Nikon D7100 review - Quality

Quality

Nikon D7100 vs Nikon D5200 vs Nikon D7000 quality JPEG

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Nikon D7100, the Nikon D5200 and the Nikon D7000 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings; RAW results will follow on the next page.

Each camera was fitted with the same AF-S Nikkor 28mm f1.8G lens, thus eliminating any difference in results due to lens factors.

The 28mm f1.8 lens has an equivalent focal length of 42mm on all three models due to the 1.5x field reduction of the DX sensor. The cameras were set to f5.6 in Aperture Priority exposure mode with the sensitivity set manually to 100 ISO.

The image above was taken with the Nikon D7100. The D7100 was mounted on a tripod, the aperture set to f5.6 (previously determined to be the optimum setting for this lens) and the sensitivity set to 100 ISO. Under these conditions the camera metered an exposure of 1/500. Both the D5200 and the D7000 metered the same exposure so you really are comparing like with like here. On the D7100 and D5200 JPEG compression was set to Optimal quality and on the D5200 Active D-lighting, which is set to Auto by default was turned off to match the default Off setting on the D7100 and D7000. The D7100 JPEG file measured 13.86Mb and, as usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles.

The weather on the day was cloudy but bright and all three cameras chose the same (correct) exposure which has resulted in a histogram in the middle of the chart with no clipping of the highlights or shadows. The question everyone wants to know the anwer to is just how how much of a difference does the abscence of the optical low-pass filter make to the D7100’s image quality? The comparison here to the D5200 which shares the same, or at least a very similar 24 Megapixel CMOS sensor, but with an optical low-pass filter fitted, should provide the answer.

So how do the crops shape up? I’ll start by comparing the D7100 crops with the D5200 ones. In the first crop there’s a good level of detail from both sensors, but I must admit to a slight sense of disappointment that the detail in the D7100 crop isn’t noticeably sharper than in the D5200 crop to the right. Having said that, you can clearly make out the crosses on the chapel roof and detail in the stonework.

In the second crop, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the slighter clearer lighthouse which I think is most likely a consequence of slighly changing light and atmospheric haze. In the foreground of this crop at the bottom, comparing the detail in the roofing and the edges of the window frames, once again, I’m finding it hard to see any appreciable difference. It’s the same story on the third crop from close to the edge of the frame. The 28mm f1.8 lens is pretty sharp at the edges when stopped down to f5.6 and I can’t see any softening here, but neither can I see much of a difference in the sharpness or level of detail between the D7100 and D5200.

The final crop from closer to the middle of the frame is also extremely close and if anything the crop from the D5200 looks slightly sharper and more detailed. So, if you’re one of those people hoping to benefit from shaper more detailed images from the D7100 on account of its lack of an optical low-pass filter, you’ll be disappointed. On this evidence, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference.

Of course it may be that Nikon’s processing isn’t make the most of the sensor data; and possible that the jpeg processing has erred on the side of softness to compensate for the missing OLPF. The RAW results on the next page will tell us more about that. Before that, let’s take a look at how the D7100 crops compare with those of its predecessor, the D7000. The crops from the 16 Megapixel sensor in the D7000 show a larger area with smaller detail. Overall, the edges in the D7000 crops are a little softer and the detail a little less clear, It’s a relatively small difference and on its own wouldn’t justify upgrading, except that as well as a slight increase in quality you’re also getting a big boost in resolution.

You can see how these differences are reflected in the Nikon D7100 RAW quality results on the next page. Alternatively you can see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Nikon D7100 Noise results.

 

Nikon D7100
Nikon D5200
Nikon D7000
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

 


Nikon D7100
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Nikon D7100 vs Nikon D5200 vs Nikon D7000 quality RAW

To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Nikon D7100, the Nikon D5200 and the Nikon D7000 within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes.

Each camera was fitted with the same AF-S Nikkor 28mm f1.8G lens, thus eliminating any difference in results due to lens factors.

The 28mm f1.8 lens has an equivalent focal length of 42mm on all three models due to the 1.5x field reduction of the DX sensor. The cameras were set to f5.6 in Aperture Priority exposure mode with the senstivity set manually to 100 ISO.

