they had a couple of other big offers that he thought he had to mention to confuse me even more
    The Nikon 5100 was available slightly cheaper with a 105mm lens and also the Canon 550 was on offer with 2 lens 18mm-55m and 75mm to 300mm at a similar price
    At this stage I don’t see myself ever expanding on to more expensive mpdels I think I’ll be with what I purchase for a long time to come
    I just want to take great photos of my family growing up , a few videos of them playing in the garden, good photos at xmas time where the night and lights come into show . ease of use .
    Anybody help me here and suggest what they would be looking to go with out of the 3 above
    Many Thanks

  68. But the 5100. It’s a great rig and will do exactly what you want. Good luck!

  69. Alan R says:

    Did you mean BUY

  70. Gus says:

    Thank you so much for this review by far the best I’ve seen online. I would like your suggestion on which camera I should choose t31 or Nikon d5100. My main use is to use it when I Dj to take photos of the crowd from my Dj booth. I wouldn’t throw out the t4i also I wouldn’t mind paying extra for that. I’m just so lost. Please help thanks

  71. M says:

    I’m between the Canon T3i and the Nikon D3100. Read plenty on each. You’ve reviewed them both but not vs each other. With the price difference not being an issue, your thoughts on which you would consider a better purchase. I also have a flash from a previous purchase that could act as a slave. Thank you in advance.

  72. Between these two, I would buy the T3i.

  73. Either one will work fine. Pick the one that feels best in your hands.

  74. Thomas Panicker says:

    Great review Andrew !!

    All of the reviews I came across previously had made a Nikon D5100 fan and I was just about to buy the Nikon. But your review has made me thinking again. The sample shots for canon looks more pleasing to me.

    I have used my cousins Canon T1i, but found the photos to be very dull. But the photos from my Canon SX10 point and shoot camera was very bright and colorful. I saw several shot made suing Nikon cameras and found them to better than canon. But your photos suggest otherwise.

    I do not plan to buy many lenses in future. I was planning on getting the Nikon D5100 with 18-105mm lens for around $800 and buy the 35mm f1.8 and the Nikon 55-300 in the future.

    But the Canon 600D with the 18-135mm lens seems to be $1200.

    What is your opinion?? The Nikon D5100 with 18-105mm or Canon 600D with 18-135mm? The Canon lenses seems to be costlier. And why was I getting dull images from the Canon 500D (T1i).

  75. The sensors continue to improve on these cameras, as do the LCD screens–which might explain why you found the results on the ‘old’ T1i
    not satisfactory. Both the cameras you’re considering will do a great job for you. It gets down to which one feels better in your hands. So you need to try and work with both of them a bit.

  76. Heather says:

    Will either of these cameras work with my Sigma zoom lenses? I have a Sigma DG 150-500 mm 1:5-6.3 APO HSM and a Sigma DG 70-300 mm 1:4-5.6 lens that I have been using with my Canon Rebel XSi up until the camera quit working (error 99 probable shutter problem).

    I have had great luck with the Rebel, my first dslr, and have taken a huge number of photos with it but, instead of paying for repairs, I want to upgrade to something with improved image quality.. better detail, especially with bird images. I take a lot of shots of hawks and owls in flight, and all wildlife in general. Without breaking the bank, I`d like to find something that would provide a better quality of detail than what I have gotten with the Rebel XSi.

    Thanks in advance for your assistance, I have enjoyed reading this page tremendously, and am very appreciative of the information you have shared.

  77. kuya Jason says:

    Hello Andrew,
    Greetings from Costa Rica! I am considering buying a Nikon D5100, thanks to your review and the review comparison from this site* that seems very pro Nikon, very informative… and by comparing prices on the internet (i.e. ebay) Nikons seem cheaper.

    I have had the CanonPowershot 10x, it’s been a year since it has died, so … I don’t have a camera until I get one, eventually… I have friends who’s side income is by taking photos, they said Canon is cheaper in the long haul as far as lenses. Is that correct, the canon lenses are cheaper? I’m divided still.

    SHOULD I INVEST a Nikon D5100 or a Canon T3i (both with the the swivel feature). PLEASE ADVICE.

