Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Conclusion - Pros
- Good detail and dynamic range (even better in RAW)
- Exceptionally low shadow noise in RAW files
- Arguably the best high ISO performance of any current APS-C DSLR
- Good build quality and handling
- Maximum ISO of 25,600 st full resolution
- 1080p HD video mode with basic editing built-in
- Efficient Active D-Lighting
- Comprehensive customization options
- Large, bright viewfinder with 100% coverage
- Fast contrast detect Auto Focus in Live View
- Useful electronic horizon
- Comprehensive feature set
- AE metering support for up to 9 'non-CPU' Ai lenses (in A, M modes)
- Twin SD-card slots
Conclusion - Cons
- Tendency to overexpose in bright sunshine/high contrast situations
- ISO button is poorly positioned, and cannot be assigned to any other control point.
- Ditto white balance: poorly positioned, cannot be re-assigned
- Exposure mode dial slightly loose, and easily knocked
- Shooting mode dial can be awkward to manipulate
- AF can be hesitant in poor light
- Auto ISO function is confusing and poorly implemented (but no worse than any other Nikon DSLR)
- Aperture not adjustable in manual mode in live view (and won't stop up/down in any mode until exposure).
- No live histogram or exposure indicator in live view/movie shooting.
Generally camera manufacturers tend to follow a well-defined update path and it's usually pretty clear which model is meant to be replaced by a new one. With the announcement of the D7000 Nikon has - to a degree - broken with this pattern. The new camera is located somewhere between the enthusiast D300S and the (still current) upper entry-level D90.
In some areas such as build quality, sensor resolution and video quality it even overtakes the (nominally) semi-pro D300S, but as we've seen in this review, it's much closer to the D90 in terms of ergonomics and general handling. Whilst the jump from D90 up to D7000 might appear to make more sense than that from the D300S down a rung, the D7000 could be considered an upgrade option for both existing D90 and D300S owners alike. The D90 user gets an upgraded body shell, a better, higher-resolution sensor, vastly improved AF system and video modes, whilst the D300S owner gets... well, almost all of that, the only penalties being slightly less advanced ergonomics, a smaller buffer, and reduced AF versatility.
The Nikon D7000 produces high quality output in almost any shooting situation. Default JPEGs are clean of artifacts and with natural colors and tonality. At a pixel level low ISO images are very slightly soft but still show very good detail which can be further increased by shooting in RAW (you'll have to look at a 100% magnification though to see the difference). If you'd like your images to be a little crisper out of the camera you can play a little with the Picture Control parameters and dial in some extra sharpening and/or contrast. The camera's JPEGs also respond well to a touch of extra sharpening in post processing. In any case you should make sure you put some decent glass in front of the D7000's sensor. The 18-105mm kit lens scores points for versatility but it doesn't make the most of the sensor's capabilities.
While at base ISO there is very little between the latest DSLRs, at higher sensitivities the Nikon D7000 arguably offers the best performance of all APS-C cameras that we have seen so far, thanks to its combination of low noise, and sensible noise reduction, which retains an impressive amount of detail. The two highest ISO settings should probably be reserved for emergency situations or web use but we're confident in saying that up to ISO 6400 the D7000's output is perfectly usable at normal print sizes of letter size and smaller, plus of course web use.
At 9.3EV the D7000's JPEG dynamic range gives no cause for complaint either but working with the D7000's RAW files not only gains you some extra detail, but crucially also helps to significantly increase dynamic range. This is thanks to the new generation imaging sensor which produces exceptionally low read noise at base ISO. This lowers the noise floor that usually limits DR and means that you can pull much more dynamic range out of the shadows when processing RAW files. The benefits can be seen in day to day shooting in JPEG mode, especially when using active D-Lighting at higher ISO sensitivity settings, but to get the absolute best out of the D7000's sensor you'll need to spend some time at a computer working on its .NEF files.
