The operation modes are at the beginning of this book because they are so crucial for the behavior of the D5100.

An „operation mode“ includes

  • exposure control (=choosing a combination of aperture, exposure time and ISO sensitivity for a given brightness of your subject)
  • the decision if it is you or the camera who rules over several other important settings.

I distinguish two groups of operation modes:

Nikon D5100 operation mode dial, AUTO
Nikon D5100 operation mode dial, portrait

Automatic Mode and scene modes (AUTO, SCENE, EFFECTS, all icons): The D5100 allows you easy taking of pictures, almost like a compact camera.

The downside of the comfort is that you can‘t change the most important settings which are frequently adjusted by experienced photographers:

  • white balance
  • exposure control and compensation
  • flash operation

Nikon D5100 operation mode dial, P

P, S, A, M: Only in these modes you can change the aforementioned settings. For flash usage you have to take full control on your own.

My recommendations for the operation modes are:

  • Programmed auto (P) should be the usual mode for experienced photographers, maybe S or A depending on your personal habits.
  • Use the convenient fully automated AUTO if you are not yet familiar with the manual settings or if you just want to keep the handling as simple as possible.
  • For the same reason use one of the SCENE modes if it fits with your shooting situation.
    It increases your chances for good pictures but don‘t expect miracles!
  • M is left for the rare cases when you want to switch off the automated exposure metering and control.