Originally Posted: March 18, 2011
Last Updated: March 28, 2011
The Nikon D7000 ($1199 body only) is a midrange digital SLR that fits between the D90 and D300s. Its feature set is quite impressive, and even made owners of cameras from other manufacturers drool a little bit (or so I've heard). Some of the highlights on this camera include:
- 16.2 Megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor
- Expeed 2 image processor
- 39-point AF system
- 2016-pixel 3D color matrix metering system
- 3-inch LCD with 921,000 pixels
- Large optical viewfinder with 0.95x magnification and 100% coverage
- Full manual controls, and then some
- Shutter speed range of 30 - 1/8000 sec
- ISO range of 100 - 25600 when fully expanded
- Choice of four RAW formats (12 or 14 bit, compressed or lossless)
- Continuous shooting at 6 fps
- Electronic level
- Built-in wireless flash support
- Full HD video recording with continuous AF and manual controls
- Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC slots
- Optional battery grip
Sounds pretty good to me! Does the D7000 perform as well as its specs lead one to believe? Find out in our review!
What's in the Box?
The D7000 is officially available in two kits. You can get it with the body only ($1199), or with the F3.5-5.6, 18 - 105 mm VR Nikkor lens ($1499). I've also seen a kit at Costco that includes an F3.5-5.6, 18 - 200 mm VR lens plus a carrying case, 4GB SDHC card and a Nikon DVD/book set for $1799. Here's what you'll find in the box for the official bundles:
- The 16.2 effective Megapixel Nikon D7000 camera body
- F3.5-5.6, 18 - 105 mm ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor lens [lens kit only]
- EN-EL15 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- LCD monitor cover
- Body cap
- Eyepiece cap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROMs featuring Nikon ViewNX 2
- Quick Start leaflet + 325 page User's Manual (both printed)
If you get the lens kit, then you'll be able to start taking photos as soon as you pick up a memory card (see below). I figure that a lot of D7000 buyers will be upgrading from other Nikon D-SLRs, so you can move your lenses right over, without issue. The camera supports all Nikkor F-mount lenses, and there are no restrictions on which lenses can autofocus, which is the case on cheaper Nikon D-SLRs. Nikon makes lenses for every possible situation, with the full list of current lenses found here. Since the camera doesn't help image stabilization built into the body, you'll need to find a lens with what Nikon calls Vibration Reduction (VR) to reduce the risk of blurry photos. The 18-105 mm kit lens includes Vibration Reduction, and was a pretty good lens overall. The only real negative I could find was mild purple fringing and vignetting at times. Whichever lens you end up using, there will be a 1.5X focal length conversion ratio to keep in mind.
Like all D-SLRs, there's no memory card in the D7000's box, so you'll need to pick one up if you don't have one already. The D7000 supports SD, SDHC, plus high capacity SDXC cards, and I'd recommend picking up a 4GB or 8GB card, and perhaps larger if you'll be taking a lot of movies. Nikon recommends cards rated at Class 6 or higher for best video recording performance.
The D7000 uses the new EN-EL15 lithium-ion battery. With 14 Wh of energy inside its plastic shell, this may be the most powerful camera battery I've seen, unless you count the giant ones on cameras like the D3x or EOS-1D models. I'm thinking that this battery will lead to pretty big battery life numbers. Let's take a look:
The D7000 is tied for the #2 position in the battery life competition among this group of midrange D-SLRs (plus one mirrorless interchangeable lens camera). Nikon doesn't publish live view only battery life numbers, but at the very least, it'll be half of what you see in the above table.
I should mention the usual issues about the proprietary batteries that are used by all of the cameras on the above list. These batteries tend to be pricey (an extra EN-EL15 will set you back around $43), and you can't use off-the-shelf batteries in an emergency, as you could with a camera that uses AAs. All is not lost, though -- if you pick up the optional battery grip (shown below), you'll be able to install six AA batteries to get you through the day.
Optional MB-D11 Multi Power Battery Pack
And here is the camera's optional battery grip, which Nikon calls the MB-D11 Multi Power Battery Pack (priced from $229). This can hold an additional EN-EL15, or six AA batteries. If you're using a two EN-EL15's (one in the camera, the other in the grip), that gives you the ability to take 2100 shots. Nice!
