Nikon D7000 vs Canon 60D, my experience

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Oct 7, 2008
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My comparison between the two cameras

D7000 vs 60D


After spending a few weeks with these cameras, I thought I would spend a few minutes going over my impressions between the two. I have been shooting Nikon for years, and I've had some experience with Canon, but recently I picked up a Canon 60D for timelapse photography and astrophotography. The last several weeks my Nikon D7000 has remained at home while I learned the in’s and out’s of the Canon. I have over 6,000 shutter releases on the canon already, about 4,000 from timelapse, the other 2000 are just me out shooting.


Image quality.

Same. I cant really see any difference. At the higher ISO's (3200 and 6400) the D7000 really starts to outrun the 60D, its nice to have that extra push of the D7000, but if you are shooting in those conditions you are already making compromises. I would assume the 60D is going to be more than enough when it comes to high ISO use, if you shoot concerts and such, the D7000 might be a better solution. Very little of my photography is done in such conditions. The only time I really use the D7000 in low light situations is with Astrophotography which I discuss later.
The 18mp vs 16.2mp, well, those extra 1.8mp is so marginal they are virtually the same.
I know sharpness has a lot to do with lenses, but what I have seen with the 60D it is not overly difficult to get very sharp images with those 18mp, no harder than the D7000.


Autofocus system

Nikon D7000 hands down, not even a question about it, it locks on faster, it can track, works better in low light, and has a myriad of various options depending on the situation. The 60D’s AF system seems much more basic, and simple. At first I hated it and wondered why it was so basic. Once I find the strengths and weaknesses I find It does work well, but I do notice a distinct difference in AF performance between the two, whereas the 60D’s AF system is a strong capable system, it is like comparing a nice Mustang to a Ferrari, the Nikons 39pt AF system is just so much more refined.

I have seen reviews online where they did AF speed comparisons and determined the Canon 60D has a faster AF system than the Nikon D7000, what surprises me is the conclusion they arrived to since AF Speed is much more dependant on lens than body. The Canon 60d with the 50mm 1.4 USM lens is much faster than the Nikon D7000 with the 35 1.8 AFS lens, however the D7000 with the 24-70 2.8 or 70-200 2.8 focuses much faster than the 60D with 50mm 1.4 USM. Therefore AF Speed IMO is a stupid metric to evaluate when comparing autofocus systems, and for me it speaks of the ignorance of the reviewers. What is more important is locking ability, and how well the AF system adapts to changing scenes without getting confused, and AF performance in low light, and in each of these areas the Nikon D7000 outclasses the 60D.
The only lens I have been using with the Canon is the 50mm 1.4 USM lens, and it is a very capable lens, with the 1.4 aperture I get to use the full ability of the 60D’s ability to lock on with the center point sensing not only vertical, horizontal but also diagonal. So don’t think I'm writing this using PRO lenses on the Nikon and a kit lens on the Canon 60D, the 50 1.4 is a solid lens in every way, and the top of the line Canon 50mm prime.

We have 5 puppies at our local kennel club, a German Sheppard, 3 Belgian Malinois, and a mastiff, we train dogs for personal protection and this whole lot of puppies are all about the same age and they love to run around and play. When using the D7000 9pt continuous, nearly every shot I took was in focus probably 90-95%% accuracy. The D7000 had no problem analyzing the scene and tracking focus where I wanted it to. The 60D just did not perform nearly as well, it would get confused from time to time, and probably 30-40% of time the puppies were out of focus while the grass in the foreground or something in the background were clear and sharp. This is using either AI Servo mode and AF servo mode. For images that did not move as erratically as puppies the Canon 60d’s AF system holds up well. It is not a BAD AF system, it is just not in the same class as the D7000’s AF system, and would be better compared to the D90.


Battery

D7000 certainly seems to have better battery life but the 60D is no slouch, you will be hard pressed to drain the batteries even shooting a full day event. Using the battery grip, i noticed the D7000 reports the battery life of both batteries on the back LCD with just a push of a button, with the 60D if you can choose which one to display it is buried in the menus somewhere. It seems to work off of one battery at a time, meaning to find out which one you want to charge involves a process of pulling out the battery tray and removing one battery at a time. Not a big deal, but i wish it displayed the power level on each battery.

Comfort
I hate to say it, because I’m a big fan of the D7000, but the 60D does feel better in the hand, simply because it is a little bit wider and gives just a little more room. I would never personally use this as a reason to buy one over the other as the D7000 is still pretty comfortable, but the Canon 60D is just a tad better IMO.

Body feel
Both cameras have a somewhat plastic feel to them, but the D7000 certainly feels more solid. running a finger lightly over the plastic on the Canon 60D yields a light dry hollow sound, as if there is empty space within it, the D7000 just feels more solid and more rigid. It feels “full”. Once again, this is not very important to me, just worth noting.

Controls
D7000 wins again, with “easy ISO” control (I don’t use auto ISO), and the placement of the buttons I can change almost any setting on the D7000 very quickly without taking my eye from the viewfinder. The Canon 60D once again is no slouch, but you need to have VERY GOOD memory to remember which button on top to use to change the AF mode, ISO level, etc. The one area where Canon 60D wins with controls is the mode dial has a lock, other than that I think the D7k has a better mode dial, but it is so easy to bump it and change it. With Canon that lock is there, but you have like 6 billion possible settings on that mode dial, all the scene modes, video modes, movie modes, custom mode, and the rest clutter it up. Yet, once it is in place it stays in place which I cannot say about my beloved D7000’s mode dial.

