As a technology writer, critic and journalist, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the products we write about are things people actually buy, and don’t just get for free, or get to try out for a month at a time. That’s not to say I or other staff members at Gadget Review often get free products for review (we do, sometimes), but rather that it’s unhealthy for anyone who tests a lot of equipment free of charge to not buy something which they write about. It disconnects the writer from the reader, because at some point the money spent on the item just stops mattering.

But, in the holiday cheer and thanks to my birthday, I went and bought the Nikon D7000, a top-of-the-line “prosumer” DSLR, an upgrade from my current Nikon D40x. And I’m so glad I did.

The Nikon D7000, which based on Nikon’s nomenclature for different DSLRs appears to be a step up from the D5000, is actually the upgraded D90. It’s the top-end model from Nikon before heading into professional cameras. For some background, DSLRs are often considered professional, though in fact there are three types of DSLRs: starter, prosumer and professional. Starter is for amateur photographers looking to get better picture quality than compact or sub-compact cameras (like point and shoots or superzooms), but don’t want to pay too much. The D40x, for several years now, was one of the best starter DSLRs on the market because it was so cheap and, with enough skill, could crank out excellent pictures. Every product photo I’ve done thus far has been with the D40x.

Then there’s the prosumer, which is a consumer looking for a better edge, but isn’t educated enough, or willing enough to spend several thousand dollars on camera equipment. The D7000 is at the top of this group. It’s not huge and isn’t too expensive at $1300 for the body, but it’s no kids toy. Finally, professional-grade cameras include models like the D3x, Canon 5D Mark II, and named known for over a hundred years like Hasselblad and Leica. While Nikon and Canon may have $5,000 cameras, others can go from the thousands to hundreds of thousands. But let’s focus no the D7000.

It’s a beauty, it really is. My only regret is that I can’t take pictures of it, with it. Photos taken with the D40x, by comparison, are about 40% more likely to be thrown out. At least, that’s been my experience over the past three days. I’ve already accumulated over 500 shots this weekend alone (many of course are duplicates), and just sorting through them all has been an adventure in and of itself. But after taking a peak at the D7000 itself, here’s some of the first photographs I’ve conjured up with it.

First Pictures

Take a look at the first batch of pictures I’ve taken with the D7000. This was with minimal effort, rare settings changing (mostly in auto mode, using no flash), and no post-processing (editing). The only changes made were cropping them to fit the screen, so all images are 650×431. Enjoy!

First Impressions

The D7000 feels great. It’s a heavy camera, but the firm rubber gripping and black metal casing makes it sturdy and easy to grip. In fact, compared to the D5000 and several other models, the D7000 feels great in the hand. The right hand’s middle finger fits perfectly in the groove below the shutter release, and a thin indentation makes it so easy to hold onto with three fingers that, with a lightweight lens, anyone should be able to take steady pictures single-handedly.

That won’t hold true with the kit 18-105mm lens, which is very large, and very good. I tested it with both the D7000 and D40x, and although the lens has a larger circumference than any DSLR lens I’ve used, it works very well. Much better than the similar 55-300mm lens, both of which have motorized autofocus and VR (vibration reduction).

The D7000 comes with a slew of features, which I’ll go into more depth for the full review. The few I did test out have thus far been stunning. Like 6fps for pictures. Setting the D7000 to CH mode should deliver up to 6 frames per second, and that is awesome.

What I found to be the biggest initial difference is how it just soaks up pictures so quickly. Past Nikon cameras I’ve tested weren’t slow per se, but they weren’t fast. The D7000 is just a fast camera, regardless of the lens. It takes pictures faster, even with slower shutter speeds and a slower lens, than the D40x. Against the D40x, this isn’t a surprise, but I’m pretty amazed at how fast the D7000 shoots regardless.

And then there’s the 16 megapixel sensor, which is both good and bad for the D7000. As far as I’ve seen thus far, picture quality doesn’t suffer with the larger image size, something many cameras (specifically compact and smaller) use as a selling point that has no bearing on image quality. Images range from 16.5MB to 24MB, which is a significant scaling issue for the camera. After taking even two pictures in a row, the D7000 often has some slowdown and lag time between shifting the view from one picture to the next. Both the D40x and D5000 didn’t have this problem, though I’ll investigate it further for the full review.

Finally, many of the shots I’ve taken these last few days have been in the dead of night, with only minor artificial lighting. As you can see, the images still come out pretty darn great, with minimal setting changes and zero edits, besides for image cropping. Hell, every image in this first look is the basic JPG, instead of the RAW images downscaled. But don’t worry, for the full review we’ll have RAW pictures properly set for your viewing pleasure.

Stay tuned, as I’ll be using the D7000 for product shots and testing in the coming weeks, and a full review will be up in the coming week or so.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.