When it's time to charge your EN-EL15 batteries, just pop them into the included charger. This charger plugs right into the wall (my favorite), and will fill up this powerful battery in a little over 2.5 hours.
As with all midrange D-SLRs, the D7000 can take virtually any accessory you might dream up. Here are the accessories which I think will be the most popular:
And those are just the most popular accessories. There are plenty of other accessories available, mostly related to the viewfinder.
Nikon includes their ViewNX 2 software with the D7000. The first piece of this software that you'll probably encounter is Nikon Transfer 2, which is used to copy photos from the camera to your Mac or PC. In addition to copying images to a set location, you can also have it send them to a backup folder, and photos can be uploaded to Nikon's myPicturetown online service, as well.
Nikon ViewNX 2
Once that's done, you'll find yourself in Nikon ViewNX 2, which has recently received some actual editing tools (previous versions had none). The main screen should look familiar -- it's like every other photo browser these days. Here you can e-mail, print, geotag, or view a slideshow of your photos. You can also upload them to the aforementioned My Picturetown service.
Editing in ViewNX 2
On the editing screen you can manipulate both JPEG and (finally) RAW images. You can adjust things like sharpness/contrast/brightness/and color, brighten shadows, straighten a crooked photo, remove redeye, or reduce chromatic aberrations. If it's a RAW file you're working with, you can also adjust the exposure and white balance. The only real complaint I have is that it takes forever for RAW adjustments to take effect, and I have a very fast computer. ViewNX 2 also has a movie editor built in. You can put clips into a timeline, remove unwanted footage, add transitions, and then save the results as a new video.
Something else you can use for RAW editing (and more) is Nikon Capture NX2 (priced from $127). This software lets you edit many common RAW properties, and it's unique "U Point" controls take a different approach toward image retouching than what you might be used to. You can select a spot in the image that you want to retouch, select the radius of the area that will be affected, and then adjust things like brightness, contrast, and saturation for that area. You can do the same for things like D-Lighting, noise reduction, and unsharp mask. You can learn more about this software at Nikon's website.
If you own Adobe Photoshop CS5, you can also use its Camera Raw plug-in (version 6.3 or newer) to edit the D7000's RAW images.
So what is RAW, anyway? The RAW image format (Nikon calls it NEF) stores unprocessed data from the camera's sensor. Thanks to this, you can adjust all kinds of image properties without degrading the quality of the image. The D7000 supports four different types of RAW files (12 or 14 bit, either compressed or lossless), though only one size. The downsides of the RAW format are that 1) the file sizes are significantly larger than JPEGs, 2) camera performance is slower, and 3) you must post-process each image on your computer in order to convert it to a standard image format (though the camera does have a built-in RAW editor).
Nikon Camera Control Pro 2
Another optional piece of software that you might be interested in is Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 (priced from $146). As its name implies, you can compose and take photos and videos from the comfort of your desk. Photos can be saved to the camera, or automatically transferred to your computer. You can adjust all of the important camera settings, and live view is available, complete with electronic level.
The D7000 is a complex camera, so you'll need a detailed manual to help you figure it all out. Thankfully, that's what Nikon provides, and in printed form, no less. The D7000's manual is thick, detailed, and keeps fine print to a relative minimum. Odds are that you'll find an answer to whatever question you may have within its pages. Documentation for the bundled software is installed onto your Mac or PC.
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:
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!
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.
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:
- 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!
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Using the Nikon D7000
The Nikon D7000 is ready to start taking pictures as soon as your finger flips the power switch. And that's with the dust reduction system turned on!
I'll split autofocus performance into two parts. First, shooting with the optical viewfinder. In those situations I found autofocus speeds to be very good, though the D7000 wasn't quite as fast as I was expecting (though the 18-105 mm lens may have something to do with that). Anyhow, expect focus low in 0.2 - 0.5 seconds at wide-angle and 0.5 - 0.9 seconds at telephoto in most situations. In low light, the camera locked focus most of the time, usually after about one second (or slightly longer).
As for live view AF performance, things are a lot slower. Best case scenario is that you'll wait for about a second for the camera to lock focus. More often, though, it'll be 2 or 2.5 seconds. Low light is a real mess -- the camera can't use its AF-assist lamp and thus struggles to focus (and fails most of the time). It's too bad that there's no phase detection AF in live view, as there is on the D300s -- it's a nice option for those who want live view AND fast autofocus.
Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were brief (even with the flash), as you'd expect from a camera in this class.
After you take a photo, you can hit the delete button to review and/or delete the shot you just took.
Now, let's take a look at the image size and quality choices on the D7000:
As you can see, there are four different RAW options to choose from. You can choose from compressed or lossless compressed, though even the former barely reduces image quality. You can also select between 12 and 14-bit color, with the latter saving more color data in the photo.
You can also set the amount of compression applied to JPEGs. Choose from size priority (which results in uniform file size) or optimal quality (size varies).
Whichever option you choose, the D7000 allows you to take a RAW image along, or with a JPEG of the size of your choosing.
A typical help screen in the menus
The D7000 uses the standard Nikon D-SLR menu system. It's attractive, easy to navigate (especially if you go to custom option f6 and turn on command dial navigation), and there are help screens for nearly every option (see above). The menu is divided into five tabs: playback, shooting, custom, setup, retouch, and My Menu/Recent items. Keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the full list of menu options:
Custom setting menu
|Retouch menu (I'll discuss all of these in the playback section)
My Menu / Recent Settings
The My Menu feature lets you create your own menu, containing up to twenty options from the other menus.
The Recent Settings shows you the last twenty options you've accessed.
While I hope I described most of the menu items in the previous table, I do want to expand on a few of those options.
Fine-tuning white balance
Let's begin with white balance. The D7000 has more presets than most cameras, with a whopping seven spots for fluorescent light alone. Heck, there are even two auto WB modes. If you don't like any of the presets, you can also use a white or gray card to get accurate color in unusual lighting. The camera can store up to four sets of custom WB values. As you'd expect, the D7000 also lets you adjust the color temperature manually, with a range of 2500K to 10000K. All of these settings can also be fine-tuned in the amber-blue and/or green-magenta directions, as you can see above. If that's still not enough, you can also bracket for white balance -- see below for more on that.
Editing the Standard Picture Control
The D7000 has the same Picture Control feature as other Nikon D-SLRs. A Picture Control contains a set of various image properties, all of which can be tweaked to your liking. There are several presets available, including standard, neutral, vivid, monochrome, portrait, and landscape. You can also create and save your own custom Picture Controls, using the Manage Picture Control option in the Shooting options menu. This is also where you can save Picture Controls to your memory card, for sharing with other D7000 users (and vice versa).
Here are the parameters that you can adjust in a Picture Control:
- Quick adjust - lets you adjust the items below by ±2 step at one time
- Sharpening (Auto, 0 to 9)
- Contrast (Auto, -3 to +3)
- Brightness (-1 to +1)
- Saturation (Auto, -3 to +3)
- Hue (-3 to +3)
- Filter effects (Off, yellow, orange, red, green) - only for monochrome controls
- Toning (Black & white, sepia, cyanotype, red, yellow, green, blue green, blue, purple blue, red purple) - each of these can be fine-tuned; only for monochrome
The D7000 has the Active D-Lighting feature that most Nikon D-SLR users will be familiar with. Quite simply, this feature improves the overall contrast of an image, reducing highlight clipping while brightening shadows. By default this setting is off, but you can choose from auto, low, normal, high, and extra high. If you want to try several ADL settings at once, try bracketing for it. Here's an example of Active D-Lighting in action:
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|ADL extra high
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The first thing you'll probably notice is that the shadows in this hallway brighten as soon as you turn Active D-Lighting on. Things don't get much brighter after "normal", though there are other things happening if you take a closer look. If you view the full images, you'll see that the more ADL that is applied, the more highlight detail is restored at the other end of the tunnel. Obviously, you're going to get tons of highlight detail back by using this feature, but it definitely makes a noticeable difference. I'd probably just leave the ADL setting at "auto" or "normal" in most shooting situations, unless you're really seeing a lot of highlight clipping.
Just a quick mention about two features that some folks will like. First up is multiple exposure, which lest you combine two or three exposures into a single image. Others will enjoy the time-lapse feature, which lets you take photos at a set interval -- AC adapter strongly recommended, of course.
As I mentioned earlier, the D7000 supports four types of bracketing. They include exposure and flash exposure (2 or 3 shots), white balance (2 or 3 shots, increments of 5, 10 or 15 mired), and Active D-Lighting (2 or 3 shots, off/auto or off/normal/high setting).
