Nikon built the D7000 using a partial magnesium shell (top and bottom) with dust and weather seals. It feels slightly less balanced in the hand than Canon's D60, but this is a minor inconvenience that most shooters won't notice.
The D7000’s user interface is easier to navigate than the D60's, but it does fall down a bit in the mode dial. The detent is pretty light, and there’s no lock, so it’s easy to accidentally change modes without knowing it.
The D7000 offers lots of buttons and controls, but they're cleanly laid out.
What’s impressive about the D7000 is that Nikon pushed its sensor size up to 16MP while improving the high-ISO capabilities over those of past generations. In fact, even at the extreme setting of ISO 25800, there’s almost no color noise, though luminance noise is quite distracting. Auto white-balance occasionally has issues with flickering fluorescent lights even at relatively low ISOs and high shutter speeds.
Nikon’s LCD-based UI offers fewer choices than Canon does but also doesn’t require you to scroll through long menus to find obscure settings. Like the EOS 60D, there is a flexible set of control customization options. The mode dial also has two settings, labeled U1 and U2, that let you easily recall customized settings.
The built-in flash works as expected but can also act as a master in Nikon’s CLS remote flash system if you’re using Nikon SB700 and higher flash units. On the consumer-friendly side, the D7000 has more scene modes than many point-and-shoot cameras—19 in all. Some of these actually work better than we expected. In particular, the Silhouette mode metered complex backlit scenes amazingly well. The D7000 also has two SDXC-capable slots, and you can designate whether to use one to mirror the other as spillover or for video.
That red accent tells you it’s a Nikon.
One highly useful feature is the 39-point autofocus (nine are cross type), which is easily selectable with the D-pad. The ability to fine-tune your focus provides excellent composition opportunities. On the other hand, don’t forget to move the focus point back to center when you’re shooting fast action! The D7000 can shoot at a full 6fps, which makes it a great option for sports, but the buffer size is limited. If you’re shooting 12-bit raw format, the buffer fills at 14 shots and takes 12 seconds to flush. If you want to shoot at a higher dynamic range, the D7000 can shoot in 14-bit mode—but the buffer fills after only a few shots.
Video is more limited than on either Canon camera. 1080p is only supported at 24fps and there’s no 60fps option for 720p. Image quality is good at those resolutions, but if you plan on shooting lots of video, the limitations are worth noting.
Overall, the D7000 is a high-end prosumer camera with some professional aspirations. It’s got great low-light performance, reasonably fast autofocus, and feels pretty good in the hand, though large lenses will alter the balance. The mode dial is a little problematic, and the buffer could be bigger, but overall, the D7000 offers photographers great shooting flexibility coupled with useful handholding when you need it.
$1,200 body (online), $1,500 w/18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, Nikon.com