Nikon D7100 camera

Nikon’s semi-pro DSLR gets a high-res sensor and some ergonomic refinement

Nikon D7100
  • Nikon D7100
  • Nikon D7100
  • Nikon D7100
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Excellent resolution and high ISO performance
  • Great autofocus, white balance, burst mode
  • Excellent controls and LCD screen

Cons

  • Video output is still mediocre
  • Burst RAW slows camera down

Bottom Line

Nikon’s D7100 is a considerable upgrade to our favourite semi-pro camera of the last few years. A much more detailed and more capable image sensor is the big improvement, while the controls and body get a minor do-over. Video is still lacking, though.

Would you buy this?

Nikon’s D7100 has some big shoes to fill. We’ve been using a Nikon D7000 since its launch in December 2010, and even now it’s one of our go-to camera recommendations. The D7100 is an evolutionary upgrade of our long-standing favourite, but it’s a big evolution — a brand new sensor and LCD screen, a new autofocus and exposure sensor module, a re-jigged control system and support for a bunch of new features.

We tested the Nikon D7100 with the kit 18-105mm F3.5-5.6VR lens that it can be bought in a bundle with, although it can also be purchased body-only.

Nikon D7100: Design, construction and control layout

The D7100, at a glance, is identical to the D7000 it’s replacing. Upon closer inspection, there are a few enhancements to the control layout that make the camera easier to operate and more versatile for power users. The biggest difference is a locking switch for the camera’s mode dial on the top left — useful, since stashing the older model in a bag or backpack often led to the dial getting knocked out of place and ruining the occasional rushed photo.

There’s also a dedicated movie recording button near the combination power switch and shutter button, with the exposure mode button moved slightly to accommodate it. There’s a depth-of-field preview button near the DX-crop Nikon F lens mount on the front. There’s a new layout for the rubber connector covers on the camera’s left flank, to make it possible to plug in new accessories like the WU-1a Wi-Fi dongle.

The rear panel of the camera has undergone a minor face-lift too: the combo live-view/movie record switch has been replaced with the AF selector lock and a five-way navigation pad, while there’s now a dual-mode photo and video live-view dedicated button/switch. A fifth button has been added to the camera’s left-hand column, giving easy access to shooting and playback info, while the zoom buttons (for checking focus on your captured photos) have been swapped.

All of these refinements are smart moves, and while it may take a while for existing owners to adapt the overall control scheme is even more user-friendly than Nikon’s past professional and semi-professional cameras. If you want to focus more on taking photos than fiddling with settings, the D7100’s ergonomics make adjustments during shooting simple rather than difficult.

For a more in-depth look at the basics of the D7100’s construction, we’ll point you to our original D7000 review. The D7100 has excellent, professional-grade weather-sealing, although you’ll need an appropriately pro-spec lens to complete the package. Beyond the controls, most enticing about the new camera is its high-resolution, 3.2-inch WRGB rear display — larger and clearer — and top-mounted stereo microphone. The D7100’s feature-set is comprehensive, and unless you’re shooting professionally we don’t think there’s anything significant missing.

Nikon D7100: Image quality, ISO performance and shooting speed

The Nikon D7100 is built around the company’s current DX-size 24-megapixel imaging sensor, producing JPEG and RAW images at a maximum resolution of 6000x4000 pixels, without an optical low-pass filter — the removal of which allows for a higher amount of detail visible with an appropriately sharp lens.

In practice the D7100’s sensor and image processing engine do a very good job, capturing fine image detail in swathes at lower ISO sensitivity settings, and retaining that detail even as higher ISO settings introduce (an impressively small amount of) chrominance and luminance image noise into photos. Images up to ISO 3200 are consistently clean and sharp and detailed, with ISO 6400 beginning to look degraded and show visible incidence of image noise. The camera’s maximum boost of ISO 25,600 doesn’t look great by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s good to have in a pinch if you’re hunting Bigfoot.

Beyond that, there’s a great Auto ISO mode that dynamically changes the minimum shutter speed before ramping up ISO, depending on the focal length of the lens you’re using — and it even changes as you crop in closer with a telephoto zoom. The previous Auto ISO mode’s shutter speed limit was already a smart feature, but this improvement should be a boon for less settings-savvy users.

Image quality from the Nikon D7100 is consistently good whether you’re shooting in RAW or JPEG mode, with images that look detailed, not over-processed, with good colour and a wide (but sane) range of picture processing modes. Of special note is the camera’s automatic white balance setting — we think it’s a significant and genuine improvement from the mediocre one in the D7000, with the D7100 able to do an excellent job of evaluating the light in any given scene and finding the right balance between conflicting light sources. There wasn’t an image we captured with the D7100 that we thought looked unnatural.

Also worth considerable praise is the D7100's autofocus. Lifted straight out of the professional-grade D4, the D7100 is able to focus accurately and consistently in a wide range of lighting, operating even down to -2EV, a level of light where few other cameras within its class are able to operate. From the sometimes-frustratingly-mediocre performance of its predecessor, this is a huge improvement.

The D7100 can fire at up to six frames per second in its continuous shooting mode at high speed, although there’s a user-configurable low-speed mode as well. The only problem is that with 24-megapixel images, the camera’s internal memory buffer can’t keep up with capturing RAW image files at that high speed, only letting you shoot a single second (of 6 images) before filling up and halving the continuous shooting speed.

Where we can’t praise the D7100 is in its video modes. Like the camera before it, the D7100 is hobbled (although less so than the D7000, we admit) — when you’re in live view video mode, it is impossible to change the aperture setting on the fly, severely limiting your options when you’re trying to shoot a video. Similarly, live-view autofocus is much slower than on a comparably spec’d mirrorless camera from Sony, Samsung, Olympus or Panasonic. The D7100 can capture video at 1080p30 and 720p60, with all the video quality you’d expect to see from a digital SLR — it’s just that usability is a bit hampered.

Nikon D7100: Conclusion

The Nikon D7100 is an excellent camera for the photographer who is capable beyond the limited control sets of an entry-level camera. It’s got an excellent image sensor, a refined set of controls that are supremely versatile, and great autofocus. If video is not one of your key concerns in buying a camera, the D7100 has our strongest recommendation.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?