Alright, that does it for menu options -- at least for now -- so let's move onto photo tests now. All of these were taken with the F3.5-5.6G, 18 - 105 mm VR lens that comes bundled with the camera.
While it took many attempts, eventually I got the D7000 to take a nice photo of our macro test subject. My only real beef here is that the cloak is a little too orange. Otherwise, the news is good. The figurine has the "smooth" look that is typical of a digital SLR. Noise isn't a problem, and it better not be on this $1200 camera.
The minimum distance to your subject will depend on what lens you're using. For the 18 - 105 mm kit lens, the minimum distance is 45 cm, at all focal lengths. If you think you'll be taking a lot of close-up photos, Nikon has five dedicated macro lenses available.
Aside from a brownish color cast, the night shot turn out pretty well. The camera took in plenty of light, with highlight clipping kept to a relative minimum. I wouldn't call the buildings tack sharp, but there's still plenty of detail captured. I don't see any noise here and, again, wouldn't expect to. Purple fringing is mostly a lens thing, and you spot very mild amounts of it on some lights at the water's edge.
Now let's use that same night scene to see how the D7000 performed across its entire ISO range -- that's 100 to 25600!
ISO 12800 (Hi 1.0)
ISO 25600 (Hi 2.0)
The first two crops are very clean. Noise makes its first appearance at ISO 400, though it's not going to keep you from making a large print. There mild detail loss at ISO 800, and it becomes a lot more noticeable when you reach ISO 1600. This is a good stopping point, unless you'll be using the RAW format. The ISO 3200 image is soft, with the corners of the building starting to disappear. Things go downhill rapidly after that, with none of the images appearing usable -- at least in JPEG form.
Can we improve on those ISO 1600 and 3200 images by shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing on the computer? Let's take a look:
While they're not what I'd call clean, you do get some detail back by shooting RAW, running the converted images through noise reduction software (I use NeatImage), and then applying a little Unsharp Mask. Another option is to turn down the amount of noise reduction the camera is applying to images, which is an option you'll find in the Shooting menu.
We'll take a look at the D7000's high ISO performance in normal lighting in a moment.
I normally don't expect to see redeye on a digital SLR, and what do you know, there's none to be found on the D7000. Should you encounter any, you can remove it using a tool in playback mode.
There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the 18 - 105 mm kit lens. You can see what this does to your real world photos by looking at the building on the right side of this photo. The D7000 has a feature called Auto Distortion Control which can help reduce both barrel and pincushion distortion. Let's take a look at that same chart with this feature turned on:
Hey, that's a lot better! Do note that the distortion correction feature is not on by default!
Something else I noticed on the chart was some mild vignetting, which I spotted in at least one sample photo. Corner blurring was not a problem.
And here's that normal lighting ISO test that I promised earlier. Since this photo is taken in our studio, it's comparable to those taken with other cameras I've reviewed (EOS-60D, anyone?). Remember that the crops below only cover a small portion of the scene, so view the full size photos if you can! And with that, let's once again take a trip from ISO 100 to 25600:
ISO 12800 (Hi 1.0)
ISO 25600 (Hi 2.0)
Everything is nice and clean through ISO 800. There's a very small increase in noise at ISO 1600, but a large print won't be a problem. Things start to soften up at ISO 3200, but again, looking pretty good -- and better than the EOS-60D, in my opinion. While there's more noise at ISO 6400, I don't see why you couldn't use that photo for a small print. The two "Hi" sensitivities (ISO 12800 and 25600) have a fair amount of detail loss, though there may be hope for them yet.
That hope is shooting with the RAW image format and post-processing the images on your PC, as I did with the night shots. Let's take a look at how much more detail we can squeeze out at ISO 6400 and 12800 by doing so:
In both cases, shooting with RAW and post-processing produced sharper photos with more saturated color. As I mentioned earlier, turning down the high ISO noise reduction feature may be a good substitute for shooting RAW, at least when it comes to detail.
