Nikon D5100 Teardown

April 26, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

It seems as though all the hot new electronics these days are tablet-this, phone-that. Frankly, our engineers had enough. Their spudgers were getting soft; we needed to do something that would present a *challenge* and get them sharp again.

They were desperate for something more mechanically complex to chew on than the cell phone and tablet fare we’ve been feeding them lately. And we knew exactly where to turn. We’ve already written a Nikon D70 repair manual, so we know first-hand how difficult it is to take apart a professional  SLR camera.

What better way to infuse a bit of fun in our teardowns than taking apart another SLR camera? Enter the just-released Nikon D5100.

Teardown highlights:

  • The D5100 utilizes a 16.2 megapixel DX format CMOS sensor to capture images. This sensor has the same specs of the sensor used by the Nikon D7000.
  • Chipworks reports that each pixel on the sensor is 4.8 µm wide. That’s about half the diameter of a red blood cell.
  • The sensor has a special glass cover that turns red when viewed at an angle, but is completely transparent when viewed head-on. Neat!
  • Unlike other recent teardowns, the battery can be easily replaced by opening the compartment with your thumbnail.
  • The 7.4 V 1030 mAh EN-EL14 Li-ion battery is used by the D5100, D3100, and the COOLPIX P700. Sadly, it’s not compatible with other cameras in the Nikon lineup, such as the D90 and D7000.
  • Definitely make sure to discharge the large-and-in-charge 330µF flash capacitor if you attempt any repairs on the D5100. Otherwise you risk accidentally killing your camera.
  • The camera has roughly 4 billion screws holding it together. We had to skip a lot of the “unscrewing this screw” pictures in order to keep the teardown interesting, since we took out 37 of them to get to the teardown layout shot.
  • You can easily access the motherboard by removing the rear cover. You just need to remove twenty-ish #00 Phillips screws, disconnect 9 ribbon cables, and desolder a few wires…
  • The D5100 contains a lot of the same chips found in the Nikon D7000. Key players include:
    • Nikon EXPEED 2 EI-154 1051 Z05 image processor
    • Samsung K4T1G164QF-BCE7 1Gb DDR2-800 SDRAM (total of 3 Gb = 375 MB)
    • MXIC MX29GL128EHXFI-90G 128 Mb parallel flash memory
    • Toshiba TMP19A44FEXBG low-power microcontroller
    • Nikon EI-155 M4L1BA00 00151044
    • Nikon NHHS-2 049M8
  • There’s a light blue pad wedged between the bottom of the flash capacitor and the bottom camera frame. It conducts heat away from the capacitor to cool it down during flash-intensive shooting.
  • The top cover is a feat of engineering by itself. Within its walls are contained: Main control wheel, shutter/aperture control wheel, live view lever, On/Off switch, “info” button, record button, shutter button, exposure compensation button, IR sensor, AF lamp, flash, flash control circuitry, flash actuator, and the microphone.
  • The flash is actuated by a linear solenoid that pushes on a lever to release the spring-loaded flash — either automatically if the sensor detects a low-light situation, or when the flash button is depressed.
Taking off the D5100 top cover

Taking off the D5100 top cover

Final layout

Final layout

iPhone 4 Transparent Rear Panel

April 25, 2011 Hardware, Site News — scott

Update: We’re quite sorry for the misunderstanding, but an internal miscommunication led us to initially claim these panels were made of plastic. They are in fact glass. We’re apologize for the mixup — we’ll be making the responsible parties walk the plank.


We never judge a book by its cover here at iFixit. In fact, we usually remove the cover and judge it from the inside! Electronic circuit boards can be a work of art, and the complexity of their design is something we marvel at. We hold that sentiment for the iPhone 4, which has a cool battery/logic board layout that’s unfortunately hidden by its opaque rear panel.

