Nikon D7100 £1099.99

25th Mar 2013 | 14:34

Nikon D7100

Nikon gets a little more serious

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Nikon has produced an attractive offering for enthusiast photographers that centres around the thing that these users value the most - detail. The Nikon D7100 produces sharp, detail-rich images and noise is well controlled up to ISO 6400.

Like:

High-pixel count; No low-pass filter; Weather-sealed; Dual SD card slots;

Dislike:

No Wi-Fi built-in; Screen not touch-sensitive; Fixed screen; JPEG only HDR mode;

Introduction

The big news about the Nikon D7100 isn't that it has a 24.1 million pixel sensor - that was fairly predictable - but rather that Nikon has decided to omit the anti-aliasing element from the camera's filter above the chip.

This is something that we have seen before with the Nikon D800E and Pentax K-5 IIs, but these cameras are variations on the Nikon D800 and Pentax K-5 II that both have anti-aliasing filters.

The Nikon D7100, in contrast, isn't available in two varieties and can only be bought without the filter in place.

Nikon D7100 review

Most camera manufacturers use an anti-aliasing filter (AKA low-pass filter) to reduce the risk of interference patterns known as moiré patterning that can occur when an object with a fine texture that's close to the sensor's resolving limit is photographed. You've probably seen this at some point on the television when someone has worn the wrong tie or shirt and a frenzy of lines is created at an angle to the fabric's pattern.

Nikon claims that the pixel density of the Nikon D7100's APS-C format sensor is sufficiently high that there are relatively few occasions when moiré patterning is likely to occur, and consequently no anti-aliasing filter is required. The downside of using a low-pass filter is that it softens the images slightly, and this has to be addressed by sharpening the image post-capture.

Leaving off the filter should mean that the Nikon D7100 is capable of producing sharper images direct from the camera. But how much difference does it make in comparison with the Nikon D5200 and Nikon D3200, which also have 24MP sensors?

Features

Nikon D7100 review

Like Nikon's more recent DSLRs, including the Nikon D4 and Nikon D800, the Nikon D7100 has the Expeed 3 processing engine. In combination with the sensor, this enables a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-6400, which can be expanded to the equivalent ISO 25,600 if required.

Despite having the same processing engine and pixel count as the Nikon D3200 and Nikon D5200, the Nikon D7100 can shoot at a faster frame rate of 6fps (frames per second). This trumps the Nikon D5200 by 1fps and the Nikon D3200 by 2fps, making it better suited to sport and action photography.

However, the Nikon Nikon D7100 has another trick up its sleeve that enables things to be pushed a little bit further - a 1.3x crop mode. This is useful if you need to get a little tighter in on your subject and don't want to crop the image post-capture, and it enables the maximum continuous shooting rate to be boosted to 7fps.

Nikon D7100 review

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Nikon has further boosted the D7100's sport and wildlife shooting credentials with the inclusion of the 51-point Multi-Cam 3500DX AF module, which has 15 cross-type AF points around the centre of the frame. In comparison, the Nikon D7000 has 39 AF points, of which nine are cross-type.

Those who think 51 AF points is a bit excessive can opt to restrict the selection to 11 in single AF mode. As we have seen before with Nikon's high-end DSLRs, in continuous AF mode the camera can be set to track the subject using 51, 21 or nine AF points after you've selected the starting AF point.

Alternatively, there's 3D tracking available in continuous AF mode, which looks at the colour of the subject and attempts to follow it around the frame. However, if you want to keep things simple, the camera can select the AF point for you in Single AF and Continuous AF mode.

Nikon D7100 review

The Nikon D7100 is the fifth DSLR in Nikon's lineup to feature an AF system that is sensitive down to f/8. This means that the camera will continue to focus the lens automatically when a telephoto lens and teleconverter combination results in an effective maximum aperture as small as f/8. Naturally you can shoot at smaller apertures than this and use automatic focusing, since it is only the maximum aperture that is the issue.

Like the Nikon D7000, the Nikon D7100 has a 2,016-pixel RGB sensor that provides data to the Scene Recognitions system that guides the metering, white balance and autofocusing systems. You can also take control over the colour of your images via the Picture Control modes (Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape) with options to adjust the sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue of the colour modes.

