Metering / Highlight clipping
The D7000's metering system is generally reliable but in certain situations (bright sunshine, high contrast) we got more overexposed shots than we are used to from other recent DSLRs. Despite the fact that all of the active AF points were positioned in the highlight areas of the image, the scene below was clearly exposed for the shadow area on the right and could have done with at least one stop negative exposure compensation to prevent the highlights from blowing out.
Fortunately, a lot of the lost detail can be recovered when converting RAW files. In this example a negative digital exposure compensation of 1.05 EV would approximately get you a 'correct' exposure and brings back some of the texture on the weathered wood of the boat. A more extreme adjustment of -3.0EV reveals even more detail. However, as the second example below demonstrates sometimes not all of the color information can be recovered.
|JPEG - Metered Exposure|
|RAW - Metered Exposure, -1.05EV correction|
|RAW - Metered Exposure, -3.0EV correction|
This is another sample shot where the metered exposure is a little too bright and some of the highlights are overexposed. Pulling the exposure down by 1.5 EV in Adobe Camera RAW brings back a lot of the texture in the woodwork but we have lost some degree of color accuracy. Much of the recovered detail is gray which indicates that one or more color channels have clipped.
|ACR - Metered Exposure||ACR - Metered Exposure, -1.5EV correction|
|100% crop||100% crop|
Overall Image Quality / Specifics
Unsurprisingly for a enthusiast DSLR in 2010 the Nikon D7000's image quality gives very little cause for complaint. At lower sensitivities the camera produces detailed JPEG output with a natural color response. At a pixel level the images are just a tad soft but respond well to a touch of additional sharpening in post processing. You can squeeze some extra detail out of your images by converting the RAW files but the difference to the out-of-camera JPEGs is only really visible at a 100% magnification.
No matter if you shoot JPEG or RAW, the D7000's combination of a high pixel count and good per-pixel sharpness means that you need good lenses to get the most out of the camera. We did the majority of our shooting on the bundled 18-105mm kit lens, and comparing results shot with other lenses it is clear that the 18-105mm is the limiting factor in this combination. So if you like to 'pixel-peep' you might want to put a couple of premium Nikkors or prime lenses on your wish-list as well.
The D7000's excellent balance of noise reduction and retention of fine detail means that the D7000's high ISO performance is very good indeed. The two highest ISO settings should probably be reserved for emergency situations or web use of the images but up to ISO 6400 the D7000's output is perfectly usable at normal print sizes, especially when shooting in RAW mode, where you have more control over noise reduction and sharpening. All in all the Nikon D7000 arguably offers the best high ISO image quality out of all APS-C cameras that we have seen so far.
There's one negative point though that we have to mention. As you can see from the examples on this page, the camera has a tendency to overexpose, particularly in bright conditions. During our tests we shoot hundreds of real-life samples and with any camera there are usually a few incorrectly exposed images. On the D7000 however the correct/incorrect ratio is a little higher than usual which suggests that the camera's 3D matrix metering could do with a bit of a tweak. The overexposure is usually in the region between 0.5 and 1.0EV and can in most cases be corrected in RAW conversion. Nevertheless, when shooting in bright sunshine and/or high contrast conditions you might want to keep an eye on the histogram and apply exposure compensation where necessary.
More adventurous users might also consider using the 'Fine Tune Optimal Exposure' control in the custom menu, but we'd urge caution here - this control is a universal bias, irrespective of scene type. In our experience, it is only in bright lighting conditions where the D7000 tends to struggle.