Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nikon D7000 Review

The Nikon D7000 was release in September 2010, and is the highly anticipated replacement for the D90, which in and of itself was a great advanced amateur DSLR. The D7000 introduced some important improvements over the D90, such as a high resolution 16 Megapixel CMOS sensor, with improved dynamic range and a larger native ISO range of ISO100-6400 (expandable to ISO25600). The next major improvement in the D7000 came in terms of video, with the ability to capture 1080p @24FPS vs 720p @24FPS on the D90. The D7000 also added manual control while shooting video, along with a microphone input, and some basic control over the volume of recorded audio.

Other headline features of the D7000 include moisture/dust resistant seals, along with a magnesium alloy chassis and backplate to help strengthen the structural integrity of the body. The D7000 is the second Nikon DSLR (D3100 had this first) to feature the ability to auto focus continually during video recording (known as AF-F). The D7000 also features dual SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots, which in the past was considered a pro camera feature. From the perspective of a still photographer, one of the best upgrades the D7000 received is a optical pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage, vs the 96% coverage of the D90.

The feature set of the D7000 has lead some Nikon shooters to ask if this camera was made to replace both the D90 and D300s, and that is one of the questions I will try to answer in this review. I will say that the answer to that question is, yes and no, but there will be more on this in the conclusion of the review. The D7000 does face some stiff competition today, in the form of the Canon EOS 7D, Pentax K-5 and the Sony SLT-A77. These cameras offer the same or more resolution, and in some cases slightly higher end features, but the question is, are those features enough to justify the higher price tag? I can tell you right now that if you are already invested in Nikon lenses (beyond kit lenses), the answer is a resounding no, unless you don't mind losing money in the switching process.

Build Quality and Handling:
The D7000 has a robust build, thanks to a mix of industrial strength plastics and magnesium alloy in its' construction. The D7000 features dust and moisture resistant sealing, but the seals on the D7000 are by no means as extensive as those found on the D300s or D700. If you use the D7000 along with water/dust resistant lenses (17-55mm 2.8G, 24-70mm F2.8G etc) then the camera should be able to handle light rain, the beach and cold whether without too much trouble. Nikon does not make any clams that the camera is waterproof, so water damage would not be covered by the manufacture warranty.

If you have handled previous Nikon DSLRs in this price range (D70, D80 or the D90) you wont notice the difference in build quality just by picking up the camera, as they feel very similar overall. What you will notice is a slightly larger grip, which is now covered with rubber, rather than a tacky rubbery feeling plastic. Overall the camera is very comfortable to hold in my average sized male hands. When you pickup the camera all the primary controls, the shutter and rear command dial falls right under the index finger and thumb of your right hand. All of the primary shooting controls are easily within reach at that point.

Shows The Magnesium Alloy and Plastic chassis of the D7000 Body and MB-D11 Grip (Not my Image, source Nikon)
One puzzling thing to me is that the ionic red swish (or whatever you like to call it) on the grip is still plastic, unlike higher end cameras, such as the D300s. D700 or D3s, on which it is rubberized. It feels more plasticy than I recall it being on the D90, but that might just be my memory playing tricks on me. In practice you might not notice this, until the camera gets wet and your finger slips on it. From a handling standpoint I think that is the only complaint that I have for the D7000.

Controls, Ports and Operation:
The top plate of the camera features most of the primary controls of the D7000. Starting from the right side of the body you'll find the Shutter release, surrounded by the ON/OF/Illumination switch (if you push the switch beyond the ON position the top LCD will light up). The shutter release itself is soft and extremely responsive, very much like the D300s and D700. I like the fact that Nikon switched the shutter release on the D7000 to the body matching black, rather than continuing to use the tacky chrome button of pervious cameras in this price range. Behind the shutter and to the right you'll find the exposure compensation button, which allows you to dial in + or - 5 EVs of compensation from the metered reading. It also functions as part of the two button reset (returns all settings to default), when pressed and held along with the QUAL button.

