Transferring pictures from the Nikon D5100 DSLR

I have a new toy: a Nikon D5100 DSLR, and am eager to share a tiny tip. I’ll save the rationalizing and editorializing for a later post ūüôā

My previous camera (an Olympus C-8080) supported the USB mass storage protocol, which means that, as soon as you connected it to a Mac or PC and turned it on, it would show up as a new drive on the desktop. From there, you could simply drag and drop files into your favorite location on your HD. Of course, on the Mac, you could also set iPhoto or Image Capture to launch upon connection and take care of transferring files, but this was strictly optional. My Macbook Pro is configured to not open any application when a camera is connected, and I want it to stay that way!

Well, the D5100 does not support the USB mass storage protocol. However, this does not seem to be explicitly documented. The manual simply states that, in order to transfer pictures, you “need to” install the software that comes with the camera. Once you do that, as soon as you plug in the D5100 and turn it on, something called “Nikon Transfer 2” is launched, and you can use its ominously gray and most unMaclike UI to transfer photos and movies.

Besides offending my aesthetic sensibility, this is inconvenient: what if you need to transfer photos from your camera to a friend’s computer, but do not have the install disk with you?

Well, not to worry. The D5100 supports the so-called PTP protocol. Nikon Transfer 2 merely talks to the D5100 using PTP. However, you can use any PTP-speaking software instead! In particular, iPhoto and Image Capture on the Mac work just fine!

Bottom line: you do not need to install any Nikon software, unless of course you require it for other reasons. Connect the camera and turn it on. If you have iPhoto configured to launch whenever a camera is plugged in, iPhoto will in fact launch and will transfer your files as usual. If your Mac is configured so nothing launches when you plug in a camera, then manually launch either iPhoto or Image Capture, and again they will work just fine.

Incidentally, to choose which app to launch when a camera is plugged in (or, to ensure that no app is launched at all), you can use either iPhoto (look in Preferences) or Image Capture (look at the drop-down menu in the bottom left corner of the main window). This may be handy if, for instance, you installed the Nikon Transfer 2 software as I did, but no longer want to see it when you plug in your camera. As far as I can tell, there is no “centralized” way to change this setting (e.g., in System Preferences).


38 responses to “Transferring pictures from the Nikon D5100 DSLR

  1. I could not connect to my MacBook Pro with Mac OS X 10.6.8. Probably not supported.. Used the memory card to transfer the pics…

    • Sorry if this is obvious, but did you try checking system information? [Click on the Apple menu, select “About this Mac”, then press “More Info…”, click on “USB” in the “Contents” column on the left]. Do you see your D5100 listed in the USB Device Tree and/or USB bus? If yes, then it is recognized, and the trick I describe should work… Also, if that fails, does the Nikon Transfer software work? If so, then again your camera is recognized, so the trick should work.

  2. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  3. Thank you for this post – it definitely helps. I have to say though, I absolutely hate iPhoto. I was so excited about my Nikon D5100 and so far I am very disappointed in the downgrades from my D40. While it is lighter and more megapixels, some of the usability features and compatibility with older Nikon accessories is very disappointing. I was prepared to fall in love. Now I’m prepared to give it a week and decide if I want to keep it.

  4. I’m also not a huge fan of iPhoto. As for the D5100, I used it all summer, and while I am definitely still learning, I think I’m beginning to find my way around… Having to use menus for things like ISO settings and the like is very annoying though.

  5. ok so i used your advice and found my Nikon Camara but it won’t let me open it to transfer photos over

  6. I’m hoping you can help me…. My iphoto opens when I plug my camera in, however nothing happens after that. I tried using the “help” feature, and it tells me to look for the camera in the “source list”. I don’t see the camera listed anywhere, and to be honest, I don’t even see a source list. I’m also not sure where image capture is. I know I sound like I shouldn’t even own a computer…. Please help!

  7. ETA….okay, the photos DID show up. It just took an eternity (maybe because I have over 2000 pictures on my card?).

  8. hello, i have a mac book. my nikon d5100 has been loading just fine until the other day. now it wont load any more. i have tried iphoto, image capture, and camera window. the device shows up in iphoto and image capture but wont load. all i have video no new photos. in wont show up in camera window at all. any suggestions?

    • Can you clarify what you mean by “won’t load”? What happens in Image Capture when you try to download your videos?

    • Did you ever resolve this issue? I’m having the same problem with Windows 7. My D5100 was recognized as a device several times before, but suddenly nothing happens when I plug it in. I can’t even locate the device using the Nikon software. Thanks for any advice anyone might have!

