The Nikon D7000 is a prosumer DSLR with a 16.2MP DX-format sensor. With the ability to capture high-resolution images and 1080p HD video, the D7000 packs quite a punch.
To see whether the D7000 is the right prosumer shooter for you, read on.
Nikon D7000 Key Features
- 16.2MP CMOS Sensor
- 1920 x 1080 HD Video at 24p
- EXPEED 2 Image Processor w/ 14-bit A/D Conversion
- 2016-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering
- 39-point AF System
- 6fps Max Frame Rate
- ISO 100-6400 (expandable to ISO 25,600 equivalent)
- Twin SD/SDXC Card Slots (UHS-I compatible)
- Built-in Wireless Commander i-TTL Support
- 3-inch 921k-dot Resolution LCD
- 150,000 Cycle Shutter Rating
- 18-105mm VR Kit Lens Available
Nikon D7000 Handling and Controls
As with most other prosumer and higher-grade Nikon cameras, the D7000 feels great in the hand. Those familiar with other Nikon pro and prosumer DSLRs will be very comfortable picking up the D7000. The rubberized grip fits just right in the hand and controls are aplenty for the right-hand’s thumb and forefinger. It feels much closer to the pro-caliber D300s than the entry-level D3100. However, it’s also much heavier than entry-level cameras thanks to its magnesium alloy body, which also makes the camera more robust than lower-end models.
Keeping with the trend in Nikon pro and prosumer DSLRs, the D7000 gives you a lot of control at your fingertips, which keeps you out of the camera’s menu system for most common settings.
There are two scroll wheels: one on the back for the thumb and one on the grip for the finger. In combination, these give quick access to a variety of camera settings. They are well placed and easy to access without needing to go looking for them. As a result, shutter and aperture adjustments (when available in your selected shooting mode), among other settings, can be easily made without taking your eye off the viewfinder.
Metering and exposure compensation are quickly accessible thanks to well-placed buttons just to the rear of the shutter release. Likewise, Nikon keeps the logically-(I’m looking at you Canon)-placed on/off switch at the shutter release.
Staying on top of the D7000 and on the left side of the hot shoe, the typical mode dial rests on top of the D7000’s drive mode dial, which stays locked in place thanks to the lock/release button just behind and to the left of it. Using the drive mode, you can quickly select among a variety of drive types – single shot, continuous low (variable b/w 3-5 fps), continuous high (6 fps), quite, self timer, remote and mirror lockup.
On the left side of the hot shoe hump itself, you will find a dual purpose button for deploying the pop-up flash and accessing flash compensation once it’s up. Below that is a quick-access button for bracketing exposure. When used in conjunction with the dual scroll wheels, you can choose between two-frame or three-frame brackets in 1/3 steps up to 2 EV.
The back of the D7000 contains a very Nikon-esque control scheme. Dual purpose buttons for shooting and image preview adjustments line the left side. In the top-left corner, preview and delete buttons rest on their own – and are in easy reach of the left thumb. The “delete” button serves a dual role as a quick-format button when used in conjunction with the metering mode button on top of the camera.
Moving to the bottom-right, the Info button gives you access to current shooting information. By pressing the button twice, you can get quick access to settings and make adjustments from the LCD. Above the Info button is the Focus Selector Lock, which keeps you from inadvertently moving your focus point with the 4-way control button that happens to be right above it.
The 4-way control button serves many functions on the D7000, from navigating the camera’s menu system to, as noted above, selecting the active focus point in certain AF modes.
Above the 4-way control button is a the live view switch and record button, which users of recent-model Nikon DSLRs should be familiar with by now. Flip the switch clockwise and the camera enters live view mode. Press the red record button in the center of the switch and you are recording HD video.
