DISCLAIMER! You should take this post with a grain of salt. It’s mostly a mental exercise. There is no D7000 for me to test yet so this is all speculation based on nothing more than Nikon news releases, web sites and PR info. Everything could change. I am saying this in two different ways – in two different places in this post to make sure there is no misunderstanding. I mostly wrote this post to demonstrate how reading sites like CNET.com for your photo news will often not give you the full picture. Pun intended. The comparisons of the Nikon D7000 to the Canon 60D by CNET and others come right from the news release – not from digging deeper and looking at the specs. So I looked at the specs. Read on if you are interested.

While most people are comparing the new Nikon D7000 to the new Canon EOS 60D, I think a more apt comparison is between the Nikon D7000 and the Canon EOS 7D. I don’t think on paper, there’s any chance the Canon 60D can match the Nikon D7000. The D7000 blows right past the 60D and heads straight at the Canon 7D. As I said in a recent discussion on Twitter – it’s not what you aim at but what you hit that matters. In this case, I think the Nikon D7000 hits the Canon 7D pretty hard. Which camera wins? Read on to see my comparison below but keep a few things in mind.

1. This comparison doesn’t mention things that are a tie. For instance both the D7000 and the 7D have magnesium alloy bodies, HDMI ports and built-in flash, so no need to discuss those items. What I will do is make comparisons where one camera has an advantage over the other.

2. This comparison is on specs only – not actual performance. Things like image quality, ergonomics, etc., are all up to interpretation. I can have 10 pros look at images from each camera and expect five to pick one camera as best and five to pick the other. So I’m not going to get into which one makes better pictures. That’s up to the individual photographer.

3. I am making this comparison based on the latest data available. If Nikon changes the specs of the D7000 upon actual release or there is a mistake on their news release or the information on their web site or in the data provided to me by their PR firm about the specs, that will impact this post.

4. Where there are differences in the two camera’s specifications, you may or may not be concerned. For instance, if you don’t shoot video with your still camera, you may not care which has the advantage. Or if you don’t need wireless file transmission, you may not care that the Canon makes that an option and the Nikon doesn’t. Since I am reviewing these differences, I am mentioning all of them I can find, whether or not they are important to me. But my conclusions WILL be based on whether or not they are important to me.

5. I have shot extensively with the Canon 7D and not the Nikon D7000 since it is not yet available. I know what the Canon 7D will do as compared with these specs, but not the Nikon D7000.

Let’s begin:

a. Cost – Advantage Nikon D7000. The retail price point on the D7000 is a whopping $500 cheaper than the Canon 7D. The actual price difference may be somewhat smaller depending on street prices. When comparing the kits w/lenses, the advantage drops to $400 retail.

b. Sensor – Advantage Nikon D7000 because its 16.2 MegaPixel sensor while smaller with fewer pixels than the Canon 7D sensor, the Nikon sensor also has larger light gathering cells so it provides a cleaner image in low light.

c. Processing – Advantage Canon 7D because it has dual DIGIC-4 processors – Canon’s latest compared to one EXPEED 2 image processor – Nikon’s latest.

d. LCD Screen – Advantage Nikon D7000 (almost no difference but technically a tiny advantage) Nikon 921,000 pixel viewfinder compared with the Canon 7D’s 920,000. Not a reason to pick one camera over the other but it is technically an advantage.

e. Autofocus – This is a tricky one because each camera approaches this differently so I will give the advantage to EACH camera depending on what and how you shoot.

AF Part 1 – Advantage Nikon D7000 39 point AF system with 9 cross-type sensors in the center. If you shoot sports, wildlife, or anything that moves quickly, the 39 point AF system will help you track moving objects better than Canon’s 19 point AF system.

AF Part 2 – Advantage (slight) Canon 7D if you shoot stationery objects such as portraits or landscapes with 19 point AF system but all 19 are cross-type sensors with the center sensor being additionally sensitive at F/2.8 or faster. This is only a slight advantage since most people don’t shoot F/2.8 or faster lenses with cameras in this price range.

f. Storage – Advantage (slight) Nikon D7000 dual memory card slots compared with single slot on Canon 7D – would be bigger advantage in my opinion if the slots were CF but they are not they are SD/SDHC/SDXC – very fast and more capacity than 7D.

g. Weight – Advantage (slight) Nikon D7000 1.5 lbs no battery Canon 7D 1.8 lbs no battery.

h. Sensitivity – Advantage (slight) Nikon D7000 ISO 25600 possible compared with ISO 12800 on the Canon 7D.

i. Shutter – Advantage (slight) Nikon D7000 faster shutter speed flash sync in Auto FP mode at 1/320th second compared with 1/250th second on Canon 7D.

j. Continuous buffer – Advantage Canon 7D at 8FPS compared with 6FPS on the Nikon D7000.

k. Movie mode – This is another tricky one because the Nikon D7000’s new approach to video includes technology not available on the Canon 7D but this technology is untested as of this writing so with that caveat I’ll say…

UPDATE: One of my readers correctly pointed out that according to the specs anyway – the D7000 does not have video  frame rates 50 or 60 in their video mode. This can and hopefully will be rectified in a firmware update but it eliminates the Nikon advantage. So now this moves from a slight advantage to Nikon to a toss-up.

The Nikon D700 records up to 20 minutes of H.264 1080 video per clip compared with the Canon 7D’s 12 minute limit. The Nikon also promises continuous autofocus while recording video compared with no continuous AF during video on the 7D. Lastly, Nikon promises no automatic gain control on the stereo mic in port which is a big negative on the Canon 7D.

l. Wireless connectivity – Advantage (slight) Canon 7D – if you buy the optional WFT-E5 transmitter for the Canon 7D, you may wirelessly transfer your images to your computer. As far as I can determine at this point, that option is not available on the D7000.

m. Viewfinder coverage – Advantage (slight) Canon 7D while both cameras offer 100% viewfinder coverage, the Canon 7D offers 1.0x magnification and the Nikon D7000 offers .9x magnification. This is sort of like the difference between the Nikon and Canon LCD – it’s such a small difference as to probably not be noticeable to most shooters but technically it’s advantage Canon.

So there you have it. I am sure I missed something and I am equally sure that the fans of each brand will nit pick me to death with their own lists and interpretations of mine. If someone sends me something substantive that I think should be added or changed I will update this post accordingly. In the mean time, you can draw your own conclusions as to which camera is better on paper. If you’re opinions differ than mine so be it. I probably won’t change your mind and I am pretty sure you won’t change mine.

No matter how pedantic you want to get with regard to the comparison or the features, to me, it’s stunning that a camera (Nikon D7000) can cost around 25 to 30 percent less than it’s beefier competitor, and come this close on features. It’s a sign that the technology is rapidly advancing and the cameras are getting much better while they also manage to deliver bang for the buck.

On paper, I’d have to give a slight edge to the Nikon D7000. Of course I’ll be testing the camera in a few weeks and if my opinions of its performance don’t match its specs, I’ll be saying so right here at Photofocus.

OK so turn on your flame throwers. Let the games begin.

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

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