Pixel Pusher – Nikon D7100 Review

BOTTOM LINE: A refreshed version of the D7000 that has been improved in key areas, though not as much as some would like.

D7100

Nikon D7100 – Vital Stats

Sensor: 24MP APS-C (DX-format) CMOS
Focal Lenght Conversion: 1.5x
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC
Construction: Magnesiium Alloy
Weather Sealed: Yes

Price in South Africa: R16 500 – Body Only

(This review was published in the June 2013 issue of PhotoComment Magazine)

PIXEL PUSHER

The D7100 is Nikon’s latest flagship DX body and follows from the D7000 which was rightfully a huge sales success for Nikon. The D7100 is a camera Nikon want you to take seriously. But to many, the D7000 still didn’t live up to what they expected out of a flagship DX model. The older D300s still had better build, with a faster frame rate and more accurate autofocus with more focus points. So does the new D7100 replace a camera that Nikon users have been waiting several years for?

What’s different?

Officially, the D7000 is not discontinued. Nikon are targeting the D7100 as the next model up from the D7000 and they will both be available side by side in the Nikon line up. This sounds good to those looking for a D300s replacement. The D7100 also now features the same 51 point autofocus system that was used in the D300s instead of 39 point system from the D7000, closing the gap between the D7000 and D300s.

The D7100 now features a new 24 megapixel sensor (it is not the same sensor used in the D3200 or D5200) and importantly omits an optical low pass filter (OPLF) over the sensor, increasing sharpness. Chances of moiré patterns and false colours are now higher but Nikon believe that at 24 megapixels, those attributes are now hard to see and the benefits of omitting the optical low pass filter out way the negatives. Personal experience with the camera shows that images are indeed sharp and any negative qualities from the sensor’s lack of an OLPF are hard to spot in real world shooting scenarios.

In terms of noise control, the new 24 megapixel sensor performs very similar to that of the D7000 at high ISO settings. This is impressive considering the D7100’s pixel count is quite a jump up from the D7000’s 16MP, and on a crop sensor where space is limited, high pixel density usually means weaker low light image quality. Even if you are disappointed by the lack of improvement in noise control, keep in mind one of the D7000’s strongest qualities was its great noise control capabilities. Lack of improvement in this area is hardly a bad thing.

D7100_back

Another improvement is the larger 3.3inch LCD screen. Its size takes precedence over the back of the camera. Interestingly it cannot accommodate the plastic LCD protection cover that is usually the norm with higher end Nikon’s but Nikon claim that the glass on the LCD is harder wearing and therefore doesn’t need the plastic cover to protect it from scratches. It now features a built in stereo microphone for video recording. It is also the first DSLR to be able to shoot Full HD video at 60fps.

But once shooting with the D7100, it is clear to see that although a few steps have been taken to close the gap between itself and the D300s, the D7100 shares much of its structural characteristics with that of the D7000 rather than the D300s. The top and back body plates are magnesium alloy but the front and bottom are still polycarbonate. The D300s’ entire body was magnesium alloy. Indeed the D300s still has the edge as far as robustness goes. And the D300s is still ahead as far as frame rate goes. The D7100 shoots a maximum 6 frames per second in DX mode and 7 frames per second in the additional 1.3x crop mode (more on that later). The D300s could shoot 7 fps standard and 8 fps with the PDK1 battery grip supplying additional power. Not a huge difference but a difference all the same against the D7100 Although to be fair, the D7100 does manage to shoot at practically the same speed as the D300s despite it having twice the megapixel count as the D300s – a testament to the advancement in processing power of newer cameras.

Other small things some would find disappointing is the lack of a PC sync socket on the front of the camera for connecting to studio lights. Again, the D300s featured it but it has been left out on the D7100. Though, personally I don’t find this to be too much of an issue. Mind you, hardly anyone uses PC sync cables these days, as most prefer wireless triggers. Something Nikon pioneered.

As already mentioned, the D7100 has a 1.3x crop mode on top of the 1.5 DX crop sensor. This means that the total crop factor of the sensor plus the digital cropping combines to effectively double the zoom length of any lens attached. That makes it essentially a half frame camera, which can be useful for when a sports or wildlife photographer needs that little bit extra focal length without messing around in post-production. Plus, it means smaller image files for transferring and uploading (and faster frame rates). In the 1.3x crop mode, the camera still maintains a resolution of 16 megapixels which is still more than enough to maintain detailed pictures. As mentioned before, in half frame mode, the maximum frame rate jumps up from 6 to 7fps.

Overall, some will be a bit disappointed by the D7100. But if one can look past the build quality, the D7100 is an impressive camera that has done more than just tweak the D7000 by putting a higher resolution sensor inside it. Image quality is impressive and has a few tricks hidden up its sleeve. But will it be enough to satisfy the users? I think owners of the D7000 looking to upgrade should spend a bit more and get the D600, but newcomers will like this a lot.

Verdict

Features: 5/5
Build Quality: 4/5
Image Quality: 5/5
Value: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

DID YOU KNOW? – Nikon’s ‘F’ lens mount has remained unchanged since introduction in 1959.

Author Bio

Armani Quintas

Originally from Nelspruit, a photographer and camera salesman based in Johannesburg. Studied visual communication at The Open Window School of Visual Communication