Nikon D7000 Overview
by Shawn Barnett, Dave Etchells, Mike Tomkins and
Hands-on Preview Posted: 9/15/2010
Test Results Posted: 12/08/2010
Shooter's Report and Conclusion Posted: 01/25/2011
The Nikon D7000 represents an evolution of the company's venerable D90 -- the first digital SLR with movie capture capability and the first mid-range model with a high-res 3.0-inch VGA LCD panel. Externally, the Nikon D7000 is similar to its predecessor in terms of size, weight, and much of the controlled layout, but adopts a weather-sealed, magnesium alloy construction like that of the D300S. Nikon emphasizes that the D90 will remain in the lineup.
Graced with a 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, the Nikon D7000 is the second consumer Nikon to exceed the 12-megapixel mark. A/D conversion is 14-bit, handled by the new EXPEED 2 image processor.
Capable of shooting up to 100 JPEGs at 6 frames per second, the Nikon D7000 exceeds its predecessor's utility for action shooting, and Nikon also keeps the pressure on in the ISO sensitivity department, with standard ISOs ranging from 100 to 6,400, but reaching to 25,600 in its expanded range.
Metering is also improved in the Nikon D7000, with a new 3D Color Matrix Metering sensor with more than twice the pixels of past sensors at 2,016 pixels instead of the 1,005 in Nikon's pro cameras.
A new Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus sensor now sports 39 autofocus points, nine of them cross-type. 100 percent viewfinder coverage promises easier image framing as well, a major improvement in the Nikon D7000.
There's a whole lot more new about the Nikon D7000. Check out our Nikon D7000 Review below for more.
The Nikon D7000 digital camera began shipping from October 2010, with pricing set at about US$1,200 body-only. A Nikon D7000 kit is also available, including the AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens for around US$1,500. The Nikon D90 remains in the product line.
Nikon D7000 User Report
Nikon is finally updating its flagship consumer SLR, the D90, after more than two years of distinguished service. (And that service isn't over yet, as the D90 will remain in the product line going forward, as Nikon's most affordable "enthusiast" SLR.) The Nikon D7000 looks to be a worthy evolution of the first digital SLR to shoot video. Most people I know who shoot and love the Nikon D90 love it more for stills than video, but as always it's good to know you can capture a movie when you need to. With the D90 in their sights, other SLR manufacturers exceeded the D90's capabilities with Full HD video, so the D7000 is Nikon's answer, and then some, creating a formidable competitor in more ways than one.
Nimble is the word that comes to mind when I think of the Nikon D7000 and its predecessors in this prosumer category. While the D300S speaks to the working photographer in me, the Nikon D7000 appeals to the Dad side: It's a casual camera that's also serious enough for any type of work or play. Equip it with a lens like the 18-105mm, and you're ready for a day out with the kids; add a decent telephoto lens and you can capture a day at the race track or an airshow, thanks to the D7000's six frame-per-second top speed.
Just the right blend of big and small, the Nikon D7000 fits in the hand well, and yet packs away into a small space with ease (depending on the lens in use). The grip is tall enough for all four fingers, with a nice indent for the fingers to get a good purchase.
Weight is also good, if just a little heavier than the D90. The Nikon D7000 body comes in at 27.7 ounces (1.73 pounds, 786g) with battery, and the D90 is 25.2 ounces (1.58 pounds, 713g). Just like its predecessors, the Nikon D7000 feels balanced and solid, a pleasure to hold and shoot.
On the top deck, the main change starts with the Mode dial, which now groups scene modes into a single position, freeing up space for two new user modes. It sits on top of a new Release Mode dial, which is used to select functions such as continuous burst shooting, self-timer, remote, mirror lock-up and quiet shutter mode. Drive mode and Autofocus mode buttons are removed from the right of the monochrome LCD.
The D90's wide metal camera strap lugs are replaced with the smaller lugs that require D-rings to accept a cloth camera strap. This is more a liability than an improvement, as the Nikon D7000's D-rings make noise that is picked up by the camera's microphone while you shoot video. The D90's cloth-to-metal design makes more sense for a video-capable camera.
