The Nikon D7100 is the company’s newest flagship DSLR for their APS-C line of interchangeable lens digital cameras. We’ve tested it out quite a bit so far often posting night photos, golden hour samples, and our own first impressions. This is a very powerful camera that we’re straight off the bat not recommending for the beginner, and the camera is almost a perfect APS-C DSRL. However, there is one big nagging problem that we can’t get over–but if you can, then you’ll fall madly in love with the Nikon D7100.
Pros and Cons
- Excellent image quality all across the board
- Fast focusing in many situations
- Timelapse mode is pretty awesome
- Ergonomics are very intuitive
- Build quality is stellar
- Super sharp images due to no low pass filter
- No aperture control in video
Technical specifications taken from the Adorama listing
- Professional-level AF performance features once available only in flagship D-SLR models, including 51-point AF, f/8 AF capability and focus detection down to -2 EV (ISO 100, 20°C/68°F)
- Continuous shooting speed up to approx. 7 fps to keep you ready for almost any moment
- Clear, comfortable viewing for precise composition with no time lag; approx. 100% frame coverage via the superior glass pentaprism optical viewfinder and new organic EL display element
- Newly employed 8-cm (3.2-in.), approx. 1229k-dot, LCD monitor with an RGBW alignment for enhanced brightness and visibility
- Nikon DX-format CMOS image sensor unit with 24.1 effective megapixels, designed without optical low-pass filter, delivering exceptionally sharp images and minute details by maximizing the resolving power of NIKKOR lenses
- High-speed, high-performance EXPEED 3 image-processing engine
- Standard ISO 100 to 6400, range expandable up to ISO 25600 equivalent
- White balance control; select automatic ease, or use Nikon’s original, new Spot White Balance to measure a selected area of the frame during live view
- Double SD card slots compatible with UHS-I
- Built-in flash with a commander function supports Advanced Wireless Lighting
- Lighter body than the D7000, that adopts durable magnesium alloy for top and rear covers and superior weather and dust sealing
Section taken from our First Impressions post
Nikon’s D7100 feels small in the hand. It doesn’t feel as beefy as the D300s but it feels more substantial than the D7000. This camera is clearly targeted at an advanced user and with that said, Nikon has also tried to create an interesting compromise. The result is a camera with nearly as many buttons on the frontal area as their higher end DSLRs.
To be quite honest with you, I don’t even know why they bothered to put an auto mode on this camera.
This is the left side of the D7100, and there’s quite a bit to learn already. You have your pop-up flash button, a bracketing button, the lens release, and the AF/MF switch. Plus there are the loads of ports on the side in the form of a microphone port, USB terminal, HDMI out, headphone jack for videographers, and a GPS port for the accessories that are necessary.
The back of the Nikon D7100 will also require some muscle memory adjustment, but native Nikon users shouldn’t have much of a problem. Here you’ll see the playback button and trash button in some familiar places. Along the edge of the LCD screen you’ll find some also very familiar buttons in the form of menu, white balance, quality, ISO, info (two of these), the Live View switch, the selector switch for the AF point selection (providing it isn’t in total auto) which is complete with a lock, the Auto exposure lock button, and the shutter control dial.
To take the most advantage of something like the ISO button, you’ll need to hold it down an look at the LCD on top. While holding the button down, you’ll need to scroll through one of the dials. One will switch the camera to Auto ISO while the other will choose a specific setting.
The top of this camera is also really quite high end. On the left, you’ll find the mode dial that locks into place with each selection. Under that, you’ll find the drive switch. In between the left and right is the hot shoe with stereo microphones.
To the right is the on/off switch around the shutter release, video record button, exposure compensation button, metering mode button, and the LCD screen.
As you can also see, the size of the camera overall isn’t extremely large, but in the right hands it could prove to be a bit too substantial.
Nikon’s D7100 not only feels solid in the hand, but it quite literally took a beating. We brought it to the annual NYC Pillow fight and it survived being smacked around by hands and pillows alike. Otherwise, it had a rough and tumble in our camera bag while commuting on the subways. On the first day with it, we took it into a small rainfall and it shrugged the precipitation off like it wasn’t even there.
Something that really surprised us though was the battery life. We took the camera into the dead cold of night to shoot a timelapse on a pier in below freezing temperatures. The camera’s battery was barely phased.
