Canon 7D and Nikon D7000

Nikon D7000 vs. Canon 7D : Cheaper AND Better?

Recently, I published a quick comparison of the new Nikon D7000 and the equally new Canon 60D, both similarly priced mid-range cameras from their respective manufacturers. The Nikon fared very well against the Canon 60D. However, in several recent reports, I’ve begun to see the D7000 compared to the Canon 7D instead… and the 7D is a much harder act to follow. Some have claimed that the Nikon is just as good as the 7D at $400 less.

It is easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding a new camera, especially when it hasn’t even been released to the public. But lets take a more sober look at the features and build of the two powerhouses and see if they can really be considered equals.

Magnesium Alloy construction of the Nikon D7000 (left) and Canon 7D (right) bodies.
Thought both camera bodies can claim magnesium alloy body construction, that construction is not necessarily equivalent. Notice that the Canon’s lens mount is bolstered by the magnesium alloy body.

First, lets take a quick look at the bodies. Although the Nikon D7000 is advertised as having a magnesium alloy body (and it does), it is more of a skeleton than the full metal body of the Canon 7D. As you can see in the photo (sorry for the hasty composite), the 7D is metal all the way up to the lens mount, where the stress from heavy glass can make the greatest impact. The D7000, on the other hand, has magnesium armor in many crucial areas of the body, especially along the top and back of the camera, but its front (and importantly, surrounding the lens mount) is still primarily plastic. The D7000’s body, then, is a great step up for the advanced amateur, but it is still not quite professional class construction. No doubt the smaller size of the D7000 played an important part in the body design.

Though both cameras offer a bright penta-prism viewfinder that show 100% of the full frame, the Canon shows the image at full magnification, while the D7000 is 5% smaller. For those of you who spend hours each day staring through your viewfinder, you’ll understand why this makes a significant difference… bigger, brighter viewfinders are always better.

Now, some of the features:

 Canon 7DNikon D7000
Canon EOS 7DNikon D7000
Amazon Price$1599$1199
B&H Price

$1599$1199
Body MaterialMagnesium AlloyMagnesium Alloy & Polycarbonate
LCD Size / Resolution3.0"
920,000 pixels
3.0"
921,000 pixels
LCD Articulated?NoNo
Sensor Size14.9 x 22.3mm (APS-C)15.8 x 23.6mm (APS-C)
Crop Factor1.6x1.5x
Sensor Resolution18 Megapixels16 Megapixels
ISO Range100-6400
+12800
100-6400
+12800
+25600
Total AF Focus Points1939
Cross-Type AF Sensors19 (dual diagonal)9
AF Light Level Range-.05 to +18 EV-1 to +19 EV
Metering System63 Zone Point Linked Evaluative
9.4% Center Weighted
2.3% Spot
2016 pixel RGB Metering Sensor
Exposure Compensation1/2 or 1/3 stops via thumb dial1/2 or 1/3 stops via button-dial combo
Auto-Bracketing
/ HDR Options
Max Frame Rate : RAW (14-bit)8 fps?
Max Frame Rate : RAW (12-bit)n/a6?
Max Frame Rate : JPG8 fps6?
Max Burst Duration RAW (at highest frame rate)15100?
Max Burst Duration JPG (at highest frame rate)94100
Shutter Speed Range1/8000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
1/8000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
Maximum Flash Sync Shutter Speed (standard flash)1/250th sec.1/250th sec.
HD Video Resolutions1080p, 720p1080p, 720p
Available HD Video Frame RatesPAL and NTSC
24/25, 30 at 1080p
24/25, 30, 60 at 720p
24 fps at 1080p,
24, 30 fps at 720p
Firmware Sidecar AvailableUnder DevelopmentNo
Media TypeCompact FlashSD / SDHC / SDXC
(2 slots)
Weight820g (body only)690g (body only)
780g with battery
Viewfinder Coverage100% Frame,
1.0x magnification
100% Frame,
.95x magnification

Obviously, the Canon 7D has a higher resolution sensor, at 18 megapixels compared to the D7000’s 16. The Nikon’s sensor can be pushed (H2) all the way to ISO 25600, though having seen the results, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to. Otherwise, the cameras have the same ISO range, 100-6400. I’ve found that images from the 7D shot up to ISO 1600 (and sometimes 3200) are quite usable. I look forward to seeing how the D7000‘s high ISO images compare. As it is a newer sensor and lower resolution, we should expect the D7000 to have slightly better high-ISO performance than the Canon 7D… and my initial tests seem to indicate that this is true, especially at ISO 6400.

