Nikon might have been first out of the gate with the D90, but it wasn't until cameras like the D7000 that their DSLRs started outputting 1080p, and early last year, they beat everyone to the punch by introducing the D800, the first full-frame DSLR with an uncompressed 1080p 4:2:2 HDMI output for better quality. Now they've got a new DSLR, the D7100, which takes most of the features of the D5200, like the APS-C 24MP Toshiba sensor and uncompressed HDMI, and puts it into a more professional and weather-resistant body. The D5200 also does something basically no other APS-C camera in the price range does: it can shoot video that is practically free from aliasing and moire. The D7100, however, has its optical low pass filter removed, so will that mean worse video on the new DSLR?

Check out the promo and a hands-on video:

Here are the specs:

  • 24.1MP DX-format CMOS Sensor
  • 1080p 30/25/24
  • 1080i 60/50
  • 720p 60/50
  • Dual SD Card Slots/Headphone and Mic Ports
  • Uncompressed HDMI
  • 3.2" 1,229k-dot LCD Monitor
  • 6 fps Up to 100 Shots at Full Resolution
  • 51-point AF with 15 Cross-type Sensors
  • Built-in HDR
  • Magnesium Alloy Body; Moisture Resistant
  • Optional WU-1a Wi-Fi Adapter
  • Price: $1,200 Body Only, $1,600 with 18-105mm Lens
  • Available: March 2013

This camera looks like it greatly improves upon the autofocus from the 16 Megapixel D7000, and it also boasts a bigger and higher resolution rear LCD. For many of you, though, the big question is, what's the video quality like? Well, one of the big revelations that has come out since the D5200 has been in the wild is that it actually does have clean HDMI (contrary to what I've said in the past, since it wasn't mentioned in the documentation). Those who have been using it can't seem to get a clean 23.98, however, only 29.97, which is probably related to the way the output is being flagged -- so it's possible a firmware update to an external recorder might be able to fix that.

Either way, the D5200 seems to control moire and aliasing very well, and since the D7100 shares the same sensor, I would expect performance to be similar, except for one change: the D7100 lacks an optical low pass filter, which means it may suffer from moire pattern in stills mode from time to time -- whereas the D5200 would not since it does have this filter in place.


But how does this affect video? Well, Nikon did something similar with the D800 and the D800E, and while the company didn't actually remove the filter in that case, they are using an additional filter to cancel out the effect. The end result is a theoretically sharper still image, with the possibility of moire pattern appearing more often. They may be using the same kind of canceling out effect here with the D7100, but what we've seen from the D800E is that video performance remained pretty much the same, with about the same level of resolved detail and apparent aliasing and moire. We will have to see some more video samples of the D7100 to really know if moire in video is worse, but for now we can get a sense of the overall performance thanks to the two cameras sharing the same sensor. Here is a quick video showing a scene that would have a lot of trouble with most of Nikon's DSLRs:

One thing is definite, low-light performance looks to be improved in video mode, even in the face of more megapixels on the same sized sensor. Here is a comparison between the Nikon D5200 (24 MP) and the Canon T4i (18 MP) to give you a sense of what we might expect with the D7100 (granted this is only in SD, but the results are clear):

Now, as for resolved detail, here is a test between the D5200 and the T2i:

To my eyes, they look pretty similar (the 5200 may be a hair sharper), which tells me the D7100 will probably not be quite as sharp as cameras like the GH2 and D800 -- but I won't pass final judgment until I see more footage.

Even though these cameras are basically only compatible with Nikon lenses (some others like Leica R that work with adapters), there is so much good and cheap Nikon glass floating around that you could put together a package of a couple decent lenses for only a few hundred dollars. If you've already got Nikon lenses, you'll be in business, though you will still have the APS-C crop factor to deal with, and a 2X crop factor if you choose to use the camera in the new 1.3x mode.


There is one big issue with most of these Nikon cameras, however. If you use all manual aperture lenses, you're set, but every Nikon camera except the D800 requires you to leave live view mode to change the aperture. If you're shooting an event, this is a serious issue, but obviously it can be overcome with manual aperture lenses like AI or AIS Nikkors.

We also don't know yet if the HDMI will fill the entire screen. The D600, which was also claimed to have uncompressed HDMI, only fills 95% of the screen on the output, so you must zoom in post to fill the screen. A rumor was circulating that a firmware update might be coming to fix that, but nothing has surfaced just yet. The D5200 does not have this problem, and it's possible the D7100 will not either.

So in my opinion, as long as 23.98 HDMI output can be worked out, it's likely this could be one of the better values in the sub-$1,500 DSLR market. While it won't be the sharpest (the GH2 still seems to resolve the most in this under-$1,500 price range), it should be relatively moire and aliasing free, and you'll be able to record the HDMI output for higher quality video or green screen work, and also keep an external monitor and the on-board LCD running at the same time (something many Canon DSLRs cannot do). Either way, we'll try to post more D7100 videos as they become available.

What do you guys think? Does the D7100 add enough over the D5200 in video mode? For anyone who owns the D5200, what do you think so far?