Nikon D5100

The Nikon D5100 seems to be a high-quality sensor wrapped in a pain-in-the-ass body. Its video quality smokes the T3i at high ISO settings and is comparable to the D7000 at about half the price, so there are some compromises.

This is an incomplete guide, but here’s what I’ve found so far:

SETUP

Clean Slate

Reset the camera

  1. Power the camera on and open the LCD.
  2. Find the 2 buttons with green circles by them (MENU and i). Press MENU, wait for the LCD to power on, then press and hold MENU and i until the LCD blinks off.

Reset SHOOTING MENU

  1. Press MENU and select SHOOTING MENU
  2. Select Reset shooting menu and press OK
  3. Select Yes and press OK

Reset CUSTOM SETTING MENU

  1. Press MENU and select CUSTOM SETTING MENU
  2. Select Reset custom settings and press OK
  3. Select Yes and press OK

Pimp your ride

PLAYBACK MENU

  • Select Playback display options and press OK, then select the following:
    • Highlights
    • RGB histogram
    • Shooting data

SHOOTING MENU

  1. Set Image quality to NEF (RAW)
  2. Select Set Picture Control, press OK, select NL Neutral and press the right arrow on the directional pad (surrounding the OK button).
    1. Set Sharpening to 0.
    2. Set Contrast to -.
    3. Set Saturation to 1 notch below 0.
    4. Press OK
  3. Set Color space to Adobe RGB
  4. Set Active D-Lighting to Off
  5. Set High ISO NR to Off
  6. Under Movie settings, set Movie quality to 1920x1080; 24 fps; high quality (or other desired setting)

CUSTOM SETTING MENU

  1. Set f1 Assign Fn button to ISO sensitivity
  2. Set f2 Assign AE-L/AF-L button to AE lock (Hold)

SETUP MENU

  1. Format the memory card (if needed):
    Select Format memory card, press OK, select Yes and press OK
  2. Set Info display format to Classic > Black
  3. Set Clean image sensor to Clean at startup/shutdown

Prepping a “cinema” shot

Lensing
These instructions are for G-series lenses. For lenses with manual aperture rings, lock them down for now.

  1. Set the lens auto-focus switch to M
  2. Set the lens VR switch (if available) to ON unless you are using a tripod.
  3. Frame up your shot and adjust focus.

Exposure

  1. Set the camera shooting mode to M (on the large dial on the top)

  2. Set the metering mode to Spot metering
    1. Press the i button (twice if the LCD was off), then select Metering (right side, 3rd from the bottom), then press OK
    2. Select Spot metering and press OK
  3. Spot meter off a gray card.
    1. Bring a gray card into your scene and frame up on it.
    2. Look through the viewfinder and half-press the shutter button to activate the meter. The point which lights up red is the one the camera is reading exposure from. Reframe (or adjust the active point by using the directional pad) so the point and its surrounding bracket is entirely within the gray card.
  4. Set the shutter speed to 1/50 (or 1/60 for 30 fps)
    1. Half-press the shutter button to activate the exposure meter and turn on the LCD info screen.
    2. Turn the command dial to select desired shutter speed
  5. Set the desired aperture
    1. Half-press the shutter button to activate the exposure meter and turn on the LCD info screen.
    2. Press and hold the +/- button (by the OFF/ON switch) and turn the command dial to set the desired aperture.
      Base this decision on the following (in order of importance):
      • Optimal exposure
        You can only adjust ISO and aperture to achieve a balanced exposure. Note that the exposure meter is displayed while you adjust aperture. If you cannot “zero out” the meter by simply adjusting aperture, you either need to adjust your lighting or increase the ISO.
      • Desired depth-of-field
        Shallow depth-of-field is sexy, but anything wider than f/5.6 gets really difficult to manage, especially in moving shots. Be cautious.
  6. Set the desired ISO
    • Press and hold the Fn button (left/top, by the lens) and turn the command dial to adjust ISO.
      • Again balance this with aperture to achieve an optimal exposure.
      • Make adjustments to step 5 again, if necessary.
  7. Set custom white balance
    1. Frame up again on the gray card so that it fills the entire viewfinder.
    2. Press the MENU button and go to SHOOTING MENU > White balance
    3. Select PRE Preset manual and press right on the directional pad.
    4. Select Measure and press OK
    5. Select Yes and press OK
    6. Wait for the LCD to flash PRE, then press the shutter release.
  8. Set the camera shooting mode to A

    (Yes, the shutter speed just changed. Hang on…)

Final Adjustments

  1. Activate LiveView mode
  2. Re-check focus
    1. Press the + magnifying glass to zoom in, multiple times if needed.
    2. Press the directional pad to pan around the frame.
    3. Adjust focus as necessary.
    4. Zoom back out using the - magnifying glass.
  3. Use Exposure Compensation to set the shutter speed back to 1/50
    • Press and hold the +/- button (by the OFF/ON switch) and turn the command dial until the shutter speed is back to 1/50.
  4. Lock exposure
    • Press the AE-L/AF-L button to lock the exposure.
      Note AE-L appears in the lower left of the LCD.
  5. Roll camera
    Yes, it will get easier with practice…

Prepping for run ’n gun

(I need to revisit this later)

These instructions are for when you simply cannot manage all of the cinema settings, but something is better than nothing.

Lensing
These instructions are for G-series lenses. For lenses with manual aperture rings, lock them down for now.

  1. Set the lens auto-focus switch to M
  2. Set the lens VR switch (if available) to ON unless you are using a tripod.

Exposure

  1. Set up Auto ISO
    1. Press the MENU button and go to SHOOTING MENU > ISO sensitivity settings and press OK
    2. Set Auto ISO sensitivity control to On
    3. Set Maximum sensitivity to the desired maximum ISO.
      Try 6400 for extreme situations, 1600 for more controlled environments.
    4. Set Minimum shutter speed to 1/50 (1/60 for 30 fps).
  2. Set the camera shooting mode to A (on the large dial on the top)

  3. Set the desired aperture
    1. Half-press the shutter button to activate the exposure meter and turn on the LCD info screen.
    2. Turn the command dial to set the desired aperture (Recommended: f/5.6 or higher if focus is challenging).

Final Adjustments

  1. None. Roll camera!