This guide is a head-to-head comparison of the Nikon D5100 vs. Nikon D3300. They are two similar entry-level Nikon DSLRs but with distinctions that attract different users.
Both cameras have APS-C CMOS sensors, but they’re not equal as the review shows. Nikon targets these cameras primarily for stills photography, but one offers better video capability than the other.
Keep reading to learn of the shared features along with the most significant differences. This page also covers shared weaknesses and summarizes the user feedback for each model.
The format of this guide is straightforward and informative for novice users. I break the camera comparisons down into the bite-sized sections below for easy reading.
Here’s what we cover in the review:
Nikon D5100 and Nikon D3300 Shared Features
OK, let’s start by looking at what these two popular Digital-SLRs have in common. They both have a built-in flash. A pop-up flash is a photographer’s last resort light choice, but it’s better than nothing.
In-camera flash can produce awful shadows, shiny spots, and washed-out faces. But it can also mean the difference between getting a shot or not. Post-processing can be a photographer’s best friend here.
Each camera also has an external flash shoe for better flash photography. Not everyone has an external flash unit on the hot shoe right when they need it, though, and that’s the point.
The Nikon D5100 and Nikon D3300 have optical viewfinders (OVF). Most photographers prefer OVF. That’s because they’re brighter and easier to compose shots with than electronic viewfinders (EVF).
Stills photographers have the option to shoot in RAW file format. Raw files allow for much more control editing on your monitor than regular JPEG files. Alas, raw data does need a lot of image storage space.
JPEG is also available and is the default file format. Not everyone at the entry-level wants or is ready to experiment with raw files. Despite that, it’s good to know it’s there for those who do.
Portrait photographers are sure to welcome the camera’s Face Detection Focus. This technology is especially useful in group shots. It calculates the optimal focus and exposure so that you don’t have to.
Camera Body Comparison
There’s little difference in the size of these cameras when looking at them from the front view. The Nikon D5100 is bigger but only by 2% which is negligible. However, it’s notably heavier by 30%.
The weight difference between these cameras is more of an issue for those who go on long shoots. The camera’s 30% weight difference it bound to have an impact if it’s hanging around the neck for hours.
The total weight of any camera also includes the attached lens. Both the D5100 and D3300 have the Nikon F lens mount and thus use the same glass.
The table below gives a snapshot of each camera’s dimensions and weight:
|Nikon D5100||Width: 5.0”||Height: 3.8”||Depth: 3.1”||Weight: 19.8 oz.|
|Nikon D3300||Width: 4.9”||Height: 3.9”||Depth: 3.0”||Weight: 15.2 oz.|
There are subtle differences between the appearance of these camera bodies. The measurements are most noticeable with side-by-side comparisons, though still slight. The biggest difference is at the rear.
The D5100 sports an articulating touchscreen and has a single large hinge on its left side. The D3300 has a fixed display, and so uses the left side to house five buttons.
The inner contours from the rear of the cameras also differ even though the body shapes are similar. Weight difference aside, the solid feel and handling of these DSLRs are comparable.
Why Consider the Nikon D5100 over the Nikon D3300?
This section looks at the reasons to consider Nikon’s D5100 over its D3300. The obvious one is the camera’s articulating screen. Those who use adjustable LCDs are unlikely to go back to fixed screens.
The articulating screen makes the D5100 selfie-friendly, but that’s only part of its appeal. The display also lets photographers compose and shoot at low, high, and awkward angles.
There are a couple of photographic modes worth noting that the D3300 doesn’t have. One of those is Time-lapse Recording. This creative cinematography shooting technique is incredibly popular now.
AE Bracketing (AEB) is another welcome feature with the D5100. It gives photographers the option to take multiple photos at varying exposures. That’s especially handy in tricky low light conditions.
Nikon’s D5100 also has a higher dynamic range than the D3300. That means it can reveal more details in the darkest and lightest areas of a photo. The result is a more professional looking image.
The final advantage the Nikon D5100 has over the Nikon D3300 is its 50% larger sensor pixel area. The numbers are 23.04µm2 15.28µm2 respectively (µm2 translates to square micrometer).
Why Consider the Nikon D3300 over the Nikon D5100?
Now let’s look at the reasons some photographers prefer the Nikon D3300 over the Nikon D5100. They’re about equal in their number of unique advantages. Which is better, though, is subjective.
