Nikon D7000 – A User Review

Edited to Add:   most of the searches leading people to this blog have been with regards to panoramas and low light shooting situations.  To that end, I am adding links to a few more examples.  

The first link is a small teaser album of stitched panoramas from my recent Utah trip:

Most of the above are from minimum five shots.  Some are as many as eleven shots.

For low light shooting see my recent post on my Buffalo Bill museum visit.  The post is HERE, and the photos on their own are at the following link:

Part I – My Digital History

There are a number of excellent technical review available to prospective buyers of Nikon’s (relatively) new D7000.  If you read only one review, I would recommend the one by Thom Hogan.

I have no ambitions to duplicate his thorough review.  Instead, I will speak from a user perspective; a user who is an amateur photographer of no consequence, no notoriety, no influence in the vast world of digital photography.  In short, I speak from the perspective of the majority of users out there.

My Digital Progression

The picture above shows my progression of Digital SLRs.  On the right is the D100, purchased in August of 2002, for a cool $1,999.  If interested, Hogan’s review of the D100 is here. At the time, the price of the D100 was considered a steal for what you got; a 6MP CCD sensor shooting from ISO 200 to ISO 1600 (you could push it to 6400 but got lots of noise).  The D100 replaced my Nikon N8008 film SLR, and since the D100’s sensor is DX format, it means there is a 1.5 multiplier applied to the focal length of all my lenses.  Great for my Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens, as it pushed the upper number to be equivalent to a 600mm lens, but not so great for my then 18mm wide-angle lens, which instantly became a not-so-wide-angle 27mm lens.

That started a continuing search for lenses that would accommodate my propensity to shoot panoramic views of the world around me.  Lenses probably deserve their own article, and one day I will write one, but not now.

The D100 is a good sized camera that balances well with my lenses, handles nicely on the fly, and has decent controls arranged to help minimize shooting errors.  Most of all, the D100 opened up the world of photography for me.  No more waiting for film developing, or being worried about taking the extra shot or two.  I could shoot away to my heart’s content, secure in the knowledge I was limited only by storage space (and that kept getting cheaper).

My photography went from occasional dabbling when traveling, to nearly a 24/7 affair.  From that point on, I seldom went anywhere without my camera and a couple of extra lenses.

The Backs of My Digital Progression

A scant three years later the D200 was introduced (Hogan’s D200 review here), and I opted to pass on upgrading my D100.  In part, it was the money (could not justify the $1,600+ cost after only two years of owning the D100), and in part because the D100 met the needs I had at the time.  But I must admit to LCD envy.  Look at the difference in the picture above.  The preview screen of the D200 was significantly larger.  Usable, even.  That’s the D200 on the left, in the above photo.   “Wait!” you say, “I thought you passed on upgrading!”  I did, but the story is complicated.

Two years after the D200 came out, the D300 came out, a significant improvement all around, and two years later, in 2009, the D300s came out, adding the ability to capture movies to an already capable camera.  I was ready to upgrade, but rumors of the D400 kept me from jumping in.

Also in 2009, I was asked to shoot a wedding.  I worried about not having a back-up, so I bought a new D200 at what I thought was a steal; $599.  A lot of value for the price.  The D200 is a prosumer camera that I knew would serve me well for a few years until I bought the still rumored D400.

Forward to today.  My guess is the D400 will be available sometime later this year, but more likely next year.  Meanwhile, I started reading reviews of the D7000 (Hogan’s D7000 review here).  Did I mention I am not a pro?  I dabble, stumble, and trial-and-error my way to shooting photos that sometimes I like very much.  After reading the reviews, and because of the tragedy in Japan (and its impact on Nikon plants), and based on the fact I’ve been waiting for the D400 for three years, and faced with the prospect of another year or more, I realized the D7000 was a good fit for my needs.  Sure, I would like a D400, but if I am honest, the D7000 will suit me just fine.  So I ordered one.

OK, that is the history of the cameras I’ve owned or considered owning.  One can look at a technical comparison of the cameras mentioned by clicking this link.

D7000 Panorama - Pikes Peak

Part II – Nuts and Bolts

With two exceptions the D7000 has everything I want;  it lacks a decent buffer, and bracketing is limited to 3 frames, +/- 2.0 EV in various intervals.

In English, it means that if I hold the shutter down for continuous shooting, the D7000 will take 10 or so raw shots before the buffer fills and the shooting rate drops from 6 frames per second to one frame per second.  That is a little better than the D100, but much worse than the D200 (which clocks in somewhere in the upper 20s – I’m unsure because that is more than I usually shoot in continuous mode).  One can switch to shooting JPGs, and that number would increase the consecutive shots one could take with the D7000, but I am a raw shooter; I like the flexibility it gives me in post-processing.

