First Real World Field Test: NEW Nikon D7100 & AF-S Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5 – f/5.6 ED VR Lens

I got to shoot these two all weekend long in a real-world test and today I’ve got the straight scoop in the video right above. :)

If you’ve got any questions I didn’t answer in the video, post a comment below and I’ll do my best to get back to you as the day goes on.

Cheers. -Scott




    1. Hi Wade: The 300 f/2.8 with the tele would be a better choice (though it’s almost triple the price) because it’s faster (f/4 with the tele) and that lens just has something very special about it — the images just have that certain “something” that’s hard to quantify in a post, but is immediately obvious in the images you get from it. That is a “pro sports” lens, this is perfect for someone who wants that reach but can’t spend $7,000 or they need the ability to zoom in/out. There’s always a tradeoff. Hope that helps. :)

  1. Thanks for the review Scott. Just a couple of additional questions related to the 7100;
    1. Did you get a chance to try the 1.3 crop factor mode and if so, what was your impression?
    2. If memory serves you used to shoot with a D700. How would you rate the noise levels of the 7100 as compared to the D700?



      1. The one nice benefit of shooting in the 1.3 crop mode is that the camera can buffer 14 RAW images. It makes shooting RAW in continuous mode much more usable and a great option for birders that will crop anyways.

  2. Scott, thanks for the excellent overview of the 7100 & 80-400. In the video, you mentioned replacing your 300s with the 7100, and I’m curious what you think about the 7100 having fewer FPS and a smaller buffer size, and how that might impact your ability to shoot fast-moving subjects (i.e., sports). Thanks!

    1. Hey Trev: Shooting Raw + JPEG I only got about a 4-frame burst before it started to choke from filling the buffer, whereas when shooting in just JPEG Fine mode I got to around 20 shots before filling the buffer. Although it would definitely replace my D300, it’s not a “D400” (if there is, or ever will be such an animal — Nikon sure hasn’t told me). The 6 fps really doesn’t feel bad, but even just one more fps would be great (and I don’t believe you can add a battery grip to get any more fps like you can with the D300s. I wish I knew why, but so far I haven’t seen any new Nikon’s that let you have that wonderful feature from the recent past).

      1. Thanks for taking the time to reply, Scott. From what I’ve read, you’re right about the grip: it’s a great addition, but it won’t add anything to the FPS. Agreed on all points, and I really hope they release a “D400”. Take care.

      2. I am so disappointed after switching for quality canon 50d and Canon. I paid so much money. It’s not 6fps it’s 5 fps sic! in 14bit RAW and buffer can hold 4 pictures. I also bought 18-300. I wish I could feel I made progress. All in this camera seems smaller and fewer compared to Canon. I hope I will not regret it somehow. Scott, what’s best lens for it thinking future proof. (FF)

  3. Nice review Scott…D300s is forever my baby though. However it’s time to give it some wings and bring the D4 to the nest. I’m not sold on the D7100, the upgrade from 300s is good but that’s upgrading to better computer images, in need of that hat upgrade for larger projects now. However the D7100 looks good as an inexpensive gift to my sister so her photos looks dope on Facebook etc.

    As far as the lens, I have no need for 80-400 in my workflow, but for the person out there that does / the lens collectors out there, it seems like an awesome lens for the price!

    I hope you’re well, I don’t comment as much as I used to but know that I’m still reading and listening….(insiders of the photography industry / community is far more REAL and exciting that the music industry snobs….)

    Dwayne D. C. Tucker II
    Nassau, Bahamas | Miami, Florida

  4. Scott, Thanks for the review – I’m currently considering the 7100 vs the D600 for low light needs (high school basketball, dance recitals, etc.) How does the noise compare between the two? Thanks!

  5. Hi Scott,
    I was wondering if you can set the centre (ok) button to zoom to 1:1 like you can with Nikon’s high end bodies, but you couldn’t previously do with their lower end ones?

    1. Hi Chris: It definitely feels faster shoot high-res JPEGs (though I didn’t time it to compare the two) and the buffer doesn’t fill nearly as fast shooting JPEGs (for example, when shooting Raw + JPEG I only got about a 4-frame burst before it started to choke, whereas when shoot just JPEG Fine mode I got to around 20 shots before filling the buffer). The 6 fps really didn’t bother me — it felt considerable faster then the D600, even though I think it’s only 1 or 2 fps faster. For $1,200 it’s pretty amazing (though I wish it had to option to get up to 7 or 8 by adding a battery grip like the old D300). Hope that helps. :)

      1. You can get to 7fps by switching to 1.3x crop mode from DX. Also, in RAW + JPEG I had the same experience with it choking after 3-4 frame burst.