All in all the D7000 delivers very good image quality, but there is one negative that we've mentioned in previous pages and have to stress again here. In bright, high-contrast conditions the camera has a tendency to overexpose - unfortunately by quite a large degree. For the past five years we've seen midtones from Nikon DSLRs getting progressively brighter, but overexposures of between between 0.5 and 1.0EV are serious, and can result in missed shooting opportunities. In most cases the exposure can be brought back into line by shooting in RAW mode and spending a little time in post-capure, but nevertheless, when shooting in bright sunshine and/or high contrast conditions we would urge you to keep an eye on the histogram and apply some negative exposure compensation when necessary.
Despite its magnesium alloy bodyshell, the D7000 is very close to the Nikon D90 in terms of handling. Having said that, the thick rubber coating on the grip, the lockable drive mode dial and the higher weight give it more of a quality feel than the all-plastic D90. The D90's control layout has been refined for the new model in some areas (direct video shooting button, Live View switch) and overall, we really like the way the camera handles. It feels solid and comfortably weighty in the hand. The user interface also offers more than enough customization option to make it suitable for even the most extravagant shooting habits.
There's one control though we would like the Nikon UI designers to have another look at: the placement of the ISO button. In its position in the middle of the row of buttons to the left of the LCD screen the button cannot easily be located by touch, and is in entirely the wrong position to be accessed with your eye to the camera's viewfinder. A location on the left hand side of the top plate - like on the D300S - would be better, but ideally we'd like to see ISO sitting just behind the shutter button, as it does on the Canon EOS-series and other cameras including the Pentax K-7/K-5 and Olympus E-5.
It is also a shame that the D7000 offers the slightly less sophisticated implementation of live view which is traditionally found in Nikon's lower-end DSLRs. Aperture cannot be adjusted in manual exposure mode in live view mode at all. Although you can adjust the aperture value in aperture priority mode, the actual aperture itself stays locked where it was when you initiated live view until the moment of exposure, where it stops up/down to your desired value. This makes stopping the lens open for critical manual focus more annoying than it needs to be, and means that if you initiate live view with the lens stopped down, to go 'wide open' you have to exit, reset the aperture, then initiate live view again. The lack of a live histogram is also annoying, and means that exposure in 'manual control' live view and video shooting is essentially a matter of trial and error, since the on-screen exposure simulation is hard to judge in bright ambient lighting.
The Final Word
In most respects, the Nikon D7000 is an excellent enthusiast's DSLR. The camera produces great image quality in most shooting situations, and it shines in low light, providing (just about) useable images right up to its ISO ceiling of 25,600 (equivalent). It feels swift and positive in general use, even in live view mode, thanks to greatly improved contrast-detection AF - not a traditional strength of Nikon's DSLRs. The D7000's buffer is decent, especially considering the large size of its files, but not in the same league as the D300S. However, although potentially irritating to a D300S user considering a second body, this shouldn't stand as a serious criticism of a camera aimed essentially at the upper end of the enthusiasts' market.
Ultimately, the D7000's specification is hard to argue with. A newly developed, 16.3 MP resolution sensor, 6 frames per second continuous shooting, 1080p full HD video and an abundance of customization options place this camera firmly into the upper regions of the mid-range market segment. In the final analysis, the Nikon D7000 is a very good DSLR which only just falls short of greatness. Nevertheless, the Nikon D7000 earns our second highest award and will make a great addition to the kit bags of current D90 users, D300(S) users and ambitious photographers that are new to the Nikon brand alike.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
Demanding enthusiast photographers who need a camera for all occasions
Not so good for
Due to the D7000's smaller buffer size, sports shooters who are looking for a second body alongside their D3/D3S
The D7000 produces great image quality and feels very responsive in most shooting situations. It shines, especially in low light. From a specification point of view, a 16.3 MP resolution sensor, 6 frames per second continuous shooting, 1080p Full HD video, and an abundance of customization options place this camera at the upper end of the mid-range segment of the market.
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