The Nikon D7100 follows on from the popular D7000 and features a number of developments and improvements. Find out how it fares in our full review.
Three years ago Nikon announced the Nikon D7000 DSLR, a camera many probably weren’t expecting. With the Nikon D90, Nikon D300 and Nikon D300S models already available, it didn’t appear as through there would be much demand for a further line of models between the two. Nevertheless, the camera gained much popularity thanks to its high features-to-form ratio, and provided a logical stepping stone for accomplished entry-level DSLR owners looking to take their photography more seriously. And now, Nikon has gathered together some of the features seen in its most recent DSLRs and blended them with a handful of new ones to create the Nikon D7100 successor.
With revisions made to the sensor, LCD, AF module and video functionality among other things, the camera certainly appears as a more serious upgrade than some other recent models. But is every change welcome, or are some causes for concern?
Nikon D7100 review – Features
As with the current Nikon D5200 the new camera sports a DX-format sensor with 24.1MP, although the two are not the same. With the Nikon D7100, Nikon has omitted the anti-aliasing filter for the benefit of detail retention. Usually this presents issues with false colour patterning and other effects of aliasing, although it’s likely Nikon has modified its image processing to account for this. Interestingly this is similar approach to the Nikon D800E released last year, only that particular camera maintained a filter, albeit one with its anti-aliasing properties removed.
While the sensor applies a 1.5x crop factor to any mounted lenses (given that it is smaller than full frame), Nikon has included an additional option on the Nikon D7100 which applies a further 1.3x crop factor at a reduced resolution of approximately 15.4MP. So, a 50mm lens which would ordinarily behave like a 75mm lens would in this mode behave closer to a lens with a focal length of around 98mm – this appears to be particularly useful for telephotography work, wherever more reach is desired.
The sensitivity range offered by the sensor is precisely the same as on the Nikon D7000: a standard ISO 100-6400 range, complemented by extension settings equivalent to ISO 25,600. Considering the sensor’s high resolution this is perfectly respectable. Nikon has equipped the model with the same Expeed 3 engine which features in its flagship D4, which handles all image processing tasks and also allows for burst shooting at 6fps, or alternatively 7fps when the 1.3x crop mode is activated.
As we may expect the Nikon D7100 also offers full HD video recording in addition to its stills capabilities, at up to 30fps in full HD (1920×1080) and up to 60fps in standard HD (1280×720). Stereo sound comes courtesy of a pair of microphones nestled in the top-plate, although external microphones can also be plugged into a dedicated socket on the side and mounted into the hot shoe. Furthermore, thanks to a headphone socket beneath this it’s also possible to monitor sound during recording.
One of the most significant upgrades the Nikon D7100 has on its predecessor is the camera’s AF module; while the Nikon D7000 offered a 39-point system including nine cross-type points, the Nikon D7100 boosts this to 51 points including 15 cross-type points. These cover a reasonably broad range of the frame, although when the camera is set to its 1.3x crop mode the array usefully saturates all but the very top and bottom.
Nikon has chosen the Nikon D7100 to debut a few new features, such as the Spot White Balance option which allows the white balance to be set by measuring a small area of the scene to use as a reference target (in the same way that a Spot metering function bases exposure on just a small part of the scene). The pentaprism viewfinder, meanwhile, which provides 100% coverage of the scene and 0.94x magnification, also now welcomes an OLED panel in place of the previous LCD, which displays details in the finder itself such as grid lines and the leveling function. Nikon claims this has been changed to improve visibility, with an additional amendment being the exposure information below this, from the standard green to an ashy white.
Another change comes with the camera’s LCD screen. As with some of Nikon’s other most recent DSLRs, the Nikon D7100’s display itself is sandwiched with a layer of resin to the outer panel, leaving no air gap in between. The result, Nikon claims, is better visibility than before thanks to lower reflections. At 3.2in the display is also larger in size than the more standard 3in unit found on the Nikon D7000, and it makes use of white pixels for improved brightness and lower power consumption. With an extra white pixel for every red-green-blue triplet, its resolution is at approximately 1,229k dots.