Behind the shutter to the left is the metering mode button, pressing it allows you to choose between 3D
Matrix Metering (with an AF-S or AF-D Nikkor, and most modern third party, lenses), Centre Weighted Average (the meter looks at a percentage of the centre of the frame, which can be adjusted in the menu), and Spot Metering (meters off the selected AF point). I'll be touching on the meter of the camera later in the review. The Metering mode button has a second function, when pressed in conjunction with the delete button it allows you to format a memory card.

In the centre of the top plate you'll find find the standard Nikon i-TTL flash hotshoe, which is compatible with all of the latest Nikon speedlights, such as the SB-700 and SB-900. It is also backwards compatible with the SB-600 and SB-800. Third party speedlights may work, but they are not officially supported. In front of the flash hotshoe is the built in pop-up flash (more on this later).

The left side of the D7000's top plate hosts the shooting mode and drive mode dials. As on previous consumer level cameras the D7000 has a mode dial for changing between auto mode, scene modes, and the creative shooting modes (P,S,A,M). The little green camera represents the full auto mode on the D7000. There is a no flash auto (lighting bolt with bar through it), A SCENE setting (to change scene modes simply rotate the rear command dial and pick the scene mode you desire by looking at the rear LCD), and two user programable custom shooting modes. The custom shooting modes are similar, but not exactly the same as custom shooting banks on higher end Nikon DSLRs (D300s/D700 etc). Creative Shooting Modes:  P = Program Auto, which acts like auto, but allows you to override some settings. S = Shutter Priority, in this mode you set the desired shutter speed and the camera chooses the aperture needed to do so. A = Aperture Priority, in this mode you selected the desired aperture setting, while the camera figures out the shutter speed. M = Manual, you must set the desired shutter speed, and aperture settings manually.

As some of the professional reviewers have noted, the mode dial on the D7000 is easily bumped when you take the camera out of your bag, so keep an eye on it to make sure you don't change to a mode you do not want to be shooting in. This button really needs a lock to prevent accidental movement, as the Canon 60D's mode dial does.

Under the mode dial is another dial, the drive mode selector. The drive mode selector allows you to choose between Single Shot S, Continuous Low CL (default is 3FPS), Continuous High CH (6FPS). The continuos shooting modes on the D7000 work as advertised, up to 6FPS, but keep in mind that the D7000 has a small buffer compared to higher end cameras like the D300s. At 6FPS you'll only get 8 or 9 frame at full speed, vs 15-20 with the D300s (which shoots at 7FPS). For most casual shooters this will not be an issue, but some sports or wildlife shooters may appreciate the larger buffer of the more professional Nikon cameras. Quiet Q. If you press the shutter and hold it, in this mode, the camera will take a shot, but keep the mirror up, until the shutter is released. The shutter on the D7000 is already very quiet, and in this mode it is the quietest DSLR I've ever used. This feature is nice to use with subjects that are easily startled, or in environments where you want to be subtle. Timer (the camera counts down from 2, 5 or 10 seconds before taking the shot), Remote (via optional Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote), and Mirror Lockup Mup. In Mup, once you press the shutter the mirror locks in the up position. If you wait 30 seconds the camera will automatically take a shot, or you can activate the shutter using a wireless or wired remote (MC-DC2). Like higher end Nikon bodies (D300s, D700 etc) to change the drive mode you must press a small button on the top plate. Simply press the button and turn the dial to the desired drive mode.

Moving to the front of the D7000, on the upper right side you'll find two buttons. The flash release (electric pop-up flash)/flash exposure compensation/flash mode button, and the BKT (auto bracketing) button. Pressing the flash button (lightning bolt) will pop-up the flash. Pressing the button again once the flash is up will allow you to change flash exposure compensation (front command dial) and change the flash sync mode (rear command dial). The flash sync modes on the D7000 include, Normal, Red Eye Reduction, Slow w/red eye reduction, Slow and Rear (To fully understand these modes read the manual). Flash exposure compensation can be dial in to +1.0EV or - 3.0EV. The D7000's built in flash, like the D80 and D90 before it, can be used to trigger wireless speedlights (SB-600, SB-700, SB-800 or SB-900) as part of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS).

