|Sensor size:||Nikon DX|
|Kit Lens:||5.80x zoom
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Dimensions:||5.3 x 4.2 x 3.0 in.
(136 x 107 x 76 mm)
|Weight:||41.8 oz (1,185 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
Nikon D7100 Hands-on Preview
by Mike Tomkins
Back in late 2010, Nikon debuted the D7000, an enthusiast SLR that has since proven very popular for the company. Although it was in some ways an evolution of the earlier D90, there was enough differentiation to consider the Nikon D7000 to be the start of a new model line, and indeed the D90 has continued to sell alongside it right up to the present day.
With the Nikon D7100, that new model line is continued with a brand-new camera that shares much of the D7000's DNA, but with improvements throughout. Some of these draw features that debuted in Nikon's professional cameras, others from consumer models, and a couple of the most interesting are unique to this camera.
Key changes include a new, higher-resolution image sensor which looks to be related to that used in the Nikon D5200, as it shares the same 24.1 megapixel resolution. Importantly, though, it lacks that camera's optical low-pass filter, and so should yield better per-pixel detail. As in that camera, it is paired with an EXPEED 3 image processor, which debuted in the pro-oriented Nikon D4. There's also a new autofocus system, based around a Multi-CAM 3500DX AF sensor as seen previously in the Nikon D300 and D300S. Other tweaks include a larger LCD display with white subpixels for extra brightness, a new OLED display inside the optical viewfinder, and improved movie capture feature set with stereo internal mic, headphone jack, and support for 1080p30 and 720p60 recording.
Walkaround. At first glance, though, the two cameras look pretty similar. Place the Nikon D7100 and D7000 side by side, and it doesn't take long to pick up on subtle adjustments around the newer camera's body. The most important feature of that body is retained, though: It's still weather-sealed to the same standard as the D300S and D7000. Like the latter, it bears magnesium-alloy panels top and rear, while the front, bottom, and sides are crafted from polycarbonate plastic. Overall, body width and height have increased by a tenth of an inch or so (2-4mm), while depth is reduced by under a tenth of an inch (1mm). Body-only weight has fallen by half an ounce (15g).
Looking at the front of the D7100, the first change you'll notice are softer, more flowing lines than in the previous camera. The handgrip has been reprofiled, and its leatherette wrap now stops short of the front control dial, while the red accent sits snug in between leatherette and metal. The front infrared remote control receiver is now a rounded-off triangle rather than an oval, and the three-hole microphone port has vanished altogether. (More on that in a moment.) The basic layout is otherwise unchanged from this angle, however.
Jump to the top deck, and the changes are a little more significant. Most significantly, you see the newly-located microphone, which is now stereo. It sits in front of the flash hot shoe, and is comprised of two eight-hole grilles. From this angle, you also see that there's an extra Effects mode on the Mode dial, and that the Movie record button has been shoehorned in between the combined Shutter button / Power lever, and the Metering mode button, much like on the D600. The mode dial now also has a center lock release button, also like the D600.
The most significant differences are to be found on the back and left sides, however. (The right side of the camera, incidentally, is essentially unchanged.) There are more controls on the rear of the camera, with an extra, configurable i-button added at the bottom of the button stack that lines the left side of the LCD panel. The Quality / Zoom In and ISO / Zoom Out buttons have also switched places with each other, a change that may take a little while for upgrading D7000 owners to get used to.
Moving across to the other side of the LCD panel -- which is slightly larger and now fills its cover glass without any black borders -- the leatherette trim piece on the right of the rear surface is much larger, spanning most of the vertical height of the camera. The D7000's six-hole speaker grille that sat between the AE-L / AF-L button and rear control dial has been replaced by a five-hole grille adjacent to the Info button, at the bottom right corner of the LCD panel. The separate Focus Selector lock lever of the D7000 is also gone, with its replacement now encircling the Multi-selector. Beneath this is a Live View button surrounded by a Still / Movie lever, as seen in the D600 and D800. (The D7000 had a Live View lever instead, with a Video button at its center.) Finally, the rear-panel infrared remote receiver moves near the bottom right corner of the rear panel, and the card access lamp sits between Multi-selector and Live View button.
On the left side of the Nikon D7100 body, the D7000's two connector compartment covers have been supplemented by a third, and the layout of the connectors underneath differs significantly. The top flap covers the stereo microphone and USB ports. Beneath the middle flap is a Type-C mini HDMI connector, which sits alone -- there's no longer any standard-definition video output connectivity in the D7100. The bottom flap covers a new addition, the stereo headset jack, along with a GPS / remote control terminal.
