Readers of my posts on Nikonians.org (and posts on the Kickstartnews.com front page blog) know full well that I suffer video lightly. Of course I'm in the majority still, but I have to acknowledge that video shooting with DSLR cameras is growing rapidly. That all sorts of TV shows, documentaries and other entertainment, information and news are being shot with both Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras right now is not hurting the movement toward the use of powerful and feature-rich video subsystems in DSLR cameras. The D7000 is the first Nikon DSLR with full-time autofocus in both movie mode and Live View mode, an advance that is crucial for broader usability.
Auto ISO remains useful, although the Nikon implementation is not as intuitively usable as it could be. Bracketing (of just about anything - flash, exposure, ISO, etc.), double/multiple exposure, and the D7000's remarkable full-auto mode are all wonderful and work flawlessly. 3D focus tracking has been refined by Nikon to the point where it can be kind of eerie. Same thing with the combination of AF-A autofocus. The camera just seems to know what you want. Interval shooting is robust, making it easy to take time-lapse still photo sequences in a variety of ways.
The D7000 is solid and just hefty enough to anchor stable handheld focusing. With a vibration reduction lens it's tempting to let shutter speeds drop precipitously during handheld shooting, but I'd say you're better off keeping handheld shutter speeds up about 1/focal-length or faster. All those megapixels - a lot more per square millimeter of capture than your previous 12.3 megapixel Nikon sensor - show blur more readily than lower resolution sensors. Keep your shutter speed up though, and you'll be amazed at the detail and clarity you can capture with the D7000. Add Nikon's optional MB-D11 battery/grip and the whole thing turns into a professionally stable shooting platform. Seriously - the D7000 on its own works extremely well, but add the grip and everything just gets better. Obviously, the grip recommendation is not for anyone who craves great things in smaller packages, but I really like the grip and camera together.
I found some great lens combinations for the D7000. First and foremost, the Nikkor 16-85 VRII works well with the D700 because the lens has the optical quality to justice to the high resolution sensor. Similarly and not surprisingly either, both the Tamron SP 17-50 f/2.8 Di-II VC and the Sigma DC 17-50 f/2.8 EX OS zooms worked wonders, albeit without the reach of the Nikkor. The cream of the standard zoom crop has to be the Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 professional zoom. In wide angle, there's only one reasonable choice as far as I'm concerned - the "Nikkor 10-24 f/3.5-4.5. A prime kit consisting of the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8, and the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR micro can't be beat. Excellent long zooms for the D7000 are also easy to find, but the one I prefer is the Nikkor 70-300 VR. With all these lenses, if you want tack sharpness, you'll have it. If you want lovely bokeh, you'll have it. Consider these choices before any others.
Nikon has upped the ante on button customization. The customization menu provides a dizzying array of options. For example, set the actual Fn button to activate the horizon level, and set the AE-L/AF-L button to AF-On. The list of options is huge.
All of the Nikon DSLR camera bodies released over the years have something called My Menu. It's simply an empty menu into which you can link your most-used menu configuration items all in one place. A few minutes spent populating My Menu with all the configuration items you're used to will help get you up and running quite quickly with the D7000.
The D7000 video system deserves clear and emphatic support. Get to know it - read the user manual. Wing it like you did with your old camcorder and the results will be less than stellar (just like the lousy footage you got from your camcorder). Use an external mic, or better still, an external audio recorder and mic setup in order to get the best out of the system if you're a serous video shooter or movie maker. Remember that the D7000 is not any kind of camcorder, rather it's a serious, hi-def video camera capable of producing professional results. With any Nikkor lens - prime, zoom, micro/macro - you've basically got in your hands a professional movie-making rig. Technical quality of footage is outstanding. Full time autofocus is a revelation quite frankly and a grand step forward for DSLR video. It works surprisingly well, despite autofocus response being slower in video mode than it is in still photo mode. This notably amateur videographer shot lots of sort clips for a couple of small family projects and one research project. It's sufficient to say that if you plan your shots, control focus manually and depth-of-field properly, and use an external audio recorder, with practice and some judicious reading/study of video technique, the D7000 (plus the usual amount of video editing time in some decent software) can be used to produce stunning results.
