DCRP

Nikon D7000 Review

Look and Feel

The D7000 is a fairly large digital SLR with very good build quality. The body is made of an magnesium alloy, and it feels quite solid in your hands. While it's not a camera you can use in a downpour, Nikon has added some weather-sealing to the D7000's body. The shutter is rated at 150,000 cycles, which is 50% higher than the D90, the camera that sits one level below this one. The only real weak spots are the door over the battery compartment, and a somewhat plasticky mode dial.

The camera has a good-sized grip for your right hand, so you can get a firm hold on the camera (though you'll need to support the lens with your left hand). The D7000 is a poster child for "button clutter", having fifteen of them (depending on how you count), plus numerous dials and switches. Many of the buttons perform more that one function, as well. In other words, the D7000 isn't for the faint of heart, and you may need to read the manual before you fully understand what everything does.

Now let's take a look at how the D7000 compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon EOS-60D 5.7 x 4.2 x 3.1 in. 74.2 cu in. 675 g
Nikon D7000 5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in. 64 cu in. 690 g
Olympus E-5 5.6 x 4.6 x 2.9 in. 74.7 cu in. 800 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 4.9 x 3.5 x 3.0 in. 51.5 cu in. 392 g
Pentax K-5 5.2 x 3.8 x 2.9 in. 57.3 cu in. 661 g
Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 5.4 x 4.1 x 3.3 in. 73.1 cu in. 599 g

Ignoring the Panasonic GH2 for a moment (which is naturally smaller, since it lacks a mirror and optical viewfinder), you'll find that the D7000 is one of the smaller cameras in this group of midrange cameras. It's one of the heavier cameras in the group, though the Olympus E-5 (which is fully weather-sealed) takes first place in that department.

Enough numbers, let's start our tour of the camera now!

Front of the Nikon D7000

Here's the front of the D7000, without a lens attached. This, of course, is the standard Nikon F-mount, which supports countless Nikkor lenses with a 1.5X focal length conversion ratio. That conversion ratio means that the 18 - 105 mm kit lens has a field-of-view of 27 - 157.5 mm. Unlike some of the cheaper Nikon D-SLRs, the D7000 supports autofocus on nearly all Nikon lenses, so you don't need to buy all new AF-S lenses. Since there's no image stabilization built into the body (which is the case on Olympus, Pentax, and Sony cameras), you'll need to buy lenses with Vibration Reduction to have this valuable feature. To release an attached lens, simply press that black button located to the right of the mount.

In the center of the lens mount (behind the mirror) is the D7000's 16.2 Megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor, which is apparently manufactured by Sony. Nobody wants dust collecting on their sensors, so Nikon designed an Image Sensor Cleaning system to reduce that issue. This system sends ultrasonic vibrations through the low-pass filter when the camera is turned on or off, which literally shakes dust off the sensor. If that doesn't do it, then you can also create a dust map which, when used with Capture NX2, digitally removes dust from your photos.

Directly above the Nikon logo is the D7000's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The flash has a guide number of 12 meters at ISO 100, which is typical of what you'll find on most D-SLRs in this class. Should you want more flash power, you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe, or cut the cord entirely and go wireless, with the built-in flash serving as the controller.

Other things to see on the front of the camera include front command dial (just above that red strip), dedicated AF-assist lamp, and function and DOF preview buttons. The function button is customizable (as is the DOF preview button), with flash exposure lock being its default function. I'll tell you what else it can do later in the review. On the other side of the lens mount is the wireless remote receiver and monaural microphone.

Back of the Nikon D7000

The main event on the back of the D7000 is its 3-inch, 921,000 pixel LCD display. As you'd imagine, this screen is super sharp, and the viewing angle to be impressive, as well. The camera comes with a plastic LCD cover, and I suggest you use it, to prevent scratches (or worse). I found the screen to be fairly easy to see in bright sunlight.


Live view on the D7000

As with all D-SLRs these days, the D7000 lets you compose photos on the LCD using a feature known as live view. This feature allows you to preview exposure, white balance, and focus right on the LCD, with 100% frame coverage, a composition grid, and an electronic level. Strangely though, there's no live histogram. Something that the smart folks at DP Review noticed is that that adjustments to the aperture don't take effect until the photo is actually taken, so you can't see the effect of changing this setting in real-time until you take a picture, or restart the live view feature. Autofocus is all contrast detect (there's no more phase detection option, unlike some other Nikon D-SLRs), which means that it can take 1 or 2 seconds for the camera to lock focus. Both face detection and subject tracking options are also available. If you want to focus manually, you'll probably find the frame enlargement feature to be quite helpful, though it seemed pretty grainy to me, which made it hard to see if my subject was actually in focus.

