Nikon D5100 Gordon Laing, May 2011

Nikon D5100 video samples

Here are a selection of sample videos filmed with the Nikon D5100 using its DX 18-55mm VR kit lens and best-quality 1080p / 30fps / High Quality movie mode. Registered members of Vimeo can download the original files by clicking the links below each window; these take you to the Vimeo page where the video is hosted and the link to download the actual file can be found under the 'About this video' section in the lower right.

Nikon D5100 sample video 1: Outdoors, handheld panning with DX 18-55mm VR
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In my first clip above the first thing to notice is the lack of vertical streaking around the sunlight reflections on the water - this is a benefit of a camera with a CMOS sensor. But if you're playing the file with audio, you'll immediately hear a faint squeaking or scratching sound in the background every couple of seconds. This is the sound of the kit lens being refocused by the D5100's continuous AF-F option, and it's quite audible on this clip. Unfortunately in this example, the continuous autofocus isn't doing a great job either, regularly searching for a subject with sufficiently strong contrast for it to lock onto. So while the actual video quality itself is fine, the continuous AF option hasn't performed so well in this example; indeed disabling it produced a better result. This is exactly what we found on the earlier D7000 and D3100, but like those models, before you write-off the D5100's AF-F mode, check the clips below as it can prove more effective under the right conditions. Note I also have versions of the clip above filmed in 24p and 25p. See our Nikon D5100 24p sample and Nikon D5100 25p sample.


Nikon D5100 sample video 2: Outdoors, tripod-mounted pan and zoom with DX 18-55mm VR
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In the second clip, above, I've locked the D5100 to a tripod, disabled VR and AF on the kit lens and smoothly panned from left to right. With the Continuous AF disabled, it's quite a relief not to hear the scratching sound of the kit lens focusing in the background, and it allows you to appreciate the quality of the video on the D5100. Like all DSLRs though, zooming smoothly, even on a tripod, is a challenge, but I've included several adjustments towards the end for reference. Watch out for the wind noise as I point the camera towards the steamship, and also the sound of a dog snoring in the background...

Nikon D5100 sample video 3: Indoors, dim light, handheld pan with DX 18-55mm VR
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Moving on, the third clip above was filmed handheld in a relatively dim bar with both VR and AF-F enabled. At first, the camera's AF system seems happy not to make any adjustments, but around halfway through, it kicks-in and once again the scratching sound, not to mention the visual searching becomes quite distracting - epsecially towards the end when it has to perform a broad adjustment. Once again, this clip works much better with Continuous AF-F mode disabled. On the plus side, the clip itself may be noisier than those filmed outside, but the noise levels remain relatively low and the detail high. Obviously given a lens with a brighter focal ratio, the results in low light can look much better.

Nikon D5100 sample video 4: Indoors, continuous AF test with DX 18-55mm VR
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The fourth clip, above, deliberately puts the new AF-F mode to the test. Here I moved the camera around, pointing it at various subjects near and far to see how the continuous autofocus coped. Give the D5100 some defined edges for its contrast-based AF system to lock-onto and it can actually do quite a good job. Sometimes the focusing searches a little, but at others it feels more confident as it locks-onto the desired subject. Indeed as the clip progresses, it's hard not to be at least a little impressed by the AF-F mode as it succeeds more than it fails. It may not be as consistent as a consumer camcorder, nor as confident as the phase-change AF on the Sony Alpha A33, but the D5100 still manages to keep the subject mostly focused as the composition changes, while the ambient background sounds mostly mask the kit lens's AF motor. This is an impressive capability for a camera that only has a contrast-based AF system at its disposal while filming (along with the challenges of a shallower depth-of-field than a camcorder); remember Canon's DSLRs don't even attempt to continuously autofocus while filming, making this clip impossible without constant manual adjustments.

Nikon D5100 sample video 5: Outdoors, continuous AF tracking with DX 18-55mm VR
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In the final clip, above, I've given the D5100 a more predictable subject to track with its continuous AF. I zoomed the kit lens to 55mm, adjusted the D5100's AF area to the middle, and kept it positioned over the Skyline logo on the cable car as it steadily approached. Like most contrast-based AF systems, the D5100 searches back and forth as it attempts to lock-on, and this is quite visible at several points during the clip. This is undoubtedly off-putting, but to be fair, the D5100 does manage to keep the logo relatively sharp throughout the clip, even when it's only a meter or so distant. Once again this is something which would have required constant manual focus pulling on a Canon DSLR. So while the D5100 continuous AF during filming may not live up to the experience of a consumer camcorder (nor the unique capabilities of the Sony Alpha A33), it remains a very impressive attempt given the available resources.


Nikon D5100 sample video 6: Selective Colour Effect with DX 18-55mm VR
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In a first for any Nikon DSLR, the D5100 offers a number of special effects via a dedicated EFFECTS position on the mode dial. These all work for still photos, but some can also be applied to video. The first example, above, is for the Selective Color Effect, where you can sample one or more colours and adjust the tolerance, after which the D5100 turns everything else into black and white. Here I sampled the red hat on the bear and simply let the camera do the rest. It's really nice to see this effect applied on video with zero effort, and it seems funny to think back this was a major and much talked-about effect on 'Schindler's List' only a few years ago.


Nikon D5100 sample video 7: Outdoors, Miniature Effect with DX 18-55mm VR
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Another one of the D5100's special effects which can be applied to video is the Miniature option, an increasingly ubiquitous effect which simulates a tilt and shift lens for a toy-like appearance. This requires considerable processing, so can't be captured in real-time at 24-30fps, but the D5100 uses this to its advantage and captures processed frames at a slower speed. Then when played back, they speed-up, further accentuating the miniature effect. Like still images, the Miniature effect can be applied with three different focus window thicknesses - here I used the middle option, and zoomed the kit lens in.
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