Cameras

Nikon D7000 Digital Camera Review

The Nikon D7000 is a powerhouse camera at an excellent price. It offers a huge range of features that will make shooting quicker and easier for the experienced shooter, with lots of customizable options and quick control access.

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Introduction

The Nikon D7000 is a powerhouse camera at an excellent price. It offers a huge range of features that will make shooting quicker and easier for the experienced shooter, with lots of customizable options and quick control access. However, we did find that the images it took were a little soft, and the higher ISO settings were rather noisy.

Front

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Back

Back Tour Image

Sides

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Bottom

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Top

Top Tour Image

Size Comparisons

In the Box

Box Photo

As well as the camera body and 18-105mm kit lens, the box includes:

  • EN-EL15 1900 mAh battery
  • MH25 battery charger & power cable
  • Eyepiece cap (to cover the viewfinder in long exposures)
  • Rubber eyecup,
  • USB & analog Audio Video cables
  • Camera strap
  • LCD monitor cover
  • Body Cap & lens end cap
  • Accessory shoe cover
  • ViewNX 2 CD ROM
  • Getting started sheet & user guide (English & Spanish)

Color Accuracy

To take good pictures, a camera has to be able to capture colors accurately. That's what we test here: how well a camera can capture the 24 colors on our test chart. We found that the D7000 had good color accuracy, capturing most of the test colors with only minor changes from the original. It did struggle slightly with some colors, though: the blues on our test chart were a little lighter than we like to see, and lacked some of the subtlety that would make photos of blue skies look natural.

Click here for more on how we test color

The D700 offers a number of color modes (see below): we found that the mode that offered the most accurate color was the appropriately named Neutral mode, although the Standard mode was also very accurate. Below are crops from our test images of the color patches alongside those from other cameras.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

As you can see from the chart above, the D7000 is a strong performer in this test, achieving a score just a bit below the Canon 60D, but better than the Sony SLT-A55V and the Nikon D300.

Color Modes

The D7000 offers 6 picture control modes that affect the way that color is captured. Which picture control you select does not only affect color: these controls also affect sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue. These settings can also be tweaked from the default settings: the images below are shot with the default settings. In addition, the D7000 can capture photos in either the standard sRGB color space, or the wider Adobe RGB color space.

Related content

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

Long Exposure

Long exposures push digital cameras to the limit, so we test cameras by turning down the lights and taking a photo of our test chart with exposure times from 1 to 30 seconds. We found that the D7000 did pretty well in this test: although the images had definite noise and a slight color error, the noise was pretty constant as the shutter speed got longer. We did find that the long exposure noise reduction the camera offers did reduce the noise slightly with a 1 second exposure time, but it didn't make a significant difference at other shutter speeds

Click here for more on how we test long exposure.

This graph shows the color error on our test chart at the range of shutter speeds. As you can see, the error remains constant through the range of shutter speeds, with only a very slight difference between the tests with the long exposure noise reduction on and off.

The graph below shows the noise at the range of shutter speeds with the long exposure noise reduction on and off. The only shutter speed where enabling long exposure noise reduction made a significant difference was 1 second.

Noise

Noise is the curse of digital cameras: it sneaks into images, especially those shot at high ISO levels. We found that the D7000 had low noise below an ISO level of 1600, but it became more visible at higher settings. Enabling the noise reduction does reduce the noise level somewhat, but it still remains visible in the images. The maximum numerized ISO level is 6400, but there are higher levels, with three settings called Hi 0.3, Hi 1 and Hi 2. These are equivalent to ISO levels of 8000, 12800 and 25600. However, images do become somewhat noisy at all of these settings. See the sample photos section of this review for examples.

Click here for more on how we test noise.

The D7000 offers four levels of noise reduction: off, low, medium and high. We found that these did reduce the noise in images as you would expect, but they did also lead to some loss of detail in the image.

We found that the noise in the red, greed, blue and luminance channels was equal: there was no significant difference between the noise in each.

If we compare the noise in the D7000 and our comparison cameras with the noise reduction turned off or at the lowest setting, we can see that D7000 has slightly higher noise than the others.

Comparing the noise with the noise reduction at the maximum, we see that the D7000 has around the same level of noise as the other cameras.

ISO

The ISO range of the D7000 goes from a minimum of 100 up to a maximum of 6400. This can be extended somewhat by using the Hi settings that the camera offers, which are equivalent to ISO levels of 12800 (Hi1) and 25,600 (Hi2). An auto setting is also offered, and the user can determine the upper limit that this can select from. The examples below were shot with the high ISO noise reduction at the Normal setting.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Resolution

Our resolution test looks at three things: the amount of distortion that the lens introduces to images, the sharpness of the captured images and the amount of chromatic aberration that we find in images. We found that the D7000 did well overall in this test, producing generally sharp images with low chromatic aberration. There was a fair amount of distortion from the 18-105mm kit zoom lens, though, and the sharpness of images did fall off at the smallest aperture setting.

Click here for more on how we test resolution.

Distortion

We found that the 18 - 105mm kit zoom lens sold with the D7000 introduced a lot of distortion into images, particularly at the wide end of the zoom range. In images shot at 18mm, there was about 3.5 per cent distortion, which is extremely noticeable (see the example below). But this is not unusual: we often see lots of distortion from lenses like this that cover a wide zoom range. Because you can swap out the kit lens for another, we don't include this test in our overall score.

Chromatic Aberration ()

We saw a small amount of chromatic aberration at the smaller apertures that the 18-105mm lens was capable of: there was some aberration at apertures of between f/16 and f/32 in the middle of the zoom range. Chromatic Aberration is caused by the elements of the lens refracting the colors of light differently, producing a colored fringe on sharp edges. Overall there was little aberration with this lens: in the great majority of our images, the aberration that we found was barely visible.

