Was set for a big review but I scaled it back because of a major issue.

I was excited when I got some boxes in the mail, the Nikon D5100 and the Canon T3i/600D. Both are very comparable entry level DSLR’s. Both are about the same price.

I know all I talk about on this site is Canon so I wanted to really give Nikon some air time now that is appears they are getting more serious about video on their DSLR’s. I think it would be great to have a bunch of Nikon D5100 tutorials on this site.

Both of the cameras are really close in cost and they both have features like 1080p video and flip out screens. The Nikon doesn’t have all the frame rates that the Canon has but Nikon appears to have better low light performance.

I was all set to spend a ton of time shooting with both and doing a really thorough review when I learned something shocking about the Nikon. You can’t shoot video in a full manual exposure on the Nikon like you can with the Canon EOS cameras. (You sort of can watch this video)

The non manual movie mode is kind of a deal breaker for me, but instead of boxing it back up and sending it back, I wanted to still run a few comparisons first.

Tests:

  • Low light
  • Aliasing
  • Rolling shutter

Bottom line is if you are serious about getting started with an entry level DSLR for any type of video that is going to require some tweaking, get the Canon T3i over the Nikon D5100.

25 comments

  • Hi Dave,

    This video is what I was looking for. I love it. I wondered yesterday when you would have this video ready. You were so efficient!

    I prefer the colour reproduction by Canon.

  • On the D7000 you have to enable Manual Settings for Movie Mode in the settings. After that you can adjust your aperture, shutter and iso also in movie mode. The bummer is that you can’t change aperture while you are in live view. Neither can you meter your exposure while in live view. I usually set my exposure by looking at the meter in the view finder before going to live view.

  • Hi Dave,
    great video. Tough I’m writing you on behalf of your t-shirt. Where did you get this ?!? I love it and is there one available with the switch at M ? 😉

  • great video man!
    i just got my t3i delived today! still trying to set the movie setting to look like film effect
    any idea of how to do that? btw you were right,the canon is really easy to use and understand.
    cheers

  • Hi Dave! can I ask you something? I’ve benn following you from day 1 basically, and you inspired me to create my on blog in spanish (my native language). I like the clean look and feel of your blog. would you be that kind to tell me wich wordpress theme do you use?
    thanks.
    keep it up!

  • Just so stupid of nikon not to make the nikon cameras have the same stuff as canon…have a nikon d7000 myself.

    And i really miss the function of the meterexposure in liveview…and be abel to manual change aperture

  • Thanks for this very interesting review/overview with the rolling shutter effect the Nikon seems to pip the canon to the post just and the Moir/anti-alas the Canon seemed to me also just beat the Nikon to the post,I some case the Canon seemed to give a better picture style, It is so close , but for me if the DSLR does not have easy of manual operation, is missing 720p 50 /60fps is a problematic , I would go with the Canon. Somehow the manufactures of these camera’s seem to miss the boat with features that are lacking, It would be interesting to see a test between the new Panasonic G3 and Canon T3i.

  • I understand that you may not be a huge fan of the Nikon. However, it looked like the review was very biased towards the Canon. Some shots looked worse on the Nikon, not because it is necessarily a worse camera, but because you didn’t focus in on the same thing you did on the Canon, which made the shot what it was. This seemed to happen in video too, just taking not as nice angles or worse shots. It has to be that you are either not as experienced with Nikon, or did it purposely. Either way, because of this I found the review inaccurate.

  • Estaba indeciso sobre D5100 o Canon T3i. Me inclino por la Canon por las posibilidades con el video, es importante para mi, es una puerta que se abre para la realización cinematográfica.

  • Hi Dave,
    The Canon APS’s use a slightly smaller sensor than the Nikon. As a result the focal length multiplier for Nikon crop sensor cameras is 1.5 vs. 1.6 on the canon side. As a result the 35mm equivalent for your Sigma lens would be 45mm on the Nikon and 48mm on the Canon.

    I don’t know if that completely explains why you had to move your tripod, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

    BTW – I have a T2i and your site and videos have been very helpful to me. Thanks!

  • I agree with Joe – and for still pictures: Every other place I can read, that the Nikon D5100 is a better camera than Canons for still pictures

  • Dave,
    thanks for this review. Have you compared the camera with Panasonic Lumix GH2? I heard that is great camera for video. Any comments?
    Thanks,
    -M

  • A critical question for shooting documentary video footage or recording something like a lecture is the maximum length of a shot. Information on this question is inconsistent and contradictory. I was able to talk to a Canon USA technical support person, who didn’t know anything about this, but read to me from his knowledge-base documents. He said that cameras sold in the USA are limited to a maximum shot length of 29 minutes 59 seconds. He said that this is because the camera would be taxed as a camcorder, if it could record a longer shot. Internet sources say this tax question applies only to European Union countries. So does the shot length limitation exist for the T3i sold in the USA? Is there an identical limit for the Nikon 5100? Does this limit exist for other DSLRs?

  • While it seems unanimous that the Canon looks better – why do I think the Nikon looks better? The 2000 iso Nikon looked sharper and cleaner, while the Canon at 1600 iso looked soft and noisey – The Nikon, because of the larger sensor, has a wider field of view. The Nikon seemed to have better rolling shutter efficiency. Now, I mainly work with sound as a recording engineer and I know that when I first started certain things sounded better at first, but then as I learned more I realized that the things I liked about certain products I started to hate as my palette developed. So I may not have the eye for it yet, but the Nikon looks great (I understand it may be that I’m viewing it on my Samsung 32″ LCD TV).

    I also noticed in a lot of the comparison shots that the DOF was vastly different. The Nikon was always seemingly wide open while the Canon was fairly shallow. Is there a physical reason this occurs between the two cameras?

  • The Canon looks good but it has a lot to do with compression and contrast. Have another look, the Nikon is a far more natural look. You can always crush and adjust colour in Post.

  • Hi,
    I am new to the DSLR world and have just purchased the Canon 600D, each time I record I only get approx 30 seconds of video before it automatically stops. Any help appreciated.

  • Hi Dave,

    Thanks for this excellent review. Would you mind telling me which lenses did you use for the canon 600D?
    I’m about to buy one and not sure if you did archive that video quality with the standard kit lense.

    Thanks in advance, Javier.

  • Suresh,

    Try a faster SD card (or CF as it might be for your case.)
    You’ll need a fast card to avoid the buffering that occurs when shooting video at high quality. I’d buy at least a class 6 card, maybe 8GB or so. I personally use Class 10 16GB cards (because the computer store near me has them for so cheap.) I also shoot the D5100 and find that with a 35mm f1.8, it’s FAR better than the Canon on most fronts even though video in manual mode is a pain. I don’t use the video too often, but when I do, it’s pretty amazing looking, very natural unlike the Canon (which my girlfriend uses) which seems very aggressive in contrast and fringing.

  • Yeah, but if you want to use them for the purpose they were designed to (taking photos) then the D5100 excels.

  • thanks have learn something from u about the flash light so the 3ti and the D5100 which one is the best and can we used it for shooting moves

Signup for Dave’s Newsletter (not working)

  • 4hourcourse1.jpg