Hot on the heels of Canon’s 60D announcement, Nikon has today revealed the successor to the popular D90 consumer DSLR, the D7000. Both of these cameras have made some considerable improvements on their predecessors and consumers these days are really starting to see higher end features trickle down into the lower end bodies. Last week I wrote an article comparing the Canon 7d with the 60D which was very popular and designed to give the Canon shooters a few pointers as to which might be the best camera for them. This week it’s going to be a Nikon Vs. Canon battle for those people who have yet to pick a side. Lots of things to think about here because whilst most expected the D7000 to go head to head with the 60D, Nikon came out swinging and have incorporated a few features that in some cases put it closer to the 7D. Read on….
The table above tells a few stories but firstly, if you did not already read it I’d recommend taking a look at last weeks article comparing the 7D to the new 60D. If you already have money invested in Canon lenses then that is where you will want to have a close look. If you have yet to chose a side, Canon or Nikon, and you want to invest in a consumer DSLR that ranks at the higher end of the scale then you have a tough decision to make. I’m a Canon man myself, but I have no qualms in saying that Nikon’s new D7000 is a very impressive offering at an even more impressive price point. For me the standout features of the D7000 are its 39-point autofocus system and the partial magnesium alloy construction. Whilst the video specification are impressive for a Nikon camera, there is nothing really new in there that we have not seen from Canon. The AF system and the construction were unexpected surprises for me though.
UPDATE: B&H has the 60D in stock NOW
UPDATE 2: 60D in stock at Amazon too
I’m going to break it down into a few different segments here.
The 60D and the 7D both have the same size sensor at 18MP whilst the D7000 has 16MP. Realistically I’m going to say that neither one or the other really has an edge in this area. An 18MP image from the Canon cameras is 5184 pixels wide and a 16MP image from the Nikon is 4928 pixels wide. That is only a difference of 256 pixels in width which in real life usage is going to make very little difference. Don’t get caught up in the megapixel race! Unless you are making 30″ wide prints I wouldn’t let this specification sway your decision.
High ISO performance
At this point this has to be speculative because the D7000 and 60D are too new to have concrete results. But based on previous performances by the respective manufacturers you would have to guess that the D7000 is going to have the edge in this department. The fact that it is only 16MP Vs. the 18MP of the other two will likely have a beneficial effect on the Nikon’s high ISO performance. As with many of their cameras, Nikon has decided to offer a lower pixel density in order to generate less noise per pixel. The D7000 also has ISO expansion all the way to 25600, whereas the Canons top out at 12,800. If you are a huge fan of shooting in dark situations the Nikon is taking the edge certainly against the 60D though I would say the processing power of the 7D will keep it in check and between the 7D and D7000 there might not be much difference.
If you are looking to shoot sports, or other potentially fast moving subjects like wildlife then the 7D takes the win in that category hands down, but that is part of the reason it costs a lot more than the other two. Between the D7000 and the 60D there is a modest difference in shooting speed, 5.3fps Vs. 6fps. If you shot a burst of 3 seconds then the 60D would yield 16 images and the D7000 would yield 18 images. Not a huge difference….. But the D7000 though takes the advantage by being able to shoot 100 JPEGs before filling up the buffer, compared to only 58 JPEGs for the 60D. In this category you get what you pay for with the 7D though which will shoot 8fps for 126 JPEGs.
Compared with the 60D, the D7000 is the clear winner in this category. A new 39-point AF system should trounce the aged 9-point system that Canon carried over from the aging 50D to the 60D. Given Nikon’s reputation for making excellent AF systems I would guess that at very least it will match the 19-point AF system of the 7D, if not beat it entirely. Though the 7D has far fewer AF points, it does have some very clever zone focusing systems up its sleeve so I would not expect the difference to be too great, but that’s not saying very much considering the 7D is a much higher price point. Canon really needed to have put the 7D’s AF system in the 60D to stay in the game for this category.
Design and Construction
The Canon 60D is made entirely out of plastic whilst the Nikon D7000 is a combination of Magnesium alloys and plastic. To be more exact, and I think this is important because most websites seem to have missed this fact, only the top and the rear of the D7000 are made of magnesium. The 7D on the other hand again justifies its higher price point with an entirely magnesium construction and very substantial weather sealing. No exact information is currently available as to the extent of the D7000 dust and moisture sealing although it is expected to be much greater than that of the 60D as Nikon has made a point of mentioning it in the press release. So another win for the 7D in this section if you are looking to use your camera in inclement conditions and generally be fairly rough with it. Nobody ever intends to drop their camera but its nice to know the magnesium is there on the 7D if you do. On the other hand, if you drop the D7000… well it seems as though you have a 50% chance of being better off than if you had a 60D as there is still plastic construction to the bottom and front of the camera.
