It is no secret that Nikon is one of the world leaders in photographic technology, from precision optics to digital and photo imaging, their expertise is well known, and it shows in some of their best equipment.
Nowhere is this more obvious at the mid-range DX level than with the Nikon D5300 and the Nikon D7100. These two camera bodies are among the most popular cameras that Nikon have ever released, and it isn’t hard to see why when we look at what they offer the photographer.
But, as with all things, one model must come out on top. So, in this article we’re going to be taking the Nikon D5300 and the Nikon D7100 apart to look at how they work, why they’re among the best models, and which one has the ultimate advantage.
The Nikon D5300, released in October of 2013, replaced the Nikon D5200. For those who already own the Nikon D5200, there won’t seem like many changes have taken place at all. Certainly, in terms of handling the cameras are almost identical, except that the Nikon D5300 is slightly smaller and lighter. However, where users will notice a different is in the performance of the Nikon D5300, which outstrips its predecessor.
In terms of features, the Nikon D5300 offers a 24-megapixel DX format sensor with no OLPF, an ISO range of 100 – 12800 standard and up to 25600 expanded, an EXPEED 4 processor, 39-point autofocus system with 9 sensors cross-type, 1080p60 video with built-in stereo mic and external mic port, a 1.04m-dot 3.2-inch articulated LCD screen and built in GPS and wi-fi.
Pretty impressive overall, and it’s obvious from the Nikon D5300’s features why it’s ranked one of the best in its price range online. So, let’s see how the Nikon D7100 compares.
Released in February of 2013 the Nikon D7100 represented in many ways Nikon stepping into the growing demand for what they call ‘enthusiast cameras’. Basically, these are cameras that fall into the entry-level category in many ways, i.e. they’re DX format and reasonably affordable, while at the same time offering features that photographers have grown accustomed to seeing in professional models.
The Nikon D7100’s predecessor was the Nikon D7000, although significant improvements to the camera internally and externally mean that upgrading will likely yield a different experience, even for Nikon D7000 owners.
The Nikon D7100 features a 24-megapixel DX format sensor with no OLPF, an ISO range of 100 – 6400 standard and up to 25600 expanded, an EXPEED 3 processor, 51-point AF system with 15 sensors cross-type, 1080 60i/30p video with built-in stereo mic, external mic port and audio monitoring jack, a 1.2m-dot 3.2-inch LCD screen, with 2 SD storage slots, all in a fully weather sealed body.
Already we can see some areas where it would appear the Nikon D5300 might have the advantage, and others where the Nikon D7100 comes out on top. The best way to fully understand these two cameras, and how they compare to each other, is to break down some of the comparable features of the two models, and look at where performance is admirable, or disappointing.
There are a few things to look at in terms of the screens of the Nikon D5300 and the Nikon D7100. On the one hand, the Nikon D5300 offers an articulated LCD screen, a feature that is not present on the Nikon D7100. In many ways, the articulated screen can improve a photographer’s performance and potential. It allows photographers to tackle shots at very high or low angles with ease, and it can also improve on the user experience while recording video.
On the other hand, the Nikon D7100 offers a higher resolution screen than the Nikon D5300. The Nikon D7100’s screen is a 1.2m-dot resolution, while the Nikon D5300 is just 1.04m-dot resolution. This is an increase of about 20%, but it can have a significant impact when it comes to viewing and assessing your photographs in-camera, allowing photographers to improve faster as they go along.
Both the Nikon D5300 and the Nikon D7100 perform very well in terms of their ISO specifications, however the advantage of the Nikon D5300 is in its age. As it is the newer camera, it possesses a newer processor which has allowed it to improve its ISO capabilities over the slightly older Nikon D7100.
While both cameras have the same expanded ISO range, the Nikon D5300 has a greater standard range, up to 12800 ISO, than the Nikon D7100. The Nikon D5300 also offers a slight edge (around 0.1 f-stops) in low noise, high ISO performance, with 1,338 ISO compared to 1,256 ISO on the Nikon D7100.
Despite the Nikon D5300 featuring the newer EXPEED 4 processor from Nikon (the Nikon D7100 only has the EXPEED 3), it is the Nikon D7100 speeds past its competition. As well as offering a shutter speed range of up to 1/8000s, compared to the 1/4000s offered on the Nikon D5300, the Nikon D7100 offers 20% faster continuous shooting (6fps v. 5 fps) and 40% less startup delay (300ms v. 500ms.).
Unlike many of Nikon’s entry-level offerings, the Nikon D5300 has a very sophisticated autofocus system, a 39-point system with nine cross-type points. Despite this admirable feature, the Nikon D7100 goes one better. It offers the same autofocus system that Nikon pros might recognize from the Nikon D4, that is the 51-point system with 15 cross-type points.
That being said, most photographers, particularly those still getting their head around all the features, will find that the Nikon D5300 does more than well with this autofocus system. Indeed, most people, even those shooting sports or high-speed action, will find the autofocus system on the Nikon D5300 more than adequate. It is only if you depend on your focusing system, and know it intimately, that we would recommend the step up to the Nikon D7100 for this alone.
