Get one! The Nikon D7100 is one of the nicest handling cameras I have had the pleasure of using. it is sharp, easy to use, yet feature rich. It will appeal to serious amateurs, who may not (for whatever reason) want to move up to full frame. This is not to say it is not suitable for beginners, as it is easy to use, it’s just those who are newer to DSLR photography might not find use for all of the features this amazing camera has.
It doesn’t shoot at 10fps, and it has a small buffer, but unless you are heavily into sports or action wildlife photography, this may well not matter to you.
This is a ‘real world’ review, I focus (pun intended) on how the camera works for me. I don’t shoot walls, I don’t shoot test charts, and I won’t be filling the page with 100% crops from the very edge of the frame. This is my camera, I bought it full price, and I still own it.
If you are looking for a review that covers the minutiae of every single feature and menu item, then I am afraid you are in the wrong place. If you want to see some images shot by an ordinary person with this camera, in ordinary use, then read on.
Whilst there may well be some small comparisons to other cameras of mine, this is really a standalone review, taking the D7100 on its own merits.
Unfortunately, the D7100 is no longer available new from Amazon, however you can order the new and improved D7200 from Amazon here
At 24mp there really is more than enough resolution for pretty much anything I want to do with it. Megapixels are not the only thing that matters, but they were headline grabbing numbers (for a crop sensor DSLR) when the D7100 was first released.
One thing missing however, is the Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF). Also called an anti-aliasing filter, this is a filter that sits directly in front of the image sensor. It’s main function is to reduce moiré in scenes where there are many fine, repeating details (such as fabrics). This filter does actually slightly soften the image, so in theory omitting the filter leads to a slightly sharper image.
I have never found moiré to be an issue, as I don’t typically shoot subjects that might cause it, so it’s a bit of a moot point for me.
To my mind, the sensor and image processing engine are amazing. The camera has the ability to produce beautiful sharp images, in bad light, yet whilst retaining both shadow and highlight details.
The high ISO performance is superb. I have no problems shooting at ISO 1600, and 3200 only requires a little work with the NR (noise reduction) slider in Lightroom. 6400 is also quite useable, but as ever this all depends to what use you are putting your images.
If you need to print really big, or like to pixel peep at 100%, then of course the higher ISOs might not be acceptable to you, but for printing to ‘normal’ sizes (20″ x 16″) then you shouldn’t be disappointed, I certainly haven’t been.
Of course, if you need ultimate image quality in very low light, then a full frame camera may well serve you better. Those people know who they are!
The 51 point AF system and Multi-CAM 3500DX module are fast, accurate and capable of working in very low light. The single centre point can actually focus with a lens combo as slow as f/8. This great AF performance is ideal for wildlife photographers, who often work when the light is low in the early morning and evening.
The ability for this camera to track focus on subjects moving at speed is quite impressive.
At no point have I found the AF lacking, and compared to my old D90 is it almost infallible. In low light, with a slower lens, the D90 would hunt a bit. I have not yet had this happen with the D7100, other than when using entirely inappropriate lenses in almost total darkness (variable aperture zoom lens in the dark, near a waterhole).
The camera also has AF fine tuning, which enables tweaking of you camera/lens combo to get the best possible AF performance. I have fine tuned some of my lenses, but none needed more than a slight tweak.
This is my 3rd Nikon DSLR model, having previously had a D70, and a brace of D90’s, so when I picked up the D7100 for the first time, things felt immediately familiar. Buttons fall straight to hand, and it is easy to just pick it up and shoot. Compared to my old D90 there are some new features which on first glance seem trivial, but make a big difference when out shooting.
Locking button on the mode dial. On the D90 the dials were quite easy to move, and if the camera was slung over a shoulder, the quickly brought up to the eye for a shot, sometimes the dial would have been knocked, so I would end up on one of the auto modes. This is no longer an issue with the D7100. Set the mode dial and it’s done.
User modes on the dial. I can have the camera set up for 2 totally different kinds of shot and switch between them just by moving the dial. As an example, in Namibia I had U1 set to 1/1600 shutter priority, auto ISO and continuous high speed shutter, for wildlife shots. U2 was set to ISO 100, F/11 on aperture priority, single shot – ready for any landscape shots that presented themselves. These were great starter settings for most subjects we encountered.
The magnesium body is weather sealed, and so far I have had no issues using it in a range of environments, from the dry and dusty Namib desert, where temperatures reached over 40°c, via the jungles of Cambodia, where humidity was over 90%, all the way up to well inside the Arctic circle, where the wind-chill brought the temperature down to about -15°c. The D7100 took it all in its stride.