The movie mode on the D7000 is much simpler than the Canon 60D too, it is just there ready to go at any moment, with the 60D you have to crank the command dial through the billions of cluttering options on the mode dial.

The Nikon also has 2 front buttons that can be assigned, the Canon does not.

However the Canon has the AF-ON button, which I never found much need but I know others really like. There are a few buttons on Canon that can be remapped, but only to a profile, meaning you can map button A B and C as a group to other assignments, but you cannot only change A and leave B and C alone. And the amount of options you have is sort of limiting, but it does offer a level of customization.


LCD screens
Canon wins on the back screen, having that articulating screen has proven to be very useful already. Especially when dealing with timelapse and astrophotography where the camera is at a strange angle or right above ground level making it a pain in the butt to angle myself in a way I can see through the viewfinder. As for the image quality between the screens, apparently the 60D has more pixels? I couldn’t tell a difference honestly. They both look fantastic.


Top LCD, the kudos goes to Nikon, I like the green better and I know that is just a personal choice, but the biggie is Nikons on-off switch that encompasses the shutter release can be pulled past on and the top LCD lights up! It is easy to do, it works every time. And lets face it, when you are using the light in the LCD it is probably dark out. Canon has a low profile button and while conveniently located, I’ve found it to be a bit more difficult to find when shooting in real dark situations like astrophotography.


Timelapse Duty
Canon works better for this stuff. That is one of the reasons i got the 60D. There are tricks like the lock-twist method to eliminate the chance of aperture flicker, it will also accept microsecond adjustment to shutter speeds in bulb mode, whereas Nikon cameras will default to the next 1/8th stop. Meaning for example it you send bulb shutter releases at 53ms 55ms 58ms 60ms 65ms, the camera will shoot at 53ms, then 55ms, 58ms 60ms, then 65ms. The Nikon on the other hand might do 60ms 60ms 60ms then 80ms as it jumps to the next 1/8th stop. Keep in mind, those numbers i literally just made up, and are not accurate, but the behavior in bulb mode is very much accurate.

Astrophotography Duty
Once again, Canon wins. With the exception of the D7000 every other Nikon DSLR has the star-eater algorithm when it records data, and ends up deleting out some stars. This is not a big deal, most people would never even notice it happen, but it does. However Nikon also filters out a wavelength of light that canon seems to allow through, making it much more difficult to capture certain nebulas as their light emission is filtered by Nikon. I’ve used the D7000 quite a bit for astrophotography and have achieved some "Stellar" images, it does a fantastic job, however, taking pictures of the horse head nebula for example is much more difficult with Nikon than Canon. It is best to have a modified camera, but for non-modded cameras, Canon has the edge.

OFF Camera Flash Control.
Nikons CLS system wins again, it is faster, easier to use, with almost undetectable pre-flashes, Canons system’s pre-flashes are like a freaking rock concert. And no, I’m not talking about red-eye reduction.

Video
Canon 60D wins. The D7000’s video is awesome and DOES have full time AF during video (but gets all kinds of lens noise if not using an off camera mic), but I like being able to do 60 FPS on the 720. Also the articulating screen means if you are recording yourself, you can see if you are in frame which comes in very handy for self-interview work on BTS videos and such.

Magic Lantern Firmware.
Many Nikonians know nothing of this, neither did I until I got the Canon 60D. The Magic Lantern Firmware is a free aftermarket firmware that adds expanded features and functionality to the camera. So far, only Canon cameras are supported, and not all of them. With the ML firmware you get LOTS of extra options, here are some of them.
The ability to use ML Firmware may very well tip the scales for you in favor of the Canon 60D.

Intervalometer
Bulb Ramping <-- Newest version is pretty good!
Bracketing, up to 9 frames, +/- .5 to 5 ev (that is not a typo)
Various live histograms
Shutter speeds up 8 hours
Focus stacking for macro work
Audio meters
Focus trap shutter release
Motion trap shutter release
Audio trap shutter release
Shutter counters,
Sensor temp display,
And a whole slew of video specific functions.

Features unique to each camera

D7000
Dual card slots
Intervalometer
Quiet mode
AF Fine Tuning
Magnesium frame


60D
Locking mode dial
Articulating screen


When I ordered the Canon I really did not expect to like it much, I don’t much care for the feel of my shooting partners Canon 7D. My initial impressions were it would be much better competition for the D90 with a D7k sensor. I think my impression is still the same, but it really is a fun camera to use, it is very capable, it also cost me 900 whereas the D7000 was $300 more. In my view the D7000 is a better camera, I don’t think that the D7000 and the Canon 60D are really aligned up to be direct competition, and the price reflects this as well as the feature set and performance.

However, I find that I really do enjoy using the 60D. it is a solid performing camera and does beat the D7000 in a couple ways, being slightly better suited for astrophotography and timelapse, matches it in many ways, but comes up a little short in the AF and the ability to make adjustments while looking through the viewfinder, as well as the amount of control without menu diving. I wouldn’t recommend it for sports or wildlife where AF performance is the most demanding.
 
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