    Oh, I will be taking a lot graduation (low light) pictures, and wedding photos, etc. I want to use photography, my hubby, to support my studies.

    *http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-T3i-vs-Nikon-D5100

  78. kuya Jason says:

    Oh, another question (while am at it)

    Are the Nikon D5100 kit (with several lenses like in ebay) worth it? Are the lenses of the same quality or lesser quality than buying them individually? (I was advised the kit lenses are lesser quality and not as worth it in the long run) What is your opinion?

    Also, how can we know if the cameras are made authentic (i.e. Japan and not Thailand or wherever).. are they the same?

    Thank you in advance for the reply.

  79. Heather S says:

    Thank you SOOO much for this review ! I have canon people on one side of me and nikon on the other side and so it was great to read someone who gave hard examples from both in a neutral way!

    Like most who posted above – I am about buying my first DSLR and was at a loss on which to get. I did notice that the best thing to do is to go and hold them in your hand and see which one feels better. Also to take some pictures in the store (if possible) which I will try and do. But I want something that is easy to learn, give me good raw color while I learn photoshop or lightbox, and that I could have for years and grow with me. With that in mind, will either of these camera grow better than the other? (meaning which one has more staying power in your opinion)

    Also, say there was a unicorn outside your window right now — and these cameras were side-by-side and you had to grab one quickly to get the picture of a lifetime — which one would you grab?

    thanks so much for your help — your website is great resource and its awesome !

  80. Heather:
    See which one feels better in your hands. There’s your answer! Both will grow with you as you develop your photography, no problem. Good luck!

  81. Don’t worry about Thailand/Japan. The Japanese keep a tight rein on quality control. The kit lenses are definitely cheaper. Good for the beginning hobbyist but not something that an experienced shooter will be happy with.

  82. The cameras are both decent cameras. The Canon lenses ARE slightly cheaper overall, but not by more than 10%.

  83. Sorry for the delay in answering this, been out of pocket for a bit.
    You’ll want to head into a store with your sigma lenses to check on this. I think they should
    work ok but you may not get all of the functionality of the camera/lens, it’ll depend upon how
    the contacts at the mount line up.

  84. Aun says:

    Hello Andrew,
    i wanna ask you that how would like to prefer one on other if see both; as a brand in general with their evolution through time and their results for a complete package ( i know sometimes one is for videos and other is for stills) but i insist for a complete package. i am not a professional consumer but you can count me in the slab of beginner to prosumer highend; please don’t count their price while making a preference. So which one nikon or canon?

  85. kelvin says:

    now i am realy confused
    plz sugest me wich camera to buy
    canon 600D or nikon D5100???
    plz rep as soon as posible

  86. This answer may not satisfy…I’ve used both brands professionally, first Canon, then Nikon, now back to Canon. They are both EXCELLENT lines of gear. It’s like picking between a Honda and a Toyota. It’s a personal preference. The reason my company went back to Canon was simple: as we covered Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, all of our Nikon cameras–ALL of them–failed. The cameras succumbed to the to the moisture and fungus. The Canon cameras that others were using held up better because they had better gaskets sealing everything. So we switched.

  87. Can you get your hands on both of these to try? You’ll need to see which one feels and operates better to you. Both of the systems behind these machines are excellent, so you’ll have to make a personal decision.

  88. sfaz says:

    Hello great post , im leaning towards the t3i. im a beginner , so now that i decided the camera, its about buying a good starting point kit. i dont know if i should get a camera lense kit, or just body only. im on a $800 dlls budget.

    im just lookin to take nice vacation pictures. but who knows maybe i take it a bit farther later on.

    Costco is selling the t3i for $779 with 2 lenses 18-55, and 55 – 200 , a bag and 8gb memory. which sound pretty good to me.

    what do you think.?

  89. kuya Jason says:

    Thank you for responding. On this dialogue I favor Canon.