Below the BKT button there is a white dot (bump), which indicates the spot to line up the white dot on a lens with when mounting them (turn lenses counter clockwise to mount). Auto exposure bracketing on the D7000 is limited to three frames, and can only go to +/- 2EV. Beside this button, just above the "D7000" name plate is one of the IR sensors for the wireless remote. Directly below the white dot is a large button, this is the lens release, which you press to unmount lenses (turn clockwise to unmount). The Nikon D7000 is compatible with all F mount, AI, AI-S, AF, AF-D, AF-I and AF-S Nikkor lenses, along with equivalent F mount lenses from third party manufactures. Note that some older third party lenses may need to be "re-chipped" to work with the D7000.

The AF mode selector is located just below the lens release button. Nikon has added a button to this switch, which like its' predecessors allows you to switch between auto and manual focus when using AF and AF-D lenses. The new button on the switch allows you to switch the AF mode, between auto AF area, Dynamic (9, 21 or all 39 AF points), 3D Colour Tracking and Single Point AF via the front command dial. By turning the rear command dial you can change between, AF-A The camera auto detect whether to single or continuos focus, AF-S Single Focus, AF-C Continuos Focus.

On the grip side of the front there are two buttons, the Fn (Function) and PV (Depth Of Field Preview), and the front or sub command dial. Both the Fn and PV buttons are programable and can be set to give the user access to a number of different functions, such as a virtual horizon, the ability to change metering modes on the fly, disabling the flash and more. The sub command dial is used to change numerous settings on the camera, but in shooting mode this dial changes the aperture (Aperture Priority or Manual shooting modes). In playback mode this button changes how much information is shown about the photo being displayed.

Finally we move to the back of the camera, which hosts the vast majority of the buttons on the camera. Starting on the top left side of the body, there are the Playback and Delete buttons. The playback button allows you to view images that have been taken at any time, while the delete button allows you to delete selected images. To delete an image press the trash button, then press it a second time to confirm that you want to delete it. If you do not want to delete an image after pressing the delete button, simply press the playback button. The delete button also has a second function, when pressed in conjunction with the metering mode button you can format a memory (SD/SDHC/SDXC) card.

Moving down the left side of the body there are four buttons, MENU, WB, ISO and QUAL. The Menu button gives you access to the D7000's extensive menu system, which I will briefly cover later. WB = White Balance, allowing you to choose between a number of presets (Sunny, Cloudy, Shade, Flash, and 2 Indoor lighting settings) which are adjustable), along with a Kelvin scale (K) for accurate settings. There is also a PRE setting witch allows you to set white balance from a grey card or something white. The WB button also allows the user to lock and image in playback mode, to prevent accidentally deleting an image. Keep in mind that it does not protect against formatting. In the menu system pressing this button gives a short description of the highlighted item, almost like having a built in manual.

ISO = ISO selection, pressing this button and turning the rear command dial allows you to change between the base ISO setting of 100 all the way to ISO 6400 or into the extended settings, up to ISO25600. In playback mode this button functions as the zoom out button. QUAL = Image Quality settings. Pressing this button allows and turning the rear command dial you to choose between RAW, RAW+JPEG and JEPG. Turning the sub command dial while pressing this button changes between Large, Medium or Small jpegs. In playback mode pressing this button zooms in. It also functions as part of the two button reset (returns all settings to default), when pressed and held along with the exposure compensation button.

