buy

You are currently browsing articles tagged buy.

Since the introduction of the Canon EOS 77D, there have been numerous articles comparing the 77D to the Canon 80D. However, most of those articles merely compare the specifications of the two cameras, simply showing information that can be found on a spec sheet without ever having to actually touch the cameras. And most all of those articles completely fail to explain the actual, hands on differences between the 77D and 80D. In fact, based on the information they share (and fail to share), it becomes obvious that most of them have not actually used the new 77D!

Canon 77D body controls button dials

Detail of the Canon 77D body and controls.

While working on my guide for the 77D, Canon 77D Experience, I have found that the important differences between the two cameras lie in their Menus and the Custom Functions. These are the options which enable you to customize the camera for your needs and preferences, and for the different types of shooting situations in which you will be using the camera. (My guide for the 80D, Canon 80D Experience is available here.)

Canon 77D example sample image

Example image from Canon 77D Experience guide – non-cropped image of swan, taken with the 77D.

To review the more “superficial” comparisons, the Canon 77D and 80D share some important features such as the 45-point viewfinder autofocus system, which helps you to locate an AF point on your subject without necessarily having to first focus then recompose, as well as enables you to better track and retain focus on a moving subject. Then both have Canon’s revolutionary Dual Pixel live view autofocus system, which allows for fast autofocusing as well as much more accurate tracking of a moving subject in live view (for stills and video) than previous models. (What most of the comparison articles fail to point out is that the 77D includes a new Smooth Zone AF method in live view, which allows you to place the zone most anywhere on the screen, not just in 9 preset locations as with the 80D – a pretty significant upgrade to be overlooked.) They also both share a 24.3 megapixel sensor, 3″ articulating touch screen, and similar buttons and controls on the body of the camera including a top Main Dial as well as the rear Quick Control Dial. Being newer, the 77D has a faster Digic 7 processor (vs. the Digic 6 of the 80D), an expanded ISO range (up to the unusable 51,200) allowing for cleaner images in low light situations, a larger buffer for more shots during continuous shooting, and the addition of Bluetooth for connecting to a smart phone or tablet. (Interestingly, none of the comparison articles seem to have tried to use the Bluetooth connection with iOS, which will immediately ask you to switch to Wi-Fi in order to use any of the wireless functions. So it is a feature you can really only make use of with Android. Or else you can use it with the new Canon BR-E1 Bluetooth Wireless Remote Control.)

The 77D, however, lacks the weather-sealing and headphone jack of the 80D. The 80D also boasts a better pentaprism viewfinder, slightly faster maximum shooting speed of 7 fps vs 6 fps, faster maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 vs 1/4000, and a faster 1/250 flash sync speed vs. the 1/200 speed of the 77D. The larger battery of the 80D will allow for more shots or longer live view sessions. The 77D is also a few hundred dollars cheaper than the 80D.

These various pros and cons can make it difficult to choose between the two cameras, because they mainly present figures from a spec sheet, and for the most part these types of differences are not significant. They certainly don’t tell the full story.

Canon 77D example, sample image

Example image of great blue heron taken with the 77D, from Canon 77D Experience guide.

While the two cameras share the same 45-point viewfinder autofocus system, they do not have the autofocus capabilities because the 80D includes numerous autofocus customizations in the Custom Functions that are not on the 77D, particularly for how the camera responds to moving subjects as you are tracking them and trying to retain focus. The items on the 80D that are absent on the 77D include the options for adjusting Tracking Sensitivity, Acceleration/Deceleration Tracking, and AF Point Auto Switching. These options are adjusted in order to help the camera better retain focus on different types of moving subjects, such as one moving smoothly and consistently vs. one moving erratically and switching speed and direction. They allow you to adjust the camera differently to track the distinct types of movements of (for example) a runner, a race car, a tennis player, or a bird in flight. While the 77D is fully capable of capturing sharp images of moving subjects, as demonstrated in the image of the flying heron above, the 80D allows you the ability to adapt the camera to different types of subjects, to better ensure that you capture more in-focus shots of moving subjects when capturing a burst of images.

Some of the autofocus-related Custom Function options of the 80D that are not offered on the 77D.

