[Review] Nikon D7000
These are hard times for camera manufacturers trying to create an attractive body that offers the kind of performance to sell to both semi-professionals and the aspiring photographer set. Nikon has done just that by delivering a good DSLR body with the D7000. The D7000 is positioned between the D90 (the lower end, entry model) and the D300s (on the higher end). For Canon users who are interested, the Nikon D7000 is on par with the Canon 60D.
Summary of the D7000’s key selling points
- Approx. 16.2 megapixels DX-Format CMOS sensor at 6 frames per second
- Magnesium alloy, all weather resistant body
- 39 AF points capable sensor with 9 cross-types
- New energy saving EXPEED 2 imaging processor
- Wide range ISO up to 6400
- Full HD 24p video recording with scene recognition, compatible with external stereo microphone
- Double SD card slots. SDXC compatible
- New battery grip system allows seamless switching of power
- Approximately 100% frame coverage in viewfinder. (0.94x)
Let’s dive right in and examine Nikon’s latest pumpkin. Something most users will immediately notice is that it is very sturdy. Just like the Apple commercials, one would dare to say: “It just feels how it’s supposed to feel”. Which is very rugged, mainly due to the aluminum alloy used in the manufacturing process?
Look and feel are very good. The reliability of the device can only benefit from Nikon’s upgrade to fully weather-seal it. Meaning the D7000 has superior weather-resistance and anti-dust capabilities. Even the hinge mechanism that accommodates the 2 SD/SDXC slots is well sealed to make your memory cards survive the worst downpour possible.
The first thing we noticed is the fact that this darling does not come with any CF slots. This might affect the take-up of the D7000 by the more serious photographer who already owns a small bucket of CF cards. Nevertheless, SD cards are a good alternative, and there are few downsides to not incorporating them. Still, we cannot deny the fact that instead of 2 SDs, we would have prefered to have seen 1 SD and 1 CF slot, just like the D7000’s big brother (D300s).
Nikon claims that the D7000 has a shutter unit inside that’s tested for at least 150 000 cycles ranging from 1/8000 to 30 seconds with a flash sync speed of 1/250 seconds. In real world tests this gave us the same excellence and precision we felt with the D300s. At 6 frames per second it will cover most of your general purpose needs.
A nice little feature is the “Q” symbol below the mode dial. Just like in the James Bond franchise, “Q” unlocks the sniper mode of the D7000. It stands for “Quiet” mode. Nikon claims it is excellent for photographing sleeping children, school plays, shooting wildlife and insects. We do recommend turning the flash unit OFF before testing it at public places such as no-camera allowed museums and nude beaches. *jokes*
Mode dial- Auto suits all
When first using the mode dial on this device, things feel very natural. It clicks and snaps into place very solidly, has 2 U-options to create personal presets (commonly used settings) and a mind blowing 19 out-of-the box fixed presets.
The trouble of coming with 19 presets is that they might be overwhelming to new users. The presets include: Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close Up, Night portrait, Night landscape, Party/Indoor, Beach/snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Pet portrait, Candlelight, Blossom, Autumn colors, Food, Silhouette, High key and Low key.
Now even after reading the manual and supposing you bought the shiny new Nikon D7000, we have a question for you: Which mode do you use when a child (child) is sitting on a beach (beach/snow), with your dog (pet portrait) next to him, when the sun sets in behind (sunset). YES exactly, you set it to automatic (auto), like almost everybody does. There are small nuances between the preset modes. The only ones that stand out are: Silhouette, high key (overexpose) and low key (underexpose). Luckily for the all-weather semi-pro, the D7000 still has the toys that pro photographer can’t live without, namely Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual settings.
Live view & AF points are very impressive
Nikon states in its press release that the live view mode is easier to use compared to the older models. By testing, one can clearly say it does feel far more natural and smooth compared to the Nikon D90 and D300. The main selling point here is an excellent feature called “Virtual horizon”, which superimposes your camera’s LCD view to the opposing real world horizon it detects. Essentially meaning you get a more professional looking frame compared to the potentially shoddy shots you used to take with your small pocket camera.
Auto focus is probably one of the most deciding factors for the purchase of a new DSLR camera. And Nikon lives up to expectations in this department. The AF Servo, being Single-servo or full-time-servo, is a charm to work with. With 39 AF point (delivered by the Multi-CAM 4800DX chip), you will find yourself geared up to capture whatever it is you want it to capture.
