Originally Posted by Chef
My old camera (a Nikon D40) died a few weeks ago. Since I already have a few Nikon lenses I've been thinking I should probably buy another Nikon. I don't have a lot of money right now but the D5100 looks do-able. Does anyone here use one, or have any other thoughts on the subject? I can spend about $500ish.
Well it really depends on what all you need or plan on using your camera on for now and in the future. I use a Nikon D5100 and it serves me well for the purposes I use it for. The image quality is great and the the iso can easily be used up to 3200 before the noise gets too noticeable and some noise reduction has to be applied (I usually won't go any higher than 1600-2000 if my subject is people because the skin and tiny details can be distorted too much from the noise reduction). Plus the swivel-tilt screen really comes in handy for me when I need to get pics from above my head, at awkward angles, or of subjects that I don't really want noticing that I'm taking a picture of them. Since you're coming from a D40 then you'll already be used to not having the little screen up top and the extra wheel on the front to change your aperture.
If you know for a fact that having a swivel screen means nothing to you but being able to quickly switch both your aperture and shutter means a lot then I would say get the D7000 instead. You should be able to get a body for no more than $600 on eBay now that its successor has been out for a while. The only difference between the D5100 and D7000 is the controls and the D7000 doesn't have the swivel screen. The image quality and iso noise are pretty much the same. I have both bodies and use them both for completely different reasons. Do you plan on doing any studio/flash photography where you'll need to be able to have features such as high speed sync or being able to use your pop-up flash as a master flash to trigger your slaves? Get the D7000. If not, then the D5100 would be just fine for you. Also, like the D40, the D5100 doesn't have an AF motor inside the body so you're stuck with using AF-S lenses and their third party equivalents unless you like to or don't mind manually focusing.
If you're in no rush in getting a new body and you're willing to start from scratch and can scrap together $1500 bucks before the end of the year then I'd suggest going full frame and getting a Canon 5D Mark II since they've come down significantly in price now. Going full frame is always better than cropped sensors....
All in all, I love my D5100 for the things that I use it for and would easily recommend it if it suits your needs
Oh, and one more thing; if the size of the D40 was ever really an issue for you then you won't be any happier with the D5100 because it's just as small and maybe a little heavier. The D7000 might suit you better in this regard...