The D7000's Live view mode is now activated by a new selector lever on the camera's rear, which features a dedicated movie record button at its center. There's also a new button positioned centrally in the Focus Mode lever, which is used in concert with the camera's dials to change autofocus-related settings. The Playback button has also moved up to sit logically alongside the Delete button, allowing a little more room between the remaining four buttons that line the left of the LCD panel.
Dual slots. That card door on the right of the Nikon D7000 is noticeably bigger than the SD-card door on the D90. Did they bring back the CF card slot? Not exactly; instead, they included two SD card slots. That, my friends, is what we call an upgrade. Both slots are compatible with SDHC and SDXC cards, and it's possible to configure the camera to use the secondary slot as an overflow when the first card is filled; as a backup of everything written to the other card slot; or to have Raw files routed to one card, and JPEGs to the other. In addition, you can select which card movies should be written to, and copy data between cards in-camera.
Sensor. On the inside, the Nikon D7000 is based around a newly developed DX-format (23.6 x 15.6mm), CMOS image sensor with 16.2 effective megapixel resolution, from a total resolution of 16.9 megapixels. The D7000's imager has a pixel size of 4.78µm, and yields maximum image dimensions of 4,928 x 3,262 pixels. Two lower-resolution options are also available -- either 3,696 x 2,448, or 2,464 x 1,632 pixels.
The Nikon D7000 can capture still images as .NEF-format raw files, JPEG compressed files, or as both types simultaneously. To combat the effects of dust on the image sensor, Nikon has included its sensor cleaning function, which uses piezoelectric vibration at four different frequencies to shake dust from the low-pass filter.
Processor. The Nikon D7000 uses 14-bit analog/digital conversion, and output from the CMOS sensor is handled by a new EXPEED 2 image processor. Compared to the original EXPEED CPU in the D90, EXPEED 2 offers improvements in processing speed, image quality, and power consumption.
The EXPEED 2 CPU's claimed improvements look to be borne out by the camera's specifications. In its Continuous High mode, the Nikon D7000 can shoot as many as 100 JPEG-compressed still images at a rate of 6 frames per second -- a significant improvement over its predecessor, which was limited to 23 JPEG frames at 4.5 fps. When lesser burst speed is required, the Continuous Low mode provides anywhere from one to five frames per second shooting. Another hint of the power on offer from EXPEED 2 can be seen in the Nikon D7000's shutter lag, rated at just fifty milliseconds -- a worthwhile improvement over the 65ms lag of the Nikon D90.
Sensitivity. The Nikon D7000's sensitivity range is also greatly expanded, with standard limits of ISO 100 to 6,400 equivalents, while ISO 12,800 and 25,600 equivalents are available when ISO expansion is enabled. By comparison, the Nikon D90 offers a standard range of ISO 200 to 3,200, while its expanded range was ISO 100 to 6,400. The Nikon D7000 is the company's first DX-format (APS-C sensor size) camera model to offer a maximum sensitivity of 25,600 equivalent, reaching into territory formerly occupied only by the company's FX-format (full-frame) models. With that said, Nikon was pipped to the post in this department by Pentax's K-r and K-5, other APS-C models to offer single-shot ISOs of up to 25,600 and 51,200 respectively, while several recent Sony interchangeable-lens models can offer ISO 25,600, but only in a multi-frame mode.
New metering sensor. Perhaps an even more significant change is to be found in the Nikon D7000's metering system, where the company has increased the resolution of its 3D Color Matrix Metering sensor to 2,016 pixels. That's a huge leap forward from the 420-pixel sensor used in the D90. Even when compared to the 1,005 pixel sensor used in Nikon's professional D3-series cameras (among others), it's still just slightly more than a doubling of the metering sensor resolution. Not only does this new sensor allow more accurate exposure metering in the Nikon D7000, but it also provides improvements in other areas of the camera that rely on information from the metering sensor when making operating decisions. For example, the new metering sensor will also improve performance of the Nikon D7000's Scene Recognition System, which considers a database of around 31,000 different scene types, and then uses the information to assist in calculating optimal focus, exposure, and white balance variables.