The D3300 has a 24- megapixels maximum sensor resolution to the D5100’s 16-megapixels—a difference of 50%. The camera is also lighter by 4.6 ounces, and that’s reasonably significant.
Battery life is also better at 700 shots for the D3300 to the D5100’s 660. An extra 40 frames on a single charge is not huge, but it’s still noteworthy.
Another average benefit is the D3300’s 5.0fps (frames per second) continuous shooting. It’s 1fps faster than the D4100’s 4.0fps. Small advantages like this are significant benefits for some amateurs.
Better high ISO performance also goes to the D3300. It has a max ISO setting of 12.800 vs. 6.400 on the D5100. That gives it a 100% higher maximum ISO. It also has superior high ISO performance.
The D3300’s better video is sure to please amateur vloggers. It provides higher movie frame rates at 1080/60p to the D5100’s 1080/30p. That means the D3300 captures more motion details.
Higher color depth is the last area the D3300 beats the D5100. The numbers are 24.3 vs. 23.5. That means the D3300 can display more colors than the D5100, though the difference is slight.
Both these DSLRs are going to fall short on some features. They are—after all— entry-level DSLR cameras and can only include so much. Their shared weaknesses are few but will matter to some.
Neither model has built-in image stabilization, but that’s not unique to entry-level DSLRs. Stabilization is a sought-after feature for photographers at all levels. The solution is to invest in stabilized lenses.
Nikon has 287 native D5100 or D3300 lenses for its F mount, and 88 of those Nikon lenses have optical stabilization (OS). These superb lenses use Nikon’s VR (vibration reduction) image stabilization technology.
A main gripe with VR lenses is that they cost more than the non-stabilized options. Another shared weakness is that neither camera offers environmental sealing.
Each model has an optical PentaMIRROR viewfinder. There’s nothing wrong with these viewfinders per se. It’s just that PentaPRISM types are brighter and thus more natural.
The only other shared setback is that there’s no AF Micro Adjustment (AFMA). The raw novice is unlikely to notice, but advanced beginners would surely appreciate an AF fine-tune option.
What the Reviewers Say
Both the Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D3300 have been—and continue to be—a big hit at the entry-level. Gripes are few and often personal, but this section highlights any shared complaints.
Let’s first look at the universal praise from the online reviews for the Nikon D5100. Almost everyone agrees that the build, image quality, and handling is spot on for a camera in its class.
The camera’s ease of use, intuitive menus, and light weight get plenty of positive praise. Predictably, the articulating screen comes out as the most loved feature of the D5100.
Other areas reviewers rate highly are the RAW processing, built-in effects, and exposure bracketing. Those who use the video seem happy with its quality, but it’s not all good.
The main complaint about the video is the noise the camera’s motors make when filming. The internal mic gets a big thumbs-down too. Still, there’s always the external mic port for high-quality audio.
The D5100’s Live View gets a few complaints, not least the awkward position of its switch. And some moan that the Live View slows down autofocus too much.
Other gripes shared by a few users are the mediocre battery life and lack of weatherproofing.
Reviewers’ Take on the Nikon D3300
It comes as no surprise that the Nikon D3300 receives similar feedback to the D5100 above. Reviewers at the entry-level—which is most owners—love the camera’s image quality.
They also appreciate the compact design, decent build, and lightweight of the D3300. A few complain that the camera is too plasticky, but that’s also one of the reasons for its lightweight.
The camera’s ease of use, Guide Mode, and creative effect/filters are a big hit with many owners. And first-time DSLR users love the fast 5fps (frames per second) continuous shooting.
Some reviewers are disappointed with the fixed rear LCD. Other shared complaints are the lack of AE Bracketing and the way Live View is slow to focus on moving subjects.
Overall, the reviewers’ feedback for both cameras is impressive and has many more pros than cons.
The Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D330 are not the most recent models. The D5200 has replaced the D5100 and D3400 the D330. Don’t let that put you off. These are still excellent value cameras.
The D3300 strong points are its better sensor, jpeg files, video, and faster burst rate. It’s also lighter than the D5100. Don’t write the D5100 off just yet. It has that invaluable articulating LCD for one.
Nikon’s D5100 boasts more dynamic range than the D3300. It’s also been around for a while as well. That means better discounts are far more likely on new and refurbished models.Back to Top