This is essentially my experience and thoughts about getting a new camera body (D7000), remember, it may not apply to you or your situation, it is written from my perspective for my photography level and for my upgrade path (from the Nikon D80)
So, its been pretty darn close to 4 years since I purchased my first DSLR unit, the Nikon D80, a cutting edge piece of technology back in early 2007 (from memory it was released mid 2006), this camera was an upgrade from my Sony DSC-V3 camera which, back then was the last of the ‘Prosumer’ compact cameras, I did love that camera and it did produce many a fine image for me.
I have been looking at the bodies as they got released over recent years wondering which direction I should take and what would be best suited to me, my photography level. Early on the the Nikon D90 and D300s were both worthy contenters for my attention, however at their release time there was no real justifiable reason for upgrading when my D80 was doing a perfectly fine job of capturing images. Interestingly enough, I think I have produced some of my best images to date with the D80 in the last year or so which has had me questioning the need for a upgrade. However there are a few niggling issues/aspects about the D80 that started to make me think more about upgrading the body recently, this coupled with great prices was making it hard to resist 🙂 Essentially it came down to three key points, price, low light capability and manual lens support.
The D7000 up to January this year was pushing AUD1600 for an australian body from a brick and mortar store, the grey market options were not that much better and without a very tidy saving and the loss of the aussie warranty they were not looking good, even B&H who had it for USD1100 (which did not have stock for yonks) was not really an option unless I got someone to pick one up on their travels. Digitalrev did have them at AUD1600 when they were first released, however I am somewhat jaded with them and frankly would not buy from them with a real compelling reason.
Quite recently the aussie brick and mortar stores really brough the prices down on some Nikon items, in particular the D7000 and the D700,for example ryda.com.au had the D7000 body only for AUD1279 with a free bad and cleaning kit (better than a kick in the rear I say) and the D700 for AUD 2290. This pretty well galvanised my decision especially since I could very well drop down to my local ryda store (Parramatta road) and pick one up at my convience, no waiting, no postage cost, no photocopied manual and charging adapter. In a word…nioce.
Low light capability;
More frequently I found myself cursing the the inability of the D80 to push past iso 800 with decent results, even in situations where I just needed to push the shutter up just a bit to get me over the line I found it struggled, this coupled with the fact I do tend to and like to slightly under expose my images. The D7000 was at the fore front in this department when compared to D90, D300s and D700 (well maybe).
Manual Lens Support;
I love my manual lens, I have a 105mm f2.5 which I really love, a great piece of nikkor engineering, a lens that produces contrast second to none in my lens line up, the only one that gets very close is the AFS 300mm f4. I also have a 105mm micro f4 which does not see much use now and also a 100-300mm f5.6 which is kinda obsolete now I have the 300mm f4, however they both get pulled out every now and then, the 100-300 has really nailed me some magical images in my eyes albeit with a pretty low strike rate. The D7000 promised manual lens support, most importantly, metering! (apply a suitable hallelujah sound here), man, imagine it, no more chimping my ass off with my 105mm! this could only do wonders for my strike rate. It also had the focusing assist for manual mode, the little green dot and Left and Right arrows to assist in obtaining the focus. An interesting side note, I notice the D80 has only the green dot to indicate focus has been achieved (on a manual lens also), man, never realised this…doh, insert forehead slap here.
So, here I am, a week and half into the ownership of a Nikon D7000 camera. I have clocked up 1080 images, used it for going to the park and chasing chaos around, some low light helichopper work, portraits of chaos and big nan, avalon airshow and a cockatoo island session. I have read only a smattering of the excessively thick manual (that said the index is pretty good) but thought I would share my personal review from the perspective of a D80 abuser to that of a D7000 user. There are plenty of better and complete reviews out there like Dpreview so I will not repeat the 15 pages of tech spec comparisons, as mentioned its just my user experiecne from the D80 to the D7000 and some of the pros and cons that I found important.
Gerrys Pros Summary;
- Manual Lens support
- AF tune
- Low Light capability
- More megapixels (yeah yeah I hear ya already…pipe down and read the rest)
- Weather sealed body
Gerrys Cons Summary;
- Raw file size
- Over exposure
- No ‘one click’ zoom
1) Manual Lens Support
Well as already mentioned, the manual lens support is just divine, you can record up to 12 (i think from memory) manual focus lens which you can recall with a preset number, its just a matter of setting up the focal length and maximum aperture and your away. I have the function button on the front currently setup to cycle through the manual lens presets.
The manual lens now meters! unlike the D80 which gave you no clue whatsoever, the D7000 provides feedback in the HUD (thats my acronym for the viewerfinder display) with regard to the f-stop your at and the usual metering bars +/- – i mean wow, I am still coming to grips with this!
The manual lens also has the manual assist indicators, this is on the left hand side of the HUD and consists of a single green dot and a arrow on either side, basically the arrows give you feedback to which direction you need to rotate the focus ring to achieve the correct focus. This seems pretty darn accurate and I have only had it struggle a bit at f2.5 on the 105 and this could be well be user error where i had the focus point on the wrong part of the subject. I am now in the habit of using this focus assist and also glancing at the subject before pressing the shutter and it is working pretty nicely, strike rate is already looking better.
2) AF Tune;
This is a very very handy feature, I recently realised that my Nikkor 28mm f2.8 was a bit out of focus (probably had something to do with my oily aperture blade clean, lol) I spent a few minutes one evening playing with this lens and the AF tune feature and found that with a AF tune setting of -16 resulted in my 28mm f2.8 being dangerously sharp again. I mean how cool is that, that is such sensible and useful function.