As well as Matrix metering, the Nikon D7000 provides center weighted (75% weight for circle) and spot modes. The center-weighted circle defaults to 8mm, but can be changed to 6, 10, or 13mm. The spot metering circle is 3.5mm, or about 2.5% of the image frame at center. Working range for the D7000's metering system is from 0 to 20 EV for matrix and center-weighted metering, or 2 to 20 EV for spot metering (ISO 100, f/1.4 lens, 68°F / 20°C).
Autofocus is another area that's received significant attention from the Nikon D7000's designers. The company has developed a new Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus sensor, which includes 39 AF points, including nine cross-type sensors at the center of the image frame, operable with every autofocus Nikkor lens. The 39 focus points cover much of the image frame, and the Nikon D7000 includes 3D tracking capability that follows moving subjects from point to point as they traverse the frame. For manual point selection, when a 39-point system might prove overly complex, it's possible to restrict the number of manually selectable points to a subset of 11 points throughout the frame. Nikon has also improved AF control in the D7000, with a new button positioned centrally in the Focus Mode switch used to select the AF point in concert with the camera's control dials to select autofocus mode, active points, etc. Detection range for the D7000's AF system is -1 to +19 EV (ISO 100, 68°F / 20°C). The Nikon D7000 also supports AF fine-tuning to address back- or front-focusing lens issues, a feature previously only found on higher-end models such as the D300 and up.
Exposure modes in the Nikon D7000 include Auto, Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, Manual, Flash Off, and Scene, as well as two new User modes. As mentioned previously, the Scene mode position on the camera's Mode dial now groups the D7000's scene modes together, rather than their meriting individual positions on the dial. Scene mode choices have been increased from the D90's Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up, and Night Portrait settings to include Night landscape, Party/indoor, Beach/snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Pet portrait, Candlelight, Blossom, Autumn colors, Food, Silhouette, High key and Low key. The two User positions are used to store and quickly recall camera setups for later use. Available shutter speeds range from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds in 1/3 or 1/2EV steps, plus a bulb position for longer exposures. The Nikon D7000's shutter mechanism has a rated lifetime of some 150,000 cycles. Exposure compensation is available within a +/-5.0 EV range, in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps. The Nikon D7000 also offers two or three frame exposure bracketing, with a step size between exposures of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, or 1EV.
White balance. The Nikon D7000 provides no less than 20 white balance modes, including two Auto modes, 12 presets, 5 manual positions, and a direct color temperature setting. The secondary Auto white balance mode, known as Ambient Auto, uses information from the new color metering sensor to allow a warm color rendering, as might be desirable for shooting sunsets, golden hour photos, and the like. The function seems similar to that of Pentax's Color Temperature Enhancement (CTE) setting, which was introduced in the K-7 model.
Flash. For shooting in difficult lighting conditions, the Nikon D7000 includes both a built-in popup flash strobe, and an ISO 518 intelligent hot shoe for external strobes. There's no built-in PC sync connector, but Nikon offers an optional hot shoe mounted sync connector adapter for use with studio strobes. The built-in flash has 16mm coverage, and will pop up automatically as needed in Auto and most Scene modes, while in other modes it can be deployed manually. The Guide number is 12 meters / 39 feet at ISO 100, 68°F / 20°C. Flash metering modes include i-TTL, auto-aperture, non-TTL auto, and distance-priority manual, with availability of these modes depending on the flash model. -3 to +1 EV of flash exposure compensation is available, and the Nikon D7000 also offers two or three frame flash exposure bracketing, with a step size between exposures of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, or 1EV.
The Nikon D7000 includes in-camera support for Nikon's Creative Lighting System with the built-in strobe, and with compatible external strobes, as well as Auto FP high-speed sync and modeling illumination support for all Creative Lighting System-compatible strobes except the SB-400. Flash X-sync is at 1/250 second, but can be increased to 1/320 second at the expense of flash range.
