Monday, 8 November 2010

Nikon D7000 AF impressions

There has been lots of testing by private party's on the D7000's ISO capabilities and a lot of people asking if the AF is any good are as good or better than the D300, The D300 has a great AF system and is my choice when it comes to birds in flight, I have seen some people putting up some images but they are clearly not bird photographers and have just pointed the camera with a fairly small lens towards the heavens and have an image of a bird extremely small in the frame and there is no way to tell if the subject is in any way sharp, This morning i looked out of the bedroom window to be greeted with the first frosts of the year, There wasnt a cloud in the sky so i quickly grabbed my gear and headed off to the nearest lake, Its a popular place for joggers and young mothers who take their kids down to feed the ducks, There are plenty of mallards,geese and Muscovy ducks as well as the odd heron, I was surprised to see some winter migrants on the lake as well in the form of hooded mergansers, I set up on the boardwalk which is in a kind of bay-its pretty dark but that's where the birds are fed and the area they fly into, It would be a good test for the AF system as the birds appear from nowhere and go into the dark area to land, The background is pretty busy with trees and in the past i have even struggled a bit with the D3s and D300, So how did the D7000 cope? The answer is very well-better than i had expected, The AF locks on pretty quick-not Canon quick but quick enough and not once did it try and grab the background which was great, Its no point having a fast AF system if all it wants to do is focus on the distance, It tracked birds coming at me very well and was very steady and not at all jittery, I had to shoot between ISO 800 and 3200 because of the low light as you must have a decent shutter speed if you are to evaluate the system properly and not wonder of a soft image was caused through the AF or the low shutter speed, So the ISO went up and as its just a test i wasn't at all concerned if the images were grainy or not, The camera was set to 9 surround points which i find the best setting for birds in flight, It doesn't slow down the AF system much and helps keep the subject sharp if you happen to let it slip off of the main focus point,

Mallard coming in fast-you can see that the light was low but it nailed the shot

Easy shot for the AF  but just look how clean the sky is-ISO 1600-NO NR
Geese coming straight at the camera with a busy background

Even when there was something in front of the tracked subject the AF stayed true and didn't grab the nearest thing-I applied some NR to the background on these 3 although there was little grain
And i finished the session with a poser-ISO 800 NO NR

You can see by the images that the conditions were quite challenging for any AF system, The D7000 coped very well and i was very glad to find out that its not a grabby system, I will use the camera over the next few weeks and report back
All images taken with Nikon D7000 and Nikon 600vr on a Gitzo 1548 tripod with Wimberley head
Images opened in NX2 and converted to 16bit Tiff's then saved and opened in Photoshop CS5, Cant wait until Adobe and Phase One bring out the proper software for the D7000
Click on the images to enlarge then use the back button



  1. Thanks for the info!
    Will follow your blog for more posts on this subject. :)

  2. Hi Karra
    Welcome aboard, I have put plenty of info up over the last 3 weeks on the D7000


  3. Very nice report Dave, some of them pretty challenging, at least for me and my D80 ....

    I see you also liked the sky (lack of) noise in blue skies, an issue with crop sensors, including D300s.

    Thanks, Renato.

  4. Dave,
    Thanks for the test. Great images.

  5. Hi Renato
    Noise is areas like the sky are a real problem with the D300,Unfortunately its a great camera for birds in flight so when i shoot with the D300 i always stay under ISO 400, The D7000 allows that to go up to at least 800, I do not use NR as i supply photographic agencies and they do not allow it, If i didnt then you could NR the sky and use a higher ISO



  6. Hey Dave, for focus tracking, I see 3D actually moves the focus points around as you re-frame but for your 9-point tracking, do you just set to AF-C + 9 points and point your center (single) focus point and half press the shutter release button? So even though there are no 9 focus points showing and changing (like in 3D mode), the camera is using these 9 points to continuously refocus when needed then?

  7. Brilliant blog, thank you. Just got my D7000 principally for BIF. I also have a D700 which is fantastic, but not enough reach. Your comments are positive and I look forward to my trip to the RSPB Conwy tomorrow with my long lens, although I'll be using high ISO's as forecast is poor.

    Thanks again.


  8. Hi Dave -- Thanks for sharing your experience with the D7000. I've been shooting with one for a couple of weeks now, and I really like it. I wonder how you keep from drooling on your 600mm Nikkor :-) I'm using a 400mm f/4, but I'd really like one of the super teles.

    You said in your post that you could not wait for Adobe to bring out the proper software for the D7000. I've been using LR 3.3 RC ever since I got my D7000, and it reads the 14-bit raw images from my D7000 just fine. PS CS5 is happy with the images too. Perhaps you've downloaded the Abode RC since your post, but if you have not I can say from experience that it works great.
    -- Thanks, Jim

  9. Lovely Blog, Dave. Very much enjoyed perusing your fine photos and reading your various impressions.

    As a fellow D300 and just today a D7000 user - I would really appreciate seeing your, distilled after all these months, comprehensive settings list for D7000 Birds-In-Flight shooting!

    Kind regards,
    Steve in California