The D7000 is Nikon's latest mid-range digital SLR. Aimed at the photographer who's seeking a more affordable camera than Nikon's top-tier devices, the D7000 goes up against Canon's EOS 60D and EOS 7D. You can expect to pay around £1,200 for the D7000 with a stabilised 18-105mm zoom lens (Nikon dSLRs don't feature built-in anti-shake systems).
Whistles and bells
Most pro photographers say you can't go far wrong choosing between a Canon and Nikon dSLR. For serious photography, these two companies' offerings remain streets ahead of the competition -- not just as regards performance, but also in terms of the amount of lenses, accessories and add-ons available. So what does the D7000 do to tip the balance in Nikon's favour this time?
The D7000 includes all the bells and whistles expected at this level, and even some that aren't. It has a 16.2-megapixel resolution, a Nikon DX (as opposed to full-frame FX) format CMOS image sensor, and a basic light sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 6,400, extendable to a see-in-the-dark 25,600.
It also has twin SD/SDHC/SDXC memory-card slots (so you're unlikely to run out of storage space), and a dedicated 'LV' (live view) switch for flipping the camera's mirror mechanism out of the way and using the 3-inch, 920,000-pixel LCD display as an aid to composition and manual focus. Thirty-nine autofocus points and AF tracking complete the picture. Curiously, though, there's no live histogram to show the areas of brightness or darkness in any given image as you're shooting it.
The D7000 also offers a 1080p video-shooting mode, recording at 24 frames per second in the MPEG-4 format, with the benefit of autofocus adjustment as you film. This avoids the need to manually adjust the focus as you zoom in and out of a scene, although you run the risk of the image briefly going soft as the camera lens adjusts, and you also get the noise of it doing so.
Shooting video requires first switching to the live-view mode and then pressing the red record button at the centre of the LV switch. While you have a brief wait, as the mirror adjusts, before you can begin shooting, it's a fairly smooth process.
The HDMI output resides beneath a chunky rubber flap on the camera's side. It will let you connect the D7000 to a hi-def TV or monitor. There are also ports for AV out and USB connectivity, as well as a socket for the attachment of an external microphone for stereo recording. The D7000 offers compatibility with GP-1 GPS units, additional battery packs, and Nikon's Speedlight flashguns too.
Hot to handle
With a rugged, dust- and moisture-resistant, magnesium-alloy chassis, the D7000 feels solid and capable of withstanding occasional knocks sustained in the course of duty. Those who like their dSLRs well-built and chunky will be pleased with this camera.
In terms of handling, the D7000 makes a good first impression, although the handgrip could be wider. On the top plate, a chunky shooting-mode dial, with just the right amount of give, provides access to the auto shooting mode, scene modes, a couple of user-customisable settings, and the standard creative quartet of program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority and manual modes. Nikon hasn't stuffed the D7000 full of pre-optimised settings. The shooting-mode dial is encircled by a second dial that offers a selection of drive modes.
On the other side of the top plate is a useful, rectangular LCD display that lets you review at a glance which shooting settings are active, with metering and exposure compensation given their own dedicated buttons.
The menu, white-balance, ISO and quality settings all have their own dedicated buttons in a row to the left of the main screen, where they fall readily under the thumb of your left hand as you grip the camera. The playback and image-delete functions likewise get their own buttons just above the display. Most of the camera's essentials features are readily to hand, therefore, and the buttons are large and clearly labelled too. To save time, there are also both front- and rear-mounted command dials for quickly scrolling through available options.
The D7000's optical viewfinder is large and clear, offering 100 per cent frame coverage. Under most circumstances, we didn't find ourselves needing to switch to live-view mode for stills shooting. The LCD display could, however, be improved by making it a tilt-and-swivel offering, thereby providing the ability to shoot around corners or at high and low angles. But this is nitpicking.
The noise of the shutter firing is just loud enough to let you know the camera's in full working order, while quiet enough not to disturb your subject.
As we've found with other Nikon dSLRs, the D7000's results can look rather muddy and flat when captured on dull days. They could perhaps do with being slightly sharper too. Also less than ideal is the fact that the camera tends to overexpose highlight detail -- something that's impossible to retrieve later. But, generally, the camera's images are on the money.
The D7000 offers plenty of retouching options in playback mode too, including digital effects filters. These are fun, and useful should you wish, for example, to add warmth to an image in-camera, rather than at the image-editing stage.
We've only been able to touch on the Nikon D7000's features in this review, but you can be sure it will keep you entertained if you like to fiddle around. Its automatic functionality is also entirely satisfactory if you're one of those people who like to get snapping as quickly as possible. Anyone trading up from a compact camera for the first time will find Nikon's D3100 offers better value. But, for those who value rugged build quality, the D7000 will be well worth considering, despite its fairly hefty price tag.
Edited by Charles Kloet