Viewfinder. The Nikon D7000's glass pentaprism optical viewfinder has also been refined from that in the D90. While the 0.94x magnification and 19.5mm eyepoint are unchanged, the Nikon D7000's viewfinder now boasts 100% rated coverage, easing accurate framing of images. It also provides a wider diopter adjustment range of -3 to +1m-1. The rear-panel super density 3.0-inch LCD panel, used for playback and live view framing of images and movies, looks to be unchanged from that of the D90. Resolution is still 921,000 dots, roughly equating to a VGA (640 x 480) pixel array, with each pixel comprising three adjacent red, green, and blue dots. The D7000's LCD panel has a wide 170 degree viewing angle, making it somewhat more useful for shooting from the hip, low to the ground, or overhead, although the tilt or tilt/swivel types on some competing cameras can make these tasks rather easier.
Live view and Movie. The Nikon D7000 retains the live view and movie functionality of the D90, but with some important tweaks. The D90 uses a dedicated button to start and stop Live view mode, while the OK button in the center of the four-way controller functioned as a Movie record button when Live view was active. In the D7000, the Live View mode is now triggered with a dedicated selector lever, and a button centrally located in the lever's pivot point is used as a dedicated movie record button. The Nikon D7000's Live view mode retains the face detection and tracking capability of the D90, but can now locate many more faces within the image frame -- as many as 35 faces can be detected simultaneously, seven times as many as in the previous model.
Full-time AF. Perhaps more significantly for consumer videographers, the Nikon D7000 now offers full-time contrast detection autofocus during movie capture, including support for the face detection and tracking functionality. With Nikon F-mount lenses having been designed for still image shooting, it's likely that autofocus drive noise will be picked up on the audio track when using the Nikon D7000's internal microphone, but this is likely a worthwhile tradeoff for many consumers, given the difficulty of learning to pull focus manually.
Movie record modes. Where the D90 is limited to a maximum of 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) video recording at 24 frames per second, the Nikon D7000 is now capable of Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) movie capture at the same 24 frames per second rate. If this much resolution is overkill for your purposes, there are still options for both 720p and VGA video capture in the D7000, with a choice of either 24 or 30fps at 720p, and VGA movies being fixed at 30 frames per second. (These rates all apply in NTSC mode; for PAL mode the 30fps rates are replaced with 25fps rates.)
Another important difference between the video modes of the D90 and Nikon D7000 can be found in their choices of file type and compression format. The D90 uses older, less efficient, Motion JPEG compression in an .AVI container, where the Nikon D7000 now uses H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC in a .MOV container. While this will lead to smaller file sizes, the change of video format will also necessitate a reasonably modern PC for editing and (to a lesser extent) playback -- perhaps the main advantage of Motion JPEG is that its computer requirements are more modest thanks to the less advanced compression used. Audio is recorded as linear PCM, from either an internal monaural microphone, or a standard 3.5mm external stereo microphone jack. Maximum clip length is 20 minutes, regardless of recording resolution. The Nikon D7000 includes not only the ability to perform basic movie editing in-camera, specifying crop points at the start or end of a movie clip, but also allows photographers to extract still frames from within a recorded video -- potentially a useful feature for small prints, given that the highest resolution Movie mode would yield a two-megapixel still.
Editing. The Nikon D7000 retains the in-camera Raw file processing and image retouching capabilities of its predecessor, and adds a couple of new tricks. Among these are a perspective control function that provides the miniature effect that's been particularly popular of late, adding graduated blurs at the top and bottom edges of an image to simulate reduced depth of field. There's also a new color sketch filter that provides output intended to look like a hand-drawn sketch.
Ports. The Nikon D7000 includes a range of connectivity options. For data transfer to a computer, there's a standard USB 2.0 High Speed port. Videos can be shown on standard or high-definition displays using either the NTSC / PAL switchable composite port, or Type-C Mini HDMI port, respectively. While in use, the standard-def composite port allows the camera's LCD to remain active, but the HDMI port overrides the camera's LCD display. It also supports the Consumer Electronics Control (HDMI-CEC) standard, allowing remote control of certain playback functionality through the HDMI cable, from an attached display's remote control unit. There's also an accessory terminal on the Nikon D7000 that's compatible with the MC-DC2 remote cable release, and the GP-1 GPS unit, both available as optional extras. Finally, the Nikon D7000 has the aforementioned 3.5mm stereo microphone input jack.