Nikon D7100 Technical Info
by Mike Tomkins
Sensor. The Nikon D7100 digital SLR is based around an APS-C sized CMOS image sensor. (That's DX-format in Nikon parlance.) Effective resolution is 24.1-megapixels, and total resolution is 24.71-megapixels. Both figures are identical to those of the chip used in the D5200, a fairly strong indication that they're at least closely related. (And another hint in that direction is Nikon's description of the chip as "new" in its marketing materials for the D7100, rather than "newly-developed".) The sensor, which a teardown of the D5200 showed to be manufactured by Toshiba, offers a pretty big step forward in terms of sensor resolution since the Sony chip used in the D7000, which had an effective resolution of 16.2-megapixels.
There is at least one very important difference in the D7100's image sensor as compared to that in the D5200, however. Or more precisely, a significant difference in the way it's packaged. The D5200 -- as do most DSLRs -- overlaid its sensor with what's called an optical low-pass filter. What that does is to subtly, intentionally blur incoming light rays. This trades off a little fine pixel detail, but in the process reduces the incidence of jaggies and moiré / aliasing patterns. The Nikon D7100, says its manufacturer, offers enough resolution and technologies that combat these issues that it doesn't feel an optical low-pass filter to be necessary any more. So, while the D7100 does seem to share the same overall imaging pipeline as the D5200, it should yield noticeably better per-pixel sharpness than that camera.
To combat the effects of dust on the image sensor, Nikon has included its sensor cleaning function, which uses piezoelectric vibration at four different frequencies to shake dust from the sensor cover glass, just as done in the D7000.
Processor. Output from the updated image sensor is handled by Nikon's proprietary EXPEED 3 image processor, which was first seen in the pro-oriented D4, before arriving in the consumer-friendly D3200 and D5200. In the Nikon D7100, this combination provides six frames-per-second full-resolution burst shooting. Although that's unchanged from the speed provided by the D7000's EXPEED 2 CPU, it's nonetheless impressive, given that each shot contains almost 50% more pixel data. This can be boosted still further by cropping in-camera to 15.4-megapixel resolution, to a maximum of seven frames per second. Startup time is 0.13 seconds, and the shutter release lag is rated at 0.052 seconds to CIPA testing standards. Of course, these are all manufacturer ratings, for the time being; we've not yet had an opportunity to put the D7100 through our lab testing.
Sensitivity. Despite its greatly-increased resolution, the D7100's sensitivity still ranges from ISO 100 to 6,400 equivalents, and the upper end of the range is expandable to ISO 25,600 equivalent. That's exactly the same range offered by the Nikon D7000.
Optics. The Nikon D7100 provides a Nikon F-mount with autofocus coupling and contacts. That means it will autofocus with older "screw-drive" AF lenses, as well as with AF-S lenses that have their own focusing motor. The D7100's viewfinder also includes an electronic rangefinder indicator to determine focus status and even adjustment direction to assist manual focusing.
The Nikon D7100's lens mount includes an AI aperture ring connector, a little metal vane located just outside the lens mount flange (at about 1 o'clock), that interfaces with old AI Nikkor manual focus lenses. This engages with the aperture ring on AI-style Nikkor lenses, and lets the D7100 support aperture-priority metering mode and provide manual-exposure metering with them.
So, as you'd expect, the D7100 is compatible with almost every F-mount lens made since 1977, although some lens types will have a few limitations.
Autofocus. The D7100's autofocus system is based around a physical sensor we've seen a couple of times before. The Multi-CAM 3500DX phase detection autofocus sensor debuted in 2007's Nikon D300, and reappeared in 2009's D300S. It features an array of 51 autofocus points, with 45 of these in a 9 x 5 grid, spanned on each side by a column of three points. The center-most three columns of five points are all cross-types, sensitive to detail on both horizontal and vertical axes. That's a third more AF points than were offered by the D7000, incidentally; it had a total of 39 points, of which nine were cross types. As in the D7000, the Nikon D7100's autofocus sensor works in concert with the 3D Color Matrix Metering II sensor, allowing better focus tracking since this color information allows subjects to be better identified.
Although the sensor itself is the same as in the D300 and D300S, the overall AF module must be different though. Nikon says the D7100 AF system has an improved working range of -2 to +19 EV (ISO 100, 20°C/68°F), where the earlier cameras were limited to -1 to +19 EV. Also, one single point at the very center of the sensor can now operate all the way down to f/8, which is great news for teleconverter fans. The D7000, too, was limited to a -1 to +19 EV working range, incidentally, and so the D7100 betters its predecessor in low-light autofocus performance as well.