The D200 can bracket 9 frames, meaning I could take a sequence of 9 shots ranging with a +/- 2.0 EV exposure range.  Very useful for HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos, which one day I plan to add to my bag of tricks.  With the D7000, I will have to take multiple 3-frames sequences at differing intervals to give me a sufficient progression of exposures, or just do my own bracketing for however many shots I want.

Make no mistake; this is a complicated, sophisticated, and very capable camera.  Because of the full auto option and the “scenes”, the camera is labeled a “consumer” camera as opposed to a “prosumer” camera (the D200 and D300S are prosumer cameras).

My opinion?  The “consumer” shooter is wasting their money with this camera.  You would buy this camera for all the features it has, and never use the presets unless, as Hogan calls it, you want a “waiter shot” (you set the camera on auto, and ask the waiter to snap a picture of your group – of course, with the self-times or remote you could accomplish the same thing without the waiter).  But, I’m often wrong (don’t tell anyone I am willing to admit that, because I will deny it).

Edited to Add:  It would have been more useful to me, the user, if Nikon had taken all those scenes and made them customizable.  That is, able to be modified by the user, and those modifications be saved for future use.  Conversely, they could have done away with scenes, and just given us the choice to save that many customized settings.  That would have been very useful, in point of fact.

Anyway, on to some details.

The D100 at 6.0MP outputs raw files (.NEF) that can be as large as 10MB.  The D200 at 10MP outputs raw files that can come close to 16MB each in size once transferred to my PC.  The D7000 at 16.2MP outputs raw files that go a bit over 19MB in size.  This is important in a good way, and in a bad way.

The good is you capture more information, have better ability to crop and enlarge, while the bad is hard drive space requirements.  I have a tendency to save photos on the off-chance one day I will work with them and make them great.  This camera may finally break me of that.  At 20MB a pop, you can chew through a lot of storage pretty quick.

For me the D100 still offers the best ergonomic shape of the three.  The D200 is a hefty camera, and significantly larger, so much so it’s feels almost too big for me.  The D7000 is a shade smaller than the D100, and when I read the dimensions I was a little hesitant, but it turns out I like the size of it.

Part of the good ergonomics on the D100 was the use of dials, button placement, and button function (albeit it did not have as many features as the other two).  The D200 was a step back (in my opinion) in that respect.  The D7000 is a mixed bad.  It goes back to using a dial for choosing shooting modes, but adds buttons with multiple functions; functions dependent on the state of the camera.  It will take some getting used to.  Fortunately it has user settings that can be accessed through the shooting mode dial (the D200 required going into the menu).

One item for consideration.  The camera requires different batteries than previous models, so expect to spend some additional money for an extra battery (the battery has a good life, but depending how much one shoots, it’s never a bad idea to have a spare).  Also it takes SD memory cards instead of CF memory cards.  Some might not care, but I had to spend extra money for SD cards (the D100 and D200 take CF cards).

Did I mention it’s a sophisticated piece of electronics?  I’m still struggling with it, but enjoying the experiment and discover process.

Robin at the Bird Bath

By the way, all the pictures on this post are stored in WordPress, and you can see the larger size version by clicking on the picture.

Part III – Movies

One of the reasons I bought the camera is the movie function.  While I am first and foremost a still shooter (as a rule it’s only after I snapped a picture that I remember I could have shot video), I do want to have the flexibility of shooting high quality movies if the mood so strikes me.

The D300S offers limited movie shooting, while the D7000 can shoot up to 20min clips (can’t see me doing that, but it’s nice to have the option).  Here is an example of the first one (hand held, so not that good as far as shaking goes – but better than some of the full feature films that people pay to go see.  I don’t mean the plot, but rather how steady the camera is).

That is an issue with all the cameras I know of so far.  The mirror has to be up to shoot movies (or have the camera in Live View).  With the mirror up, the view-finder becomes inoperative, and you compose and shoot the movie using the rear LCD, and wonderful as the LCD is, you are holding a relatively heavy camera-lens combination away from the body, necessitating a tripod if you want steady filming.

I would much prefer the option to use the view-finder to compose and shoot a movie.  For one, it would allow a better and steadier grip on the camera.  For another, it eliminates the issue of trying to figure out what you are looking at on the LCD when it’s awash with bright sunlight.