  6. Scott,

    Like your review so much. I have the old 80-400mm VR and luckily, my copy is sharp at 400mm f5.6 and others have complained, it is soft at 400mm f5.6 and need to stop down to f7.1 to get the sharpness.

    How about this new lens ? Is it sharp at 400mm f5.6 ?

    Thanks !

  7. Scott, these videos are really helpful. Thanks for doing them! I’m not in the market for either the body or the lens (although that lens would rock for wildlife shooting), but it’s good to see a real world review of them. A gear review video every once in awhile on your blog would be awesome.

    Will you be doing a post about your workshop last weekend soon? I cringed when I saw the photo of the man with the broken lens posted on Google+. Yikes!

  8. Hi Scott,
    I shoot professional theatre. I can’t decide if in camera NR helps or hurts.
    Did you test the D7100 with the in camera NR off and are you a fan of in camera NR at all?

    Thanks! Steve

  9. Scott,
    Great review. I have been using the 70-200/2.8 with a 2X TCE for wildlife photography. Do you have any insight if you think this would do better on a D4. Thanks


    1. Sorry Scott, I don’t think I was being clear. I was asking if you thought the 80-400 lens would have advantages over a 70-200/2.8 with a 2x converter. Thanks again

  10. My thoughts like everyone else is “didn’t Nikon already release this lens”? I will be interested in this as I have been looking at a 200-400 f4 but I know it will only be used every now and then. Looks like this is the lens for me!

  11. Hey Scott, how would you say the 80-400 compares optically and AF wise to the 70-200 in the common apertures. If you knew you wouldn’t be needing the f2.8 – f4 range would there be any reason to use/own the 70-200?

    1. Hi Connor —- honestly, at f/8 I couldn’t really tell a difference at first glance — I’d have to put the two side-by-side, but if you have to do that, that tells you it’s pretty darn sharp! :)

  12. For those interested, there is a pretty good discussion going on over at the following link from owners who own both the D600 & D7100 and some comparisons of images shooting at high ISO’s between each.

    I have the D7100 on order (to deliver tomorrow) and I for one can say I’m very relieved and surprised it appears to me that this camera has taken a big step forward in this regard (despite higher MP count) and I am very much looking forward to receiving the new body.

    Thanks Scott as usual for the informative mini-review; the best type of review personally.

  13. D7100 vs. D600? Or wait to see if D400 becomes reality? I’m no hurry to buy.

    What would you recommend as best overall value for family events (indoors, kid sports, general life moments) between the two camera’s?

    Really want to know if the sensor technology (low light-wise) in the 7100 is close enough to the D600 “FX” sensor, or whether the FX sensor is still “night and day” when compared to DX.

    Trying to justify making the FX jump, or can live with super duper 7100?

      1. So if i take the D400 out of the mix, and you only had the 50mm 1.8 and a 80-200mm 2.8 to shoot with, which would you buy for best overall performer between the two models…again, for family moments ((indoors, kid sports, general life moments).

      2. …in regards to the harsher environments (e.g. stopping motion in low light). I’m sure they are both great in ideal situations.

  14. Hi Scott – about the extra crop factor on the D7100 and 7fps burst mode, is there a significant increase in noise/lack of image quality when using the x2 crop factor?

  15. Hi Scott,

    I’m fairly new to taking pictures at my daughter’s indoor volleyball games and wondered if you could provide a recommendation for a lens that would work best for my needs, and budget.

    I am awaiting the arrival of my D7100 (upgrade from my D60) and will be limited to the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens that is coming with the kit. I know that my budget is going to be quite limiting, at $1,500.00, however would there be a lens that would be useful and within that range that you would recommend.


