Solid upgrade for Nikon DSLR users
The Star/Asia News Network
THE Nikon D7100 is the firm's new top-of-the-line APS-C-image-sensor DSLR.
On the surface, the D7100 looks like its sibling, the D7000, except that one side is curvier and it is slightly lighter.
The changes aren't just cosmetic. The D7100 packs in some of the best features of higher-end Nikon cameras and adds some of its own.
SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT
The D7100 has a better grip than the D7000 and the new camera feels more solid. The mode dial is slightly bigger and now comes with a lock to prevent accidental mode change by bumping.
On the back, the LCD is slightly larger and has more dots, while the Live View switch has been changed from a slider to the same push-button type that is on the D600 and D800 models.
The camera has a stereo headphone port, so you can monitor audio levels when recording video.
Inside, the changes are more substantial - apart from a new 24MP APS-C (or DX, as Nikon calls it) image sensor, the D7100 comes equipped with the 51-point autofocus system found in Nikon's professional DSLRs - a first for the firm's DSLRs in this price range.
Another notable change is the viewfinder display. It uses white Oled technology for the information display, which is brighter and easier to see.
The shutter mechanism has seen an upgrade - it still shoots at six frames per second (fps), but using the new "1.3x crop of DX" mode, the camera can go up to 7fps. The new shutter mechanism is less noisy and has less vibration than the D7000.
The D7100, like the D800E, has no low-pass filter, which makes pictures potentially sharper, but also perhaps more prone to moire effects.
A low-pass filter prevents the phenomenon called moire, which is a kind of colour banding that occurs when fine, repeating details, like those on textiles, cause an interference pattern with the image sensor.
The D7100 is a very competent camera. It produces very sharp and well-exposed images in a variety of situations.
What really impressed me was the number of usability tweaks that Nikon has added.
Instead of having to wade into the menu system to turn on Auto ISO, like on the D7000, you can now hold down the ISO button on the back of the camera and twirl the front command dial to turn it on.
Like recent Nikon DSLRs, the Auto ISO setting has been tweaked to automatically choose a shutter-speed-and-ISO combination based on the focal length of the lens, which means you get fewer shots that are blur because of camera shake.
Autofocus on the D7100 is noticeably faster than on the D7000 and it works with lower light levels.
Something that does take some getting used to is the arrangement of buttons on the left side of the LCD.
Not only have the positions of the "+" and "-" zoom buttons been reversed, relative to the D7000, but the addition of an "i" button below them also makes it a little confusing.
The controls for video recording are now consistent across the Nikon DSLR range - the record button has been moved to the top plate, just behind the shutter release, while the Live View button is on the back, with a switch to choose between stills- and video-centric display.
In a first for a Nikon DSLR, the D7100 has a stereo microphone array on the top to record stereo audio when shooting video. You can also plug in an external microphone for better quality audio.
Battery life is very good - it seems to be on a par with the D7000, which is no slouch when it comes to battery life.
Despite the increase in megapixel count, the D7100 has a noticeable high-ISO advantage over the D7000.
At every ISO setting, the D7100 produces less noise and has more detail.
Looking at the files produced by the D7100, I wouldn't hesitate to use ISO3200, with ISO6400 still usable if I was desperate.
The D7000, on the other hand, is usable up to ISO1600, with ISO3200 still usable at a pinch.
Does the absence of a low-pass filter make the D7100 take significantly sharper pictures?
Well, the differences aren't that great - the 24MP images from the D7100 are definitely sharper than images from the D7000, but this could be due to higher-megapixel count.
Without a low-pass filter, there is a slight edge in sharpness when it comes to fine details, but it's not as significant as you'd think.
What about moire? Out of the many shots I took, I noticed moire in only one or two of my shots.
After spending some time with the D7100, I must admit that I was sorely tempted to switch up.
The D7100 may look a lot like the D7000, but it has better ISO performance, resolution, autofocus, video-recording ability, handling and LCD.
With so many changes under the hood, the D7100 is the best that you can get in the Nikon APS-C (DX) DSLR range.