Nikon D7000: The midrange model to beat?

One of the most eagerly anticipated dSLR announcements of the year, Nikon's D7000 specs don't disappoint.

Nikon D7000
Nikon USA

Nikon D7000
Nikon USA

It's been a long time coming, but Nikon has finally unveiled its new midrange model, the D7000, in one of the most eagerly anticipated announcements of the year. The D7000 doesn't replace the D90; it's launching at a higher price than the D90 did, and the D90 is still widely available. Instead, the D7000 takes on the Canon 60D in the price class up from the D90, with a host of improvements that portend well for the new camera.

What's new? Lots. The D7000 incorporates a new Nikon-designed 16.2-megapixel sensor coupled with its Expeed 2 processor; with this pairing Nikon ups its analog-to-digital conversion to 14-bit processing, which has the potential to produce a noticeably better dynamic range. There's also a new (presumably better) metering sensor, more sophisticated autofocus system that falls somewhere between the D90 and D300s in sensitivity, and a viewfinder with 100 percent scene coverage.

Nikon D7000
Nikon USA

It's also Nikon's first dSLR to rise to 1080p HD video, with the added bonus (for whatever it's worth) of full-time autofocus during video capture. And the body's construction, though not quite as tanklike as the D300s, incorporates an all-metal chassis with magnesium-alloy covers (the rest is polycarbonate), and is sealed against dust and moisture like the D300s.

There are also some changes from the traditional Nikon body design that I think are great. The D7000 has custom settings available via the mode dial (rather than just through a powerful but confusing menu interface) and a dedicated movie record button. It also provides two card slots in a category that generally only offers one, and uses a new battery grip that supports AA batteries.

Here's where it sits in the product line and the competitive field:

 Canon EOS 60DNikon D90 Nikon D7000Nikon D300sOlympus E-3
Sensor (effective resolution)18-megapixel CMOS12.3-megapixel CMOS16.2-megapixel CMOS12.3-megapixel CMOS10.1-megapixel Live MOS
22.3 mm x 14.9mm23.6 x 15.8mm23.6 x 15.6mm23.6 x 15.8mm17.3 mm x 13.0mm
Color depth14 bit12 bit14 bit14 bit12 bit
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3,200/6,400 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 6,400/25,600 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3,200/6,400 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 3,200
Focal-length multiplier1.6x1.5x1.5x1.5x2x
Continuous shooting5.3fps
16 raw/58 JPEG
4.5fps
n/a
6fps
n/a raw/100 JPEG
7fps
n/a
5fps
16 raw/unlimited JPEG
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
96% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
96% coverage
0.94x/0.63x
100% coverage
0.94x/0.63x
100% coverage
0.94x/0.63x
100% coverage
1.15x/0.58x
Autofocus9-pt AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.811-pt AF
1 cross-type
39-pt AF
9 cross-type
51-pt AF
15 cross-type
11-pt AF
twin center cross-type
Shutter speed1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync1/8,000 to 60 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability100,000 cycles100,000 cycles150,000 cycles150,000150,000 cycles
Metering63-zone iFCL420-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II2,016-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering1,005-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II49 points
Image stabilizationOpticalOpticalOpticalOpticalSensor shift
Video1080/30p/25p/24p; 720/60p/50p H.264 QuickTime MOV
Monoaural
720/24p Motion JPEG AVI
Monaural
1080/24p/25p
720/30p/24p/25p H.264 QuickTime MOV
Monoaural
720/24p Motion JPEG AVI
Monaural
None
Manual aperture and shutter in videoYesNoYesNon/a
Mic inputYesNoYesYesn/a
LCD size3 inches articulated
1.04 megapixels
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 million dots
2.5 inches articulated
230,000 dots
Wireless flashYesYesYesYesYes
Memory slots1 x SDXC1 x SDHC2 x SDXC1 x CF, 1 x SDHC1 x CF, 1 x xD
Battery life (CIPA rating)1,100 shots850 shots1,050 shots950 shots610 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)5.7 x 4.1 x 3.15.2 x 4.1 x 3.05.2 x 4.2 x 3.05.8 x 4.5 x 2.95.6 x 4.6 x 2.9
Body operating weight (ounces)26.6 (est)2627.5 (est)34.231.6
Mfr. price$1,099.99 (body only)$899.95 (body only)$1,199.95 (body only)$1,699.95 (body only)$1,299.99 (body only)
$1,399.99 (with 18-135mm lens)$1,199.95 (with 18-105mm lens, est)$1,499.95 (with 18-105mm lens)n/an/a
Ship dateSeptember 2010August 2008October 2010August 2009November 2007

Not only does the D7000 look pretty threatening to the 60D, but it looks like both a compelling cheap alternative to the D300s and a significant upgrade over the D90 for not a lot of money. For video shooters, the 60D still has a slight edge; though many indie videographers tend to prefer 24p, at the very least it's nice to have the 30p option, and 30fps with full-time autofocus is more attractive to the mainstream user. (More info about the D7000's audio controls will have to wait till the manual appears online or my hands-on evaluation.) Plus lots of folks, including me, love the articulated LCDs. But it's hard to argue against the better coverage for the viewfinder, ostensibly faster burst shooting with a deeper buffer and potentially better autofocus, and a more durable body construction. I'm really looking forward to trying this one, along with some of the new lenses announced this week. Really, the only disappointment here is Nikon's continuing silence about a full-frame model to replace the D700, which is now going over 2 years old.

Nikon SB700
Nikon USA

I'm also looking forward to using the new flash Nikon has announced as the replacement for the SB-600, the SB-700. It adds SB-900-like features with a similar button layout, but at about the same size as the SB-600. It will include the SB900's light-pattern distribution options--standard, center, and even--FX/DX autosensing, automatic ratio control to balance among multiple flashes, an easier to use gel cover system and firmware upgradability. Nikon claims a faster recycle time (0.5 sec) over the SB-600, and when it overheats it slows down rather than shutting off completely. It has one stop less power than the SB-900, controls only two wireless groups rather than three, and covers a shorter focal range--24-135mm--but for most people (including me), none of that matters as much as the smaller size and cheaper price tag: $329.95. It's slated to ship in November.

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