The camera arrived about 5 minutes before I left to meet some flickr friends for lunch. I quickly unboxed it, attempted in vain to put my D90 battery inside (The D7000 takes a new battery-- I had forgotten this), then tried the battery that came with the camera. To my surprise it had about half a charge. Cool, I thought, I'm bringing it with!
What follows are my first impressions of the camera from that day and the following weekend. This will not cover every aspect of the camera (for that, check out the preview at DPReview), just what I've noticed or what's important to me.
Size and Build:
I think too much has been written about how the D7000 is bigger and heavier than the D90. This is overblown. Yes, the spec sheet may show the D7000 as just a bit taller and heavier, but for all practical purposes, they're the same size and weight. From a distance it's very hard to tell these two cameras apart.
Of course, there are differences, and significant ones at that. The first is the improved weather sealing. All the doors and openings now have rubber seals. By no means would I describe this camera as water proof, but it's definitely an improvement from the D90 and should stand up well to light rain and snow.
The D7000 has a much quieter shutter and mirror flap. It was almost disconcerting the first time I heard it-- I actually wondered if there was something wrong. And if that isn't good enough, there's also a quiet mode that makes even less noise.
Updated shutter release:
The shutter release button has a more mushy feel than the D90. I don't think this is necessarily better or worse-- it's just different and will take some getting used to. With the D90, the shutter had two very distinct clicks, one halfway down to focus, and the other to take the photo. The D7000 has a distinct halfway point as well, but it doesn't click the way the D90 does.
I love the new viewfinder. It shows 100% of what's being captured by the sensor as opposed to 96% by the D90. I'm pretty anal retentive about my compositions, so this was one of my main reasons for buying this camera.
The D7000 uses 39 autofocus points vs 11 with the D90. In contrast, the D300 and up all have 51 points. 39 seems like plenty and I have no complaints with this system-- it works and works well in my limited use.
The autofocus switch that sits below the lens mount has been combined with the AF button that used to sit on top of the camera. This made for quite a comedic few minutes the first time I tried to change the AF settings. "Where did you put that button, Nikon!" Of course, it's actually a great change, nicely combining all the AF functions into one place.
I have mixed feelings about the new mode dial. It's now two tiered, which is great, but it also sticks up higher and the top dial is easier to bump out of place. With the D90 I would periodically find the mode dial moved accidentally, and this is a problem that I expect will persist with the D7000. It's not a deal breaker, and I'm not returning the camera, but it's pretty aggravating that Nikon screwed this up. That top dial should either have a lock or be much harder to turn than it is.
Func and Preview Buttons
Both the function and depth of field preview buttons are now programmable. On the D90, only the function button was. So, if you're someone who never uses DOF Preview, you can assign that button to something else.
Live View & Video
There's a new Live View switch on the back and it has a nice snap to it. The autofocus in Live View seems to work better than in the D90, and the camera will now autofocus while shooting video.
Larger file sizes:
Something to bear in mind when upgrading to this camera-- although the sensor is only 4 megapixels larger (16 vs 12), the file sizes are actually about twice as big. This is because the D7000 gives you the option of shooting 14 bit instead of 12 bit RAW files, and also uses lossless compression. With these settings turned on, the end result is a file of about 18-20mb vs 10mb for the D90.
I may address image quality (IQ) in a second post, but in short, I don't think anyone will be disappointed with this camera. From what I can tell, The D7000 equals the D90 in terms of noise control through ISO800 and is a touch better at ISO1600 and 3200. With the D90, I would generally shoot from ISO200 to 800 without worring about image quality, with ISO1600 and 3200 saved for emergency use only. With the D7000, I expect that my normal use will increase to ISO1600, with 3200 and 6400 being much more usable.
Other than the too easy to move Mode Dial, I have little to complain about with this camera. If you're a Nikon D90 owner looking to upgrade, this is a very capable camera, and I think you'll be pleased with the professional feature set and modest IQ improvements. If you own an older camera and skipped the D90 generation, the decision to upgrade is much easier. Finally, if you use the D300 or D300s, ergonomics will come into play-- some will prefer the smaller size of the D7000, while others may prefer the more bulky D300. If you fall into the latter category, I suggest you wait until next year to upgrade-- there's bound to be a D400 eventually.
Where to Purchase?
Since I waited two months for my own camera, I'm probably not the best person to answer this question.
Update: Amazon now has the kit version in stock for $1,499.95. This comes with the f/3.5-5.6 DX VR Nikkor Lens, which is pretty good lens as far as kit lenses go. If you're hoping to get this camera before the holidays and haven't ordered it yet, this may be your best option.
Finally, I'll leave you with a photo. This is the first shot that I took with the D7000:
Nikon D7000 with 35mm lens, 1/800sec at f6.3, ISO200. I'm looking north on State Street in this photo.
Update: I'm slowly posting additional photos on flickr, and will continue to do so indefinitely. Just follow the D7000 tag if you'd like to see more.