The optical viewfinder and 3" LCD are located in the middle of the rear of the camera. Just above the viewfinder and up to the right is a doppler adjustment dial, for those who wear glasses, but find it easier to shoot with them removed for easier composition. To the right of the viewfinder is the AE-L/AF-L button. By default this button locks the exposure and focus of the camera, should you wish to use to the focus and recompose method. The button can also be programmed to operate a number of different functions, such as AE-L only, AF-L only, and AF-ON (the shutter will no long focus the camera with this function enabled). To the right of the AE-L/AF-L button is the main command dial. This command dial allows the adjustment of numerous settings, but in shooting mode it changes the shutter speed (in Shutter Priority and Manual shooting modes). If the scene modes are enabled, turning this dial allows you to switch between the various scene modes. In playback mode it allows you to cycle through your photos.

Below the AE-L/AF-L button there are a number of dials, switches and buttons. Directly under the AE-L/AF-L button is the Liveview switch, with the movie recording button in the middle of it. To switch to liveview simply flick the switch towards the main command dial. To record video, enter liveview and press the movie recording button. Below the liveview switch is the Selector switch and OK button. The selector switch has numerous functions, such as allowing you to change focus points (in single point or dynamic AF mode), cycling through the menu system, and cycling through images and shooting information in playback mode. The OK button is used for selecting highlighted options in the menu or resetting the focus point back to the centre point in shooting mode. In playback mode this button takes you to the retouch menu. Under the selector is the L switch, which is used to lock the selected focus point, to prevent accidental bumping when shooting. Beside the multi-point selector is the location of one of the IR sensors for the wireless remote.

Under the L switch is the Info button. Pressing the info button brings up shooting information, such as the drive mode, shooting mode, auto focus mode, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, the number of shots remaining on the installed memory card (the active card) and more. Pressing the button a second time gives you access to a number of settings, such as the settings for the AE-L/AF-L, Fn and PV buttons, noise reduction, Active D-Lighting, Auto Distortion Correction (only works with Nikkor Lenses, and in JEPG mode, unless you use Nikon Software for photo editing), and colour space (RGB or Adobe).

Moving on to the ports on the camera now, on the left side (from the back) there are two rubber doors on metal hinges. The first covers the standard definition video output, USB2 and mini HDMI ports. The camera includes a USB2 cable and video cables for standard definition output, but no HDMI cable is included. The second door covers the cable release (MC-DC2)/GPS (Nikon GP-1) port and the microphone jack.

On the left side there is on plastic door, which covers the dual SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots. The D300s on the other hand has one Compact Flash (CF) slot and one SDHC card slot. The advantage of the D7000 is that you only need one type of card to take advantage of the dual slots, while the D300s can take advantage of faster CF cards. In any case both cameras support backup (shots are saved to both cards at the same time), as well as RAW to one card and jpeg to the other. You can also set what card video files are recorded to, so that still images are on one card, while video is saved to the other.

On the bottom of the camera there is one door, a rubber cover (protecting the connector for the MB-D11 battery grip), and a tripod socket that is aligned with the lens mount.

The D7000 uses a new battery, to meet new standards for battery construction, the EN-EL15. This battery is rated at 1900mAh (14Wh) vs the 1500mAh (12Wh) of the EN-EL13e used in the D90. In practice this means you can take far more images on a single charge than with previous Nikon DSLRs in this price range. You can easily take 800 to 1000 images on a single charge. Keep in mind that lithium ion battery packs reach peak performance after 5-10 changes, so don't expect to get that many images out of the first few charges. The battery is held in place by a small retaining clip, rather than the battery bay door, on the D90. To install the battery slide it in until the clip click. To release the battery open the door and press the small orange clip and it will slide out. 

Introducing a new battery meant that there was a need for a new charger as well, the MH-25, which is a nice improvement over the aging MH-18a. With the MH-25 you simply slide the battery into the charger and it is ready to get started. The chargers light flashes when charging, and goes solid when it is finished. The MH-25 can be connected to a power outlet by two means, the short plug (seen in the image above) or with a longer cord, like the previous MH-18a. The switch on the charger allows you to choose which angle the short plug points. It takes several hours for the an EN-EL15 to charge, when fully depleted. You can also attach the optional Nikon MB-D11 battery grip and install 6 AA batteries or a second EN-EL15 battery to double the amount of time that you can shoot.

