Movie mode

Nikon has outfitted the D7100 with many of the video specs seen in its recent enthusiast DSLRs, including 1080p30 output, uncompressed output over HDMI and stereo microphone and headphone sockets, as well as manual audio controls. Like the D5200, the D7100 also offers the ability to record 1080i60 video, but to access this option you'll have to first set the camera to its 1.3x crop mode.

Video quality options

The D7100 can shoot 1080p movies at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second at bitrates of up to 24Mbps. Video footage is compressed using B-frame data compression of the H.264/MPEG-4 video codec, which tries to optimize the capture of motion with an eye towards maintaining manageable file sizes.

Sizes • Frame size/frame rate
1920 × 1080 60i*
1920 × 1080 50i*
1920 × 1080 30p
1920 × 1080 25p
1920 × 1080 24p
1280 x 720 60p
1280 x 720 50p
*Available only in 1.3x crop mode, captured from 60/50 frame-per-second sensor readout
Audio Monoaural internal mic, Linear PCM
Format MOV
File compression H.264/MPEG-4 (Advanced Video Coding)
Recordable time 29 min. 59 sec.

Video over HDMI

Like all of its recently released higher-end siblings, the D7100 offers the ability to record uncompressed video over its HDMI port. For video professionals, the benefits of shooting uncompressed video are analogous to the benefits of shooting in high bit-depth Raw mode for stills - greater latitude in post-production with regard to color grading. Whether using HDMI-enabled output to record the highest possible quality footage or to simply use an external monitor as viewfinder, this is a feature that is becoming more common, with rival Canon having announced this capability for its EOS 5D Mark III DSLR via a forthcoming firmware update.

Uncompressed video can only be sent to an external recorder that's connected to the D7100's HDMI port. Uncompressed footage is enormous, so it makes sense that you're prevented from recording it straight to your SD card. Unfortunately though, you cannot record 1080p video to the SD card as a 'safety' backup while recording to the external HDMI device simultaneously. Whenever video is recorded to the card, the HDMI output drops to 720p. We'd like to see the option to record full HD alongside the uncompressed footage.

If you've read the video page of our Nikon D600 review you'll be relieved to hear that, unlike on the original firmware version of that camera (since updated) we've not encountered on the D7100, any issue with the camera outputting a less than 1920 x 1080 image area via its HDMI feed.

The D7100 includes both a headphone port for audio monitoring and a 3.5mm stereo mic input. There are 20 adjustment levels available for audio recording. An Auto option is enabled by default.
Uncompressed HD video footage can be sent out of the camera, straight to an external drive via the built-in HDMI port, shown here sitting directly above the USB 2.0 port and to the right of headphone socket

Handling in Video mode

A dedicated movie record button sits within easy reach just behind the shutter button. A single live view button serves triggers either video or stills mode via a lever selector surrounding it. To prevent accidental operation, the movie record button is disabled when live view is turned off and/or the selector lever is set to still images.

As with the D600 and D5200, it's not possible to change the aperture in movie mode. In the A and M modes the camera honors the current aperture setting when you engage movie live view, in effect giving full-time depth of field preview, but you can't subsequently change it. Instead you have to exit live view, change the aperture and re-engage. This is actually an improvement over DX-format Nikons such as the D7000 that allow you to change the aperture setting in live view, but don't apply it if you start recording (so movies are recorded at the aperture that was initially set on entering live view, regardless of what's displayed on the screen). At least the D7100 no longer gives you the false impression that you have this ability in movie mode.

In the Program, Aperture and Shutter-priority shooting modes, the only method of exposure control is via exposure compensation adjustments of +/- 3EV, with the camera always using Auto ISO. In Manual mode you can adjust both shutter speed and ISO sensitivity, but Auto ISO isn't available.

As we explained on the live view page of this review, exposure compensation in manual mode is used to change the metered target exposure, meaning that to match the onscreen preview in the recorded movie, you'll need to adjust your exposure settings to the camera's metered target.