Nikon has stuck with the same effects modes for the D7100 as those on the D7000, namely Night Vision, Color Sketch, Miniature Effect, Selective Color, Silhouette, High Key and Low Key. We can't see much use for Night Vision or Color Sketch, but Miniature Effect and Selective Color can produce some fun results.

Nikon D7100 review

The downside to these modes is that images are only recorded as JPEGs and there's no option to have a 'clean' raw file. On the plus side, the main LCD screen displays the impact of the effects in Live View mode, and the refresh rate isn't excessively reduced. It's also possible to use the Effects when shooting movies.

On the subject of movies, the Nikon D7100 can shoot Full HD movies and there are ports to connect both an external microphone and a pair of headphones for better sound recording and monitoring.

Movies can be shot in DX mode at 24, 25 or 30p, but when the 1.3x crop is employed it is also possible to record 50i or 60i footage for smoother action or slow motion playback.

The Nikon D7100 is priced at £1,099.99 / US$1,199.95 / AU$1,558 body-only or £1,299.99 / US$1,599.95 / AU$1,849 with an 18-105mm VR kit lens, making it considerably more expensive than the new Canon EOS 700D.

Nikon D7100 review

Build quality and handling

Although it doesn't have the bomb-proof air of the Nikon D4, the Nikon D7100 feels very nicely put together and has a solid build. Its weatherproof seals also mean that it can be used in a wide range of conditions and you don't need to head home if the heavens open. It survived a fair amount of spray and drizzle during our testing period.

Softly textured coatings on the front and rear grips provide decent purchase so that the camera feels comfortable in your hand, even when carried for long periods between shots.

Weighing 675g/1.49lbs, the Nikon D7100 is a little lighter than the Nikon D7000 (690g/1.52lbs), but most users will find that they need to use it two-handed, with the left hand supporting the lens and reaching for the controls on the left of the camera (as it's held).

Nikon D7100 review

While lock buttons are useful for preventing dials from being knocked out of position they can make using those controls a little more fiddly. Initially this seems to be the case with the Nikon D7100's mode dial, but it doesn't take long to get used to pressing down the central button while rotating the dial to the correct mode.

It's a similar story with the drive mode dial, but if you press the lock down with your left thumb you'll find your forefinger has enough purchase on the dial's ridged front surface to rotate it easily.

Another change in comparison with the Nikon D7000 (but like the Nikon D600) is that the Live View switch is near the bottom of the back of the camera and there are two settings; one for stills and the other for video Live View mode. Pressing the Lv button at the centre of the switch activates the Live View feed.

Nikon D7100 review

This change to the button layout has meant that the video activation button has had to be relocated and, as with Nikon's other recent DSLRs, it is near the shutter release button.

Nikon has also introduced a new 'I' button at the bottom-left of the back of the Nikon D7100. Pressing this gives you quick access to some key features such as the 1.3x Crop mode, Picture Control mode and HDR mode. It's a useful addition that complements the healthy collection of direct controls.

Although there are a few fairly minor changes to the control layout of the Nikon D7100 in comparison with the Nikon D7000, they don't take long to get used to and upgraders will soon find themselves reaching automatically for the correct controls. The menu system will also be very familiar.

Nikon D7100 review

The Nikon D7000 introduced the AF mode button and focus mode selector switch combination that is now used in Nikon's enthusiast- and professional-level cameras, and this has continued with the Nikon D7100.

These controls sit within convenient reach of the left thumb while looking through the viewfinder, and when used in conjunction with the front and rear dials they enable the camera to be switched between the various AF modes and manual focus mode without taking the camera away from the eye.

The lettering inside the viewfinder also makes it very clear which autofocus mode is selected - not all manufacturers manage to achieve this.

Nikon D7100 review

Since it's a DSLR, the Nikon D7100 has an optical viewfinder. This is a nice, bright pentaprism device that shows approximately 100% of the image frame, so you can compose with confidence that there won't be any 'extras' appearing around the edges of the image.