In terms of overall speed of operation the Nikon D7000 is extremely responsive, the camera turns on instantly and can start shooting right away. Shutter lag (mirror blackout time) is very short (0.2s) for a consumer camera, and should not be an issue. In liveview shutter lag is about 1 second, which is a big improvement over Nikon cameras from the previous generation. When shooting 14bit RAW files the buffer can get bogged down, after 8 or 9 frames. Shooting large fine jpegs will gives you a bit more breathing room, being closer to 20 frames. The buffer clears with in 7 seconds (large fine JPEG) and 9 seconds if shooting 14bit RAW files. Shooting 12bit RAW files does not seem to help in terms of buffer clearing time. Note that this is based on use with fast (45MB/s) SDHC cards.

The Viewfinder:
One of the biggest improvements Nikon introduced with the D7000, from my point of view, is the 100% coverage optical pentaprism viewfinder. It is only a 4% increase over the 96% coverage of the D90, but it means that what you see in the viewfinder is what you will get in the final image. Another reason is that crop sensor DSLRs tend to have small, dark, tunnel like viewfinders. The D7000 and the D300s are the only crop sensor cameras from Nikon that have 100% viewfinders, and they are equally bright and clear in practice.

Where the D7000 and the D300s differentiate is how much information is displayed in the viewfinder. One difference is that the D300s always displays both the set ISO sensitivity and the number of shots remaining on the memory card, while with the D7000 you have to choose one or the other. Like the buffer issue, this might be a make or break issue for some action or spots photographers. Another difference is that the D300s shows the metering mode in the viewfinder, allowing you to change modes without looking at the top LCD. To see these items on the D7000 you can bring up the info display on the back of the D7000 (which shows metering mode, ISO and shots remaining). The metering mode is always displayed on the top LCD. When it comes to the number of shots remain, if you choose to display ISO, you'll have to wait for the meter to time out before it is displayed again.

All basic shooting information is displayed in the D7000's viewfinder (in a small LCD at the bottom). Information such as shutter speed, the set aperture, flash readiness, exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation, and the number of shots remaining or ISO, which is changeable in the menu. When you half press the shutter the spot where the number of shots remain or ISO will display how much shots are available in the cameras buffer (shooting 14bit RAW it will display [r09] if the buffer is clear). That number will go down as you shoot, but will only noticeably so if you are shooting in continuos drive mode. If you use exposure compensation (in P, S or A shooting modes) a scale will appear in the middle of the information display at the bottom. The bar shows how much compensation is being used, so you don't have to look at the top LCD when using this feature. There is a + and - indicator at each end so you know if you are adding positive or negative compensation. If you shoot in Manual shooting mode this scale will always be displayed.

If you are familiar with Nikon cameras, nothing has changed in terms of how information is displayed, if you are not, I recommend reading section of the D7000s manual on the viewfinder.

Metering and White Balance Performance:
The Nikon D7000 features a brand new 2016 pixel RGB metering system, which surpasses the D90, and the 1005 pixel RGB meter of high end Nikon DSLRs (including the flagship D3s). What does this new meter mean in practice? Not much in my experience, because like the D90 before it, the D7000 overexposes in Matrix Metering mode. Keep in mind that I normally shoot outdoors (nature/wildlife photographer), in mixed lighting conditions, which could throw off any automatic meter. I generally shoot with -0.3 or -0.7 exposure compensation dialled in as a result. Even centre weighted metering mode suffers from overexposure problems to a similar degree. It is possible that my sample has been improperly calibrated, so if you get a D7000, do some testing first before you automatically dial in compensation. Thankfully Nikon gives D7000 users the ability to adjust the default metering in the menu (option b6 in the custom settings menu).

