Updated (April 2011): Compare the Nikon D5100 vs Nikon D90

Nikon D5100 vs Nikon D90

Nikon D5100


Nikon D90



Reasons to buy the Nikon D5100

Full HD
Movie format
1080p @ 30fps
Flip-out screen
Screen flips out
Great for movies
In-camera HDR
Combines multiple exposures
Movie continuous focus
Movie continuous focus
Makes it easy to get in-focus movies

Reasons to buy the Nikon D90

Viewfinder size
Large viewfinder
Great viewfinder
Shutter lag
Barely any delay taking photos
208 ms shutter lag
Battery life
Great battery life
850 shots


Explore our gallery of 50 sample photos taken by the Nikon D5100.
Explore our gallery of 50 sample photos taken by the Nikon D90.


Nikon D5100 Competitors

Nikon D3200

Nikon D3200

Entry-level DSLR

$289 body only

$379 - $447 with 18-55mm lens

True resolution Much higher true resolution
Color depth Better color depth
HDR Lacks in-camera HDR
Nikon D5200

Nikon D5200

Entry-level DSLR

$378 body only

$479 - $597 with 18-55mm lens

Movie format Lower frame rate movies
True resolution Much higher true resolution
Battery life Shorter battery life
Nikon D3300

Nikon D3300

Entry-level DSLR

$400 - $497 with 18-55mm lens

Movie format Lower frame rate movies
Low light performance Lower noise at high ISO
HDR Lacks in-camera HDR

Nikon D90 Competitors

Nikon D3200

Nikon D3200

Entry-level DSLR

$289 body only

$379 - $447 with 18-55mm lens

Movie format Higher resolution movies
True resolution Much higher true resolution
Viewfinder size Much smaller viewfinder
Nikon D7000

Nikon D7000

Entry-level DSLR

$479 body only

$719 with 18-105mm lens

Movie format Higher resolution movies
Low light performance Lower noise at high ISO
Shutter lag More shutter lag
Nikon D7200

Nikon D7200

Entry-level DSLR

$935 - $1,097 body only

$1,397 with 18-140mm lens

Movie format Higher resolution movies
Low light performance Significantly lower noise at high ISO
Viewfinder size Smaller viewfinder


Advantages of the Nikon D5100

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Movie format
Higher resolution movies
1080p @ 30fps vs 720p @ 24fps
Shoots higher resolution Full HD (1080p) video at a higher frame rate
Low light performance
Lower noise at high ISO
1,183 ISO vs 977 ISO
The D5100 has a slight edge (0.3 f-stops) in low-noise, high-ISO performance
Video autofocus
Contrast detection vs None
Automatically focuses shooting video
Overall image quality
Better image quality
80.0 vs 73.0
Around 10% better image quality
Has in-camera HDR
Yes vs No
Combines multiple exposures to capture high dynamic range
External mic jack
Has an external mic jack
Yes vs No
Record high quality audio with an external microphone
Screen flips out
Has a flip-out screen
Yes vs No
Flip-out screens can be helpful when composing tricky shots or taking movies
Color depth
Better color depth
23.5 bits vs 22.7 bits
Distinguishes 0.8 more bits of color
True resolution
Significantly higher true resolution
16.1 MP vs 12.2 MP
Capture more than 30% more detail in your photos
Dynamic range
More dynamic range
13.6 EV vs 12.5 EV
0.3 f-stops more dynamic range
Lowest price
Significantly cheaper
$399.95 vs $756.90
The best price we've seen is $357 cheaper (around 50% less)
Light sensitivity (boost)
Better boost ISO
25,600 ISO vs 6,400 ISO
The D5100's boost ISO is 4 f-stops better
127×97×79 mm vs 132×103×77 mm
Around 10% smaller
560 g vs 703 g
More than 20% lighter
Light sensitivity
Better maximum light sensitivity
6,400 ISO vs 3,200 ISO
The D5100's maximum light sensitivity is 2 f-stops better
Nikon D5100 Learn more about
the Nikon D5100

Advantages of the Nikon D90

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Viewfinder size
Much larger viewfinder
0.63x vs 0.51x
More than 50% larger viewfinder
Shutter lag
Less shutter lag
208 ms vs 273 ms
More than 20% less delay when taking photos
Has a pentaprism viewfinder
Pentaprism vs Pentamirror
Pentaprism viewfinders are typically brighter
Battery life
Longer battery life
850 shots vs 660 shots
Around 30% more shots per battery charge
Built-in focus motor
Has a built-in focus motor
Yes vs No
Autofocuses with all autofocus lenses
Startup delay
Less startup delay
300 ms vs 500 ms
40% less delay when turning on
Continuous shooting
Shoots faster
4.5 fps vs 4 fps
More than 10% faster continuous shooting
Viewfinder coverage
Better viewfinder coverage
96% vs 95%
Almost the same
3" vs 3.1"
Almost the same
Nikon D90 Learn more about
the Nikon D90