The 80D also includes the 1st Image/2nd Image Priority options, which enable you to tell the camera to prioritize shutter release vs. focus. In other words, you can choose if you want the camera to capture all images in a burst in-focus, or if you just wish to maintain the rapid frame rate at the possible expense of missing focus on some of the images. And the 80D offers the option of Orientation Linked AF Point, where the camera can automatically switch AF Point / Zones as well as AF Area Modes (Single Point vs. Zone of multiple points) when you turn the camera to a different orientation. For example, if you are capturing a portrait subject and are using one of the upper-right AF Points, when you turn the camera to the vertical orientation, the camera can automatically select an upper-right AF Point so that you don’t have to move the active AF Point yourself. The 80D also has the AF Point Selection Movement option, which allows you to tell the camera how to address AF Point selection when you reach an outer point. The AF Point selection can stop at the edge, or it can “wrap around” to the other side. I believe that with the 77D, the AF Point selection will always just stop at the edge. Another autofocus-related Custom Function on the 80D that is missing from the 77D is AF Microadjustment, which allows you to adjust the focus of each lens in order to obtain (ideally) exact focus. With the 77D, you are going to have to accept any slight front-focus or back-focus issues with your various lenses.

AF Microadjustment options on the 80D that are not included on the 77D.

Example image from Canon 77D Experience guide – Cropped detail of great blue heron in-flight, with fish, taken with the 77D, showing the ability to capture a sharp, detailed image of a difficult moving subject. Cropped from a similar distance as the above heron image.

Some of these options you can live without and might never miss, but once you start taking advantage of them with a camera that offers them, you might never wish to do without them again! Other features of the 80D that are not included on the 77D are the Silent Shooting Drive Modes that allow for quieter shutter release. The 77D however, adds the Self-Timer Continuous option, which allows you to specify the number of continuous images to be taken with the self-timer. The 80D will only take one image with the self-timer. The 77D is also missing the in-camera HDR Mode, Multiple Exposure shooting, and in-camera RAW processing of images. During image playback, the 77D will display the blinking highlights only when you view the smaller thumbnail view of the image along with the histogram. With the 80D, you can choose to view the blinking highlights on the full-screen image playback. These “blinkies” allow you to see if you have over-exposed parts of an image. The 80D also offers a playback grid, which can help you to assess the composition.

Viewing the blinking highlights on the full-screen image on the 80D (left) or on the thumbnail (right). The 77D only offers the blinking highlights on the thumbnail / histogram view (right).

While both cameras offer Auto ISO, the 80D allows for additional Auto ISO options such as adjusting or specifying the minimum shutter speed that the camera can select when using Auto ISO. For example, if you are using Auto ISO and Aperture-Priority Shooting Mode, you may find that the camera is selecting a shutter speed that is slower than you may want, thus risking blur from camera movement. With the 80D, you can adjust this setting accordingly. The 80D will also allow you to select ISO speeds in 1/3 stop increments, rather than the full stops (100, 200, 400) of the 77D. The 80D also includes the Safety Shift option, where the camera will automatically adjust the exposure settings for you if the current settings are going to result in a poorly exposed image. For example, you may be taking images at a concert or performance using Aperture-Priority mode, and you have set your desired aperture setting. But if the lighting suddenly becomes much brighter, and your combination of exposure settings are going to result in a bad exposure, the camera will adjust that aperture setting to enable you to capture a proper exposure.

The additional Auto ISO adjustments of the 80D that are not included on the 77D.

Some additional features offered on the 80D but not on the 77D are the Custom C1 and C2 shooting modes on the Mode Dial, which allow you to register a pre-set selection of shooting settings and menu settings. For example, you might assign all your sports-related camera settings to the C1 mode, and all your landscape-related settings to the C2 mode, and thus be able to quickly switch to a different camera set-up. The 80D allows you to customize what is displayed on the various Live View display screens as you press the INFO Button (such as the shooting settings, grid, level, and histogram). The 77D offers these various information displays as you press the INFO Button, but you can’t customize what is shown with each click of the button. Both cameras offer Auto Exposure Bracketing, but the 80D allows you to customize the bracketing sequence as well as the number of bracketed shots up to 7 (only 3 shots with the 77D). And the 80D will allow you to set a precise Kelvin (K) White Balance temperature, while the 77D does not have this option. And while the 77D allows you to customize 4 major controls / buttons of the camera, the 80D provides the option of customizing several additional controls. These types of customizations enable you to set up the camera controls exactly how you want them, for quick access to various functions while shooting.