The following is an example of using the tripod, but unfortunately that happened to be a very windy day, and you can still discern some shake.  Plus, when zooming in and out, the camera gets shaken by the hand touching the set-up.  Note, I did not have it configured to automatically focus, hence a couple of times it loses focus.

Finally a shot from work, this also hand held, of some fast-moving clouds  making their way over Woodland Park.

The “wind” noise is a co-worker (I was shooting from inside the office).

Again, this is without me reading a manual, determining how stuff works, or optimizing my D7000 movie-taking or picture-taking process.  I expect to learn more about filming, and eventually offer a mixture of movies to go along with my photographs.

Part IV – Pictures

The other reason for buying the camera was the touted low-light performance; being able to shoot at ISO 800 with little grain to mar the picture.

The first pictures I took were around my house.  Here are some examples, in groups of three; the first is the unaltered raw file, then an actual size (100% zoom) crop, and then the same crop adjusted (tone, sharpening, noise reduction, etc.)  All of these were shot by setting the speed to something I could easily hand-hold (1/60 sec), and letting the camera set the rest.  (you can click on the pictures to get the full size version)

A corner of my living room

100% crop - unchanged

100% crop - modified

Living Room nook - original

Living Room Nook - 100% crop - unchanged

Living Room Nook - 100% crop - modified

Christmas Cactus Flower - as shot

Christmas Cactus Flower - 100% crop - as shot

Christmas Cactus Flower - 100% crop - modified

Jacovitti Poster - as shot

Jacovitti Poster - 100% crop - as shot

Jacovitti Poster - 100% crop - modified

Overall I was very pleased with the performance of the camera with little or no input from me.  But I know . . . not very impressive.  Well, here is something that might be.

This is a view from outside my office at work, looking into my office, with the lights off.  If you click on the picture to get the full size view, you can barely discern the many pictures that adorn my wall.

Looking into my darkened office

The idea was to try out the high end of the ISO scale, in this case Hi-3.   I was not sure what that even meant (again, not reading the manual at that point, just exploring the capabilities of the camera).

I had to set the camera on manual, otherwise it would not focus or shoot the picture (too dark to get details), and I set the speed at something I know I can hand-hold without excessive shake (the VR on the lens is very good, but I am not as steady as I once was).

The next two pictures are a direct save from the raw (NEF) file out of the camera.  One is the picture itself, and the other is a 1:1 crop of a detail in the picture.

The third and fourth pictures after this one are of the same file with some of the grain and noise cleaned out.  Finally, the last picture is with the flash on so one can see what the subject looks like in good light.  For that I think I used the camera on full auto.    You can click on any of the images to get the full version.  (Edited to add:  WordPress has once again dropped the links, and not only that, the full versions are not linked . . . I’m tired of updating them, so the photos are what they are)

Picture as shot

Full-size crop (1:1)

Minor adjustments - color, contrast, removed some grain

Full Scale Crop (1:1)

Here’s what the picture on the wall actually looks like:

Full auto, with flash

So here is the thing . . . those pictures are not that great.  But they were taken from outside a darkened room with a 200mm zoom.  Many will not care, but I am impressed.

Here is another image I would have never gotten with either the D100 or the D200.  This was also shot on auto, and this too was in near dark, outside, well after sunset.

Earth Shine - what it looked like to the naked eye

If you click on the picture you get the original, where you can see the features of the dark portion of the moon illuminated by the reflection of light from the Earth (hence Earth Shine).  This was shot on auto, which ended up shooting at ISO 10,000.

Here is a brighter picture shot at a higher zoom.

Earth Shine - zoomed in, and I lightened the picture a bit

Again, most are going to look at this and be less-than-impressed . . . but not me.  This impresses the heck out of me (I am also easily amused).


I am looking forward to learn how to put this camera through its paces.  It is very conceivable when the D400 does come out it will have features that will make me wish I would have waited, but the pragmatic, the honest, the sensible part of me will slap me silly, and say something like “Until you make a living from your photos, this is more than sufficient for your needs!!”  And, as usual, I will be right.  

Meanwhile, click on the picture below to be taken to a gallery of shots I have taken in the last few weeks.  The gallery has notes with every picture, some just explaining the picture, some talking about why the picture was even possible (hint: the D7000 has more flexibility than my D200, and consequently I can take shots I would not have tried with the D200).

Edited to Add:  WordPress insists in dropping links.  Pisses me off, it do.  I added the link back to the SmugMug album, but in case it drops again, here is the URL:

Moonset over the Front Range and Pikes Peak - Click on picture for this and other examples of D7000 shots.