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      03-18-2011, 11:49 PM   #6
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D7000 it is! - found this review on Amazon of all places

Nikon's Incredible New Mid-Range Camera, 28 Oct 2010
By Robert Groom
This review is from: Nikon D7000 Kit AF-S DX 18-200 VR II (Electronics)
At the time of writing this, Nikon shooters at the advanced enthusiast level have four choices which camera body to buy - the D90, D7000, D300s, and (at a stretch) the D700.

I was probably one of the first people in the UK to get my hands a D7000. I have a friend who travels regularly to the US, and he managed to pick one up for me from a certain large electronics retail store when they broke the official Nikon release date, and I've had a good look at it over the last week and a bit. Beware that if you source a Nikon camera body from the USA, its warranty is invalid in Europe. This is not so for lenses.

I've owned a D300 and currently own a D700 and a D70s. I've also had use of a D90 and a D80, so I have a pretty good deal of experience with Nikon mid-range camera bodies. What I wanted was a backup body with a crop sensor for shooting long range telephoto. My D70s with only 6MP resolution is not really up to the job any more.

When the D7000 was announced (even unofficially in the rumour forums), the more I heard about it the more I wanted one. Here was a new model above the D90 but supposedly below the D300s. However, in reality - is that actually true?

The question you're all wondering is - does it live up to all the hype - and if you have a grand to spend on a Nikon camera body, which are you going to pick - the D300s or the D7000?

So, with that in mind, let's examine the significant features which distinguish the D7000 from the D300s:

16.2MP CMOS Sensor (D7000) vs 12.3MP CMOS Sensor (D300s) - I'm not one to pick resolution over noise, but fortunately here you don't have to. The D7000 wins this one hands down.

DxO Mark have recently released a formal summary of the abilities of the D7000 sensor, and remarkably it ranks even with the D700, and a full 10 points above the D300s. This is broken down as follows:

Camera: ............................ D300s ... D7000 ... D700
Sensor Score Summary: ....... 70 ........ 80 ........ 80
Colour Depth: ..................... 22.5 ..... 23.5 ..... 23.5
Dynamic Range: .................. 12.2 ..... 13.9 ..... 12.2
Low Light ISO: .................... 787 ...... 1167 .... 2303

Sensor Score Summary: Logarithmic - a 5 point increase equates to a 1/3 stop increase in sensitivity - D7000 is equal to D700, which is amazing.
Colour Depth: Ability to resolve fine gradations in tonality - D7000 is equal to the D700.
Dynamic Range: Resistance to blown highlights and shadows - D7000 is not only better than the D700, it's also better than the D3X and Fuji S5 Pro!!
Low Light ISO: How high can you increase ISO while still getting 'decent' quality images - D7000 gets a very respectable score here.

12/14-bit RAW (D7000 and D300s) - this is a major potential obstacle avoided. If the D7000 didn't support 14-bit RAW, that would have been a deal breaker for me. The D90 significantly only has 12-bit RAW support, and when it comes editing, and adjusting levels in particular, those extra two bits per channel make all the difference in fine graduated tones, helping to avoid posterization.

Full 1920x1080p Video with autofocus support (D7000) vs 1280x720p Video (D300s) - for those looking for video support, the D7000 wins hands down. It supports full HD mode, and AF still functions while you're shooting. I have to say that I'm still not a huge fan of shooting video with a DSLR (I don't think the form factor lends itself particularly well to shooting video) but for those of you who want it, just forget the D300s and choose the D7000.

39 AF points with 9 cross type sensors (D7000) vs 51 AF points with 15 cross type sensors (D300s) - it's unfortunate that Nikon chose to reduce the number of AF points to keep the D300s and its inevitable successor (the probably D400) in the next rung up the AF ladder but I don't think this significantly degrades its usability. If anything, the AF performance on the D7000 is superior when performing 3D tracking than the D300(s) and D700. Indeed, the D7000 has as much % frame coverage as the D700 when it comes to AF points. The small step down from 15 to 11 of the far more useful cross type sensors is significant in that it's less dramatic than the reduction in overall count. By contrast the D90 only has 1 cross type AF sensor.

100% viewfinder coverage (D7000 and D300s). This is actually an improvement over the 95% coverage on my D700!

6fps (D7000) vs 8fps (D300s) - you may think that the D300s has the edge here. However, note that at 14-bit RAW (which in my opinion you really should be shooting to get maximum picture quality) the D300s is limited to 2.5fps, whereas the D7000 can still shoot at its full 6fps maximum, so if 14-bit RAW is important to you (as it is to me) you may conclude that the D7000 has the edge here too? Sports shooters needing the full 8fps of the D300s may however be happy shooting JPEG Fine or 12-bit RAW. Horses for courses.