Sharpness ()

The images that the D7000 captured were generally sharp, but there were a few situations where that sharpness fell off. We found that the edges of the frame became somewhat soft at the smallest apertures, and a little soft at the widest apertures, especially at the longer zoom settings. Our test images were very sharp across the frame in the middle of the aperture range, though, so the issue here seems to be with the lens: the D7000 is capable of capturing very sharp images, but the performance is let down somewhat by the kit zoom lens.

At the 18mm zoom setting, the overall sharpness is good, with only a slight softness at the edge of the widest aperture.

In the middle of the zoom range, we start to see some softness at the edges of the images captured at the smallest aperture.

This softness becomes more exaggerated at the smallest aperture at the telephoto end of the zoom range. The edges at the other aperture settings are acceptably sharp, though.

Picture Quality & Size Options

The D7000 offers a limited range of options for both the size and compression of captured images, but it is flexible enough for most users. For size, there are three options of large, medium and small (see table below for resolutions), all at the 3:2 aspect ratio. There are no options for other aspect ratios, but the cropping editing tool does allow you to crop images down to other aspect ratios.

There are more options for the compression, with three levels of JPEG compression (fine, normal and basic) and the option to capture RAW images in Nikons own NEF format. Simultaneous RAW and JPEG versions can also be saved, with the second memory card slot providing the option to save NEF to one card and JPEG to the other.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is a measure of how wide a range of tones a camera can capture. The wider this number, the more detail the camera will be able to capture in both shadows and highlights, making images look more realistic and natural. The D7000 did well in this test, managing to an impressive 7.8 stops dynamic range at ISO 100.

Click here for more on how we test dynamic range.

In the chart below, we show the dynamic range at ISO levels from 100 to 6400. As you can see, this range did fall as the ISO increased (falling to just over 3 stops at ISO 6400), but that is not unusual: as the ISO increases, the noise increases as well, overwhelming the shadow detail in images and loosing the fine details.

If we compare the dynamic range of the D7000 to our comparison cameras, we can see that it has a slightly wider range than the others, but only by a small amount.

Image Stabilization

The D7000 uses lens active image stabilization, where an element of the lens moves to try and compensate for the shake detected by the camera body. We found it to be moderately effective, producing a small, but noticeable, improvement in the sharpness of images at most of the shutter speeds that we test at. One thing to note here is that this type of stabilization is dependent on the lens, so you will get different performance from different lenses. We tested this with the 18-105mm kit lens that Nikon sells with the camera body, but plenty of other lenses are available. And, if you are using a non-VR lens with the D7000, you won't get any image stabilization. Click here for more on how we test image stabilization.

White Balance

The color of objects in photos depends on the source of the light that is illuminating it: called the white balance. Your eye automatically adapts to different lighting, and your camera has to do the same thing, which is what we test here. We illuminate a color chart with three light sources: simulated daylight, fluorescent light and a tungsten light bulb similar to the incandescent bulbs in your house. We take photos using both the auto white balance feature of a camera and the custom white balance, where the camera gets to sample and judge the light before the photo is captured.

Click here for more on how we test white balance.

Automatic White Balance ()

We found that the Nikon D7000 did a mixed job with the white balance set to auto: with the simulated daylight light source, the camera accurately judged the light, only producing a very minor color cast in images that was barely noticeable. The fluorescent light source produced a slight color error, but the main problem was with the incandescent light source, and most cameras seem to have issues with this, producing images with a distinct color cast.

The chart above shows the measured error in our tests: the longer the bar in either direction, the bigger the error. As you can see, the only one that had a major error was the incandescent light source.

If we compare the results for the D7000 with other cameras, we can see that the D7000 wasn't much worse than the others: all of them struggled to accurately judge the incandescent light source we use in this test.

Fluorescent light posed a slight problem for this camera: the D7000 in auto mode slightly misjudged the white balance of this light source, producing images with a slight color cast that was more significant than the other cameras.

Custom White Balance ()

The D7000 can create a custom white balance setting by analyzing the light before it takes the photo. To use this feature, you have to sample the light first, which is done by holding down the WB button, pointing the camera at a white or gray object and pressing the shutter. The camera doesn't take a picture, but it does judge the white balance from the white object and create a custom white balance setting. We found that the D7000 was pretty accurate when this was done, producing color errors of only a few hundred degrees, which is barely visible.

White Balance Settings

The D7000 offers a lot of white balance features and controls. As well as the usual full auto mode, there are 12 presets (including 6 different fluorescent light types), a direct entry mode and five custom settings, which can be either measured from a photo of a gray card or entered directly as degrees Kelvin. The auto white balance mode also offers an option to preserve the warm look of indoor lighting.

Playback Mode

The 3-inch LCD screen of the D7000 makes for a good preview of captured images. You can zoom out to show up to 81 thumbnail images at once or zoom in up to 31x on images. When viewing images, you can show varying amounts of shooting info (see below) and switch between faces detected in the image. Images can also be sorted by date using the calendar view. In addition to the screens shown below, a GPS view is available which shows the geotagging info for the image.

Software

The provided Software Suite CD-ROM includes versions of Nikon Transfer and ViewNX for both Windows and Mac.

Direct Print Options

The D7000 supports the usual direct print options, preparing a DPOF file to communicate your desires to an outside print service, and printing directly to a USB-connected PictBridge-compatible printer.

The PictBridge implementation is complete and easy to use. You can print one picture at a time or select a group of images, specifying page size, number of copies, bordered or borderless printing, and whether or not you want a time stamp included. You can also crop an image directly from the PictBridge menu. And an often-overlooked feature we find very helpful is available in the D300S: the ability to output index prints of thumbnail images.

