The Nikon D7000 is one of the most talked-about cameras of the year. With a new 39-point AF system and 2,016 pixel RGB metering sensor, can the D7000 live up to the hype? What Digital Camera's Nikon D7000 review finds out...
Nikon D7000 review – Features
The Nikon D7000 is keen to stand apart from the older Nikon range as an all-new camera. Indeed, to dispel the myth of it being a D90 replacement, it’s worth pointing out that both cameras will continue to run in the current Nikon range for the time being and the gap between one and the next is fairly considerable.
The Nikon D7000 adopts a new 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, suggesting that the megapixel count for DSLR cameras is clearly still on the rise. The APS-C size of the sensor means the usual 1.5x magnification applies (i.e. 18mm is the same as 27mm in a full-frame 35mm equivalent). Paired up with the Expeed 2 image processing engine, the D7000 also boasts Nikon’s latest hardware for speedy processing and the capability to expand the already well-specified ISO 100-6400 sensitivity to a top-end Hi2 setting – the equivalent of ISO 25,600.
For those looking to reel off bursts of images in continuous shooting mode, the D7000 offers a pleasing 6fps. Considered in the context against the Nikon D300s’s 7fps, and side by side to the Canon 60D’s 5.3fps, this is a well-specified offering that will prove tempting to those enthusiasts looking for speed as well as resolution and all-round capability.
It’s not just still images where the Nikon D7000 comes well equipped either: the ability to capture Full HD 1080p video at 24 frames per second sees off much of the competition thanks to its progressive capture.
Elsewhere there’s an all-new 2,016 pixel RGB metering module and a brand new 39-point AF system with nine cross-type sensors, dubbed the Multi-CAM 4800DX.
The rear of the camera has a fixed 3in, 920k-dot LCD screen and a viewfinder sat above this gives a full 100% field-of-view to ensure that exactly what you frame by eye is what you capture.
To store your images there are twin SD card slots that can be utilised simultaneously or user-defined to operate in an overflow or stills/video format. It’s interesting to see the omission of a CF card slot, which seems to now be exclusively reserved for more pro-grade models.
Nikon D7000 review – Design
Although a fair amount behind the scenes is new, the look and feel of the D7000 is still very much a Nikon at heart.
The camera’s layout comprises a light-up display panel to the top right, with a mode dial and surrounding drive mode dial to the opposite left hand side. To adjust the drive mode a small button requires pressing to release the dial lock – this can prove a little fiddly despite a raised, textured edge, yet is no different to previous Nikon body designs.
For control of most key options the D7000 adopts a dual thumbwheel system, which makes quick-adjusting manual controls a breeze. Both thumbwheels are well positioned on the front and rear right-hand side of the camera and fall well to the hand.
On the rear is the main LCD screen centerpiece and, although there seems to be demand for vari-angle screens of late, the D7000 opts for a traditional fixed-screen. The viewfinder above this has a 0.94 magnification and as such is fairly large to the eye but would benefit from a more pronounced eye cup to fully seal off external light and lock around the eye more smoothly.
A plethora of function-type buttons around the camera body also come good in use: to the front left side of the flash is a BKT (bracket) button; a Depth of Field Preview button is to the front of the camera by the lens base; the Fn (Function) button can be found above this to the top right of the lens; exposure compensation and metering selection have their own individual buttons next to the shutter release; and three of the four main buttons to the rear left can be pressed and held for further quick adjustment of the major options. In short, you’re never far from quick and easy control.
Nikon D7000 review – Performance
The D7000’s entirely new 39-point AF system will be the clincher for many when considering purchase as it really raises the complexity at your disposal and it’s a far more advanced system than the Nikon D90 had to offer. As per the 51-point Multi-CAM 3500DX AF system found in the D300s and above, the D7000’s new Multi-CAM 4800DX system is highly customiseable, albeit with fewer available points and has nine cross-type sensors rather than the 15 found in the Multi-CAM 3500DX system.
The AF button to the bottom left front-side of camera can be held and the rear and front thumbwheels then control the autofocus mode (AF-S, AF-C, AF-A) and AF Area within that mode. At its most advanced the latter provides the option to choose between 3D tracking, Auto (using full array of AF points), single point selection, centre nine-point array, centre 21-point array and wide AF. Although having more available AF points is great for subject tracking, a secondary 11-point array is also available should this better suit your shooting style. The main menu also provides yet more specific detail to control whether capture can take place in absolute focus or when the shutter is pressed, plus there’s a five-point level to adjust the sensitivity of focus tracking (to avoid unnecessarily quick refocusing if a closer subject passes the frame for example), a focus point wrap-around and AF illumination control. In short this is approaching pro-spec control in a more mid-level enthusiast body and the results are fantastic across the board.
