This is an in-depth review of the Nikon D7100 DSLR that was announced on February 20, 2013, along with the Nikon WR-1 wireless remote controller. Although I have been shooting with the Nikon D7100 for about two months now, I specifically postponed the review, because I wanted to thoroughly test it and also make sure that I test at least two samples of the camera. I have been very concerned about Nikon’s latest rushed product launches with dust, oil and autofocus issues, so my intent was to examine the camera in detail and test all of its capabilities in various environments for this review.
After taking a long nap with 12-16 MP DX and FX cameras and letting Canon take the resolution throne with practically every newly announced camera, Nikon finally struck hard last year, when it announced the 36 MP full-frame Nikon D800 camera. Ever since, Nikon has been on a megapixel roll bringing one high resolution camera after another and not letting its competition come close. As of today, the whole DX line-up from entry-level to high-end cameras features 24 MP APS-C sensors, and the undisputed resolution king, the Nikon D800, still has no equivalent on the market. Looking back, Canon always had the edge over Nikon in resolution; it seemed like Nikon preferred pixel quality over quantity.
Lately, however, Canon and Nikon traded places – now Canon is slowing down, while Nikon is pushing hard for more and more pixels. Even before the D7100 came out, I knew that Nikon would go for a high resolution sensor – a given, since the previously announced D3200 and D5200 already had 24 MP sensors. But aside from that, I really did not think Nikon would have anything interesting to offer compared to the predecessor, the Nikon D7000 – a camera that was already excellent in many ways. So I had pretty low expectations for the D7100, as I did not think Nikon would bring any major innovations to the table. How wrong I was! When I read the D7100’s specifications for the first time, I was blown away.
Historically, Nikon has been using its 51-point Multi-CAM 3500 autofocus system only on high-end FX and DX DSLRs. Therefore, the only DX cameras that had this AF system were the Nikon D300/D300s, cameras specifically targeted for action and sports photography. When the D7000 came out and replaced the D90, it was clear that Nikon was moving up the semi-professional line-up by bringing in higher-end features and tougher build. At the same time, Japanese manufacturer made sure the D7000 line did not compete with the high-end D300s, because it was inferior in several aspects such as autofocus system, buffer, build (even with use of tougher materials than those of predecessors) and ergonomics. With the introduction of the D7100, Nikon once again upped the game and, by doing so, confused the heck out of many people, including myself. The “Advanced Multi-CAM 3500” autofocus system used on full-frame cameras such as Nikon D800 and D4 made its way into the D7100 – something many of us did not expect to see. Whether the D7100 replaces the D300s still remains a question, since it still falls short in some key areas like buffer capacity and ergonomics. But one thing for sure, D7100 is the best DX camera made by Nikon to date. Read on to see why.
1) Nikon D7100 Specifications
- High Resolution 24.1 MP DX-format CMOS sensor (APS-C)
- High Speed 6 frames per second (FPS) continuous shooting speed and up to 7 FPS in 1.3x crop mode
- 2,016-pixel RGB (3D Color Matrix Metering II) sensor
- Pentaprism Optical Viewfinder with approx. 100% frame coverage
- Twin SD Card Slots with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card compatibility
- Built-in i-TTL Speedlight flash control through Wireless Commander
- Optional MB-D15 multi-power pack
- Two User Definable Settings (U1, U2) on the Mode Selector Dial
- Virtual Horizon Graphic Indicator
- Full HD 1080/60i Movie capability with full time autofocus and external stereo microphone jack
- Dynamic ISO range from 100 to 6400 expandable to 25,600 (Hi2)
- Customizable 51 point AF System with 15 cross-type sensors
- Magnesium-alloy top/rear covers and weather and dust sealing
- 150,000 cycle-rated shutter system
- 3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD with 1,228,800 dots
- Compact EN-EL15 Battery (up to 950 shots)
- Built-in HDMI Connection
- Active D-Lighting for enhancing details in shadows and highlights
- Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape Picture Controls
- Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up and Night Portrait Scene Modes
- Compatible with WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter for wireless operation of the camera
Detailed technical specifications for the Nikon D7100 are available at Nikonusa.com.
