Nikon upgrades most everything in its launch of a new midlevel flagship.
Eventually serious photographers outgrow the cameras they learn on and decide to step up to more advanced models. For the current Nikon system, that model is now the 16.2-megapixel D7000—a rugged body with nicer controls, faster bursts, and better AF than the D3100 or D5000. This $1,200 (street, body only) DSLR offers everything the aging D90 does, while adding 1080/24p video capture, a second memory card slot, and upgraded metering and AF systems. With all that going for it, we were eager to run it through our rigorous tests.
In the Test Lab
The D7000 earned an overall image quality rating of Extremely High for ISOs from 100 all the way up to ISO 800. In our resolution test, it turned in 2390 lines per picture height, placing it squarely in the middle of the range that qualifies it for an Extremely High rating. Not quite as much as we would have expected from a 16.2MP sensor, and not enough to beat out Canon’s 18MP EOS 60D, but it’s still a whole lot of resolving power.
Color accuracy easily earned an Excellent rating with an average Delta E of 6.4—certainly laudable, although most DSLRs these days earn an Excellent rating here.
In our autofocus speed test, while the D7000’s 39-point Multi-CAM 4800DX system was no slouch, it proved slightly slower than the Canon 60D across the board. To its credit, the Nikon managed to focus in less than 1 sec all the way down to EV –1, the lowest light level for which it’s rated to function. So, it lives up to its claims with aplomb.
Given Nikon’s excellent record in noise suppression over the past few years, we expected the D7000 to do better in our noise test. Again, it fared well, but it couldn’t match the 60D, which reached one more stop of sensitivity before hitting Unacceptable.
Even though our test deemed the D7000 too noisy by ISO 3200, the camera retained an impressive amount of resolving power across its entire sensitivity range. At ISO 6400, it maintained 2330 lines, and at ISO 25,600 it still managed 2260 lines. As always, there’s ample room to turn noise reduction up from Nikon’s default settings in Capture NX2, the included software, which we used to convert the RAW images in our test. So, if you don’t mind sacrificing resolution—if you’re planning to print small, for example—it’s entirely possible to turn the noise down to bring ISO 3200 and maybe ISO 6400 into acceptable territory.