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Chris Smith is a professional photographer in Charleston, SC. A photographer for almost 30 years, Chris offers a superior knowledge of creating perfect images. For many years, Chris has been the official photographer of the Family Circle Cup, a professional tennis tournament held annually in Daniel Island's tennis stadium

First Nikon D7100 Real World Impressions

Since I just received one of the first batch of Nikon D7100 cameras in the country, I thought photographing the Charleston Fashion Week would be the perfect real-world oportunity to run it through it’s paces!

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I’m primarily a full-frame shooter. My tools of choice for most assignments are a pair of Nikon D4 cameras. You just can’t get any better than those cameras for speed, efficiency, versatility, durability, and image quality! Let’s face it, they are the top-of-the-line, best cameras Nikon makes…period.

But I also find a lot of situations where it’s desirable to have a more compact body, or a DX body. For example, I like hiding remote cameras in obscure places like choir lofts during weddings, or behind backboards when shooting basketball for ESPN. Here, the compact size and lighter weight really helps. Another prime example is when I want more telephoto effect. Granted, it doesn’t change the actual magnification of the subject, but the crop factor of a DX camera body makes my 400mm lens fill the frame like a 600mm would. This is very useful for shooting sports and wildlife.

Up until now, I’ve been using the Nikon D300 as my compact camera of choice. It’s still an AMAZING camera! But at 5 years old, the improvements in technology and image quality meant it was time for a replacement. Like many, I had my hopes set on Nikon revealing a full-on D400. Alas, after much research, I believe the D7100 is replacing both the D300 AND D7000 in the Nikon lineup. I hope I’m wrong. But for now, Nikon is calling the D7100 their “Flagship DX model”.

First, the bad news: There are three specific things I would like to have seen done differently if this is indeed the rumored D300 replacement.
– Faster frame advance
– Larger memory buffer
– Back button focus
There are plenty of places online to look up the camera specs. So I’ll spare you the details. As a REAL shooter in REAL LIFE situations, these are the only things I would have liked to have seen improved/added to this model. But at 1/5th the price of my D4 bodies, I can’t complain. It’s really a superb camera for the money!

Now the good news: I am EXTREMELY impressed with the D7100!
– The body is solid with polished fit and finish and excellent weather sealing
– The new focus system is incredibly fast and accurate
– Image quality, resolution, dynamic range, and color depth is astounding

I brought both the Nikon D4 and D7100 to photograph Charleston Fashion Week so I could compare them side-by-side in real-world shooting situations. Fashion shows aren’t the easiest things to shoot since you have to rely on the available (usually quite dim) light, while still getting a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action. Both cameras fared very well with negligible numbers of rejects due to mis-focus. The D4 certainly prevailed with it’s faster frame rate, larger buffer, quicker responsiveness, and cleaner high-iso files. But the D7100 performed quite admirably! I did occasionally have to wait to preview an image on the LCD screen while the buffer wrote to memory. And the shutter lag was a tad behind. But none of this made me miss any moments!

As of this writing, the camera is so new that Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 4 have not upgraded their algorithms to recognize the D7100 RAW images. But there’s an excellent work-around using Exiftool at http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/51099174, which I used.

Here are several images for comparison. All were shot on either 1600 or 3200 ISO. All were shot on Kelvin 4100 WB setting. And all were shot with the same Nikkor 200-400VR.  No noise reduction, white balance, exposure compensation, or retouching was done in post-processing. These are straight JPG conversions from the original RAW files. (The only caveat being that the D7100 EXIF data reads as a D5200 file per the EXIFtool hack I had to use to get LR4 to read the files.)  Looking at the images, I’d say the D7100 at ISO 1600 is close, but still not equal, to the D4 at ISO 3200.  And it’s definitely better than the D300, with twice as many pixels.  That’s a pretty impressive trick for this much smaller and less expensive new camera!  Check out the rest of the images from the shoot at http://chrisandcami.com/blog/2013/03/22/charleston-fashion-week-with-nikon-d7100/.

I’m including a sample image from each camera at 1600 and 3200 ISO, along with a 100% crop of each image for comparison. All images were exported at web-resolution with default screen sharpening.

Nikon D4, 1/500 sec, f4, ISO 3200

100% crop from above

Nikon D4, 1/250 sec, f4, ISO 1600

100% crop from above

Nikon D7100, 1/400 sec, f4, ISO 3200

100% crop from above

Nikon D7100, 1/200 sec, f4, ISO 1600

100% crop from above

  • Douglas Carr Cunningham

    I appreciate the short review at ISO1600! And I see the difference as you describe between the Nikon D4 and D7100. I can only agree with your assessment, and I am impressed with the new APS-C sensor results at 24mp. I’d love to have the D7100, but I love full-frame, too. Thanks, Chris.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=634336350 Jimmy Thigpen

    Awsome little review/comparison. Good job Chris!

  • Annette Flottwell

    thank you so much, that comparison says it all. it cerainly is a great camera, but not for low light or weddings 🙂
    will get a d800 as a second body now