Contrast-detect AF is the only option available when shooting videos. It is not only slower than the camera's 'normal' phase-detection mode but lags significantly behind the contrast-detect AF performance of most mirrorless models we've seen. While you'd expect a performance dip as a result of having to use a contrast-detect AF system in movie mode, be aware that the lens' AF hunting is prominent both visually and audibly in movie mode, as we demonstrate in a video sample below. As such, we only recommend using AF when filming static subjects. Even then, you're much better served by acquiring focus before pressing the movie record button.

Video quality

The image quality of the D7100's video displays a bit more softness than we'd like. It's by no means objectionable for the needs of most stills-oriented owners who want to capture the occasional video. Colors are rendered in a natural-looking manner with auto exposure and white balance settings producing pleasing output in a variety of lighting scenarios.

In real world use, we have found color moiré and artifacts in some scenes containing brickwork and moving bodies of water can be rendered as distracting shimmering objects. Yet in the majority of clips we shot, moiré was far from prominent, essentially you had to be looking for it, unlike the much more dramatic examples we found in our Canon EOS 6D review. Yet it appears that this minimal presence of moiré comes at the expense of image sharpness.

At its auto settings the microphone does a nice job of giving prominence to sounds originating in front of, rather than behind, the camera. Wind noise and ambient sounds emanating from behind the camera, while audible, rarely became distracting except in the windiest of conditions.

1.3x crop mode

In its 1.3x crop mode, the D7100 unfortunately delivers output that is noticeably softer than the same footage shot in the standard DX mode. Below we've provided 1920 x 1080 still images and in the full size crops you can see blurry output from the 1.3x crop mode that is analogous with upsampling. In further tests we were indeed able to see a loss of resolution when compared against the same scene shot in DX mode.

DX mode 1.3x crop mode
100% crop 100% crop

This will be less of an issue for those who are shooting casual footage and displaying their clips at less than full resolution. For those with more discerning tastes, however, we wouldn't suggest using the 1.3x crop mode as a 'built-in' focal length multiplier, as you will get better results from swapping out the lens or, of course zooming in optically.

Video Samples

The video samples below, hosted on YouTube were all shot using the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens with the camera mounted on a tripod.

Video 1

This video sample demonstrates the image quality of video shot at 1080p30. The lens was set to manual focus and the camera was panned while mounted on a tripod. Viewed at full size, you can see that the video is rather soft. The results are certainly not outside the realm of what we've seen from some DSLR output, but by no means are they as crisp as what we saw with the Nikon D600, for example.

While you can see some color moiré in the distant brick building towards the end of the pan, the artifacts are minimal and are only visible on the section of the building that is furthest away from the camera. In the bulk of the real world video we've shot, color moiré has been largely nonexistent. But looking at the video clips, it seems that minimizing moiré has come at the cost of image sharpness.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 41 sec, 116 MB Click here to download original file

Video 2

This video clip shows the AF performance of the D7100 when shifting focus from a near object to infinity You can see focus hunt, as the contrast-detect AF system racks in and out before achieving focus lock. Noticeably audible in the clip is the sound of the kit lens' motor while it makes focus adjustments.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 18 sec, 53 MB Click here to download original file

Videos 3 and 4

In the two clips below you can see a comparison of the field of view differences on the D7100 when shooting in both standard DX (APS-C) and the 1.3x crop modes. The clips were both recorded with the camera on a tripod at the same posit on and panned across the scene. As you'd expect, the additional 1.3x crop yields larger scene elements after the sensor output is resampled to 1920 x 1080. Recording video with the 1.3x crop also allows you to capture 1080 60i (versus 1080 30p) footage.

Towards the end of the pan, look closely at the surface of the lake and you can see artifacts that produce a decidedly unnatural looking 'shimmering' effect. With the D7100 we've seen this rather consistently in footage of bodies of water displaying even the slightest bit of movement.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 42 sec, 117 MB Click here to download original file
1920x1080 60i, MOV, 51 sec, 139 MB Click here to download original file

Video 5

In this clip of a moving streetcar, you can see that the D7100's sensor readout is swift enough to avoid a rolling shutter effect.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 14 sec, 39 MB Click here to download original file

Video 6

This video sample demonstrates 1080 60i performance in bright daylight with focus manually set on the model wooden boat.

1920x1080 60i, MOV, 37 sec, 107 MB Click here to download original file