Should I buy a Nikon D7100?

D7100_heroIf you’re in the Nikon world you’ve heard about the recent announcement of the new Nikon D7100 (unless you were under a rock somewhere).  Predictably enough, the Nikon sections of the various photography forums are ablaze with questions of whether a given photographer should upgrade.

If you’ve found your way here, you might be wondering the same thing.  Regular readers of Enthusiast Photographer are probably predicting my answer already:  for the vast majority of people, it is “It depends, but probably not.”

Heresy.  Crazy talk.  Doesn’t a new camera make your images better?

Usually not.

Here’s the thing – why do you want to upgrade?  What isn’t your current camera doing for you?  In what way or ways are you exceeding the capabilities of the camera? Do you know the camera inside and out?

If you can’t answer those questions in some detail, you probably don’t need to upgrade (but you want to ;))

The desire is always there for the latest thing, and certainly the D7100 is a compelling camera.  If you’re carrying a D90 or D7000 (especially the latter), my recommendation is probably to sit tight.  Yes, the autofocus system is more capable and sophisticated as you go up from the D90 to the D7000 to the D7100.  Yes, you get more megapixels at each step.  The D7000 has a pretty big jump in ability to pull details out of shadows (dynamic range) vs. the D90, and we can assume the D7100 offers even further improvement.  There is a small bump in low light (ISO) performance – likely to be less than a stop between the D90 and the D7100, which isn’t much.

As I’ve said many times here, you can generally get better and more enduring benefits from investing in high-quality lenses than buying a new body.  The lenses will usually work on your next body.  If they don’t they tend to keep their value extremely well, especially compared to a body (which is more like a car – the older it gets, the less it is worth).

Maybe you can answer the questions above, know your camera inside and out and you have a clear idea of what problems the D7100 solves for you – you’ve wrung every bit of performance out of whatever camera you own.  Maybe you’ve got a complete kit of great glass and you’re ready to take the next step with the body.  If one or more of those is true, the D7100 will be a great camera to have.

If you’re on an older body, a D70 or a D80, I think the case for replacing your body is stronger.  There are a LOT of improvements in features, usability and performance in a D7100 over those cameras.  It might be wise to save a few bucks and grab a D7000 as it begins its ride into the sunset, too…

There are a lot of sensor-bullies on the internet who will say your aren’t getting good images quality unless you have the latest sensor, which is ridiculous.  Every other camera that went before didn’t suddenly become less capable – Nikon just took another step forward.  There are lots of ways to improve your images, and the top three are, in order most to least:

  1. Improve the photographer
  2. Shoot with better lenses
  3. Shoot with the best camera you can

OK – that is a little arbitrary, but it is pretty darn true! 😀

At the end of the day, it is hard to get away from the desire to buy a new body.  My general advice is to resist and focus on the other two things.  The next body will always be there…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the D7100, upgrading or any other topic – feel free to comment!

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28 thoughts on “Should I buy a Nikon D7100?

  1. I have a Nikon D300 and I am planning on picking up the D7100, but keeping my D300 as a backup.

    Why do I want to upgrade? Because the D300 is aging. Its ISO performance is sub-par at best, and I find that the dynamic range output just isn’t enough. I really want to see a sample RAW file, and get to play with it first though.

    I’m impressed by a lot of the features included in the D7100, especially the lack of an AA filter. I have had the fantastic opportunity to play with a modified D300s with the AA filter removed, and the difference is mind blowing. Massive increases in image clarity, and moire can be fixed in post anyway- it’s as simple as moving a slider in Lightroom.

    Do I want to wait for a D400? Yes and no. I’m a poor college student, and seeing as the D7100 is priced at 1.2k for the body I feel like the D400 will be somewhere around the price of the original D300 at 1.6-1.7k. I don’t have that kind of money, and I’m not willing to sell any of my lenses in my kit just to upgrade to a new DX camera.

    Hi-Ho upgrades!

    • Dylan: Thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer – hope you’ll come back (and comment) often!

      It sounds like you know why you want to upgrade, and there is nothing wrong with that. Certainly the improved sensor of the D7100 is attractive, and I think you’re right about the price-point of a D400 if it ever happens. I’d recommend you go check out a D7000 (or even better, borrow one from a pal) and see what you think about the handling. The D7100 (and the D600) have the “prosumer” handling – think more “hold a button and spin a knob” or menus than the switches you currently have on your D300 for adjusting settings like metering mode and (most used by me) the AF focus point modes. I can change a lot of things on my D300s without even looking at the camera, and that has saved me more shots than the sensor.

