The Nikon D7000 outshines pricier brand mates in several important ways, easily making it a top choice of most of our leading expert sources. Reviews call this a serious camera, suitable for the dedicated enthusiast or beginners who want to learn the trade. You could save a few hundred dollars and get similarly excellent photo and HD video from a cheaper digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, but the D7000 is built tougher, shoots faster, autofocuses better and offers more custom settings, dual memory card slots and a longer battery life. All that helps make it our Best Reviewed pick.
"More pleasant to use" than an entry-level DSLR. The great thing about the Nikon D7000 is that it can work for anyone from the novice to the hardcore enthusiast, critics say. Photographer Ken Rockwell owns a bunch of cameras but usually shoots with his D7000, partly because it "handles better than any Nikon DSLR," he says.
Find room in your camera bag for the 325-page manual, recommends Imaging-Resource.com's Shawn Barnett. "There's no getting around it: If you have a capable camera, you're going to need a relatively complex menu to control it," he writes. Unlike the entry-level Nikon D3200 (*Est. $650 with kit lens), the D7000 lacks a Guide Mode to walk you through shooting a photograph. Beginners can rely on full-auto mode or the rich selection of almost 20 scene modes -- including Sunset, Candlelight and Silhouette -- until they're comfortable with the manual controls.
Eventually, they'll find that compared to the D3200, the D7000 "is more pleasant to use," Rockwell says. "It has a bigger, brighter viewfinder, and everything works a little faster and more smoothly." Like all advanced DSLRs, the D7000 gets a second, small LCD panel on top so you can check settings at a glance and change them without waking up the battery-gobbling back panel.
Although the D7000 is a bit larger and heavier than entry-level DSLRs, testers call it compact and easy to grip. Some, like Rockwell and Barnett, say the controls are very natural; others complain that a few of them are clumsy. Experts at DPReview.com find the buttons for ISO and white balance to be awkwardly placed, and there's no way to reassign the tasks to a different button. If you like framing your shots on the LCD screen, critics do note some shortcomings, including the lack of a manual aperture adjustment or exposure indicator in Live View.
PhotographyBlog.com's Mark Goldstein advises trying the camera out in a store first, perhaps alongside the rival Canon EOS 60D (*Est. $935 body only), which adds a swiveling LCD screen.
Great images, satisfying speed. Photos shot with the Nikon D7000 and the cheaper D3200 actually look about the same, according to reviews, but the D7000 is still the better camera. It shoots 6 frames per second (fps) versus the 3200's 4 fps and autofocuses better, among other things. "The difference between the D7000 and D3200 is mostly in how pleasant it is to hold, to own, to use and to shoot," says Rockwell.
While a lot of camera buzz focuses on the megapixel race, experts say the D7000's compact sensor's 16.2 megapixels are plenty. Although the D3200's 24.2 megapixels promise finer detail, you'd have to break out the magnifying glass to notice it, and the bigger pixels on the D7000 do a better job of soaking up all possible light in dim situations.
Where the D7000 really shines is in low-light shooting. While other DSLRs may falter at ISO 3,200 or 6,400, the Nikon produces good 5-by-7-inch prints at a whopping ISO 25,600 in tests. Bright-light photos look terrific, too, although a few highlights appear blown in test shots. Like most of today's DSLRs, the Nikon D7000 can shoot video in full 1,080p HD. It can continuously autofocus at the same time, but you'll hear the focus motor on your video.
Battery life is rated at 1,050 shots per charge, about twice what you'd get from an entry-level DSLR.
Built tougher than most cheaper cameras. The Nikon D7000 boasts a weather-sealed, partly metal body, which is a rarity on $1,000-and-under cameras. Experts at DPReview.com call it "one of the more substantial DSLRs in its class. A magnesium alloy chassis and 'proper' rubber hand grip (as opposed to just rubberized coating) give it a reassuring heft which is closer to the experience of holding and using a camera like the Canon EOS 7D" that costs hundreds more.
The D7000 isn't all-metal like the 7D, however; it wears plastic panels on its front and bottom. It is sealed against rain and dust, and Nikon says you can use it in temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pro-level goodies. Dual memory card slots are one of the Nikon D7000's greatest features, testers say, and one you won't find on rival DSLRs like the Canon EOS 60D and Sony A77 (*Est. $1,300 body only).
Although you can't use Compact Flash (CF) cards, the D7000 lets you plug in two Secure Digital (SD) cards. If you fill up one, "The camera automatically starts saving to the second card," Imaging-Resource.com's Barnett says. On one long shoot, this worked "flawlessly." If you prefer, you can set it to record every photo to both cards -- "not a bad idea on an important shoot" -- or save raw photos to one and JPEGs to the other, or videos to one and still photos to the other. "Regardless how you configure them, it makes a whole lot of sense in these days of large file sizes for stills and videos to already have an extra card in the camera," Barnett adds.
Compared to the entry-level Nikon D3200, you'll get more manual controls and custom settings on the D7000 such as bracketing exposure, white balance and flash; built-in flash commander mode; and a Function button you can set to access your favorite controls fast. You'll find more scene modes, too, so you can automatically capture scenes like Dusk/Dawn, Beach/Snow and Autumn Colors.
Review Credibility: Very Good DPReview.com heaps praise on the Nikon D7000's advanced specifications, with testers saying the camera even outdoes the semi-pro Nikon D300S in a lot of ways. A tendency to overexpose in strong sunlight and some disappointing controls keep it from getting the site's highest prize, but it does win a Silver Award.
Review: Nikon D7000 Review, Lars Rehm and Barnaby Britton, November 2010
Review Credibility: Very Good After much shooting and testing, reviewers here say the Nikon D7000 proves an easy top pick for both enthusiasts and beginners ready to learn more. Strong all-around performance -- especially in extremely low light -- makes it easier to capture moments, and the D7000 includes helpful features such as a weather-sealed body and dual memory-card slots.
Review: Nikon D7000, Shawn Barnett, Dave Etchells, Mike Tomkins and Zig Weidelich, Jan. 25, 2011
Review Credibility: Very Good Tests here confirm many of the same pros and cons for the Nikon D7000 that other reviews demonstrate. Image quality is great, even usable up to the highest ISOs. Even some awkward controls and movie-mode drawbacks can't keep this camera off the site's Highly Recommended list.
Review: Nikon D7000 Review, Mark Goldstein, Nov. 15, 2010
Review Credibility: Very Good With outstanding image quality even at high ISOs, the Nikon D7000 wins an Editors' Choice designation here. However, Keenan finds its HD video "somewhat choppy."
Review: Nikon D7000 Review, Jim Keenan, Dec. 20, 2010
Review Credibility: Good The Nikon D7000 earns a spot on the Steve's Best list. Reviewers say its "smoking fast" shooting speeds, great low-light capabilities and lack of major flaws have "made me consider crossing over to the dark side from Canon."
Review: Nikon D7000 Review, Editors of Steves-Digicams.com, Jan. 31, 2011
6. Ken Rockwell
Review Credibility: Good Rockwell is crazy about his Nikon D7000. He says it handles better than more expensive, pro-level Nikons, and the photos actually look better. He does a great job of explaining how it stacks up against other cameras -- including Nikons -- to help readers choose the best DSLR for their needs and budget.
Review: Nikon D7000, Ken Rockwell, September 2012
Review Credibility: Good The Nikon D7000 averages 4.4 stars out of 5 in more than 500 owner reviews here, with some posts going into great detail. Although users overwhelmingly love the camera, they do share some criticism.
Review: Nikon D7000 16.2MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2012