Despite the clarity of the viewfinder, where possible we would opt to use the magnified Live View image on the 3.2-inch, 1,229,000 dot LCD when focusing manually.

This provides a very detailed view even in quite bright light that makes it easy to assess critical focus, so it is especially useful when shooting still life or macro subjects when depth of field is very restricted. It would be even more useful if the screen was articulated like the Nikon D5200's, though.

Nikon D7100 review

Performance

Nikon is aiming the D7100 squarely at enthusiast photographers, and these users like to shoot a bit of everything, from landscapes to sport and macro subjects to wildlife with everything else in between. Consequently the Nikon D7100 needs to be an all-rounder.

With its 51 AF points and 6 or 7fps continuous shooting rate, the Nikon D7100 seems like a good choice for sports and wildlife enthusiasts, but even with a Class 10 SD card installed it has a relatively low burst depth.

When shooting DX format images we were only able to squeeze out around 12-15 Fine quality JPEG images or six raw files before the frame rate dipped below the 6fps maximum.

Nikon D7100 review

It only takes just over two seconds to fire off these JPEG shots (or one second for the raw files), so timing is of the essence - not that this will phase most experienced photographers.

On the plus-side, the autofocus system is fast and accurate, getting the subject sharp in next to no time in most situations and successfully tracking moving objects.

Using the new Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED lens with the AF-S TC-20E III 2x teleconverter we were also able to confirm that the AF system continues to function when the maximum aperture falls to f/8.

Nikon D7100 review

And rather than just the central AF point functioning, in half-decent light the whole array of 51 are operational, although using the 15 cross-type sensors gets the subject in focus quicker than the outer points. If light levels fall, however, you have to stick with the central AF point.

Our resolution tests indicate that while the Nikon D7100 can't resolve more detail than the 24MP Nikon D3200 and Nikon D5200 at the lower sensitivity settings, the images look very slightly sharper at 100% on-screen. The images are also a little more naturally sharp straight from the camera, with no sign of haloing and a very smooth loss of detail as the resolution limit is exceeded.

As the sensitivity level is pushed up, the Nikon D7100 manages to record more detail than either the Nikon D3200 or Nikon D5200, but this is at the expense of a little noise.

Nikon D7100 review

Comparing high sensitivity images from the Nikon D7100 with those from the Nikon D5200 and Nikon D3200 reveals that the Nikon D7100's images have quite a bit more chroma noise.

We suspect that Nikon has set the D7100's processing engine to produce noisier images to preserve the detail, because this is more likely to appeal to the photographic enthusiasts.

These experienced users are more likely to shoot raw files and process them carefully to strike the right balance between noise and detail resolution than novice photographers, who are more comfortable with the Nikon D3200 and shooting JPEG images.

Nikon D7100 review

At ISO 3200 and 6400 the Nikon D7100 generally produces images with fine-grain noise without any clumping or the banding that troubles images from the Nikon D5200. As a result they look good when sized to make A3 sized (16.5 x 11.7-inch) prints and they make excellent monochrome images.

There are no surprises with the Nikon D7100's automatic white balance system, since it manages to cope reasonably well with most lighting conditions that it encounters. As usual, though, a custom white balance setting is the best option under mixed or artificial lighting.

In most cases the camera manages to produce vibrant but natural-looking colours, only occasionally over-saturating bright greens when the Landscape or Standard Picture Control options are selected.

Nikon D7100 review

The Nikon D7000 has a tendency to overexpose the mid-tones, but the Nikon D7100 seems a little more complex. In many situations it delivers a perfect result when left to its own devices, but there were quite a few occasions when shooting under an overcast sky during this test that we had to use the exposure compensation control to get the result we were looking for.