Rounding out the rear controls of the D7000 is an auto-exposure and autofocus lock button, which can be customized in the D7000’s menu to work AE-L or AF-L, along with the ability to place AE-Lock on hold until you press the button again or until you release the shutter. You can also program the AE-L/AF-L button to engage the camera’s autofocus or to lock flash exposure when using a compatible Nikon Speedlight.
On the left side of the D7000, you get ports (covered with rubber gaskets) for AV out, USB, HDMI out, GPS connections and a 3.5mm mic input.
Yeah, this camera is more pro- than -sumer.
Shooting with the Nikon D7000
In short, the Nikon D7000 is a blast to use. Autofocus is fast and accurate. The ability to reach into the stratosphere for sensitivity gives you the confidence to take the camera in to the darkest of “available light” settings. And the signature Nikon controls and ergonomics whisper to your subconscious that you are using a professional-grade camera.
As an enthusiast-oriented camera, the D7000 does well to include features like autobracketing for HDR capture. The convenience of the BKT button near the lens mount is quite welcomed. Additionally, the D7000 delivers with a built-in time lapse mode, which was sadly missed on the entry-level D3100. Having the ability to capture time lapse images without the need for a $150 remote (I’m looking at you Canon) is great.
As noted, the D7000’s autofocus speed and accuracy is solid. The D7000 has a new 39-point AF system, which sports 9 cross-type sensors. The D7000’s AF options are similar to those found in higher-end DSLRs like the D300s and D3s.
The D7000 gives you the ability (when shooting if AF-C) to select Release- or Focus-priority for continuous capture. As with the D3s, when you select Focus-priority, the D7000 will not release the shutter until it has achieved proper focus on the subject. Of course, Release-priority lets the shutter release regardless of whether it has achieved proper focus. As you can deduce from this, using Focus-priority can result in a lower frame rate than the D7000’s maximum spec of 6 fps.
Like other pro Nikon DSLRs, the D7000 offers three AF-area modes: Single-point AF, Dynamic-area AF, and Auto-area AF.
This is the most basic of the AF point selections. Using this mode, a single AF point is selected, which is then used exclusively for calculating AF.
Dynamic-area AF (and 3D Tracking)
The D7000 uses Dynamic-area AF to help track subjects if they move off a selected AF point. The photographer still selects a single AF-point; however, the D7000 will use surrounding AF points if the subject moves beyond that point of the frame. Using the AF-mode button, the assist points can be selected to include 9, 21, or all 39 AF points. Additionally, 39 points (3D Tracking) can be selected, which actually stores the colors in the area surrounding the active AF point in the camera for reference while tracking the subject. When using 3D Tracking, the D7000 can actually change the primary AF point based on the subject’s position in the frame.
This mode gives the most automated control to the camera, whereby the D7000 evaluates the scene and selects the appropriate focus points. If a Nikon type D or G lens is attached, the D7000 can distinguish people from other objects and will give priority to focusing on them as your subjects. In Auto-area AF, there are no visual cues for focus points when in continuous AF mode; however, in single AF mode, the active AF points will briefly appear once focus is achieved.
If the D7000 has any weak points in its armor, it is the camera’s buffer for continuous still image capture. JPEG shooters have no real worries here; however, for those who shoot RAW images, take note. You get 10 shots and the buffer fills. A fast SD card can help; however, it won’t quite save the D7000 from itself.
The Nikon D7000 is the first DSLR to take advantage of the new UHS-I SD card specification. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t appear to take full advantage of that speed potential. The Nikon D7000’s buffer seems to cap at 10 frames during continuous high speed shooting no matter which SD card is inserted.
I got my hands on the latest SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I SDHC cards to see just how well they worked in this first-generation UHS-I camera.
While the difference between the SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro SD cards is marginal in the D7000, there is still an obvious difference. After capturing the full complement of 10 frames at the D7000’s max frame rate of 6fps, the D7000 delivered the following results with each of the cards.
- SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I: Buffer clears in approx. 7 seconds. If additional images are captured after buffer fills, capture rate is approx. 1.9fps.