Nikon D7100 review – Design
At first glance Nikon doesn’t appear to have made too many modifications to the Nikon D7100 in comparison to the template set out by the Nikon D7000, although changes have been made. The rubber thumb rest now extends further downwards, and a new ‘i’ button joins the previous four on the left-hand side. The video record button has been relocated to the top plate, leaving the menu pad dial free to move upwards and adopt the focus point lock control around it, while the control for activating the camera’s live view function is now a button encircled by a dial for changing between stills and video shooting.
The Nikon D7100’s top plate has essentially been lifted from that of the Nikon D600, save for the inclusion of microphones just past the hot shoe. The mode dial, and release mode dial beneath it, both feature the Nikon D600’s locking buttons which needs to be pressed for the dials to rotate. While this is a useful way to prevent any unintentional dial turning, at the same time this setup is slightly awkward; while the mode dial’s locking button travels well, the dial itself is not tall enough to turn comfortably. The locking button for the release mode dial, meanwhile, is small and cramped by the dial, with this dial being even more difficult to turn than the other, partly due to its size but also by its being sandwiched between the mode dial and top plate.
The body of the Nikon D7100, however, exhibits a fine build quality. Unlike some other models whose outer casings are constructed from either magnesium alloy or polycarbonate, the Nikon D7100 blends both to create a hardy yet lightweight shell. While it may lack the solidity of the magnesium-alloy-bodied Nikon D800, considering the camera itself occupies something of a middle ground in the enthusiast category it’s build seems fitting.
Thanks to the generously sized grip, ample thumb space and the Nikon D7100’s reasonable weight, handling is excellent. The command dials on both the front and back are large and rubbered, which together with their ridged edges makes them easy to grip and turn, while buttons are – on the whole – large and comfortable to press. It really is difficult to find anything too much to fault, with the exception of the menu pad dial which some may consider to be a touch too small.
Nikon D7100 review – Performance
The Nikon D7100’s LCD is one of the first things to make a positive impression, not because of its slightly larger-than-average dimensions but its clarity. The display appears almost flush with the tempered outer panel (which makes sense as the air gap has been removed), rather than slightly behind it as with many other DSLRs, and its viewing angle is excellent. It’s also sufficiently bright at default settings and shows good contrast and detail, and all menu items are labeled clearly and logically filed away into various sub-menus.
The Nikon D7100’s viewfinder is also bright and clear, with magnification at a perfect point where the scene can be seen in its entirety without the user needing to look around the finder itself. All exposure information underneath this can be seen at the same time, and the OLED display which overlays shooting information has sufficient contrast for its information to stand out against an average scene. It’s also brightly lit when the camera has its focus activated or focus point changed, which is useful when working in low light.
Responsive in use
It’s pleasing to see responsiveness being a key theme with the Nikon D7100’s general operation. There is virtually no delay when turning on the Nikon D7100, and all menu items and exposure settings are changed without any lagging, something which can’t be said for all such cameras. Once focus is acquired through a half depression of the shutter release button there appears to be very little travel between this point and image capture; this is excellent, although some may find this takes some getting used to.
One thing which does disappoint, however, is the Nikon D7100’s slight slowdown as Raw images are being written to the memory card. The camera doesn’t have any issues when capturing a single image, but should another one should be captured in quick succession it can take a fair few seconds for it to appear on the LCD screen.
Nikon claims the Nikon D7100 to have a 6fps Raw burst depth of just six frames (lossless compressed at 14 bits) and this is verified through testing with a UHS-1 SDHC card. Such a burst is typically cleared away to the card in just over six seconds, suggesting Nikon has sought to balance a reasonable depth with a fast burst time. Still, for some this depth may be limiting, although it can be increased to nine frames when to set to a lossy 12bit mode. A lower-resolution sensor, faster processor, or perhaps a more spacious buffer would increase performance here this, and make it more suitable for sports photography or any other situation where burst shooting would be typically employed. It should be noted that if only capturing JPEGs, or using the 1.3x crop mode, this depth can increase significantly, with a 7fps burst speed achievable using the latter mode.
The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR which comes supplied with the Nikon D7100 provides a superb 27-157.5mm equivalent focal range when used on a DX-format body such as the Nikon D7100, and in many respects it’s a commendable performer (its optical qualities are discussed in the Image Quality section). It focuses with very little sound and its Vibration Reduction system is quite clearly effective when capturing images at particularly slow shutter speeds.