  9. Hi — and thanks for the useful post! My question relates to transferring video files from the D5100: I have removed the SD card from the camera and put it into the slot on my 15″ MacBook Pro running OS 10.6.8.

    I navigate to the card in the finder where I see a DCIM folder with all the still photo files, and a file called NIKON001.DSC — but no sign anywhere of video files.

    I can transfer the video files using Nikon Transfer 2, but I want to be able to drag and drop them into a folder without having to use the Nikon software.

    It seems that the video files are somehow hidden from the finder — is there a way of making them visible?



  10. testing

  11. Thanks for the original post! I just got my d5100, my first DSLR, and I was wondering whether to proceed with the manual’s directions to upload their software. Now I know! Thanks again!!

  12. nikon – you idiots, why to make step back… yeah, and you had to change battery to make my 2 batteries from other model useless… and for what reason change from mini usb (superpopular) to micro usb? silly…

  13. So i have a question, is it impossible (i mean without using a card reader) to transfer ANY photos, for example, from the mac to the camera? i’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work.. thank you.

  14. I was more than happy to uncover this website. I need to to thank you for your time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also have you saved as a favorite to see new things in your blog.

  15. je suis complètement ignare , je ne parviens pas à transferer mes photos de mon pc(téléchargées par viewNX2) vers une lecture jpeg sans passer un temps monstrueux à convertir
    comment procéder?

  16. Hey there! So my Macbook will not recognize my d5100. It worked before, but today I moved all my iphoto library to an EHD, and whether that is plugged in or not, my computer won’t recognize my device. Not with image capture, the nikon software, iphoto or Lightroom. I’ve tried changing to all of the other ones in the preferences option in image capture, I’ve tried several different cables to see if it was that, used different USBs, plugged different things into the USBs and they’ve all worked. I’m starting to think it must be a setting on my camera, but I can’t find anything online, this page is the closest to an answer I’ve come. Oh and yes, my camera IS on ūüėČ Thank you so much I really hope you can help me!

  17. Is there a way to transfer directly to a USB storage?

  18. Hello: I need help. I have a D5100 as well, and have downloaded several times to my iMac, but today, plugged in as usual, iPhoto launched as usual, download appeared to be operating properly, but it only downloaded 350 images out of 1800 that are on my camera! Cannot figure out WHY? Please help if you can. Thanks,

  19. Yvonne Chandler

    I have a Nikon D5100 and have just discovered the detail about photo transfers. Thank you for the information. One question, does one need a sd card reader to transfer photos? Looks as though will need to change to a Mac!.

    • Oh no – it’s actually easier to transfer pictures on a PC because the camera appears as a storage device when you plug it in via usb.

      • Yvonne Chandler

        Thank you very much.

      • Sorry for the duplicate post, but this thread is more current than the last I replied to. I’m wondering if you might have some advice for me since my camera is no longer appearing when I plug it in. It’s worked for me several times before, but suddenly I can’t locate it anywhere, even using the Nikon software. Thank you!!

  20. I’m having the same problem, Stephanie. I tried waiting it out, but that didn’t seem to help. Anyone have ideas?

    • I found something that worked!!!! I actually bought a new cord. I made sure it was Nikon brand, and the specific cord for the D5100. I received it today and it WORKS! I’m not sure if I was using the wrong cord previously, or if it just kind of gave out. Anyway, it was under $10, so it’s worth giving a shot. Good luck!

      • Great to know that solved it! I actually called Nikon and they said they thought it might have been a bad cord, so it sounds like they know about the problem. They told me to send it back with a receipt, wait 14 days and get one back in the mail. In the meantime, I got an $8 memory card reader and that worked as well… Thanks for the help! Glad you solved it.

  21. Amazing! This blog looks just like my old one!
    It’s on a entirely different subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Wonderful choice of colors!

  22. You made some decent points there. I checked on the internet for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views
    on this site.

  23. Fascinating blog! Is your theme custom made or did you
    download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand out.
    Please let me know where you got your design. Many thanks

  24. I have a d5100 and have been loading photos to my IMAC desktop without any problems until today. When I connect my camera to the IMAC, IPhoto won’t load. Image capture won’t load either. I can’t find the camera on my device tree………tried your tip re “about this Mac”, “More Info” but there is no “Contents” column!!! Not sure what the problem is? Any ideas greatly appreciated.

  25. When D5100 camera is connected to computer, is there a way to transfer or list, all of the current camera settings?

  26. I currently own a Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom camera and operate it on a Macbook Air. The camera, connected via USB cord, is not recognized by my computer and is stuck on a blue screen with the words “one moment”. I have tried it on several of the cameras modes but there has been no change. Any hints?

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