In most instances we had to dial in 1/3EV or 2/3EV, but some shots required as much as 1EV extra exposure above what the Matrix metering system suggested. Conversely, on a few occasions a little underexposure was required to preserve the highlights in the sky.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Nikon D7100, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Nikon D7100 is capable of resolving up to around 28 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Nikon D7100 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 100, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 200, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 400, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 800, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 1600, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 3200, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 6400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 12800, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 25600, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 100, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 200, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 400, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 800, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 1600, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 3200, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 6400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 12800, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D7100 review

ISO 25600, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Nikon D7100 with the Nikon D5200, Nikon D7000, Nikon D600, Canon EOS 7D and Pentax K-5 II.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Nikon D7100 review

These results show that JPEG images from the Nikon D7100 show among some of the weakest signal to noise ratios of the cameras here, falling behind the Nikon D5200, Nikon D7000 and Nikon D600 throughout the sensitivity range. The D7100's JPEGs show a greater SNR than those from the Canon EOS 7D and Pentax K-5 II at ISO 100-800, but fall behind the Canon at higher ISOs, and alternate with the Pentax for last place from ISO 1600 to the top of the sensitivity range.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Nikon D7100 review

The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Nikon D7100 are weaker than those in its JPEG images, with weaker ratios than all the cameras at ISO 100-800. The D7100's TIFF images always show less signal to noise ratio than those from the Nikon D5200, Nikon D7000 and Nikon D600, but they beat those from the Canon EOS 7D at ISO 1600, before falling behind again for the rest of the range. At the top of the range, the D7100 has a greater SNR than the Pentax K-5 II.

JPEG dynamic range

Nikon D7100 review

The Nikon D7100's JPEG results for dynamic range are more impressive than those for signal to noise ratio, at least at lower sensitivities, with the camera producing the greatest range at ISO 100 and remaining in the top three performers up to ISO 400, alongside the Nikon D5200 and Nikon D600. At ISO 800 it falls behind older brother the Nikon D7000, before steadily falling to produce a weaker range than the Pentax K-5 II at ISO 3200 and 6400, and a slightly weaker performance than the Canon EOS 7D at ISO 12800.

Raw dynamic range

Nikon D7100 review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Nikon D7100 aren't as strong at lower sensitivities as its JPEG images, coming in third strongest at ISO 100 and 200, again behind the Nikon D5200 and Nikon D600. In the mid range the D7100's TIFF performance drops below the Nikon D7000 and Pentax K-5 II, the latter of which is much stronger in this test. At ISO 1600 and above the D7100 overtakes the D7000, at ISO 3200-6400 it also overtakes the D5200, then at ISO12800 and above it beats the Pentax. The D7100's TIFF images beat the Canon EOS 7D's for dynamic range at every sensitivity setting.

Sample images

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Nikon D7100 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 12800

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 25600

Raw

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 12800

Nikon D7100 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 25600

Verdict

All things considered, Nikon has produced an attractive offering for enthusiast photographers that centres around the thing that these users value the most - detail. The Nikon D7100 produces sharp, detail-rich images straight from the camera and noise is well controlled up to ISO 6400.

However, as usual we wouldn't recommend straying beyond this value and into the expansion range.

We liked

Those who like to dabble in sports photography will also not be disappointed, provided you are happy to time your shots carefully and don't press the shutter release too early. The autofocus system is extremely capable and it gets the subject sharp even in quite low light. Thanks to the 1.3x crop, photographers can also get a little closer to their subject in-camera.

Image colours are typically Nikon-like, with the Standard Picture Control setting producing pleasantly vibrant images in most situations.

We disliked

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We usually recommend that you keep an eye on the histogram view when shooting to ensure images are correctly exposed, and this is sound advice with the Nikon D7100, since the Matrix metering system is prone to underexposing in some situations. But at least it protects the highlights.

Although Nikon has given the D7100 a pretty extensive feature set, it would've been nice if the company had pushed things a bit further and perhaps included Wi-Fi technology in-camera to enable remote control via a smart phone or tablet. At £649.99/US$642.96, the WR-1 wireless remote introduced at the same time is far too expensive for most users.

It would also have been good to have seen a touch-sensitive screen -preferably articulated like the Nikon D5200's - that is designed to complement rather than replace the physical controls.

Final verdict

So there are a few extra things we would have liked to have seen here. On balance, though, we think that the Nikon D7100 is a very nice camera that's enjoyable and rewarding to use.

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