This info screen can be displayed when you shooting with the viewfinder You can adjust certain settings by pressing the Info button again

When you're shooting with the optical viewfinder, the info screen shown above can be displayed. In addition to showing all kinds of current camera settings, you can press the Info button again and adjust movie quality, noise reduction, Active D-Lighting, color space, custom button settings, distortion correction, and Picture Control. I'll tell you more about many of those settings later in the review.


Electronic level, which Nikon calls a virtual horizon

As I mentioned a few paragraphs up, an electronic level (for tilt only) is available on the D7000. You can see it numerous ways -- as an info screen, overlaid on the live view, or in the optical viewfinder. You can also look for it in the setup menu, which is what you see pictured above.

Continuing the tour, let's talk about the D7000's optical viewfinder, which is in the usual spot above the LCD. The viewfinder, with a magnification of 0.94x, is the largest in its class. And, as you'd expect, the coverage is 100%. Inside the viewfinder you can see all 39 focus points, and you can overlay a composition grid, if you'd like. Under the field-of-view is a line of shooting data, so you never need to take your eye off your subject while changing settings. You can adjust the focus of the viewfinder by using the diopter correction knob on its top-right.

Now let's talk about buttons. The D70700 is covered with buttons, most of which you'll find on the back of the camera. To the left of the viewfinder are two, for entering playback mode and deleting a photo. On the opposite side is the AE/AF-Lock button, whose function can be customized. Next to that is the camera's speaker and rear command dial.

Under the AE/AF-Lock button is the live view switch / movie recording button combo. The movie button allows you to take videos in any shooting mode -- press it once to start, and again to stop. Under that is the four-way controller, used mostly for menu navigation, selecting a focus point, and reviewing photos you've taken. You can "lock out" the four-way controller by using the switch underneath it. Below the switch is the Info button, which toggles the information shown on the LCD.

Jumping over to the left side of the LCD, you'll find these four buttons:

  • Menu
  • White balance + Help + Image protect
  • ISO + Zoom out
  • Image quality + Zoom in

I'll tell you more about some of those options when I get to the menu discussion later in the review. And that'll do it for the back of the D7000!

Top of the Nikon D7000

The first thing to see on the top of the D7000 is its mode dial, which has a release mode dial underneath it. First things first, though -- here are the items you'll find on the mode dial:

Option Function
Auto mode Point-and-shoot, with some menu options locked up.
Program mode Still automatic, but with access to all menu options. The Flexible Program feature lets you scroll through several shutter speed / aperture combinations by using the command dial.
Shutter priority mode You choose the shutter speed, and the camera picks the appropriate aperture. Shutter speed range is 30 - 1/8000 sec.
Aperture priority mode You choose the aperture, and camera picks the correct shutter speed. Range depends on lens used. For the 18-105 kit lens, it's F3.5 - F38.
Full manual (M) mode Choose both the shutter speed and aperture yourself, with the same ranges as above. A bulb mode will keep the shutter open for as long as the shutter release (or remote shutter release) is pressed. A separate "time" mode works with the wireless remote, starting the exposure when the button is pressed, and stopping when it's pressed again. The optional AC adapter is strongly recommended for both of these.
User 1/2 Store your favorite camera settings in these two spots on the dial

Scene mode

You pick the situation, and the camera uses the correct settings. Available scenes include portrait, landscape, child, sports, close-up, night portrait, night landscape, party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, pet portrait, candlelight, blossom, autumn colors, food, silhouette, high key, and low key.
Flash off Same as the regular auto mode, but with the flash disabled.

The D7000 has the manual exposure controls that you'd expect from a camera in this class, and it also has quite a few scene modes (but no scene auto selector) for the point-and-shoot crowd. In addition to the manual exposure modes (complete with two types of bulb mode), there are also two spots which can hold your favorite camera settings. There are plenty more manual controls on the D7000, which I'll get to later in the review.

Now let's talk about the release mode dial, which sits under the mode dial. You need to hold down a small button to actually turn the dial, and the whole design could've been better thought out. The options here include single-shot, continuous (low/high speed), quiet shutter, self-timer, remote control, and mirror lock-up. The quiet shutter option turns off all the camera's blips and bleeps, and also makes less noise after you take a photo. You can also keep your finger on the shutter release button, move the camera away from whoever (or whatever) you don't want to irritate, and then let go -- only then will the mirror pop back into position. The mirror lock-up mode (Nikon calls it mirror up) will raise the mirror when you press the shutter release button, but won't actually take a photo until you press it again. This can help reduce blur caused by the action of the mirror moving.