2) Camera construction and handling
Construction-wise, the Nikon D7100 still maintains the same tough body as the D7000, with the top and rear of the camera made of magnesium alloy (the front and bottom parts are plastic). Build is typically not a concern for most Nikon DSLRs, but magnesium alloy does handle occasional bumps and drops better than plastic. What has been improved is weather sealing – Nikon claims that the D7100 now has “equivalent to the D800 series and D300S” sealing applied to different parts of the body. In short, this camera is supposed to be able to handle tough weather and some moisture. And all this was done using lighter parts, since the Nikon D7100 is actually slightly lighter than its predecessor. Here is an image that shows sealed parts of the D7100:
And here is a skeleton of the camera, showing the magnesium alloy top and back:
Some of our readers emailed me asking if the lens mount is made of plastic or if they should be concerned about the mount potentially bending when using heavy lenses. First of all, the mount is all metal. It is surrounded by very tough plastic that is not easily bendable or breakable. I have used the Nikon D7100 with some heavy lenses like the Nikon 80-400mm and had no problems whatsoever, even when letting the lens hang off the mount. I would not recommend to stress the mount with very heavy lenses, though, but this recommendation applies to any camera, not just D7100. There is a reason why Nikon includes a tripod foot with all heavy lenses, so use that one instead. Generally, if a lens is heavier than the camera, you should always mount the lens on the tripod and let the camera hang instead. More than that, few would find holding such a heavy camera and lens combination by the camera grip alone, so you are unlikely to ever stress the mount enough to damage it that way.
In terms of handling, the D7100 balances and fits nicely in hands, very similarly to the Nikon D7000. The MB-D15 battery pack is also available for better balancing with heavier lenses and convenience for switching from landscape to portrait orientation. D7100 continues to use EN-EL15 battery, which is nice, because that same battery is now shared across the following Nikon camera bodies: Nikon 1 V1, D7000, D600 and D800/D800E. So if you already own any of these cameras, you do not have to worry about bringing a separate charger with you when you travel or buying several different extra batteries.
The exterior of the camera went through some changes compared to the D7000, though nothing too major. Ergonomically, the camera is now a little more “curvy” around the edges, which is nice. The grip has been slightly modified on the D7100. I still prefer the more textured rubber on my D800E grip, but it feels pretty darn close overall. Aside from these changes in ergonomics, the buttons and switches on the front of the camera are the same as on the D7000, as seen below (Left: Nikon D7100, Right: Nikon D7000):
In comparison, the top of the camera did see some changes. First of all, the camera mode dial is now lockable. You will no longer be able to accidentally change the camera mode as on the D7000 – you need to push the center button in order to move the dial (something we previously saw on the D600). Next, there is a new “Effects” mode on the dial, which allows you to apply the following digital filters to your images: night vision, color sketch, miniature, selective color, silhouette, high key and low key. The Nikon D7100 sports a stereo microphone, which sits right next to the flash hotshoe. The shutter area also went through a change – the metering button has now been moved to the lower left to make space for the dedicated movie record button, just like on the D600.
The back of the camera is where we see the most changes. The layout of the buttons to the left of the LCD has been rearranged – now there are five buttons, two of which (zoom in and out) have traded places. This is consistent with what Nikon has been doing on the latest cameras, but certainly worth considering for existing D7000 owners if they plan to use both cameras. The fifth “i” button brings up the interactive menu to make changes to camera settings. To be honest, I do not see the point of adding this button. Nikon has been using a single Info button on the D800/D800E to accomplish what the D7100 does with two buttons – you just press the Info button twice and you can make quick changes to the camera. Nikon designers should have kept only four buttons on the left back of the D7100, similar to the D7000.
The new 3.2″ LCD screen with 1.2 million dots on the D7100 is gorgeous. Images look crisp and beautiful, with vibrant colors. However, Nikon has done the same thing that Canon has been doing for a while on its DSLR cameras – it got rid of the attachable plastic LCD cover. While there is still a protective cover, it now sits recessed into the body and cannot be removed. So if you end up scratching the surface, you will have to send your camera to Nikon for cover replacement. Images are certainly reproduced better on the new LCD, but at the cost of this snap-on cover. Unfortunately, you cannot buy a third party snap-on cover and attach it either; there is no place on the back of the camera to attach the cover to. Don’t worry too much – there are some great stick-on type protectors available on B&H. In some ways, they are much superior to Nikon’s old snap-on covers. For example, I’ve seen small sand crystals get between them and the glass screen, which often resulted in the screen being chipped.
