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Nikon D7100 — No Anti-Aliasing Filter

B&H Photo has the Nikon D7100 DSLR available for preorder.

With a Nikon D600 refurb selling for ~$1600, and the Nikon D7100 selling for ~$1200, does it really make sense to compromise on a DX sensor instead of full frame? Because a camera system with lenses and accessories makes that gap much smaller as a percentage.

What caught my eye with the new Nikon D7100 is the absence of an optical low pass filter (OLPF) aka anti-aliasing filter. In the D800E this is a do-undo glass sandwhich but apparently in the D7100 the filter is just not there at all.

At the core of the Nikon D7100 is a new 24.1-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor, designed to render the truest, most detail-rich images possible and brilliant HD video. The innovative sensor design delivers the ultimate in image quality by defying convention; because of the high resolution and advanced technologies, the optical low pass filter (OLPF) is no longer used. Using NIKKOR lenses, the resulting images explode with more clarity and detail to take full advantage of the 24.1-megapixel resolution achieved with D7100’s DX-format CMOS sensor.

Driven by Nikon’s exclusive EXPEED 3 image processing engine, the D7100 realizes a focus on image quality that extends beyond staggering sharpness to outstanding images with a wide dynamic range in a variety of lighting conditions. A wide ISO range of 100-6400 (expandable to Hi-2 of 25,600) allows for more versatile shooting to capture challenging conditions such as nature at twilight or even sports under less-than-ideal lighting. Even at higher ISOs, noise is minimized for both still images as well as when recording HD video.

Might the OLPF-free sensor on the D7100 follow the D800E precedent for Nikon, presaging a ~56 megapixel full-frame sensor? The 24-megapixel D7100 sensor would scale up to ~56 megapixels in full frame.

Surely if the lack of an anti-aliasing filter is not an issue with the 36-megapixel Nikon D800E, then a ~56 megapixel pro camera would not need one; perhaps the D800 would be the last full-frame camera with an anti-aliasing filter: engineer it away with a higher resolution sensor. That’s all wishful speculation, but ultimately the way it is likely to go.

Worth noting here are the noise claims. With well-controlled noise, high resolution can be used to output somewhat lower resolution images that are lower in both noise and digital artifacts (“oversampling”). Or simply used at maximum resolution and base ISO with proper ETTR exposure for top notch results. And clearly Nikon feels very high ISO values are possible with the D7100 (my guess is that ISO 800 will be the limit of what I would find acceptable).

Personally, I’d prefer an ultra high resolution full-frame camera sporting superior image quality with a base ISO of 50, just the medium format approach. Plenty of cameras have high ISO; hardly any have ultra high resolution (36 megapixels is the limit at present).

The target audience is all but made explicit on the top dial: Scene, Effects, Auto, P. This dual purpose dial (shooting modes also) was not at all appealing to me on the D600 both in ergonomics and overloaded function. The D800 design is much preferable. Worse, when shooting different bodies at the same time, it’s a flow-stopper. Still, hardly anyone will care.

The camera shown below is set to f/14, an ill-advised f-stop that will deliver severely degraded contrast on coarse and fine structures on the D7100.

Nikon D7100 with 18-105mm f/3.5 - 5.6G ED

Viewfinder and LCD

On the usability front, I am definitely not a fan of the porthole viewfinder found on any of the Nikon or Canon cropped frame cameras. It would have been slick to see an optional ultra-high-res EVF as an option.

But worth nothing is the 1.2 million pixel LCD, which sounds very nice.

Video

The emphasis on video is clear. And there is no reason to be believe that the video quality on the D7100 will be inferior to the video quality of the D800, and it might be better (no great challenge).

I’d like to see Nikon offer built-in time lapse 4K video automatically. Though this can always be done by shooting stills and then assembling, as far as the specs seem to indicate this is not automated as with 1080p time-lapse on the Nikon D800. The 1080p format doesn't come close to filling a 30" display, and 4K is what I really want to shoot as a finished product without the huge overhead of taking 9000 still photos for a 5-minute 30 fps video.

The dual SDXC slots are a positive for video.

Super crop

The “super crop” (my term) feature might have some uses. This is a 1.3X crop of the DX sensor (equal to a ~2X crop of an FX sensor), yielding 4800 X 3200 images of 15.4 megapixels. While similar to Micro Four Thirds in pixel count, it is a 3:2 in shape, not the 4:3 aspect ratio of m4/3.

Remote control

Remote camera control has some interesting applications with an iPhone or Android phone, but requires the Nikon WU-1a wart on the side of the camera (which is an unappealing trend for those of us who like using an L bracket). This sort of stuff should be built-in, not warted-on.

Still, the ability to transfer images to an iPhone or iPad or similar (raw format?) sounds appealing, but it’s not clear if they can be sent directly to a MacBook Pro laptop.

GPS

GPS is not built into the D7100, and Nikon’s GP-1 GPS unit is much inferior to Canon’s. This stuff should be built-in— it’s just awkward externally— my GP-1 GPS doesn’t get used for this reason.

Nikon D7100 offers dual SDXC slots

The D7100 has a rear layout which is somewhat different than the D800, but still highly functional. But with dual camera systems, the differing layout is a real nuisance as I discovered when using both a D600 and D800.

Nikon D7100 rear layout

The 18-105mm f/3.5 - 5.6 lens is a dubious lens on such a high-res sensor which for a top-grade lens is already seeing the effects of diffraction at f/8. Still, if it’s good enough it will serve some purposes well.

Nikon D7100 with 18-105mm f/3.5 - 5.6G ED

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