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Hands-on review: Updated: Nikon D7100
3:08 am | March 15, 2013

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Hands-on review: Updated: Nikon D7100

Introduction

Our full review is now underway and will be coming soon, but for now we’ve updated our hands on review with our testing results from our image labs.

When the Nikon D7000 was announced it had the highest pixel count of any Nikon APS-C (DX) format DSLR, but by the company’s own standards a 16.2MP device looks quite dated now. So it’s no surprise that the new Nikon D7100 has a 24.1MP CMOS sensor.

However, this isn’t the same sensor as we have seen in the Nikon D5200 or the Nikon D3200 – in fact it’s a completely new device that has been built to Nikon’s specification. But the surprise twist in this little tale is that there’s no low-pass (AKA anti-aliasing) filter over the sensor, so it should be capable of recording sharper detail than a comparable sensor with a filter.

Unlike the Nikon D800, which is available in two varieties – the D800 and D800E, with the only difference between the two being that the D800E doesn’t have a low-pass filter – there is only one version of the Nikon D7100.

Nikon D7100 review

Most DSLR manufacturers use an anti-aliasing filter to reduce the risk of moiré patterning, which can occur when photographing subjects with regular fine detail that is close to the resolving limit of the sensor.

According to Nikon, the pixel density of an APS-C format sensor with 24.1-million effective pixels is such that the risk of moiré patterning is much reduced in comparison with that of lower pixel-count cameras. Consequently, the company feels that the benefits of omitting the filter outweigh the detriment, and it anticipates very few occasions where moiré patterning may be seen. This appears to be borne-out by the lack of moiré patterning seen in images from the D800E.

The other big news for the Nikon D7100 is that has a higher build quality than the Nikon D7000, with weather sealing that enables it to be used in a wider range of situations than the older camera.

Nikon D7100 review

According to Jeremy Gilbert, Nikon UK’s group marketing manager, the D7100 is built to the same standard as the Nikon D300s, although it doesn’t replace either the Nikon D300s or the Nikon D7000.

In another improvement over the Nikon D7000, the Nikon D7100 has the Multi-Cam 3500DX AF module with 51 AF points, the central 15 of them being cross-type. This should help improve both speed and accuracy of the AF system.

Sport and wildlife enthusiasts will also be pleased to learn that 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 system will still function when telephoto and teleconverter combinations result in an effective maximum aperture as small as f/8.

Nikon D7100 review

In an unusual move, Nikon has given the D7100 a 1.3x crop mode. When this is selected the imaging area is almost completely covered by the 51 AF points, and the maximum continuous shooting rate is boosted from a respectable 6fps to 7fps.

This crop mode can be used in still or video mode, and it enables you to shoot Full HD movies at 50i or 60i for smoother recording of action or slow-motion playback. When shooting videos in DX format, the frame rate is limited to a more common 30, 25 or 24p.

Some of the Nikon D7100’s other features are a little more predictable. The metering, for example, is handled by the same 2,016 pixel sensor as the Nikon D7000, and image processing is courtesy of the Expeed 3 engine that we have seen in Nikon’s more recent DSLRs.

Nikon D7100 review

Unsurprisingly, the native sensitivity range is ISO 100-6400, but it can be expanded to ISO 25,600 if required.

When the Nikon D7100 goes on sale in March, its price will be £1,099.99 (around US$1,682/AU$1,635) body only, or £1,299.99 (around US$1,988/AU$1,932) with an 18-105mm kit lens.

Build, handling and performance

Build quality and handling

Although it has a more durable construction, at just 675g (23.8oz) the Nikon D7100 is a little lighter than the Nikon D7000, which weighs 690g (24.3oz). It also feels more solid, and textured coatings on the front and rear grips make it comfortable and secure in the hand.

Nikon has added a lock button to the mode dial, and while this prevents accidental exposure mode changes, it may take existing Nikon D7000 users a little while to get used to it.

Nikon D7100 review

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.

This change to the button layout means 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 D7100, and 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.

Nikon D7100 review

On the subject of the screen, this has been boosted to 3.2 inches and has 1,229,000 dots. We were only able to use a pre-production sample of the camera indoors, but the screen seems a good performer and it doesn’t suffer excessively from reflections when used near a bright window.

That high dot count also means that there’s plenty of detail visible, which is especially useful when focusing manually in Live View mode.

Naturally we will look into it more closely when we get a full production sample in for testing for our full review, but our first impressions are that the Nikon D7100’s contrast detection system is a little quicker and more decisive than we have found with cameras such as the Nikon D5200.

Nikon D7100 review

Despite the changes mentioned above, we think that most Nikon D7000 users will quickly find themselves at home with the Nikon D7100. The menu layout will also be familiar territory for existing Nikon DSLR users, and is logical.

Performance

So far we have only been able to use a pre-production sample of the Nikon D7100, and while the early signs are good, we will have to wait for a full-production model before we can comment on the quality of the images it produces.

Because it doesn’t have an anti-aliasing filter, it will be particularly interesting to see how much detail the Nikon D7100 can resolve. We will also scrutinise the darker mid-tones and shadows of high sensitivity images and check for signs of banding like those exhibited in some shots from the Nikon D5200.

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)

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

Early verdict

Nikon has created a small yet solid camera that has plenty to offer the photography enthusiast. The weather sealing is a particularly nice touch that enables you to carry on shooting when others have to pack up and head home.

Given the Nikon D7100’s high pixel count, the decision to include a 1.3x crop and omit the anti-aliasing filter seems sensible.

The former will enable tighter framing of the subject (although this can be achieved by cropping) and a faster continuous shooting rate, while the latter should ensure sharper details straight from the camera and less time spent with post-capture sharpening.

Nikon D7100 review

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 connectivity to enable remote control via a smartphone or tablet. At £649.99 (around US$993/AU$967), the WR-1 wireless remote introduced at the same 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.

On balance, however, we think the D7100 will find favour with the Nikon faithful, and it should win the manufacturer a few new fans.

Nikon D7100 review

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