As in the D7000, you can opt to shoot either in focus-priority (the shutter won't release until a lock is achieved), or release-priority (the shutter releases as soon as possible, irrespective of focus lock). The Nikon D4's handy Focus Release mode -- which used focus priority for the first frame and then release priority for subsequent frames -- is not available in the D7100.
Of course, Autofocus Fine Tuning is still available, allowing you to compensate for lenses that front- or back-focus.
Contrast-detection autofocus, says Nikon, has also been improved in the D7100. Compared to its predecessor, the new model should focus faster and more accurately both in Live View and Movie modes. Sadly, there's no peaking display, something that can be incredibly handy when focusing manually in Live View on rival cameras.
Viewfinder. The Nikon D7100's optical viewfinder is very similar to that in the D7000, but with one key difference. Where the earlier camera placed an LCD panel in the viewfinder's optical path to provide indications and the on-demand grid display, the D7100 replaces this with an Organic LED display. This not only has better contrast -- Nikon says it also reduces energy consumption and improves responsiveness in low temperatures. And for better visibility, the settings information at the bottom of the display is now shown in white text on a black background.
Just like the D7000's viewfinder, that in the Nikon D7100 has 0.94x magnification, a 19.5mm eyepoint (-1.0m-1), and a 100% rated coverage. The diopter adjustment range is rather narrower, though, at -2 to +1m-1. (The D7000 allowed a -3 to +1m-1 correction.)
LCD monitor. Beneath the optical viewfinder, the Nikon D7100 sports a new LCD panel that is larger, should be easier to see under harsh light, and is said to reduce power consumption versus a standard RGB LCD as well. The increase in size isn't dramatic, but it's worthwhile.
With a 3.2-inch diagonal and the same 4:3 aspect ratio, the new display has approximately 14% greater surface area than the 3.0-inch panel in the D7000. Its pixel resolution is unchanged, at 640 x 480 (307,200 pixels), but the dot count increases by a third, to 1,228,800 dots. That's because an extra white subpixel has been added alongside the existing red, green, and blue subpixels that make up each pixel. The white subpixel allows a brighter display overall, part of the reason for the greater visibility under harsh outdoor light. It also allows lower power consumption when you don't need the full display brightness, because for a given brightness level, the power-hungry LCD backlight can be turned down further than on a standard RGB display.
Nikon says the new display has a 1,000:1 contrast ratio, and provides 72% NTSC coverage, or approximately 100% sRGB coverage. Further helping with glare under harsh ambient light, the LCD now has a gapless design that replaces the air between the LCD panel and the cover glass with resin that has approximately the same refractive index as the cover glass does. That reduces the reflections that cause glare, and means a more visible display with better contrast.
Metering. As we mentioned previously, the D7100 supports Nikon's 3D Color Matrix Metering II system, as did the D7000 before it. The system relies on a color metering sensor with a resolution of 2,016 pixels. The metering sensor ties into not only autofocus, but also the D7100's Scene Recognition System, and so helps optimize focus, exposure, flash control, and white balance variables.
As well as Matrix metering, the Nikon D7100 provides center weighted and spot modes. Just as in the D7000, working range for the metering system is from 0 to 20 EV for matrix and center-weighted metering, or 2 to 20 EV for spot metering (ISO 100, f/1.4 lens, 68°F / 20°C).
Exposure. The Nikon D7100's exposure mode options include Auto, Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, Manual, Flash Off, and Scene, as well as two User modes, and an Effects mode. Scene mode choices include portrait, landscape, child, sports, close-up, night portrait, night landscape, party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, pet portrait, candlelight, blossom, autumn colors, and food. The silhouette, high key and low key options -- all Scene modes in the D7000 -- now move to the Effects mode, where they're joined by night vision, color sketch, miniature effect, and selective color. (And they apply both to stills and movies.) The two User positions are used to store and quickly recall camera setups for later use.
Just as in the D7000, available shutter speeds range from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds in 1/3 or 1/2EV steps, plus a bulb position for longer exposures. The Nikon D7100's shutter mechanism still has a rated lifetime of some 150,000 cycles. The shutter mechanism itself does differ, though. To support the higher-speed 7 fps crop mode we mentioned previously, the drive mechanism has been uprated.