Auto white balance on the D7000 performs okay, no better or worse than pervious consumer models that Nikon has released. Outdoors performance is generally okay, but once you get into indoor lighting auto white balance falls apart. That is nothing new, I've yet to use a digital camera that didn't have that issue, so it is hardly worth worrying about. The D7000 does have manual controls for white balance, so if you run into any problems in this area (especially if you shoot jpegs) then you can overcome it using the built in presets, the Kelvin scale (K), or using a grey card (PRE). One of the quickest ways to check white balance is to quickly switch into liveview and use the Kelvin scale or presets to see what looks more natural.

Auto Focus Performance:
Nikon also introduced a new auto focus system along with the D7000. The Nikon Multi-CAM 4800DX focus module features 39 auto focus points, 9 of which are cross type sensors for better performance. Unlike the Canon 7D, where some of the cross type sensors only work with F2.8 lenses, the D7000's cross type sensors all work right up to F5.6 (Nikon only guarantees AF function on lenses with a maximum aperture of F5.6 or faster). In terms of actual performance, the D7000 is very good for a consumer oriented camera, surpassing other consumer cameras, like the similarly priced Canon 60D. Focus acquisition is fast, in good lighting conditions, but drops off in low light. I recommend sticking with the central 9 cross type AF points in low light conditions. The Multi CAM 4800 is much better than the Multi CAM1000 found in the D90 than it replaced (only one cross type AF point), and is as good or slightly better than the D300s in low light (The D300s has the 51 point Multi-CAM 3500DX, 15 of which are cross type auto focus points).

The Menu System:
The D7000 features a well designed menu system, with a deep list of available options, and to cover them all would be a major project in and of itself. I will briefly discuss the different menu groups, beyond that I recommend reading the included user manual.

Playback Menu: This menu allows you to delete multiple images at the same time, change how images are displayed in playback mode (slideshow feature when connected to a TV), how much shooting information is available playback mode,  and whether or not the camera automatically displays images after they are taken.

Shooting Menu: This menu gives you access to settings such as image quality (RAW and JPEG), file name settings (you can customize the first 3 letters or numbers before the image number), the roll of the two SD card slots, JPEG compression (quality or size preference), Active D-Lighting Settings, Picture Controls, Colour Space (Adobe RGB or sRBG), Distortion correction, noise reduction, ISO sensitivity settings, movie settings, the interval timer and wireless remote settings.

Custom Settings Menu: This menu features the deepest level of controls over how the camera functions. You have the ability to change various auto focus controls, metering settings, the ability to change how long the rear LCD stays on for different uses (info display, playback time, etc can all be set to stay on for different amounts of time), you can also set how long the cameras exposure meter remains active. Do keep in mind that the longer the meter is active, the faster you'll run down the battery. There are also numerous flash settings and you can also change the rolls of the sub and main command dials (reverse their rolls), and change the settings for various function buttons as well.

Setup Menu: In this menu you set things like the date and time, format memory cards, set the LCD brightness, input copyright information, change settings for use with the Nikon GP-1 GPS unit, check the firmware version installed on the camera (also allows for firmware updating), Battery Life Information, and the ability to lockup the mirror to clean the image sensor if needed. This menu also allows you to save settings to the two user customizable positions on the mode dial (U1 and U2). In addition there is a menu option for the data of non-CPU lenses (AI and AI-S lenses). To effectively use non-CPU lenses input the focal length and maximum aperture. Inputing this data allows the D7000 to use Matrix metering with these lenses. Also, these settings will appear in the EXIF camera data of photos take with non-CPU lenses. The D7000 can store data for up to 9 lenses.

Retouch Menu: This menu gives you the ability to apply a number of settings to images after they have been taken (such as Active D-Lighting, Red-Eye Correction, White Balance etc). You can also edit RAW files and create JEPGs from them in camera.

My Menu: This menu allows you to either display recently changed settings, or you can setup the menu to display a number of settings that you change most often. My personal preference is the latter, because there are so many times when you do not want to go digging through the menu for particular settings when you are out shooting.