Overall, the D7000's photo quality is very good, though the camera has a strong tendency to overexpose, usually by 1/3 to 2/3 stops. You definitely want to check the histogram in playback mode on this camera, and perhaps bracket your shots to avoid later disappointment. If you get the exposure right, then highlight clipping should not be an issue. Colors looked pretty good to me, with the D7000 producing vivid greens and reds. Sharpness was just how I like it -- not too sharp, not too soft -- and the D7000 captures plenty of detail. As the tests above illustrated, you shouldn't see much in the line of noise until ISO 800 in low light and ISO 6400 in good light, with the latter being especially impressive. The previous tests also showed that you will get the most out of the D7000 by shooting RAW at high sensitivities. Purple fringing is generally a "lens thing", and it was generally mild on the D7000.
Now, I invite you to have a look at our D7000 photo gallery. View the full size images, maybe print a few if you can, and then hopefully you'll be able to decide if the D7000's photo quality meets your needs.
The D7000 has a pretty fancy movie mode. It's capable of recording video at 1920 x 1080 at 24 frames/second with sound. The camera has a monaural microphone, but you can add a stereo mic via the port on the side of the camera. To start recording, simply press that red button on the back of the camera, and press it again to stop. The camera will keep recording until the time elapsed reaches 20 minutes. If you don't need Full HD video, then you can drop the resolution down to 1280 x 720 (24 or 30 fps) or 640 x 424 (30 fps).
The D7000 can focus continuously while you're recording a movie, though refocusing can be obvious at times. This means that you can zoom in and out to your heart's content. Face detection and subject tracking are also available. If you're in A/S/M mode, you'll be able to adjust the aperture or shutter speed (but not both at the same time). In full manual mode you can adjust the shutter speed and ISO, but not the aperture. Do note that you'll need to turn on the "manual movie settings" option in order to do this. Something else you can also fool with is the microphone level, with choices of auto, low, medium, or high sensitivity. There's no wind filter, though.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the H.264 codec. With a bit rate of nearly 26 Mbps, file sizes grow very quickly!
I've got two sample movies for you, both of the same subject matter. The first was taken at the 1080p24 setting, while the latter was recorded at 720p30. Enjoy!
Like other recent Nikon D-SLRs, the D7000 has one of the nicest playback modes that you'll find. Before we get to the interesting features, let me tell you about the basics. They include slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and playback zoom. When you're zoomed into an image, you can use the control dial to switch between photos, while keeping the zoom and location intact.
Photos can be viewed one-at-a-time or as thumbnails, with the ability to see as many as 72 on the screen at once. You can also display a calendar view, which allows you to quickly see which photos you took on a specific date.
Brightening an image with D-Lighting
The most interested playback mode features can be found in the Retouch menu. The options here include:
- D-Lighting (Low, normal, high) - brightens dark areas of a photo; does not do anything about highlight detail, though
- Redeye correction
- Trim (crop) - you can select an aspect ratio of 3:2, 4:3, 5:4, 1:1, or 16:9
- Monochrome - changes a color photo to black and white, sepia, or cyanotype
- Filter effects - use virtual skylight, warm, red/green/blue, cross screen, and soft filters
- Color balance - adjust the color of a photo, in much the same way as white balance fine-tuning
- Small picture - downsize an image
- Image overlay - combines two RAW images into one
- NEF (RAW) processing - edit RAW images, see below
- Resize - to 2.5 Megapixel or lower
- Quick retouch - uses D-Lighting and also boosts contrast and saturation
- Distortion control - reduce barrel or pincushion distortion in your photos, automatically or manually
- Color outline - turns a photo into something suitable for a coloring book
- Color sketch - makes a photo look like a color drawing
- Perspective control - reduce the distortion caused by taking photos from the base of tall objects (like buildings)
- Miniature effect - makes a selected area of the photo appear small, with everything else blurred out
- Side-by-side comparison - compare retouched photos to the originals
- Edit movie - trim unwanted footage off of the beginning or end of a clip; you can also grab a frame from a movie and save it as a still image
RAW processing in playback mode
As with its predecessor, the D7000 lets you edit and convert RAW images right on the camera. You can change the image size and quality, white balance, exposure compensation, Picture Control, amount of noise reduction, color space, and (regular) D-Lighting. The resulting image is saved as a Large/Fine JPEG.
By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos, but if you press up or down on the four-way controller you can get a lot more, including a display of the focus points used, your choice of histograms, highlight/shadow viewing, and plenty of details. Do note that you may need to turn on most of these screens in the playback menu (display mode option).
The D7000 moves from photo-to-photo without delay.
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!