Field Test: The Nikon D7000 (Day 3)

The Pentax K-5, Mamiya RZ33, and Nikon D3 (from front to back)

The Nikon D7000 is a nimble camera, tough and straight forward. It has Nikon’s trademark field-ready ruggedness. It also has the right tools to work in a studio, with only a couple features, Nikon has reserved for more expensive models. Certainly, when working with studio strobes, it’s important to have manual exposure, manual white balance, and a way to trip the flashes (I used an Elinchrom Skyport wireless trigger which slide’s onto the D7000‘s standard hot shoe).

The D7000 and Studio Shooting

When shooting in a studio setting, it’s important to have tools that allow for precise adjustments and consistency from shot to shot. It’s also an advantage to have a camera that’s compatible with a lot of studio gear: lenses, tripods, connectors, etc. The D7000 has a standard tripod socket, Nikon’s standard lens mount and full autofocus support (unlike a few lesser Nikons) a standard hot shoe mount, and a standard (for 35mm) mini USB port. Unlike bigger Nikons, starting with the D300s, the D7000 does not have a PC sync port for strobes, a 10-pin cable release socket, or a standard size HDMI port.

Working to the D7000‘s advantage is Nikon’s newest autofocus system. It’s a major strength of the camera, which does a quick and accurate job grabbing focus, even in a darkened studio. It worked well with the Micro Nikkor 60mm f2.8 AF-D macro lens used for the example images, a lens with an old-fashion screw-powered autofocus. Photographers considering the D3000, D3100, or D5000 will have to choose to give up autofocus with classic Nikkors like this, as Nikon’s entry level cameras only support lenses with their own motors (AF-S or AF-I).

The 60mm f2.8 macro is a great fit for the D7000, whose 1.5x crop factor effectively converts it to a 90mm macro lens. In conjunction with other lenses, photographers might find the crop factor frustrating. Compared to our studio’s Nikon D3, a full-frame “FX” camera, the small viewfinder and cropped sensor has it’s frustrations.  Our affiliate partner, B&H, is currently selling the Nikon D700, the company’s “entry level” FX camera for about $2,350 (at the time of writing this), which still represents a significant price premium and makes the D7000 ($1,200) and D300s ($1,500) enticing alternatives.

Tether The D7000? Not Easy Yet.

As of today’s writing, the Nikon D7000 can not be tethered using Adobe Lightroom or Phase One Capture One (I expect support for Lightroom tethering in the future). Tethered capture is extremely handy in a studio setting. With a camera connected to a computer, files are uploaded while a photographer works, allowing very quick feedback regarding focus, exposure, and composition. If there are more than one person on set, it can help create a more collaborative experience. And, even when working alone, a photographer can see a more finished version of a shot almost right away. The official list of Nikon cameras currently supported by Adobe Lightroom include the D90 and D300s, the two cameras most closely related to the new D7000, so it should be only a matter of time.

Photographers who do a lot of tethering should definitely give Phase One’s Capture One a free 30-day test. It was the original Lightroom and still has a couple compelling advantages (my current favorite being a free “App” that allows iPad and iPhone users to see images and histograms on screen as they’re made.)

In the meantime, Nikon offers the very capable, but ugly and overpriced Camera Control Pro 2 Depending on your work flow, a better workaround while we wait for Adobe to add the D7000 is likely to be to the use of an Eye-Fi SD Card/wireless transmitter and Lightroom’s Auto-Import function.

Also, for location shooting, I often tether my Nikon D3 directly to a monitor using a standard HDMI cable. It’s a handy way to include other people in the shooting process and to check composition on a bigger screen. The D7000, like the Pentax K-5, takes a mini HDMI. Mini-HDMI to HDMI cables are readily available, but it was a minor frustration during our test shoot.

Ergonomics and Handling

The Nikon D7000 is comfortable to use, though less rubbery and contoured than some competitors.  For studio shooting, I miss the AF button found under a photographer’s right thumb on so many other cameras (as discussed in previous entries, the D70, D80, and D90 line have never had a dedicated AF button). I prefer the size of the D7000 to our recent Pentax K-5, which is a slightly smaller, though more sophisticated camera.

In our next entry, I’ll take a close look at the camera’s autofocus system, a definite strong point. With the D7000 tripod-mounted, it’s very easy to move the point around (in shooting mode and with autofocus point select active, the 4-way rocker switch defaults to point moving with the center OK button re-centering the point). Also, the camera’s auto select and AF-A modes served well during our shoot. For this type of shooting, I prefer to manually select a point, as it’s easy to emphasize one feature or another by having certain image elements in or out of focus.

Additional Images (click to open in a new window)

Conclusion, Day 3

The Nikon D7000, despite certain limitations (like no full-size HDMI or PC flash sync socket) is a capable studio camera. It’s 16.2 MP cropped sensor does a good job recording contrast and detail. Images are not quite as sharp and the tool set not quite as sophisticated as more expensive Nikons, but the D7000 delivers great autofocus, color, shadow detail, and intuitive, straight-forward controls. It offers a standard tripod socket, standard hot shoe, and can accept Nikon’s full range of lenses, all of which make it a handy studio camera.

About the Test Shoot

Speaking of studio cameras, the subject of these photos is the new Mamiya RZ33 digital medium format camera. The camera is Mamiya’s latest in the classic RZ line and uses an electronically-linked 33 MP digital back developed by LEAF.  Read my full review of the $18,000 camera (including more D7000-captured product shots) at

Images for this post, unless otherwise noted, were all shot with the D7000, lit with Speedotron strobes (202VF heads and a 1205cx pack).

The author at work, photo by Laurie Beardsley, (Nikon D3, 17-35mm f2.8)

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