Nikon D7100: A Loaded Intermediate DSLR Might Be Just Right

Over the last year, Nikon has refreshed its two bottom DSLRs, and the new D7200 is the latest to get a bump. It's the last in line before you move up to a professional full-frame camera, and it comes loaded with a lot of hand-me-down tech from that line, which might make spending extra cash worth it.

As with the D3200 and D5200, the D7100's APS-C sensor has been boosted to 24-megapixel resolution. But it's not the same sensor -- this one has been engineered without the low-pass filter designed to help eliminate aliasing distortions. Nikon says it's improved the sensor to the point where it's not necessary anymore. As with the cheaper models, the D7100's top standard sensitivity is ISO 6400.

Other key new features include the 51-point autofocus system. The only other Nikon camera with that system is the badass D800. Not even the full-frame D600 has the bew 51-point system. The D7200 is also the cheapest DSLR out there to offer an uncompressed video feed from the HDMI output -- that was one of the most talked about features of the D800 when it was released last year.

Indeed, the D7200 is a full-fledged video beast: It has on-board stereo mics in to the 3.5mm mic input and a headphone output for monitoring. For the price, you can't find a camera with all three. The camera's video recording sizes are pretty standard. It records 1920x1080 video at MPEG-4 at 25/30fps. You can get up to 60 interlaced frames at 1080 resolution as well.

There are a few interface an handling tweaks, including a higher-resolution 3.2-inch display. A new "I" button that allows you to quickly access common settings. In high-speed continuous shooting mood, it squeezes out 6fps compared to 5fps on the 5200. In the new 1.3x crop mode it gets up to seven frames. Nikon also tweaked the display that shows you shooting settings inside the viewfinder to OLED LCD, which is noticeably easier to read than the old green LCD blurs that used to be in there.

This all sounds fantastic, but the biggest problem is that while we just rattled off a load of highly-desirable features, there's not a single one that's compelling enough to seal the deal alone. And at $1200 for the body alone, the D7200 is asking a lot of people in a price-conscious class of consumers. Not only does it miss the crucial $1000 cutoff for what people consider a "budget" DSLR, it's $400 more expensive that the D5200. Is this stack of advanced features worth $400 if realistically you're working with the same image sensor on cheaper cameras? We'll have to wait until the camera comes out next month to find out.

Nikon D7100

• Price: $US1200 body only ($US1600 with 18-105 kit lens) • Sensor: 24.1MP, 23.5mm x 15.6mm APS-C • Max ISO: 6400 (25000 expanded) • Video: 1920x1080 30/50i/60i • Max Drive: 6fps at full resolution (7fps with 1.3x crop) • Screen: 1.229-million dot, 3.2-inch LCD • Weight: 675g