For DPOF, you can select one or more images, decide to include a date and/or image data (shutter speed and aperture, an unusual option), and the number of prints per photo.

Sensor

The D7000 is built around a CMOS image sensor, which measures 23.6 by 15.6mm (0.92 by 0.61 inches) and which captures 16.9 megapixel images. That makes it an APS-C sized sensor, which means it is not a full frame camera. This also means that lenses designed for use with 35mm film cameras will have a focal length multiplier of 1.5x added. This sensor can also capture HD video at Full HD resolution (1920 by 1080 pixels) at 24fps, or 1280 by 720 resolution video at 30fps.

Viewfinder

On the top of the camera is the viewfinder, an optical model that uses an eye-level pentaprism. Nikon claims that this offers a 100% preview of the captured image. We found it to be comfortable and easy to use, although the rubber seal around the edge of the viewfinder does leave a mark if you wear spectacles. Fortunately, it can be removed. A small wheel on the right side of the viewfinder provides for diopter adjustment if you have bad eyes and want to shoot without glasses.

The viewfinder shows a lot of information, including the focus points, battery and card status in the main viewing area and shooting information in a strip at the bottom. The guide to all this information from the manual is shown below, but the bottom line is that pretty much every shooting feature is shown there somewhere. With a bit of practice, you can change things like the ISO setting, shutter speed, aperture and focus point without looking away from the viewfinder. You do need to use the top LCD panel to change settings such as white balance, image size or color mode, though.

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LCD

On the back of the camera is a 3-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 921k pixels. This is a fixed screen: it does not rotate or flip out like the Canon 60D.

We found that this screen was sharp and produced clean images, but they did look a little pale in direct sunlight. Menus and other text is very clean and sharp, and the LCD screen can show shooting information when it is not being used to show the live view. A clear plastic cover is included that protects the screen from being scratched, which is a definite plus for a camera like this that is going to be used out in the real world.

The LCD screen on the back of the camera can also act as a secondary information screen if you press the info button while shooting, as shown below.

Nikon-d7000-lcd-info.jpg

LCD Control Panel

On the top of the camera body is a secondary LCD screen that shows shooting information. This packs a lot of information into a relatively small area, but it is still easy to read. Below is an excerpt from the manual that shows the information on display.

D700-manual-LCD-Panel3.jpg

Flash

The D7000 has two flash options: a small pop-up flash built into the viewfinder housing, and a hot shoe that allows you to connect an external flash. The built-in flash is small, but adequate for general use: we found that it could adequately illuminate objects out to about 12 feet in complete darkness.

The second option is to install a flash on the hot shoe on top of the camera body. Nikon used a standard flash shoe mount, so any type of standard flash will work. Nikon does claim that their own flashes work best, though and offers a range of flashes from the low cost SB-600 AF ($300) to the more powerful SB-900AF (approx $470). A variety of specialist flashes (such as macro and ring light models) can also be used with this camera.

The flash sync speed for this camera is 1/250 of a second, but this can be shortened to 1/320 if you don't mind loosing a bit of flash power. TTL (through the lens) flash metering is offered on all compatible flash guns, and several flash modes are offered, including front and rear curtain sync, red eye reduction and flash compensation of between -3 and +1 stops.

Lens Mount

lens compatibility page for the D7000.

Lenses designed for use with 35mm film cameras (such as Nikon's own DX format lenses) will have a focal length multiplier of 1.5x when used with this camera, turning a 24mm lens into a 36mm, and a 300mm lens into a 450mm. That is a good thing for longer telephoto lenses, but is a bit of a pain with wide angles. The D7000 is sold as a kit with an 18-105mm zoom lens for $1499, but it can be bought without the lens for $1299.

Below are examples of the zoom range shot with the 18-105mm kit zoom lens.

Battery

The D7000 is powered by an EN-EL15 battery with a capacity of 1900 mAh. Nikon claims a battery life of 1050 shots, and we found that this is probably pretty close to the mark: the battery of our review model lasted through several days of intense shooting before we had to recharge it. A spare battery will cost you around $60.

Memory

Cameras with two memory card slots are not uncommon: cameras like the SLT-A55 offer support for both SD and Memory Stick cards. The D7000 is different, though: it has two SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots, which can be used simultaneously, providing it with an extra level of flexibility. These two cards can be used in a number of ways:

** **Backup*. Identical images are written to both cards, providing a backup or second copy for quick distribution.

** **Overflow*. The camera writes to the first slot until it is full, then writes to the second. Cards can be hot-swapped, so you can remove one while still writing to the other, so you can be almost continuously shooting.
** **RAW Slot1 - JPEG Slot 2*. The camera writes RAW images to the first card slot, and JPEG images to the second.

This provides a good level of flexibility for the user, especially those who shoot both RAW and JPEG files and want to use both separately, or event photographers who want to be able to keep shooting large numbers of images. These functions are not available when shooting movies, though: the only option available with movies is to choose which card slot the recorded file is written to.

Jacks, Ports & Plugs

GP-1 GPS receiver, which allows photos to be tagged with a GPS location and precise time.

Other Features

GPS - The D7000 does not include GPS out of the box, but a GPS receiver can be added. The GP-1 GPS receiver plugs into the GPS port on the left side of the camera and allows images to be flagged with an accurate time, date and location. The GP-1 costs $195.

Shooting Modes

The D7000 offers a wide selection of shooting modes that are accessible from the mode dial on the top of the camera body, including two auto modes, the usual Program, Aperture, Shutter and full Manual modes and two user defined modes.