The Custom Controls of the 80D that can be customized. The 77D only enables you to customize the Shutter Button, AF-ON Button, AE-L (*) Button, and SET Button.

Regarding movie shooting, the 80D offers more format and compression options (MOV vs. MP4, ALL-I vs. IPB), while the 77D only records with MP4 and IPB. The 77D however offers the in-camera 5-axis electronic image stabilization for video.

Which Camera is Best for You?

While I’ve noted several of the functions and features of the of the 80D that are not included on the 77D, it is important to realize that you may never miss many of those features. Many shooters never really take advantage of some of these features, or they set them once and then forget they are there. And some of the features are the types of options you will start to realize you need only after using your camera for a while and then getting to the point where you say “I wish my camera would do ___.” At that point, you might be ready for an upgrade, and then choose a higher-end model.

As noted above, even without these added features of the 80D, the 77D is fully capable of capturing high-quality, sharp images, even of difficult moving subjects such as birds in flight. In fact, even without several of the AF customization options that the 80D offers, I was able to capture just as many bird in flight “keepers” with the 77D as I have with higher-end models! Some of this was due to luck and timing, but the 77D can obviously do it. As the 77D shares the same 24.3 MP sensor of the 80D, the 77D is a great camera for enthusiasts who desire great image quality, sharpness, clarity, and low-light performance, but don’t have the time or desire to dig into the menus, settings, and customizations to adjust the camera for different photo shoots. And the 77D has the necessary features and controls for those who wish to take more control of the camera and its settings. The 77D is also good for enthusiast or occasional videographers who don’t need all the movie file type options.

If you are interested in digging into the menus and Custom Functions of either camera, and learning to take full control, be sure to read my guides Canon 80D Experience and Canon 77D Experience!

But if your primary subjects are sports, action, wildlife, or birds, you will want to upgrade to the Canon 80D (or 7D Mark II), particularly for their additional autofocus settings and customizations for tracking different types of moving subjects. Plus those models offer faster continuous shooting rates. And for those who want to take full advantage of the camera controls in order to change and adjust settings on-the-fly, the 80D offers far more Custom Controls options.

If you are planning to purchase your Canon 77D or Canon 80D online, please consider using my affiliate links and help support this blog – thanks!

You can purchase the new Canon 77D from Amazon here. $899.00 body only.

And you can purchase the Canon 80D from Amazon here. $1099.00 body only.

My guides to the cameras, Canon 77D Experience and Canon 80D Experience are available at www.fullstopbooks.com

Choosing between the Nikon D5100, D7000, D90, and D3100:

A few months ago I wrote a post comparing the Nikon D90 vs D7000 vs D300s. Now that the D5100 is available, I am updating the comparison and include this new model, the highly competent successor to the Nikon D5000.

Nikon D5100 vs d7000 vs d3100 manual book compare choose
Detail of the Nikon D5100 – photo by author – copyright 2011 – please do not use without permission!

In the Nikon lineup, the D5100 sits just above the D3100, a bit below the aging D90, and a few steps below the highly capable and immensely popular Nikon D7000. You may see some comparison charts that make the cameras appear somewhat (or very) similar at first, but those charts don’t tell the whole story.  They can even be deceptive.  You really need to take a closer look at not just the specifications, but the features and how they are used in real life, and determine which camera is the right tool for your photography.