We felt that was wrong — why shouldn’t you be able to see the sweet innards that Apple engineers toiled over so meticulously? We had to do something about it, so we put our heads together and came up with a solution: our new transparent iPhone 4 rear panel!

At this time, you can only install this product in the  GSM iPhone 4.  We have nothing against the Verizon users; Apple chose to modify the rear panel layout for the Verizon version, and sadly our panel can only fit GSM iPhone 4 units.

You can even go the extra mile and remove the EMI shielding from your logic board as a means to show off your iPhone 4 even more, although we don’t recommend you do this. It looks pretty dang spiffy without the EMI shielding, but that might cause the phone to operate improperly.

One of the added benefits of using this panel is that it’s made from plastic — meaning it’s less prone to fracture, and far cheaper to replace than the glass original panel. The lens and flash diffuser are already installed on the panel, so all you have to do is pop out the screws, slide the old panel out, and slide the new one in. As usual, we have a guide to help you succeed in your endeavor.

It doesn’t get any easier to modify your phone and make it look extra marvelous. The panels are in stock and ready to ship. Order yours today!

Maker Faire 2011

April 14, 2011 Events, Meet iFixit, Site News — aguenther

Maker Faire 2011Maker Faire is once again invading the San Mateo County Event Center May 21-22, and we need your help to run the iFixit Repair Center!

Maker Faire is the epitome of the do-it-yourself mentality. There is no larger concentration of geeky hobbyists and enthusiastic inventors than at Maker Faire. Sharkmobiles, underwater concerts, robotic giraffes, Tesla coil symphonies and a life-size game of mousetrap are just a few of the awesome exhibits staged outside the main hall.

We have been going to Maker Faire every year to spread our knowledge of how to fix things. This year we are hoping to teach more people than ever. This is where you come in.

Enjoy working on your motorcycle? Have you built your own computer? Replaced components of your roadbike? We need you! Volunteer to teach others what you know. We are looking for people who are passionate about repair and reuse. You don’t have to be an expert – but you do need to be enthusiastic about what you do know and eager to share. Volunteers will draw on their collective repair experience to help Maker Faire attendees fix their broken stuff. In addition, volunteers will receive free admission to Maker Faire as well as an iFixit t-shirt.

To volunteer, fill out our Maker Faire volunteer form.

All volunteers will receive an email confirming their volunteer status within a week. Volunteers will be assigned to one or more shifts depending on their preferences and availability.

We are updating our Maker Faire 2011 page with the latest news, so check back periodically for additional information. You can email us at MakerFaire@ifixit.com with any questions. Volunteer space is limited, so sign up now and help contribute to this awesome event!

Restoring Your Headlights

April 5, 2011 Hardware — Miro
Ford Taurus - after restoration

Ford Taurus - after restoration

We at iFixit are fans of DIY car maintenance and repair just as much as for electronics. We feel it’s our civic duty to share with the world if we’ve found some product that was absolutely brilliant, or produced excellent results.

One such product is the 3M Lens Renewal Kit.

Some of my relatives had really crappy headlight lenses. So crappy, in fact, that the light coming through the lenses was severely compromised — enough to present a potential danger from not seeing an object during the night. Something had to be done, and I took matters into my own hands.

This weekend, I performed a headlight restoration intervention.

3M’s instructional video on headlight restoration outlines the entire procedure really well. It’s definitely worth five minutes of your time if you’re considering embarking on such an adventure. You’ll get to see first-hand how all the attachments are used to make the headlight go from crap to awesome. Note that the blue Ford Taurus’ headlight looked almost identical to the one in the video before I began the procedure.

Acura Integra - driver's side lights before and after procedure.

Acura Integra - driver's side lights before and after procedure.

