If there ever was a camera to create a rush of excitement when unpacking it — through the arduous process of fitting the strap, adjusting custom-shooting settings and formatting a memory card — it would be the Nikon D7000.
It's a deceptive camera: it looks and feels more akin to a professional model in Nikon's range like the D300s or D700 even though it's clearly positioned below these two SLRs. The D7000 is also a dark horse in that it has the best (full) HD video recording of any of the Nikon SLR range to date — all for a street price around AU$1600 for the body only. We might be talking bargain of the century.
Design and features
Though it's not made of anything new in the construction ingredients department (all-metal chassis with magnesium alloy and polycarbonate covers) it feels really good in the hand. All grips are placed well, buttons are within easy reach and the finish is really refined for a camera of its class. Considering the D7000's main competitor is the Canon 60D, the Nikon is leaps and bounds ahead in build quality and overall look-and-feel.
The sensor is an overhauled 16.2-megapixel CMOS in Nikon's DX (APS-C size equivalent) format with improved analog-to-digital conversion with 14-bit processing, thanks to the new processor.
What's nice in the D7000's dial implementation is the dual-shooting mode and options dials placed one on top of the other. You can easily switch in and out of all your PASM modes and then just as quickly launch into single, continuous, quiet or timer shooting via the secondary dial. Screen specs are the standard 3-inch, 920,000-dot display we're used to seeing from Nikon's higher-end dSLR stable. The viewfinder is bright and clear and gives 100 per cent coverage, equivalent to that found in the higher-end D300s model.
Scene modes, normally found on entry-level SLRs, are now all contained in the one option on the top-mode dial, with selections triggered using the rear jog wheel and screen.
Click through for a complete photo gallery. (Credit: Nikon)
Also at the back is a new switch borrowed from the D3100, that turns Live View shooting on and off. The instand video record button is situated in the middle of this too, which makes recording really simple. As for autofocus, that's taken care of thanks to a new 39-point system, of which 9 points are cross-type. The centre point is slightly outlined in the viewfinder and doesn't distract at all from the image presented through the viewfinder.
On the side is a whole host of connectivity options, including AV, mini-USB and HDMI out, plus microphone and GPS input. The D7000 adds another layer of interest above other cameras of its class too, with the provision of dual SDXC card slots which can be customised to perform a number of different functions like acting as an overflow buffer when the first card is full, backing up the contents of the first card or storing RAW shots on one side and JPEGs on the other.
|Canon 60D||Nikon D7000|
|18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor (22x14mm)||16.2-megapixel APS-C/DX CMOS sensor (23x15mm)|
|3-inch, 1.04 million-dot articulating LCD screen||3-inch, 921,000-dot fixed LCD screen|
|Full HD video (1080p, 30/25/24fps)||Full HD video (1080p, 25/24fps)|
|AU$1699 body only||AU$1600 (approx.)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Nikon D70000.30.20.30.1
- Canon 60D0.30.40.40.1
- Canon 550D0.30.60.60.2
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Nikon D70006
- Canon 60D5.3
- Canon 550D3.4
The D7000 has a buffer of approximately 21 full resolution, highest quality JPEG shots. Nikon rates the battery at 1050 shots. The battery meter in the top LED panel has five increment levels to give a really clear indication of remaining battery life.
Given the pedigree and the trickle-down features from the D300s, it's no surprise that the D7000 delivers excellent quality images using default settings, both in its RAW and JPEG forms. It's on par with the quality of shots from the D300s.
Automatic white balance is precise and does a good job of determining the ambient lighting, especially in darkened situations. Colour rendition on default and natural settings is very good. We tested the D7000 mostly with the new AF-S 35mm f/1.4 lens which produces excellent images in most situations.
As with the other Nikon SLRs, Active D-Lighting does a very good job of retaining highlight and shadow detail in tricky exposure situations (such as the backlit tree shot in our image samples below). In some situations, such as the low-light shots used in this review, the D7000 blew out highlights a little more than would be expected, but it doesn't present much of an issue in other conditions.RAW vs. JPEG comparison
The D7000's RAW capture is very good, and in this side-by-side comparison with its JPEG image at high sensitivity, shows it's more than capable of producing usable shots at ISO 3200. The detail in the guitar player's shirt is even captured in the RAW shot, whereas in the JPEG image there's smoothing applied. Still, the JPEG images from the D7000 at ISO 1600 and above are very usable, especially with some post-processing applied.
ISO 3200. (Credit: CBSi)
The D7000 does allow full manual controls in movie mode (activated through the movie settings menu) though the frame rate options are limited to 24fps at full 1080p in high or normal quality. 25fps only becomes an option at 720p and below, and 30fps is nowhere to be seen, unless you change the video mode to NTSC.
Even though it offers full-time autofocus, like the D3100, in use it's not very practical, particularly if you mount a lens that's a little slow to seek focus. Plus, the lens noise is really obvious on the recordings (fortunately, the external microphone can help mitigate this a bit).
Overall, videos taken with the D7000 were clear, but lacked some of the clarity and precise sharpness found on the 60D. Sound from the built-in microphone is decent.
Just after publishing this review, Nikon issued a firmware upgrade for D7000 users, addressing the possibility of bright spots appearing on video shot with the camera, particularly in dark situations. While we couldn't replicate the issue during our testing period (and even when shooting in low-light situations and dark subjects), the firmware upgrade should resolve this issue.
Click each image for full-sized samples from the D7000. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.
Exposure: 1/320, f/13, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/250, f/7.1, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/640, f/1.4, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/60, f/4, ISO 3200
The D7000 offers an excellent shooting experience with a professional feel and features for not too much money at all. Though it presents the strongest video offering in any Nikon SLR to date, it's still not quite as refined as the Canon implementation. Still, this would only be noticeable to videographers and serious amateur film-makers. For everyone else, the D7000 offers exceptional image quality and features.
Editor's note: Nikon does not provide "official" Australian RRPs, however the estimated price provided to retailers is AU$1599.99 for the body only configuration. The D7000 is available from selected retailers.