Exposure compensation is available within a +/-5.0 EV range, in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps. The Nikon D7100 also offers two or three frame exposure bracketing, with a step size between exposures of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, or 1EV.
Flash. Of course, the Nikon D7100 still includes both a built-in, automatic-popup flash strobe, and an ISO 518 intelligent hot shoe for external strobes. Just like its predecessor, there's no built-in PC sync connector. Flash X-sync is at 1/250 second, but can be increased to 1/320 second at the expense of flash range.
The built-in flash is unchanged from that in the D7000, with 16mm coverage, and a guide number of 12 meters / 39 feet at ISO 100, 68°F / 20°C. It pops up automatically only in Auto and Scene modes; for other modes it deploys manually as requested. -3 to +1 EV of flash exposure compensation is available, and the Nikon D7100 also offers two to five frame flash exposure bracketing, with a step size between exposures of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1, 2, or 3 EV. (That's both a larger range and step size than provided by the D7000.)
Creative Lighting System. The Nikon D7100 retains in-camera support for Nikon's Creative Lighting System and Advanced Wireless Lighting with the built-in strobe, and with compatible external strobes, as well as Auto FP high-speed sync and modeling illumination support for all Creative Lighting System-compatible strobes except the SB-400.
1.3x crop mode. As we alluded to previously, the Nikon D7100 includes a 1.3x crop function, something new to Nikon's DX-format SLR line. This functions similarly to the crop mode in the company's FX-format cameras, in that it increases the effective focal length by simply discarding data from the periphery of the image sensor, and yielding a lower-resolution image. The 1.3x crop mode works in addition to the 1.5x crop of the DX-format sensor, so when the crop mode is enabled, the 35mm-equivalent focal length is effectively double that marked on your lens. The bundled 18-105mm lens, for example, ordinarily has a field of view similar to a 27-158mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera. Enable crop mode, and that becomes the equivalent of a 36-210mm lens, albeit with an attendant loss in resolution.
You could achieve the same thing by simply cropping the image in post-processing, but you'd forgo the space savings of the smaller images, as well as the improvement in burst speed and buffer depth. The latter can be dramatic: at full resolution, the D7100 can shoot just eight 14-bit raw or 33 JPEG fine frames in a burst. Enable the crop, and that jumps to 14 raw or 73 JPEG frames.
The crop mode, then, becomes an attractive proposition in two areas. The first is when you need the maximum possible burst-shooting frame rate and depth, and are willing to sacrifice on the wide-angle possibilities of your lens to achieve it. Enabling the crop gives you an extra one frame per second (7 fps max.), and a potentially massive increase in buffer depth along with it. The second is when your lens doesn't provide enough telephoto reach, and you know you'll be cropping the image anyway. (In which case, cropping in-camera saves storage space, improves your burst rate, and lets you decide on your final framing at capture time.)
As an added bonus, with the crop mode enabled, the autofocus array covers essentially the entire horizontal width of the image frame. That means you can track subjects around most of the frame, with only the a narrow strip at the top and bottom of the frame outside the area covered by AF sensors. And crop mode applies not only to stills, but also movies.
Creative. Of course, the D7100 includes the by-now typical features you'd expect on a modern Nikon DSLR: a multi-shot HDR function, Nikon's optional Active D-Lighting function (Auto or four strength presets), which tweaks the tone curve for more balanced exposures, and its Picture Controls function. The latter applies to both stills and movies, and offers six presets--Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape--plus the ability for the user to customize these and port settings between camera bodies. And then there are the effect functions we already mentioned, located right on the Mode dial and available for both stills and movies.
Spot white balance. Another unusual function of the Nikon D7100 is its spot white balance function. As you might expect, this operates similarly to spot metering, but for white balance. It's important to note that it's available only for live view shooting. By selecting your desired white balance point on the camera's display, you can set a custom white balance off a known neutral subject (or, if you're aiming to intentionally skew white balance for effect, off a subject of your chosen hue). The subject needn't fill most of the frame, as is typical for manual white balance measurement.
Movie. The Nikon D7000 featured high-def movie capture at up to 1080p resolution, but the D7100 goes several steps better. It offers Full HD movies too, but at a faster rate of up to 30 frames per second, instead of its predecessor's 24 fps. Drop the resolution to 720p, and you'll shoot at up to 60 fps, where the D7000 could manage only 30 fps. Enable the 1.3x crop mode, and you can manage an interlaced 1080i60 rate from 60 fps sensor data, as well.
