Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nikon D7100 - First Impressions - 04 Apr 2013

When Nikon had announced a new 'flagship' DX camera in their lineup it was thought that the D300s finally had the replacement we'd all been waiting for.  The Nikon D7100 was introduced, and it boasted many, very nice features that piqued many an interest: 24 MP, all-weather sealing, partially-magnesium body, and removal of the anti-aliasing (AA) filter that would provide even more detail in images.  Sadly, further research showed a slower 6 fps Continuous output (vs. 8 fps on the D300s) and a smaller memory buffer for continuous shooting.

Still, I was in need of a replacement camera, since we are going to Africa this summer and I've already exceeded the rated shutter counts on both D300's we have.  So, after much research (pondering a 36MP 'FX' D800e or a 24MP FX D600) I opted to pull the trigger on the D7100.  A trip to ProCam in Livonia, and a great deal from George, I was now a D7100 shooter.

First impressions? I was thrilled to see that the EN-EL15 batteries that come w/ the camera are the same batteries I use for digiscoping w/ the Nikon V1.  Excellent!  The kit lens 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens is surprisingly light and very sharp.  A quick shot of Buffy produced a razor sharp image w/ little noise and lots of fine detail in her fur.

I then headed outside w/ the 300mm f/2.8 VRII attached and chased down a couple of American Robins on the front lawn.  I found the camera body a bit too light on the back end of the much-heavier telephoto lens, so without the accompanying battery pack it felt a bit unwieldy.  Still, I managed a nice sharp image of an angry Robin from about 20'.  ISO 1600 image produced acceptable noise that cleaned up nicely in Photoshop.

What I did find, however, was an unusual number of soft images that had me questioning whether the focus calibration needed adjusting.  For the next 3 hours I 'fought' the menus of the camera trying to adjust the focus so that I calibrate focus using a calibration chart.  The camera kept selecting the bottom left corner focus points, and I couldn't figure out to center them.  After RTFM I finally found the menu options that would allow me to set center focus and focus area so that with a half-press of the shutter I could lock focus on the center of the screen.  A quick check of the focus calibration returned a value of +0 (no adjustment needed!).


The camera also comes with a nice (additional) 1.3X crop mode on top of the normal 'DX' crop mode.  With a quick selection of the menu I can switch from 24MP 'DX' Mode to a 16MP '1.3X' mode that crops the screen area in camera.  This bumps Continuous shooting up to a respectable 7 fps.  The above image was shot using both modes from the same distance.  No loss in IQ was observed in the crop mode.  With the 1.4X TCII on the 300mm f/2.8 VRII the camera now gives me an equivalent 840mm reach!

I then chased a few birds around the yard to test the properly-focused and Exposure-Compensated (-0.7) sensor.  This Common Grackle was in some harsh light, but provided a nice opportunity to photograph its iridescent blue head on a black body.

The Robins were a bit more cooperative and provided some nice feather detail from about 15' away.  Incidentally, the camera allows you to select an auto-ISO range and a minimum shutter speed that I never used w/ the D300s.  So I have a range of ISO 100-800 w/ a minimum shutter speed of 1/400sec. that seems to ensure sharp captures under most conditions.


This fluffed up American Goldfinch stayed long enough for a photo from about 20' away.  Feather detail showed up very nicely w/ almost no background noise at ISO 500.

And I couldn't quit before grabbing a quick photo of Asia as she set next to the garage.

I don't think moire is going to be an issue (not having the AA filter), so I'm extremely pleased with the performance of this camera.  I'm looking forward to getting the battery pack so it'll be a bit more stable w/ the 300/2.8 VRII.  I'm looking forward to getting out this weekend to try my hand at birds in flight w/ this combo. Stay tuned!


1 comment:

The Geeks said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)

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