Nikon D7000

Volume 14, Issue 19; 31 May 2011

After a week of pretty intensive use, some thoughts on the Nikon D7000.

For my birthday this year, I replaced my Nikon D80 with the D7000. For an actual, competent review, I highly recommend the Nikon D7000 Review over at dpreview. What follows here are some amateur observations and ramblings.

The D80 and the D7000 are very similar. I bought the D7000 a month early (birthdaywise) and just a few days before we left on vacation. Despite having really read the manual just once, I had only one operational difficulty. (I wanted to switch to AF-C mode when taking the seagull shots in Gibraltar and I couldn't recall where the AF button was located; it's down on the AF/M switch, if you're curious.)

The D80 is a great camera (would you like to buy one? :-). What motivated me to buy a new camera, mostly, was better low-light performance. In that, the D7000 really does shine.

Here's a shot in St. Michael's Cave at ISO 1600.

That's a 2472 × 3732 image (about 8¼ × 12½ inches at 300dpi) cropped down (mostly to straighten the stalactites) from the camera's full size of 3264 × 4928 (in the portrait orientation). The raw files are correspondingly large, by the way, coming in at around 20Mb each.

Here's a small section of that image (about 1/4 of the way from the right edge, just above the middle) at full size:

That really is remarkably good. Here's about the same section taken at ISO 25,600.

Ok, that's awful, but it's ISO twenty-five thousand six hundred for crying out loud!

For a similar comparison at ISO 100, here's a shot of the harbor

and a similar detail section:

The Exposure Problem

If you read the review linked above, you'll find among the “cons” for the D7000 the observation that it has a “tendency to overexpose in bright sunshine/high contrast situations”. This is absolutely true and not an insignificant problem.

Here's an extreme example. From down in the gorge at Ronda, looking up at the new bridge, the D7000 totally blew the exposure on this image:

In fairness, this is a pretty impossible situation. There's bright sunshine in the hazy sky above and deep shadow in the valley. But the problem manifests itself whenever there are bright highlights and high contrast.

Once you know it exists, it's not an insurmountable problem as exposure compensation is pretty easy. By dialing in a quick compensation of about -2EV, I think, I got something usable:

And with a little tinkering in Lightroom, I was able to rescue the image.

Mostly. I think that image is still a little “flat”, but I'm willing to chalk that up to my deficient post-processing skills. Mostly.

I was aware of the problem going in, and I don't regret buying the camera (an investment in Nikon glass is likely to keep me brand loyal anyway), but if anyone at @Nikon_Photo happens to be listening, a firmware upgrade that improved the situation wouldn't seem amiss.


If you know the photo situation you'll be in will be an exposure problem, you may want to enable auto bracketing mode for it:

While a firmware fix would be the best solution, doing an HDR-like procedure could get you by until then as well. Saving in RAW for those troublesome scenes would give you some extra flexibility too.

—Posted by David Magda on 01 Jun 2011 @ 01:20 UTC #

Bracketing is certainly a good idea. I've just set my compensation (on a Lumix GF-1) to always shoot things underexposed and have found few downsides, as you've discovered. For that camera I often wish there was an easier way to switch the metering mode, which may be your solution here (center weight on the sky-ish, then shoot the scene, which is exactly what I would do with a manual camera anyway).

—Posted by Keith Fahlgren on 04 Jun 2011 @ 03:17 UTC #