What were your first impressions?
Silver studded blues © Ross Hoddinott (D7100, 200mm, 400ISO, 1/250s, f/16)
Unless you’re desperate to have a full-frame camera, in terms of image quality you’re not making any compromises with it. I read somewhere that if you maintained its pixel density across a full-frame sensor it would equate to around 58 megapixels. The RAW files are certainly lovely – the images are so clean, the retention of highlight detail is good, and you can open up the shadow areas (if required) with the minimum introduction of noise. It’s great for landscape and nature work.
Having a cropped-type DX camera as a wildlife photographer is actually pretty useful, as it creates a larger working distance, reducing subject disturbance. And the additional 1.3x crop mode fits nicely with the new 51-point AF array, which effectively covers the entire cropped area.
Common blue damselflies © Ross Hoddinott (D7100, 200mm, 400ISO, 1/1250s, f/6.3)
How does it handle?
It’s excellent, with great ergonomics and a logical button placement, as you’d expect. The nice thing about all Nikon cameras is that once you’re familiar with one you can find your way round any of them, from entry model to flagship. Nikon has a tried-and-tested button layout that it doesn’t mess about with, so everything is just where you’d expect it and your fingers go naturally to the right buttons. It’s a real advantage when you’re looking to upgrade. Live View is very good too – I use it a lot to focus with macro work where you have to be so precise, and the clarity and brightness of the screen are superb, enabling you to scrutinise sharpness and image quality with confidence. And the TTL metering was great, coping well even with tricky backlit subjects.
Common poppy © Ross Hoddinott (D7100, 200mm, 100ISO, 1/400s, f/4.5)
What about the build quality?
It’s a nice weight, not too big or too small, and it feels solid and robust. You feel like you’ve got a serious bit of kit in your hand. And it’s weather-sealed so you know it can withstand the elements, as well as a few knocks.
How did you find the light sensitivity?
The low ISO performance is outstanding, and the higher ISO is excellent, too, particularly for a cropped-type DSLR. I do a lot of insect macros handheld, where the smallest movement gets exaggerated, so being able to shoot at ISO 400-800 more or less noise-free to generate a sufficiently fast shutter speed to compensate is pretty good.
Wimborne Minster © Ross Hoddinott (D7100, 28mm, 200ISO, 0.5s, f/11)
How does it stack up compared to your D800?
I think the D7100 compares well. Its image sharpness is great – and has some parallels with the D800E, like the exclusion of an optical low-pass filter – and I’d have no problems using pictures I’ve taken with it professionally. Although the file sizes are obviously smaller than the D800’s, I didn’t feel I was compromising – they’re great files and at up to A2 enlargement you could certainly use the files for normal magazine or book repro work.
So what’s your overall verdict?
I’m very, very impressed. It’s a camera that will appeal to any photographer. The nice thing is that it’s clearly inherited much of its DNA and specification from the D800 and D4, making it more than capable for the professional who wants a cropped-style second body in their kitbag. It’s also the ideal upgrade from an entry-level DX because it maintains some more basic features, catering for newer photographers as well – it’s not at all intimidating.