Live View

The D7000 offers a live view mode that is activated by flicking the switch located around the movie shutter button. This flips up the mirror and shows a preview of the captured image on the LCD screen. There are 5 different screen layouts on offer, which can be cycled through by pressing the Info button.

We found the live view mode to be better than other SLRs; the camera feels more responsive and produces a sharper, more realistic preview than many other cameras. However, it does share the Achilles heel of all SLRs in live mode: focus. In live view mode, the D7000 cannot use the same 39 AF sensors that make it so snappy to focus. Instead, it has to reply on contrast detection from the main image sensor, which is much slower and more prone to missing the focus point in low light. We found that it often took 2 to 3 seconds to focus in on an object. Some other cameras offer a compromise mode where the camera drops the mirror, focuses with the AF sensors then brings the mirror up again, but that is not offered on the D7000. You do get a lot of control over the live view focus process, though, including the ability to use face tracking, two options for the size of the focus area and an AF tracking mode that focuses on and tracks a moving object in the frame. But all of this flexibility does not get around the fact that focusing in live view mode is slow and awkward compared to using the viewfinder.

Scene Modes

The D7000 offers a wide selection of scene modes: 19 in all.

Picture Effects

The D7000 offers six picture effects modes (Nikon calls them Picture Controls): Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape. These are all customizable: you can go into any of the modes and tweak the sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue. That means you get more control than the special effects that some cameras offer, which means that these controls might be useful, rather than the oddball novelties they tend to be on other cameras.

Focus

The D7000 offers an impressive 39 focus points, all of which are arranged in a grid pattern around the center of the frame. The 9 points closest to the center of the frame are the cross type, which are more sensitive when shooting in low light. If 39 points is too many (especially if you are choosing an individual focus point manually), a menu option allows you to cut that down to 11 points. You can also use a dynamic focus mode, where you select an initial point, but the camera switches to another focus point if the camera moves. This is designed to track a moving object such as a bird or a football player, and options are offered to use 9, 21 or all 39 focus points. A similar 3D focus mode is also offered, which tries to track and object moving towards or away from the camera.

One interesting feature on offer here is the AF fine tuning feature, which allows you to, as the name suggests, fine rune the focus system to adapt for different lenses. Different lenses can have very slight differences in their response to the auto focus signals the camera body sends, so this feature allows you to tweak the signal for maximum sharpness. Most users won't need to use this feature, but a pro who is looking for maximum performance might want to spend the time tweaking their lenses.

Focus Image

The D7000 offers 39 focus points

Exposure

Exposure compensation and bracketing are available on the D7000. The exposure compensation works over a range of 6 stops (3 plus and 3 minus) in 1/3 of a stop steps. Bracketing is available for exposure, flash, white balance and the active D-lighting image processing. The number of frames can be set to 2 or 3, and the range can be between 1/3 and 2 stops.

Speed and Timing

Shot to Shot ()

We measured the speed of the D7000 in the CH mode at just under 6 frames per second (5.97 to be precise), which is pretty much spot on with the specs. This speed was also very consistent: the time between frames did not vary much in our tests.

Drive/Burst Mode ()

The D7000 offers two burst modes: CH and CL. CH (for continuous high) takes about 6 fps, while the CL (continuous low) mode can be set to take between 1 and 5fps. The number of shots taken in a single burst is dependent on the memory card, but can be set to a maximum of between 1 and 100 frames with a custom setting.

Depth of Field Preview

A depth of field preview is available by pressing the small button below and to the left of the lens mount. This is rather awkwardly placed, but it is most likely to be used when the camera is on a tripod, so that is not a major issue for most users.

Metering

The D7000 uses an exposure sensor with 2016 individual elements, and offers three metering modes.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speeds of between 1/8000 of a second to 30 seconds are available in 1.3 of a stop steps. In addition, a bulb mode holds the shutter open for as long as the shutter is pressed.

Self-Timer

The standard 2 and 10 second self timer delays are offered, as well as a very flexible interval timing mode. The latter mode can be set to start shooting at a specified time (or after a certain interval), with a specified interval between frames (between 1 second and 24 hours) and to take a specified number of frames per interval (up to 99).

Nikon also offers an optional remote (the ML-L3) which can be used instead of a self timer, and which allows for a "mirror up" mode, where the camera flips up the mirror, but does not take the image until the remote shutter is pressed. This can help prevent camera shake on long lenses caused by the mirror flipping up and shaking the camera and lens.

Other Features

Electronic Level - The D7000 includes a digital level which tells the user if the camera is being held level to the ground with an on-screen display.

Handling

The D7000 is not a small camera, but it fits comfortably into the hand, with the grip on the right side providing plenty to hold onto, with a rubberized covering that makes sure that the grip is firm with slippery hands. This is important given the size and weight of the camera, and with most lenses (especially the larger ones) you are going to need two hands to hold and use the camera. The fingers fall naturally into place, with the index finger of the right hand falling onto the shutter button and the thumb falling onto the video shutter and live mode controls. The two control dials for shutter and aperture control are also located close by, so you can change either value without looking away from the viewfinder. Nikon refers to the one on the back of the camera body as the main command dial, and the front one as the sub command dial.

Handling Front Image
Handling Back Image

Controls

The main menu of the D7000 is a standard Nikon layout, with the options divided into six tabs on the left side of the screen: Playback, Shooting, Custom Settings, Setup, Retouch and My Menu. Most of these are self-explanatory, except for the last one. This is kind of a custom menu that allows you to put frequently used controls into a single screen for quick access, or to access a list of the most recently used menu items.

Main Menu Picture

Manual & Learning

The D7000 is supplied with two manuals: a quick start guide that gets you up and running and a more in-depth manual. With out review unit, both were supplied in both English and Spanish. We found both manuals to be well written and useful, with plenty of illustrations and a good index. It is a little odd to see simple concepts such as how to insert the battery drawn out for a $1400 that is designed for serious users, though.