Image Quality and Low Light Performance:
The D7000 is considered to have one of the best APS-C image sensors on the market today, giving cameras like the EOS-7D and Pentax K-5 a run for their money. Partly because the D7000 body is less expensive than either of those two cameras. The Pentax K-5 uses the same 16MP sensor as the D7000, but offers slightly different features, and of course a different lens mount. At this point in time I couldn't recommend buying into the Pentax camera system, because it's future is somewhat doubtful. The EOS-7D is a higher end camera in many ways and offers slightly, but not noticeably, more resolution at 18MP. Tests show that the D7000 has better dynamic range than the EOS-7D, specifically in the shadow areas of an image, which is a big plus in it's favour.

Image quality from the Nikon D7000 is in my opinion outstanding for a crop sensor DSLR, with performance coming very close to the Nikon D700 (a three year old full frame DSLR), while offering more resolution. Of course there are other factors that effect image quality, such as the lens being used, and of course the photographer behind the camera. I could talk about the quality of images that you can take with the D7000, but I think images you can take with it speak for themselves. Nikon D7000 Image Gallery

Noise Performance:
The noise performance of the D7000 is excellent for a camera with a DX image sensor. Here are sample taken between ISO100 and H2 (ISO25600). * Click on the images to see them larger *. ISO performance between ISO100-800 shows a marked improvement over the D90 and other Nikon DX bodies equipped with the previous generation 12MP CMOS sensor.

First of all, noise is less prevalent in the sky, which is one of the biggest improvements from my point of view. In shadow areas noise starts to poke out at ISO320, but the amount and texture of it is not unpleasant and thus it is not an issue. Right up to ISO1600 noise is hardly noticeable unless you start pixel peeping, and modern noise reduction software can reduce it even more if need be. Once you hit ISO 3200 noise starts to become obvious, and noise reduction starts to become a must if you intend to crop or make larger prints than 8x10. ISO 6400 is also useable, but you'll want to nail the exposure because there isn't a lot of leeway with images at this sensitivity. Pulling out shadows would lead to image degrading levels of noise for anything besides small prints (4x6). The extended ISO settings (12800 and 25600) are useful for capturing memories, but I would not use them unless I absolutely had to. To be honest I'd rather have a shot with the popup flash washing out the colour a little than using the extended settings.

ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 12800 (H 1.0)
ISO 25600 (H 2.0)

Liveview and Video:
Although Liveview is no longer considered high end feature for a DSLR, I will mention it here along with video performance of the D7000. Liveview performance on the D7000 is a step up from the D90 in several ways. First, I find the implementation of accessing liveview via the switch is better than the small button on the D90. Auto focus speed in liveview has also been greatly improved, it is one of the fastest implementations on a Nikon DSLR to date. Pressing the info button while in liveview allows you to display different amounts of shooting information, a grid and a virtual horizon to help keep your images level.

Video performance is decent for a DSLR with an APS-C sensor. The primary benefit of shooting video with a DSLR is to get narrow depth of field, and with the right lenses the D7000 can easily be the right tool to do that. You can choose to shoot video with AF-S (Auto Focus Single) or Full time auto focus (called AF-F). Pre-focusing works best, but having AF-F while recording is a nice feature to have. AF-F can be a little jumpy, and loose focus completely on low contrast subjects. At times the camera will also struggle to keep up with moving subjects, but is generally okay. To put it lightly the auto focus performance (AF-F) is not up to the standards of a dedicated video camera, but it is better than having no auto focus while recording video.

The D7000 has a microphone port, allowing you to capture sound from an external microphone, which is a good thing because the built in mic will capture the sound of auto focus if you do not. The D7000 does give you some basic controls over sound input levels, but nothing close to the controls offered by Canon's DSLRs such as the EOS-T3i, EOS-60D or EOS-7D. If you want a DSLR for video recording purposes primarily, I would have a hard time not recommend a Canon for that. On the other hand if you want a great camera for capturing still photos, with the ability to capture high quality video, then I would highly recommend the D7000. If the D7000 is in Manual mode then you have full control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO while recording video, but keep in mind that you cannot change the aperture while recording. You'll have to exit liveview to change the set aperture, as it is locked once you enter liveview (this does not apply to still shots). You can overcome this by shooting with older manual focus AI or AI-S lenses, which have manual aperture controls.

