Nikon D7100 Digital SLR – Review and Test Report
When Nikon introduced the D90 digital SLR in 2008, it brought with it some groundbreaking features and functionality including support for high-definition video and a sophisticated new CMOS sensor.
Nikon added the D7000 in 2010 as a D90 replacement (although the D90 continues to be produced) and last year debuted the D7100, which adds a new 24.1-megapixel sensor, an updated 51-point auto-focus system, wireless connectivity, and noticeably better build quality.
I paired the D7100 with Nikon’s new 18-300 lens (to be reviewed separately) and spent several months trying to determine if it would be a worthy replacement for my trusty D90.
A key feature of the D7100 is the lack of an optical low-pass filter (also known as an anti-aliasing filter). There’s a tradeoff here between sharpness (the filter reduces it) and aliasing (to reduce moiré effects). Nikon has done an excellent job creating extremely sharp images and the camera seems to handle moiré competently in still shots but is less successful in videos.
Images from the D7100, when scrutinized closely, are sharper than those taken with the D90 but this is not something one would notice casually. I would rate images from both cameras to be equally good overall. As one would expect, images had good dynamic range and very good tonality.
The story was different, however, in low-light situations where the D7100 focused faster and delivered higher quality.
The D7100 powers up and shoots slightly faster than the D90 and is definitely zippier overall. Shot lag with the same lens is also a bit less.
Adding the optional WU-1a wireless adapter, allows directly sharing images with an Apple iOS or Android device and even to shoot remotely (within 49 feet or 15 meters).
The new and bigger 3.2” LCD screen is great for reviewing images and the new Spot White Balance feature supports precise white balance adjustment while shooting in live view.
In terms of layout of dials and switches, the D7100 is clearly a Nikon. It took a while to get used to some of the layout changes (remember, I was coming from the older D90). The mode dial is now on the left shoulder of the camera and requires the push of a small interlock button in its center in order to change settings. The right shoulder has the status display and buttons for metering mode and exposure compensation. There’s also an awkwardly-placed and rather small movie record button, which made me glad I typically shoot stills.
The case is made of magnesium alloy and it’s weather-sealed in the manner of the Nikon D300s, something I consider a huge plus since I take the camera out in all kinds of weather.
The back is typical Nikon and very well laid out. Nikon has thoughtfully added an “i” button that allows the user to quickly tap into frequently-used controls.
The Nikon D7100 is head and shoulders above its predecessors and for those who are considering a new DSLR purchase right now, it should definitely be on their short list. Given, however, that its chief advantages are speed and build quality, if you’re happy with your current DSLR, as I am with my D90, you might want to wait and see what is introduced in 2014.
(Photos: Accura Media Group)