The Live View lever with the video record button is now gone from where it was previously. The D7100 is now consistent with the D600 and D800/D800E cameras – the multi-selector button gained the same locking mechanism and the Live View button with camera and movie mode selector sit right below, followed by the Info button.
Speaking of Live View, the D7000 Live View mode was mainly designed for video, which made it difficult to use for normal focusing. On the D7100, it works just like with other Nikon DSLRs with camera and video modes, and that is great. However, I encountered a few annoying issues with D7100’s Live View implementation. First, although Live View now has a camera mode, the autofocus area is huge, just like in the movie mode. Forget about being able to point to a small area, zoom in and focus on it like you can on higher-end cameras. When you press the zoom in button once in Live View, the focus area occupies half of the space! Second, Live View is very laggy, especially after focus is acquired. Third, you cannot change the aperture of the lens when Live View is engaged – the same problem that we keep seeing over and over again. I don’t understand why Nikon keeps crippling this important feature. Perhaps to distinguish D7100 from higher-end cameras?
3) Menu System
Menu system on the Nikon D7100 is very similar to the one on the D600. As expected, there are some new firmware features found on the D7100 that are not there on the D7000. For example, the “Exposure delay mode” menu option now allows you to choose between 1 to 3 seconds of delay, while the D7000 only had two selections to turn Exposure delay mode on and off. Auto ISO has also been updated – now you can set your minimum shutter speed to “Auto” and tweak the Auto behavior even further by making the shutter speed slower or faster than the focal length of the lens. This is a great feature that I use quite a bit on my Nikon DSLRs.
Another great addition to the D7100 is the ability to instantly zoom to your image at 100% using the “OK” button on the multi-selector. This feature was previously available only on professional Nikon DSLRs – even the Nikon D600 does not have it. If you do not have it turned on, I highly recommend that you do. Go to “Custom Setting Menu” -> “Controls” (f) -> “OK button” -> “Playback mode” -> “Zoom on/off” -> “Medium magnification”. I like mine set to medium magnification, but you can set yours to “High magnification” to zoom in even further. Once you do this, you can simply press the “OK” button the multi-selector when displaying images on the LCD and the camera will zoom in instantly to your selected focus point. You do not have to press the zoom in button several times anymore. This saves me a ton of time when taking pictures and I can check if my focus was dead on or not. If you press the OK button again, the camera will zoom out back to the full image. Great stuff!
4) Camera Sensor and Image Processor
The Nikon D7100 comes with a newer EXPEED 3 processor, which allows for higher throughput for both movies and images. Movies can now be recorded in high resolution format at up to 60 frames per second, while the D7000 was limited to 24 frames per second. Although the speed of the camera remained the same for full size images at 6 fps in continuous release mode, keep in mind that resolution has increased from 16 MP to 24 MP, so the Nikon D7100 now pushes a lot more data through compared to its predecessor. Higher resolution sensor also means larger prints and more cropping opportunities when photographing wildlife.
With the D7100, Nikon has done something interesting that it has never done on any of its DSLRs before – it did not use an anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor. As you may already know, the Nikon D800E has an anti-aliasing filter that cancels itself out, as explained in this article. The Nikon D7100, on the other hand, does not have such filter at all. Because of such high resolution sensor, the effect of an anti-aliasing filter would increase the amount of blur in images in addition to many DX lenses not having the resolving power to handle so many pixels already. Therefore, I agree with Nikon’s decision to remove the filter. Keep in mind that more resolution puts more stress on lenses, so if you want to see the best pixel-level sharpness, you will have to use good glass instead of those cheap kit lenses. The amount of detail you can get from this camera is extremely high when coupled with good lenses. Take a look at the following image:
Here is a 100% crop from the top right area:
Now that’s a lot of detail!
Nikon has been quite successful in keeping high ISO noise amounts low, while keeping image quality standards high in their latest generation DSLRs with more megapixels. With an 8 megapixel jump, does the Nikon D7100 keep up with image quality of the 16 MP Nikon D7000? The answer is further down in this review, where you will find a detailed comparison between the Nikon D7100, D7000 and D800E. In short, the sensor on the Nikon D7100 is amazing – the best DX sensor from Nikon thus far.