Of course, there's still full-time contrast detection autofocus with face recognitions and tracking capability, and it has been improved in terms of speed and accuracy from that in the D7000. Single autofocus and manual focus are also possible. The Nikon D7100 also retains a dedicated Movie button, although as noted it's now better-located on the top deck, within quick reach of your index finger. As noted previously, creative effects and picture controls are all available for movie capture, too.
There's still an external mic jack, should you want to isolate your audio from autofocus drive noise. And movies shot without an external mic still include stereo audio, thanks to the new top-panel mic that replaced the D7000's front-panel mono mic. Better still, you can now monitor audio during capture, thanks to a stereo headphone jack, and you can quickly access mic levels to make adjustments within a 20-step range using the i-button.
Movies are saved with MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression and are limited to a maximum length of 29 minutes, 59 seconds. (Or, depending on the quality setting, a shorter limit of 20 minutes.) Once saved, you can edit movies in-camera, setting start and end points, and extracting frames as still images.
One function of the Nikon D7100's movie mode is particularly unusual: the ability to save 16:9 aspect still images as raw files. Note, though, that this applies only before video capture starts. Once video recording is underway, it must be stopped before you can capture a raw still.
Connectivity. As noted previously, the Nikon D7100 includes USB, Type-C Mini HDMI, microphone, headphone, and GPS / wired remote connectivity. The HDMI port allows for a simultaneous live view display, but it isn't yet clear whether this will allow an uncompressed output without overlays, for capture with an external device. We do know, however, that it supports the Consumer Electronics Control standard, for remote control of playback functions from an attached high-def TV's remote. The GPS / remote connection, meanwhile, is compatible with the GP-1 and GP-1a GPS receivers and MC-DC2 remote cord.
Wireless. If that's not enough, you can also opt for wireless or wired networking connectivity via external accessories. The Nikon D7100 supports the company's WU-1a wireless mobile adapter, with a 49-foot range, and able to transfer to or provide for remote control from Android and iOS devices with a free app. You can also use the Nikon UT-1 communications unit, with allows transfer to PCs or via FTP over an ethernet network, as well as remote camera control.
The D7100 is also compatible with Nikon's affordable WR-R10 and WR-T10 radio remotes, which have a range of about 197 feet. Or you can control the camera from a really long way away -- up to 394 feet, or more if you daisy chain remotes -- using the new 2.4 GHz WR-1 transceiver. The latter also allows for all sorts of multi-camera configs using a variety of channels and groups, trigger delays, and so forth. It even lets you change some camera settings remotely.
Storage. The Nikon D7100 stores images on dual Secure Digital card slots, as did its predecessor. There's an important change, though. They're still compatible with the higher-capacity SDHC / SDXC cards, and the higher-speed UHS-I cards, but the latter have the potential for much greater speed. That's because the UHS-I mode supports a clock frequency of 198 MHz, versus just 81 MHz in the D7000. That allows a maximum transmission speed of 99 MB/second, versus the D7000's 40.5 MB/second. You'll need a UHS104-compatible card to support this speed, though. Oh, and Wi-Fi capable Eye-Fi cards are still supported, too.
Power. The D7100 draws its power from the same EN-EL15 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack as did the D7000, but its battery life is rather more abbreviated. That's doubtless due to a combination of the extra processing power onboard, the extra resolution of the images (and power taken to process and store them), and the more sophisticated autofocus and other systems. The net loss is kept to a minimum with changes like the more efficient viewfinder overlay, and the new RGBW LCD panel, but there's only so much they can do. Battery life is still fairly generous, at 950 shots, but it lags the D7000 by about 100 shots (or 9.5%).
You can supplement battery life with a new portrait / battery grip, the Nikon MB-D15. This accepts either one EN-EL15 or six AA batteries, and supplements the pack mounted in-camera. (You can choose which will be drained first -- the internal pack, or the external batteries.) And external power is catered for with an EH-5b AC Adapter coupled to an EP-5B Power Connector.
Price and availability. The Nikon D7100 goes on sale in the US market from March 2013. It will be available both body-only, and in a kit with an AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens. Suggested retail pricing for the body-only variant is around US$1,200, unchanged from that of the D7000 at launch. With-lens pricing, though, is around US$100 higher than that for the D7000 with the same lens. Nikon expects the D7100 / 18-105mm bundle to sell at around US$1,600 at retail. The MB-D15 battery grip and WR-1 transceiver ship at the same time, but pricing for these items wasn't available at press time.
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