Updated (August 2011): Compare the Nikon D5100 vs Sony NEX-5N

Nikon D5100 vs Sony Alpha NEX-5

Winner
Nikon D5100

50

Sony Alpha NEX-5

42

Runner-up

Reasons to buy the Nikon D5100

Flip-out screen
Screen flips out
Great for movies
In-camera HDR
HDR
Combines multiple exposures
 

Reasons to buy the Sony Alpha NEX-5

Size
Really small
Compact (111×59×38 mm)
Panorama
In-camera panoramas
Stitches together multiple photos into a panorama
3D
Takes 3D photos
View photos in 3D on 3D televisions
Thickness
Thin
1.5"

Items often bought with the Nikon D5100 or Sony NEX-5

galleries

Explore our gallery of 50 sample photos taken by the Nikon D5100.
Explore our gallery of 50 sample photos taken by the Sony Alpha NEX-5.

differences

Advantages of the Nikon D5100

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Shutter lag
Much less shutter lag
273 ms vs 670 ms
Help
2.5x less delay when taking photos
Autofocus
Faster autofocus
Phase detection vs Contrast detection
Help
Catch candid moments easily
Lens availability
Much more lenses available
230 lenses vs 62 lenses
Help
More than 3.5x more lenses available
Overall image quality
Better image quality
80.0 vs 69.0
Help
Around 20% better image quality
Supports 24p
Supports 24p
Yes vs No
Help
Get that real film feel
External mic jack
Has an external mic jack
Yes vs No
Help
Record high quality audio with an external microphone
Battery life
Longer battery life
660 shots vs 330 shots
Help
2x more shots per battery charge
Startup delay
Less startup delay
500 ms vs 1000 ms
Help
2x less delay when turning on
Color depth
Better color depth
23.5 bits vs 22.2 bits
Help
Distinguishes 1.3 more bits of color
Built-in flash
Built-in flash
Yes vs No
Help
A built-in flash is useful for taking indoor shots where there is little light
Viewfinder
Has a viewfinder
Pentamirror vs None
Help
A viewfinder can help save battery life by keeping the screen turned off
Dynamic range
More dynamic range
13 EV vs 12.2 EV
Help
0.3 f-stops more dynamic range
Low light performance
Lower noise at high ISO
1,183 ISO vs 796 ISO
Help
The D5100 has a slight edge (0.6 f-stops) in low-noise, high-ISO performance
True resolution
Slightly higher true resolution
16.1 MP vs 14 MP
Help
Capture more than 10% more detail in your photos
Light sensitivity (boost)
Has boost ISO
25,600 ISO vs None
Help
Allows taking photos in darker situations, often at the cost of additional noise in the image
Nikon D5100 Learn more about
the Nikon D5100

Advantages of the Sony NEX-5

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3D
Takes 3D photos
Yes vs No
Help
Combines multiple photos into a 3D image
Size
Significantly smaller
111×59×38 mm vs 127×97×79 mm
Help
3.9x smaller
Panorama
Can create panoramas in-camera
Yes vs No
Help
Stitches together multiple photos for a wide perspective
Thickness
Significantly thinner
1.5" vs 3.1"
Help
2.1x thinner
Weight
Lighter
287 g vs 560 g
Help
Around 50% lighter
Continuous shooting
Shoots faster
7 fps vs 4 fps
Help
Around 80% faster continuous shooting
Focus points
Slightly more focus points
25 vs 11
Help
Set focus accurately within the frame
Light sensitivity
Better maximum light sensitivity
12,800 ISO vs 6,400 ISO
Help
The NEX-5's maximum light sensitivity is 2 f-stops better
Sony Alpha NEX-5 Learn more about
the Sony NEX-5
vs

recommendations

Which camera do we recommend? Relative to the best recent digital cameras, and ignoring price

Snapsort Recommends
Nikon D5100 Nikon D5100 50
Retailer
    Style
      Color
        You save
        vs
        42 Sony Alpha NEX-5 Sony Alpha NEX-5
        Retailer
          Style
            Color
              You save

              similarities

              Compared to recent digital cameras

              Common Strengths
              Screen flips out Flip-out screens Help
              Great for movies
              HDR In-camera HDR Help
              Combines multiple exposures
              Interchangeable lenses Both support interchangeable lenses, which is uncommon in cameras similar to these Help
              Many lenses to choose from
              Supports RAW Supports RAW Help
              Better editing
              External flash Each supports an external flash Help
              Better lighting
              Sensor cleaning Self cleaning sensors Help
              Avoids dust in your photos
              Fastest shutter speed Fast max shutter speeds Help
              1/4000 of a second
              Common Weaknesses
              Image stabilization No image stabilization Help
              Risk of blur
              Cross type focus points Few cross-type focus points Help
              D51001
              NEX-50
              Weather sealed Neither is weather sealed Help
              Need to shelter it from weather
              Touch screen No touchscreens Help
              More buttons

              dxomark

              DXOMark

              competitors

              Shared Competitors

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              Nikon D3200

              Nikon D3200

              Entry-level DSLR

              $289 body only

              $349 - $447 with 18-55mm lens

              True resolution Takes slightly higher resolution photos
              Thickness Is thicker
              Weight Is slightly heavier
              Canon Kiss X5

