BUILD AND DESIGN
The D7000 follows typical DSLR design with a deeply sculpted handgrip body, and is the same size as the D90, albeit about 1.3 ounces heavier. The camera body includes magnesium top and rear covers and overall construction appears very good, with materials and assembly commensurate with the camera price point.
Ergonomics and Controls
D90 successor or not, besides size and weight the control layout of the D7000 is quite similar to the earlier camera - on the camera back the live view button of the D90 is now a live view lever/movie record button and the playback button has been moved up next to the delete button.
On the top of the body the continuous shooting/self timer button is gone, with those functions now assigned to a release mode dial located beneath the mode dial on the top left of the body. The C-S-M focus mode selector of past Nikons remains on the front of the camera body at the left side of the lens mount but now offers AF-M as choices. Once in AF mode, push the center button and rotate the main command dial to select continuous, single or automatic AF on the control panel (camera top). Here's a closer look at the new selector and button.
Pushing the center button while rotating the sub-command dial allows you to select the AF area mode on the control panel. The proximity of the release mode and mode dials proved a bit annoying and awkward - changes to the release mode dial are made by pressing a locking button and rotating the dial to the desired setting, but it's easy to bump the mode dial into another shooting setting in the process. And make sure you're setting the mode dial according to the white pip on the side of the built-in flash and not the one for the release mode dial atop the camera body.
I had one sequence of a surfer come out well underexposed when I switched from single to high speed continuous and inadvertently knocked the mode dial into manual exposure from aperture priority.
Combined with the kit lens, the D7000 is a fairly light and enjoyable walking around setup.
Menus and Modes
The D7000 may fall into the prosumer class of camera price and features-wise, but menus are definitely slanted toward the pro end of the spectrum for folks who want to involve themselves more completely in the image capture process. You can set the camera on auto or select a scene mode and fire away with little else required from you, but if you opt to customize camera functions there are shooting, custom, setup, playback, and retouch menus along with a "my menu" menu to allow you to customize the other five menus. In the shot below, we've pushed the menu button and gotten the custom settings menu with autofocus highlighted. Note also that autofocus is listed with an "a," metering/exposure with a "b," etc.
Pushing the "OK" button (or scrolling the multi controller to the right) gets us the AF menu.
You can then scroll up or down through the menu items, going on to the "b" items on the next page, etc. You can also select the "b" or other items directly. While the menus are extensive, they are also logical and quite intuitive for those who choose to venture into them. Within the retouch menu is an interesting option, a cross screen filter. The filter is applied in-camera to post process captured images and produces a star-like effect from point sources of light. You produce a similar effect by stopping down the lens as far you can when shooting a scene with points of light, but the lengthy shutter times require a tripod or some form of camera support and are not conducive to hand-holding. Here's a shot of the Oceanside (CA) pier with the lens stopped down and the same shot with the cross-screen filter applied.
As befits a prosumer DSLR, there are automatic and scene-specific shooting modes along with the obligatory manual exposure options.
The 3.0-inch monitor on the D7000 has 921,000 dot composition, is adjustable for seven levels of brightness and offers 100% coverage. The protective plastic cover is easily removed and makes using the monitor in bright light a bit easier. I've excerpted portions of Howard Creech's review of a Pentax DSLR to introduce some new data we'll be incorporating into reviews from this day forward:
The DCR test lab is adding a new feature to our reviews - we'll now begin providing LCD peak brightness measurements and contrast ratios to assist our readers in making more informed buying decisions. A decent LCD contrast ratio would fall somewhere between 500:1 and 800:1. That would be bright enough to use the LCD for framing and composition in outdoor lighting, and it would provide a better sense of contrast and image quality. Peak brightness indicates the panel's output of an all-white screen in nits at full brightness - for reference, anything above 500 will be fairly usable outdoors, with improving results at higher levels.
(Those of you unfamiliar with the term "nits" will instantly recognize it by its slightly more formal description, "candela per square meter." If, like me, you're still in the dark (sorry), a nit is roughly the amount of luminous intensity produced by a common candle.)
The D7000 rang up a low 334 peak brightness score, but also produced a very high 1012:1 contrast ratio. In practice I found the D7000 monitor's outdoor performance to be on a par with other 900k pixel 3.0-inch monitors I've reviewed. So while the D7000 comes in low on peak brightness, that high contrast ratio seems to make up for it, at least in the great outdoors.
The viewfinder has a diopter adjustment to accommodate varying degrees of eyesight and offers 100% coverage.
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