I got my Nikon D70s a few months after my son was born back in 2006. The camera was launched in 2005. In the 5 years since, Nikon has released the D80, D90 and D7000. Each iteration making it ever more tempting to upgrade. As Thom Hogan rightly pointed out, most casual / amatuer DSLR users need not upgrade at every iteration. The D80, whilst an improvement over the D70s didn’t seem like a compelling upgrade to me.
The D90 is a different story, it improved over the D70s in many areas. And to be honest, it was quite tempting. But ultimately, the reason why I didn’t go for the D90 was that the D70s was still serving me quite well at the time. Fast forward 2 years from the D90 launch and we have the D7000. The Nikon D7000 is a totally different kettle of fish. Its feature set trumps the professional D300s in many areas (not all mind you). Coupled with the fact that my D70s is starting to show its age (the DOF button no longer works, sometimes the camera doesn’t recognise a lens mounted on it, and it has a small crack on the battery compartment) it was practically a no brainer as an upgrade / replacement.
I’m not an early adopter type, mainly due to the fact that most products suffer from niggling issues and I prefer to let the early crowd do the ‘beta’ testing for me. For example, there’s some chatter on the Internet forums about the D7000′s shutter dumping excess oil onto the sensor as well as other issues like AF and so on. Buying late doesn’t mean I’ll avoid these issues (there’re still some complaints about oil on forums), but at least waiting it out means giving Nikon time to look into and if possible address some of the problems. Apart from not being an early adopter, I also hate paying premium for new stuff . So, earlier this week and after a couple of price drops, I splurged on a Nikon D7000 body. Let’s hope it’ll last as long as my D70s did.
I still don’t have time to fully test the D7000, so for this post, I’ll just cover my immediate first impressions of the camera.
The D7000 is physically smaller than the D70s, but not by much. Build quality, in my opinion, is still the same top notch Nikon build. There isn’t any creaking or looseness to be found. A big difference for me would be the grip, with the D70s’ grip being the larger of the two. There’s no better or worse with regard to the grips, they’re just different. Weight-wise, the D7000 is heavier on paper, but in real world terms, it isn’t really noticeable.
The feel of the shutter button has also changed. The D7000′s shutter button feels spongy compared to the D70s’. With the D70s, you could tell where the half press is quite easily, with the D7000 you can still tell, but only after you work through the initial spongy feel (update: after 5 days of fiddling around with the camera, I would revise this statement a short throw to half press, and a spongy feel toward full press). As a result, my first shot out of the D7000 (which I had planned to snap of my wife) was an accidental black frame (F/2.8, 1/8000s) whilst I was fussing about with the button feel.
The viewfinder is great.. a huge improvement over the D70s, not only is the image larger, it has 100% coverage, so what you see in the viewfinder is what the final image will be. All of this is due to the D7000′s pentaprism versus the D70s’ pentamirror.
Two other major differences of note are the built in motor and the shutter sound. Both are noticeably quieter. People who complain about AF-D lens noise should use the D70s and then see if they’re still complaining after that. The shutter is also way quieter, more of a light ‘flap’ sound instead of the ‘clunk’ of the D70s. Of the 60 or so shots I’ve taken with the D7000, there is a significant lack or reduction in mirror slap. With the D70s, I can literally feel the mirror flip up. I’ve yet to feel that on the D7000.
One minor gripe with the D7000 is the rubber covers for the various ports on the left of the camera. In the D70s, the rubber covers can be popped out and left dangling. This way, they don’t really get in the way of wires that are attached to the camera. With the D7000, the covers are still rubber, but now they’re hinged. So the widest the covers can go is 90 degrees, which in some cases, will definitely get in the way or worse, snap off? That aside, the D7000 handles much like the D70s, most buttons are still in familiar places and the learning curve in moving up to the D7000 in terms of figuring out what the buttons do isn’t steep (thumbs up for Nikon’s standard button placements).
Okaaay… where do I start? This is going to be a long list. I will probably go from top to bottom of the camera in list form (bear in mind, this is in comparison with the Nikon D70s):
- 16 megapixels of DX goodness!
- Weather sealing.
- Magnesium shell on the back and top of the camera.
- 100%, 0.94x coverage from the viewfinder. Brighter and larger than the D70s’.
- Focus indicators from the viewfinder that tells you if the focus is nearer or further from the subject.
- 39 focus points, 9 of which are cross type. The D70s only has 5 focus points!!
- Front and rear infrared ports for the ML-L3 remote control.
- Flash can be disabled via the main dial. On the D70s, I have to turn the flash off.
- 2 customiseable user settings on the main dial.
- The mirror can be locked up before recording the image (great for macros!).
- 6 frames per second!
- Dedicated dial for shutter release modes. On the D70s, I have to press a button and scroll with the dial.
- Live view and video recording in one button.
- 920k dot 3″ LCD! This is worlds apart compared to the small, dull 130k dot 2″ LCD on the D70s.
- 16 megapixel CMOS sensor. The D70s uses a 6 megapixel CCD sensor.
- 1:1 zoom in preview images.
- Additional customiseable function button on the front of the camera.
- AF modes directly accessible from the button / switch combo on the front. No more digging around in menus.
- Dual SD card slots that can be used in a multitude of ways. The downside of this is now I have to stock up on SD cards, the D70s uses CF cards.
- GPS and external mic input available.
- Optional battery grip. Nikon didn’t make a grip for the D70s, but third party vendors did.
These are just physical features. I’ve not even touched on the features that can be found in the menu! Stuff like full CLS control for two groups of flashes and the intervalometer. Which I don’t think I’ll go into for now…
The D7000 is alot of camera for RM3000. It’s amazing what 5 years of development can do. There are quite a few things I need to adjust to or better understand. For example, 16 megapixels means any small shake while snapping and it’ll mess up your image. I also need to better understand what sort of ISO settings work best in various lighting conditions as well as how this affects the flash recycling time. Speaking of flash, will need to experiment and play with FP sync… Ok ok.. I digress.. for those of you who are like me, still hanging on to your D50, D70, D70s or D80 and you have been holding off on upgrading, the Nikon D7000 IS the camera you have been waiting for. Go out and upgrade now! Now, excuse me while I go play with it more…