Video: Color Performance

The Nikon D7000 put up very pedestrian numbers in our color accuracy test. The camera managed a color error of 4.02 and a saturation level of 85%. Both of these numbers are a bit lower than we've seen from the competition, although they are similar to what previous Nikons achieved (like the D300S).

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests color performance.

When you look at the sample images below, keep in mind that all of our testing data came from the Nikon D7000 set with its standard color mode. If you don't like the colors the camera produced with this setting, you have plenty of other options (see the images below for details). In addition to the color preset options, there's also customizable color settings as well.

Despite the fact that the D7000's numbers didn't "wow" us in this test, the camera still produced a very pleasing and colorful image in bright light. Colors weren't quite as vivid as we saw from the Canon 60D or Sony A55V, but this can easily be remedied by using the vivid color setting to boost saturation levels. We like the D7000's image in bright light a bit more than the Nikon D300S. It has more contrast and the colors pop a bit more, although there was some issues with the darker portions of the image blending together.

Video: Noise Performance

The Nikon D7000 averaged 0.3475% noise in our bright light test, which is a better-than-average score for a video-capable DSLR. Despite the fact that this is a top-notch score, the Nikon D300S actually did even better when we tested it earlier this year.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests noise performance.

Since all the cameras in this set did well in terms of noise levels, the above crops end up being more useful in determining the sharpness capability of each camera. All of these models, other than the Nikon D300S, can capture Full HD video (that's a 1920 x 1080 resolution for those who aren't familiar with this terminology). As you can see, the D300S produced an image that was far less sharp than the rest of the models shown above. Still, the Nikon D7000 didn't produce as sharp an image as we'd hoped to see from Nikon's first Full HD video-capable DSLR.

Video: Motion Performance

The Nikon D7000 has the best motion performance we've seen from a Nikon DSLR, but it still couldn't match the performance we've gotten from the best video-capable DSLRs on the market. The camera had low levels of artifacting in our video motion test, but the video was choppy and not very smooth. There was also noticeable blur and interference throughout our motion test.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests motion.

Video: Sharpness

The D7000 is Nikon's first DSLR capable of recording a Full HD 1920 x 1080 image, so this is the first time we've really been able to evenly compare a Nikon DSLR with other manufacturers in terms of video sharpness. With that said, the Nikon D7000 didn't do all that badly. The camera measured a horizontal and vertical sharpness of 650 lw/ph each, which is a big improvement over the Nikon D300S.The Nikon D7000's sharpness score was also on par with what the Canon 60D showed us, while the Sony A55V did a bit better in this category.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests video sharpness.

Video: Low Light Sensitivity

The Nikon D7000 put up impeccable numbers in our sensitivity tests. The camera needed just 5 lux of light—which is almost nothing!—to record an image that was bright enough to register 50 IRE on our waveform monitor. This is an excellent score, even for a video-capable DSLR.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light sensitivity.

All the models we tested in this set did quite well on our low light sensitivity test, as each of them did better than the average consumer camcorder. The D7000's performance was particularly impressive, however. When you look at these sensitivity numbers, you should keep in mind that the kind of lens you use in conjunction with your camera factors greatly into the low light performance. So, the D7000's good score says as much about the camera's kit lens as it does about the camera itself.

Video: Low Light Color Performance

Here's something kind of strange: the Nikon D7000 produced more accurate colors in low light than it did in our bright light test. The camera also managed a higher saturation level of 100.9%. Overall, the color error in this test was a solid 3.29 (that's more than half a point better than the camera did in the bright light test).

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light color performance.

We like the D7000's low light image quite a bit, and it reminds us of the brilliant performance we saw from the Nikon D300S in low light. The D7000's advantage, though, is in sharpness, which we talk about in more detail in the Low Light Noise section of this review. The Canon 60D also did very well in this color accuracy test, and its colors looked very plush and vivid (see comparison images below). The Sony SLT-A55V had one of the cleanest images, but it also produced a somewhat underexposed video in our low light testing.

Video: Low Light Noise Performance

In our low light test, the Nikon D7000 measured 1.45% noise, which is actually one of the higher noise levels we've seen from a video-capable DSLR. Still, this is not a high noise level when compared to most consumer camcorders, so we don't want you to think this is a "bad" score. It's just that the direct competition did a bit better.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light noise performance.

You can see the fine specks of noise captured by the Nikon D7000 in our low light testing in the cropped image above. Ultimately, the noise isn't too distracting, but it is noticeable—especially when you compare it to the cleaner image from the Sony SLT-A55V, for example. But, the D7000 did produce a fairly sharp image in low light, and it was far sharper than the blurred image captured by the Nikon D300S and even the Canon 60D. This is quite impressive, as the D7000 is Nikon's first Full HD video-DSLR.

Video: Compression

The Nikon D7000 has a lot of recording options, which we're pleased to see. Previous Nikon DSLRs that could record video didn't have anywhere near this kind of extensive list of quality settings or frame rates to choose from. Also, the D7000 is Nikon's first camera to use the MPEG-4 codec rather than Motion JPEG (MJPEG). MPEG-4 is generally regarded as being a better codec for video and it is widely used in the camcorder industry.

All videos are saved using the MOV file format and the camera has a maximum clip length of approximately 20 minutes (according to Nikon). We like having the options to record using either a 24p or 30p frame rate, but we'd like to see a 60i or 60p option as well. We also think it is a bit odd to use a 640 x 424 resolution for the standard definition record option (instead of the standard 640 x 480 or 720 x 480), but we don't mind too much... we're more than happy to see all these record modes available on the D7000.

