Nikon D7100 Review: Fantastic Flagship

by Chris Gampat Reads (4,484)
Editor's Rating
9.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 9.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Great image quality
    • Excellent build quality
    • Simple to learn if you're an experienced Nikon user
    • Very lightweight when used with primes
    • Dual SD card ports mean that you can shoot for quite a long time
    • Fast autofocusing when the specific point is selected
    • Interesting crop mode
  • Cons

    • Slower focusing performance when all of the points are selected (auto)
    • No aperture control in video mode
    • Focusing points don't go to edges

Quick Take

The Nikon D7100 is no joke! It has a 24.1MP APS-C sensor, 3.2-inch LCD, weather sealing, dual card slots and produces great image quality.


Nikon’s D7100 has been named as the new flagship DSLR of the APS-C lineup. The camera, in a way, then is the successor to both the D300s and the D7000. Indeed, Nikon’s D7000 was tough to keep in stock because everyone wanted it. With the high ISO abilities, marksman type autofocus, and excellent build quality consumers flocked to it for the great camera that it was for the price.

Nikon D7100

The D7100 is in many ways Nikon’s way of showing that APS-C DSLRs still have a place in the world despite how much the ILC market has grown. The camera boasts  24.1MP sensor, 51 point autofocus system, that can autofocus down to f8, 7fps shooting, a 3.2 inch 1,229K dot LCD, ISO 100-6400 natively, dual SD card storage, and weather sealing.

Being the flagship camera of the DX format series, this camera isn’t meant for the newbie photog. It is laden with buttons and dials all over that native Nikonians will find pleasing. The company has had years of experience creating award winning DSLRs. When it comes to the APS-C format, it started with the D300–which won the hearts of many photojournalists due to to super clean high ISO settings. That was the year a magazine declared that ISO 1600 is the new 400; effectively meaning that we can now shoot at higher ISO settings without any fear. Today, we’re far beyond those days–and it’s quite amazing to see what APS-C sized sensors are capable of doing.

But does that mean that the D7100 is another hit for Nikon?

BUILD AND DESIGN
When you pick the Nikon D7100 up, you know that it is a Nikon DSLR that comes from a specific heritage. Every DSLR has their own make and feel, but what makes the D7100 feel so right at home is not only the size, but the overall build quality combined with the professional layout. My hands are relatively small in the big picture, but they’re large for my size due to years of bass and guitar playing. This camera fits perfectly in my hands without my pinky hanging off the bottom the way it does with a D5200 and below. When you pick up this camera, you know it was designed for business but also know that it isn’t as capable as something with a larger sensor.

Nikon D7100With all of this said and kept in mind, we also must emphasize just how light the camera really is. We’ve walked around tradeshow floors for years with DSLR cameras and felt the weight eventually start telling on us. But the D7100 with the 35mm f1.8 G and a flash attached felt nowhere as heavy as the messenger bags we tote around. In a way, it was quite a liberating feeling knowing that something this light is still able to have so much power. It surely puts some mirrorless cameras to shame in real life use and travel.

The Nikon D7100 measures in at 5.3 x 4.2 x 3″ (135.5 x 106.5 x 76mm) and weighs 1.7 lbs (765g) with battery and memory card when the body cap is not attached. To take the most advantage of this camera’s weight, we used small, light primes as well as the included zoom lens. Overall though, it was still a really featherweight option (or our muscles have turned Herculean over our years of schlepping around DSLRs.)

Ergonomics and Controls
If you’re stepping up to the D7100, we really hope that you’ve had some sort of DSLR experience before or you are extremely committed to taming the beast. For those that have never used Nikon DSLRs before, this may also be a confusing camera to learn. However, with persistence you can wrap your head around it.

Let’s start with the front: we already know that this camera is meant for those with big boy pants by the control layout. The front of the camera is characterized by the on/off switch around the shutter release, aperture control dial, depth of field previous button, custom function button, pop-up flash button, bracketing button, and the focusing selection switch. And of course, there is the lens release.