Nikon's slightly goofy Auto ISO feature continues to work well, while at the same time baffling too many users. It works like this: a) set an upper ISO limit, b)set a lower shutter speed limit. The camera will then start to increase ISO as needed when you hit the lower shutter speed limit. Problem is, when you hit the upper ISO limit you've set and the camera doesn't like the exposure at that point, it will then drop the shutter speed below the limit you set in an attempt to get a decent exposure. The result is often blurry shots because the shutter speed drops below even the ability of VR to stabilize.
The Nikon D7000 handles well. Nikon has done its typically great job of ergonomic body design. The position of the AE-L/AF-L button seems to work for everyone no matter what size hands they've got. For most photographers, activating button controls and working the control pad should quickly become second-nature by touch alone.
I've been walking and wandering with a pair of D7000 bodies for many months. My primary one has been through thick and thin with me - rain, snow, sleet, baking heat, absurdly high humidity, rapid changes in temperature, it has been dropped, banged, bumped and scraped. It's still going strong. The other D7000 was relegated largely to indoor work in my little studio. It's going just as strong as the daily driver. I can't declare that the D7000 is the same sort of natural extension of my arm & hand as my big D700, but it's very close.
The D7000 with grip, two batteries, and a Tamron SP 17-50 f/2.8 Di-II VC can be carried all day on an UpStrap shoulder strap or a BlackRapid sling strap. If you're still using a neck strap, well, why are you still using a neck strap?
Rapid fire shooting (Ch or Cl) in continuous autofocus mode (AF-C) works beautifully for crowds, events, kids parties, team sports, motor racing, track & field and most everything else that involves speed and focus tracking. The system can't quite keep up with its D3s and newer D4 big brothers, but it's good enough for almost everyone except demanding pros.
In the studio or in the field, on a tripod that is, the D7000 changes personalities and again becomes almost as refined and sophisticated as its professional big brothers. In months and months of almost daily use, we really couldn't find a photography project that didn't suit the camera.
All those megapixels mean you need to pay some attention to handheld shooting technique. Switch the camera to shutter priority, leave it in whatever autofocus mode (AF-S, AF-C, AF-A) and focus point selection mode (S or Auto), set Auto ISO to range up to 6400, set your shutter speed to at least twice the focal length (e.g., 1/100s for a 50mm focal length, 1/160s for a 70mm focal length, and so on) for each shot, and start shooting. If your technique is even vaguely half-decent, you're going to get all sorts of photos out of the D7000 which are so finely detailed, sharp, balanced, richly and accurately colored, with superb contrast and balance that you'll wonder why you didn't buy the thing before now.
The D7000 has traveled about 11,000 miles (17,700 km) with me on various trips in Canada and the U.S. The camera has stood up perfectly to all the rigors of travel - bounced and buried in overhead airplane luggage bins, rolled over and dropped several times while stowed in my camera bag, rained on, snowed on, splashed with Scotch (don't ask), drenched by red wine (don't ask), shoved and banged around by dense crowds and yanked at by little kids. The camera has a few marks and abrasions, but operates flawlessly and shows all the signs of being a very tough customer now and for the future. I don't use a rear LCD screen protector of any kind, and despite all the travel and abuse, and the fact that I walk for miles with the D7000 hanging from my right shoulder by an UpStrap, there's not a mark or scratch of any kind on the LCD.
Forget statistics, measure-baiting, camera comparisons and my-megapixels-are-more/better-than-your-megapixels at 200% viewing magnification. Nikon doesn't make bad cameras. It doesn't even make average cameras. In fact, at a minimum, Nikon makes very good cameras, and the D7000 is very good indeed.