In addition to the multiple recording options listed in the table below, the D7000 also has the ability to switch to PAL recording in its menu system. When this switch is made, the camera offers 25p recording instead of 30p recording at 1280 x 720 and 640 x 424 resolutions. The 24p record settings are unchanged in PAL mode.

Video: Manual Controls

The Nikon D7000 has a generous set of manual controls, but the camera suffers from a confusing interface in video mode. This has been a problem with Nikon DSLRs that record video ever since the launch of the D90 a few years ago (the first video-capable DSLR to hit the market).

Nevertheless, we are happy to see the camera offer aperture, shutter speed, and ISO control, as well as a new auto focus system that works during recording—without the need to press or hold a button.

Auto Mode

Unless you go into the camera's menu system and turn manual movie controls on, the D7000 will function with automatic controls during video recording. You can, however, still adjust exposure in this mode.

The new continual auto focus feature is a pleasant surprise, but it has its fair share of problems. For starters, the system is extremely loud with its audible clicks and noises every time the camera attempts a shift in focus. We also found the system to be fairly inaccurate and slow at times. But the feature does work if you give it time, and the fact that it is present on the camera in video mode is more than you can say about many video-capable DSLRs.

Zoom Controls and Zoom Ratio

The kit lens on the D7000 is an 18 - 105mm lens, which is close to a 6x optical zoom. You can get more (or less) zoom depending on what kind of lens you have attached to the camera. Zoom is controlled by rotating the zoom ring on the lens, which is how you control zoom on nearly all DSLR cameras.

Focus

We talked about the D7000's continual auto focus mode, but it's not the only focus features available on the camera. There's four focus options to choose from when you select auto focus for video mode: Face-priority AF, Wide-area AF, Normal-area AF, and Subject-tracking AF. The latter of these focus modes is the most interesting, and it reminds us of the tracking modes that are popular on high-end consumer camcorders. With Subject-tracking AF engaged, you may press the "ok" button the back of the D7000 and the camera will "follow" your subject as it moves about the frame (and focus the subject properly in the meantime). The feature works surprisingly well, although it has the same problems with noise and focus speed as do all of the D7000's focus systems.

If you don't want to be bothered with the noisy auto focus, you can always focus manually with the D7000 using the focus ring on the lens. There's also an auto focus option that does not work continually, and will only be prompted to focus when you press the shutter button down half way.

Exposure, Aperture and Shutter Speed

All three of these controls can be adjusted manually on the D7000, but the setup for each is a bit confusing. Exposure adjustment is the simplest, as it can be set in any mode as long as the camera isn't in manual mode. The only confusing element is that the camera makes you think you can adjust exposure from -5 to +5 in 1/3 EV increments, but video mode really has a range of -3 to +3. We have no idea why the camera lets you adjust to the higher or lower levels, as there is no actual exposure response when you do. It is confusing, sneaky, and poor design on Nikon's part.

To control aperture and shutter speed on the camera you must switch over to manual movie settings in the D7000's menu. You can then set aperture and shutter speed values independently when the camera is in "M" mode only. Aperture-priority mode allows you to set the aperture control (but not shutter speed). The one confusing element to all this is that the aperture cannot be set manually during recording, while shutter speed can. In fact, to set the aperture, you must exit Live View mode on the camera and change the aperture values prior to re-entering Live View mode. Nikon had a similar system on previous models, but at least the process is now outlined in the manual (it was even more confusing before, if you can believe it).

ISO and Other Controls

ISO control is available in video mode, but the ISO is locked when recording begins. The camera has a wide range of ISO controls for video, which is great, but we find it strange that ISO cannot be set to automatic control if you have the camera set to manual movie mode. What if you want to adjust aperture and shutter speed, but allow the camera to pick a corresponding ISO? Not possible on the D7000. You either have full manual ISO control, or full auto ISO control.

Audio Features

Video-capable DSLRs certainly aren't known for their good audio features, but at least Nikon tried to put together an intriguing package for the D7000. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't offer anything that we didn't see on the Nikon D300S, so if you're familiar with the audio options on that camera you won't read about anything new here.

The D7000 has a very poor built-in mic that records mono audio only. It also picks up tons of extraneous noise ranging from the loud auto focus mechansim to clicking dials or buttons manipulated by the user. There is also a 3.5mm external mic jack on the camera, which is a feature that has become quite popular to find on video-capable DSLRs these days. The external mic jack allows you to record stereo audio with a connected microphone.

Audio Features Image

Those three dots under the D7000 logo represent the camera's built in mic.

In the camera's menu system, you'll find three audio recording sensitivity settings. This isn't quite as impressive as full audio level control, but it is something (and it is more than you find on many video-capable DSLRs). Alas, the camera does not offer a wind cut or hi-pass option for filtering out wind noise.

Video: Handling

To put it simply, the Nikon D7000 does not handle well as a video recording device. The LCD does not rotate or tilt to aid the videographer, nor does the camera offer any special grip to help with long periods of video recording. It is a big DSLR, although most DSLRs are fairly large, so you need to keep that in mind if you're planning on using the D7000 for recording video.

Handling Front Image

The camera also has some very confusing controls in video mode that can take some time to fully understand. Nikon DSLRs with video modes have always been full of quirks and roundabout methods for adjusting controls, but it seems like the company at least tried to make things less confusing with the D7000. The manual has more information about movie mode, and the menu does have a dedicated "manual movie mode" option... but things are still rather complicated.

Handling Back Image

Strangely, the D7000 is loaded with in-camera editing features. We're not sure how many people will actually make use of these options, considering you have to do all the in-camera editing by focusing on the stationary 3-inch on the back of the camera. Still, the amount of editing features is quite impressive. You can trim and edit clips, remove specific frames, or even save a selected frame as a still image. Nikon clearly put a lot of effort into these features, and, honestly, we would have preferred it if this energy was directed elsewhere (a simpler video mode interface, perhaps?).

