New Nikon DLSR users may be frustrated by learning curve of more advanced features
Full-time autofocus in Video and Live View modes not ready for prime time
Bracket button positioned too close to flash pop-up button
Function button difficult to access
With the release of the D7000, Nikon created a new category in its broad DSLR line. At $1200 (body only), the D7000 offers a mid-range alternative to the higher end D300s, and the slightly-long-in-the-tooth but more affordable D90 (released in 2008). A full complement of advanced and automatic features, new 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, new 3D color matrix metering, good low-light performance, full 1080p HD video, full-time autofocus in video and Live View, along with under-the-hood improvements make the D7000 an extremely appealing DSLR for enthusiasts and prosumers.
Like other DSLRs currently on the market, the D7000 is equipped with manual, semi-manual, and automatic exposure options. Two custom setting modes and 19 scene modes round out your basic shooting choices.With a new 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, the D7000 (along with the recently released 16 megapixel D5100) offers the second highest resolution in the Nikon DSLR line, bested only by the 24 megapixel sensor in the professional-level D3x ($8000).
The D7000 is more rugged than it may seem at first glance—it is sealed for weather and dust protection, and weighs in at a reasonable 1.5 pounds. It’s a little heavier than the D90 but about the same size. I shot comfortably with several different NIKKOR lenses, including the 18-105mm kit lens, as well as the 24-70mm and 70-200mm VRII lenses. All of the lenses felt well-balanced. Unlike some of Nikon’s more entry-level cameras, the D7000 accommodates both DX and non-DX lenses.
Photographers who have shot with other Nikon DSLRs will feel at ease with the control layout, but newcomers to the Nikon DSLR family will probably have to spend time reviewing the user’s manual to become familiar with the buttons and dials. For the most part, controls are arranged conveniently and Nikon has made a couple of really nice adjustments so Live View, video and continuous shooting are more readily accessible. However, the Function button is buried tightly between the grip and the lens barrel, making it difficult to access. Another drawback is that the bracket button sits just below the flash pop-up control, and it’s too easy to inadvertently activate the bracketing function when trying to pop up the flash.
What’s new and notable
In addition to the standard DSLR features and specs, the D7000 offers a number of notable options, some of which are highlighted here.
Dual card slots: The D7000 is equipped with dual SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots, which offer a lot of flexibility. The second slot can be used for overflow or back-up; JPEG and raw files can be recorded to separate cards and movie files can be directed to a separate card as well. Also, the D7000 is the only camera (so far) that can take full advantage of the ultra high speed Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-I card
Low light shooting: A native ISO range of 100 to 6400 can be expanded up to 25,500. While the latter should be used only when no other options are available, the D7000’s low light/high ISO performance is quite good even at its extreme setting. Sure, there’s noise at 25,500 and details aren’t as crisp as they are at lower ISOs, but the D7000 produces cleaner images at this ISO than many other DSLRs do at more moderate settings. However, you might want to shoot in Raw mode when pushing the ISO above 1600 so you have more control by manually applying noise reduction in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) versus the D7000’s Off/Low/Normal/High noise reduction options.
Video mode and Live View: Outfitted for 1080p HD capture, the D7000’s video mode offers the latest HD DSLR features including full-time autofocus and manual exposure control. Video options range from 1920 by 1280 at 24 fps, to 640 by 424 at 30 fps, with five setting combinations in between.
The D7000’s new 39-point autofocus works well in still mode but it’s not as responsive in Video and Live View modes. While that’s not much of an issue in Live View (which is used mostly for stationary subjects), you can see—and hear—the lens searching while shooting video. Fortunately, the D7000’s microphone sensitivity can be adjusted and, better yet, an external microphone such as the Nikon ME-1, can be attached to lessen or eliminate the AF noise.
Special features: Multiple exposure and interval shooting (perfect for stop motion videos, which are really hot these days), a virtual horizon graphic indicator, up to 6 frames per second continuous shooting and a deep feature set add to the list of the D7000’s strengths.
Still image quality is good in automatic mode and first-rate when using manual controls. Rich colors and generally spot-on exposures are the norm, but aesthetic preferences for more vivid (or subtle) color, for example, are easily achieved, as are adjustments to contrast, sharpness, and white balance.
High ISO image noise is kept well under control, particularly if you shoot in Raw Mode. But JPEG images are more than acceptable, even when pushed to about ISO 1600 (depending on the scene and the print size).
Your lens choice will, of course, affect image sharpness, chromatic aberration and other aspects of image quality, so choose your optics wisely. The 18-105mm kit lens ($1600 complete kit; $400 lens) did a good job of delivering well-focused images.
In our lab tests, the D7000 earned a word score of Very Good for Exposure, and Good in the Color, Sharpness, and Distortion categories. Click on any of our lab’s test images to view the original files.
Video quality is quite good as well, particularly in bright light. Under low light conditions, colors may be a little splotchy and grainy. As mentioned earlier, footage can be dizzying (and noisy) as the lens searches for its autofocus point. Still, the D7000 is capable of producing videos that are on a par with and, in many cases, exceed those of other similarly priced DSLRs. In our lab tests, the D7000 received a word score of Good for Image Quality, and Superior for Video Sound Quality, thought the video test did not use the autofocus feature.
Here are sample clips that we shot in bright indoor lighting and in low light with the Nikon D7000. For the highest-quality clips, select 1080p from the drop-down menu in the lower-right corner of each player.
Macworld buying advice
If you’re ready to get serious about your photography, the Nikon D7000 is well-equipped to help you transition to the next level. It has a sophisticated feature set, top-notch performance, and highly pleasing image quality. Expect a learning curve, though, particularly if you want to take advantage of everything this camera has to offer. It’s easy to get lost when digging deep into functions like autofocus and its multiple choice menu. But it’s well worth the effort to explore the D7000’s many options. Beginners may want to check out entry level cameras such as the Nikon D3100 or the Canon T3i for more user-friendly features (and prices).