              Canon Kiss X5

              Entry-level DSLR

              $1,299 body only

              Lowest price Is slightly more expensive
              Thickness Is thicker
              Nikon D3100

              Nikon D3100

              Entry-level DSLR

              $263 body only

              $358 with 18-55mm lens

              Thickness Is thicker
              Weight Is slightly heavier
              Canon EOS Rebel T2i

              Canon Rebel T2i

              Entry-level DSLR

              $898 with 18-55mm, 75-300mm lenses

              Lowest price Is slightly more expensive
              Thickness Is thicker
              Sony Alpha A6000

              Sony Alpha A6000

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $548 body only

              $698 with 16-50mm lens

              Image stabilization Has image stabilization
              True resolution Takes slightly higher resolution photos
              Canon Rebel SL1

              Canon Rebel SL1

              Entry-level DSLR

              $399 - $509 body only

              $499 with 18-55mm lens

              Touch screen Has a touch screen
              Thickness Is thicker
              Weight Is slightly heavier

              Nikon D5100 Competitors

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              Nikon D3300

              Nikon D3300

              Entry-level DSLR

              $430 - $497 with 18-55mm lens

              Panorama Can create panoramas in-camera
              True resolution Higher true resolution
              Screen flips out Screen does not flip out
              HDR Lacks in-camera HDR
              Nikon D5200

              Nikon D5200

              Entry-level DSLR

              $405 - $497 body only

              $479 - $500 with 18-55mm lens

              True resolution Higher true resolution
              Overall image quality Slightly better image quality
              Battery life Shorter battery life
              Shutter lag More shutter lag
              Nikon D5500

              Nikon D5500

              Entry-level DSLR

              $559 - $747 body only

              $649 - $847 with 18-55mm lens

              Touch screen Has a touch screen
              Screen size Larger screen
              Lowest price Slightly more expensive
              Nikon D5300

              Nikon D5300

              Entry-level DSLR

              $465 - $647 body only

              $545 - $747 with 18-55mm lens

              Screen size Larger screen
              GPS Has a GPS
              Battery life Slightly shorter battery life
              Canon Rebel T5i

              Canon Rebel T5i

              Entry-level DSLR

              $494 - $649 body only

              $579 - $649 with 18-55mm lens

              Touch screen Has a touch screen
              Screen resolution Higher resolution screen
              Overall image quality Significantly worse image quality
              Dynamic range Less dynamic range

              Sony Alpha NEX-5 Competitors

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              Sony NEX-5N

              Sony NEX-5N

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $399 body only

              $803 with 16-50mm lens

              Shutter lag Much less shutter lag
              Touch screen Has a touch screen
              Startup delay Significantly more startup delay
              Sony Alpha A5000

              Sony Alpha A5000

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $274 body only

              $448 with 16-50mm lens

              Supports 24p Supports 24p
              Overall image quality Better image quality
              3D Doesn't take 3D photos
              Screen resolution Significantly lower resolution screen
              Sony Alpha NEX-6

              Sony Alpha NEX-6

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $549 body only

              $849 with 16-50mm lens

              Shutter lag Much less shutter lag
              Supports 24p Supports 24p
              3D Doesn't take 3D photos
              Startup delay Significantly more startup delay
              Sony Alpha NEX-3

              Sony Alpha NEX-3

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $539 body only

              $350 with 16mm lens

              External mic jack Has an external mic jack
              Thickness Slightly thinner
              Movie format Lower resolution movies
              Dynamic range Less dynamic range
              Sony NEX-7

              Sony NEX-7

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $760 body only

              $660 with 18-55mm lens

              Shutter lag Much less shutter lag
              Overall image quality Better image quality
              Startup delay Slightly more startup delay
              Weight Slightly heavier

              appearance

              Nikon D5100 Sony Alpha NEX-5
              Nikon D5100 Sony Alpha NEX-5
              Nikon D5100 Sony Alpha NEX-5

              discussion

              Nikon D5100
              D5100
              Nikon

              Report a correction
              Sony Alpha NEX-5
              Alpha NEX-5
              Sony

              Report a correction

              Showing 1 comments

              Meredith (0:51 PM, October 24, 2011)
              Snapsort, (or anyone)

              I'm a college student/graphic design, and I travel a lot. I really love the lightweight, small body of the mirrorless cameras and really don't see a big set back for me in terms of getting the sony. My main requirements are decent videos, ability to take multiple photos at once, easy to switch out lens b/c I have limited knowledge of camera (though I do have some, it's mostly with fil cameras), and overall great image quality. My budget is 400-800, and everything on snapsort points to the Nikon 5100--which I would definitely get over the 3100 because of the need for video, but I'm wondering, given my needs, if a smaller, easy to travel with camera would be smarter. I'm looking at the Sony and the Fuji X10 when it comes out. 

              Feedback? Opinions? Anything!