Sony Alpha SLT-A55V Comparison

In our tests, it was a close fought battle, with both cameras taking top marks in a few categories. The Nikon was the top scorer for noise, but the Canon came out on top in color accuracy, resolution and white balance. It was a close fought thing, though, with just a small difference between the two cameras.

Performance:

Both cameras excelled in our tests, and both are capable of taking great looking photos. They do have their own strengths, though: the Canon had more accurate color, while the Nikon had lower noise and more detail in images taken at high ISOs. It also has a bit more room at the top of the ISO range, with the Hi2 ISO mode reaching 25,600 ISO. That comes at the cost of a lot of noise, but the images remains pleasingly sharp across the range.

Components:

The Nikon is the more fully featured in the components it uses, with the distinct advantage of two memory cards. This provides more flexibility for the camera, allowing the second card to act as an overflow or as a backup. Both cameras include bright, sharp and clear screens, but the 60D puts this screen on a hinge, which allows it to be used to view the image when shooting in live view mode from above, below or even when rotated around for a self-portrait.

Handling:

The Nikon D7000 is the larger, bulkier camera, but both cameras handle well and put the controls that are needed in the right places for quick access. The Nikon has the advantage of having two control dials which can be turned by the index finger and thumb, while the Canon 60D puts the second control dial around the directional pad, which is somewhat harder to reach.

Controls:

Both cameras are designed for serious photographers, and include a huge selection of manual controls. The D7000 has a slight edge here though, as it includes more ways to store and quickly switch between the settings, such as 5 manual white balance settings and the two custom mode spots on the mode dial.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Nikon D300S Comparison

Both cameras shoot at the same resolution of 16.2 megapixels, but there is more to a quality image than the raw resolution. We found that the Nikon was the top scorer in many of our tests, taking the top marks for color, noise and long exposures. But the Sony was no slouch: it beat the more expensive Nikon in our tests of resolution, dynamic range and shooting speed.

Performance:

We found that both cameras are very capable of producing very attractive images, but they do have different strengths. The Nikon has more accurate color, but the Sony takes images that are sharper and have slightly better detail. It is possible to tweak the Nikon to take slightly sharper images, though. We also found that the Nikon images had less noise in them, which is an important factor for low light shooting. The Sony does offer the multi-frame noise reduction mode, which helps considerably, but this doesn't work well with moving objects. Overall, we would favor the Nikon for the better color and lower noise.

Components:

Both cameras offer a broadly similar set of hardware features, with both offering 3-inch screens that are clear and sharp, as well as using quite similar image sensors. However, the screen of the Sony is more flexible, with a hinge that allows it to pivot up and down. The Nikon screen is fixed in place. Old school SLR users will prefer the optical viewfinder of the Nikon: the Sony uses an electronic viewfinder that shows the same captured preview image as the LCD screen, which can get a little difficult to see in low light. The Sony also uses a translucent mirror, which means it can stay in place while the camera is shooting, making for faster shooting: 10 fps against the TK fps that the Nikon can manage.

The SLT-A55 does offer dual memory card slots (with 1 SD/SDHC/SDXC and 1 Memorystick slot), but you can only use one of them at a time. The D7000 offers dual SD/SDHC/SDXC slots that can be used simultaneously, or in a number of different configurations).

Handling:

The Sony is the smaller of the two cameras, thanks to the fixed mirror arrangement. Those with smaller hands may favor the Sony, as it is smaller, lighter and has a thinner grip. Both cameras fit naturally into the hand, though, with the index finger falling onto the shutter and easily moving down to the control dial below. The Nikon feels like the more robust camera, though; rough treatment is unlikely to damadge it, while the Sony feels somewhat fragile in comparison.

Controls:

Both cameras include a lot of buttons and dials on the camera body, though, which can be a double-edged sword. While novice users will be confused by the sheer number of buttons and dials, they do offer quick access to the controls for the more experienced shooter. Overall, we favored the handling of the Nikon, with the dual control dials making for significantly easier shooting in manual mode, with the two dials providing quick access to both aperture and shutter settings without having to press any other buttons.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Samsung NX10 Comparison

Although the overall pattern of our scores was the same, the Nikon D7000 was the higher scorer overall. Both cameras achieved excellent scores for color accuracy, but only managed to get decent scores for resolution.

Performance:

Both the Nikon D7000 and the D300s showed that they are capable of taking sharp, clean images with excellent color and low noise. We found that the D7000 had a slight edge, though, presumably because it benefited from a newer image sensor. The images it took had slightly more accurate color, lower noise and wider dynamic range.

Components:

Both cameras are feature-filled, boasting 3-inch LCD screens with 921k resolution and using the same Nikon lens mount that offers access to a huge number of lenses from Nikon and many other manufacturers. Both also offer two memory card slots, but the D300s offers on SD/SDHC card slot and one CompactFlash slot, while the D7000 has two SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots.

Handling:

The D300s is slightly larger than the D7000, which pushes it from being large into bulky territory. Both cameras handle well, though, fitting naturally into the hand and balancing the weight so that they do not tip in the hand. Neither camera is light, though, with the D7000 weighing in at 24.3 ounces and the D300s weighing in at just under 30 ounces, both without lenses. The advantage of the extra wight of the D300s is that it is very well constructed; it feels like you could whack a charging rhino with it and still take a photo of its dazed expression afterward. The D7000 feels very solidly constructed, but it just doesn't feel as tough.

