As you are likely discovering with your Nikon D7100, it is a highly customizable and versatile camera, and there are a lot of Menu options and Custom Settings that you can make use of in order to fine-tune the camera to perfectly fit your needs, shooting style, and scene or situation. The autofocus system and exposure metering system can be adjusted according to your needs and desires, the camera controls can be customized and assigned to a variety of functions, the displays, White Balance, and ISO can be tweaked according to your preferences. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the D7100 as I researched and wrote my e-book user’s guide to the D7100 called Nikon D7100 Experience, and below are the some of the top “tips and tricks” I’ve discovered for setting up and photographing with this powerful dSLR. I previously put together a similar “D7000 Tips and Tricks” post for the Nikon D7000, and all of those tips apply to the D7100 as well. I have repeated a couple of the important ones, and added several new ones here (in no particular order). Since this has turned into such a long post, I am dividing into two parts (Part 2 coming soon…)
Detail of the Nikon D7100 dSLR camera – photo by author
1. Take Control of the D7100 Autofocus System: Before getting into some of the tips regarding features and functions specific to the D7100, one needs to first take control of the basic functions of the camera, including the autofocus system and exposure metering settings. The D7100 boasts a 51 point autofocus system, upgraded from the 39 point system of the D7000. The large number of focus points and their positions in the Viewfinder will allow you to focus exactly where you wish – with minimal recomposing (when working in Single-Servo AF-S mode), plus will better enable you to track moving subjects throughout the frame when working in Continuous-Servo (AF-C) autofocus mode. The various autofocus modes (AF-S, AF-C, etc.) and the autofocus area modes (Single Point, Dynamic Area, etc.) may be intimidating at first, but once they are understood, it is easy to determine which combinations fit your shooting needs. Despite the increase in AF points, the system works nearly the same as that of the D7000, and I wrote an entire post introducing the use of the Nikon autofocus system, its AF and AF-Area modes, and its controls. If you have not previously used the D7000 or D600 you may at first be confused by the autofocus controls with the AF switch / button near the base of the lens (used in conjunction with the Command Dials), but you should quickly find that it is a quick and convenient way to change the AF modes and AF area modes.
Simulated view of the Nikon D7100 Viewfinder, with all 51 AF points shown for reference.
In addition, the D7100 offers several Custom Settings to customize various aspect of the autofocus system, namely Custom Settings a1-a6. You can use these to tell the camera if achieving exact focus takes priority over maintaining the fastest continuous frame rate, how long the AF system continues to track a specific subject (distance) even if the subject momentarily moves away from the active AF point, and if the active AF points are illuminated in the Viewfinder. You can even limit the number of selectable AF points to 11 if that helps you to more quickly or easily select your desired AF point. Each of these options are explained in my previous Nikon AF system post mentioned above.
2. Take Advantage of the new [i] Button: The D7100 adds the [i] Button (on the rear of the camera) which gives you immediate access to the Information Display screen, where many shooting settings and functions can be viewed and changed. You can press this button to turn on the Information Display on the Monitor and immediately access these settings with the use of the Multi Selector and OK Button. Press the [i] Button a second time or the Info button to “de-activate” the settings and simply view the camera settings on the Information Display Screen. Or, after the Info Button is pushed to display the camera settings of the Information Display screen on the rear Monitor, this [i] Button is pressed to “activate” the screen to enable changing the settings. In addition to the readily accessible camera buttons on the body of the D7100, this [i] Button and Information Display screen can be a quick and easy way to change many of the camera settings without having to dig into the menus, such as Image Area, Active D-Lighting, High ISO Noise Reduction, and Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Plus you can use this screen to quickly access and customize the DOF Preview Button, AE-L / AF-L Button, and Fn Button Assignments.
Detail of the Nikon D7100 with [i] Button shown – photo by author
The [i] Button can also be used during Live View shooting, Movie shooting, and Image Playback – to quickly access a number of applicable functions. During Live View shooting it can be pressed to access settings including Image Area, Image Quality, Image Size, Picture Control, Active D-Lighting, Remote Control Mode, and Monitor Brightness. During Movie shooting, the [i] Button will access Image Area, Picture Control, Monitor Brightness, Frame Size and Frame Rate, Movie Quality, Microphone sensitivity, Destination for which SD card slot movies will be saved to, and Headphone Volume. Plus during video playback, the [i] Button is also used to display movie edit options. When reviewing images during Image Playback, the [i] Button will access the Retouch Menu, which will allow you to apply various image edits such as Color Balance, Filter Effects, and Distortion Control.
Information Display shown on the rear LCD Monitor. Press the [i] Button to “activate” the screen and access/ change various settings. Select and change the settings along the bottom of the screen, such as the Picture Controls shown active and highlighted here.
3. Beware of Menu Conflicts: As with most current dSLR cameras, the D7100 has a couple menu settings and function “quirks” or conflicts that may drive you crazy if you are not aware why they are occurring. Most notably, some settings will be greyed-out or inaccessible in the menus and you will not be able to select them when working in one of the auto shooting modes, if not using an optional accessory, or if a “conflicting” setting is enabled. An example includes HDR shooting, which is not accessible when the camera is set to capture files in the (NEF) RAW or (NEF) RAW+JPEG image formats. Or, since White Balance Bracketing and RAW format are incompatible, if the camera is set for White Balance Bracketing and (NEF) RAW or (NEF) RAW+JPEG image formats, the BKT Button will not allow you to access bracketing. These are actually not arbitrary quirks, but are typically logical conflicts.
