Nikon D7100 review: A good camera, but not a no-brainer buy

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Design and features
While there are a few control layout changes -- some of which I like, others of which I don't -- overall the D7100 has the same look and feel as the D7000, with a nice grip and solid build quality. However, the new model is of sturdier construction; it's composed of magnesium alloy and weather-sealed much like the Nikon D300s. Overall, it remains a well-designed camera with a fluid shooting design.

The mode dial sits on the left shoulder of the camera, now with a small center button to prevent accidental mode changes. Options include the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes , a special-effects mode with a handful of the usual selections, and a couple of user settings slots. Beneath it is the release mode (drive modes) dial. On the right shoulder are the status display, metering mode and exposure compensation buttons, and a tiny, awkward-to-use movie record button.

The back has the typical Nikon layout as well. White balance, quality, and ISO sensitivity buttons (which double as playback controls) line the left side of the LCD, though now there's a new i button, distinct from the info button. On the right of the LCD is the big, lockable navigation switch, also used for focus-point selection, and the Live View/Movie Mode toggle switch with the button that invokes it.

The top half of the information display screen, summoned by the Info button, reflects changes you make via the buttons and dials. The new i button allows you to change the settings in the bottom gray area that there's no direct access to otherwise. Sarah Tew/CNET

Oddly, the D7100 seems to have one of the more crowded body fronts. At the top and bottom are right-hand-operated programmable buttons; on the left side, in addition to the lens release, are the switch and button for selecting focus mode and options, bracketing button (five frames up to two stops or three frames up to three stops), and button for popping up the flash and setting flash exposure compensation/options.

While the optical aspects of the viewfinder are effectively the same as the D7000's, the readout now uses an OLED display for higher-contrast text. There's also an overlay on the bottom and side that depicts off-level tilt to the left or right. Unfortunately, because it's overlaid on the scene rather than in the display area, it's hard to see against a dark subject or in dim light.

The LCD is larger and much higher-resolution than before, and sufficiently visible in bright sunlight, but I wish it were articulated.

Canon EOS 7D Nikon D5200 Nikon D7000 Nikon D7100 Pentax K-5 II / IIs Sony Alpha SLT-A77V
Sensor effective resolution 18MP hybrid CMOS
14 bits
24.1MP CMOS
14 bits
16.2MP CMOS
14 bits
24.1MP CMOS
14 bits
16.3MP CMOS
14 bits
24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
22.3mm x 14.9mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.6mm x 15.6mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.7mm x 15.7mm 23.5 mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/
200 - ISO 3200/6400 (exp)
ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 80 (exp)/
100 - ISO 12800/
51200 (exp)
ISO 50 (exp)/ 100 - ISO 16000
Burst shooting 7fps
25 raw/130 JPEG
5fps
n/a
6fps
n/a
6fps
(7fps in 1.3x crop mode)
n/a
7fps
8 raw/30 JPEG
8fps
(12fps with fixed exposure)
13 raw/ 14 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) 100% coverage
1.0x/0.63x
Optical
100% coverage
0.78x/0.52x
Optical
100%
coverage
0.95x/ 0.63x
Optical
100%
coverage
0.94x/0.63x
Optical
100% coverage
0.92x/ 0.61x
Electronic OLED
0.5 inches/2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/0.73x
Autofocus 19-pt phase-detection AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8 39-pt phase-detection AF
9 cross- type
(Multi-CAM 4800DX)
39-pt phase-detection AF
9 cross- type
(Multi- CAM 4800DX)
51-pt phase- detection AF
15 cross- type; center to f8 or faster
(Multi-CAM 3500DX)
11-pt phase-detection AF
9 cross- type
(SAFOX X)
19-pt phase-detection AF
11 cross- type
AF sensitivity -0.5 to 18 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 19 EV -2 to 19 EV -3 - 18 EV -1 - 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 x-sync
Shutter durability 150,000 cycles 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles
Metering 63-zone iFCL 2,016-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 1,005-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 2,016-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 77-segment 1,200-zone
Metering sensitivity 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 22 EV -2 - 17 EV
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p 1080/60i/ 50i/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p/ 25p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60i/ 50i/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p H.264 QuickTime MOV
(60i/50i only in 1.3x crop mode)
1080/25p; 720/30p/ 25p Motion JPEG AVI AVCHD 1080/
60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/ 30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Shutter only n/a Yes
Maximum best- quality recording time 4GB/29:59 min 20 min 4GB/20 min 4GB/29:59 min 4GB/25 min 29 min
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift
LCD size 3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
3 inches articulated
921,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3.2 inches fixed
1,228,800 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches articulated
921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x CF (UDMA 7) 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 1 x SDXC/ SDHC
(SDXC requires firmware upgrade)
1 x SDXC
Wireless flash Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 800 shots 500 shots 1,050 shots 950 shots 740 shots 470 shots
Size (WHD, inches) 5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1 5.2 x 4.2 x 3 5.3 x 4.2 x 3 5.2 x 3.8 x 2.9 5.8 x 4.1 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces) 35 19.9 27.3 27.3 26.1 (est.) 25.9
Mfr. price $1,599 (body only) $799.95 (body only) $1,350 (body only) $1,199.95 (body only) $1,095.95/
$1,199.95 (body only)
$1,099.99 (body only)
n/a $899.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens) $1,690 (with 18-105mm lens) $1,599.95 (with 18-105mm lens) $1,249.95 (with 18-55mm WR lens)/n/a $1,699.99 (with 16-50mm lens)
n/a $1,099.95 (with 18-105mm lens) $2,049 (with 18-200mm lens) n/a $1,449.95/ n/a (with 18-135mm WR lens) $1,399.99 (with 18-135mm lens)
Release date December 2009 January 2013 October 2010 March 2013 October 2012 October 2011

Nikon has also added a useful spot-white-balance feature, available only in Live View mode. With this you can select a white point in the scene to set the white balance with one click. Other tweaked features include a two-shot, tripod-free automatic HDR that works well for bringing out midtones and shadows in low-light exposures.

I'm not a big crop mode user, but if you use it for extending focal length, Nikon also adds a 1.3x crop mode for an effective 2x crop factor (Nikon's math, not mine), producing a 15.4-megapixel image. In that mode, continuous-shooting speed rises to about 7fps and you gain a 1080/60i/50i movie mode. It also has the Nikon-standard intervalometer feature.

For a complete accounting of the D7100's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
Like the Canon 60D and T4i when they were young, the Nikon D7100's advantage over its lower-cost sibling, the D5200, isn't photo quality; it's speed and build quality. But for a lot of folks the D5200 is fast enough, and if you don't need the extra speed or weather sealing, you're better off putting the money you save toward a really good lens. The D7100 is a great camera for still photography, but doesn't feel like a must-have upgrade unless you've got a significant investment in good Nikon-mount lenses and need speed and durability on a budget -- right now. But if you're not in a rush to buy, I'd wait and see if a D300s replacement is nigh and what it might have to offer.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Single-lens reflex digital camera
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 24.1 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.5mm