If you’ve never owned a single lens reflex camera in your life and now find yourself in the market to get one, you’re in somewhat of an enviable position.
You’re not bound to a brand the way that some of us are—and by that I mean you’re not sitting on hundreds or even thousands of dollars of lenses that will only work with one brand of camera or the other, usually Nikon vs Canon.
People who’ve got Nikon lenses are going to go with Nikon for a new body, and people with Canon lenses are going to go Canon. For them, the first choice is already made, and then they find themselves working within the whatever limitations they might face comparing camera bodies within their brand of choice’s lineup.
But, you: you can go any way you like. You’re starting fresh with no allegiances.
So which way to go? This article is geared more towards the mid-range shopper—you want something a little more robust than the entry level, but you’re not willing to splurge on a professional grade body just yet. Nikon and Canon each have impressive cameras in this range, so let’s take a look at their offerings and see how they stack up against one another.
In a comparison of the Nikon D7000 vs. Canon 7D, which one is the better value?
We’ll start where pretty much everyone starts—megapixels—and then we’ll see why this shouldn’t be a deciding factor for you. It’s tempting to operate with the assumption that the 7D will take higher quality pictures because of its 18 megapixel sensor (compared to the D7000’s 16). For some, that’s enough of a reason to go with a certain camera over another, but that doesn’t mean it should be.
We’ve reached a megapixel tipping point: that is, the resolution of the photos on these cameras is such that the human eye can’t even tell the difference. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you watched your 1080p HD TV and marvelled at how crisp and beautiful the picture is. That’s only 2 megapixels. So, when you’re talking about the difference between 16 and 18, understand that the benefit is not in the picture you see on the computer screen, or even in an 8×10 print. The difference is when you need to decide whether you want your poster-sized photo print to be 2 or 2.5 feet tall. If you’re not going to print that big, you will be satisfied with either the Canon or Nikon, and shouldn’t let this data point guide your decision.
Similarities between the 7D & D7000 camera models:
After megapixels, a lot of the specs of the Nikon D7000 vs. Canon 7D are pretty comparable, almost identical.
They both rely on small format sensors, which end up cropping the field of view your lens can pick up. There’s no way around this unless you want to jump to a pro-grade full frame camera.
Both cameras have similar native ISO sensitivity, ranging from 100 to 6400. Each has a custom function to bump the speedier end up to 12800, and the Nikon can go a step further to 25600. These higher ISOs are not going to be in your regular shooting repertoire, though—you’ll use them very minimally, if at all.
Both cameras also offer shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds and as fast as 1/8000 of a second, and include a Bulb setting, where the shutter stays open for as long as you’re holding the button down.
And they have similar video capabilities, shooting full 1080p HD quality movies. They’ve each got wireless flash transmitters, able to execute a high degree of control over multiple external flashes. And internally, the cameras’ software have a wide variety of in camera processing options. There’s a lot to like about the Nikon and the Canon.
So where do they differ?
Well, if you are concerned about picture quality, the Nikon’s got some specs that slightly edge out the Canon in that department. Its sensor is able to pick up 23.5 bits of color; the Canon records 22. This is a small difference, but it has more impact on the quality of your photos than megapixels do.
The Nikon’s dynamic range is greater, exceeding the Canon’s 11.7 by about 2 stops. This essentially means that the D7000 can properly expose in a wider range of illuminance than the Canon. The D7000’s sensor can expose and autofocus properly in dimmer light (with less noise at higher ISO) and brighter light.
The Nikon’s DX sensor outperforms the Canon’s APS-C, and it’s slightly larger, too. It’s a little more than 10% bigger, and so its crop factor of 1.5x is a bit less—meaning a bit more in the image—than the Canon’s 1.6. It sounds like a small difference, but if you think about how much a lens costs, and how you’re never able to use it to its fullest potential with a small sensor, you start to realize that every little bit helps.
Probably the most noticeable divide when comparing the Nikon D7000 vs. Canon 7D is in the autofocus system.
The Nikon’s got 39 autofocus points, 9 of which are cross-type. Cross-type sensors are preferable, able to focus on a horizontal and vertical plane simultaneously and offering greater precision. The more cross-type sensors there are, the more likely you’ll be getting a perfectly focused shot as your subject moves around the frame.
The Canon’s got less over all focus points—just 19—but all of them are cross type. But it’s also the faster camera, with two processors and significantly less shutter lag than the D7000 (131ms to the Nikon’s 238), and the ability to shoot 8 frames per second to the Nikon’s 6. Still, the slightly lower speed is more than made up for by a high performing autofocus system.
There are trade-offs between the two—the Canon’s got 19 cross-type sensor and the Nikon’s only got 9, but the Nikon’s got 39 total AF points to the Canon’s 19—but the D7000 also has something called 3D tracking.
Since the AF points are laid out from left to right on the frame, when your subject moves directly forward, most cameras can’t make the adjustment. The camera’s locked into something that’s behind the focus point, and if that subject remains behind the same focus point it doesn’t register. With 3D tracking that problem is overcome—the camera follows your subject left and right, forward and back.
Both AF systems are powerful and have their merits: if you’re a consumer looking to break in a new hobby, or just continue an old one, you have to ask yourself what features you’re willing to pay for.
The Canon is sturdier; the Nikon is lighter
There are a few other areas where the Nikon D7000 vs. the Canon 7D comparison might not make much difference to, or even get noticed by, the amateur shooter.
The Canon’s got a sturdier build—both cameras advertise a magnesium alloy construction, but the Canon’s is metal throughout. Every bit of the body, including the lens mount ring, is made up of solid, weight supporting metal.
Nikon’s lighter build is not as sturdy as the 7D
The Nikon, on the other hand, uses the magnesium in places that are most important for even weight distribution—mostly on the top and in the back—but the front of the D7000 is largely plastic. If you’re thinking about getting some larger telephoto lenses, which get heavy, Nikon’s plastic lens mount may wear or be pulled out of whack over time. But, again, if you’re a consumer/amateur looking or a great all around camera, you’re probably not thinking about investing a few thousand dollars in professional glass for your rig.
The Canon wins in video function!
There’s some minor differences in the video capabilities, too. Beware Nikon’s touting of its autofocus, which most users have described as “useless” (check some online Nikon forums to see what I mean). It’s a contrast type autofocus—meaning it relies on there being a great deal of image contrast between the subject and background—that makes no use of the still camera’s autofocus abilities. The sensor is easily “confused” and is slow to pick up where focus should go; the video will go in and out of focus as the camera attempts to lock onto something.
The Canon wins in video function, precisely because of it being a faster, more compute powerful camera. Its processing power allows the 7D to shoot HD video at 25, 30, or 60 frames per second (60 is great for recording slow motion scenes). The Nikon goes as high as 24 frames per second, the lowest you can go while still depicting fluid motion.
In comparing the Nikon D7000 vs. Canon 7D, we see that there is a lot to like about each camera. In both cases, you’re going to get high quality images, and each model has something to recommend it over the other. But in a comparison this close, price tends to be the deciding factor.
When you consider that the 7D’s more advanced features are geared towards professionals with very specific needs, it seems that the $300 list price difference over the D7000 isn’t worth it for the amateur who’s looking to get a nice camera.
Searching online for more current prices shows a narrower divide between the two, but the Nikon is still the more affordable camera. There are several options to buy a new D7000 for around $650—from reputable dealers—while the least expensive Canon is $800.
Given the price difference, the Nikon D7000 is the better choice
My advice? Save the $150, and buy the Nikon. Then use what you towards getting a great all around lens. Superior glass will improve your photos more than extra processing power.