Controls:

Both cameras are awash in a sea of buttons and dials, which puts these controls within easy reach once you figure out which button is where. The layout of the controls on Nikon cameras has remained pretty much unchanged over the years, which is a good thing: anyone familiar with the layout of previous models will feel pretty much at home with either of these cameras. The D7000 offers a wider ISO range (100-6400 and two higher settings), while the D300 is limited to a maximum of 3200. This can be expanded to 6400 with a custom setting, but at the cost of adding some significant noise to the image.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

COMP 4

We found that the D7000 achieved higher scores in most of our tests, outclassing the NX10 in tests of color accuracy, noise, long exposure and dynamic range. The only test where the NX10 came out the winner was resolution: we found that the images it shot were a little sharper than those captured by the D7000, although the difference between the two was fairly small.

Performance:

Both cameras captured attractive images, but the D7000 produced images that were more faithful to the colors of the subject, had lower noise and captured more of a range of shades. But NX10 wasn't particularly bad in any of these areas: it just wasn't as good as the D7000.

Components:

The NX10 is one of the first interchangeable lens cameras to offer an AMOLED screen, and this relatively new technology does provide previews and images that have excellent color. We did find that the image got somewhat pale in direct sunlight, though: we had to crank the brightness to maximum to be able to see the image. The NX10 also offers an electronic viewfinder, which was disappointing: we found that the image broke up when the camera moved, producing a jaggy, somewhat nauseating-looking preview. The optical viewfinder of the D7000 is much better by comparison, producing a 100% preview of the captured image and showing all of the shooting settings for easy shooting.

Handling:

The advantage of the NX10 here is size: the mirrorless design means that the camera body can be much smaller and lighter, weighing in at around half the weight of the D7000. However, it is not pocket-sized: especially with a zoom lens fitted, the NX10 is too bulky to fit into a coat pocket. If you are looking for portability, look elsewhere, such as the smaller Samsung NX100. The NX10 is significantly smaller than the D7000, though, and looks rather like a D7000 that has shrunk in the wash.

Controls:

The two cameras both share the same approach to control design: placing a lot of controls onto buttons on the camera body, with more accessible through an on-screen menu. Both execute this design well, but the Samsung feels more modern and puts more options in the on-screen menu. The D7000 has the advantage of dual control dials, which makes shooting in manual mode easier.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Conclusion

The Nikon D7000 is a powerhouse camera at a very reasonable price. Priced at about $1199 for the body and $1499 for the body and kit lens, It is by no means cheap, but it offers value for money. It includes a huge range of features that will make shooting quicker and easier for the experienced shooter, with lots of customizable options and quick control access.

Performance

We found that the D7000 performed very well in our tests, achieving high scores for color accuracy, noise, low light shooting and dynamic range. The only test that it struggled with was resolution, where we found that the images it captured were not as sharp as cameras such as the Canon 60D or 7D. However, it is possible to tweak the settings of the D7000 to increase the sharpness, and we typically find that Nikon cameras go for a slightly softer look in images. This also means that extra sharpening can be applied in image editing programs if required, while it is much more difficult to remove over sharpening from an image.

We also found very low noise at lower ISO settings, although the noise did get much more obvious (and somewhat annoying) at ISO levels of 3200 and above. At the maximum of 25600, this noise rose to nearly 7%, drowning out all of the shadow detail in the images. The noise reduction did do something to ameliorate this, but the details of images were still lost, so the higher ISO settings should be avoided unless there really is no other option. It is good to have them available, though.

Video Performance

Nikon got a variety of things right with the D7000. The camera offers more frame rates, more manual controls, and better performance than any of the video-capable DSLRs from Nikon that came before it. It's also the first Nikon DSLR to offer Full HD 1080p recording and the first to use MPEG-4 codec instead of Motion JPEG. While all these new features do help in making the D7000 Nikon's best video-capable DSLR to date, the company still has a ways to go to compete with the likes of Canon and Sony in terms of overall video performance and capability. Simply put, we like the changes Nikon made, but a bit more needs to be done in order to make a top-notch DSLR with video.

Components

The D7000 includes a wide range of high end components, including an excellent 3-inch, 921k pixel screen and dual memory card slots. This feature adds a lot of flexibility to the camera, allowing you to write JPEGs to one card and RAW images to the other, or to duplicate images for quick distribution or backup in case of card failure. Anyone who shoots for a living and relies on not missing an image to a malfunctioning memory card will think this feature alone could justify the cost of the camera.

Handling:

The D7000 is a big, somewhat bulky camera, but it fits well into the hand and puts the important controls within easy reach, making it possible to shoot and control the camera without looking away from the viewfinder. But it is a big, heavy camera, and is going to be awkward to hold for extended intervals, especially with a big, heavy zoom lens on the front.

The Live View mode of the D7000 is one of the better implementations we have seen on an SLR: it is quick and easy to switch the camera from the standard mode to the live view mode with a flick of the thumb, and the image looks sharp and clear on the 3-inch LCD. But the Live View mode still shares the same inherent compromise of SLRs, because focusing in live view mode uses the main sensor, which is much slower than the dedicated focus sensors it uses in standard mode. Focusing in Live View mode on the D7000 feels incredibly slow when compared with a camera like the Sony SLT-A55, which uses a translucent mirror that allows it to use the dedicated focus sensors in live view mode. In comparison, the D7000 is slow and awkward to focus in live view mode.

Controls:

The D7000 does a good job of putting the controls that are needed for shooting close to hand: it is easy to change the metering mode and manually control the shutter and aperture, even when looking through the viewfinder. Some controls are a little further away, though: The ISO and white balance controls on the left side of the back are a little awkward to reach, though: we would have preferred them to be on the right side of the camera body within reach of the index finger.

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