Having a little break from posting my latest wedding photography and portrait photography (lots more of my work to come, I need to get my latest work on here over the next few weeks) I thought I’d return to the Nikon D7100 that I reviewed extensively a month or two ago. I have now been shooting with this camera for around three months and it is a sizeable upgrade from my last camera.
One thing I see trotted out time and time again is what’s the high ISO performance like? Usually these discussions are started or accompanied by a dreadful photo (note — I have a couple of ‘dreadful’ photos below) of a pair of black underpants in a dark corner taken on a less than ideal lens, in turn with an exposure that is underexposed and then complaints are made that at 100% view that the grain/noise is terrible.
This is where I think there is a reasonable difference in the D7100, the noise isn’t so much noise, it behaves a bit more like film grain in that it’s more random both pattern and size. This actually works entirely in its favour. Another issue I hinted at above is that some people will refuse to budge from ISO 3200 top, and still underexpose the image hoping that in post-processing they can pull the image back with the benefit of slightly less grain/noise. Personally I think that’s the worst thing you can do on a DX (APS-C sized) sensor. You are much better off exposing correctly and if that means ramping up the ISO beyond 3200, then so be it.
What you need to consider is, where is this picture going to be shown or used for? For the vast majority of pictures taken these days my guess is it might get on to Flickr, or Tumblr or your blog. That is fine, some of mine do. But largely you’re not going to be viewing the entire 6000×4000 pixel image (the D7100’s full resolution in pixels) in one go, so the image will have been resized or downsampled cancelling out some of the noise/grain right off the bat.
If the image is going to graduate from online into print, you will find that the average large album is sized around 12″ wide, and the images within sometimes smaller than that, in print you will find grain/noise is ameliorated somewhat from the harshness of a backlit display like an LCD monitor to the extent it’s not at all objectionable.
I will have more work to show over the year of the D7100 perfoming well at high ISO in dimly lit churches and registry offices without the aid of flash and you will see that actually for a DX camera it is exceptional. It can even hold its own with the FX crowd up to a certain point (i.e. if you’re not printing too large).
My suggestion is if the D7100 is sounding like the camera for you but you’re not sure due to the one picture of a badly exposed cuddly toy on a bed on a web forum is putting you off, in reality a well exposed image made with good glass, you won’t find the D7100 lacking. Here’s a couple of examples of that, click them to enlarge.
Both have been processed in Lightroom 4 with my own presets; and yes have had some noise reduction applied.