Custom Setting f2: Assign Function (Fn) Button, with the “Press” and “Press+Command Dials” options. Some of the “Press” options shown at right.
Another set of conflicts involves the customization of some buttons (Fn Button, Preview Button, and AE-L/AF-L Button) where you have the option to set a separate Press function (where you simply press the button) and a Press+Dial function (where you press the button and turn a dial in order to change a setting). While it at first seems handy that the D7100 menus separated the Press from the Press+Dial functions thus allowing you more options, you will soon find that most of them conflict, and in reality you will likely only be able to set either a Press function or a Press+Dial function.
4. Extend Your Reach with the 1.3x Crop Mode: Just as the D600 allows you to shoot in either full-frame FX mode or in a cropped DX mode, the D7100 allows you to shoot in full-sensor DX mode or in a cropped 1.3x mode. Using the Image Area menu setting, you can set the D7100 APS-C sized DX format sensor to act as an even smaller sized sensor, with an additional 1.3x crop. While the default DX setting takes advantage of the entire sensor, by enabling the 1.3x crop setting you can change the aspect ratio (very slightly) and angle of view (dramatically) of your resulting images – basically cropping your photos from what you see in the full Viewfinder to what you see inside the 1.3x outline shown in the Viewfinder when this feature is enabled.
Simulated D7100 Viewfinder view, showing the full size DX Image Area and the approximate size of the cropped 1.3x image indicated by the black rectangle surrounding the AF brackets. Location of all the Focus Points shown for reference. The 1.3x crop will, in effect, allow you to extend the reach of your lens and get closer to the action, as well as nearly fill the width of the active frame with the Focus Points.
The first advantage of the 1.3x crop is that it will allow you to “get closer” to the action by virtually extending the reach of your lenses. This can be particularly helpful when using a telephoto lens to capture sports, wildlife, or bird images where the subject is at a significant distance from you. It will allow, for example, your 200mm focal length lens to act as nearly a 400mm focal length. (Since the DX frame is already a 1.5x crop sensor in relation to a full-frame 35mm sized sensor, the additional 1.3x crop effectively doubles the focal length of the lens: 200mm X 1.5 X 1.3 = 390mm.)
The second advantage is that with the 1.3x crop, the area of the autofocus points as seen in the Viewfinder reaches nearly to the sides of the effective frame. This will allow you to track and capture a moving subject throughout almost the entire width of the active frame (when using continuous AF-C Focus Mode), or enable you to focus on and capture a still subject most anywhere in the frame without having to lock focus and reframe (when using single-shot AF-S Focus Mode).
A third advantage of working in 1.3x crop mode is that the Continuous High shooting speed goes from 6 fps to 7 fps (when shooting in JPEG or in 12-bit NEF-RAW), allowing you to capture slightly more images in a quick burst.
The disadvantage of the 1.3x crop is that you will only be using 15 megapixels of your 24.1 megapixel sensor, so you will have slightly reduced image resolution. The end result will be as if you cropped the image in post-processing. However, 15 MP is still a very high resolution, and for many shooting situations and image needs this may be more than sufficient.
5. Interval Timer and Time-Lapse Shooting: The Interval Timer Shooting function can be used to take a continuous series of photographs at each specified time interval, for a set number of intervals, with the intervals to begin either immediately or at a set time. It can be used to take these multiple series of shots over several minutes or hours – for example, 3 photos in a row every 10 minutes, for 12 intervals. This will result in a total of 36 photos, as the camera will calculate and show you. This Interval Timer Shooting menu can also be used for time-lapse photography by taking a series of individual photos over an extended period of minutes or hours, with just one photo per interval, which can then be combined into a time-lapse movie (using software designed for this such as Photoshop).
Interval Timer Shooting menus. Left: Setting the Interval time period between shots, here set for 10 minutes. Right: Setting the number of intervals and the number of shots to be taken at the start of each interval. Here, 12 intervals are set, with 3 shots to be taken each interval, for a total of 36 shots. The intervals are to start immediately, with the time between intervals as 10 minutes. The current time is 16:17 (which is shown in case you wish to set the Start Time).
Use the Interval Timer Shooting menu to choose all of your desired settings. Ideally, set up your camera on a tripod for the duration of Interval Timer Shooting, and use the included Eyepiece Cap to cover the Viewfinder and prevent stray light from altering the exposure. The camera will need to focus before taking the shots, so it may be best to pre-focus the camera and then set the camera and lens to manual focus.
For time-lapse photography you will need to take images at short intervals, with just one image per interval, for numerous intervals, in order to create a long and effective movie. For example, a photo every 30 seconds, for 8 hours. Be sure to have a large memory card or cards in the camera, and set the Role Played by Card in Slot 2 for Overflow if necessary. In the software you will set the movie frame rate, and that setting (24fps, 30fps, etc.) will determine to total length of the movie. There are time-lapse formulas, as well as apps, which you can use to plug-in your variables and determine either the settings you will need to use, or the resulting length of the final movie.
Here is a link to a tutorial for creating a time lapse movie using Photoshop. There are also plug-ins/ templates for Lightroom which will allow you to assemble and export a time-lapse video using that software (direct link to presets zip file).
The second part of these top ten Nikon D7100 tips and tricks continues here. Also, I explain these features and functions in even more detail, as well as explain all the other aspects of the D7100 in my e-book guide Nikon D7100 Experience, available on my Full Stop website. The guide not only explains the features, functions, and controls of the camera, but more importantly explains when and why you will want to use them in your photography. Take control of your D7100 and the images you create! Click the cover below to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide.
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