      That’s just me – I’m so much faster with my D300s than I was with the D90/D70 that I had before, which have pretty much the same handling as the D7000/D7100.

      As for moire, it can sometimes be very difficult to remove in post. The good news is you can easily avoid it with slight changes to composition, aperture, etc.

      The last thing I’ll say is this (repeating what is in the blog): If there is any glass you’re lusting over, I’d prioritize that over the D7100. If you’re set on glass, like the handling of the D7100 and have the cash, I think you’ll wind up happy!

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. I’m currently using my mother’s old D70, and I’m quite sure I will by a new camera house pretty soon – after all, I won’t live under my mother’s roof forever. I wish to believe I’m not THAT bad a photographer, but I know far from everything. So, basically, I was just wondering if you would recommend the D7000 or the D7100. Economically, I am in favor of the D7000, but I am worried that if I do not go for the latest update, I will soon find my self in need of a new house again, and this is something I really want to avoid.

    What’s your opinion?

    • Maja – thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer!

      I’m not sure I can make a recommendation – what lenses do you own? What kinds of things do you photograph? Is there something specific you’re looking to improve with the new body? (another way of asking that question is “what isn’t the your D70 doing for you?”)

      I would expect that the D7000 will be around as a new body for a while, and even longer as a factory refurb, so I wouldn’t rush it. Of course, the D7100 will be around for a long time!

      The D7000 is a fine camera, and it would certainly be an upgrade from a D70. There is nothing wrong with “old” sensors – they might not have today’s tech, but they can still take great photos!

      More a bit later…

      • Uhmm I just bought a Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G, and apart from that it’s an old (I think it came with the camera) 18-70mm something and a telephoto lens. What I enjoy photographing most is people, really, but I want to be able to photograph pretty much anything, erm.

        And as for the D70… It’s the noise. It works quite well now, with the 50mm lens, but the noise is still quite bad at poor lightning conditions. I suppose the noise reduction is quite similar for both the D7000 and D7100 though.

      • The D7100 didn’t really improve on the D7000’s ISO or Dynamic Range performance. The big differences are the improved resolution and the “pro” autofocus system.

        The 39-point AF system on the D7000 is very, very good and 16MP is a LOT of resolution. If you’re shooting RAW, those files can be 20MB, which can add up to a lot of storage in a hurry, and your computer will take longer when you’re editing them. I haven’t seen numbers yet, but expect the D7100 RAW files to be close to 30MB each.

        I think the D7000 is an amazing camera for the money it is selling for today as a new or refurb camera. Since you’ve got a somewhat limited number of lenses and you’re on a budget, I’d angle toward the D7000.

        Consider picking up Thom Hogan’s guide to the D7000 (or the D7100 if you choose that, though I don’t think he’s released it yet). It is pretty technical, but an amazing resource and can especially help you get the most out of the autofocus system. As always, I recommend Scott Kelby’s “Digital Photography” series and Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” as great way to improve as well.

  3. Hi – I really need advice. I use my D80 constantly, and wish to have better and more consistent results shooting indoors with no flash, often times at school and church events, including museum field trips with no flash allowed…which are used by church/school in myriad ways. I have a good eye but stink at manual settings and constantly revert to “Auto” when the action is happening, otherwise I end up with blur and disaster. I have a Nikkor 24-70mm 1:2.8 that I use sometimes but again struggle with no-flash photography. I have a Canon HD Vixia videocam, so I don’t need video on my camera but it seems it’s on all the newer DSLRs. I have a nice top mount flash but the colors in the church look so much nicer when no flash is used…but I’d like less noise. Advice?

    • Rhondi:

      First, my first recommendation for folks trying to get off “Auto” is to read Scott Kelby’s “Digital Photography” series (the first and third were the most helpful for me) and then read Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure”. These books will give you a FAR better idea of how to get the most out of your camera.

      As far as equipment, you’ve got an amazing lens in the 24-70. Beyond that, there are three things I can suggest:
      – Get a good prime. My go-to lens for travel and low-light is my 35mm f/1.8. It gives you a lot more flexibility in low light and gives you the “nifty fifty” field of view on a DX sensor (like the D80 or the cameras below). They are pretty inexpensive, too (about $200 new). It will work an any new DX body you get, too…
      – Get a used D7000 (~$650-$700) or a new D7100 ($1199). The D7100 is a nice step, but probably not worth the extra money since the D7000 is very nearly as good. Either is a huge jump up from your D80 for low light, autofocus and more. For the difference between the D7000 and D71000 you can have the 35 f/1.8 and still have some money left to put toward the amazing and fabulous 85mm f/1.8G (around $500 new).
      – Get some support. Consider a monopod and/or tripod. It makes it a lot easier to shoot in low light when you have some support. This option can wind up being pricey, which is why I have it listed third, I own both, and they are an essential part of my kit.

