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If you’ve moved beyond point-and-shoots but aren’t quite ready to make the jump to a pro-level DSLR, Nikon’s impressive new D7000 wants to be your go-to shooter. The D7000 takes over for the old D90, but it also manages to compete well with the D300S, the next model up. It’s right on the border between Nikon’s consumer and pro lines, but new video capabilities make the D7000 appealing to hobbyists and prosumers alike.
The D7000’s headline features are Nikon’s new 16.2-megapixel DX-format sensor (Nikon’s implementation of the APS-C image-sensor format) and its full HD movie mode. That’s right -- earlier Nikons shot 1280x720 HD video, but the D7000 steps up to full 1920x1080 resolution. Along with all those extra pixels, Nikon also put manual shutter speed, lens aperture, and ISO controls into the D7000’s movie mode. AF-F mode delivers continuous autofocus while you’re filming, too, and it keeps up pretty well. You can clearly hear the AF motor churning away in the background, though, so unless you’re using an external microphone, it’s not quite as useful as it sounds.
Nikon’s top enthusiast DSLR.
Movies are shot in Live View mode, which can also be used for shooting stills, of course. It’s ideal for tripod shots, macros, or any other situation where it’s useful to be able to step away from the camera. The autofocus in Live Mode is pretty slow, though, and you also have to learn a different, contrast-based autofocus system. The face detection, focus tracking, and movable AF point offer versatility, but there’s also a lot to learn. And Live View focusing isn’t without quirks. You can’t adjust the lens aperture in Manual mode with Live View enabled. For added flexibility, we would have liked to see an articulating LCD like the one on Nikon’s cheaper D5100.
Really, though, DSLRs are at their best when you shoot using the viewfinder. Here, the D7000’s new 39-point AF phase-detection proves very fast and effective, though it did struggle to lock on to a subject a couple of times when shooting into the light. The exposure system is also new, using a 2,016-pixel sensor and Nikon’s Scene Recognition System to supposedly deliver better exposures than ever. Most of the time the pictures were great, though some came out a little overexposed -- usually those with high-contrast or backlit subjects.
The increase in resolution to 16.2 megapixels is certainly worth having, and the D7000 delivers particularly crisp images full of rich tones and contrast. It’s very good at high ISOs, too, and while the HI 1 and 2 settings (ISO 12800 and 25600) are perhaps a step too far, the quality up to that point is as good as it gets for an APS-C camera.
The 18-105mm VR lens offers a significantly longer focal range than the average kit lens, and while it’s also bigger and heavier as a result, it balances well with the D7000’s chunky body. The D7000 is built from a combination of plastics and magnesium alloy, with weatherproof seals, delivering above-average ruggedness for an enthusiast camera. It’s not quite at the same level as the pro-spec D300S, but it’s tougher than the old Nikon D90 and cheaper models in the range.
The D7000’s specs and performance are certainly very good, but they don’t justify the price ($1,200 for the body; $1,500 for the kit) on their own. Other cameras, like some of Sony’s models, offer similar results for a lot less dough. But then you have to factor in Nikon’s expertise at design and build quality. What you end up with is a first-rate camera with first-rate specs—and a price that reflects this.
The bottom line. The D7000 is a great camera with terrific features, but it’s priced in an uneasy position compared to pro cameras and cheaper amateur DSLRs.
Shoots full 1080p HD video. 6fps continuous shooting. Rugged design.
Pricey for an enthusiast camera. Slow autofocus in Live View. Overexposure in some shots.