The Nikon D7000 is a digital SLR camera aimed at enthusiastic amateur and hobbyist photographers. It has some features that would otherwise only be found on professional-level cameras, and it delivers very impressive image quality.
The Nikon D7000's automatic shooting modes mean first-time digital SLR users can get started immediately, but ideally you’ll need to know a little about photography if you want to get the most out of it. We were very impressed by its overall performance, but there are a few niggles that held it back from being a perfect all-rounder.
Nikon D7000 digital SLR camera: Design, control layout and construction
The Nikon D7000, Nikon D90 digital SLR camera that preceded it, has a body designed around a magnesium alloy chassis. This gives it a more solid feel than the plastic and polycarbonate cameras we've tested, as well as better protecting the internal components from accidental drops and other damage.
Apart from this, it’s similar to the Nikon D90 in size and handling — many of the buttons are laid out in a similar formation and the menu offers a near-identical experience. We really liked the way the Nikon D7000 felt when shooting. Most of the controls are easily accessible when holding the digital camera up close to your face, and the viewfinder is large and bright.
Our main concern with the digital camera was a handling point — namely the layout of the ISO button. If you’re shooting the Nikon D7000 digital SLR camera with auto-ISO disabled, changing the ISO requires depressing the ISO button and clicking the rear control dial — but the button is third down in the row of four on the camera’s left-hand rear side, which is a tricky position to reach with a thumb when holding the camera stable and shooting.
We were expecting the ISO button to be located on the top of the digital camera, near the shutter button, but instead you’ll find a button for changing the digital camera’s exposure metering mode. We think you’d be changing the ISO far more often than the exposure metering mode, so having these buttons swapped would be a more logical approach in our opinion.
The Nikon D7000 digital SLR’s live view mode is a mixed bag. The live view mode uses the rear LCD screen and the image sensor to display a representation of what the camera is pointed at — so instead of using the viewfinder; you can compose a photo using the screen just like a point-and-shoot camera. The high-resolution screen provides an easy way to get your focus right and nail your shot everytime, even if you're using an older manual focus Nikon lens.
We were disappointed that there was no way to enable a live histogram or exposure indicator when using the live view mode. It’s also not possible to dynamically change a lens’s aperture during live view — if you want to see the effect of a different aperture setting on focus and exposure, you’ll need to turn the live view off, change the aperture value and then re-enter live view. This dynamic aperture change feature is found on other digital SLR cameras such as the Canon EOS 60D, and it's disappointing that it's not available on the Nikon D7000 digital SLR camera.
Aside from the issues we've discussed in regard to Nikon's live view mode and the location of the ISO button, the Nikon D7000 digital SLR camera didn’t present any further niggles in regard to the layout and design of its controls. If you haven’t used a Nikon camera before, it’ll take some time to get used to, but otherwise it’s an easy to use digital SLR camera that’s appropriate for both beginners and enthusiast users.
Nikon D7000 digital SLR camera: Image quality, ISO performance and shooting speed
The Nikon D7000 digital SLR camera has a 16.2 megapixel APS-C size image sensor — that’s the same size as other entry-level and semi-professional digital camera bodies found on the Sony Alpha A33, Sony NEX-5, Samsung NX100 and Canon EOS 60D — only professional SLR cameras like the Nikon D3x have larger imaging sensors. It’s a brand new sensor and it is able to produce excellent quality images throughout the digital camera’s ISO range of 100-6400. You can also enable an extended ISO setting which gives the Nikon D7000 the ability to shoot at up to ISO 25600.
At ISO 100, the images out of the Nikon D7000 are the cleanest and most detailed we’ve seen in our tests of any consumer-level digital SLR camera. The images get progressively grainier up to ISO 6400 but nonetheless excellent levels of detail are still retained. Most importantly, the Nikon D7000 does a good job of suppressing chrominance noise (uneven colour patches at high ISO levels) at every ISO setting. ISO 12800 and 25600 images are usable in a pinch, but you’ll need to apply some post-processing to clean them up.
We found that while the Nikon D7000’s JPEG mode produced impressive results, we could pull even more detail from the camera’s raw NEF files with a converter such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. Given some time and effort we were able to produce some very clean, vibrant and sharp photos with a great deal of shadow and highlight details.
The low and high ISO capability of the Nikon D7000 is on par or better with every other non-professional digital SLR camera we have tested. Because of this, it makes an excellent point-and-shoot camera — even if the lighting conditions aren’t perfect, you can often recover the photograph in post-processing and keep the shot.
One flaw that we encountered with the Nikon D7000 digital SLR was its propensity to slightly overexpose photos taken in bright conditions, such as on a sunny day in direct sunlight. If you’re shooting in RAW format you can post-process most files to recover this overexposed information, but JPEG files don’t have the same latitude.
You can also counter this by dialling the Nikon D7000’s exposure compensation down by a stop, but we would prefer that the camera expose the shots correctly by default in these lighting conditions. Bright direct lighting was the only time we encountered this flaw — in even light, as well as overcast and darker conditions the Nikon D7000 does a good job of metering and calculating the correct exposure.
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