  16. G’day! I’ve always considered the Sigma 150-500mm as the best value telephoto around but have been considering a slightly smaller telephoto option and wonder how much of a gain (if any) the new Nikon 80-400mm would compare.
    My main needs for this are in astrophotography. I’m using a D800e these days (up from a DX model) and there are two problems for me with my Sigma:
    1) It’s weight. When wound out to 500mm there is no way to lock the lens, so sitting on the tripod pointing upwards it slowly winds its way back in again which means it goes out of focus. Can the 80-400mm lock at 400mm or will it hold at 400mm if you leave it on a tripod pointing straight up and walk away for a few minutes? Does it maintain focus or does focus change with zoom?
    2) Corner distortion. Wide open all lenses I’ve tried exhibit to varying degrees a distortion where stars in the corners become arcs while stars in the center of the lens are round and pin sharp. This is different to star movement/field rotation (which can be negated) but a factor of the glass itself. It can be reduced by stopping down but in astrophotography you don’t want to do that…you are trying to catch as many photons as possible! So on my Sigma at 500mm stars become arcs that are around five times longer than the thickness of the star recorded. Any chance you can try a test shot and see just how sharp stars are in the corners or how long the arcs become (eg sharp focus (live view) in the center, ISO2000-3200, 80-400mm @ 400mm, exposure 0.5-1sec should give you sharp round stars in the middle of the shot) and how bad the chromatic fringing gets.
    cheers mate!

  17. Hi Scott,
    I’m looking at trading in my D90 for the new D7100 as I like the specs for the new camera, as I do a lot of airshow shooting and feel that the 24mb new sensor and crop mode will help me improve the quality of my shooting over the D90. However, one item concerns me a little. What do you think of Nikon’s decision to exclude the monitor protector that it includes with cameras like the D90 and other higher range cameras? Do you know if the 3.2″ monitor is made of something like Gorilla Glass, and would you recommend putting a protective film, like that for the iPad (trimmed down of course), on the monitor. I could not get a straight answer on this when I called Nikon Canada!

  18. I have been shooting the D7100 for two AHL hockey games and I have been a tad frustrated. Still working on the proper AF-C settings. I would really, really, really, really (really?) appreciate what you chose to use during your test at the TB Forum. Also, did you tweak any other settings for the game photos? Thank you for your time, really. :)

  19. Hello Scott,
    This is an excellent review! I shoot a lot of dance in ridiculously low stage lighting (it sometimes seems like shooting a basketball game with only the emergency lights on). I shoot mainly with my D3s with great results. I purchased the D600 and it doesn’t focus that great in low light (only goes down to EV -1). The D600 is my all around full frame camera, but not for low light action. I can’t afford the D4 as my other camera body so I have been searching for reviews for the D7100. After seeing this review, I purchased the D7100 and I will use is as my D3s backup. It also has the DX crop factor with the additional 1.3 x crop. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us!

  20. Hi do you think that at ISO 3200 (most likely my default ISO setting for indoor gymnastics), the D7100 will produce nice enough prints for canvas size 30 x 20? Or would the D600 be a better choice in this situation? I shoot mainly portraits, but also will be shoot fast action outdoor baseball, indoor gymnastics, and will be shooting weddings down the road. I appreciate your insight and the review above. My dilemma is that I just received by D600 but I am seeing spots at f/16 against bright backgrounds. So am returning it Monday and need to decided if I will be getting another D600 or replacing it with the D7100. I cannot get the lens you mentioned but was thinking about getting either the Nikon 80-200 or the third party tamron 70-200 lens in the next three months, once I save up again. Would that lens perform better on the D600?

  21. I just shot with the D7100 this weekend and i’m trying to download the pictures into Lightroom and the program is not recognizing it. Anybody have the same problem? Preview won’t even load them. Thanks for any help

  22. AF tracking D7100 vs. D7000:

    Is D7100 “feelable” better with tracking AF than D7000?

    Using my D7000 with a 200-400/4.0 and AF-C (3D or 9point tracking) I had a lot of unsharp fotos on (not fast) moving animals in zoo. Looked like D7000 wasn’t really good with that 400mm and in a bit dim light (found that described elsewhere about long lenses and D7000). D7000 with 70-200 I didn’t have these issues. 200-400/4.0 in AF-S center point non-moving no problems with D7000, so it’s not a wrong AF Finetune setting.

    On paper it looks like D7100 has the better AF sensor from the “upper” series (D3, D700, D800, …), but real-world experience? That would be my main point in upgrading from D7000.

    Thx for a great quick real-life review in that video!

