Apart from briefly shooting with the kit lens at home to get an initial feel for the D7000 when it arrived, the first serious outing the next morning found the camera mated to my VR400 f/2.8 tele for some surf work. Compared to the D3 and D300/MB-D10 bodies that usually run with the 400, the D7000 was diminutive and almost looked funny, dwarfed by the fast telephoto it was mated to. Once the shooting started in earnest the D7000 quickly punched out some nice shots that proved it was taking its image capture gig very seriously.
And with sunny conditions on several days, I broke out the 1.4 tele converter to give the 400 a bit more reach.
The D7000 belongs to the "flip the power switch and I'm ready to go" family of DSLRs - the camera turned on, acquired focus and took the first shot as quickly as my right index finger could manage those tasks. Nikon claims a 0.13 second start-up time and 50 millisecond shutter response for the D7000 and the shutter proved itself quick by any standard. In the studio, we measured AF acquisition time as 0.15 seconds with shutter lag coming in at 0.01 seconds.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Canon Rebel T2i||0.02|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Canon Rebel T2i||0.18|
|Pentax K-5||31||6.9 fps
|Nikon D7000||19||6.4 fps
|Olympus E-5||120||5.0 fps
|Canon Rebel T2i||170||3.7 fps
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Single shot-to-shot times were as quick as you could shoot, reacquire focus and shoot again - about 0.43 seconds was my best time. Continuous shooting rates met the advertised 6 fps standard and in fact just a bit more, and the D7000 managed about 19 frames before the buffer took a break. You can set the camera to permit up to 100 captures as long as you keep the shutter button depressed, just don't expect them all to be at 6 fps. Here's the middle 4 shots of a 6 shot sequence.
Anytime a company trots out a new system such as the 39 point AF system in the D7000 there's perhaps a bit of apprehension as to how it will perform. After all, how would you feel if you plunked out some serious money on the latest model camera and found you'd gotten a faulty AF system? D7000 owners have nothing to fear based on my time with the camera. The Multi-CAM 4800DX system did a good job of acquiring focus in good to dim conditions (it features the same -1 to 19 EV detection range as Nikon's D300 and D3 series) and tracking moving subjects, particularly in the manual exposure modes. With a little customization you can select 11 or 39 AF points, and single-point, dynamic-area, 3D-tracking or auto-area AF. While the camera performed well tracking moving subjects in the auto and scene modes that first-time users may gravitate to, the D7000 will reward more experienced shooters with precise AF performance if they take the time to adjust settings to their shooting style and subjects. Here's some AF shots with a busy background, of zoo critters through glass and through glass in low light and a gull head on.
The D7000 built-in flash has a guide number of 39 at 100 ISO, which gives it a range of about 11 feet at the f/3.5 maximum aperture of the kit lens at wide angle, and about 7 feet at telephoto's f/5.6 max aperture - minimum range is 2 feet. The flash will cover the field of view for a 16mm lens. The maximum recycle time that I encountered was about 3.5 seconds, and the camera can disable the shutter for a brief time if too many flashes in rapid succession pose a threat to damage the flash tube from overheating.
Battery life is listed as 1050 shots according to a CIPA standard which usually has proven accurate.
As mentioned in the flash section, the 18-105 kit lens offered with the D7000 has maximum apertures of f/3.5 and f/5.6 at the wide and long ends of the zoom. Not overly fast, but about average as kit lenses go. Since there's very little noise penalty in making the jump from 100 to 200 ISO, I tended to shoot at 200 to gain an extra stop unless circumstances dictated otherwise.
Kit lens or not, the 18-105 is an AF-S lens and features Nikon's Silent Wave Motor, which uses ultrasonic waves converted to rotational energy to focus the lens. The 18-105/D7000 combination offer fairly quick AF acquisition and focus. When I match the D7000 with my pro AF-S lenses (VRII70-200, VR200-400 and VRII400/2.8 for this shoot) they seem a tiny bit quicker, but the kit lens acquits itself well in this arena.
There is some barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom and edges and corners are a bit soft, with some slight light falloff in the corners. At about 24mm the peripheral distortion is pretty much absent, and then the lens shifts over to pincushion distortion as it zooms beyond 24mm. Edges and corners are better at telephoto with only slight softening. The D7000 has an "auto distortion control" (off by default) that may be enabled to help reduce barrel and pincushion distortion during shooting. These shots at about 48mm with and without distortion control enabled show the effect.
Distortion control may also be applied in-camera as post processing in the retouch menu. There is some chromic aberration (purple fringing) at both ends of the zoom, but it is fairly benign and needs larger magnifications to make it visible with some close scrutiny. Overall, the 18-105 does a fairly good job.
The D7000 has the ability to store information on 10 non-CPU lenses (CPU lenses communicate lens and other info to the camera via contacts on the lens base) that may be recalled to "tell" the camera when a particular lens is attached and permit exposure metering in the A or M shooting modes. Cameras with non-CPU lenses onboard seem to expose about a stop or so under, so this shot with my 1975 Nikkor 50/1.4 AI lens got about 2/3 of a stop of exposure compensation dialed into the camera.
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