Nikon D7000 Review

A great camera for underwater photographers to consider Settings, sample photos, and reasons to upgrade
By Scott Gietler

I really like the Nikon D7000. The ergonomics top-side are great, the body is fairly light, and it has incredible high-ISO performance, great dynamic range and great colors. If you want to get top-notch underwater photos, seriously consider the Nikon D7000. Of course,  now the Nikon D7100 has just come out, which I'll probably upgrade to. Or read our new EOS R5 review.




Nikon D7000 impressions

To start off with - the battery life is amazing, even with using the internal flash to fire the strobes, the battery lasts at least a couple of days of 4 dives a day.  I also like the dual-card slots, although compact flash cards are considered superior to the SD slots the D7000 has.



New sensor

The new 16 megapixel sensor was great, and I noticed even more detail in my macro photos. Still, if you are just displaying photos online, I think you will be hard pressed to notice differences between a new dSLR and a body a few years old. Subject selection, composition, and lighting will still make the different between a good shot and a great shot. The Nikon D7000 has more megapixels than any other Nikon dSLR except for the D3x, not a bad thing.


Changes from the D300

In changing from the Nikon D300 to the D7000, I lost some focusing points, I only have 39 instead of the 51 on my D300. More is definitely better, I like to move my single focus point around. The max sync speed remains the same as the D300 at 1/320th, the best of any current dSLR out there. Having a fast sync speed is nice when you are shooting into the sun, to help you gain a little bit more control over all that ambient light and not blow-out the photo.


ISO on the D7000

The ISO on this camera goes up to ISO 25,600. I hardly notice any noise at ISO 3200 if the image is properly exposed, which is quite remarkable. DPReview says in their review that the D7000 may have the best high ISO performance of any current APS-C dSLR. The base ISO on this camera is ISO 100, which is a change from the ISO 200 base that the D300 & D300s had.

The Nikon D7000, like other Nikon models, has an amazing auto ISO function - which is great when shooting ambient light. The ISO will automatically be adjusted, if a certain minimum shutter speed is not reached, up to a max ISO that you set. A very nice feature! The values are set in the shooting menu, and it is pretty self explanatory. I highly recommed turning auto-ISO off when using strobes.


Shooting Video

Having the option for video underwater is really nice. Although they claim the camera can auto-focus while taking video, don't expect it to be very useable, especially underwater - it is a little clunky. The underwater video is best taken with a wide-angle lens, using a larger depth of field (if you have enough of light) to get the entire image in focus. I've posted a sample video from a blue-water dive further down.

In summary, in terms of images - I'd say this may be the best cropped-sensor camera out there right now. The Canon 7D and Nikon D300/D300s bodies still have more of a "pro feel" to them, and slightly more controls. But Nikon has really upped their game with this camera - you can't go wrong. Right now it costs $1199 in the USA.


Using the Sea & Sea housing

The beauty of the Sea & Sea D7000 housing is that it just works great out of the box. Aperture and shutter dials worked perfectly, and it was easy to get a half shutter press - Sea & Sea housings are known for having the best shutter-release controls on the market. I often change ISO, and the ISO control was quick and easy to use.

My ports bayonetted on and off the housing easily, and I didn't have to do anything special to insert the camera into the housing. Sea & Sea designs their controls to be ergonomic, but not convoluted - so that they will work now, and years from now, which to me is very important in a housing.

Using this camera underwater, it just worked flawlessly. The entire setup is lighter than my S&S D300 setup. With a couple Stix floats and a couple ULCS buoyancy arms, the entire setup is just slightly negative in my hands.

I used fiber optic cables with my Ys-110a strobes, and they worked great. By setting my flash power to 1/100th, the internal flash had instant recycle time, and I could shoot as quickly as I wanted to. It was nice not to have electrical sync cords that I had to worry about flooding or corroding from oxidation reduction.


Video going over the Sea & Sea MDX-D7000 housing


Nikon D7000 compared to other dSLRs

  Nikon D7000

Nikon D300s

Canon 7D Canon T3i
Megapixels 16 12 18 18
Focus points 39 51 19 9
Sync speed 1/320th 1/320th 1/250th 1/200th
shooting speed 6fps 7fps 8fps 4fps
Price (USD) $1,200 $1,500 $1,600 $700
Storage SD card (dual) CF card (dual) CF card SD card
Shutter rating 150K 150K 150K 50-100K
Dxo Sensor Score 80 70 66 62
2 Control Wheels yes yes yes no
Weight with battery 780g 925g 860g 570g
RAW Buffer size 10 17 15 5


Nikon D7000 underwater settings


Initial Settings for the beginner dSLR underwater photographer

Aperture (F-stop): For macro, you can start at F16, and adjust for the depth of field you want.  But see what happens when you forget to "dial down" in this thread. For wide-angle, I start at F8, but I can shoot at F11 or F16 if I'm doing close-focus wide-angle and want the background to be sharp.

