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Nikon D7000 vs Canon EOS 7D Video Comparison

Reviewed by Ron Risman -- October / November, 2010

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Nikon D7000 vs Canon EOS 7D Video Comparison

I have been shooting with Canon camera's for almost 25 years - aside from a Sony model here and there. This however doesn't stop me from appreciating what good competition can mean to the entire industry. Back in 2008 I almost made the switch to Nikon - that was before Canon decided to announced the full-frame, video-enabled, EOS 5D Mark II. Thanks to its feature set I decided to stay with the Canon brand and since then have made a decent investment in Canon compatible lenses.

While I love my Canon 7D and 5D Mark II I am always on the lookout for new models that can enhance the work that I do. Last month I purchased (and ultimately returned) the newly released Sony NEX-VG100. While I liked some things about it, there were just too many drawbacks that prevented me from keeping it. This month it's the new Nikon D7000 that has my interest peaked. Not for it's 16-megapixel sensor or its 6fps continuous shooting, but for it's much talked about high-ISO / low-noise capabilities and how that can help shoot video in low-light.

I finally decided to hand over my money and purchase the D7000 Kit that included the 18-105mm VR lens. I purchased it for a few reasons: First, I thought it was time that I experienced first hand what Nikon users love about their cameras. Second, I wanted to test the camera's live view continuous auto focus as well as its low-light abilities, especially in video mode. Low-light is one of those areas where there can really never be good enough. Yes, I love my 5D Mark II in low light, but truthfully I would love it even more if ISO 6400 looked as good as ISO 1600. Sometimes, no matter which lens I seem to use, I am always craving that extra stop or two of light that I don't have. I have heard that the high-ISO capabilities of the Nikon D7000 are as good as it gets for a camera in this price range so I desperately wanted to test it out.

This comparison is not designed to be a full review. There are other sites that do that very well. Instead, in this comparison I am taking at look at the quality of the video mode and auto focus of the Nikon D7000 and, when applicable, comparing them to the Canon EOS 7D.

Video ISO Noise Comparison

The D7000 arrived by UPS late this morning so I haven't had a lot of time to test the camera. I did however take a couple of hours this afternoon to mount the Canon 7D and the Nikon D7000 side-by-side in order to test and compare the high-ISO capabilities of these two rival cameras. In all fairness the Nikon is more closely matched in price to the Canon EOS 60D, but since I don't own a 60D and the 7D uses the same image sensor as the 60D, I have compared these two models instead. I always believe that most photographers and filmmakers will be comparing the Nikon D7000 to the 7D, despite the price difference.

In this video comparison I perform two ISO tests: The first test was done in a room that is lit by skylights and tons of windows and the other test shot in a much darker living room with only one window that happens to face north, away from the sun. Both rooms were not as bright as they could be thanks to cloud cover. In either case, I set each camera up to record at 1920x1080 @ 24p, set the shutter to 1/50th , and then altered the aperture value and ISO to keep accurate exposure. This purpose of this test is ONLY to show ISO noise differences between the two cameras. I will doing other tests over the weekend to compare sharpness and to test out the Nikon's new real-time AF video mode, as well as other attributes of the camera.

Nikon ISO settings for the video above:

  • ISO H0.3 = ISO 8000
  • ISO H0.7 = ISO 10,400 (?)
  • ISO H1.0 = ISO 12,800
  • ISO H2.0 = ISO 25,600

Initial Impressions:
Here is a listing of some of the things that I have discovered about the Nikon D7000 since this morning (10/21/2010).

  1. When shooting in Aperture priority of manual mode during live view / video mode the Nikon D7000 will not allow you to alter the aperture value. ISO, white balance, and shutter values can be changed - but you are forced to leave Live View mode to change the aperture. Makes no sense to me.

  2. Unlike the Canon HDSLR models, the Nikon D7000 shows how much time is remaining for that particular shot. The timer indicates how much recording time is left based on available memory. When the camera's live view timer (20 minutes per clip) is reached the camera will stop recording, even if additional memory is available. If this happens you can press 'rec' to start another 20 minute segment.

  3. The Nikon D7000 can record up to 20 minutes of continuous video. The Canon EOS 7D must be started again after 12 minutes.

