Canon 600D vs Nikon D5100

UPDATE: NEW comparison of the Canon 650D vs Nikon D5200 here

Both Canon and Nikon have refreshed their compact DSLR lineup, and new entrants to the market might find themselves confronted with the choice between these two particular models. Indeed, old shooters such as myself feel rather compelled by both the feature set and competitive pricing. The two cameras have much in common, including similar megapixel counts, twist and swivel screens, HD video recording, and pricing in the same $800 ballpark. Let’s take a closer look at what these models have to offer…

Which one takes the cake? Read on to find out…

Sensor: Nikon boasts a 16mp sensor which some say is the king of APS-C in the D7000. That being said, the 18mp sensor in the Canon (also seen in the 7D, 550D, and 60D) is no slouch either. High ISO comparisons between the two can be seen here. Both are great, but I think the Nikon has a bit more detail and less smudging. Make your own judgements.

Video: Both offer HD video recording, but only Nikon offers autofocus during recording. To be fair though, as we tested it in the D3100 and D7000, it fidgety, and appears to be the same in the D5100. The 600D boasts the same features as the Canon 60D, including fine control of audio levels, more manual controls, and digital zoom capabilities. Meanwhile Nikon has a nice new stereo microphone specifically for HDSLR filming. Despite the Nikon’s autofocus, we’ll give Canon the edge here.

LCD: Both offer a tilt and swivel screen, and Nikon has finally implemented a horizontally hinged LCD (the vertical design on the D5000 was rather awkward) But the Canon boasts slightly higher resolution at 1,040,000 pixels. It’s viewfinder also offers slightly higher magnification, at .85x vs .78x.

Body/Ergonomics: Both are basically the same size and weight. Nikon has a beefier (and many would say) more comfortable grip. Canon has more direct controls, with external buttons for WB & ISO, but the Nikon has more quick movie mode access. Here’s a side by side shot of the two, including the Panasonic Lumix G2 for good measure.

Price: Nikon sells for $799 and Canon sells for $849 (both body only). Not the cheapest of the lineup, but certainly not the most expensive compact SLRs either, with the 60D, D90, and D7000 slotting in right above them.

Extras: Nikon offers optional GPS tagging. Canon offers wireless flash control, video editing, and a digital zoom option.

Conclusion: Both of these cameras are rather enticing, and pack a heavy punch in a compact DSLR body. It’s nice to see features trickling down into lower level cameras, such as wireless flash control and fine audio control (on the Canon) and the sensor and autofocus capabilities (on the Nikon). Indeed, as a “veteran” DSLR user, these cameras are enticing to me as a backup option, and for those times when I want something small and lighter. However, for the new DLSR user, they are both fine choices, and we think you couldn’t go wrong with either one.

Here’s an in-depth video comparison from DPC which throws the Canon 60D into the mix…

For a more complete assessment both cameras, please see the reviews here on

Canon 600D

Nikon D5100


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