5) Quality Assurance
After Nikon’s quality assurance disasters with the D800/D800E and D600, many of our readers have been asking if they should be concerned about the D7100 as well. Before writing this review, I made sure to test at least two copies of the D7100 and I used the cameras in a lab environment to see if there is anything to be concerned about. I specifically checked for three things – the dreaded “left AF issue” we saw on the D800/D800E, backfocus problems and oil/dust issues. I am happy to report that both samples of the D7100 I tested are free from all of these issues. All AF points were spot on, there were no severe front or back focus problems and after shooting over 5 thousand images on the current D7100 unit that I have in my hands, I have not seen any signs of dust or oil appearing on the sensor. Looks like Nikon did a much better job with the launch of the D7100. Our readers have also been providing good feedback and I have not seen any serious complaints about the camera so far.
This does not mean that every unit out there is free of issues. As I have numerously explained before in various articles, there is always sample variation, shipping issues and other potential defects that might surface initially or over time. This is quite normal and nothing to be worried about. See this detailed article on what you should do to test the autofocus system of your camera. Also, check out our photography tips for beginners section, where you will find some articles on how to check your cameras and lenses for issues. If any issues do arise, you are welcome to share in the comments section.
6) Autofocus Performance
As I pointed out in the beginning of this review, Nikon’s decision to use the professional 51 point autofocus system on the D7100 confused many photographers, including myself. The Multi-CAM 3500DX autofocus system is not the same one used on the D300s camera either – it is an updated version called “Advanced Multi-CAM 3500DX”, with the capability to handle autofocus at f/8. Nikon uses the FX version of this autofocus module on its professional cameras like Nikon D800/D800E and D4. This is a huge upgrade over the existing 39 point AF system found on the Nikon D7000. Not just because it is more robust/faster and more accurate, but also because those 51 points spread across the frame, simplifying the process of composing images. Instead of focusing and recomposing, you can just move the focus point and let the camera do the job. Autofocus is extremely reliable in all 51 points in good light and if you find yourself struggling in low-light conditions, just use any of the 15 cross-type sensors located near the center and AF accuracy will greatly improve.
The autofocus system works great for any kind of sports and wildlife photography. One of the most challenging tasks for any camera is to focus on extremely fast moving subjects with erratic movements. Photographing birds in flight, for example, puts a lot of stress on both the camera and the lens. I used the Nikon D7100 with a variety of different lenses, including the new Nikon 80-400mm VR, Nikon 300mm f/4 and Nikon 70-200mm VR II. Autofocus performance was very impressive with all three for birding, but I still preferred my Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-D + TC-14E for critical sharpness. I suspect that my sample of the 80-400mm VR had some optical issues at 400mm, so I will be testing another sample within the next 2 weeks and provide a detailed report in my upcoming review.
Subject tracking is excellent. Here is a sequence of images shot with a single burst:
The Nikon D7100 did an excellent job locking on to the bird and tracking it. I used 51-point dynamic AF area to capture these shots and every single one of the images was in perfect focus.
Overall, there is very little to complain about when it comes to Nikon D7100’s AF system. It is, without a doubt, the biggest strength of this camera.
7) Camera Buffer
With the biggest strength also comes a rather limiting weakness. Because pushing 24 megapixels takes up a lot of bandwidth, the camera requires a big buffer to store images. Unfortunately, Nikon decided to keep the buffer of the D7100 small, which means that the camera will slow down significantly in continuous release mode once the buffer is full. I have done a short analysis of the D7100’s buffer when compared to the Nikon D7000 in my Nikon D7100 vs D7000 article. It turns out that the Nikon D7100 can push only 6 frames in lossless 14-bit RAW format, which is literally a second before the buffer gets full. If you change to smaller RAW files or JPEG, the buffer will obviously fill slower, but it is still a rather disappointing finding for wildlife photographers. So if you want to shoot fast at 6 fps, you will have to shoot in bursts. Not a huge problem for many of us, but certainly a concern for someone photographing fast action over an extended period of time.
