Customer Review

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good camera, with some initial problems, 21 July 2012
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I approached writing this review with a degree of trepidation, in much the same way as I approached buying this camera. The reason for this is that there have been a considerable number of problems reported with this camera on various discussion forums, more or less since its release. Now that is perhaps unsurprising, as the initial production runs of many new models have teething problems, which are usually corrected as production progresses. This is not only electronic equipment, as new car models are notorious for this, and often blighted with recalls. What I have found interesting about the D7000 is the degree of hostility that is often expressed towards people reporting these problems on internet forums, to the extent that I have come across what could be considered conspiracy theories that many of these posts are by Nikon employees trying to cover the issue up and blame it all on the incompetence of the photographer. There are more recent posts along the same lines that suggest there were genuine problems with the early D7000s, but that there have all long since been rectified, and I recently read an article which concluded with the statement "if you cannot get good shots with the D7000, you are to blame not the camera". So I anticipate some hostile comments here, as I have just bought a D7000 (June 2012) on which there are problems with the autofocus system, and with rapidly-accumulating circular marks with halos in the upper part of images. These are the exact problems reported to affect early models, but now allegedly fixed. Unfortunately, I can guarantee that these problems have not been rectified and that there are still batches of faulty D7000s leaving the factory. I have sent the camera back to Nikon, who may well address these problems in a satisfactory manner, in which case I will amend the review accordingly.
The purchase of the D7000 was undertaken after a lot of consideration. I consider myself to be an enthusiastic amateur, and have been using a D3100, which I found to be an absolutely perfect camera on which to progress from many years of point and shoot; as a basic DSLR, I cannot fault it, but it is quite basic. The main additional features I wanted were auto-exposure bracketing (AEB) for HDR, ability to use off-camera flash, remote control shutter release, and mirror lock-up. I was less concerned with frames per second in continuous shooting mode, although I use this on occasion. Looking at an extensive number of reviews, it appeared to be a choice between the D300s and the D7000, with most comparisons favouring the D7000. The only problem that the published reviews highlighted was a tendency towards over-exposure, which is not really an issue if you shoot in RAW, and can be corrected easily with exposure compensation. Overall, I did not find any negative reviews of the D7000, and some even went so far as to describe it as the best DSLR on the market. However, in contrast to the overwhelmingly positive formal reviews, there were lots of worrying internet-forum reports of problems with 1) soft focussing, and 2) round marks appearing on images allegedly from oil spots on the sensor from the mirror mechanism. The soft focussing seemed to be a calibration issue, which Nikon can fix relatively easily, but the oil spots on the sensor are more controversial and there are many reports of Nikon dismissing these as dust and not fixing the problem. Equally, some reports state that this only affected initial batches, and some users have found that Nikon replace the whole mirror assembly and cleaned the sensor without question, albeit without necessarily acknowledging what the underlying fault was. Although there continue to be on-line "debates" about whether these marks are due to dust or oil, the fact that something accumulates on the sensor with after only a few hundred shots in the absence of lens changes shows that something is not right with a number of these cameras. Bearing this in mind, why did I proceed to buy a D7000? Well, firstly there are clearly a lot of very happy D7000 owners out there, so this is a quality control issue affecting certain batches only. Secondly, the D7000 is probably approaching the end of its production life, so I assumed that any initial problems would have been sorted by now. I therefore purchased one from Amazon, partly enticed by the limited period £80 cash-back that Nikon were offering and two year warranty if you registered within 30 days.
My first issue was with the couriers Amazon used and not the camera itself, as I came home from work to find it had been simply left on my doorstep in full view of everyone. I would have thought recorded delivery appropriate for something this expensive, when I have had to sign for considerably cheaper items in the past.

Onto the camera itself, starting with the good points. There are loads of features, and buttons to adjust all the important stuff so you do not need to go into menus all the time. Although quite a complex piece of equipment, after not very long it becomes really quite easy to use as everything is nicely set out for you. AEB works fine, although it only gives you three shots which most HDR artists would say is not enough for scenes such as sunsets. That is probably true, but you can set it up to take 3 shots at 1VE spacing, then tweak exposure compensation and take three more and so on, meaning that 9 exposures only requires two adjustments. Continuous shooting is around 6 frames per second, although the buffer limits how long you can sustain this for. Not a problem for me, but it might be if you shoot a lot of motion and sports. There are two user modes, which I thought were just a gimmick, but they are in fact really handy. I can try out different settings, and just flick back to my regular settings if I don't like them without losing any time. There are also two memory card slots for lots of storage space, and the battery life is impressive: I have yet to run out of charge. The camera has a solid, chunky feel to it: maybe not to the same extent as some of the pro cameras in the range, but certainly more so than a D3100. My only minor issue with the design is that the LCD screen on top of the camera is too small for me to read so I have to press the info button to get a display on the rear screen if I want to check the settings. This would probably be less of an issue for people with better eyesight than myself.
As for quality of images, I have got some really superb, sharp photos with this camera, although it makes me appreciate how good the D3100 was. Comparing output of the two side by side, interchanging the same lenses, there is really not a lot of difference. In fact, if not using exposure compensation/manual mode, I initially found the D3100 took better photos because of the D7000 tendency to over-expose. But, as we have said, this is easily adjusted. I don't think 2 more megapixels in the sensor make any noticeable difference at all, and I take all the reports about the high sensitivity of the D7000 sensor requiring more user accuracy with a big pinch of salt. I really did not encounter any of the soft focussing issues that some people reported. Now I think some of the reviews of how well this camera performs at high ISO levels may be a little exaggerated. Certainly, I do not agree with reviews that say even at ISO 6400 the images are usable, although if you shoot RAW you can remove a lot of the noise. I have certainly got decent low-light pictures pushing the ISO to 3200 though, at least after noise reduction in post-processing.