- SanDisk Extreme (non-UHS-I): Buffer clears in approx. 11 seconds. If additional images are captured after buffer fills, capture rate is approx. 1.7fps.
In short, even though the Nikon D7000 is compatible with the SD Association’s UHS-I specifications, it does not appear to take full advantage of what SanDisk is delivering in the Extreme Pro UHS-I SD card. However, both the SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro are significantly faster than the SanDisk Ultra II SD cards, which take around 15 seconds to clear the full buffer of 10 images and cannot continue to capture images at a consistent rate after the buffer fills (perhaps, 1 frame every 1-2 seconds).
If you need to keep shooting frame after frame with the D7000, I would recommend either the SanDisk Extreme or Extreme Pro SD cards for the D7000. I would not recommend going with a slower card due to the extended time that it takes for the D7000’s buffer to clear and inconsistent frame capture after the buffer fills up.
If you want to know more about SD card types and speed ratings, check out my reference article, Demystifying SD Cards.
Nikon D7000 Movie Mode
The D7000 can capture full 1920 x 1080 HD video at 24p (23.976fps). This is the only frame rate you have for 1080p HD video. However, it can capture 720p video at 24p and 30p as well. Unfortunately, there’s no 720p at 60 fps as is found in the Canon 60D and Canon 7D. Audio is captured via a built-in mono mic; however, the D7000 offers a 3.5mm mini-plug for external mics. The D7000 produces MPEG -4 .MOV files with a data rate at around 2.5MB/s.
Unlike the lower-end D3100 that introduced 1080p video the the Nikon DSLR line, the D7000 allows proper control over exposure settings in video capture mode. The downside, however, is that the D7000 does not allow you to adjust the aperture while live view mode is operational. If you want to change the aperture, you have to turn off live view/movie mode, make your aperture adjustments, and then engage live view again. As you can imagine, this is very frustrating when trying to make exposure or DOF judgments on the fly.
If you can get past the absurd aperture controls for video capture, the D7000 has the ability to produce great footage. Like other DSLRs though, the D7000 suffers from the rolling shutter “jello effect” when panning or capturing fast-moving subjects. It’s just the nature of the beast with DSLRs and CMOS sensors right now.
I’ve included some low light sample footage from a local aquarium below, which was captured in 1080/24p with the D7000 primarily at ISO 6400 and ISO 3200. All of the clips were captured handheld using the 18-105mm VR kit lens. No color correction was applied to the footage.
I did not like the live view and video autofocus performance. While the D7000 is one of the better DSLRs, it still isn’t on par with Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds models or Sony’s NEX models. If you are relying on the D7000 as a camcorder replacement and have a strong need for full time autofocus, I would suggest that you look elsewhere.
The D7000 can be a very powerful video camera for the industrious prosumer, which probably accounts for many Photography Bay readers. Likewise, the Nikon-powered wedding photographer could make very good use of the D7000 by adding cinematic video to his or her packages (the book Photo Fusion provides a solid primer into this realm for wedding photographers). However, based on the clunky aperture controls, I don’t really see the D7000 as a threat to unseat the likes of the Canon 7D and 5D Mark II at the top of the HDSLR food chain.
Nikon D7000 Image Quality
I haven’t used every APS-C DSLR that’s currently available – but I’ve used a lot of them.
Nikon has expanded upon the success of recent its 12MP DSLRs and stepped up to a higher resolution with stunning results all the way up to the max sensitivity setting of ISO 25,600.
Below, I’ve included several photos for you to see for yourself a little bit of what the Nikon D7000 can do.
All images were captured in RAW format and processed in Lightroom 3 and/or Photoshop CS5 according to my own personal tastes. In most of these images, I’ve only made slight contrast, saturation, sharpness and vignetting adjustments. I have noted the basic shot info below each image. All images were made with the Nikon D7000’s 18-105mm kit lens.