  23. I just replaced my D90 with the D7100 last week and the limited tests so far look promising. The first test was shooting close ups of my diecast aircraft collection and the warning labels/unit insignias on the aircraft using my Nikon D7100 and 18-300 lens at 300mm. I have done this for initial “reference pics” for all my Nikon cameras! With my D90 I could never get the pictures quite sharp enough without any blurring, especially when I would zoom in. With the D7100 the pictures are crystal clear and sharp and I can zoom in many times without blurring. Exposure and colour was excellent. My daughter also took some pictures of me with my grandson in low light and the images were excellent and the 6fps she shot was awesome. The playback, keeping your finger on the replay button was almost like a movie! I am really looking forward now to doing some test shots of aircraft this week. I have set up my camera with 2 hi-speed 64GB Sandisc cards in my camera slots with the 2nd slot as overflow. I initially set up picture quality as JPEG, large , fine with full compression and the top panel indicated I could get 4.0k shots per card or 8.0k total. I usually shoot 2,200 to 2,800 pics at Airshows so this number of shots available through the 2 slots is awesome! However, I later decided to change the JPEG compression to “optimal” to improve the image quality and will now still get 5,400 potential shots which should still be more than enough! BTW, if you have an iPad or iPhone, Nikon have a great APP for their camera manuals called “Manual Viewer”. It allows you to download the Nikon official manual for your camera FREE! If you have more than one camera it has a bookshelf feature which allows you to store as many manual as you need. It also has a superb interactive query function which quickly brings up lots of suggestions for any camera action or function you want to look at.

  24. hello, my name is Bill Shikwana and i’m new to the dslr cameras, i just got my d7100 and i love it, the only issue i have with it is that it seems to be really slow when taking pictures,is that something caused by the setting on the camera or maybe the sd card or maybe it depends on the time of day?, thank you

  25. Any idea how long it will take Adobe to update Camera Raw/Lightroom to read the RAW images from the D7100? They won’t read them for me now. I’m saving my RAW files and being forced to convert to TIFF with Nikon’s ViewNX 2 that came with the camera. You should have reminded us of these RAW compatibility problems. ;-)

  26. Hi Scott,

    If you would have none of the following product combinations, which would you choose?
    a) 70-200mm f/2,8 + TC-20E III
    b) 70-200mm f/4 + TC-20E III
    c) 80-200mm AF-S

  27. Hey Scott, I would like to see a test of the D7100’s buffer. I shoot wildlife and landscape and a lot of fast moving/flying waterfowl. I have read that the buffer is terrible for this kind of photography.

  28. Hi Scott,

    Loved your review on the D7100. I recently bought it.
    I am not getting the sharpness that everyone
    else is, I was a little disappointed. Then I noticed
    that the factory setting was at 2 under the sharpness
    For the picture control. Did you adjust that setting?

    Please help!

    Thanks, Jolie

  29. One of the best reviews online — I guess that’s why I purchase your books, too — lol. BTW, will a teleconverter work with this lens? Also, would like your thoughts on using the 7100 for bird photography — love those Hummingbirds. Thanks.

  30. Hi Scott,

    I don’t know how the price works out elsewhere in the world but in the UK the new 80-400 is about £2500. The 70-200 VRII with TC-20E III teleconverter is about £2000. You then get a fast 70-200 and a 400 f/5.6 when you need it for 20% less money.

    Why would you buy the new 80-400?

  31. HI Scott
    I am trying to take airplane pics flying at low altitude over my house all summer long. Theses airplanes are propeller planes pulling a glyder plane, for canadian air force trainees. Theses airplanes are travelling at low speed. My problem is that I use a Nikon D7100 + 70-300 f4.5-5.6 ED lens at 1/1000 sec at 300 mm , using the 3D tracking autofocus, in AF-C mode. When I acquiire focus, during a brief instant, the plane is moving ithe AF-C nstead of following the airplane the focus is jumping out of the plane area and trying to focus the sky instead.. I see in the bottom of my viewing screen the double arrows pointing at each other meaning that focus is not achieved. Any ideas how to correct this problem ?

  32. Hi Scott, I’m really considering buying this lens and was very interested in watching this review video.
    Unfortunately, it seems to be blocked, the message “This video is private.” appears.
    Can you please make it public again?
    Much appreciated.

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