Trying to decide between Nikon’s D90 & D7000 models?
Buying a digital SLR camera can be a lot like car shopping when it comes to deciding which model you want. If you can find a new one from the previous model year, people say, you’ll be spending your money more wisely. It makes sense, when you think about it: you’ll get it cheaper than the current year’s crop. Sure, you might miss out on some enhancements here and there but these aren’t the things you’re necessarily looking for when car shopping. They’re just extras, and often not worth the higher price tag.
If you’re in the market for an midrange Nikon DSLR, and you’re the type of person that thinks this way, you might have written off their newest in the lineup, the D7100, for just these reasons.
And maybe you’ve done some shopping around, probably found that there are two slightly older models that are still on the market, so you might be wondering which of these will suit your needs. If you’re thinking about the Nikon D90 vs. D7000, read on.
Nikon D90 vs D7000:
The fact is, I think the choice between these two cameras is clear. The D7000 is technologically superior to the D90 in many ways, and you’ll need to judge whether these features are worth it to you.
Let’s run down some of the more prominent features.
Image Quality & Max Resolution:
I’m guessing that the first place you looked in comparing them is megapixels—but take care and give this spec its proper weight. It’s tempting to think that a D7000 will take higher quality pictures because of its 16 megapixel sensor (compared to the D90’s 12).
Is the higher MP the D700 offers important to you?
For a lot of websites doing reviews out there, that’s enough of a reason to go with a certain camera over another, but I’ve never been one for conventional wisdom. Truth is, we’ve reached a megapixel tipping point: 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 gazed in awe at sharpness and detail of the video it it displayed. That’s only 2 megapixels. So, when you’re talking about the difference between 12 and 16, understand that the benefit is not in the picture you post on Flickr, or even in an 8×10 print you’d hang on your wall. The difference becomes apparent when you start thinking you’d like to go to poster sized prints at high resolution. If you’re not going to print that big, you will be satisfied with either the D90 or D7000; you’ll never see the difference.
This is not to turn you off to the D7000; it’s got plenty to recommend it, and it really is the superior camera. The question is whether it’s worth the difference in price to you. Looking at reputable dealers online, there’s about $300 that separates the two. Is that difference warranted? Yes, absolutely. Will the extra features matter to you? That all depends on what kind of photos you want to be taking. Let’s take a look at some of the more important differences of the Nikon D90 vs. D7000, and see these are features that you’ll be using.
Probably the most noticeable divide is in the autofocus system. The D7000’s got 39 autofocus points, 9 of which are cross-type.
The D700 wins hands down when it comes to autofocus
Cross-type sensors offer greater precision, able to focus on a horizontal and vertical plane simultaneously. The more cross-type sensors a camera has, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to focus on your subject as it bounces around the frame. Not only does the D90 have less focus points overall—just 11—but only one is cross type.
With that much difference in the AF points, you’d think that the D7000 would have much greater shutter lag—the time between pressing the shutter button and when the picture is actually taken—than the D90. But the difference is negligible. The D90 is faster to take a picture, but only by 30 milliseconds—less than the blink of an eye. And this most minor of differences is more than made up for the high performing autofocus system.
If you’re looking to take photos of objects in motion—think children, pets, or maybe cars—the D7000 is going to have you covered. Both cameras have an AF feature called “3-D tracking”, which allows for refocusing on a subject that moves forward or backward in the frame. 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 have this powerful feature, but D7000 will function at a much higher, more accurate level given the sheer number of focus points it’s sporting. And with a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000, twice that of the D90, and a burst rate that tops out at 6 frames per second, the D7000 is all around just better suited to for action shots. There’s just no two ways about it: the D7000 is using a professional grade autofocus system, and the D90 is—well, it’s just not.
The D7000 blows away the D90 thanks to its EXPEED 2 processor
The lack of a performance hit is thanks to the D7000’s internal processor, the EXPEED 2.
The D90 uses the previous generation EXPEED processor, and this means that in-camera processing of photos on the D90, from writing the image to a file to more advanced noise reduction algorithms, will lag behind the D7000.
The processor is also the reason the D7000 outperforms the D90 in low light situations. It’s got a higher native ISO—6400 to the D90’s 3200—and the ability to push to 25600 when needed. With the more powerful processor, there’s no comparison for the low light abilities of the Nikon D90 vs. D7000; there will be much less noise at higher ISO.
Video capability is another area where Nikon D90 vs. D7000 comparison gives a major edge to the D7000.
The D7000 features full HD, built-in stereo microphone, and video autofocus
Yes, the D90 was the first DSLR to incorporate video, and that made DSLRs all the more attractive to people who were on the fence about getting one. But a lot’s changed since the D90 came out, and the D7000 features state of the art HD video recording. The D7000 shoots at full 1080p resolution, compared to the D90’s 720p. T
The D7000 also features a built-in stereo microphone, and video autofocus. Granted, the autofocus for video mode isn’t the same as for stills: all the focus points and 3-D tracking go out the window when we’re talking video autofocus. The D7000 uses a contrast detection AF system, which detects the differences in light and color between the subject and background, and then focuses as needed. It’s not perfect, and sometimes slow to react, but it’s good for setting up shots before you start recording, getting everything focused and prepared before hitting record.
Is the Nikon D7000 Worth the Extra Money?
Do any of these features sound worth it to you? They do to me, but that’s because I tend to use my camera for more than just holiday snapshots and portraits of the family. I like to play around, experiment with new techniques, and try to get creative—even if I’m just shooting at a family BBQ.
If you’re the same, then the extra $300 for the D7000 is very much worth it.
The Nikon D7000 is the clear winner!
For the autofocus, low light abilities, and more robust in-camera processing, the premium on the D7000 sounds like a bargain. Add to it that photos from D7000 show about slightly greater color depth, it has a greater dynamic range—meaning that the camera will properly expose shots taken in a wider range of lighting, from darker to lighter—boasts two slots for storage, has 20% greater battery life, and is weather sealed.
The $300 premium starts to seem smaller and smaller. Looking online, I see quite a few dealers offering new D7000s at around $650 – $700, down significantly from its original sticker price, somewhere on the north side of $1,000. That’s the “old model year” price break in action—the D7000’s replacement, the D7100 hovers around the thousand dollar mark now, and the debate on whether that’s worth it is a subject for another article.
The D90 is still a solid camera, and a good choice for the novice who wants to take casual snapshots. But the difference in price of the Nikon D90 vs. D7000 is less of an issue when you consider the actual prices. At around $650, the D7000 is kind of a no-brainer choice if you’re even remotely interested photography beyond pointing and shooting.