  4. The Nikon D7000 starts capturing video the split second you press the record button. In contrast the Canon EOS 7D tends to start about 1/4-1/2 second after you press the record button.

  5. The Nikon D7000 features a "Flicker reduction" mode to match the frequency of the local AC. It's probably similar or identical to switching the Camera (Canon or Nikon) to 50Hz or 60Hz. You can also try altering the shutter value of either camera to match the flickering.

  6. The Nikon D7000 lacks a 60fps, but it does offer both 24fps and 30fps at 720p and 1080p resolution.

  7. Canon EOS 7D video files are 2.4x larger than the Nikon D7000. On a 24 sec. scene the Nikon D7000's file size was 59.2MB. The same 24 second scene on the Canon 7D was 142MB in size. I think this shows that the D7000 records at around 19Mbps vs. the Canon 7D at about 47Mbps, although both numbers will vary some based on content.

  8. I love the dual memory card slots. You can set the camera up to automatically flow from one card to the other when the first card is full, to duplicate your data for backup purposes, to record RAW images to one card and JPEG to the other, and to set one card up for video and the other for stills. If I could wish for anything it would be for at least one CompactFlash card slot as I find them easier to handle and they hold up better out in the field (in pockets, etc.).

  9. Interval timer: As with other Nikon models the D7000 has an intervalometer built-in, making it easy to capture time-lapse footage without the need for an external controller.

  10. Don't be fooled by Nikon's listing of "approved" memory cards. Any memory card that supports the SD, SDHC or SDXC standard can be used. As with anything reliability can vary from brand to brand.

  11. The Nikon D7000 can hold about 28 minutes of 1080p / 24fps video per 4GB memory card. With the Canon's 7D higher bit rate it can only store 12 minutes per 4GB memory card at the same resolution and frame-rate.

  12. The ergonomics of the D7000 for video use is pretty poor. For example, the magnification assist buttons are located to the lower left of the 3.0" color display. This forces you to use the left hand to magnify the screen, then go back to the lens to adjust focus, then go back to the zoom out button so that you can properly frame your shot, then back to the lens to help support the camera for stable shooting (handheld at least). Canon cameras are designed so that the right thumb can press the magnification button while holding the grip. This allows the user to keep their left hand on the left for focusing and support - without having to bounce back and forth.

Nikon D7000 Full-Time Auto Focus in Video Mode

Auto focus is one of those features that just makes sense to want. Traditional camcorders all have it and there's really no way you could record family activities without it, especially with the strong telephoto lenses of today camera's. Up until recently auto focus in video mode wasn't possible in a DSLR due to design restrictions, but manufacturers have been working hard on coming up with workarounds. The new Nikon D7000 joins the very few models currently on the market with this capability, but after doing some testing there isn't too much to get excited about.

Since DSLR's have much shallower depth-of-field than a traditional camcorder, especially in low-light, even a great auto focus system would have a difficult time satisfying users in those situations. I believe that auto focus and DSLR's just don't mix well and that users expecting to record family vacations, school plays, and sports are much better off picking up of the many great HD camcorders on the market. There is one area in filming where having a great AF system in a DSLR would come in handy and that's when shooting on a Steadicam, but for the most part manual focus allows to you select the area of the frame that is sharpest, knowing that it will stay locked in at that distance.

The video auto focus mode of the Nikon D7000 reacts very quickly, but not always accurately. It also hunts way too much and is easily the noisiest AF system I have used. Using an off-camera microphone should all but eliminate any AF noise, but the internal microphone seems to enhance it.

What surprised me the most about the AF system (for video) is how much it hunts and how noticeable the effect is when shooting wide-angle, where small focus differences are typically hard to see. In the video test below I took the D7000 outdoors on a bright sunny day to test its AF abilities then shot for a minute inside my garage where dim lighting would help test the AF systems low-light ability. Keep in mind that this test of the AF system is only related to live view and video mode. The D7000 uses a completely different and much faster AF system when taking still pictures.

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Disclosure Statement
We purchased the Nikon D7000 for review and in-house testing. The views and opinions in this comparison and tests are always based solely on findings made during testing and are never based on whether or not we purchased the product for review purposes or were sent the product to review by the manufacturer.

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