8) Metering and Exposure
Nikon decided to reuse D7000’s 2,016-pixel RGB sensor on the D7100. While the metering sensor does a great job with determining exposure, it works differently than previous generation metering sensors found on earlier cameras – it puts a priority over human skin tones and faces. Because of this, the Nikon D7100 can sometimes disregard other bright or dark areas of the image and instead only focus on properly exposing the skin tones in Matrix Metering mode. So if you are coming from an older generation Nikon DSLR, keep this in mind. Previously, you had to remember to adjust exposure compensation when putting the subject against a bright background – the subject would often turn out very dark, becoming a silhouette. In comparison, the new metering system now tries to expose for the face and often ends up blowing out the background. This is a better and a more accurate approach for photographing people in my opinion, but it does often result in overexposure.
For other types of photography, the new metering system works very reliably. I photographed a couple of sunsets with the D7100 and I was pleased with how the camera exposed my shots. It gave me a nice balance between brights and darks, allowing me to recover enough detail for both without bracketing/HDR or filters. Take a look at the following shot:
And here is how the same image looks after a couple of tweaks in Lightroom:
I tried to compensate the image by +- 1-2 stops, but images came out either too bright or too dark. I am sure I would have gotten better results with some filters, but this is still not bad for a typical sunset shot.
9) Movie Recording
Although I personally do not shoot much video (except for occasional family videos), the high-def 1080p video mode on the Nikon D7100 produces excellent results. Thanks to the new EXPEED 3 processor, you can now record movies in 1920×1080 resolution at up to 60 frames per second (interlaced). Here is a sample video that I recorded of a rabbit eating grass:
The video was recorded hand-held using the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G lens, so it is a little shaky. I recorded it at the default video settings – 1920×1080 @ 30p. Make sure to switch to full screen mode first, then pick 1080p quality to see all the details.
As with the Nikon D7100, you cannot change ISO or aperture when Live View is engaged. If you want to make changes to your exposure, your only choice is to leave View View, change the settings, then get back to it. It is very unfortunate that Nikon still has these sort of limitations on its DSLRs…
10) Dynamic Range
When it comes to dynamic range, Nikon has not been disappointing us with its latest camera releases. While dynamic range on the D7100 is not as good as on the D800, it is pretty darn close. I did a few RAW adjustments to some images and I was able to recover plenty of highlight/shadow detail. DxOMark ranks the Nikon D7100 as the 12th among all cameras, including medium format at 13.7 EVs, which is pretty close to what the Nikon D7000 and D5200 can do. So if you are a landscape photographer, you have a lot of options with this camera.
If you want to recover the most amount of detail without doing any bracketing or HDR, you should use the base ISO value of 100 on the Nikon D7100 (important for architectural and landscape photography).
11) ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
- White Balance: Auto, changed to “Custom”: 4200 Temp, +8 Tint in Lightroom
- EXIF information is preserved in the images
- Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
- Aperture: f/5.6
- Focusing was performed through Live-View Contrast Detect
- Timer with Exposure Delay set to 3 seconds and remote cable release to completely eliminate camera shake
- Long exposure NR: Off
- Image Format: RAW/NEF
- Imported images into Lightroom and cropped to 100% – no resizing was performed in Photoshop (except for comparisons)
- Lightroom sharpening: 25, 1.0, 25, 0 (default)
- Lightroom export: sRGB JPEG Quality 80
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon D7100 performs at low ISOs. Here are some crops at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800 (100% crop):
ISO 100, 200 and 400 look very clean to me, with only a hint of noise in the shadows as ISO goes up. ISO 800 picks up more noise across the frame, especially in the shadows. Overall, the ISO performance of the Nikon D7100 at low ISOs yields very good results.
12) High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-6400)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of DSLR sensor quality. Here is how the Nikon D7100 performs at high ISO levels between ISO 1600 and 6400:
ISO 1600 adds a bit more grain when compared to ISO 800, but there is still plenty of detail to work with. I would not hesitate to use ISO 3200 on the D7100 as well and would probably use noise reduction software if I needed to get rid of the noise. ISO 6400 adds a lot more grain though, with some loss of detail across the frame. Judging from the above crops and my field tests, I personally would shoot between ISO 100-1600 and push ISO to 3200-6400 every once in a while when needed. With so much resolution, the amount of noise can be reduced and sharpness can be increased when downsampling.