[Update: After numerous early reports of hot-pixels on the D7000, Nikon has released a firmware update to help correct the issue. They say that it may not correct the problem entirely, but it should make them much less problematic. You can upgrade your firmware here: Nikon D7000 firmware update .]
The 19 dual cross-type sensor AF module from the Canon 7D.

The D7000 does have an interesting new 39 point, RGB inclusive AF system. However, it still only has 9 cross-type AF sensors, which make a crucial difference in low light, low contrast situations. The Canon 7D has more than double that number of cross-type points (19 dual cross-type, in fact), and an AF system borrowed from the Canon EOS 1D line, probably the world’s most popular and successful line of sports photography cameras, driven by dual Digic-4 processors. Though it’s likely that the Nikon will perform almost as well as the 7D in good light, I would put my money on the 7D in lower, flatter lighting situations.

[Update: This point was a little quick, and since there have been a couple of questions, I’m going to explain this conclusion in a little more depth.

As you undoubtedly know, contrast is the fundamental ingredient for auto focus in SLRs.

If we consider our subject’s face to be our desired focal point, then clearly the red channel gives the best contrast between skin and background, which is typical with skin. We also get good contrast against the sky in the blue channel. The skin tones are low contrast in the green channel, but this is the best case scenario for the green channel, with an almost entirely green background.

Stop and think for a few moments about what a color RGB image is, or better yet, open a few images in Photoshop and take a look at the “Channels” palette. An RGB image is composed of 3 black and white channels, one corresponding to each primary. As you may know, you can duplicate your red channel and replace your blue channel with it, for example… there is nothing inherently “red” or “blue” about each one. Instead, each one is like a black and white photo shot with a colored filter, so they have differing levels of contrast. Since CMOS and CCD sensors use about twice as many green receptors as any other (because of the way that our eyes see) the green channel usually has the most detail information, but the lowest contrast. Again, those of you who do a lot of isolating and masking in Photoshop know that green is the channel least likely to be used to create a new mask.

The 7D does use the color data to assist in AF; it uses the high contrast Red and Blue channels (its metering sensor uses two layers, an RG and a BG). The Nikon uses all three channels, ie, the full RGB spectrum, but keep in mind that because the green channel is typically low contrast, it’s not usually going to be any more useful than the composite RGB brightness data that our cameras have always used; I take the fact that it claims to be RGB as more of a gimmick than an actual engineering feat. So, on the basis of color data, there will be (extremely) few circumstances in practical use when the added color channel will be helpful in pulling focus… if any.

On the other hand, the Canon 7D uses 19 cross-type sensors (rather than just horizontal). Nikon clearly understands the importance of cross-types; they gave the D300s 15 of them in its 51 point array. I’ve been shooting with this camera exclusively for the past two months, and the AF is wonderful. So why not give them to the D7000? The obvious reason is that they’re expensive, and that the D7000′s AF system is intended to be slightly scaled down (fewer AF points, fewer cross type sensors) from the much more expensive D300s (RGB aside). So, there is no reason to think that the D7000′s RGB system will produce better results than Canon’s color assisted AF, but there is a very serious reason to believe that the 7D’s 19 cross-type sensors will out-perform the D7000′s 9. ]

Canon 7D's dual Digic-4 ProcessorsThe dual processors of the Canon 7D also mean that it should perform faster in general. It can shoot faster bursts of photos (8 per second vs. the 6 of the Nikon D7000). The D7000 does allow bursts for a slightly longer duration (100 vs. 94 jpgs), which makes sense: since it’s taking fewer photos per second, it doesn’t have to write the data as fast, and the buffer will have more time to clear. Nikon, however, is suspiciously vague about the resolution and format of those photos. In this matter, I’m keeping in mind that the Nikon D300s advertises being able to shoot 8 frames per second, but it can only shoot 2.5 in RAW mode (unlike the 7D, which shoots 8 fps in RAW or jpg).

Video

For those of you who are serious about making production-quality movies, I can highly recommend B&H’s HDSLR guide. It covers all of the extras that are really important for slick results: audio, matte boxes, stabilizers, rails, etc. Even if you’re not in the market, it’s worth looking… lots of cool toys!