These are great, and can be set in a number of ways – backup, overflow, photos to one with movies to the other, JPEGs on one and RAWs on the other. They are so good that they are the subject of their own blog post. I know lots of other cameras now have them, but this is the first I have owned that has this feature, and I wouldn’t want to be without it on any ‘serious’ camera in the future.
Roughly £900 when released this was good value. Compare the feature set to the Nikon D610 which is around £1450 and you can see the premium you are paying for full frame. Couple this with potentially needing newer lenses to go with the full frame camera, you have to really ask yourself is the potential for better low light performance worth the extra £500? The D7100 is now no longer available, however the D7200 that replaced it is now down to around £750 at Amazon, which is just over half the price of the D610.
Check the current price for both of these cameras below.
I wrote above that it was a great sensor. It is! However this kind of resolution is very demanding on lenses and technique, and I found that some of my older lenses were starting to look a little soft when closely examined. The sensor’s sharpness and quality magnify any flaws in either your lens, or your technique.
Also, it is good to be aware that the file sizes are not insignificant, with the average RAW file being around about 30mb. This is of course less of an issue as memory cards get faster and cheaper, but is something to bear in mind if you are a heavy shooter – the increased time to download, process and hard drive space to store them.
It’s not really that I don’t like having this many pixels, I just don’t feel that the vast majority of people (myself included) really need this much resolution. At the end of the day, it’s there, so I might as well make use of it!
At 6 FPS (frames per second) the D7100 isn’t exactly slow, but many owners of the D300 were disappointed as they had hoped to be able to replace their aging bodies with something newer and faster. The thing is, with 24mp the D7100 has to do more data processing, so has slowed down a touch. The D4s can shoot at 11 FPS, yet that is only 16mp and costs about 6-7 times what the D7100 does. The D4 is a big, heavy fast professional camera aimed at those making a living from shooting news, sport and wildlife, where fractions of a second matter.
For a mere mortal such as myself, I don’t need this, and am happy with the smaller size, less weight, and money in my pocket.
The buffer, however, can be an issue. It is quite small, but is greatly affected by the image size and crop factor used. Shooting in NEF (raw) format and the buffer is only 6 shots. This is just one second of shooting at high speed, and this does become an issue if you are shooting a lions making a kill. There is nothing as annoying as the camera suddenly slowing down on you. The fast SanDisk Extreme SDHC cards do help to clear the buffer faster, and I use several of these, in various capacities.
Switch to JPEG (large/fine) however and it jumps to a 50 image buffer.
Now, debate still rages on the internet about raw vs. JPEG, and this piece is not the place for it. However, it really doesn’t matter what format your image is in if you miss the shot. Blindly shooting raw at all times and missing the critical moment is a much greater sin that shooting in JPEG is perceived to be.
If I am going to shoot the British Super Bikes, I simply set the camera to JPEG. I know I am going to be shooting lots of multiple bursts, and shooting in RAW would lead to buffer frustration, and the need to change cards a lot more often.
I would rather have a useable image than miss it in a desperate quest to shoot absolutely everything in raw for the last 2% of image quality. If that last 2% really, really matters to you, then might I suggest a D4S, which will shoot uncompressed NEF at 11 FPS with a 60 shot buffer.
This camera is simply amazing. I actually had a D600 on order until got my hands on one of these. It is more suited to what I shoot, and was a good deal cheaper, even when not considering the cost of having to change some lenses.
As a package you have great handling, good weather sealing, high build quality, fast and accurate autofocus and a simply superb sensor. Nikon promote this as their flagship crop sensor camera and they are right. I blows my older cameras right out of the water, and yet still retains that typical Nikon ease of use.
For me, the small buffer is an annoyance, but I can work around it. The frame rate has only been an issue once or twice, and I cannot think that it has ever led to me missing out on something.
When I look at the current Nikon range, I see cameras with bigger sensors, more megapixels, faster frame rates and bigger buffers. I also see smaller, lighter cameras with the same resolution, but more menu driven and a little less easy to use to their potential. It makes me realise that there is nothing in the current line-up that I would trade my D7100 for – it does everything I ask of it, and really is a pleasure to use.
Since writing this, Nikon released the D7200.
There appear to be a couple of worthwhile improvements, but at the moment I cannot see myself upgrading to the new model. The good news is that the new D7200 is going to push down the price of the older D7100, making it even more of a bargain than it is now! OK, I succumbed to the lure of “newer and better”, and it is newer, and it is better! I had a fistful of Amazon discounts from using TopCashBack, and couldn’t resist.
You can order the D7200 from Amazon here