13) High ISO Performance “Boost” (ISO 12800-25600)
Nikon D7100 has two extra ISO “boost” levels – ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 for extreme situations. Let’s take a look at these:
As expected, boost levels increase the amount of noise significantly. There is plenty of loss of detail across the frame at ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 just looks really bad. Personally, I would never use these ISO levels, since image quality is degraded by a huge margin.
14) ISO Performance Summary
It is hard to judge the performance of the Nikon D7100 without direct comparison against other cameras, which is why you should definitely check out the next section of this review. One thing for sure – the Nikon D7100 performs very well for a DX camera. Let’s see what kind of a difference there is between the new sensor on the Nikon D7100 and the older generation Nikon D7000.
15) Nikon D7100 vs D7000 ISO Comparison at low ISOs
Please note that the camera comparisons are only based on image quality. Additional information and differences in camera features is provided in my Nikon D7100 vs D7000 article.
For the below comparisons, I extracted the Nikon D7000 images at their normal resolution (100% crop) and down-sampled the Nikon D7100 images to match the 16 MP resolution. This way, you can see what you can expect from the higher resolution 24 MP sensor, when images are down-sampled to 16 MP.
At ISO 100, both cameras produce excellent images that are very clean.
The same with ISO 200 – both cameras are excellent.
At ISO 400, we start to see some differences between the two – the Nikon D7100 looks a tad cleaner.
Both cameras add a bit of grain at ISO 800, but the images from the Nikon D7100 look slightly cleaner and the grain is smaller (due to down-sampling).
16) Nikon D7100 vs D7000 High ISO Comparison
Now let’s take a look at what happens at higher ISO levels:
At ISO 1600 we start to see more differences between the two cameras. The D7100 produces less noise throughout the frame with more details.
The same goes with the ISO 3200 – the D7100 looks cleaner.
Both cameras add a lot more noise at ISO 6400, but the D7100 still looks cleaner and shows more details.
17) Nikon D7100 vs D7000 Boost ISO Comparison
At very high boosted ISO levels, the difference between the two cameras is even more apparent. The Nikon D7100 looks much cleaner, although I personally would not use such high ISOs on either camera…
18) Nikon D7100 vs D7000 Summary
As you can see from the above crops, the Nikon D7100 has a lot more resolution than the Nikon D7000 and yet produces cleaner images at higher ISO levels when images are down-sampled to comparable resolution. This is a huge achievement for the D7100, because added resolution typically equals more noise. Nikon was able to keep the noise levels under control despite the 8 MP difference between the two cameras. For most people this does not really mean anything, but if you shoot at low ISOs, you now have more crop and down-sampling options than before.
19) Nikon D7100 vs D800E 1.5x Crop ISO Comparison
One of the requests from our readers was to provide a comparison between the Nikon D7100 and the D800/D800E in 1.5x crop mode. In DX mode, the Nikon D800E produces 15.4 MP images, which is pretty close to the 16 MP resolution of the Nikon D7000. Because of such difference in resolution (24.1 MP vs 15.4 MP), I decided to compare the down-sampled version of the D7100 images that I used for the D7100 vs D7000 comparison. Let’s take a look:
I decided to skip on ISO 100, 200 and 400, because they are all very clean and similar. At ISO 800, I cannot see much difference in noise between the two. But if you look at the top right side of the image, you will see some moire on the Nikon D800E where the amount of fine detail is very high. Now keep in mind that we are looking at 100% pixel level on the D800E and down-sampled on the D7100. If you go back to the previous section and take a look at image samples on the D7100 at 100%, the Nikon D7100 also shows some signs of moire – a normal fact on cameras without anti-aliasing filters.
Down-sampling starts to win a little at ISO 1600, where the D7100 seems to produce slightly smaller grain. But the difference is quite small between the two.
The same goes for ISO 3200 – the D7100 has slightly smaller grain, but the difference is very small.
At ISO 6400, the Nikon D800E shows some small artifacts in the shadows and has slightly less detail than the D7100.
20) Nikon D7100 vs D800E Low ISO Comparison
Now let’s take a look at how the two cameras differ in performance, when we take a full-resolution image from the Nikon D800E and down-sample it to the Nikon D7100 resolution (36 MP vs 24 MP). This is an interesting comparison, because it shows the difference between modern DX and FX sensors.