Clever, clever camera; the new AF chip can detect foregrounds and backgrounds, and focus on subjects via advanced recognition patterns. It picked up people’s faces and detected the position/statue out of any scenery we put it to the test with. It can also differentiate skin and/or hair tones of the subjects.
The 6 frames per second combined with 3D-tracking sensor will track (and keep focus) of ANY fast paced item moving from one side to the other. Sports, wildlife/birds, even bumblebees never looked this good in our tests with other cameras in the same price range.
In video mode it features an excellent face-priority option that automatically detects any faces in your image, thus assuring you that everybody’s face is in focus. Other options we tested were Normal-area AF (good for close ups), Subject-tracking AF (great for sports) and Wide-area AF (landscapes, general architecture, etc.). We must say that the ability to use certain AF points as pin point positions really makes this device shine.
Video, HD as it’s supposed to be, and better
D-movie, as Nikon calls it, is the full HD movie capability of the EXCEED 2 chip inside the D7000. We didn’t have much time left to play around with all its glorious features, but can give you the essence of what you can expect from the camera. It can record mono sound by default, but if you want to get true stereo we advise you to buy the external stereo microphone from Nikon’s range of accessories.
Full HD means the D7000 can record in a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels at a frame rate of 24 images per second. You might think “any camera nowadays can do full HD, so what makes this one stand out?” Straight to the point: The AF! Nikon has managed to put such a potent auto-focussing system in this camera, that the creative possibilities are truly amazing. We can assure you, there is hardly any competition at this price point that will turn you into a professional looking director. The level of configurability and flexibility this D7000 can handle is breathtaking. All out of the box, no film school degree required!
This camera has many features, so it isn’t easy to keep a review compact and to the point, but one of the mentions we would like to make is the fact that the D7000 was developed to work together flawlessly with the Speedlight SD-700 flash-unit. A wireless remote controlled flash-unit that allows for multiple flash unit control.
Retouch menu: This menu allows you to do some easy post editing on your camera. You can apply various effects, but the best one in our opinion is still the straighten option which works in cooperation with the virtual horizon feature previously mentioned.
HDMI is supported, and there is an optional accessory in the form of a remote control.
Accessories wise, you are never left in the cold with Nikon, since the new D7000 comes with a newly developed Multi-Power Battery pack and the GP-1 GPS Unit (for geo-tagging).
What we liked
The overall feature package is very good; we liked the fact that you actually get a lot for a camera that that does fit in well in between the semipro and general consumer market. The AF system is top notch and everything we could have asked for coming from Nikon. Video-wise this device really shines! Combining the advanced AF technology with the new chipset delivers high quality performance in a small package. The magnesium body is very rugged and feels professional in every way.
What we didn’t like
When this review was written, we didn’t know about the price tag of this pumpkin. Now priced at about 1149€ it is a big leap to take. With the D300s selling for about the same price, and Canon’s 60D available at 949€, we feel it is a risk Nikon is taking. Since this camera is by far not for professionals or wintered semi-pros who usually have the budget to spend on gear that tops the 1000€ mark for just a camera body. Also the accessory list does come with quite a sheer price tag. A lack of USB 3.0, with memory cards going up to 64 GB now, an upgrade for faster communication ports could have gained Nikon a boost over the competition.
Wait until the price of the D7000 drops is the best advice we can currently tell you. At the moment is the similarly priced D300s still a big improvement if you intend to use it mainly as a DSLR. The D7000 only gains slight advantage if you shoot a lot in low light environments where the higher ISO will benefit your goal. Also for video performance the D7000 has elements that surpass the D300s in possibilities. On the other hand, the D300s had the advantage of combining memory formats, whereas the D7000 is locked to dual-SD. This last point may be an absolute no-go for the serious photographer out there.
If you already have a collection of Nikon lenses or just like Nikon for its supreme image quality, you are probably better off with a D300s. Yet, if you haven’t got any relation with Nikon at this current point, we do recommend you looking at Canon’s lineup. The Canon 60D priced much lower than the Nikon D7000 has almost the exact same features, yet higher ISO, more megapixels and in our tests had a slightly better battery life.
From a price perspective, for about 1149/1199€ you get the most bang for your buck with a Canon 7D., which is even better than Canon’s 60D and surpasses Nikon’s higher level D300s in general performance. The Nikon D7000 is absolutely not a bad device, it just isn’t carrying it’s ideal price tag yet.