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First Look: Nikon D7100: a fast-shooting, well-designed camera

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First Look: Nikon D7100: a fast-shooting, well-designed camera

2:40 /

Nikon's D7100 may only be worth the extra cash if you need a faster Nikon right now.

This long overdue update to the Nikon D7000 doesn't stand out from the crowd as much as it probably should for the money. Don't get me wrong. The D7100 is an excellent camera, but with missing capabilities in an excellent but not class-leading image quality, it's not a no-brainer buy especially over the cheaper D5200. While there are few control layout changes, overall the D7100 has the same look and feel as the D7000 including the nice script and the solid built quality. The new model is a sturdier construction. It's composed of magnesium alloy and it's weather sealed much like the D300S. Overall, it remains well-designed camera with a fluid shooting design. General highlights include dual SD card slots, stereo mic, a lockable mode dial and increased access to settings without having to jump into the menus. But there's one face-palm worthy low light. No aperture-controlling video mode. Well, the viewfinder is effectively the same as the D7000. The readout now uses an OLED display for a higher contrast text. There's also an overlay on the bottom inside which depicts off-level tilt to the left or to the right. Unfortunately, because it's overlaid on the scene rather than into the display area, it's hard to see against the dark subject or in dim light. Nikon has also added a useful spot white balance feature which is available only in live view mode. It operates by letting you select a white point in the scene to set the white balance with one click. Other tweak features include a two-shot tripod free automatic HDR feature which works well for bringing out mid tones and shadows in low light exposures. The camera's fast with zippy face detection autofocus and faster contrast AF than the D7000. And it delivers a class-leading tested frame rate of 6.3 frames per second for an unlimited number of JPEGs. And do wish the Raw Buffer were deeper than 6 shots though. The image quality is still good with some extra sharpness-- thanks to the lack of an anti-aliasing filter on the sensor but it's not-- gee, whiz wow better than the cheaper D5200 which uses a different sensor. The D7100 advantage over its lower cost sibling isn't about photo quality. It's speed and built quality. But for a lot of folks, the D5200 is fast enough and you're better off putting the money you save towards a really good lens if you don't need the extra speed or weather sealing. The D7100 is a great camera for still photography but doesn't feel like a must-have upgrade unless you have a significant investment and good Nikon mount lenses and need speed and durability on a budget right now. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Nikon D7100.

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