Battery. The Nikon D7000 draws power from a new EN-EL15 lithium-ion battery pack, rather than the previous EN-EL3e type. The new pack is more compact, and is rated at a 1,900 mAh capacity. Battery life to CIPA testing standards should be approximately 1,050 shots. The Nikon D7000 is also compatible with an optional MB-D11 portrait battery grip, which can accept either one EN-EL15 lithium-ion battery pack, or six standard AA cells. For longer-term power, such as in a studio, Nikon also provides an optional EP-5B power supply connector, essentially a dummy battery to which the company's EH-5 AC adapter can be connected.
Price and availability. The Nikon D7000 digital camera began shipping from October 2010, with pricing set at about US$1,200 body-only. A Nikon D7000 kit is also available, including the AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens for around US$1,500.
Nikon D7000 Shooter's Report
by Shawn Barnett
As always, shooting with a Nikon digital SLR camera is a pleasure. The Nikon D90 charm remains in the Nikon D7000: A small-bodied digital SLR with most of the major controls available at your fingertips; that includes a few new controls to make accessing the Nikon D7000's new features a little bit easier. Thanks to the new features and controls, the learning curve is a little bit steeper, and the Nikon D7000 has a lot more depth to plumb with the manual in one hand.
I shot the Nikon D7000 with the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, equivalent to a 27-158mm lens, which has the typical high quality build of most Nikkor lenses. The zoom ring is smooth and tight, and the lens has built-in Vibration Reduction. The only physical complaint I have is that the lens hood tends to rattle, quite a lot unfortunately, which is a first for me among Nikon lens hoods. That's not good for videos, but I didn't notice any rattle in the videos I shot. I've managed to temporarily quiet the rattle with a small piece of tape wrapped around the mount on the bottom side of the lens hood. After using the lens a little more, I found its focal length a little short for my usual family shooting, as it doesn't get me close enough to the stage at school or sports events. I would prefer the 18-135mm lens, even though that model lacks VR. It's still a very good lens, though, with less chromatic aberration than the 18-135, and better image quality than the standard kit lens that ships with the D3100 and D5000. See our review of the 18-105mm lens on our sister site, SLRgear.com.
As I said, working with the Nikon D7000 is a little different from working with the D90, and also different from the Nikon D300. Neither of the big two SLR manufacturers has a single overarching philosophy concerning controls, and as features are added, it seems like each design team solves the problems in its own way. I prefer the Nikon D300S interface, with three major important options clustered atop the Drive Mode dial on the left shoulder, but Nikon's long put a Mode dial here on this class of camera, which is probably better for consumer users.
Grip. Grabbing the Nikon D7000, my fingertips find a comfortable home in the gentle indentation just inside the grip. My middle finger just touches the function button on the front and my index finger rests on the shutter button. My thumb gently touches the left of the Main Command dial on the rear of the camera, also catching a bit of the rubber pad beneath it. Nikon has thoughtfully cut a corner off the left front of the D7000 so it doesn't jab into my palm as my fingers work the zoom and focus rings. The Nikon D7000 is well crafted.
Focus. If I want to change the focus mode, there's a new button on the AF/MF switch on the left side of the D7000. With the switch set to AF, just press the button and look to the top Status display (or the rear Status display if it's active). Turning the Main Command dial selects between AF-A, AF-S, and AF-C, while turning the Sub-Command dial chooses among Single-Point AF, Dynamic-area AF with three options--9-point, 21-point, and 39-point--and 3D tracking. Auto-Area AF makes all the decisions for you. I prefer Single-point mode for its greater acquisition speed and accuracy.
Choosing a different point is as easy as using the eight-way controller disk on the back. Either look through the viewfinder as you press the controller, or activate the Info screen on the rear of the Nikon D7000. For some reason the top Status display doesn't show where the point is going. Overall, in good light the Nikon D7000's focus acquisition is pretty fast in Single-point mode, but noticeably slower in multi-point modes. (The lab measured 0.238s for AF lag in Single-point AF mode versus 0.436s in Auto Area mode.) That's also true in the Nikon D300S, so it's not a surprise. The new 18-105mm lens also slews pretty slowly. It's quiet, but not lighting fast. I got varying results in different light, as expected.