Nikon D7100

Look at the top and you’ll find some relatively simplistic controls here. This is where users can see the info display LCD, exposure compensation button, metering button, video record button, hot shoe, shutter release and the mode dial. The dial has a button in the center that needs to be pressed in order to change the mode–and in real life practice this is quite nice. Around the dial is another dial for the drive mode.

This brings us to the back of the camera, where there are quite a bit more controls. First off the viewfinder–which is bright and beautiful. Near this is the diopter control. Below the viewfinder is the new 3.2 inch LCD screen which is surrounded by loads of buttons. But first we take you to the only dial on the top right side of the back of the camera. This dial will control the shutter speed in manual mode. The buttons control various other functions. On the right of the LCD is the focus point selection button which also has a lock around it. In the center of this button is another soft key that says, “OK.” Below this is the Live View switch for photo or video. And below that: you’ll find one of the info buttons.

Even more controls are around the left side of the LCD screen. Here is where you’ll find the playback and trash buttons. Below this are the menu button, white balance/explanation/lock button, zoom in/quality switch button, zoom out/ISO button, and another info button.

Around the grip area of the camera is where the memory cards are stored. This camera can hold two SD cards and they can be set up to either have one serve as an overflow, mirrored, or have JPEGs go to one while RAWs go to the other.

The left of the camera is where Nikon decided to put loads and loads of ports. The microphone jack, USB jack, HDMI jack, headphone jack, and GPS dongle port are all situated here.

On the bottom is where you’ll insert the battery and find the tripod socket. If you want to attach a grip to the camera, you’ll need to remove the battery door.

Menus and Modes
If the user wants to use the Scene or Effects modes, they are encouraged to use the Live View mode first and then select them. Truthfully though, we’re not sure why one would use them vs doing the work in post-production.

The D7100 has the standard menus of many Nikon DSLRs typical of the ASP-C range of cameras. Going into them and getting out is straightforward as they are both color coded and symbol coded.

  • Auto: Fully automatic mode with camera handling settings using either portrait, landscape, night portrait, sport, macro or low light scene modes for image capture. If the camera can’t decide on a scene it defaults to Program Auto for capture. User can change color saturation, color image, brightness, or blur the background via a “live guide” menu.
  • Scene: A myriad of different situations.
  • Custom 1, 2: User-saved set of shooting settings.
  • Program Auto: Camera handles shutter and aperture, user has wide range of inputs.
  • Aperture Priority: User sets aperture, camera sets shutter and user has wide range of inputs.
  • Shutter Priority: User sets shutter, camera sets aperture and user has wide range of inputs.
  • Auto No Flash: does exactly what it says.
  • Manual: User sets aperture and shutter, has wide range of inputs.
  • Effects: Night vision, color sketch, miniature effect, selective color, silhouette, high key, low key.

Display/Viewfinder
Nikon D7100Spy with your little eye into the viewfinder of the D7100 and you’ll be peering into a 100% viewfinder. That means that you won’t be able to change the focusing screen to a matte if you want. But that’s okay because Nikon’s built-in rangefinder system is also really quite good. When going through the menu system you can select what you would like displayed in the viewfinder such as the rule of thirds settings, focusing points and more. Unfortunately, the focusing points don’t stretch more towards the edges of the viewfinder–and they really should because this is an APS-C sized DSLR. That oversight might be forgivable if we were dealing with a full frame camera, but we are not.

By pressing in the focusing button located on the front of the camera and moving the exposure dials around, you can cycle through various focusing selection modes such as areas, single points, 3D tracking and more. When combined with the focusing selection button the on the back being unlocked, the D7100 turns into an extremely formidable camera.

Nikon’s D7100 has a 3.2 inch LCD with 1,229K dots of resolution. Those dots go a long way when it comes to needing to pixel peep your images on the back of the LCD in order to make sure that you have absolute sharpness. They also come in handy when recording video.


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