The Nikon D90 (still available and a great, 12.3mp enthusiast/amateur/hobbyist camera) and the Nikon D300s (the incumbent Nikon semi-pro APS-C, 12.3mp full-size body champ) are still in the Nikon lineup, but the D7000 effectively replaces both of them. The D90 does not have the processing power, image size, image resolution, dynamic range, superior autofocus system or advanced EXPEED processor of the D7000. The D300s has the physical size favored by semi-pros and pros, but like the D90 it too sits behind the D7000 in almost every category that matters. The Nikon D7000 has a shutter that, by my estimate, will last for ten years of typically excessive DSLR use (that is, a couple of orders of magnitude more shots than we ever even dreamed of making back in the days of 35mm film). Image quality is superb. You also need to spend some time reading the camera manual/user guide in order to help you get the most out of the camera. Side by side comparisons of technical images made with the 16.2 D7000 and 24mp D3x are indistinguishable until you get to serious magnifications and very large poster print sizes, which is impressive indeed. At a current street price which is averaging 10%-15% below MSRP, you can't go wrong.
Cons: The early manufacturing runs of D7000 bodies had shooting mode dials which moved far too easily. Nikon seems to have tightened up the dial tolerance sometime during 2011, so the dial on cameras in more recent shipments no longer moves so unexpectedly, or indeed any more than similar dials on competing cameras. If you're buying a used D7000 from an early run, just be aware of the quirk and get into the habit of checking that dial. The built-in audio recording mode is mono only. Mono-only in this day and age? Nikon effectively forces you to purchase an external audio recorder and to sync audio during editing. The viewfinder gridline feature which greatly aids compositional alignment would be even more useful if the lines were switchable to the golden ratio as well. Only sRGB and Adobe RGB color space selections - no ProPhoto RGB until you get to the semi-pro Nikon bodies. Although the viewfinder provides a 100% field of view, magnification is only 0.95x which is competitive, but we'd like to see 1.0x or slightly better in this class of camera. The SD card door can slide open if you don't develop the right draw coming out of your camera bag. Viewfinder dioptre adjustment is -3 to +1m?ą, but we could hope for a bit more range. Although it can certainly be done, the mid-size camera body does not work that well for left-eye shooters and you'll have a difficult time using the AE-L/AF-L lock button. The interval shooting feature works for stills only, not video clips. No live histogram in Live View or viewfinder - it's in playback and shot review only. There's a very small rubber cover piece at the bottom front of the right side grip that frequently pops up slightly when I draw the camera out of my shoulder bag; it looks like a service port cover of some sort, and Nikon should revise this bit of design in future bodies.
Pros: The Nikon D7000 is quite a camera. Gorgeous 1920 x 1080 24fps video in either MOV or H.264 format, that is clean and slick. Nikon jumped into professional quality video recording with the D3s and all of Nikon's considerable resources were brought to bear on making the technology, technical quality and usability top notch. All of that effort shows in the D7000. Out-of-camera JPG files are startlingly clean and crisp. Nikon NEF/RAW files are a joy to work with. Reports of soft JPG files at the camera's default settings are unfounded as far as we're concerned, although we liked a bit of additional contrast. The D7000 is fast, responsive and feels comfortably solid; construction quality is best-in-class. Viewfinder coverage is 100% and very bright. The every-shifting line between enthusiast, semi-professional and professional camera bodies blurs a bit more with each successive generation of enthusiast camera bodies. The D7000 can be used almost easily to produce professional quality photos but at 20% less cost than a D300s, half the cost of a D700, and only a third of the cost of the D800. Throw a fast sport zoom on the D7000 (70-200 f/2.8 anyone?) and you've got yourself a superb sports shooter. Mount a super wide angle instead such as the Nikkor 10-24 zoom, and you've got a remarkable landscape or effects shooter. Mount a standard zoom such as the Nikkor 16-85 VRII or the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC, and you've got yourself a wonderful street shooter. The list goes on. Like I said at the beginning of this review - what's not to like? Outstanding camera. Highly recommended.