The D7000 records video at 1920x1080p (Full HD) at 24FPS, or 1280x720p @24FPS or 30FPS. There are lower quality settings, but I don't see much point in using them, since you can always down-sample later if need be. There are plenty of video samples from the D7000 on youtube, so I wont be posting any samples here.

Comments and Conclusion:
The Nikon D7000 is an advanced amateur oriented DSLR, with many high end features. There are several similar DSLR in this price range, but I don't think they have the same balance of features and image quality. If you are looking for a solid still image capturing device with the ability to shoot HD video then the D7000 may very well be the camera for you. The D7000 offers things like weather and dust resistant seals, a partially magnesium alloy body, dual card slots, a high performance 39 point auto focus system, and the ability to meter with non-CPU AI and AI-S manual focus lenses. The D7000 also has a bright and clear 100% optical viewfinder for easily composing images.

Of course the D7000 is not without it's shortcomings, the default metering for example is somewhat 'hot', in that it can overexpose outdoors by +0.7evs. Also full time auto focus while recording video can also be a little hit and miss. It also would have been nice to see a higher level of control over recorded audio. In addition the shooting mode dial should be a little stiffer, or have a lock to prevent it from being accidentally turned. Considering this short list of issues, I think it is safe to say that the D7000 is a very well balanced camera overall.

Compared to the D300s the Nikon D7000 is very similar, but it does fall short of being a replacement for the former in a few key areas. The D300s has a full magnesium alloy body (including the area the F mount is attached, something the D7000 lacks), a larger buffer for continuous shooting (important for sports and wildlife photography), and slightly superior dust and moisture seals. It also has dual card slots, but one is compact flash and the other SD/SDHC. The D300s can also shoot at 8FPS with the MB-D10 and 8 AA batteries or a EN-EL4a. Adding the MB-D11 battery grip does not increase the shooting speed of the D7000. The auto focus of the D300s feels slightly better in low light situations. Some may also view the slightly smaller grip and body of the D7000 to be a negative, while others will see it as a positive.

The Canon 60D is closest camera in terms of price and performance, but it lacks dual card slots, or moisture and dust seals. The 60D does have one possible advantage, in that it has a swivelling rear LCD. If you shoot still images primarily, that isn't going to be overly helpful.

Who Is This Camera For:
Amateur photographers who are looking for a camera that has higher end controls and features without the price tag of a semi-professional DSLR (like the D300s).

Who Is This Camera Not For:
D300/D300s users who are looking to upgrade. There are some features that might appeal, like the superior dynamic range and ISO performance, but you'll likely be better off waiting for the D300s replacement before upgrading. This recommendation primarily applies to sports and bird photographers, due to the small buffer. The D7000 also has a limited bracketing mode, which some landscape photographers who like to use HDR might not find appealing.

  • High Performance 39 point Auto Focus System 
  • Partial Magnesium Alloy / Dust and Moisture Resistant Body
  • 6FPS continuous shooting speed 
  • 100% coverage optical viewfinder
  • Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots
  • AF mode selector button (for improved placement over previous models)
  • Metering with AI and AI-S (Non-CPU) Nikkor lenses
  • Tied with Pentax K-5 in class leading high ISO performance (For APS-C sensor DSLR)
  • The Buffer can feel a little small for sports/action or wildlife photography
  • Meter has a tendency to overexpose outdoors
  • Continuous auto focus (AF-F) while recording video is a little jumpy, still a long way off from matching consumer video cameras
  • Auto exposure bracketing limited (3 frames and 2 stops)