Now let's talk about the D7000's continuous shooting mode, which comes in two speeds: low and high. The burst rate for the low speed option can be set in the menu (1 - 5 fps), and since 3 fps is the default, that's what I tested. The RAW format settings are also default: lossless compressed, 14-bit. Here's what kind of performance you can expect:

Quality setting Low speed High speed
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG 13 shots @ 3.0 fps 10 shots @ 6.7 fps
RAW 12 shots @ 3.0 fps 10 shots @ 6.7 fps
Large/Fine JPEG Unlimited at 3.0 fps 47 shots @ 6.5 fps

Tested with a SanDisk Class 10 SDHC card

There's no doubt that the D7000 has an impressive burst rate. That said, the buffer memory fills up pretty quickly, especially when RAW photos are involved. When you reach those limits, the camera doesn't stop shooting -- it just slows down considerably. If you're using live view, the screen will go black as soon as the first shot is taken.

At the center of the photo is the camera's hot shoe. As is usually the case, the camera will work best when using name-brand flashes, as they'll sync with the camera's i-TTL metering system. Most modern Nikon flashes will also allow you to use high speed flash sync as well as their built-in AF illuminators. If you're using a third party flash, you'll probably have to set both the camera and flash exposure manually. The maximum flash sync speed (for non-Nikon Speedlights) is 1/250 or 1/320 sec, depending on what option you've chosen in the custom settings menu. Don't forget that you can also use wireless flashes, using the built-in flash (or one of the higher end Speedlights) as the controller.

To the right of the hot shoe is the camera's LCD info display, which shows virtually every camera setting imaginable. You can turn on a backlight using the nearby power switch, or just leave it on all the time (via a custom setting).

Above the LCD info display are buttons for setting the metering mode (matrix, center-weighted, spot) and exposure compensation (-5EV to +5EV). Just north of those is the shutter release / power switch combo.

Side of the Nikon D7000

Before we look at all the stuff on the side of the camera body, I wanted to point out the auto/manual focus and VR (Vibration Reduction) on/off switches on the side of the 18 - 105 mm kit lens.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the buttons, switches, and I/O ports on this side of the D7000. The first button, located at the top-center of the photo, is for releasing the flash, adjusting its mode, setting its strength. Available flash modes include auto, auto w/redeye reduction, slow sync, slow sync w/redeye reduction, rear curtain slow sync, and fill flash. The flash exposure compensation range is -3EV to +1EV, in 1/3EV increments.

Under the flash button is the bracketing button. Hold it down and you can use the two control dials to set the number of shots and the interval between each shot. The D7000 can bracket for exposure (flash or AE), white balance, and Active D-Lighting. You choose which one to bracket for in -- you guessed it -- the custom settings menu.

Jumping down to the bottom of the photo, below the lens release button, is the focus mode switch / button. While it looks like this just switches the focus mode between auto and manual, it also does a lot more. I was going nuts try to figure out how to switch between multi and single-point focus and had to crack open the manual to figure it out. Turns out that you hold down the focus mode button and use the control dial to do that (as well as switch between auto, single, and continuous AF). Not very obvious, Mr. Nikon! By the way, that continuous autofocus option has a predictive focus feature, which allows the camera to follow a subject as they move around the frame.

Over on the right side of the photo, under a pair of rubber covers, are the D7000's I/O ports. Let's open them up for a closer look:

The top panel contains the A/V out, USB, and mini-HDMI ports, while on the bottom there are ports for an external microphone and GPS or remote shutter release cable.

Side of the Nikon D7000

Now here's something you don't see every day -- a camera with two memory card slots. The D7000 has two SD/SDHC/SDXC slots, and they can be used in number of ways:

  • Overflow - when card 1 fills up, images are saved to card 2
  • Backup - a photo/video is saved to both cards simultaneously
  • RAW / JPEG split - RAW images can be saved on card 1, and JPEGs to card 2
  • Still / movie split - photos can be saved on one card, and movies on another

The memory card slots of protected by a somewhat flimsy plastic door.

Bottom of the Nikon D7000

Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the D7000. Here you can see the metal tripod mount (in line with the lens, of course) and the battery compartment. The plastic door that covers the battery compartment is a bit flimsy, and come off without much effort (though it snaps right back on).

Above the battery compartment, under a rubber cover, are the contacts for the camera's optional battery grip.

The EN-EL15 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.

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