Which camera do we recommend? Relative to the best recent entry-level DSLRs, and ignoring price

Snapsort Recommends
Nikon D5100 Nikon D5100 71
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        68 Nikon D90 Nikon D90
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              Compared to recent entry-level DSLRs

              Common Strengths
              Lens availability Many lenses available Help
              230 lenses
              Common Weaknesses
              Fastest shutter speed Slow max shutter speed Help
              1/4000 of a second
              Thickness Quite thick Help
              True resolution Capture low resolution images Help
              D510016.1 MP
              D9012.2 MP
              Viewfinder coverage Below average viewfinder coverage Help
              Cross type focus points Few cross-type focus points Help
              Light sensitivity Poor maximum light sensitivity Help
              D51006,400 ISO
              D903,200 ISO
              Continuous shooting Slow continuous shooting Help
              D51004 fps
              D904.5 fps
              Focus points Few focus points Help
              Weather sealed Neither is weather sealed Help
              Need to shelter it from weather
              Image stabilization No image stabilization Help
              Risk of blur
              Touch screen No touchscreens Help
              More buttons
              Movie format Poor movies Help
              D51001080p @ 30fps
              D90720p @ 24fps




              Nikon D5100 Nikon D90
              Nikon D5100 Nikon D90
              Nikon D5100 Nikon D90


              Nikon D5100

              Report a correction
              Nikon D90

              Report a correction

              Showing 25 comments

              Avatar for Kostis Kostis (7:05 PM, August 03, 2014)
              well.it's 2014 and nikon d5100 is the king of the vfm dslr at the moment.
              still no big difference compared to higher models 7000/7100 or newer 5xxx like 5200 and 5300 :)
              Avatar for Pepe Le Pew Pepe Le Pew (8:26 PM, January 31, 2014)
              Pentax K-30 if you can find one
              Avatar for Randall Randall (0:19 AM, January 20, 2014)
              Just bought a D5100 after seeing the comparison here and it being shown to have better image quality than the D90. However after using the D5100 I am so disappointed. It feels cheap and clunky (albeit lighter), and I am so used to the ISO buttons and the screen at the top with the ISO, shutter, aperture and pics left on card. I also took shots with my 35 1.8 on both cameras and could not agree that the D5100 is better quality. With same settings the D90 took much better pics.

              So get a D90 if you can cheap, otherwise go for a D600 or similar camera that wasn't designed for soccer moms who just want to point and shoot and feel like they still have a DSLR.
              kadafy (6:15 PM, December 14, 2013)
              Nikon D5100 is the best!
              Avatar for anzar anzar (9:49 AM, May 29, 2013)
              focus motor in camera body is not too important, but you can feel a faster autofocus in canon eos. But i had trouble with my eos 1000d and 500d, since i buy with the kit lens 18-55. Both of my lens kit can't use autofocus mode because the motor is broken, and it happen less than 2 years since i buy it, and the shutter count about 15000. It is different with my d3100 although slower autofocus i feel the shutter more soft and the lens kit last longer
              Zatmu (3:21 AM, April 24, 2013)
              I want start play camera,which one should i choose,D90 or D5200?i want be photographer.thanks in advance for respons
              Avatar for Cata Cata (11:23 AM, March 02, 2013)
              D 90 is semiprofessional camera. you can learn photography. it is old, but you can still find for a good price, 400 dollars - 600 with 18/105mm
              Avatar for Nuri Kesim Nuri Kesim (3:55 PM, January 17, 2013)
              There is a function button in front side of 5100. and you can assign this button for changing iso levels.
              Avatar for Zah Ran Zah Ran (11:13 AM, December 29, 2012)
              معالى الباشا