  90. kuya Jason says:

    Thank you for the reply. Whew! Now I can rest a little bit on that one… not having to “worry about Thailand/Japan”. (a sigh of relief)

    For some reason, on this dialogue I leaned back towards Nikon… but I’m thinking …

  91. kuya Jason says:

    Thank you for the reply. Whew! I am glad to hear I don’t have to “worry about Thailand/Japan” and that “the Japanese keep a tight reign on quality control”. (a sigh of relief).

    For some reason I lean towards back Nikon … I’m just thinking…

  92. Go for it. That’s a good deal.

  93. Tee says:

    Thank you so very much for that excellent presentation/comparsion. It was very helpful. Unfortunately, I am beginner in photography and really do not know where to start. Searching many websites (QVC,Costco, Penn Camera, ….just to name a few), I am even more confused with the pricing. This will be my first DSLR and I am very uncertain of what brand to select: Canon or Nikon. After looking at your comparsions and reading all of the above comments, I am now considering the CanonEOS Rebel T4i based on the price and package deal. Initially I was considering the Nikon D5100, but after your comparsion of the Nikon D5100 to the Canon T3i, I think I am going to go with the Canon T4i ( a more recent model). QVC has a package for this model for $999 which includes two lenses (Includes EOS Rebel T4i DSLR camera body, 18-55 IS lens, 75-300 lens, 8GB SD card, interface cable, neck strap, rechargeable battery, carrying bag, EOS Digital Solution software, software instruction CD, manual). What do you really suggest, for a beginner like me?

  94. That’s an OK price but nothing special. You can get a T3i and the 18-55 lens and the 55-250 zoom lens all for about $750 US right now. (There’s a Canon promotion right now through the end of the year through dealers.)

  95. TracyL says:

    Thank you for all the reviews but I am still somewhat confused!

    I also am around alot of Canon users but I have used a Nikon 5000 in the past shooting rodeo pics & those pics was good not great but good (I am sure that was probably me)!

    I am a amateur & I am wanting a better camera then what I have had in the past (point & shoot cameras).
    What I will be mainly using the camera for is shooting pics of my daughter’s basketball games, her cheerleading, pep rallies, family vacations, family functions, nature & wildlife. My husband is letting me get one of these cameras for Christmas & I want to make sure I choose one that will last me for some time because we don’t go out & spend this kind of money on a regular basis!

    The price at Sam’s Club for the Canon Rebel T3i, EF-S 18-55mm IS II & EF-S 55-250mm plus bag, cable, 8g memory card & tutorial video $749.00 & for the Nikon D5100, 18-55mm VR Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200mm VR Zoom-Nikkor, bag & tutorial video $699.00 & of course they both come with straps, batteries & battery chargers.

    Thanks for any input to help me make my decision!

  96. Go to Sam’s and buy this kit. Great camera, you’ll love it.

  97. TracyL says:

    Ok, but which one is best suited for what I am going to shoot (pics of my daughter’s basketball games, her cheerleading, pep rallies, family vacations, family functions, nature & wildlife).

    The Canon Rebel T3i or Nikon D5100? You didn’t give me your opinion, your a professional & I am a amateur!

    Thanks again for your opinion & help!

  98. TracyL says:

    Ok, but you didn’t say which one would be best suited for what I will be shooting (pics of my daughter’s basketball games, her cheerleading, pep rallies, family vacations, family functions, nature & wildlife)!

    The Canon Rebel T3i or the Nikon D5100?

    I would just like your opinion because you are a professional & I am a amateur!

    Thanks for your help & opinion!

  99. Vic says:

    Both are great cameras the Canon takes slightly more vivid pictures. The biggest difference and deciding factor is actually how the camera feels in your hands. I went through the same choice between the now much older D90. Went to the store and picked them up, to my hands there was no comparison the D90 just felt better. Its like a running shoe some prefer Nike others Adidas it depends on the shape of your feet in this case your hands. Go try them both out and buy the one that feels better.