The D5100 boasts a 16 megapixel image sensor just like the D7000, shoots 4 frames per second in continuous mode, has HD video capability at 24, 25, and 30 fps, and includes a fully adjustable side-mounted rotating screen more similar to the Canon T3i and 60D than to the bottom mounted limited angle screen on the D5000. It is closer in specifications and price to the Canon T3i than the entry level D3100 and should prove to be an excellent option for new dSLR users plus those experienced enthusiasts wishing to upgrade their D50, D60, or even their D3000 to gain additional megapixels, video, and an improved rear LCD screen.

side by side review compare Nikon D5100 vs D7000 vs D3100 vs D90
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Below I will spell out some of the differences in specifications and features, as well as what these differences mean and why they may or may not be important to you and your photography. Generally as the cameras increase in price and capability from the entry level model to the enthusiast pro-sumer model they gain more sophisticated autofocus and exposure metering systems, shoot faster (more frames per second) in continuous shooting mode, have more controls on the camera body for changing settings, have sturdier construction, and offer more menu and custom function options. As I always like to point out, when you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around where you look at the new features and speculate if you really need or will use them. The latest cameras almost always have more impressive features and specifications than the preceding models, and the more expensive, higher-end models will offer more features and options than the lower-end models, but if your needs and shooting style don’t required those additional features and functions then it is possible that you can save some money and be completely happy with a less expensive model.

Sensor and Image Quality: The sensors of the D7000 and D5100 are greatly improved over the older D90 in a couple of ways (it is the same sensor in both cameras). The D7000 and D5100 have 16.2 megapixel sensors, where the D90 has 12.3 megapixels. The relatively new D3100 has a 14.2 MP sensor. This increase in resolution allows for more intrusive editing of the files in Photoshop, the ability to crop a picture and still obtain an image with high enough resolution for printing or display, and allows for larger prints. In addition, the improved sensor results in better performance at high ISO settings and in low light, better dynamic range, tonal range, and color sensitivity. Have a look at dxomark.com to compare the sensors – run your mouse along the red-to-green color bar to the right some of the graphs, such as Dynamic Range, to see how these differences affect images.

Exposure Metering: The D5100, while sharing a similar sensor to the D7000, does not have the same advanced metering system. It shares the less sophisticated 420 pixel RGB metering sensor of the D3100 and offers matrix metering, non-adjustable center-weighted, and spot metering modes. This system may be more than sufficient for many users, especially those not intending to adjust their exposure settings and dig into their menus in reaction to complex lighting situations. But if your shooting demands require more precise exposure metering and control over the size of the areas being metered, you need to consider the D90 or D7000. The 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor of the D7000 is also improved compared to the D90, and will result in more accurate metering performance of straightforward and complex lighting scenes and situations. Both these cameras offer matrix metering, center-weighted, and spot metering modes. With center-weighted metering on the D90, you can select the size of the center-weighted area to be a 6, 8, or 10mm center circle, and the D7000 adds a 13mm circle option to those.  (If you don’t understand what this means or why you may need it, you probably don’t need it!)

Autofocus: The autofocus systems of the D3100, D5100, and D90 all have 11 autofocus (AF) points with the center one being a more accurate cross-type. These AF systems may be more than sufficient for most users, and they can successfully track moving objects in the frame such as athletes, performers, or animals. However, if you specialize in sports, action, wildlife, or bird photography, you are going to want to consider the much more sophisticated, accurate, and customizable AF system of the D7000. The D7000 boasts a significantly improved AF system of 39 AF points with 9 of them (in the center) being cross type. The AF system of the D7000 allows for you to use these points in various ways including automatic AF point selection, single point AF, and dynamic area AF using your choice of 9 points, 21 points, all points, or all points with 3D-tracking. With the D7000 you can also use a custom function to limit the AF system to 11 points, which may be more manageable for someone who wishes to manually select their AF points.  (Have a look at this article for an in-depth explanation of the D7000 AF system and its capabilities)

review compare Nikon D5100 vs D3100 vs D7000 vs D90 side by side
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Body, Construction and Size/ Weight: The D5100 is just slightly larger and a tiny bit heavier than the D3100, both weighing just over one pound. Both have plastic bodies and more limited buttons and controls that the higher end models. The D90 and D7000 appear very similar at first glance, but the plastic body of the D90 has been upgraded to the partially magnesium alloy body (top and rear) of the D7000. This adds slightly to the weight: 1.5 lbs for the D90 vs. 1.7 lbs for the D7000. The sturdier construction of the D7000 versus the D90 – including its nicer rubber gripping surfaces – creates the impression and feel of a more professional body. The D7000 also has weather sealing at the memory card and battery doors.