Focusing with the lens is reasonable, although the optic lacks the urgency of some other kit lenses. Obviously, as a larger-than-average kit lens with more elements, such a comparison may not be seen as entirely fair – although a comparison with Nikon’s other 18-55mm kit lens shows very little between them in terms of focusing speed, suggesting it may well simply be down to the Silent Wave Motor used in each. When the camera is set to the continuous AF-C function, however, the AF point darts around the scene with impressive dexterity. Naturally it’s not faultless, and the presence of other brighter details does sometimes sway it away from the subject, but its general adherence is still commendable.
Nikon D7100 review – Image Quality
Colour and white balance
As has been typical of many previous Nikon DSLRs, the Nikon D7100’s tendency is to produce accurate, lifelike colours, with the Auto White Balance rarely making any errors of judgement. Only when the scene contains very little colour detail does the camera very occasionally produce a colder result than expected. While the accuracy of the AWB system is praiseworthy, some may prefer for some of the character of the natural light to remain in the scene (Nikon has also provided an Auto2 AWB option to help here, which is designed to retain some of the warmth from lighting sources). For those who may prefer their colours to lean slightly towards vibrancy than the default neutral results, this can easily be achieved through subtle adjustments to the Standard Picture Control option, or through the definition of a custom Picture Control.
There isn’t a great deal to fault with exposures – indeed, the camera’s intuition when dealing with atypical scenes is often impressive. The Active D-Lighting system is useful to keep on as it helps to fill in shadowy areas, although when set to the Auto setting it doesn’t quite fill in with the strength of other, similar systems when a scene is likely to be underexposed due to its content (shooting branches of a tree against a brighter sky, for example). This is probably just as well as such strong adjustments can often accentuate any noise in the image. Bracketing and/or capturing Raw images is, therefore, advised in difficult situations.
One thing is clear: resolution is excellent. At the base sensitivity of ISO 100 the camera resolves around 28lpmm in technical testing, which is the same as the full-frame Sony Cyber-shot RX1. At the camera’s highest sensitivity of ISO 25,600 (equivalent) the sensor still manages to resolve 24lpmm, which is excellent. Images captured in real-world conditions show excellent detail at lower sensitivities, when captured with a high-quality optic, or even a lesser quality lens at an optimum aperture. All of this is no doubt in part thanks to the lack of the anti-aliasing filter, but the flipside of this is that aliasing artefacts can occasionally be seen over some high-frequency details. It’s certainly true that even cameras with anti-aliasing filters in place are susceptible to this too, but here it tends to appear somewhat more readily over detailed areas.
The main concern with the Nikon D7100 images is noise. Although the visibility of noise is affected by a number of factors – illumination, scene details and so on – a slightly gritty texture can be seen as low as ISO 400 in most scenes. Obviously this can be reduced with in-camera noise reduction or the manual processing of Raw files, although this can rob images of fine detail. Even though the camera’s standard sensitivity range extends to ISO 6400, images captured at the Hi1 (ISO 12,800-equivalent) setting still show noise to only rise marginally overall. It’s only at the uppermost Hi 2 (ISO 25,600-equivalent) setting that lab testing confirms a more noticeable shift for the worst.
The camera comes with the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR as standard, the same optic that has been supplied with the D90 and D7000 as the default kit option. In many respects it behaves as many other kit lenses, with softness at its widest apertures contrasted by much better definition across the frame once the lens has been stopped down a little. Pincushion distortion is slight at the telephoto end, and the small amount of barrel distortion that appears at the wideangle end disappears once the lens is zoomed as little.
Nikon D7100 review – Verdict
The Nikon D7100 is perhaps one of the most complete enthusiast DSLRs we’ve seen to date, with an abundance of functionality packed into a reasonably compact body. It’s certainly a more significant improvement than certain other recently updated DSLRs, and having such a rounded feature set means it’s likely to appeal to a broader range of users than the average DSLR.
The good news is that the Nikon D7100’s sterling spec sheet is matched by a high standard of images. Thanks to the omission of the anti-aliasing filter images exhibit a certain crispness, particularly when used with a fine lens, and this is confirmed by lab testing which shows the camera continuing to resolve plenty of detail at higher sensitivities. The metering and Auto White Balance systems are difficult to fault too, meaning that images generally do well to resemble the scene as it appeared at the point of capture.