So how did it go? Absolutely smashing. It took me a little over two hours to mask six headlights (two Taurus lights, and four Integra lights) and perform the procedure on all six. I did them in “assembly line” style, where I’d use the 500 grit sanding disk on all six, then the 800 grit disk on all six, etc. That way I didn’t have to switch disks (in theory, at least — the 800 grit disk wore out and I had to swap it for a fresh one), even though I ran the risk of ruining all six lights instead of just one. I figured they couldn’t possibly look worse than they already did. The kit contained everything I needed for the procedure — minus the drill — and had more than enough materials for six lights:

  • 1 – 3M drill backing plate
  • 1 – 3M Masking Tape PN 0000 25 ft.
  • 4 – P800 grit white abrasive discs
  • 6 – P500 grit yellow discs
  • 1 – P3000 Trizact foam disc
  • 1 – Orange foam compounding pad
  • 1 – 1 oz. 3M headlight lens polish sample
Acura Integra - passenger's side lights before and after procedure.

Acura Integra - passenger's side lights before and after procedure.

In the end, I used just one 500-grit disc, two 800-grit disks, and 2/3 of the headlight rubbing compound. The “Trizact” disc was 50% worn after the procedure, and there was at least half the masking tape remaining. The kit definitely contains enough materials to clean up even the largest of headlights, even though 3M’s instructional video strangely cautions you that it might not.

Originally I had considered purchasing some of the components separately, especially because I already had some of the sandpaper required for the job. But I soon realized that the full cost of the kit would be significantly more expensive had I acquired everything individually, and my hodge-podge of stuff would not be as user-friendly. For example, the kit’s sanding discs come pre-cut and with velcro backing, making it super-simple to attach to the backing plate. This would not have been nearly as easy had I chose to do the “cheaper” method, which would have invariably cost me more time and money.

I had to pay full retail price ($25) at Autozone (as opposed to $16.34 on Amazon), since even Amazon’s Prime shipping couldn’t get it to my relatives’ door in time — and it was still worth every penny.

iPhone 4 Oppression Kit

April 1, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Kyle
Typical Apple engineer locking down your iPhone.

Typical Apple engineer locking down your iPhone.

Apple is watching your every move. If you have already liberated your phone, reconsider. If your iPhone came with Phillips screws, you’re not out of the woods either. Fact of the matter is, if your iPhone has Phillips screws on the bottom, YOU MIGHT BE IN DANGER.

On the lookout for offending individuals.

On the lookout for offending individuals.

“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.” We read this in a book once. It might be relevant, or it might be over-the-top fear mongering. (But what if it’s not?)

We’ve known for a while that the carriers know where you are at all times. What if they are sharing your every move with Cupertino? Recent reports from the jailbreaking-and-tethering community indicate that Apple and their confederates know far more about what you’re doing with your phone than previously thought. What if Apple finds out that you liberated your phone?

This clear and present danger has convinced us that we were wrong all along. Our days of preaching open hardware and liberating phones are behind us. Instead, we are dedicating ourselves to protecting you and your loved ones with tried and true proprietary screws.

I’m convinced. Quickly, tell me what I need to buy!

You need safe, proprietary Pentalobe screws. They’re similar to Torx — except that the points have a rounder shape, and they have five points instead of six. Hence the prefix “penta,” Latin for “five,” and “lobe,” Latin for “point.”

To ensure 100% maximum protection, we’re selling these Pentalobe screws as part of a kit — the iPhone 4 Oppression Kit. You get everything you need to lock down your phone from prying hands:

  • Two Pentalobe screws to replace the Apple-fretting Phillips screws you used to liberate your phone.
  • Two screwdrivers for the task: a Phillips driver for the old screws, and a Pentalobe driver for the new screws.
  • iPhone 4 Oppression Kit card, which you should keep in your wallet as a faithful card-carrying member. As an added bonus, the card is a more Apple-approved color: white.
iPhone 4 Oppression Kit

iPhone 4 Oppression Kit

You’re risking the well-being of everyone around you with every minute that passes without the safe, secure Pentalobe screws in place. Buy the Pentalobe Oppression Kit today — if you swap your screws fast enough, your family will still be there when you get home!