Quite simply the D7000 delivers a much better viewfinder than the 60D which only covers 96%. As I have mentioned before on this site I can’t bear to use anything less than 100% these days and whilst the 7D delivers 100% coverage, so does the D7000 but in a much cheaper package. Well done Nikon, great to see.
Though the 60D is the cheapest model of the 3 it definitely offers the best LCD screen by being the only one to be totally articulated. Whilst not a necessity as far as I’m concerned, it could certainly be a benefit in some situations. I think in order to keep the price down on the 60D though, Canon had to sacrifice quite a few other things in order to have this screen. The only reason I would let an articulating screen be a deciding factor in a DSLR purchasing decision though is if I only intended the camera to be used for shooting video. In that situation there are far more applications for such a screen. If video is you main reason for looking at either of these cameras then being able to swivel the LCD to view it while it is low on a tripod or simply shade it from the sun, is a great feature. One that would, for me at least, trump many of the aforementioned categories where the 60D and D7000 were fairly close.
Micro adjustment is a feature that allows you to make minute adjustments to the autofocus system to tailor each of your lenses to your particular camera. Despite tiny manufacturing tolerances, not all lenses are produced equally to micro-adjustment allows you to compensate for the small amount of back or front focus that many lenses exhibit. First time DSLR users may not worry about this feature so much as it only shows results on the pixel-peeping level, but for those that have used a pro DSLR before and perhaps want one of these as a backup body, micro-adjust is a great thing to have to tune all your lenses to “tack sharp”. The 7D and the D7000 both have this feature but it has been left out of the 60D. To me this has been done solely for the purpose of distancing the 60D and the 7D from each other because micro-adjust is simply a software feature. A “no-cost” feature that needs no physical alteration of the camera. Since the 60D’s launch this has been something that has been mentioned time and time again. Many people are not happy about this feature being left out and there are several internet forums running petitions for Canon to implement a firmware update to correct this omission. Again given the 7D’s higher price point, this really is another win for the D7000.
There is no doubt that this is Nikon’s most powerful offering to date in terms of video recording. We finally have full 1080P though oddly only at 24p. Whilst people clamored for 24P on the Canon cameras I think there is still a place for 30 frames per second as well so Canon still has one up in this department. Nikon does offer 30 at 720P which suggests that 30 at 1080P was simply too much for the Nikon processors to handle. Both the 7D and the 60D also offer 50/60 fps at 720p allowing you to conform the video to something slower and create a decent slow motion video. In the frame rate department then Nikon has only bettered its own cameras and still doesn’t come close to the Canons.
Manual video controls are available with then D7000, but strangely it has been reported that you must set the aperture before you enter live view mode for shooting. With the 7D and the 60D this is not necessary and ISO, shutter speed and aperture can all be adjusted with live view enabled. Right now I can’t think why Nikon would have either chosen to do this or be forced to do this. In terms of audio control, the 60D has the edge here with its manual level controls. The D7000 does also have manual audio but it is limited to a three-position setting. The 7D lacks any sort of manual audio.
The big question! Who should buy what ?
There’s no doubt that Nikon is making waves in the mid-range DSLR market with the D7000 and I hope their aggressive implementation of higher end build and features pushes Canon to do the same in the future but it’s still not the perfect camera. For video enthusiasts the 60D stands out with its articulated screen and plentiful selection of frame rates. Since the “video revolution” with DSLRs Canon has been two steps ahead of Nikon. Whilst Nikon have listened to a lot of the complaints, they still haven’t addressed all of them but at least now I would say they are only one step behind. Next year’s camera evolutions are going to be very interesting!
If video is only a secondary use for your camera then the line is blurred a little more and price point comes into play. The D7000 appears to be phenomenally good value and for only $100 more than the 60D I would take the Nikon any day if it was my first DSLR. That is probably the first time I have said that about ANY Nikon camera! For professional usage the 7D can get the job done very well and I know many pros who are out there making a living with the 7D. The robust construction and 8FPS shooting speed are key factors but that is why it costs nearly a third more. As a backup body for a pro the D7000 would be great but I would not want to have it as my sole camera if I was making my living with it. For most amateur shooters though the D7000 will be more than enough camera. Judging by early samples I’m sure that it will be a highly capable stills camera and a decent video camera and for the amateur market, any improvements that might be gained by spending more on the 7D would probably go unnoticed.
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UPDATE: B&H has the 60D in stock NOW
UPDATE 2: 60D in stock at Amazon too