The 7D can also process video faster, allowing it to shoot 60 frame-per-second slow-motion HD video (at 720p). Perhaps more importantly, the D7000 can only shoot 1080p video at 24 fps (not 25 or 30), which is a major limitation. Although some film makers prefer working with 24 fps because of its similarity to the movie film frame rate, 30 fps (30p/60i) is the standard broadcast frame rate, and common video editing frame rate. If you intend to edit video footage together from the D7000 with camcorder video, you’ll have your work cut out for you.

One advantage of the Nikon D7000, however, is the sensitivity of its focusing sensors. According to the specs, the Nikon can focus in a half (0.5) EV lower light than the Canon, which can always come in handy. This is, of course, assuming that in the available light there is sufficient contrast, etc, for the sensors to pull focus. The D7000 also uses SD cards, which some may find to be an advantage, and it holds two of them, allowing physical separation of jpgs and RAW files. I think this is a really cool idea, but I’m not really sure how useful it will be in practice… I can’t think of a good practical application for the way I work.

There are, of course, countless other differences between the two cameras… but many of them are hard to quantify, and many of them are not used by many photographers. I’m willing to accept that there may be particular features found in the D7000 that will make it the best choice for a particular photographer, but when it comes down it to the raw figures, the Canon 7D appears to be the clear winner. Perhaps not by a ton, but certainly $300 worth.

Editor-in-Chief

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Shilpa
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Hello Mathew,
I read your article and I am hoping you will provide an indepth solution to me as well. You keep emphasisnig the fact that the choice of the camere depends on your needs. So I am going to be specific with my requirements so you can help me choose.
I have been reading different articles but I never came across the problem I seem to face with my d5000. I am a novice and ended up buying d5000 in 2010 as my first dslr having no idea what to choose. I was too excited getting my slr and went on a clicking spree as I had a willing subject which was my brand new baby. I loved photographing her every minute and in 3 mons ended up having severe tendinitis as wierd as it may sound.
Here’s the problem, d5000 takes ages to focus. It keeps hunting constantly for a focal point again and again pinching my tendon every single time it doesn’t come to focus. The subject being a baby, its almost impossible to catch the shot I want, forcing me to click more than necessary. The pain from tendinitis is so excruciating that if I click some 30-40 pics a day, I would have to rest my hand for a week. I thought this was how all SLR’s are until 6 months ago when I shot some 200 pictures from T1i at my Brothers In Law wedding. It was focusing at lightning speed and my arm was at total ease even after shooting 100-200 pics. Not a single day went by without regretting not buying cannon since that day. And now I have to live with tendinitis for the rest of my life, thanx to my d5000. I elaborated my problem so you can tell me if its my camera’s fault or my lens or my own settings? If its my camera, I am ready to move on.

Cameras shortlisted : Cannon 60d/70d or 7d and Nikon d90 or d7000/d71000 (although I hate Nikon, had to shortlist coz of the reviews) OR you could totally suggest a new one based on my needs.

Here’s what I am looking for:
1. Something really easy for my arm. Has to come to focus instatntly and light weight.
2. Love to take portraits with shallow depth. (Again, I need you to advise if I can go with kit lens or 50 mm prime lens, Whichever is easy on my arm)
3. HD videos with blurred background.
4. Running toddler.
5. Low light pictures
6. Something that screams professional when you look at the image.

I am a total amateur and usually click images using scene mode but I cannot emphasize how much I love blurred backgrounds bringing the subject to sharp focus. I am not a technical person, so I dont understand cross points and a lot of other jargon. I always loved photography and bought my first dslr hoping to hone my skills but took a backseat instead. But after shooting with t1i and realising that not all cameras are painful after all, my passion for photography is back again. Since my first camera sank $1000 down the drain, I want this to be a wise investment so I can grow into it and not replace it with anything else later.

My purchase will solely depend on your advice.

Gouthams
Member
Gouthams

Hello matthew,
I am Goutham Neelambaran from India about me I am very much interested in photography and shooting videos. Today (3/31/2013) morning I happen to read a comparion between Canon 7D and Nikon D7000 in your website (light and matter) I read all your replies for the members, all your replies were really informative especially like a beginner like me it was really helpful first thank you for that.

Now, coming to the point. I have been reading reviews and watching some comparison online in youtube for long time now and able to narrow down to some DSLR Models that are quiet familiar in market for quiet a while, they are,

1.Canon 7D
2.Canon 60D
3.Nikon D7000

Lens :
Sorry being a beginner I really can’t decide which lens to get, your guidance is needed.