Ease of Use
During my time with the D7100, I only needed to consult the manual once–and that was in order to figure out the time lapse mode. Nikon coins it as Interval shooting mode. Otherwise, the control layout of the camera makes everything very intuitive. Much of what you need in order to shoot is right at your finger tips. People moving up to the camera will have some learning, but it shouldn’t be extremely steep of a curve. Users of the more advanced cameras will feel right at home with the layout of the D7100.
Nikon’s D7100 focuses extremely fast in good light. However, when it comes to moving subjects just ensure that you’re switched to the 3D tracking mode or else you’ll suffer from serious lag. Additionally, low light focusing performance suffers quite a bit as well. But here is the saving grace with the D7100–despite the fact that it sometimes took longer to focus in lower lit areas, it always accurately hit the subject. Other cameras won’t guarantee this.
Overall, the strongest point about the Nikon D7100 is the image quality. Pixel for pixel, this has to be bar none the best APS-C DSLR that we’ve tested in a while. Nikon made an excellent choice with the removal of the low pass filter for this camera. However, we started to see image noise at ISO 1600, but it only really required a minor slide of the noise reduction tool in Adobe Lightroom to fix this–and we believe Nikon understood this. It also means that overall you’ll still get sharper images.
Additionally, the raw files are extremely versatile and we overall found them to be on par with both Fujifilm and Sony equivalents.
RAW File Versatility
The D7100′s raw support came extremely quick–and we’re very happy that it did. The camera’s RAW files are extremely versatile and sensitive in that the slightest tap of a slider will create some big changes. In essence, this just means you don’t have as much work to do in post; and for most of us that’s a very nice thing.
The files are punchy due to the lack of a low pass filter, however we still wish that the color was overall better. While Nikon’s out of camera white balancing has traditionally been the best there is, Sony is topping them these days. That’s no problem still though because the color depth to the D7100′s files seems almost infinite.
High ISO Image Quality
This is the one million dollar question that everyone wants answered: just how good is the high ISO versatility of the D7100?
For your convenience, we added the exposure values to the file names in this section so that you can observe them for yourself. Additionally, we only resized the images down to 2MB and applied no image noise reduction.
We started to see image noise at ISO 1600 and it overall felt to be on part with noise performance of the Nikon D300s before it. However, this is because of two major factors: the lack of a low pass filter and the bump up to a monster 24MP sensor. With the removal of the low pass filter, the high ISO images were still some of the sharpest that we’ve seen. Additionally, it’s also nice to know that we didn’t see very much color noise–in fact it’s pretty much not worth mentioning but we wouldn’t be doing you justice if we didn’t.
Of any modern DSLR out there that we’ve tested and used though, we have to admit that the D7100 was the toughest to work with in terms of reducing image noise because of this parameter. But when we finally tailored the images to our liking, they were some of the sharpest high ISO images that we’ve ever seen.
In order to take the most advantage of this camera, we recommend using fast glass. Not only will you be keeping the high ISO values down, but Nikkor primes are the sharpest in the company’s lineup of lenses.
Again though, we recommend this camera for the advanced user that will take the time to understand and work with the RAW files. Otherwise, you’re just not using it to its fullest potential.
Here are some other High ISO image samples for your perusal.
Extra Image Samples
Our main problem with the D7100′s video files is the fact that the aperture cannot be changed while in video mode, so we recommend using cinema primes to get the best experience out of the camera. Additionally, here is a quick timelapse that we threw together shot with interval mode on the D7100. Overall, the video quality is standard for a DSLR, but we really wish that one could stitch their timelapse in camera. If you want better quality, we still overall recommend a camera that shoots a RAW video format.
PS: this is my first timelapse video.
The Nikon D7100 once again has to be the best flagship ASP-C DSLR that we’ve tested so far. The image is stellar, the build quality is positively solid, and the feature set that Nikon gives the user will appeal to both the person stepping up and the pro looking for an APS-C camera. Though low light focusing can be frustrating, we were very pleased overall with the focusing performance combined with manually selecting a focusing point. It’s an excellent camera for capturing sports that can then be turned into the device you use to record a timelapse of the sun going down to then become a camera for reportage. Indeed, the D7100 is an overall tough camera to beat and it can fill just so many niches that we’re not sure that anything can really dethrone this thing.
Because of this reason, we’re awarding the Nikon D7100 an Editor’s Choice award for Flagship APS-C DSLR. We strongly recommend that you get your D7100 from Adorama.
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