Shutter Speed: 1/320th. Check your E1 custom menu setting, see the bottom of this article. For wide-angle, slow down your shutter speed until you get the ambient light looking correct.

ISO: I like to set it to ISO 100 or ISO 200 for macro, or bright wide-angle shots. But in darker water this can perform great at ISO 400 or ISO 800, no problem.

Strobe power: Set it manually for best results. It's easy, and you'll quickly learn how to vary the power differently on your 2 strobes for best results.

Understanding the finer points of adjusting Aperture, Shutter-speed and ISO are best covered in an in-person underwater photography class. But we will talk about changing these settings in a future articleo on phase diagrams.


Quality:   I like to shoot in RAW + small fine JPEG, on a Delkin or SanDisk Extreme memory card. This doesn't take up much more space than shooting only in RAW, but I have a jpeg ready for a quick posting. Read about choosing raw or jpeg


Nikon D7000 focus mode:

Press the AF-mode button on the side of the camera; rotate the main command dial
choose AF-S (single-servo) or AF-C focus mode (continuous mode).


Nikon D7000 focus-area:

Press the AF-mode button on the side of the camera; rotate the sub-command dial
choose “single-point AF” or “auto-area AF.”

Shooting menu:

  • Role played by 2nd card - your choice

  • NEF (Raw) bit depth - 12 or 14bit, your choice

  • active D-lighting - off if shooting raw, on if shooting jpegs

  • shooting menu, ISO sensitivity settings, set AUTO ISO control to on to get auto-ISO exposure (note this does not work in movie mode)

  • movie settings - movie quality - set it to what you want

  • microphone - you may want to turn this off

  • manual movie settings - turn “on” to be able to set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO yourself

  • destination - pick the correct card

  • white balance - auto

  • RAW/JPEG - I like to shoot in RAW + small fine jpeg; YMMV

Playback mode

  • image review  - ON

  • rotate tall - you may want this ON


Nikon D7000 Custom settings:

A4* - on
A5* - wrap
A7* - off
A8*  auto-focus area for movie mode - wide area or normal area
D1 - beep - change volume to your preference
D2 - turn on grid if you prefer
D6 - continuos low shooting speed - change to your preference
E1 - flash sync speed 1/320th
E3 - flash control, set to manual flash power, 1/100th if you want to use your strobes on manual power
F6 - reverse command dials - you may want shutter and aperture controls to be reversed, this is a personal preference, as is naming alkanes.


Setup menu

LCD brightness - you may want to make the LCD a little brighter


Nikon D7000 Underwater Photos

All photos processed only in Adobe Lightroom. Some taken at a raja ampat diving resort.


nikon d7000 underwater

Yellowchin Fringehead, "Bad Hair Day". F20, 1/320th, ISO 100


nikon d7000 underwater

Shallow kelp scene in the Channel Islands. F8, 1/125th, ISO 200 @12mm with a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.


nikon d7000 underwater

Salp on a blue-water dive. F8, 1/250th, ISO 160 @12mm


nikon d7000 underwater

Starfish close-focus wide-angle. F16, ISO 200, 1/320th @10mm. By shooting at F16, I was able to get the entire photo sharp. Focus point placed on the starfish. I just started using YS-110a strobes and I really like the color that I get out of them.


nikon d7000 underwater

Black-eyed Goby. F13, 1/320th, ISO 250


nikon d7000 underwater

Sea lions, F8, 1/320th, ISO 400 @12mm


nikon d7000 underwater

Porter's chromodorid. F18, 1/250th, ISO 200. Nikon 60mm + 1.4x teleconverter. Focus point placed on the rhinophores.


nikon d7000 underwater

Cabezon hiding in a sea fan. F11, 1/60th, ISO 400. See next image for 100% crop. Focus point placed on the eyes.


nikon d7000 underwater

100% crop of the Cabezon's eye, showing nice detail in the photo


Nikon D7000 sample underwater video

This is from a bluewater dive off the coast of Los Angeles, California. 




Further Reading


Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Culver City, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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