Additionally, I’ve included an ISO range comparison for the D7000’s JPEG and RAW file processing results below.
Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication). You can get the original files by right-clicking on any of the images and choosing “Save link as…”
In the following ISO range comparison, I captured a scene under tungsten lamps with custom white balance set in-camera. These images were shot in NEF + JPEG with default noise reduction settings applied to the JPEG images. RAW files were zeroed and exported from Lightroom 3 as JPEGs at the 100 quality setting (except for the ISO 25600 image, which was reduced to 90 quality to get under the 25MB file size cap on SmugMug. And by the way, SmugMug rocks! You can use my referral code for $5 off – 7jCtURK05RxCQ ). A second batch of the same RAW images received noise reduction settings of +50 for both luma and chroma noise, and then exported as 100 quality JPEGs from Lightroom 3.
For the sake of reference, here’s what the entire image looks like.
And, below, you will find 100% crops from near the center of the frame.
Below are links to the original files from the above 100% crops, which you can download for further personal inspection if you wish. Just right-click the link and choose “Save file as…”
- ISO 100: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
- ISO 200: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
- ISO 400: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
- ISO 800: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
- ISO 1600: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
- ISO 3200: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
- ISO 6400: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
- ISO 12800: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
- ISO 25600: JPEG – RAW w/o NR – RAW w/ NR
There are many things about the D7000 that impress me, not the least of which is overall image quality. While certain professional applications will find limitations with the sensitivity range, many enthusiast photographers will be pleased to use the D7000 up to (and perhaps beyond) ISO 6400 on a consistent basis.
Did you see what the processed RAW crop at ISO 25,600 looks like? Just. Wow. What would you say if you had seen this kind of quality at ISO 25,600 no more than 5 years ago? (Not to mention the price point at which the D7000 delivers this performance at…)
I was constantly impressed with the ability to take the rather slow f/5.6 kit lens into low-light environments and walk out with plenty of keepers. Add a fast lens like the 50mm f/1.8 or 35mm f/1.8, and the D7000 will shoot in lower light than your eyes can see.
Nikon D7000 Accessories
Nikon EN-EL15 Battery – The Nikon D7000 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.
Nikon MB-D11 Battery Grip -If you are looking for more power or just more control in the portrait orientation, the MB-D11 is the grip to fit the Nikon D7000. It comes with two battery trays – one for the EN-EL15 and one for 6 AA batteries. Just make sure you grab an extra EN-EL15 battery to go with MB-D11 as it does not include the battery itself.
Nikon SB-700 Speedlight -The SB-700 is the newest Speedlight and it currently occupies the “enthusiast” segment for Nikon Speedlights (as it replaced the popular SB-600). Since the D7000 can be operated in commander mode with the built-in pop-up flash, adding a SB-700 Speedlight is a great tool to get the flash off the camera.
Nikon SB-900 Speedlight -The SB-900 is the current king of Nikon Speedlights. If the SB-700 doesn’t have enough to suit your needs, the SB-900 is the cream of the crop.
MC-DC2 remote cord – This remote cord allows you to take long exposures or close-ups that require complete cameras steadiness.
Nikon GP-1 GPS unit – For those interested in geotagging your photos, the Nikon GP-1 plugs into the side of the D7000 and allows the camera’s location to be embedded in photos as they are taken.
I love the Nikon D7000. It’s one of the best DSLRs I’ve used to date. Sure, there are a few quibbles like the aperture adjustment in live view and movie mode, along with the rather lame buffer for continuous RAW image capture (particularly since the D7000 is compatible with UHS-I SD cards). However, where the rubber meets the road, the D7000 is a rock solid enthusiast camera that’s sure to turn the heads of plenty pros looking to add another Nikon body to their arsenal.
Aside from the couple of caveats that could affect certain users’ shooting requirements, I highly recommend the Nikon D7000 for any enthusiast or pro shopping for an affordable, yet powerful, DSLR.
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