Shutter sound. The Nikon D7000 has a very fast shutter sound, with a short viewfinder blackout time, which is helpful for keeping in touch with your subject when shooting action or portraits. If you know someone who's never any trouble, but always seems to apologize as if they are, you'll get an idea of how demure the Nikon D7000 is when you trip the shutter. While that can be mildly annoying in a person, it's just right in a camera; it should get out of the way as soon as possible while drawing little attention to itself so you can plan your next shot. It's a little louder from the front than it is from the back, so you're making a little more noise than you think, but it gives the camera just the right personality.
Live view. You activate Live view mode with the same lever that debuted on the D3100. It surrounds the Movie start button, which is appropriate since you must be in Live view mode to start a Movie recording. It's in just the right position, and it works just as it should too, unlike Nikon's early efforts at Live view, which were activated on the Drive mode dial, then required a first press on the shutter button to enter Live view, with a followup press to take a picture.
Movies. While shooting a roomful of kids having a paper snowball fight, I found that the chaos was a little too much for stills. Switching to video helped me capture a bit more of the madness, but I forgot that I could live focus as they fought, remembering only at the end. It wouldn't have mattered much, though, because the distances changed rapidly and the action was fierce. Because they're kids, most of whom aren't mine, I won't show you that, but I can show you the video I shot on the street in low light. I think it's pretty good, considering that it's likely captured at ISO 6,400.
Dual cards. When the D300S included dual cards--an SD and a CF card, I wondered whether this somewhat obvious convenience might trickle down to consumer models. Though they left out the CF option, the D7000 does indeed include two SD card slots, a choice that's just right for the kind of shooter likely to be attracted to the camera. By default, the second card serves as a overflow if you fill the first card. The camera automatically starts saving to the second card. If you're concerned about losing files, you can start backing up as you capture, saving the same image to both cards consecutively; not a bad idea on an important shoot. You can also split up your RAW and JPEG images between the two cards. You can even reserve one of the cards to serve as a repository for your movies, while saving stills to the other. Regardless how you configure them, it makes a whole lot of sense in these days of large file sizes for stills and videos to already have an extra card in the camera. On a long shoot in the default overflow mode, it worked flawlessly, rolling over to the second card when the first was filled.
Function button. The Function (Fn) button can be set to let you access a wide array of functions quickly, including flash exposure lock, depth-of-field preview, AE/AF lock and a huge number of other controls. Since there are already buttons for two of the previously mentioned items, I found the +RAW option to be the most obvious and beneficial setting for my shooting. Press it once, and your next shot will include a RAW image in addition to a JPEG. I usually shoot RAW+JPEG, but so seldom use the RAW images that I prefer this option for casual shooting. With the press of the Fn button, I can toggle RAW on for the next shot without fumbling through the Nikon D7000's menu. I wish there were an option to toggle between capturing RAW+JPEG and just JPEG, to make capturing a series of RAW images that much easier, but I'm glad it's there all the same. Spot metering would also be a good Function button setting for more precise metering when the default metering option isn't cutting it.
High-speed shooting. One shortcoming of previous non-pro Nikon SLRs was the inability to shoot at a fast frame rate when the bit depth was set to 14. But that is no longer a problem with the Nikon D7000. Set your 14-bit depth and fire away at six frames per second. You can also shoot at 12-bit if you want smaller file sizes, but you gain no speed advantage. Six frames-per-second is pretty fast, not bad for shooting sports and other action. It's not as significant as eight frames per second, but it's still respectable, and a long way from the standard three frames per second on entry-level models.
Flash. I seldom use flash as it is, but I was discouraged from using the flash on the Nikon D7000 because it tended to either overexpose and wash out images, or its exposure was inconsistent. Several test shots around the office don't show the effect much, but most of my personal candid shots are overexposed at the default settings. Once I dialed it back a bit by pressing the Flash Pop-up button on the left of the prism housing, which also serves as the FE Compensation button, I got better results (some of which I still had to dial back or increase exposure depending on the subject--which is to be expected).
