As with the D600 the D7100 is a compact yet robust camera. It doesn’t have the satisfying heft of the D800, but it’s not engulfed in your hand like the D5200. The D7100 feels a little more solid due to the fact that the back plate of the camera has been upgraded to magnesium making the camera frame ¾ magnesium rather than ½ like the D7000/D600. Despite this there is no noticeable gain in weight.
One problem I had with the D600 was that a lot of the Nikon FX pro zooms dwarfed the camera, being a DX camera the D7100 can be used with the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G and it handles perfectly, especially with the MB-D15 grip. This makes the camera much easier to handle.
In short the D7100 pretty much follows Nikon’s typical design, which is nicely balanced and feels good in your hands.
Nikon camera controls are usually well placed and intuitive and the D7100 is no exception. Anyone upgrading from a D7000 or using it in addition to the D600 will have no problem. The D600 and the D7100 have pretty much the same layout with a few only a fewminor changes. The new i-button allows you to access the Info edit menu with a single press.
The D7100 also fixed an issue that people were having with the D600, which was the limitation of the OK button in playback to only access the retouch menu. Once again it’s programmable for 100% zoom and histograms (and more), this is a great thing. One of my biggest issue with the D600 was this OK button problem.
As usual the menu system is pretty much standard Nikon, easy to navigate, if you’ve used any Nikon DSLR since the D100.
The D7100 is equipped with the same 24MP Toshiba made CMOS sensor that first appeared in the D5200 with one major difference, the Optical Low-Pass Filter / Anti-Aliasing filter has been completely removed (as opposed to the dual filter design of the D800E). This allows the D7100 to capture finer detail, which is necessary because at 24MP when viewing at 100% you need all of the fine detail you can get. I didn’t notice any increased moiré in any of my images despite the fact I went out of my way to shoot subjects that would test this out.
|finely detailed patterns like bird feathers are notorious for causing moiré in cameras without AA filters as you can see here there is little to no moiré in this 100% crop. Click to view full size.|
I really liked the D5200 sensor. The images were excellent, and the D7100 is pretty much on par with that. The images this camera puts out especially with a lens stopped down about 2 stops are astonishingly detailed. This camera is great for landscapes because of the fine detail and the great dynamic range. A decent wide-angle like the Sigma 10-24 stopped down to about f/8 is going to get you extremely sharp and finely detailed images.
This brings me to a major issue with the D7100 sensor. Well, not an issue with the sensor itself, but with the lenses that need to be used with it. I’ve been using a Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G for a long time with great success. The problem is that this lens is old. It was released a decade ago, which in digital terms is a lifetime. The lens simply cannot keep up with the D7100. I shoot wide open a lot and at f/2.8 this lens is soft. It’s not that the image is blurry, you can clearly see detail, but it’s veiled in a soft glowing haze with lots of CA and doesn’t improve until it stopped down. Nikon, if this is you flagship camera you need a flagship lens that is comparable. So, luckily Sigma has released the 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC OS HSM “C”. And guess what? It is sharp. It’s much smaller and lighter, better range, also does close-focusing, and has OS. Since the Nikon needs stopped down to f/4 to look good, the Sigma eclipses Nikon’s flagship lens that costs $1000 more in every way. Great job Sigma! (Sigma 17-70 review coming soon). So I sold the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G. I recommend you sell yours too before this news gets out, because Nikon must be upgrading this lens soon. Buy the Sigma, it’s worth every penny.
Anyway, I digress. The D7100 is a nice camera to shoot and has some new features that I really enjoy. The i button is a great addition to quickly access the Info edit menu and replaces the useless retouch menu button on the D600 (which also had the OK button call up the retouch menu, really who needs TWO buttons to get to a menu hardly anyone uses?). I also find the 1.3X DX crop to be a great feature. Not only does it speed up your frame rate to 7fps it gives you an equivalent 2X (1.95X actually) crop factor. This is great for sports and wildlife shooters. It turns my 300mm f/4 into almost a 600mm f/4 with no teleconverter to lose resolution and no loss of light. Coupled with a 2X teleconverter you get an astounding 1200mm f/8, and guess what? The D7100 new AF system center point can focus down to f/8. Of course using the 1.3X DX crop you lose some MP’s, but 15MP is more than enough for most any applications. And with the new Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 coming out, you can get a 240-600mm f/2.8 equivalent lens in a manageable size without spending a million bucks!
The AF-system of the D7100 is far and away better than the D600. While the D600 focus points are all jammed into a tiny spot in the center the D7100 has a great spread covering most of the frame allowing you freedom to compose as you want while the D600 required you to either compose loosely and crop later of focus and recompose which can lead to focus errors especially when using fast wide-angle lenses. When switched to 1.3X DX crop you get almost 100X frame coverage with your focus points. Once again, great for sports and wildlife shooters as well as portrait photographers.
At high ISO’s I find the D7100 quite capable for most situations. The noise is well under control at 3200 and the grain looks pleasant enough. If you shoot mostly low light this may not be the best option, but it is quite good for the occasional foray into darkness.
The D7100 is about as prefect a camera you’re going to find for under $2000. It’s definitely a step above the D600 in my eyes although the D600 has the edge in low-light performance. I’d say that the D7100 could replace the D600 if only there were a 10-24mm f/2.8 lens that performed as well as the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G.
So, the D7100 is a keeper for me. It’s one of the best cameras Nikon has released in awhile. It’s aces compared to the dog of a D600. I can’t wait to get the new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 on this thing.
If you’re looking for a new camera I highly recommend the D7100. Even if you’re considering FX take a look at this camera and give it a test drive. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I sure was.
Here are some photos taken with the D7100 and a variety of lenses:
|Hopdoddy hamburger in Austin TX, taken with the amazing Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM "A"|
ISO 100, 1/125 @ f/1.4
|Downtown Texarkana AR taken with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G|
ISO 3200, 1/8 @ f/2.8
|Somewhere in Louisiana taken with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G|
ISO 100, 1/200 @ f/11
|Black's BBQ in Lockhart, TX taken with a Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC OS HSM "C"|
(handheld) ISO 1000, 1/13 @ f/2.8
|Stairway in Lockhart, TX taken with a Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC OS HSM "C"|
ISO 125, 1/125 @ f/9
|Downtown Gilmer, TX, taken with a Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G|
ISO 640, 1/100 @ f/7.1
|Tulip along Front St. in Natchitoches, LA, taken with a Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G|
ISO 180, 1/200 @ f/2.8
|Cypress tree at Caddo Lake, LA, taken with a Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G|
ISO 125, 1/500 @ f/8
|Shure SM-55 taken with a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM|
ISO 100, 1/250 @ f/1.4
|Poppies in south Austin, TX taken with a Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC OS HSM "C"|
ISO 140, 1/1000 @ f/4