Nikon D7100 results
1Nikon D7100 Quality JPEG
2Nikon D7100 Quality RAW
3Nikon D7100 Noise JPEG
4Nikon D7100 Noise RAW
5Nikon D7100 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Nikon D7100. The D7100 was mounted on a tripod, Aperture priority mode was selected and with the aperture set to f5.6 and the sensitivity to 100 ISO the camera metered an exposure of 1/500. Both the D5200 and the D7000 metered the same exposure. On the D7100 and D5200 JPEG compression was set to Optimal quality and on the D5200 Active D-lighting, which is set to Auto by default was turned off to match the default Off setting on the D7100 and D7000. The D7100 RAW file measured 31.5Mb and, as usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 4900K and tint to 0. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Against expectations, these RAW files confirm what we saw from the JPEGs on the previous page. The overall quality, sharpness and level of detail from the D7100’s sensor is excellent, but it’s no better than the D5200 and indeed there is little discernible difference.

I could analyse the four crops individually, but as you’ll be able to tell from even a casual glance they are near-identical in terms of the rendering of fine detail and edge sharpness. I’ve pored over them for quite some time looking for evidence of differences, but there’s no evidence here, or in the JPEGs on the previous page to suggest that the absence of an optical low-pass filter leads to an improvement in sharpness, at least between the D7100 and D5200 when fitted with the 28mm f1.8G lens at this aperture.

The only significant difference between the D7100 and the D5200 crops here is that moiré in the final crop in the bottom left is marginally worse on the D7100 crop. Note that in both crops it covers a wider area than in the JPEGs, having spread to the adjacent roof.

The D7000 crops stand up very well in comparison to the D7100. There’s a similar degree of real-life detail which may have you wondering if you really need 24 Megapixels.

This will be disappointing news for those who were hoping for a big improvement in the D7100’s image quality as a result of the decision to drop the OLPF. Maybe the D5200’s OLPF was already fairly weak and the D7100 will only show more apparent differences against models employing stronger filters.

Now let’s see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Nikon D7100 Noise results.

 

Nikon D7100 RAW
Nikon D5200 RAW
Nikon D7000 RAW
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

 


Nikon D7100
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Nikon D7100 vs Nikon D5200 vs Nikon D7000 Noise RAW

Nikon D7100 results
1Nikon D7100 Quality JPEG
2Nikon D7100 Quality RAW
3Nikon D7100 Noise JPEG
4Nikon D7100 Noise RAW
5Nikon D7100 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon D7100, the Nikon D5200 and the Nikon D7000 within a few moments of each other using their RAW +Fine JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Each camera was fitted with the same AF-S Nikkor 28mm f1.8G prime lens set to f5.6.

The cameras were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode with the ISO senstivity set manually.

The above shot was taken with the Nikon D7100 in Aperture priority mode. The camera was mounted on a tripod and tonal enhancement features were left on their default settings – Active D-lighting was off and High ISO Noise Reduction was Normal. Active D-lighting on the D5200 is set to Auto by default so to maintain consistency with the D7100 and D7000 it was turned off.

At 100 ISO the D7100 metered an exposure of 1s at f5.6 and the D5200 metered the same exposure. The D7000 metered 0.6s, but setting 0.7EV exposure compensation to produce an exposure the same as the D7100 and D5200 resulted in over-exposed frames that were a poor comparison. So the older 16.2 Megapixel D7000 sensor appears to be more sensitive at its 100 ISO position than the more recent 24.1 Megapixel models. The D7100 JPEG file measured 10.97MB and, as usual, the crops are taken from the area marked by the red rectangle.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 4500K and tint to 0. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes – as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you’re used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it’s an approach that’s designed to show the actual detail that’s being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

These RAW crops hold no surprises given what we saw from the in-camera JPEGS on the previous page. Possibly the marginal difference between the 100 and 200 ISO crops is a little more visible here, but neither shows any appreciable noise. Then from 400 ISO all the way up to 25,600 there’s a linear progression with no one ISO sensitivity setting standing out.

These RAW crops suggest there’s less of a difference between the D7100 and D5200 than I thought when looking at the JPEGS. So, if I’m not imagining it, that difference is most likely down to processing. In terms of noise, there’s really nothing in it between the D7100 and D5200. You might be suprised to see that the older D7000 holds its own pretty well in this noise comparison with noise levels that look very similar to the D7100 and D5200 all the way up the ISO range. But let’s not forget we’re comparing an older, but lower resolution sensor. In a little over two years Nikon has gone from 16 Megapixels to 24 Megapixels on the same sized sensor and maintained similar high ISO noise performance. Quite an achievement. Also remember when images from all three cameras are reproduced at the same size, any artefacts on the D7100 and D5200 will appear a little smaller than the D7000. Do however remember that the D7000 appeared to be more sensitive than the D7100 and D5200 when all were set to the same ISO value, so the older model may be able to deploy slightly lower ISO values under the same conditions.

Now head over to my Nikon D7100 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.