More of wildlife, travelling, abstract and fast action photography are my field of interets

Interest:
I am interested in sports, wildlife, abstract and action. Not only these I want to explore all the edges of the photography. I would also like to take some low-light photography too.

Level :
Upgrading from a point and shoot to a DSLR Family.

Job type :
I have finished my Bachelors of Engineering the last April 2011 and have been working for one year and now applied for universities abroad and waiting for admit.

Budget :
Not a problem, affordable for all the models.

Question :
I heard people say that Nikon D7000 is best for low-light photography and Canon 7D isn’t that good when compared to Nikon D7000. Is that true or these nikon fan boys exaggerating it.

I fully trust you, I want you to decide and tell me which one is best for my kind of photography since you have a good knowledge about it. I have been trying to decide among these models. But can’t do it, some say Nikon D7000 is great and some say no, Canon 7D is great and a another one says why do you have to buy such a expensive one go with the Canon 60D. Really confused and fed-up with it. So, I am leaving it solely to you. Consider me as your younger brother and suggest me ONE CORRECT MODELS THAT I CAN BUY WITHOUT ANY DOUBT and also the lens for above listed type of photography.

John
Guest

For anyone on the fence about buying a D7000 in 2014 because of its age, I’ve been using a lightly used model I just purchased for portrait shoots lately, and I love the ability to record my RAW files to Card 1 and a [basic, small] JPEG to Slot 2 simultaneously. I’ve been offering clients a free card with the day’s images on it right there, on the spot as soon as I click the last frame of the shoot. They love the ability to instantly have decent viewable files to take home with them, but since they are much lower quality and resolution, I still can profit off of the files I go back and retouch. Overall, it’s a great camera and it’s loaded up with all the features any highly advanced amateur would need, and it goes head to head with the 7D in terms of image quality, AF, noise performance and build any day.

Marty
Guest
Marty

Hi, I have the same dilemma – 7D or D7000… It’s going to be my first DSLR, as my last “real” camera was a Praktica from stone age, and I abandoned it years ago for compacts.

A few months ago my dad got Canon 5D MII, and he loves it. He is by no means a professional, but he is developing his skill set, and wanted me to get my passion for photography back, by buying me a SLR, too. His first suggestion on T3i (or Canon 600D) turned into T4i (650D), and them 60D, but after looking at them in person, our interest shifted into comparable Nikons – D5200 and D7000. After deciding that the more advanced is the way to go, I found a used Canon 7D, and we’re back at square one – I’m stuck and unable to make a decision…

I guess I am looking for a justification to just go ahead with 7D – even much so since my dad casually mentioned, that I could always get his lenses after he retires them. We don’t live close to each other, so unfortunately borrowing and swapping is not an option, so I am not that stuck with the Canon decision.

I have to admit I like the idea of slightly newer camera, one with 2 memory cards, and so on, but I would like to get the most professional camera I can, so in two or three months I don’t regret the choice, and wish I got with something “more”.

Also – why is the 50ml the best start-up lens? Dad is recommending the 28-135mm or 18-135mm, just to have a range, and be able to set is to ~90mm for portraits (oh, the grand kids), but everyone seems to be dismissing the kit lenses as inferior to everything.

Oh, decisions…

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

Oh and has decent zoom

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

Hi Matthew,
Ok so I don’t know if my other comment went through since my computer froze up but this is kinda what I said..

I torn between these 2 cameras. I’m just starting out again into pursuing my love of photography and I wanting to find the best camera to invest into. This is going to be my 1st DSLR camera and even though its going to be a big learning curve but that’s what I want so I can grow into this camera. I know that the main component and biggest factor in getting the best quality picture is the lenses.

Question 1- Which company between Canon and NIkon who makes the best quality lenses and most different range lenses? This will be my main deciding factor in which camera I purchase.
Question 2- I’m debating between getting a bundle pack for either these 2 cameras or just getting the base and buying two lenses to start out with (the 50mm f/1.8 and then a good zoom lense, which I would need your opinion in too), which idea do you think is most practical and smarter idea? I need a lense thats good for speed/action since I will be using it to photograph my son and his many sporting events but also that I can use for everyday use.

Thank for you time and look forward to hearing you opinion.

S

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