Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons – Shot JPG

Not quite three years ago I got my hands on a pre-production model of the Nikon D7000. It was a game-changing camera. I loved that camera. Now 30 months after it hit stores, the 7000 has been updated. Meet the D7100. It’s a significant upgrade. It’s a whole new camera thanks to the sensor. But more on that in a minute.

Let’s start with the basics. The D7100 is faster, has an OLED display, better weather sealing, new spot white balance, has better autofocus, better weather sealing, new additional 1.3 crop factor, new video capability and a new 24.1 MP sensor. It is available with a battery grip (not tested) called the MB-D15 Multi Battery Power Pack. Unfortunately the old battery pack for the D7000 won’t work. There is also no LCD cover – something most Nikon users expect. There is no articulating screen. Wireless sharing and control with WU-1a adapter is also available but costs extra since the adapter is not included.

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

The thing that immediately caught my attention was the 51 Autofocus points. 15 of these are cross type. This is something Nikon used to reserve for pro cameras. Not anymore. The new AF on the D7100 makes an already good AF great. It’s fast, predictable and with the newer lenses, should please even the most demanding photographer.

But back to that sensor. Unfortunately, Nikon is still embroiled in the megapixel madness. The new sensor is 24M.1P. Really? On an APS-C sensor? Come on Nikon. It’s just not necessary. But it is sharp. Why? There is no antialiasing filter. This is something that is optional on the D800 but so far, we only have one version of the D7100 and it’s without an antialias filter. What does that mean? Amazing detail and sharpness, but more moire. It’s really bad news on the video side because anytime you shoot video on this camera and point at a tight pattern you’re going to miss that filter.

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

In the field the camera feels good in the hand. I like the bright 100% viewfinder. This is something I miss shooting micro four thirds. EVFs are hard to get used to. There are two SD card slots that can be configured for either backup or overflow. Everything just works and shooting operations are all nice and predictable.

The camera handles as expected. It’s quiet. Battery life is good. It’s very fast and low-light performance is very good but in an odd way that I will explain. It shoots up to six frames per second unless you use a new 1.3 additional crop mode that gives you seven. I assume the improved performance is due to the new Expeed 3 processor. Still I can’t help but wonder how great the image quality would be if Nikon had crammed fewer pixels onto the sensor.

Color is good in both jpg and RAW mode. The meter is dead-on and exposure is perfect most of the time. The built-in flash is connected to command mode and will work as a controller for off camera flash units.

The video enhancements to the D7100 are mystifying to me. Nikon added better audio and improved video frame rates, but why? There’s no anti-aliasing filter. This means the camera is very sharp for stills, but suffers from moire when in video mode. I also noted that you cannot change the aperture during video recording. This is a major oversight (assuming you use Nikon G-lenses which have no aperture ring.) I hope that Nikon addresses this with a firmware update. If you are going to use this camera for video, you’ll need to install a variable ND filter and use that to act as an iris control. That will give you exposure control without the ability to change the aperture in video mode.

The images are sharp but even at ISO 560 I see noise that I need to clean up in Lightroom. The good news is that it’s one slider and done and the image still retains appropriate sharpness. But this would be unnecessary if Nikon had not crammed so many pixels on it. I had less trouble with this in JPG mode believe it or not. I am wondering if the SDK that Nikon provided Adobe for the RAW conversion is crippled. Nikon has done this before so that people will be forced into buying Nikon’s own RAW converter software, which was made by Nik Software. Now that Google has acquired Nik and let go almost the entire Nik staff, it will be interesting to see if Nikon continues to try to be the industry maverick and sells its converter rather than gives it away like Canon. I’ll try using Nikon software to decode the RAW NEF files to see if they are less noisy and if so will update this review.

Since my interest in such a camera would be wildlife and sports shooting, I like the new 1.3 crop factor that boosts the camera’s performance but reduces the amount of usable sensor. It reduces the down to a 15.4-megapixel crop (15.4 now that is more like it – too bad they didn’t use this number instead of 24.1) but also means the autofocus area runs nearly to the edge of the frame. In this mode the AF is simply outstanding. One thing that I don’t like (but you might) about this mode is that the viewfinder shows a wider-than-100 per cent equivalent. The D7100’s 1.3x crop records RAW and increases burst mode to be a step quicker at seven frames per second.

