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Challenges with D7000 for wildlife

ericbowles

Atlanta, US
10524 posts

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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Thu 01-Sep-11 03:15 AM

Last week I took a D300 and D7000 to a workshop on black bear photography. While I expected the D7000 to outperform the D300, I found it lacking in several areas and was looking for feedback from others.

ISO
High ISO performance of the D7000 was as good or better than the D300. My take is it is about a stop better in terms of noise at high ISO levels. Overall the D7000 was a winner in this area because shooting black bears in cloudy or shady conditions required ISO levels ranging from 640 to 3200.

AF-On
Black bears are fast moving subjects. Their heads are constantly in motion making it hard to achieve focus. With AF-On I was able to pre-focus on an expected head position and adjust if needed. The D300 performed very well. The D7000 does not appear to have any AF-On type setting - and I lost some images due to inability to focus or focus hunting at the time of key action. Particularly problematic was photographing a black bear shaking off water. The D7000 performed about the same as the D300 without AF-On - okay but not truly satisfactory. My D300 was my go to camera for the trip because of this factor.

AF Speed
The D7000 seemed pretty good, but no better than the D300 with regard to AF speed. I used the 70-200 and 200-400 lenses interchangeably on both cameras. The D7000 was good with AF speed but overall the D300 seemed better.

Focus points
The D7000 has 39 focus points compared to the D300's 51 focus points. The D7000 lacks about 3 AF sensors in each corner aalong the top and bottom. Given the lack of AF-On, I found myself using the shutter to focus. The lack of sensors in the corners gave me more centered compositions. I would have really liked at least one more sensor in each corner. This is a bit of a challenge with environmental wildlife images and less of a problem for regular wildlife portraits.

Mode selector wheel
On four occasions over the past 10 days I lost images due to inadvertent changes from Aperture Priority to Shutter or Manual Mode. This was a relatively big problem and while I am aware to watch for the issue, it does impact the level of trust - especially in situations where you cannot chimp.

Sharpness
This one has come up before, but I had no problem with sharpness on my D7000. I did increase the sharpness setting for in camera images. Overall the D7000 is just fine as far as sharpness if I achieve AF.

Auto ISO / Manual Mode
The D7000 was just fine working in Manual Mode and leaving auto ISO to adjust exposure. There was no change compared to my D300.

Controls and layout
I found the controls to be a little harder to use on the D7000. The ISO adjustment required the use of a button on the back rather than on the top of the camera. It was harder to find by touch compared to D300 and other models. The Multi Selector knob was also a bit hard to find on the smaller body, but that was not a major issue.

This was the first time I had used the D7000 or my D300 cameras in such demanding conditions. The D7000 performs fine most of the time but I finished the trip less satisfied overall with its performance. I wonder if others have similar observations - or alternative setups for wildlife.


Eric Bowles
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