Best Nikon "Crop-Sensor DX-Format" Camera for TL/HL?


New time-lapser
Hi there

I am looking into buying a new Nikon Camera for my TL/HL Hobby! For the past 5 years i have been shooting with my Nikon D90, but i guess it's Time for a newer model.

I have been looking into getting a Nikon D610 or D810 but have decided to stick with a "Crop-Sensor DX-Format" Camera as the full-frame is just to expencive (not to think of the cost of a new full-frame lens).

So i have been looking at the D7100 and the D5300 but i have not decides yet - maby some of you can give me some pointers which way to go (both have the same sensor).

things i like about the

- bigger body, better quality
- 1.3x crop
- Live View
- Virtual horizon

- vari-Angle LCD monitor
- smaller

I like the WLAN & Vari-Angle LCD Monitor with the D5300 (good for HL) - but i also like the 1.3x crop with the D7100.

Any tipps to make my decision easier?

also - what lens can you recommen? i'm looking into getting a 10mm?

looking forward to your "decision-help;-)

greetings from Zurich,

Aaron Priest

Active time-lapser
I would say D7100, but here are my reasons why, you'd have to see if they matter to you vs. the price difference:
  1. Weather sealing with a partial magnesium alloy frame vs. carbon reinforced plastic. If you are doing a lot of timelapse (especially overnight) you will get dew and occasional rain/moisture.
  2. Focus motor. This is only important if you want to use older lenses that don't have AF-S or a focus motor in the lens.
  3. The D7100 has a prism instead of a mirror in the viewfinder, brighter images in dim light with 100% frame coverage vs. 95% for the D5300. This doesn't affect LiveView though.
  4. Much better battery life (about a third more), which could be very important for long timelapses unless you run off external power. 950 shots vs. 600
  5. Much improved autofocus system, which might not matter if you are primarily using LiveView from a tripod to focus or focusing manually for timelapses. It will autofocus in one stop less light and offers fine tuning of AF lenses.
  6. 1/8000 shutter speed vs 1/4000, but rarely are timelapses shot at such shutter speeds. I only mention it if you are shooting wide open and doing HDR work. It's also slightly faster at 1fps more if you do hand-held HDR or sports. 2fps faster in 1.3x crop mode. Faster flash sync speed too if you are into portraits with flash at larger apertures. Also adds commander mode for wireless flash and high speed sync for external flash. These are big additions, though not for timelapse shooters.
  7. Two SD memory card slots, which lets you save JPEGs to one and RAW files to another (if using something like DslrDashboard or a RamperPro that needs that), or use the second as backup or overflow for the first. If you already have a bunch of SD cards you'll be able to shoot longer timelapses without buying a larger single card.
  8. 150,000 rated shutter vs. 100,000. I've not seen very many people wear out their shutter from timelapses though, most cameras go way past their rated shutter.
  9. Top LCD screen. I use this a lot to save battery power turning on the rear LCD to see what my camera settings are at a glance. I'm so used to having a camera with one that I feel like something is missing on cameras that don't include it. That's my preference though.
On the flip side, the D5300 has a newer sensor (nearly the same as the D7100) with a slightly higher megapixel count, no optical low-pass filter, and is just a little bit cleaner with more dynamic range at ISO 1600-2500. It's marginal, nothing that can't be tweaked in post processing with good noise reduction and sharpening techniques. It's also smaller and lighter (pentamirror instead of pentaprism saves weight), with more video modes thanks to the new sensor and Expeed 4 processor. It also has an articulating screen and built in GPS / WiFi as you mentioned. There is a WU-1a WiFi adapter for the D7100 however, and you can still geotag your images in Lightroom manually or use a .GPX file from an iPhone or handheld GPS (I've been doing this for years). If you use DslrDashboard (works on Windows, Mac, and Android, not iOS yet), it will work with the built in WiFi of the D5300 and the WU-1a of the D7100. It will also work with a $35 TP-Link TL-MR3040 battery powered WiFi router with almost any Nikon or Canon camera.

If you shoot night timelapses of the stars or Milky Way, the best lens for a crop sensor hands-down is Tokina's 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX-II. It's very sharp wide open at f/2.8 and lets you get 25-30 second shutter speeds without star trails on a crop sensor. If you get the older version of the lens (doesn't have a II in the name) it won't autofocus on the D5300 because it needs the screw type focus motor. The newer DX-II model added a focus motor in the lens similar to Nikon's AF-S and works fine on the D5300.


At this time, the D7200 is likely the best Nikon DX camera. Like the D7100 it offers more in terms of dynamic range and ISO performance, which are the factors that make post processing in good light time lapse easier, and with great results. Today's Nikons have such good image quality and performance, only a small difference sets them apart. Whatever Nikon you choose you can't go wrong. Keep in mind, that a 14bit RAW file will provide better image quality for post processing than a 12 bit RAW file.

Update edit.
I do use a D3300 for most of my TL and it is 12 bit RAW file. The 14 bit with the D7100 is better for when you need to push the shadows and colors in post processing. Best to have 2 or more cameras when you TL, that way you can still get some photos and panoramas while you're TL is in progress.
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