Now the problems. At first I thought the autofocus was fine, and you can set the playback menu to highlight where your focus point was to check you were aiming in the right place. But, after an evening taking candid shots of friends on a night out using my favourite 50mm F1.8 prime lens, with a wide aperture setting always focussing on the eye nearest the camera, I found loads of shots where the lead eye was soft but the rear eye was snap sharp, which is a sign of back-focussing. The D7000 features an AF fine tuning option for each lens, so I printed out a focus chart and found that the camera was back-focussing with all of my lenses. It was possible to correct this with most of them, but even with the compensation set to maximum (-20) my Nikon 35mm F1.8DX prime lens still showed sufficient back-focus to render the lens unusable with this camera. I would have left it, as this is the lens I use least and my beloved 50mm was fine after adjustment, but then I noticed the dark spots. I first saw them on some landscape shots taken after owning the camera for about 3 weeks, and showing up as circular marks at the same image co-ordinates on different shots usually across the sky. At the time I assumed it was dust on the lens, and gave this a clean, but the same marks at the top of images began to show up on all shots where there was a light sky at the top. Being landscapes, these were taken with a narrow aperture setting, around f16. I took a couple of test shots of plain white backgrounds, which clearly showed these round marks in the upper sections of the images, and sent them to Nikon. They did not comment on the cause of this, but simply said the camera needs to come back to them. Now I know some will say that you should simply learn how to clean your sensor, but I would point out that if you do this it will invalidate your warranty.

So my summary is that if you get a good one and can see well enough to read the small LCD screen, the D7000 is a cracking camera, and as prices have come down, it is excellent value for money. But, the problems with back-focussing and oil spots on the sensor have not been sorted, and there are clearly still faulty batches being produced and getting through Nikon's quality control. Having just purchased this brand new from Amazon, I would be surprised if mine were the only example in their warehouse that will have this problem. Even if Nikon rectify the problems, and send me a perfectly functioning D7000 within a reasonable timescale, it is still a nuisance having to return the camera so soon after purchase to rectify a known problem that was supposedly sorted out some time ago.
I will now sit back and wait for the inevitable comments that the back-focussing is simply user-error, the oils spots are just dust, it is perfectly normal to need to get your sensor professionally cleaned every few weeks, all makes and models of camera have faulty examples etc.

UPDATE: I have just received my camera back from Nikon UK. Total turnaround was about 12 days, which was quicker than their estimate. I am very happy to report that Nikon appear to have addressed both problems. I have tried out the AF system extensively, and now all my lenses focus correctly. Spots on the sensor are also gone. The repair receipt only made reference to the focus issue, but I have also received an email from customer services to say that a repair has been carried out to address the sensor-spot problem as well. Don't think Nikon wanted to say too much about this, but as long as the problem is fixed I'm ok with that. So have amended the rating to 5 stars, and am equally pleased with the camera and Nikon customer services.

FURTHER UPDATE: Unfortunately the spots on images became apparent again within a very short period of time, which suggests to me that Nikon cleaned the sensor but did not address the underlying problem. I have had the same lens on the camera ever since it was returned, so I am utterly convinced that this cannot be dust. The camera is probably going back to Nikon yet again, and I hope they actually fix the problem this time.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Jul 2012 14:42:02 BDT
Mr. B says:
waiting for reply

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2013 16:26:54 BDT
Tescodirect says:
Nikon replaced the mirror assembly this time and cleaned the sensor again.

Another plus point for this camera which I did not mention in my initial review is the presence of a focus motor in the body. This means that you are not limited to AF-S lenses, so can use older Nikon lenses or third party lenses which cost a lot less than the current Nikon range. For example, I now have the truly excellent Tokina 11-16mm and 100mm Macro F2.8 lenses, neither of which have AF-S and therefore could not be used with autofocus on either the D3000 or D5000 series. The money I saved by purchasing these two lenses rather than the Nikon equivalents greatly outweighs the price difference between a D7000 and a D3100 (or D5100). So if you intend to start accumulating lenses on a budget, the 7000 series can rapidly work out more cost effective than either the 3000 or 5000 series cameras.
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