In fact the only slight let down is the 18-105mm lens that’s outclassed by the camera body for the simple reason it doesn’t produce the fastest possible response. Attach another lens (in this test a 24-70mm f/2.8) and the speedier, smooth and swift adjustment during focusing is an immediate additional benefit.
Switch the D7000 into its live view mode using the switch on the rear to the top left of the screen and autofocus speed shifts fairly dramatically downhill however. As great as live view is to have, there have been some fairly dramatic third party revelations during the last year in the form of Sony’s Quick AF Live View and Single Lens Translucent technologies. As such the D7000’s live view AF feels a little plodding – though that’s only by comparison. Realistically, even the Canon 60D and similar-specified cameras won’t provide a superior solution in this department. However, on the up side, the AF-area on the rear of the screen can be moved edge-to-edge for dramatically accurate focus across the frame. Face Priority, Wide-Area AF, Normal-area AF and Subject-tracking AF comprise the four available focus options. Add to this significant magnification possibilities for fine focus and, given the context of what it’s designed to be used for, the D7000 is ideal for shooting still life or landscape work.
With LCD screen resolutions increasing and more commonly found upwards of the one million dot mark, the D7000’s 3in, 920k-dot screen may not be pushing any boundaries but it’s perfectly adept for preview and playback. Should more detail assessment be required then a quick zoom in using the left-hand buttons can promptly assess the finer levels of detail.
The D7000’s viewfinder provides 100% field of view horizontally and vertically, meaning that what you see in the frame is precisely what you’ll get in the final image. There’s even a horizontal virtual horizon feature that, when activated, utilises a +/- display at the bottom of your view to assist in straightening up shots.
Power comes from the brand new EN-EL15 li-ion battery and a single charge lasts for a very long time indeed. In fact It was possible to shoot some 50 minutes of movie clips in addition to 500 still (Raw + JPEG) images, including long exposures and the use of a variety of autofocus and live view modes, plus a considerable amount of preview and playback. Shooting stills alone, it’s possible to shoot several hundred frames.
Elsewhere the 6fps continuous shooting mode makes the D7000 pretty nippy. It may be marginally slower than the D300s’s 7fps capability, but the difference is relatively negligible. When shooting JPEG fine it was possible to shoot 100 frames (the max continuous release option) without delay on a single still subject, while a moving subject provided subtle delay for the autofocus to catch up and shoot. It’s only when shooting Raw that things slow down a little, as Raw + JPEG Fine maxed out at 11 frames before a brief pause, showing some slight limitation to the buffer’s capacity.
Nikon D7000 review – Image Quality
Nikon D7000 – Tone & Exposure
The brand new 2,016 RGB pixel sensor does a reasonable job of metering, though with the mid-shadow areas generally exposed for there were a number of instances when the camera drifted towards overexposure. This was present even in a number of scenes that wouldn’t usually fall victim to such circumstances, and so the availability of a +/-5 EV exposure compensation came in handy on a number of occasions.
As well as evaluative metering, a centre weighted and spot metering option are available and the size of the centre spot is size-adjustable through the menu system.
Nikon D7000 – RAW vs JPEG
Nikon’s View NX2 is included in the box to view and process Raw files.
The results between Raw & JPEG are fairly subtle, with the apparent detail in both mightily similar. The main difference is that the JPEG files seem to have a mid-tone ‘push’ that lifts the exposure slightly.
Nikon D7000 – Colour & White Balance
Colour is fairly typical of the way many Nikon DSLRs perform, with a lean towards a warmer red/yellow cast in the majority of situations. The Auto White Balance is consistent, though can struggle under artificial fluorescent light where images can appear excessively yellow. This is a particular issue for studio work, whereby it’s best to manually set the white balance or select from one of the fixed-temperature presets as applicable.
Nikon D7000 – ISO Sensitivity & Image Noise
With a high 16.2MP resolution, the general lack of image noise throughout the ISO range is an impressive feat to behold. There’s a great clarity to images from ISO 100-800 and, although colour and some luminance noise becomes noticeable hereafter, it’s not wildly disruptive to final quality. In fact, even images at ISO 3200 produce a grain-like quality that provides a good textured quality to prints. ISO 6400 is the top-end setting (at a push) for more critical use as colour noise reveals itself more in the shadow areas, and the Hi1 and Hi2 ISO 12,800-25,600 options should be strictly used for emergencies as softness through noise reduction can be problematic.