The fact that the Nikon D7100 attempts to do so many things well – in the sense that it delivers high-resolution images, has a reasonably fast burst rate etc. – is perhaps the reason it comes unstuck from times to time, though. A sensor so saturated in pixels equates to noise far earlier in the ISO range than expected, while the Raw burst depth of just six frames at the highest quality settings is no doubt a consequence of having to process such massive files.
It’s also somewhat disappointing to find aliasing in areas of fine detail. Perhaps some changes have been made to image processing to mitigate its effects, but its appearance does highlight why these anti-aliasing filters are used.
Overall, if burst shooting or low-light photography is your thing the Nikon D7100 may not be ideal. Yet, with its impressive spec sheet, high build quality, excellent handing and many plusses with its images, some – in fact, many – will no doubt consider the Nikon D7100 to be exactly the enthusiast camera they’ve been waiting for.
If our Nikon D7100 review has made you decide that it’s the right DSLR for you, but want to be sure it is the right option against its peers, we’ve taken a closer look at how it compares against its three closest rivals.
£1060 body only
With 24.1MP on its sensor next to the EOS 7D’s 18MP, the Nikon D7100 is clearly the better choice for enlargements and extreme cropping.
The EOS 7D matches the D7100’s standard ISO 100-6400 range, although the D7100 has an ISO 25,600-equivalent extension, next to the EOS 7D’s maximum extension setting of ISO 12,800.
This is perhaps the EOS 7D’s main advantage over the D7100; its 8fps burst mode is faster than the 6fps offered by the D7100 at its full resolution setting.
The EOS 7D’s 19-point AF system is impressive in that each point is of the cross-type variety. The Nikon D7100 only has 15 cross-type points, but 51 in total.
£860 body only
Although both cameras lack an anti-aliasing filter, the 24.1MP sensor inside the D7100 manages to resolve more detail than the K-5 IIs’s 16.2MP alternative.
The K-5 IIs just has the edge here, starting at ISO 100 and ending at ISO 12,800, with extension settings to ISO 80 and ISO 51,200 equivalents.
The K-5 IIs offers a 7fps burst mode at full resolution, a full frame faster than the 6fps option on the Nikon D7100 (although the D7100 manages this in its 1.3x crop mode).
The D7100’s 51-point AF system outguns the 11-point system on the K-5 IIs, with 15 of the D7100’s points being cross type compared with only nine on the D7100.
£830 body only
The Sony A77’s 24.3MP sensor offers slightly more pixels than the D7100’s 24.1MP, although this difference isn’t significant enough to present any real benefits.
The A77’s ISO 100-16,000 range is very slightly narrower than the ISO 100-25,600 (equivalent) range offered by the D7100, making it less suitable for low-light shots.
The A77 can shoot up to 12fps at its full resolution, while the D7100 can only manage a 6fps burst mode at full resolution (7fps in its 1.3x crop mode).
The D7100 walks over the A77, with its 51-point AF system eclipsing the A77’s 19-point counterpart and saturating more of the frame.
Sample Image Gallery
Here’s a selection of images from the full Nikon D7100 review. For a larger range, visit the full Nikon D7100 review sample image gallery.
Multi-segment metering, Vivid Picture Control, Active
Multi-segment metering, Standard Picture Control, Active
Multi-segment metering, Vivid Picture Control, Active
Multi-segment metering, Vivid Picture Control, Active
Multi-segment metering, Vivid Picture Control, Active
The Nikon D7100 looks to pick up where its predecessor – the
Nikon D7000 – left off. Nikon more than caters for the entry level
photographer, while it’s spent the past few years adding more options
for the professional photographer. The Nikon D7100 looks to provide a
capable and logical stepping stone between the two camps with an
attractive featureset and price point.
The D7100 features a range
of revisions on its predecessor, including the LCD screen, AF module and
video functionality, amongst others. To find out how successful these
have or haven’t been, check out our full video review below.
Nikon has announced its first DX-format DSLR in 2013 – the Nikon D7100. Following on from the popular D7000, this long rumoured model arrives two years down the line and features a number of developments and improvements to separate it apart from its predecessor.
At the heart of the Nikon D7100 lies an all-new 24.1MP DX-format CMOS sensor. This could easily be mistaken for being the same CMOS sensor as used within the Gold Award Winning Nikon D5200, however at the official launch, Nikon confirmed the sensor is entirely new and is not the same as used within the Nikon D7100’s DX-format cousin.