      I’m happy to answer any other questions – thanks for stopping by, too!!

  4. Pingback: More D400 Rumors | Enthusiast Photographer

  5. Dear Lee,
    I own a D70 for sometime now and I am a beginning photographer. I have a nikon 100-300, a Tamron 100-250 lens and a nikon18-55 lens. I have been shooting pictures mostly with the Tamron lens and having decent pictures taken mostly by using auto focus mode. But my only concern is that the pictures are not that sharp as I wanted them to be, esp when I enlarge them on my desktop. I am mostly a wildlife, outdoor photographer. So, would it help buying a d7100? Also, what would be a good choice for a lens if I want to take really close pictures of bugs, bees, flowers etc, which I cannot do with my current lenses in great detail. I appreciate any piece of advice you may have.
    Cheers,
    RK

    • RK – my apologies for the long delay in my reply. Have been on vacation and traveling on business quite a bit lately. Anyway here are a few thoughts:

      First, sharpness generally has a lot more to do with glass than the body. You have some duplication in your lineup (and I’m guessing your Tamron is the 18-250 since I don’t see anything on the web for a 100-250). All of your glass is “slow”, meaning you’re probably shooting at apertures of f/5.6 or higher at the long end, which is probably making your shutter speeds slow. When you’re zoomed out, it is going to be hard to get a sharp shot, especially if the wildlife is on the move. Certainly a newer body like a D7000 or D7100 will give you more ISO to work with, but I suspect it won’t give you as much as you’d like.

      Depending on your budget, I’d consider a mild upgrade to your body (maybe a D90 or a D300, which are $500 or less used) and look for a better lens for wildlife shooting. Maybe an older 80-200 f/2.8, which is around $800 used. A newer body with limited glass is still going to be a compromise for what you’re shooting.

      Also, pay close attention to your technique – are you rolling the shutter or mashing it? Are you nice and stable? Consider a monopod/head combo (see my review of the Sunwayfoto head: https://enthusiastphotographer.com/2012/07/22/sunwayfoto-ddh-02-and-dt-01-review/)

      Wildlife is a tough gig – you see lots of folks shooting the newer 70-200 VR1/VRII lenses and 300 f/4 and beyond – fairly pricey glass…

      Hope that was helpful, and feel free to ask more questions!

      Lee…

  6. Hi ! I too am on a similar line. I am using a D90 with 50mm F1.8 lens , 18-105 mm kit lens and a 70-300 mm f5.6 lens. I use my 70-300mm lens the most for capturing birds. However, what I have observed is the moment I crop my bird photograph I loose the crisp focus on the bird’s eye. Is this due to the low MP of the D90 camera body or a lens issue or a focusing issue. I have analysed the problem to the low MP of D90. Should I go for a D7100 upgrade to resolve this issue? Is the upgrade worth ?

  7. Hi Aparajita! Thanks for stopping by! I’d start by looking at what shutter speed you’re shooting at. Are you using S (shutter priority) mode? What ISO are you shooting at?

    The D7100 has a higher max shutter speed over the D90 (1/8000) but the ISO performance isn’t that much different (less than half a stop, which isn’t much). The D7100 has far better dynamic range, which lets you pull more detail out of the shadows, but that isn’t much help for wildlife shooting IMHO.

    If you’re shooting in low light, consider a good tripod/head or monopod/head. I’d also see what you can afford for a fixed aperture lens. If you can afford a used 70-200 VRI f/2.8, I think you’d see a significant improvement in your “keeper” rate since it is a minimum two full “stops” faster than the 70-300 at the long end of the zoom range (which is where I’m guessing you are when shooting birds). If $1300 or so is out of your range, the old 80-200 ED f/2.8 is a really nice lens. Both of these are pretty heavy lenses though – a monopod or tripod is recommended if you’re shooting for a long time, plus the obvious bonus of stability. Check FredMiranda Buy/Sell board for a reliable group of folks to buy from: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/10

    Lastly, I’d make sure your autofocus settings are optimized for wildlife shooting – I’m no expert, and have forgotten what the specifics of the D90 options, but shooting in AF-C will help. It was recommended to me that VR be turned off since it adds lag time.

    Net: I’d look at support and glass before moving from the D90. Look at your shutter speeds and shoot in Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority mode (set to the widest aperture).

    Hope this helps! Feel free to ask any other questions!