The difference between the two is already apparent at ISO 100. While the amount of noise is very low on both cameras, the Nikon D800E has a lot more resolution, so it has the down-sampling advantage here. The amount of detail on the D800E is very high – take a look at the small letters on DVD boxes and other small details.
At ISO 400 the Nikon D7100 adds a little grain, but the D800E still looks extremely clean.
The difference is very evident at ISO 800 – the Nikon D7100 looks noisier and less detailed in comparison.
21) Nikon D7100 vs D800E High ISO Comparison
The gap in performance between DX and FX grows at high ISO levels. Let’s take a look at how the two cameras render ISO 1600 and above:
At ISO 1600, there is about a stop of difference between the two cameras. The Nikon D7100 looks noisier and less detailed in comparison.
The Nikon D7100 loses some detail at ISO 3200, but the D800E retains all of it and it is visibly cleaner.
The same for ISO 6400.
Boosted to ISO 12800, the Nikon D800E adds quite a bit of noise, but retains plenty of details.
And at ISO 25600, both cameras produce too much noise with too much loss of details and colors.
22) Nikon D7100 vs D800E Summary
I am very impressed by how the Nikon D7100 stood against the D800E. In 1.5x crop mode, the Nikon D7100 has a slight lead over the D800E when the images are down-sampled to 15.4 MP. At full resolution, the Nikon D800E obviously has the upper hand in terms of handling noise and providing more details, but the difference is only about a stop, not more. Very impressive performance by the Nikon D7100!
Without a doubt, the Nikon D7100 is the best DX camera produced by Nikon to date. It packs a rich set of features with its 51-point autofocus system found only on professional Nikon DSLRs, weather sealing, great ergonomics, beautiful LCD and a rich menu system – all in a lightweight magnesium alloy camera body that weighs less than its predecessor. Its high-resolution 24.1 MP sensor delivers superb performance at both low and high ISO levels, as seen on the previous sections of this review. I have not had a chance to borrow a Nikon D300s for a comparison, but you can surely expect the D7100 to easily beat the D300s in noise and details when its images are resized / down-sampled to 12 MP. It is also superior than its predecessor in a number of ways, most notably in ergonomics, resolution, more video recording options and a much better autofocus system.
However, there are a couple of annoyances worth considering before you purchase the camera. First, the camera’s buffer is very limiting for fast action photography. The D7100 lasts only about a second when shooting in lossless 14-bit RAW format before the buffer fills, which makes it tough to use the camera for continuous action. This is an important factor for sports and wildlife photographers that have been waiting for a D300s replacement. Second, although the D7100 now has two Live View options for camera and video modes, the focus area appears too large when zoomed in, making it hard to focus on a very small area of the frame. You cannot change the camera’s aperture or ISO in Live View mode and the camera will not preview the real exposure on the LCD, which makes Live View difficult to use for photography. On top of that, Live View is quite laggy and autofocus speed is pretty slow.
Aside from these, I cannot think of anything else to complain about. At $1,199 MSRP (the kit has been discounted by $100 since launch), this is a very attractive camera in Nikon’s DSLR line. Overall, I found it to be a very responsive camera with excellent features that I can depend on. Would I upgrade to the D7100 if I were a Nikon D7000 owner? It depends. If I were into sports and wildlife, I would definitely upgrade to get a much better autofocus system that can handle AF at f/8 (plus, the new Auto ISO feature is great). For all other needs, I would skip a generation, since the Nikon D7000 is still a superb camera. If I owned a Nikon D90 or an older generation camera, I would not hesitate to upgrade. What about existing Nikon D300s owners? I would wait until the end of 2013 – the Nikon D400 should be announced before then.
24) Lenses Used in this Review
As requested by our readers, here is the full list of lenses that I used in this review:
- Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G
- Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
- Nikon 80-400mm f/4-5.6G VR
- Nikon 300mm f/4D
- Nikon TC-14E II
25) Where to Buy and Availability
B&H is currently selling the Nikon D7100 body only for approximately $1,196 (as of 05/01/2013).
26) More Image Samples
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Quality
- High ISO Performance
- Size and Weight
- Metering and Exposure
- Movie Recording Features
- Dynamic Range
Photography Life Overall Rating