CONCLUSION

The Nikon D7100 is a fine camera but it certainly has its limits and its place. If Nikon had offered a choice of a sensor with anti-aliasing filter like they did on the D800, I’d say this is a great bet for stills shooters who also want to shoot video. But Nikon did not.

If Nikon had not fallen prey to the megapixel wars, cramming 24.1 megapixels on an APS-C sensor, then I’d highly recommend this camera to anyone looking for a $1200 camera body. But in 1.3 crop mode I am a fan.

All that said, the camera is noisy in my opinion but the good news is that this noise can be easily removed in Lightroom. So it’s a non-issue under those circumstances.

The new 1.3 crop mode that effectively makes the D7100’s sensor the size of a micro four thirds sensor. Here is where the D7100 performs as good or better than anything on the market in this range. While it’s odd, and takes getting used to, it works. It improves AF, covers the sweet spot on the sensor, boosts FPS and generally is a wildlife or sports shooters dream paired with the right long lens.

I hope that all the camera companies get off this megapixel madness kick soon. Short of that bad decision and no option on the anti-aliasing filter, I’d give the D7100 a highly-recommended rating. But due to those problems, I’d say highly-recommended if you’re the right match for this camera’s features. Otherwise merely recommended.

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Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. Thanks for the great review. So for someone like myself ,who is not interested in video capabilities, and looking to trade up the D7000 might still be a better option.

    Reply
  2. I returned mine due to many oil spots on the sensor.

    Reply
  3. Have the D7000. Was almost tempted to upgrade after the D600 came out but have held off.

    I’m watching the Micro 4/3 space.

    If I upgrade to another DSLR, I’d like to see them integrate support for Wifi and Bluetooth so that you can use with mobile devices. That could open up some innovation by software developers.

    Otherwise, it seems most DSLR changes are evolutionary.

    Reply
  4. [...] Read this article: Nikon D7100 Mini Review | Photofocus [...]

    Reply
  5. A really informative review. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. A couple problems with the review. One, removing the Low-Pass Filter improves the sensor size to MP ratio, its not the same as a regular APS w/ 24mp when it comes to image quality suffering. Two, the 1.3x crop mode is a worse marketing ploy than the 24mp; you’re not increasing the focal length, you’re simply cropping the photo pre-photo rather than with post-photo imaging software. Moreover, you’re not getting improved image quality by having 15.4mp instead of 24mp because those 15.4mp are crammed into the crop portion of the sensor used – its almost exactly the same MP to sensor size proportion as the regular 24mp DX mode. You increase zoom by 30% (although not really) while reducing MP by approx 36%, that’s almost a non-noticeable difference. When I tested the 1.3x crop mode, the image was noticeably sharper in the regular DX mode.

    I am also concerned about you’re claim that there is noise as low as ISO 560, which I’m not disagreeing with; I haven’t taken a look at that, but I think I will now do some comparison shots because it would be a big knock against the camera if its common. I’m also very annoyed by the camera not having an articulating EVF, as my first day test-shooting I had to lay on wet grass & mud to get a great shot of a Heron – something an articulating screen would’ve have alleviated. I have yet to test for moire in portrait shots, but I’m a bit concerned about what I have read re: the D7100, as numerous people have criticized Nikon’s apparently misleading claims of having reduced moire despite removing the AA filter. Moire is still an issue, but I use a UV filter as a lens protector anyways, so idk that moire will be too much of an issue for me until I test it. Regardless, I’m highly considering returning the D7100 and considering getting a full-frame Canon E-series that are on sale now for only a few hundred dollars more and have a solid balance of 20.1mp and Full Frame.