    Lee…

  8. Hi Lee!
    I am also facing the problem of exchanging my old camera for D7100. In one of comments you wrote that you use the D300s and that’s the thing which made me to write :). The point is that I am considering those two models… I will use it mostly for sports photography, but the values of using them in other categories are also very important. I must say that this will be my first Nikon camera (I use Sony) and It’s not so easy for me to spend so much money, that’s why I’d like to ask about one more thing, should I rely on kit lenses or should I buy only the body and one lens but much better? Sony kits are not so good…
    Thanks!
    Karolina

    • Karolina:

      Hi – thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer! Sports photography is a tough area. It is very demanding on both body and glass. If you haven’t read Scott Kelby’s “Digital Photography” series, it is excellent, and has sections that cover sports photography.

      Here’s the challenge for sports: Things are almost always moving fast and the light is almost always poor. Both cameras have pretty high frame rates, (D300s=7fps, D7100=6fps) – either of these will do pretty well for sports. The D7100 has slightly better ISO performance, but a used D300s is probably half the cost. Depending on your budget, I’d probably be tempted to go D300s (which is also much faster when it comes to changing setting like autofocus modes, etc.) and spend the money on fast glass. You can find an old 80-200 AFS f/2.8 for around $900 these days, and that extra low-light capability will come in mighty handy when athletes are flying all over the place. The 70-200 VRI can be found for $1300 or so, and that would be an ideal lens (though all of these f/2.8 zooms are pretty heavy – consider a monopod).

      Net: Either body has what it takes – the D7100 has a little bit better ISO performance, the D300s is about half the money used and has better (“pro”) handling. Glass is going to be a bigger expense if you want to shoot sports – kit glass isn’t going to make you happy (though for general use Nikon’s kit lenses tend to be very good to excellent).

      Please let me know if you have other questions, and thanks again!

      Lee…

  9. Hi,

    Very interesting comments here. I’m in a similar situation with a D80 that I’ve had for nearly six years. My lenses are Nikon 18-200 VR, Nikon 24mm 2.8 and Nikon 50MM 1.8.

    I like street, travel and pictorial (?) photography and have found the D80 to be great – except in low light. In that sense it’s not so good.

    So, I’ve been thinking about a new camera. I’ve got a few options in mind;

    Keep using the D80 and buy a Ricoh GR as a low light back up;
    D7100 and use the D80 as a backup (with the zoom);
    Fuji XE-1 with the 35mm 1.4 and use the D80 as a backup (zoom, again)

    It would be great to hear someone else’s opinion – fire away – please 🙂

    Cheers,
    Spencer.

    • Hi Spencer – thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer! My apologies for the delayed reply – I’ve been traveling like crazy!

      I can’t really speak to the Fuji or Ricoh products – mainly I think about the amount of duplicate gear that will entail.

      You’ve got decent glass other than a slow (but very versatile) zoom. I love my 18-200 – it and my 35mm f/1.8 are my light travel kit for my D300s.

      Honestly, the D80 isn’t my favorite camera – I feel like it was hamstrung a bit on purpose by Nikon because the D70 cut into the sales of much higher-end cameras. They learned their lesson and even a D90 (or a D300/D300s which has essentially the same sensor with “pro” handling that I love) represents a pretty sizable jump in ISO capability, much better dynamic range and a host of other improvements over the D80. The D7000 is better still (mainly for dynamic range – i.e. pulling details out of the shadows). Unless you’re looking for something a lot more portable, I’d stick with the platform you’re already invested in.

      Let me know if that helps! (or not) 🙂

      Lee…

    • Hi Spencer – thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer! My apologies for the delayed reply – I’ve been traveling like crazy!

      I can’t really speak to the Fuji or Ricoh products – mainly I think about the amount of duplicate gear that will entail.

      You’ve got decent glass other than a slow (but very versatile) zoom. I love my 18-200 – it and my 35mm f/1.8 are my light travel kit for my D300s.

      Honestly, the D80 isn’t my favorite camera – I feel like it was hamstrung a bit on purpose by Nikon because the D70 cut into the sales of much higher-end cameras. They learned their lesson and even a D90 (or a D300/D300s which has essentially the same sensor with “pro” handling that I love) represents a pretty sizable jump in ISO capability, much better dynamic range and a host of other improvements over the D80. The D7000 is better still (mainly for dynamic range – i.e. pulling details out of the shadows). Unless you’re looking for something a lot more portable, I’d stick with the platform you’re already invested in.

      Let me know if that helps! (or not) 🙂

      Lee…

  10. Hi –

    I have a Nikon D80 which I would like to upgrade. Would love your insight and suggestions.