2 SD Memory Slots (D7000) vs 1 CF + 1 SD Memory Slots (D300s) - personally I prefer CF to SD, but if I have dual slots (my D700 doesn't, but I really wish it did), I'd prefer then to take the same format memory cards. This is a plus for the D7000 in my book, though CF devotees may think otherwise.

3 frame bracketing (D7000) vs 9 frame bracketing (D300s) - a clear advantage for the D300s, and possibly one feature over which some users may not be willing to compromise - especially those keen on HDR shooting. That said, you can still manually bracket beyond 3 frames if you have a sturdy tripod - and who shoots HDR without a tripod? Minus points for convenience though. 3 frame bracketing is perfectly sufficient for exposure bracketing for safety - e.g. for wedding shooters.

ISO 100-6400 (D7000) vs ISO 200-3200 (D300s) - now we're at the real advantage the D7000 has over the D300s - high ISO performance. In my opinion, ISO 6400 on the D7000 is roughly equivalent to ISO 3200 on the D300s. It's *almost* but not quite as good as ISO 6400 on the D700, which is nothing short of remarkable, particularly when you consider that the D7000 not only has a smaller sensor than the D700, but it also has 4 million more pixels of resolution - that's an astounding feat by Nikon. They really have come up trumps with this new sensor.

The D7000 is pretty much identical in size and layout to the D90. Nikon have always had their ergonomics perfected, and almost all their cameras sit nicely in the hand. The D7000 is no exception. It's more compact than the D700 and D300s, but because of its alloy casing, it feel rather more hefty and well put together than the D90, which I really like.

As far as new controls are concerned - the new double dial on the top of the camera is a nice addition, especially the two user definable shooting modes, which I think I'll use a lot to move between either indoor and outdoor shooting or standard and flash based shooting.

When it comes to actually shooting with the D7000, it's an absolute joy. It handles almost as well as my D700 (I have quite big hands, so the extra body size of the D700 does help here, as does the battery grip). The D7000 battery grip would be an improvement, but it's insanely pricey at present, and I'm not sure yet whether I'll bother getting one. There is an argument to keep the body small and compact, making it rather less clunky and intrusive then my huge D700 + MB-D10 combo (heck, a D3s would be more compact than that...)

Pictures at normal light levels are on a par with the D700, and it's only at low light levels and ISO 1600 and above that any slight difference in noise levels can be seen. This could equally be said of the D300 though. Below ISO 800, it was on a par with the D700. By comparison, the D300 - began to suffer from noise 1.5-2 stops before the D700. With the D7000, the difference is closer to 0.5-1 stops in my estimation.

I have had a play with video mode, and yes it can produce great footage, especially if kept relatively stationary and not panned too fast (CMOS wobble and rolling shutter distortion are still a feature of DSLR video footage). As I mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan of the DSLR form factor for shooting video - I prefer to have a flip & twist screen, as well as dedicated video controls, but if you're shooting tripod mounted clips, you can achieve some extremely professional results. For anything which involves walking around, you're really going to need some kind of weighted `Steadicam' type device to avoid camera shake. Autofocus during video works pretty well, though it can be a little `skittish' and it can flick between focus points noticeably and unexpectedly when shooting at large aperture. A progressive AF speed would be a nice feature, as would programmable buttons which could be set at fixed focus points so that focus could be shifted between them simply and accurately. Ultimately, touch screen focus will be the way to go I believe. I think for my general domestic filming needs, my trusty old Canon HV20 camcorder will remain my platform of choice. Deep DoF is very forgiving of the amateur videographer. As for the D7000, the audio input is stereo, and it now has multiple input levels, or an auto mode, which is a very nice feature. Just remember the 20 minute max. recording limit.

So in summary - if you're a semi-pro, and in the market for a D700, I'd say just go ahead - you'll love the huge FX viewfinder, the pro quality build and the great low light performance. However, if you're trying to decide between a D300s and a D7000, unless there's a feature of the D300s that you absolutely *must* have - e.g. 8fps shooting or 9 frame bracketing, I'd say go with the D7000. That is, of course unless you're willing to wait until the (probable) D400 is announced. That will inevitably have even more pixels, similar low light performance, plus all the trappings of a true pro-build body.

Whether to go with the D7000 + 18-200mm VR II kit lens or just the body? This particular lens is actually one of the better DX VR Zoom lenses. I had one with my D300, and it is capable of getting some pretty decent, sharp shots. The huge zoom range makes it very flexible as a fit & forget travel lens, and I'm sure it will make a good starter lens for someone moving to Nikon for the first time. Ultimately though, it's not going to get the best out of the D7000's high resolution. For that, you really need to look around at some of the pro zooms and reasonably affordable prime lenses like the 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8. That said, you generally get a reasonable discount when you buy a Nikon body and lens as a kit, so you can probably sell it on for not much less than the difference between the kit price and the body only price if you ultimately decide it's not the lens for you.

As for the D7000 - it's a real winner for Nikon.

Highly recommended!