It is no small task to compare the video capabilities of the Nikon D5300 and the Nikon D7100. In terms of their respective abilities, both cameras perform very well, and will likely be more than sufficient for any photographer, especially if you’re just dipping your toes into the world of video.
At a deeper level we begin to see how the models differ. Although both offer build-in stereo microphones and an external microphone jack, only the Nikon D7100 offers a headphone jack for audio monitoring. At the same time, the Nikon D5300 has the ability to shoot video at real HD 1080/60p, while the Nikon D7100 manages only 1080/30p. That isn’t to say that there’s any loss in terms of the quality of the video, but some photographers might find that higher frame rate to their advantage in shooting.
In looking at the Nikon D5300 and the Nikon D7100 its easy to see the different markets they have been targeted at. The Nikon D5300, still firmly resting in the amateur and entry-level market is significantly lighter and smaller, with a polycarbonate body. This, in part anyway, makes it easier to carry around and hold for the beginner photographer.
The Nikon D7100 on the other hand is much heavier, built to be durable and tough, featuring a magnesium alloy (metal) on the back and at the top. However, the larger D7100 also comes with weather sealing, which can really free photographers, particularly landscape and outdoors.
One of the additions that Nikon paired with the Nikon D5300, likely due to its more recent release, was built-in wi-fi capabilities and GPS. This makes it the first of its kind in the Nikon line, and for certain photographers these abilities will really improve their user experience. In particular the ability to geo-tag photos might be of great interest to the travelling photographer, or the hobbyist interested in constructing and sharing online photo maps, an unexpected bonus in this cheaper model.
The Nikon D5300 and the Nikon D7100 are both DX format cameras, which means they’re cropped frame. The only thing photographers need to be aware of with this, if they aren’t already, is that their lens measurements will not be true to their focal length on a cropped frame camera.
Now, the Nikon D5300 came shipped with the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II, which is one of Nikons newer standard lens. Another versatile and reliable kit lens from Nikon, the 18-55mm VR II is unusual in that it is retractable, making it much smaller and easier to transport. It also features newer Vibration Reduction (VR) technology and a Silent Wave Motor, making it quieter than ever before. This compact lens should not be confused with its predecessor the Nikon 18-55mm VR lens, which is the less upgraded model of the VR II that is occasionally marketed with Nikon D5300s, particularly second-hand models.
We’ve also seen the Nikon D5300 marketed with the Nikon AF-S DX 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens, which includes pretty much all of the same features of the other kit lens, but with the added focal length for photographers looking for even more flexibility and a chance to explore zoom.
As well as the two above lenses, which have been seen marketed and kitted on both Nikon D5300 and Nikon D7100, the Nikon D7100 was bundled with the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR kit lens. This lens works very well with the Nikon D7100, and is well balanced on the body. This is an ideal partial zoom lens, offering an Internal Focus (IF) mechanism as well as a Silent Wave Motor and Vibration Reduction.
Outside of kit lenses, it is worth nothing that the Nikon D7100 has a built-in autofocus motor, meaning that it is compatible with the entire range of Nikon’s older lenses, while the Nikon D5300 does not.
There’s no doubt that both the Nikon D5300 and the Nikon D7100 are high-quality camera bodies, offering a wide range of entry-level and pro-level features in sturdy body builds. Unsurprisingly, considering their respective series, the winner among the two is the Nikon D7100.
In terms of offering a more professional user experience, the Nikon D7100 simply outstrips the Nikon D5300. With a higher resolution screen, built-in focus motor, higher number of focus points and cross-type points and faster usage, the Nikon D7100 really performs. On top of all of the things we’ve look at in our comparison, the Nikon D7100 also offers 10% better viewfinder coverage, a 30% larger viewfinder and a significantly longer battery life of 950 shots compared to 600 shots. For video-lovers there’s also the built-in audio monitor jack, and the weather sealed body to consider.
However, that isn’t to say that the Nikon D5300 offers nothing for potential users. What we have to remember about these two cameras is although they do possess some similar features, the Nikon D7100’s better features also come with a higher price tag. Online retailers are listing the Nikon D5300 at prices around 40% cheaper than the Nikon D7100, a significant saving. In addition to that there are the Nikon D5300’s extra features, such as the articulated screen, and built in wi-fi and GPS technology.
Ultimately, the Nikon D5300 is the perfect all round camera, versatile and easy to transport, its lighter body makes it great for a smaller photographer who is looking for better features, at a competitive price. Particularly if its additional features, including the ability to shoot 1080/60p video, are of specialist interest to your personal photographic style.
On the other hand, the Nikon D7100 is one of the closest points in the Nikon entry-level range that a photographer can get to pro features and specs. It makes a great camera for someone who has outgrown their earlier entry level models, but perhaps isn’t yet ready to take the plunge, both in terms of technology and price, into the full-frame pro range of Nikon cameras.