Instead of the on-camera flash, I recommend using either high ISO, which delivers excellent results, or an SB-700 or SB-900 external flash. They're much more powerful, can put the light right where you want it, and they seem to be better controlled. As part of the Creative Lighting System, the pop-up flash can remote control two groups of flashes placed strategically around a subject, and you can include or exclude the on-camera flash from the equation.
Low light. Nikon's claim to fame in recent years is its stellar low-light performance, and the Nikon D7000 does not disappoint. We got snow on Christmas day here in the South, so when my wife placed my one-year-old daughter on the counter to watch the snow fall after the Sun had set, I grabbed the Nikon D7000. My daughter moves a lot, the kitchen counter was in my way, and the light level was very low, but so beautifully even I had to keep trying. I don't remember if I cranked the ISO up to 3,200 or if I let the camera do it, but the shot at right was taken at f/4.8 (the max aperture at that zoom setting) and 1/30 second. I shot it a little wider than I would have to keep the lens at a faster focal length, and the best shot was somewhat crooked, so all I've posted here is a pretty hefty crop, processed through Nikon Capture NX 2. It makes a great 8x10. First I processed the JPEG in Photoshop and got what I thought was a pretty good rendering, but I managed far smoother detail and tone from of the RAW image in Capture NX 2. Where the left side of her cheek had yellow and purple splotches in the prints even after processing in my usual fashion, the Capture NX 2 image doesn't. I'm no expert in Capture NX, and I'm sure even a frequent user of NX 2 could get more from the image; but the point of shooting RAW is to get more from your images, especially in low light, and it's clear that I did so here.
Menu. There's no getting around it: if you have a capable camera, you're going to need a relatively complex menu to control it. I find it a little blinding at times, with so many words my mind gets a little lost. It's tough for me to remember that to turn on wireless flash control, for example, I have to go to the Custom Setting Menu, choose Bracketing/flash, then scroll down to "Flash cntrl for built-in flash," select that, then I finally see the words "Commander mode," along with the other settings of TTL, Manual, and Repeating flash. It makes sense, it's just a lot to remember to get where you need to be. It's important to find a place in your camera bag for the Nikon D7000 Manual, and plan a little extra time to read it the day before a shoot to make sure you understand more complex items like the Creative Lighting System. It's a 325-page manual, which speaks to the complexity of the menu system and the impressive capability of the Nikon D7000 itself.
Overall. I found myself hard-pressed to find much more to write about the Nikon D7000, mostly because it works so well. Nikon has a well-refined control scheme that now better integrates video into the experience, such that I was able to switch between the two very naturally. I love the 100% viewfinder, which tests at about 98% in our lab shots. Still, it's hard to beat seeing almost everything you're going to capture. I found autofocus to be a little slower than I'm used to in the multi-point modes, but speed rises well enough when I lock autofocus to a single point. Looking through my photographs, I got more hits than misses. I think for people pictures I'd do better letting the camera pick the AF points, as many of my shots are well-focused on the center point, which is often on the shirt, but not on the face. I usually pre-focus on the face, then recompose, but that didn't seem to work as well as usual. Regardless, the Nikon D7000 was a pleasure to use and really makes great images. I recommend it to anyone looking for a high-quality SLR that will help them grow as a photographer.
Nikon D7000, Canon 60D Body Comparison
Nikon D7000 Image Quality Comparison
Most digital SLRs will produce a reasonable ISO 100 shot, so I like to push them and see what they can do at ISO 1,600. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1,600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. It's arguable that ISO 3,200 is the new 1,600, so we've included those crops as well.
Nikon D7000 versus Nikon D90 at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7000 versus Canon 60D at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7000 at ISO 1,600
Canon 60D at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7000 versus Panasonic GH2 at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7000 at ISO 1,600
Panasonic GH2 at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7000 versus Pentax K-5 at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7000 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-5 at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7000 versus Sony A580 at ISO 1,600
Nikon D7000 at ISO 1,600
Sony A580 at ISO 1,600
Today's ISO 3,200 is yesterday's ISO 1,600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3,200.