    The D80 has been great, except in low light situations. I am looking at the Nikon D7100 with a Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f1.8G lens and a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8G ED VRII zoom. My main photos center around my kids and travel. Would really like to be able to take nice photos inside hockey rink or at dance recitals, etc. The D80 does not work well in these situations. Actually use my Nikon Coolpix P7100 over D80 for lowlight situations right now.

  11. Well, technology ‘assist’ us in the making of our images; it is our composition that make the difference. There are some price to be paid if one switch from i.e. D90 to D7100, where we may have change some lenses and of course, our SD cards (if you are having the write speed of 45mb/s & below) in order to get the part of the performance out of D7100.
    I am a D90 user since 2008, it is the investment in my lenses that help me in my image quality along with my composition.
    So its matter of changing the body with some price to pay due to high megapixel.

  12. Just wondering, then is it okay to opt for D90 still? Begginer in photography, interested to see what I can do with a DSLR. But is it okay, to go for D90 which came out quite some time ago?

    Do you think it would be better to opt for something made with newer technology?

    THANKS 😀

    • Hi – I’m very sorry it took so long to reply. Net: I think the D90 is a terrific camera, and even better for the money they cost these days. You do get a good jump in a lot of ways with a D7000 (more dynamic range, better AF, dual slots, etc.) or even a D300s, but my advice never changes: if you have a choice between a better body and better glass, always go with better glass. There isn’t a single thing wrong with a D90. I loved mine a lot.

      Thanks for visiting!

  13. I have a question. I have a broken D80 (err) msg. I have a 50 mm 1.8 and have always wanted a full frame for detail and color. I have seen amazing pics from a EOS 40 D with a 24-70 mm lens shot at a 2.8 aperture. Do I need to go full frame to get that quality or am I now able to get a DX setup and mimic that quality with all the new ISO / MP stuff?

    • First, I apologize It took so long to reply: between travel, switching to a new PC and the confusing WordPress comments dashboard, I always seem behind.

      The EOS 40D is also a crop sensor, so I’d say you can get great results with pretty much any current Nikon (or Canon) DSLR. Coming from a D80, you’ll see a massive jump in performance and quality of pretty much everything. Personally, I think a used/refurbed D7000 would be a great camera. I don’t hesitate to recommend the D5xxxx series and above. You’ll get great dynamic range (ability to lighten shadows with good detail), very good ISO performance and a lot of resolution. Your file sizes will be bigger, which will mean more storage on your PC and editing them might be slower on your PC, but the quality vs. a D80 will be a big step forward.

      Nikon is trying very hard to make full frame attractive. Certainly you get far better low-light performance, etc., but you have to take into account what lenses you have. There are LOTS of lenses that are specific to DX bodies (I have three: 18-200 VRII, 35 f/1.8, 11-16 f/2.8). These essentially don’t work on a FX camera unless you have a newer one that has a DX mode. I don’t have a direct experience, but that mode is really a “on rare occasions” sort of thing rather than a way to keep DX lenses in your bag.

      So have a look at what glass you have. As I said, any of the modern DX Nikon’s from the D5100 series onward and the D7000 series onward are worthy cameras and there are some great deals on refurbs out there (check B&H, Adorama, Cameta, etc.). If you have the money, going new is fine of course.

      Please feel free to ask any other questions, and thank for visiting Enthusiast Photographer!

      Lee..

  14. Hello there…I’m reading thru all this and are even more confused..I have aD80 the shutter is not working so I am looking for an upgrade.I am an artist ..I paint motorcycles grafics etc….I photograph my art…….I am embarking ng on takin pics of trees , motorcycles, kids, and want to do friends weddingss..and pics of bride….and have the option to do some animal scenery as well at times use photo shop to adjust photos…..I was looking at the 5100,5200…then I read of the d7000, D7100….I really would appreciate your expert opinion… On what camera …and what lenses I should purchase.. Thanks for your in put Sissy

    • Sissy – thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer! I guess you’ve already figured out that your D80 isn’t really worth reapairing. If you’re taking photos of moving things, I’d highly recommend the D7000 or D7100 since the autofocus system and controls are much better than the 5000-series cameras. You can find some good deals on refurbs from places like B&H (which currently has a D7000 for sale for an astounding $484!: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/757708-REF/Nikon_25468B_Refurbished_D7000_DSLR_Camera.html) and Adorama.

      While the D7100 is a terrific camera, I’d save the money to spend on good lenses. Your span of interests is broad, so consider an 85 f/1.8 lens for nice portraits of kids and brides, a 35 f/1.8 for general use and maybe a 70-300 for the motorcycles (or the 70-200 f/4 or f/2.8 if you can afford one of them).

      Feel free to ask more questions!

      Lee…

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