Nikon D7000 – Sharpness & Detail
The 16.2MP sensor is highly resolute and images are impressively detailed. The 18-105mm lens exhibits familiar issues as per other wide-mid zooms, such as barrel distortion, though the overall results are adequate. It’s when attaching a more advanced lens that yet more can be yielded from the sensor.
Only the higher ISO sensitivities slightly soften images, though this only becomes apparent from ISO 1600 where a subtle shift is noticeable, though the Hi1 and Hi2 settings are fairly detrimental to fine detail due to noise reduction.
Movie Mode & Quality
Nikon D7000 review – Movie Mode
Nikon D7000 – Quality
There aren’t a huge number of other models out there that can boast the same Full HD 1080p movie capture as the D7000 can, given that the majority of the competition offer an inferior interlaced capture.
Using the H.264 compression type, the D7000’s files appear in the MOV format (Quicktime) straight from camera which makes for less work than some AVCHD-types that require processing prior to use.
1080p is captured at 24fps with around a 24Mbps bitrate (though this is variable) to provide smooth, cinematic-like quality with limited compression. High ISO work even looked good, though above standard sensitivity did cause some flickering issues with fluorescent lighting.
Nikon D7000 – Record Time
The three available PAL options – 1080p at 24fps, 720p at 24 or 25fps and 640×424 at 25fps – are all restricted to a maximum capture time of 20mins per clip.
Nikon D7000 – Focusing modes
As movie mode captures during live view mode, the focusing modes are restricted to Face Priority, Wide-area AF, Normal-area AF and Subject-tracking AF. The AF point on the rear of the screen can be moved during recording using the d-pad in order to adjust where focus will be taken if desired.
There are three focus possibilities: AF-S for single autofocus where the shutter needs to be half depressed to refocus; AF-F for full time autofocus where the camera automatically focuses depending on the subject and/or AF-point positioning; and manual focus where the lens focus ring can be used to attain focus.
It’s also worth noting that when framing there are crop marks in live view that show where the movie will be captured. As the full width of the sensor is used for capture, however, no irritating cropping is present when pressing the record button (crop marks considered, of course).
Nikon D7000 – Manual Control
It’s possible to shoot movies using any of the available modes on the top dial, though as the frame rate is fixed the camera will over-ride any priority setting that would over- or underexpose the final shot. The ISO setting can be adjusted in any applicable mode in an attempt to compensate for this as desired, though it’s only Manual mode that provides full exposure control.
Nikon D7000 – Sound
The D7000 uses Linear PCM (essentially the carrier format as found in Compact Disc audio), with a 16bit stereo, 48000Hz sample rate. In short: the sound is captured in ‘CD quality’ from either the camera body or by utilising the 3.5mm microphone jack for an external microphone (sold separately). The sound captured is very clean, crisp and clear, and doesn’t suffer from any normalizing to attempt to compensate for quiet speech and similar quiet scenarios.
Value & Verdict
Nikon D7000 review – Value
Price is just as critical as any other element and the D7000’s initial RRP is towards the top-end. To explain: Canon’s 7D plus 18-135mm lens available for around £100 more and Canon’s highly competitive 60D is some hundreds of pounds cheaper at the time of writing. The price balance scale could tilt either way depending on preference of specific features (screen vs autofocus for example) and there are even other options such as the Pentax K-5 or weather-proofed Olympus E-5 for similar prices. This isn’t to challenge its worth however: the D7000 easily feels like more than a grand’s worth of camera in the hand.
Nikon D7000 review – Verdict
The D7000 is an absolutely exceptional DSLR that, although categorised under Nikon’s ‘consumer’ bracket, offers a lot of pro-like specification. There’s a lot out there to compete with, not least that Canon’s 7D can be found for a few hundred pounds more, and the D7000 does a good job of balancing between consumer and pro. Its part magnesium, part polycarbonate body is testament to this.
The new 39-point AF system is fantastic, the images are of exceptional quality right into the high ISO setting and the only slight drawbacks are the relatively high price point, fairly shallow buffer for Raw shooting and slight overexposure in unexpected circumstances.
Otherwise the D7000 succeeds in carving out a new niche in the DSLR category and provides bags of power for the money.
Nikon D7000 manual
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Nikon D7000 manual – pdf
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