DigitalCameraReview.com
Nikon D7000 First Look
by Jim Keenan -  12/2/2010

Nikon's recently announced DX (APS-C) sensor cameras mark the beginning of the brand's escalation of resolution levels beyond the 12.3 megapixels that marked the upper limit of last generation cropped-sensor Nikons. First the D3100 appeared with 14 megapixels, then about a month later the D7000 was announced with 16.2 megapixels.

Nikon D7000

More important than the resolution increase in the D7000 is the fact that it incorporates the latest Nikon EXPEED 2 processing system, a new 2016 pixel 3D color matrix meter RGB sensor, and a new 39-point auto focus system. These two new cameras provide Nikon with a clearly-defined entry-level model in the D3100, the prosumer grade D7000, and leaves those of us with D300S pondering what the D400 might bring to the table when it appears.

Nikon D7000

Besides the new processing, AF and matrix metering systems, the D7000 also features a 6 frame per second continuous shooting rate and a 1080p HD video capability with full time auto focus. The camera is available as a body only, or packaged in kit form with a stabilized (VR) 18-105mm zoom lens as was our review unit. And speaking of lenses, D7000 lens compatibility and functionality is the same as the pro-body Nikons, which encompasses the current catalogue of over 60 lenses along with most Nikkor F-mount glass dating back to 1959. Here's the D7000 set up for surf shooting with my VR 400 f/2.8.

Nikon D7000 Sample Image

The camera is weather-sealed but reaffirms its prosumer lineage by including nineteen special scene modes in addition to the traditional P, A, S and M shooting options found in high performance DSLRs.

After a full day and one brief morning shooting, a few things are emerging with this camera. The first is that the 4GB SD cards that held all the shots I could ever want when doing compact digital reviews get filled up pretty quickly shooting a RAW/JPEG fine combo at 6 fps with a 16 megapixel sensor. I mentioned at the top of this review that the resolution increase was not the most significant feature of the D7000, but what it does do is give you the ability to make larger prints than lower resolution cameras, or crop more aggressively while still retaining enough pixel density to still produce good quality prints. Here's an original shot and two crops to 8 x 12 inches, one at 301 DPI (optimal print quality) and the other at 220 DPI which will still produce a good quality print.

Nikon D7000 Sample Image
Original
Nikon D7000 Sample Image
301 DPI Crop
Nikon D7000 Sample Image
220 DPI Crop

Image quality and color is excellent at default values, but I did increase sharpening a bit via internal menu.

Nikon D7000 Sample Image Nikon D7000 Sample Image
Nikon D7000 Sample Image Nikon D7000 Sample Image

Despite my brief time with the camera, the new AF system has gotten a fairly comprehensive workout and passed with flying colors so far. It has proven to be adept at picking up a solitary gull in open sky and holding AF while tracking others across really busy backgrounds, and it tracks surfers on a wave effortlessly.

Nikon D7000 Sample Image Nikon D7000 Sample Image

It has also performed well acquiring and holding focus shooting a komodo dragon through glass and plants; a Johnson's crocodile through glass in dim light at 3200 ISO and through glass at a constantly moving tiger.

Nikon D7000 Sample Image Nikon D7000 Sample Image
Nikon D7000 Sample Image Nikon D7000 Sample Image

A quick look at high ISO performance indicates the D7000 is the best cropped-sensor Nikon ever, despite packing 16.2 megapixels on a sensor size that formerly had to deal with "only" 12.3 million. Here are 6400 ISO shots from my D300 and the D7000, both using the kit 18-105mm lens at f/11 and with no high ISO or long-exposure noise reduction selected in-camera.

Nikon
D300 ISO 6400
Nikon
D7000 ISO 6400

And here is each shot after being washed with Nik software's Dfine 2 noise reduction program.

Nikon
D300 ISO 6400 post-processed
Nikon
D7000 ISO 6400 post-processed

Finally, D7000 shots at 6400 ISO with normal and high strength high ISO noise reduction enabled in camera.

Nikon D7000 Sample Image
ISO 6400, Normal noise reduction
Nikon D7000 Sample Image
ISO 6400, High noise reduction

As day two draws to a close, the D7000 has proven to be a very capable DSLR. It starts and shoots quickly, acquires and maintains AF well with the new system, and produces the quality images one expects from a DSLR. Two days do not a full review make, but right now my only gripe with the D7000 is the somewhat awkward location of the release mode dial beneath the mode dial: it can cause you to bump the camera out of your chosen shooting mode when switching from continuous to single shooting rates or accessing the self-timer. But if that's the worst we experience from the D7000, I'm betting Nikon sells a bunch of these things. Our full review of the D7000 will follow in the not too distant future.