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Nikon D7000 DSLR Review

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Nikon D7000

Nikon's latest enthusiast's offering is the D7000 DSLR camera.

Nikon

The Bottom Line

A replacement for Nikon's D90 has been expected for quite some time, but many people will be surprised by how many specifications the D7000 shares with its semi-pro cousin, the D300s. As it stands, the D7000 sits somewhere between these other two Nikon cameras, both of which are still current models.

Nikon seem to have chosen to follow Canon and its EOS 60D by producing a camera that is most definitely aimed at the upper entry-level and enthusiast levels of photographer. Both cameras sit somewhere in the middle of the manufacturers' ranges. But how successful is Nikon's offering?

Description

  • Resolution: 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • ISO: ISO 100-6400, plus H1 and H2 settings equivalent to 12,800 and 25,600 
  • Focusing: 39 AF points
  • Movie Mode: HD movie mode
  • Flash: Built-in popup flash
  • LCD Screen: 3-inch LCD panel, 921,000 pixels
  • Battery: LiIon EN-EL15 rechargeable battery
  • Dimensions: 132 x 105 x 77 mm (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in.)
  • Weight: 780 g (1.7 lbs.) (including battery)
  • Maximum Image Size: 4928 x 3264 pixels (RAW and JPEG)

Pros

  • Excellent performance at high ISOs
  • Good build quality
  • Comprehensive AF system
  • Full HD movie mode

Cons

  • Tendency to overexpose in high contrast situations
  • AF can be very slow in low-light conditions
  • Aperture cannot be altered in manual mode in "Live View"

Nikon D7000 Review

The Nikon D7000 is an impressive offering from Nikon. The body is made from magnesium alloy and has a thick rubber grip. It feels substantial when in hand -- especially compared to the D90's plastic shell -- and it certainly compares favorably to the D300s. But the camera is currently nearly $500 more expensive than Canon's equivalent, the 60D. Yes, the 60D has a plastic body but it has 18MP of resolution compared to the Nikon's 16.2MP. Does the Nikon have enough features for a new user to consider it over the Canon?

Well, the D7000 certainly performs slightly better at higher ISOs and gives better results when shooting in JPEG mode. However, I feel that its controls are more "fiddly" than the 60D's. Both cameras tend to overexpose in high contrast conditions, but the Nikon is definitely more problematic. If you, as a user, are likely to only shoot in JPEG, then the Nikon is definitely worth the extra money! Otherwise, if I was a new user, I'd go for the Canon.

For existing Nikon users, though, this is a very attractive camera. It's only a little more expensive than the D300s and for that you receive more megapixels, a vastly improved AF system, and better video modes. Now, let's look at some of its features in more detail.

Controls

The D7000 has some really useful controls. The mode dial can be locked to prevent accidental switching between modes, and there are plenty of options for customization of certain functions. It is a camera that rewards careful setup at first purchase (and you need to have a certain level of knowledge to get the best out of it), but, after the initial work, you shouldn't need to dive into the menus too often.

One thing I really don't like about Nikon cameras is the placement of the ISO button. On the D7000, as with the D90, it's placed on the left-hand side, making it impossible to change without moving the camera away from your eye. Why Nikon doesn't follow Canon and put its ISO button on the top of the camera, near the shooting button, is a mystery to me. It's also a shame that Nikon hasn't implemented a better Live View system. Not being able to change the aperture while in manual mode in live view is undoubtedly a pain. But apart from these issues, the D7000 has very useful controls and offers a decent layout.

HD Movie Mode

The Nikon D7000 can shoot in full HD movie mode, and it is extremely easy to operate. Simply flick the Live View switch on and press the red record button to start and stop recording. There's a socket for attaching a stereo microphone, and you have full manual control and AF while recording.

Like most DSLRs in this price point, the camera suffers from a little distortion, but it is far less pronounced than in other models. The lack of a hinged, rotatable LCD screen also limits users when in movie mode, and it's a shame Nikon didn't include this.

SD Cards

The D7000 offers twin SD card slots. This can be extremely useful if you're shooting in different formats or want to take a lot of shots in quick succession. It's a very simple addition, but one that I think is very useful.

Image Quality

As with all of my camera reviews, what really counts is image quality. The D7000 doesn't disappoint, producing high quality images in most situations. Performances at high ISOs are exceptional, in both RAW and JPEG, and at ISO 6400 you can achieve perfectly acceptable prints.

The two H settings do show some deterioration in quality. Unlike many of its competitors, the Nikon D7000 performs really well in JPEG mode, giving images with good color reproduction. You'll still see the benefit if you shoot RAW though, gaining an increased dynamic range.

The only downside is the camera's tendency to over-expose in high contrast situations, by quite a large degree. All Nikon cameras tend to run a little bright on colors, even in mid-tones, and this reflects back into the problems seen in high contrast scenes. Obviously, this can be corrected by shooting RAW and doing some post-production work, or by dialing in a little negative exposure compensation.

Conclusion

The D7000 is a great enthusiast's camera in most respects, producing good images even in low-light conditions. It will certainly appeal to existing Nikon users, and it even gives the D300s a run for its money. It's just a shame that the D7000 isn't more competitively priced, particularly as users will need to invest in some good quality glass to get the most out of it.

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