Courthouse HDR 1

Nikon D7100 Review (Hands On)

I've been excited about the release of the Nikon D7100 for over a year.

In late 2009 I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D5000, which has served me really well. I've gone back and forth between shooting with that and my dad's D90, and I'm finally at a point where my skills have justified the need for a more flexible camera.

I've almost pulled the trigger on a D7000 numerous times in the last year, so when I saw that the new D7100 was on the horizon, I was pretty much sold.

I picked up my camera this morning, and spent the afternoon out in Portland, Oregon putting it through it's paces and having some fun.  This is simply an overview first impression post of my experience with the camera thus far.

I'm also not going to go into all of the specific specs much because lets face it, all it takes is 5 seconds of Googling and you can have that information.

In the next week I'll be posting a separate post on both it's video capabilities, an HDR specific post, as well as another more in depth look at it once I've had some time to shoot more.

With that said, let's jump into this Nikon D7100 review, and see if it has lived up to its reputation so far.

Opening it Up

The moment I took this camera out of the box I knew I was in for something special.

As someone who is upgrading from a 5000 series camera there's a lot to like and be excited for with this new body.  The first thing I noticed is how much sturdier it feels.  It has the same weather proofing as the D800 and a magnesium alloy body, which compared to my mostly plastic D5000, simply feels more professional.

Along with that it's hard not to notice how much has changed on the camera. For being a relatively similar design, you can do so much more without having to dig through menu after menu.  The programmable function button along with the dedicated bracketing button (a must for HDR) was enough to turn me into a giddy child again.

I was kind of surprised to see no plastic screen protector ala the D90 and D7000, but I've gotta say, the screen is beautiful – much higher resolution than my old 5000, and even higher than the still good looking D7000 screen.

That being said, it only took about 5 minutes of shooting in direct sunlight to really realize how much I was struggling to see it in daylight.  A few menus later and I got the brightness ratcheted up to 5 and the oled screen was crystal clear no matter how bright the sun was.

First Impression: Shooting

Just a couple snaps in I began to realize I'm in different territory.  While this still isn't necessarily a “professional” camera, the increase in frame rate and shutter quality was extremely noticeable.  The shutter button feels much more sensitive, and if you're not careful it was very easy to bang out 3 shots in a row on burst mode.

While those with the D7000 may not notice a huge advantage between the 39 point and new 51 point autofocus system – coming from my 11 point system on my old camera was night and day.

Getting focus right was always a big challenge for me, and within a couple hours of shooting with this, I was amazed at just how much better it was.  I could pick any point I wanted and it would focus quickly and accurately – something that used to always be very hit and miss.

Nikon D7100 test shot

I could pick any rail I wanted and it would lock on immediately

This ended up being a little bit of an impulse buy today, and I blew off some other engagements to be able to go and take some photos.  So that said, everything was shot with a 35mm f/1.8 – in the next few posts I'll try out some other lenses, but I must say this Nikkor lens felt like a perfect match to the D7100.  The bokeh was spot on, and once I began to understand exactly how the autofocus modes worked, I became even more happy with my purchase.

Here are a couple more I took walking around my neighborhood. Keep in mind these are all completely unedited and straight out of the camera:

Nikon D7100 Flowers

Nikon D7100 Flower

Notable Features

Considering I've only spent a couple hours hands on with the camera so far, I really can't go into too much detail on the feature set of the camera.  All I can say though is, wow.  As far as I can tell it pretty much has every feature that you could want on a camera.  Custom settings at the touch of a button? Yep. Bracketing and HDR? You got it. Intervelometer? Mmmhmmm.

The list goes on. Sure many things like selective color aren't going to be that interesting to the die hard (especially if you have Silver Efex Pro), but I'll admit sometimes it's nice to have options and to be able to have fun with your camera from time to time.

As far as the dedicated HDR mode goes, I had very low expectations.  I still haven't done much aside from one quick test, and I've gotta say, for the first time ever – it actually seemed to work.  The HDR modes on my Iphone and Canon S110 are a complete joke, so why should this be any different, right?

Well I'll let you be the judge.  The first image was shot without HDR and the second was with the built in single HDR shot turned on:

D7100 HDR Comparison

HDR Mode Off

Now without changing any of the other camera settings aside from turning on HDR…

Nikon D7100 HDR Mode On

HDR Mode On…

Not bad right??

Generally speaking the colors on the camera seem very true.  And have I mentioned the autofocus? Yeah, I'm still that impressed.

US Bancorp Tower D7100

A Quick Note on Nikon D7100 for HDR

As I mentioned I'm going to do a full write up about the HDR capabilities of this camera, but to put it bluntly, I believe this is the best DX format camera for HDR Nikon has ever put out.

Why? Well for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that you can now automatically bracket up to 5 images, instead of the standard 3.  And if you are shooting 3 brackets you can go as wide as +/-3 stops now, instead of just two.

For someone who primarily just shoots HDR, this is HUGE. It makes a big difference in day to day shooting, and will make the results that much better.

I can't wait to actually get to work shooting some more HDR photos.

In the meantime, I did take one very quick shot this evening. I was waiting for a friend to pick me up for dinner, and unfortunately he showed up right when I was getting set.  So I snapped the shots with no tripod, and hardly taking time to setup the shot.  Gotta say, I was pretty amazed at how well it turned out.  There are some ghosting issues and such to deal with, but if nothing else this just leaves me excited about just what this bad boy is going to be able to do.

Nikon D7100 HDR Photo

Edited very quickly with HDR Efex Pro 2

Have you shot with a D7100 yet? Thinking about buying one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Grab the new Nikon D7100 from BH Photo and get 2% back in rewards!


There are 3 comments

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  1. Lukas

    Hi Sean,
    thank You for a great Review!
    It definitely assured me in the choice that I am going to pick up one masterpiece tommorow!
    I Can`t wait to shoot those amazing HDRs.
    I am subscribing Your blog 😉

  2. Sharper Living

    I actually recently purchased a D7100 because I couldn’t stretch to a D600 (wanted better low-light performance).

    Can’t argue with it so far; a couple moments with some slow focusing (but have heard the 35mm lens is responsible). Other than that, it’s fantastic… Really enjoying it.

    It is also surprisingly fast; means you can use the lens wide open, which is always nice.

  3. James M. Gross

    The D7100 also has a large pupillary exit. I can use the viewfinder *WITH* my glasses on. What a happy moment that was!

    Still trying to understand why there is shutter lag occasionally when shooting with flash. Any ideas?

    Overall love the camera.

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