  100. John says:

    I’ve been trying to decide between these two cameras for a week now and keep going back an forth, as some review will draw me toward one or the other. You review seems less biased towards a brand and focused more on results and I appreciate that. From the examples you have given, I’m drawn more toward the Canon based on the better contrast and what I feel to be a little richer. One thing I noticed of thee driftwood shot is that the D5100 seems to also be a little softer (which I’ve heard about Nikons). The Canon seems to sharpen the image more and pull out a little more detail. Also, being that my wife (who has zero experience) will also be shooting with whatever we buy I like the simpler navigation for settings and what seems to be a somewhat more accurate and responsive full auto mode.

    From all I’ve seen, both seem to be good units with good image quality, but one thing I’m wondering about is action and low light capabilities. I have one son who is soccer player so I think either will work well in an outdoor environment like that, but my other son is a gymnast so we do a lot of gymnasium action shooting, from small gymnastics facilities to large University field houses and arenas where good amount of zoom is necessary. (Our point-and-shoot super zoom we have now is not doing it).

    Some reviews and blogs I’ve seen say the T3i has a lot of issues focusing in low-light settings and the D5100 does a lot better. Other reviews/blogs make the same bad focus claim about the Nikon and claim the Canon is the way to go. Therefore I’m assuming user error to be the problem in both of these claims. But, on sites that show high-ISO image comparisons between these two models, the results still seem to be mixed which leaves me as confused and indecisive as when I started my DSLR search. Some show less noise and better quality at higher ISOs with the canon, while other comparisons show the cleaner, better high-ISO shots going to the Nikon. One thing I have read, is that for closer high-ISO shots the Nikon has a dedicated low-light focus assist beam, but the Canon has a focus strobe that you need to have the flash up for which can cause the flash to fire unwantedly when trying to take a non-flash shot. What is your experience with these two models in these higher-ISO situations. And do either actually have any issues with finding focus in lower-light settings, or is that as I thought, newbie users not yet figuring things out with their camera?

    Thank You!

  101. John says:

    Make sure the additional lens that comes with whatever kit you buy is labeled VR (Vibration reduction) or IS (Image stabilization) (whichever acronym Canon Uses). To use a zoom with out it is almost guaranteeing blurry images, and many of these promotional kits com with the cheaper lens that doesn’t have any stabilization.

    Happy Shooting.

  102. Dawn says:

    I am wondering the same! I will use my first dslr for many things but especially important is probably low light and indoor action photos of cats to help me place kittens and rescues. Also need to be able to go outside and get good photos of dogs, goats, farm animals and my child too =). I’ve read some reviews that for low light the Nikon D5100 is better than the Canon t3i. But im no expert just sharing what i’ve been reading. Maybe the author of this great review can help us out. This is the best one i found (love the visual comparison of photos) but no low light comparison. =)

  103. I haven’t experienced this issue with either camera. Go with the one whose functionality fits YOU better.
    Once you’re using the thing all of these issues are going to disappear.
    Good luck!

  104. Zoe R. says:

    I’m a mom of two teens who is now ready to upgrade from my regular point and shoot cameras. I currently own a Nikon Coolpix P100, which my husband so generously bought for me a few years ago (at a slightly higher price than what the D500 and the T3i are now selling) and aside from the zoom function, I am not as satisfied with the picture quality as those taken using a DSLR camera. Thus, I am now doing a bit of a research on which one to purchase, and I just want to say thank you for your very thorough and informational comparison on the two models that I am considering. Admittedly, I am an amateur who knows nothing about the technicalities of photography, but I am very interested to learn. One request if not too much of an inconvenience: would you mind posting a shot taken indoors using both cameras? As you can imagine, my life as a mom revolves around a lot of indoor activities (school plays, musicals, ceremonies, etc) and it would be most helpful to see the difference in picture quality.

    Thank you again for your insight. I look forward to learning more about photography.

  105. Zoe,
    Sorry, but I’m afraid that, other than the images included with the original post, I don’t have images available to show you. The two cameras are very similar in quality and similar in their ability to handle low light situations. If you’ve been happy with the Nikon you have, I would suggest sticking with Nikon.
    Good luck!

  106. April says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for your very simple and easy to understand photos of how to get the video to work on my 5100. I watched like 4 youtube videos and none of them were direct with how to do it. I’m grateful I just clicked on google images and found your site! YOU ROCK!

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