              كنت عايز اسالك سؤال بس

              لو بصيت على المقارنه دى هتلاقى ال 5100 احسن

              كلون وكجوده الصورة

              وكمان ال 5100 عامله 4800ج بعدسه 18-105

              وال 90 عامله 5200 بعدسه 18-105

              وال 5100 مش فيها اوتو فوكس

              ال 90 فيها

              هتفرق برده معايا لو نويت اجيب عدسه بعد كده

              فكنت عايز اعرف رايك ؟
              Avatar for Zah Ran Zah Ran (11:13 AM, December 29, 2012)
              what the best d9 or d5100 ?
              and why ?
              Yudi Maryanto (9:18 AM, July 27, 2012)
              if you have no plan to buy another 3 lenses...go for D5100....D5100 pix quality very sharp indeed with bigger MP 
              Avatar for dt2003au dt2003au (2:43 AM, July 15, 2012)
              There is a problem with this comparison, as D90 was released 2008, while D5100 is from 2011! Therefore this is not comparing the same with the same. When it was released, D90 was not considered an "entry level dSLR" at all, in fact it was then the flagship prosumer camera from Nikon. Overall, D90 was one of the most successful digital cameras from Nikon, which is confirmed by the fact that it is still being sold from Nikon, four years after its release. Let's have a look at Nikon D5100 in 2015.
              Cherukuriac (7:43 PM, June 17, 2012)
               Even D5100 has this dude...
              Yuman (4:29 AM, December 29, 2011)
              i think d90 the besr
              Avatar for Lasse Lasse (9:03 PM, December 23, 2011)
              I have them booth and the D90 feels more professional and handles is much better then the d5100 and the lack of AF motor is a BIG disadvantage of the d5100.
              dirk (6:23 PM, December 17, 2011)
              how many shutter count can you get on a D90 and a D5100
              john (0:33 PM, December 17, 2011)
              true the high iso shots are better and the image quality is same as the d7000 but why would you buy an entry level dslr  with 800+ dollars when the image quality is same as the d7000? As 'kman' said its about photography i agree with
              him cause you dont need a 'food' mode or in built hdr when you are a serious photographer .if thats really important buy a point and shoot camera :)
              Stevenjames487 (4:38 AM, December 17, 2011)
              Here's a link to my flickr pics:
              Photo's from the last year were taken with the D90, others with the D80 and an older Canon Digital Rebel.
              The wedding photo's were scanned from prints that were taken with my medium format camera's back a few years ago in the good old film days.
              Here's a few more examples.
              *note the  pics below are lower resolution (~100k) as the ones posted on my flickr site although those are also compressed. They all look good on a computer monitor.
              I hope these examples help. Just know that any of the Canon & Nikon DLSRs will produce great photo's as will plenty of other cameras but I have only worked with these.
              Stevenjames487 (4:04 AM, December 17, 2011)
              I've been in photography over 35 yrs and have owned everything from Hassleblad & Bronica to Canon & Nikon.
              I'm currently on my third DSLR, a D90 and have no plans to get rid of it until at least 100,000 clicks. I sold my D80 for the added features of the D90. I could have purchased the D7000 (a very fine camera) or any other camera for that matter, cost not really an issue. I knew I would be happy with the D90 and after one year and over 9000 photo's I still feel this is the best DSLR for the money.
              I'm using my spare cash to purchase quality lenses, the Nikon R1C1 (I love it!) and more Nikon SB900s (4 so far and 1 SB600).
              Any of these camera's will produce great pictures and will be a joy to work with, much more than any point & shoot so don't lose any sleep. Buy one and get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot!
              FWIW I have no interest at all in video with a DSLR, that's what my nice little Sony HD handycam is for. I also don't like "smart phones". I like the right tool for the job. I don't take photos or video or surf the web with my phone.
              Here's a recent pic from my D90 and the nice DX 85mm Nikon micro (macro):
              Avatar for adrian sugiarto adrian sugiarto (1:56 PM, December 13, 2011)
              i love my D5100 :D
              Fitzroy90 (5:54 PM, December 11, 2011)
              i dont no which to choose. i am mostly gonna use the nikon to do videoing and i am confuse as to which one i should buy. weather it the nikon d90 or nikon d5100. i need help which one will do a better job at videoing? 
              uanderson (1:49 AM, November 24, 2011)
              Omprakash It (1:17 AM, September 13, 2011)
              I would like to buy truly a profession camera and in this respect i have gone through EOS 550 D , NIKKON D 90 AND NIKKON D 5100 but still in doubt which has to buy i am thinking to buy D 90 please suggest me to buy best value of camera.
              Avatar for phaboman phaboman (10:43 PM, September 07, 2011)
              I would like to add though, that this is fine if some one only buys new lenses but this limits your choice of lenses if looking for used lenses. And amongst currently available lenses from Nikon, many AF-S versions tend to be a bit more expensive than AF versions (e.g., 50mm AF vs. 50mm AF-S). In lens focus motors are also not as common yet amongst third party lenses for Nikon, this probably wouldn't be the case 5 years from now though.
              Avatar for phaboman phaboman (9:52 PM, September 07, 2011)
              I'm in the Nikon camp, so I will recommend the D90 hands down. The D5100 advantage is in video and newer generation sensor and will have better image quality if you are very picky. The D90 sensor still isn't bad at all though, and will still outperform a T3i.

              The D90 is a completely different animal from the D5100. The design of the D90 is what really sets it apart. Having two dials, a top LCD screen, and additional buttons really gives an advantage to the D90. In the D5100/D3100 changing anything as simple as ISO or white balance will require you to get into the menu system. I can do this blind on my D90, press a button, flick a wheel, much faster. It's a heavier camera, but it's much more nimble in that respect. Plus, as others have mentioned, having a focus motor will let you autofocus with a lot more lenses including older used lenses.

              But to answer your question. Note that I don't know too much about the T3i so not including it in my comparison:
              Color Depth: varies depending on ISO. DxO number will show that the D5100 is ahead, but if you look at the actual chart, that's only at ISO 100 which the D90 does not shoot at natively. At most ISOs, the advantage goes to D90, according to DxO at least.
              Lens Compatibility: D90
              Video Quality: D5100
              Image Quality: D5100