 

Nikon D7100 RAW
Nikon D5200 RAW
Nikon D7000 RAW

100 ISO

100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
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3200 ISO
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6400 ISO
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12800 ISO
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12800 ISO
25600 ISO
25600 ISO
25600 ISO


Nikon D7100
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Nikon D7100 vs Nikon D5200 vs Nikon D7000 Noise JPEG

Nikon D7100 results
1Nikon D7100 Quality JPEG
2Nikon D7100 Quality RAW
3Nikon D7100 Noise JPEG
4Nikon D7100 Noise RAW
5Nikon D7100 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon D7100, the Nikon D5200 and the Nikon D7000 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Each camera was fitted with the same AF-S Nikkor 28mm f1.8G prime lens set to f5.6

The cameras were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode with the ISO senstivity set manually.

The above shot was taken with the Nikon D7100 in Aperture priority mode. The camera was mounted on a tripod and tonal enhancement features were left on their default settings – Active D-lighting was off and High ISO Noise Reduction was Normal. Active D-lighting on the D5200 is set to Auto by default so to maintain consistency with the D7100 and D7000 it was turned off.

At 100 ISO the D7100 metered an exposure of 1s at f5.6 and the D5200 metered the same exposure. The D7000 metered 0.6s, but setting 0.7EV exposure compensation to produce an exposure the same as the D7100 and D5200 resulted in over-exposed frames that were a poor comparison. So the older 16.2 Megapixel D7000 sensor appears to be more sensitive at its 100 ISO position than the more recent 24.1 Megapixel models. The D7100 JPEG file measured 10.97MB and, as usual, the crops are taken from the area marked by the red rectangle.

The 100 ISO JPEG crop from the D7100’s 24.1 Megapixel sensor looks crisp, clean and noise free. There’s no texture where there shouldn’t be, either in the wall to the right of the memorial panel, in the text panel, or the darker wood surround. The 200 ISO crop is also pretty impressive and though there is a small difference, you’d have to be looking very hard to notice it. 400 ISO is the setting at which noticeable noise textures begin to appear; in this crop you can see a slight graininess in the wall and the text isn’t quite as crisp as in the first two crops. But you’d need to be pixel-peeping to spot these changes, and the 800 and 1600 crops, though each shows a marginal increase in noisiness, are holding up well enough for 100 percent reproduction.

At 3200 ISO the noise is beginning to interfere with smaller detail and the text is now beginning to look quite bitty, but for reproduction at less than 100 percent 3200 ISO is perfectly practicable. It’s not until 6400 ISO that we reach the stage where there’s as much noise as image data, and at 12,800 ISO all but the coarsest image detail succumbs to the increasing noise.

You might suppose that the abscence of an optical low-pass filter would exaggerate sensor noise or, to put it another way that the softening effect of a low pass filter would help to hide it. But though the lower ISO crops from the D7100 show crisp sharp detail, there’s no real visible evidence of noise until you get to 400 ISO and even then it’s not more aggressive than on other Nikon 24 Megapixel models. Compared with the D5200 alongside, which has the same sensor, or at least a very closely related one, there’s very little difference to see at the lower sensitivity settings.

At 800 ISO the D5200 crop looks a smidgeon noisier, the difference is very very slight but the margin widens at 1600 ISO and by 3200 ISO there’s a small but perceptible difference in the degree of noise. Whether this makes any practical difference is arguable, but there is a small improvement at the higher sensitivity settings.

The older 16 Megapixel sensor of the D7000 produces crops with a larger area and smaller detail. As with the D5200, I don’t see much of a difference in noise levels at the lower sensitivity settings between the D7100 and its predecessor. At 800 ISO though, the D7000 crop looks a little cleaner and from there on all the way up the sensitivity range it maintains its advantage. Though the gap doesn’t grow significantly, the lower resolution sensor in the D7000 outperforms its successor for noise at settings above 800 ISO. It’s a small gap though, and I think most people would be happy to take the higher resolution and larger detail of the D7100 in return for the small increase in noise that results – after all, remember when images from all three cameras are reproduced at the same size, any artefacts on the D7100 and D5200 will appear a little smaller than the D7000. Do however remember that the D7000 appeared to be more sensitive than the D7100 and D5200 when all were set to the same ISO value, so the older model may be able to deploy slightly lower ISO values under the same conditions.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my Nikon D7100 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Nikon D7100 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

 

Nikon D7100
Nikon D5200
Nikon D7000

100 ISO

100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
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400 ISO
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800 ISO
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3200 ISO
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12800 ISO
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25600 ISO
25600 ISO
25600 ISO


Nikon D7100
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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