Nikon D7000 versus Nikon D90 at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7000 versus Canon 60D at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7000 at ISO 3,200
Canon 60D at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7000 versus Panasonic GH2 at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7000 at ISO 3,200
Panasonic GH2 at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7000 versus Pentax K-5 at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7000 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-5 at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7000 versus Sony A580 at ISO 3,200
Nikon D7000 at ISO 3,200
Sony A580 at ISO 3,200
Detail: Nikon D7000 vs Nikon D90, Canon 60D, Panasonic GH2, Pentax K-5 and Sony A580
Nikon D7000 Print Quality
Printing tells the clear story of the Nikon D7000's image quality. ISO 100 images make a very crisp 20x30-inch print with no trouble. This remains true at ISO 200 and 400, with slight luminance noise starting to encroach in the shadows at ISO 400.
ISO 800 shots finally start to show some softness in fine detail, but it's still quite good in most areas.
ISO 1,600 requires the first reduction in image size, looking better at 16x20 inches (though I think 1,600 would still pass muster for most photographers).
ISO 3,200 still looks good at 16x20, but of course gets better at 13x19 inches.
ISO 6,400 is a little rough at 13x19, but usable. Chroma noise is visible in the shadows. This becomes negligible at 11x14 inches.
ISO 12,800 suffers from more chroma noise and snowy luminance noise at 11x14, such that it's not really usable. However, reducing size to 8x10 is pretty impressive.
Likewise, ISO 25,600 is unpleasantly mottled at 8x10, but settles right down at 5x7.
That's what we call an impressive performance, producing excellent images from ISO 100 to 800 at very large 20x30-inch print sizes, and even its 25,600 setting produces not just usable but good 5x7-inch prints.
See below for our conclusion; be sure to check the other tabs for detail test results.
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Nikon D7000 digital camera
- Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens (kit as reviewed)
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery EN-EL15
- Battery charger MH-25
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- Body cap
- Eyepiece cap
- Accessory shoe cover
- Lens cap
- Rear lens cap
- Software CD-ROM
- Quick start guide
- User's manual
- Warranty and registration card
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity SD/SDHC memory card. These days, 8GB Class 4 is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, look for larger cards with Class 6 or faster ratings. And consider buying at least a third card for when you fill the camera's two cards.
- Camera case
Nikon D7000 Conclusion
The Nikon D7000 is an excellent digital SLR, and an important player in Nikon's digital camera lineup. It's my first choice for anyone serious about getting great shots of their family, a great choice for the enthusiast photographer, and a great starter camera for anyone wanting to get more serious about still or video photography.
Its higher resolution sensor answers a desire many Nikon shooters have had, yet it's done so carefully that high ISO performance is improved over the Nikon D90, despite the resolution increase. I appreciate Nikon's conservative approach. The truth is in the printed results: You can easily print 20x30 inch sheets from ISO 100 up to ISO 800, and the highest ISO setting of 25,600 produces a nice 5x7. Can't complain about that.
Nikon's controls are easy to use, and accessing Live view and Movie modes couldn't seem more natural. I love the grip, as well as the compact body, which makes the camera feel nimble, and makes it easier to bring along. Having two SD card slots is another natural choice for the avid shooter, one I hope other companies will adopt.
As the feature set has grown, the learning curve has steepened a bit with the Nikon D7000. I recommend spending a little time with the manual to better acquaint yourself with the extensive capabilities of the D7000. It'll be rewarding, because the D7000 has a lot to offer the curious shooter.
The Nikon D7000 is one of those cameras that's easy to recommend. The only reason to recommend a D3100 or D5000 over the D7000 is a buyer's budget, and perhaps a need for more accessible Scene modes, and the only reason to recommend the D300S or D700 is the need for more professional features. Most enthusiast photographers will be extremely pleased with the Nikon D7000. It's a certain, and highly recommended Dave's Pick.