    Reply
  7. @xXgannicusXx You’re being too cute by half in your claim that removing the low-pass filter improves the sensor size to MP ratio. That’s fuzzy math at best. And the 1.3 crop mode may be a marketing ploy to you but that doesn’t change the fact that it is helpful to me in that it (as I clearly stated in the review) gives better AF coverage and faster FPS. What I did NOT say in the review – and which you falsely imply, is that you are doing anything but cropping when you switch to that mode. I get it. I also never said you get a better MP to sensor ratio. Never. And my claim that there is noise at ISO 560 is a fact. Look at the images up close. Even with noise reduction it is plain to see. You should do your own test. Perhaps I got a bad sample of the camera and if so would want to know so I can return it.

    Please let me know what you find at ISO 560. I am serious about wanting to make sure I didn’t end up with a bad sample of the camera.

    Reply
  8. Hmm, I’ve shot ISO 1600 on my D7000 and I don’t think there was noise.

    Maybe I don’t know how to pixel-peep. Really blown up, looking at the dark areas?

    Reply
  9. I didn’t say you said anything about the ratio, I was responding to your criticism of using 24mp for an APS. all things being equal, the D7100 will have better image quality than a 24mp APS w/ AA because the MP are spread across a larger space. the importance of the MP to sensor size ratio isn’t subjective, its a fact; other characteristics and specs of camera obviously can mitigate any benefits or negatives of having a better or worse MP to sensor size ratio, but by itself its not fuzzy math its 100%. here’s a better example to illustrate: 24mp crammed onto a standard APS vs 24 mp on a Full Frame sensor – all things being equal, you will have a far superior image quality with the full frame. of course, the full frame sensors have other characteristics and specs that impact total camera performance and image quality, as do APS, and many non-all-pro users prefer APS for numerous reasons.

    Reply
  10. OK, emailed the NEFs.

    Reply
  11. @xXgannicusXx you’re down to semantics – I guess you need to be right and normally I wouldn’t care but since others might be confused by your comment I am setting things straight.

    As for your comment “he D7100 will have better image quality than a 24mp APS w/ AA because the MP are spread across a larger space.”

    Prove it. I am sincerely interested. If your response is “Because I say so” then NOT interested. It’s fuzzy math as I said and there’s nothing in any documentation I can find to substantiate your claim. And there’s no reason at all to bring full frame sensor’s into the conversation. I am arguing AGAINST cramming lots of pixels onto a smaller sensor. Of course that same number would perform better on a full frame sensor because it is larger and the sensor sites would be larger – gathering more light – producing a better image. You seem to be agreeing with me but frankly I can’t tell because you’re all over the place here. I edited out the rest of your comment at your request – which I would have done anyway since it made no sense to me.

    You can pixel peep this to death but I know what kind of results I am seeing. You may not like my conclusions – but yet you say you’re sending your camera back. Perhaps you want to argue for argument’s sake?

    Reply
  12. Nice review! I have mixed feelings about the D7100. I wish Nikon had kept to 16MP, if it’s good enough for the D4….! From what I’ve seen removing the LPF is a mixed blessing on a high density sensor, ok you get great detail resolution, slightly better than even the D600 with a decent lens. But it does magnify the grain. I can see noise in the shadows from 400 ISO which own sampling and noise reduction takes care of, but then that’s no better than using the D300, you just get a bigger canvas. Also, a lot of photos I’ve seen on the web look slightly flat and lacking ‘snap’, it’s like high pixel density robs the 3D quality of a lens. It’s a subjective thing but there which I don’t understand since the dynamic range is supposed to be great. Maybe I need to see some good pro photos, but the D7000 doesn’t suffer from this (if you can ignore the cyan skies).

    On the plus side the shutter has less mirror slap than previous cameras, the AF is as good as it gets on a Nikon, the cropped crop sensor thing, sounds great for birders since it increases the length of their lenses lol. And no whining from people about having to clean their low pass filter ;-) ok, I need to try one for a weekend not just in the store.

    Reply
  13. i liked your review, i have a question,
    i bought a nikon 7100 i took some pics and they looked very nice, but when i uploaded them in my computer they looks different and the quality is not what i was expecting.
    the pics have higher resolution than my screen, i calibrated my computer but the pics look the same. thanks

    Reply

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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