At the heart of the Nikon D7100 lies an all-new 24.1MP DX-format CMOS sensor.
Interestingly, Nikon has opted against the idea of fitting the Nikon D7100 with an optical low-pass filter, much like they’ve done previously with the Nikon D800E. By foregoing the optical low pass filter (OLPF), Nikon say the Nikon D7100 can make better use of its megapixels for impressive high resolution, with the benefits outweighing the negatives.
With the 18-105mm AF-S DX NIKKOR f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens, the Nikon D7100 will cost £1299.
The DX-format CMOS sensor is designed to work in unison with Nikon’s EXPEED 3 image processor – a combination that contributes to an ISO range of 100-6400, which is expandable to an ISO equivalent of 25,600 in the Hi2 setting.
A new 1.3x crop function also opens many new possibilities for photographers. It enables the camera to shoot at a maximum continuous speed of 7fps, which works out at 1fps faster than the Nikon D7000. When the crop mode isn’t used, the Nikon D7100 can shoot full resolution images at 6fps, but when it is it also allows full HD movies to be recorded at 50i.
One feature the Nikon D7100 doesn’t offer for moviemakers is audio monitoring, however, there is an inbuilt mic port for attaching an external microphone and there’s 30p,25p and 24p frame rates to choose from. When the 1.3x crop function is used for shooting
stills, the resolution drops from 24.1MP to 15.1MP.
A technical image of the Nikon D7100’s design.
Another big improvement is the Nikon D7100’s AF system. It uses Nikon’s MultiCam 3500DX autofocus module, which offers 51 autofocus points, 15 of which are the cross-type in the central area of the frame. Nikon claim the AF detection is now faster, plus autofocus operation is possible under a combined aperture value of f/8, meaning more combinations of lenses and teleconverters can be used.
For metering the Nikon D7100 uses the tried and tested 2016-pixel metering sensor as seen before on other Nikon DSLRs such as the full-frame D600. The optical viewfinder offers 100% coverage and just below this lies a new 3.2inch screen, which boasts an impressive 1229k-dot resolution. Another new development at the rear of the camera is the inclusion of a new ‘i’ function button. Used as a means of gaining access to the most frequently used functions, it’s located at the bottom left of the body, below the zoom out playback button.
Constructed so that it’s rugged and lightweight, the Nikon D7100 features
magnesium alloy top and rear covers to give it a durable feel in the hand.
Weighing 675g, the camera is sealed to combat moisture and dust creeping in to
the internals and Nikon say the shutter has been rigorously tested for 150,000
shutter cycles under demanding conditions.
The Nikon D7100 features magnesium top and rear covers for added durability and strength.
At the side of the body there’s a dual SD card slot. This allows users to save JPEGS files to one card and RAW files to the other. Alternatively, there’s the option to record still images and movie clips to separate memory cards if you’d prefer.
The Nikon D7100 features a dual SD card slot design.
Although there’s no built-in Wi-fi capability, the Nikon D7100 is compatible with Nikon’s WU-1a mobile adapter – a small accessory that enables images to be transmitted to Apple or Android smart devices such as smart phones or tablets. This additional extra costs £49.
Battery wise, the Nikon D7100 uses the same battery as the Nikon D7000, however, a new battery grip has been produced for camera – the MB-D15. This costs £279 and is made from magnesium alloy to match the same build quality of the camera.
The new Nikon MB-D15 battery grip (£279) has been specially designed for the D7100.
At the same time as launching the Nikon D7100, Nikon also released the WR-1 wireless remote transceiver. The WR-1 features a dot matrix display and a score of advanced features that enable the user to take control of most of the shooting operations – from simple remote shutter release to complex, multi-camera set-ups as well as possibility to check and change camera settings when mounted on the Nikon D7100. Various shooting scenarios can be pre-programmed, including simultaneous shooting, interval timer photography as well as customised shutter release delay. The WR-1 is expected to cost £649.
The new WR-1 wireless remote transceiver features a range of operation up to 120 meters.
Available from the end of March, the Nikon D7100 will be made available (body only) from £1099. Alternatively, the Nikon D7100 will be made available as part of a kit with the 18-105mm AF-S DX NIKKOR f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens for £1299.