3) Low Light Capability;
Well there are plenty of examples of this across the net, but all I can say is the high iso is light years ahead of what my poor D80 is. There are plenty of situations where using a disturbingly large iso 2000+ is warranted and now if the image is nicely exposed, the image (with the in camera NR) becomes quite usuable – A secondary effect (more important for me) of the good high iso capability is the ability at lower ISOs to recover details from shadows with a significantly reduced amount of noise appearing, as mentioned I typically slightly under expose rather than over expose so this is one nice aspect for my style.
Heres one example on the right, from the other week after leaving the pool, ISO 1600 with lots of shadow, some post processing to recover some shadows and there is minimal noise, no NR on this one. This kind of mid range range ISO clean-ness really suits my photography and fits in well to my work flow.
Another example is the Sikorsky S-64 image on the left, a handheld pano shot using three images at ISO 1000, it has had quite some work to recover the shadows but the noise was definitely minimal, this was also with an exposure to suit the sunset rather than the subject. With the D80 there would have been no hope unless I had a tripod and the ability to freeze time, in this case there was no time to setup a tripod after zipping out onto the airfield and would have missed it anyway!
I can hear the groans already, well sometimes a megapixel increase is not such a bad thing, I did not choose this body for the increase in the pixel count, however after visiting the airshow and being a bit short on the focal length it meant I had some usuable cropped images which would have never been possible with the D80. Obviously this is a two edged sword, this means bigger file sizes, more storage required and more grunt required in the PP computer, however its probably something I can deal with, especially if it means I can crop images like on the right. The original uncropped version is below.
Weather Sealed Body;
Well so they say, I think this is really more of a gimmick and can lead you into a false sense of security, there are plenty examples of nikon ‘weather sealed’ bodies corroding away from the inside, I think the key is a bit like watches that say ‘water resistant’ and those that say ‘water proof’, ‘weather sealed’ really means ‘water resistant’. Nonetheless I will put this on the list of pros for me, especially since I do a fair amount of outside stuff…
In a nutshell this camera is not as good as my D80. A couple of aspects make it so, firstly the shape of the grip, it is definitely more square and not as contoured as the D80’s grip, this is detrimental to the comfortability( for me). Secondly, there is less ‘land’ on the back of the camera due to the increased sreen and hence the shuffling across of the RHS controls, this means less land for the thumb and thumb portion of the palm (I am sure there is technical term for that bit of ya hand!) this makes the camera feel less secure in my hands, particularly as I tend to walk around with the camera in my right hand. Thirdly, the finger wrap around part of the grip is shallower then the D80 meaning you essentially have less to grasp onto. This was probably the biggest disappointment about the D7000 for me and having rather large hands meant this was of a real concern. However, for me I wanted a camera that was relatively small, something comparable to the D80, something that I could happily stick in the pack and go hiking or carry for a day without needing a physio session, so this was the compromise. At the end of the day I will get used to it and it is certainly not a show stopper.
(insert some comparsion images of the D80 and D7000)
I nearly fell off my chair when the camera told me I had only 144 shots odd on my old 4gb card, holy crap, at nearly 20 mb for each raw this was gonna be disk consuming excerise! Admittingly this was with full raw files at 14-bit on a 16.2 megapixel sensor. So why’s this a con you say? Well it is at the moment, possibly it may change down the track, however at this point it is chewing up disk space like a little 19 month old toddler that I know eats, or should I say, inhales dinner.
The second disadvantage to the raw file size is processing time. This combined with Capture NX2 inability to not crash when sitting there doing sweet ‘f’ all is making my post processing a real drag. Working with NEF’s from the D7000 will guarantee a crash about every 5 minutes, usually when saving the edited file, but sometimes in the midst of just do a few simple edits. Now to be fair its a new camera and the software has probably not quite caught up and I am only using a 32 bit, dual core processor with 4gb RAM, but man, the performance is abysmal and is causing me to do some serious cursing.
3) Over exposure (on bright scenes);
This was the second con after the ergonomics, and this could well be user error here and would love for someone to point out what I am doing wrong ’cause I been doing it for a while on te D80 :). However there is also evidence out there in the web of people experiencing the same issue (not really a issue more of characteristic!). Its not a design flaw or a reason not to buy the camera imo (and you will see plenty of peeps on dpreview banging on that they wont buy it because of this?!), I think its more of the way the camera is setup to correctly expose common scenes, ie maybe to correctly expose faces at the expense of the overall scene?
Anyway the important point is, given the way the D80 and the D90 exposures it appears to be design direction by Nikon and well, I am used to the D80 and its metering system and quite frankly, at this point, the D7000 does a very similiar job! I typically use the manual mode and always have the exposure on the – side a fraction, if working in other semi-auto modes, I just dial in -0.5 on teh exposure compensation, just like I did on the D80.
4) One Click Zoom;
I think the D300s has this and the D700 does too I am pretty sure, basically its a one button press to get the preview image on teh LCD zoomed into the max, this is a really handy feature when using manual lens and you do alot of focus checking. With that said the D7000 zoom button is at least a crapload fastener than the D80. Not as good as a single press option but adequate I guess. Little things like this where they may leave off features to maintain the features of the higher models just shits me too by the way.
Well, all in all, I think this is the perfect upgrade path for me, I have (in my mind) got my moneys worth out the D80 and it will also continue to serve as a second body, hopefully for many years. The 4 year period for the upgrade feels appropriate and I have obtained better glass in the years after getting the D80 rather than look at a new body. Whilst there are few lens I am definitely wanting to get the D7000 has filled a number of key holes for me, low light capability and manual lens support are the two aspects that I will undoubtly see an increased improvement in my photography, not necessarily in quality but more importantly an improved process in capturing them and better strike rate.