Nikon D7000 Review
How Does it Compare?
The Nikon D7000 is a full-featured midrange digital SLR that should satisfy just about anything enthusiast. It offers solid build quality, very good photo quality, tons of manual controls and custom features, a beautiful LCD, Full HD video recording, and lots of optional accessories. And, there's not much to complain about. The biggest issue I had with the D7000 was that it really loves to overexpose, usually by 1/3 or 1/2 stop. The live view feature could be better -- where's the live histogram and phase detect AF feature? In terms of design, there are way too many buttons, some of which are not well placed, and the release mode dial is a bit clunky. That's really all I've got, though. The D7000 is an excellent pick for those wanting something better than an entry-level D-SLR that won't put a hole in your wallet.
The D7000 is a midsize digital SLR with a body constructed of magnesium alloy. It feels very solid in your hands, with the only weak spots being the doors over the memory card slot and battery compartment. The camera is partially weather-sealed and its shutter is rated at 150,000 cycles, so it'll last for quite a while. It is one of the more intimidating D-SLRs out there, with buttons, dials, and switches scattered all over the body. I also found the release mode dial (which sits under the main mode dial) to be harder to use than it should be. The D7000 supports all Nikkor F-mount lenses, with none of the "will this lens have autofocus" issues of cheaper Nikon models. The included 18 - 105 mm VR lens makes for a good everyday lens, with good sharpness and only mild vignetting and purple fringing. On the back of the camera is a very nice 3-inch LCD display with 921,000 pixels, a wide viewing angle, and good outdoor visibility. The optical viewfinder is large, and has the 100% coverage that you'd expect from a camera in this class. The D7000 supports both wired and wireless flashes, with its built-in flash able to serve as a commander for two sets of external Speedlights. Other items of note include a dedicated AF-assist lamp, an external microphone input, and a pair of SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slots. When it comes to accessories on the D7000, the sky's the limit. You can choose from wired or wireless remotes, a battery grip, a GPS receiver, and a Wi-FI transmitter, to name just a few things.
While it has some automatic controls, the D7000 is pretty much a camera for people who know what they're doing. If you want a point-and-shoot experience, there are both auto and scene modes available. The camera has help screens for every menu option, which sometimes come in handy for seasoned professionals like myself. Otherwise it's a manual control affair. You've got the usual exposure controls, plus tons of white balance options (with seven fluorescent white balance presets, fine-tuning, and color temperature adjustment), four RAW modes, four types of bracketing, and customizable menus and buttons. Other handy features include Active D-Lighting, which brightens shadows and increases highlight detail, as well as a handy electronic level. You can compose photos using the optical viewfinder or the LCD, though enthusiasts will probably use the former in most situations. The live view feature is just average; it has most of the usual features, such as contrast detect autofocus with face detection, a composition grid, and frame enlargement, but it's missing a live histogram. I also would've liked to have seen a phase detect AF mode, which focuses a lot quicker than contrast detect AF does in live view. The D7000 also features a Full HD movie mode, with the ability to record videos at 1920 x 1080 (24 fps) with monaural sound. The camera can focus continuously if you like, though you'll probably notice when the camera refocuses. Manual controls are available in most shooting modes, though you can't adjust the aperture while recording (or in live view in general -- credit to DP Review for tipping me off to this one). The D7000 also has a nice playback mode, with lots of special effects plus in-camera RAW editing.
Camera performance is excellent in most respects. The D7000 is ready to start taking photos as soon as you flip the power switch and, yes, that's with the dust reduction system turned on. While good overall, autofocus speeds were a bit slower than I was expecting (though it could be the lens I was using). When using the optical viewfinder, you'll wait for between 0.2 - 0.5 seconds at wide-angle and 0.5 - 0.9 seconds at telephoto for the camera to lock focus. In low light, focus times were around one second, or slightly longer. Things are a different story in live view mode. While the D7000 may be one of the faster traditional D-SLRs when it comes to contrast detect AF, it's still very slow when compared to what a mirrorless camera can do. Expect focus times of 1, 2 or possibly 3 seconds when using live view. You might as well forget about live view in low light situations, as the camera will rarely lock focus on anything (the fact that it can't use the AF-assist lamp is a big part of this). Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal, regardless of the file format used. The D7000 can shoot very quickly in continuous shooting mode (more than 6 frames/second), though it doesn't have as much buffer memory as I would've expected from a $1200 camera. In other words, burst sequences involving RAW images don't last very long. The D7000 has exceptional (but not best-in-class) battery life, and it gets even better if you add the optional battery grip.
With one easy-to-work-around exception, the D7000's photo quality was very good. Its biggest issue is that it reliably overexposes, usually by 1/3 stop, but sometimes more. I had to bracket all of my test photos, and sometimes even that wasn't enough. Keep an eye on those histograms! When you do get an accurate exposure, you won't find highlight clipping to be an issue, unlike on some other D-SLRs. Colors looked good, and the subjects of my photos had a pleasing level of sharpness. Noise starts to degrade the D7000's photos at around ISO 1600 in low light, and ISO 6400 (!) in good light. If you want to use those settings or go even higher, then you'll get the best results by shooting RAW and doing some post-processing (or just lower the noise reduction level in the menu). Purple fringing levels were mild (at least with the 18-105 lens), and redeye was not a problem.
The D7000 is one of those cameras that doesn't require that extra paragraph of "issues that don't fit anywhere else". In other words, it's pretty darn good. Its combination of photo quality (once you get used to its love of overexposure), performance, build quality, and manual features make it a camera that enthusiasts will really enjoy. As always, I advise you to take a close look at the competition, but if you don't, rest assured that the Nikon D7000 has earned my recommendation.
- Very good photo quality
- Solid magnesium alloy body; partially weather-sealed
- Big and bright 3-inch LCD with 921k pixels, wide viewing angle, and good outdoor visibility
- Full manual controls
- Four RAW options to choose from
- Tons of white balance options
- Four types of bracketing
- Excellent performance in most areas (especially startup time and shot-to-shot speeds)
- Continuous shooting at over 6 frames/sec
- Handy electronic level
- Active D-Lighting brightens shadows, improves highlight detail
- Lots of retouching features in playback mode, including in-camera RAW and movie editing
- Redeye not a problem
- Built-in wireless flash control
- Full HD movie mode, with (limited) manual controls, continuous autofocus, support for external microphone
- Dual memory card slots, which can be used in various ways
- Very good battery life; optional battery grip makes it even better
- Optional GPS unit, wired/wireless remotes, Wi-Fi adapter, and much more
- HDMI output
What I didn't care for:
- Camera reliably overexposes by 1/3 to 1/2 stop (and sometimes more)
- Live view woes: slow contrast detect AF, poor low light focusing, no live histogram, no phase detection AF
- Aperture can't be adjusted in real time when using live view or recording movies
- Could use more buffer memory (to improve burst mode)
- Tons of buttons and other controls make the camera intimidating (and sometimes frustrating) to operate
- Release mode dial a little clunky
Some other D-SLRs in this class worth considering include the Canon EOS-60D, Olympus E-5, Pentax K-5, and Sony Alpha DSLR-A580. You may also want to check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the D7000 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our gallery to see how the D7000's photo quality looks!