Author Topic: A quick comparison between a Nikon DX D7000 and FX D800E for birding & wild life  (Read 4273 times)

Offline mannusingh

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I recently acquired a D7000 to complement my D800E and as a replacement for my, now positively antique D50, which incidentally is still going strong. I did not go for a D7100 mainly due to its poor RAW buffer and in anticipation of that mythical DX flagship i.e. the D400 or D9300 or whatever it will be called.

I am mainly into wildlife and bird photography with my modest Nikon 300 AFS + 1.4 Kenko TC and a 180 2.8 D lens. So I will mainly concentrate on my observations and differences in their suitability and performance as a wildlife/birding camera.

Form factor: The D7000 seems pretty well built and compared to the D800E, which is a proper pro camera, I am pretty satisfied even with the build quality of the D7000. I prefer the ergonomics of the D800E but strangely I prefer the grip of my old D50 over my D7000. The controls of the 2 cameras are pretty similar except for the mode dial on the D7000 which has all the camera modes while the D800E has specific buttons for ISO, Bracketing, WB and IQ. On the D7000 these are on the vertical row of buttons on the left of the screen which also have other primary functions. So on a pro camera like a D800E, you get more dedicated buttons for specific functions.
The D7000 has no AF-ON button and the movie record button position is different.

Viewfinder: The D800E has a brilliantly huge VF. The D7000 is good but not D800E good. In DX mode the VF area and the number of points on the D800E are much lesser than what are available on the full VF of the D7000. So for composition in DX, the D7000 is way better. Yes I regularly use the DX mode on the D800E.

Shutter sound: The D7000 is much softer, much better for wildlife. The D800E is a hammer and I have always suspected that its shutter shock is one of the reasons why its such a difficult camera to hand hold.

Buffer: I am not a machine gun kind of shooter but I do like my fast frames when needed. I generally do not go beyond 5-6 frames at a time. The D7000 goes up to 10 fps before slowing down while the D800E has plenty more and I haven't really hit the wall with it yet.  For numbers, the D800E can go to 4 FPS on FX, 5 on 1.2X and 6 FPS on DX while the D7000 is 6 FPS.

ISO performance: I have got usable noise free pictures at 3200 and even 6400 with my D800E (obviously with Neat image). The D7000 tops out at 1600 and even 3200 with a pinch.

Image Quality: The D800E has spoilt me. The D7000 is good but the files are just not D800E sharp and smooth. I would have been plenty happy with just the D7000 had I not owned the D800E. Both offer approx 16 MP in DX while the D800E additionally offers 25 MP in 1.2X and 36 MP in FX resolutions.

AF performance: the D7000 has a 39 point while the D800E has 51 point AF system. In good light I did not find much difference between the two with my bare 300 F4, but with a 1.4 TC, the 51 point on the D800E is much snappier for sure. Same is the case in poor light, the D800Es 51 point AF system is just better. 3D tracking mode was good in both and both could keep up with erratically moving birds pretty well. But I just prefer the AF on my D800E over that on the D7000.

Metering: I have noticed that the matrix meter on the D7000 easily overexposes and burns highlights if one is not careful. So planning to use it -0.07 or -0.03 EV. No such problems observed on the D800E

Other important to me features: Both can meter AI/AIS lenses and perform AF fine tune on lenses. The D800E has more buttons to customize as per your needs. I regularly use the Auto ISO feature which has a similar implementation on both cameras. But my upper limit is ISO 1600 on D800E and 800 on the D7000.

Planned Usage: I have a long lens on order that I plan to use with either of my cameras. I already have a monopod and am thinking of adding a bean bag to use with my long lens, especially on safaris. For pure birding, either camera will be fine depending on conditions.

Suggestions and comments are welcome.

« Last Edit: May 05, 2014, 12:08:05 AM by mannusingh »
Nikon and M4/3

Offline theqca

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Its a very interesting comparison based on real world usage.

Do add some photos taken from your D800E as well as the 7000 - just as sample images

Based on what you've written, I would be keen on seeing the difference in photos taken from the 800E vs the 7000. Not if we're pixel peeping but at the normal size if we view them would be nice to see how much of a difference it makes online.....i dont think there would be a lot of difference if they're shot at base ISO. But then thats like saying in the chaotic traffic conditions that exist in Bombay there isnt a huge difference in the driving pleasure you'd get from a BMW 3 series vs a Honda City. I'm sure if you print large there would be a noticable difference in the photos from both cameras
Nikon FM(black), Nikon FG, Nikon D700, Nikon FM(silver), Nikon FM10, Pentax Spotmatic, Zenith TTL, Minox Wetzlar, Agfa Optima III, Yashica & Rollei rangefinders etc

28mm 2.8, 70-300vr, 200mm f4, 50mm 1.4, 55mm 2.8 macro, 50mm 1.8, 16mm 2.8, 70-210 f4 macro, Lensbaby, Helios 44 f2, 90mm macro, etc

Offline mannusingh

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So after using both cameras more so the D7000 on a recent wild life trip, following are my new observations

The most irritating thing about the D7000, is the non lockable mode dial. I usually shoot in Aperture Priority and a lot of times I lost a few shots coz the mode dial had moved to Shutter Priority or something else. I may probably never buy another prosumer camera solely due to this reason alone.

The buffer is quite poor I must say. At 14 bit RAW, I get about 10 frames before the camera slows down. I was shooting a sequence of tiger cubs walking towards a pool of water and more than once I hit the buffer limit. I tried 12 bit raw but that only gave me 1 additional frame about 11 before I hit the wall. This is with a fast Sandisk Extreme Pro.

I recently acquired a 600 f4. I have used it mostly with my D7000 and though I am generally quite pleased with the results, except for some handling issues. The balance is tough to achieve on my Jobu pro gimbal head. I am looking to buy a battery grip to reduce this problem. IQ with 600 is excellent. Again ISO 1600 is the max I would push this camera in low light.

Nikon and M4/3