The higher end D7000 includes not only the 3″ rear LCD screen but also a top LCD panel for viewing and changing your settings. This is essential for photographers who are constantly changing their settings to deal with various shooting situations. It is worth noting that the magnesium alloy body of the D7000 does not fully extend around the front, and thus the area surrounding the lens mount is plastic. See this image of a D7000 skeleton next to one of a 7D for details. For most users, including even those using the camera daily or in rugged travel situations, the non-magnesium construction of the D5100 should be far more than good enough, strong enough, and durable enough.

Please know that the size and weight of these bodies is a result of their build, features, and capabilities.  Those are the criteria that should be compared first, not the resulting size and weight.  (Also be sure to read this post of Why How it “Feels” is not a valid Criterion for Choosing an dSLR.)

ISO: As mentioned in the Sensor and Image Quality section above, the high ISO performance of the D7000 is greatly improved over the D90. The tests at dxomark.com tell this story, along with the fact that the native ISO range of the D7000 is 100-6400 expandable up to 25,600. The D5100 shares these specifications, and should offer similar results. The D3100 has a native ISO range of 100-3200 expandable to 12800, and the range of the D90 is 200-3200. This means that with the D7000 and D5100 you can use higher ISO settings when required, such as in low light situations, and not have as much difficulty with digital noise, particularly in the shadow areas of images.

Controls: As with construction, the buttons and controls vary with these cameras. The D3100 and D5100 offer limited, basic controls on the exterior of the camera. However you can use the rear LCD screen to quickly change many settings, or else go into the menus. The D7000 offers an extensive array of controls on the camera body, allowing one to quickly change a large number of settings as they work, including focus mode and focus area settings, shooting mode, and exposure mode. The controls of the D7000 are similar to the D90 with some changes including the addition of the shooting mode ring under the mode dial (to change from single shot to high speed continuous to self timer, etc.), and the live-view switch with movie record button inside it. The top AF button of the D90 is incorporated into the AF switch and button at the base of the lens on the D7000. The D7000 also offers more white balance options than the other cameras, plus 2 customizable user settings (U1, U2) on the mode dial, and you can assign functions of your choice to buttons such as the Fn Button.

Menus and Custom Settings: These allow for greater control over customizing how the camera functions. The D5100 has less Menu and Custom Settings options than the D90 and the highly customizable D7000, and more than the D3100 (which offers no custom settings). These settings enable you to customize the operation, function, and controls to work how you want them to, including things like exposure increments, Live View options, tweaking how the autofocus system operates, setting more precise white balance settings, and customizing which button does what. There are ebooks such as my Nikon D7000 Experience and Nikon D5100 Experience which walk you through all of the Menu settings and Custom Settings so that you can set up your camera to work best for how you photograph, and also begin to learn to master all the advanced features, settings, and controls of these powerful dSLR cameras.

 

Brief commercial interruption: I would like to mention that I have written an eBook user’s guide for the Nikon D7000, and one for the Nikon D5100. After spending so much time studying, experimenting, writing about, comparing, and discussing these cameras, I decided to put some that knowledge into eBook form! The guides covers all the Shooting, Setup, and Playback Menu settings and every Custom Function setting – with recommended settings – plus discussions of how, when, and why to use the cameras’ settings and features, (metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes, advanced autofocus use, focus lock, exposure lock, and more) for everyday and travel use, to help you take better photos.

Click HERE to learn more about Nikon D7000 Experience – and to view a preview, or purchase it!

And see HERE to learn about, preview, and purchase my ebook guide Nikon D5100 Experience.

Wireless Flash: The D7000 includes the feature of advanced wireless lighting using the built in flash as a commander for off-camera Nikon Speedlights. However, the D5100 and D3100 do not have this capability. With the D7000, you can set up one or more Speedlights in remote mode, then trigger them wirelessly with the built in flash of the camera.

Viewfinder: The D5100 has a pentamirror viewfinder with approximately 95% coverage of the actual resulting image, just like the D3100. The higher quality pentaprism viewfinder of the D90 gives 96% coverage of the actual resulting image, while the D7000 has a larger, brighter pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage. While in-and-of-itself, a 95% viewfinder works just fine, when you compare it side-by-side with the large, clear view of the D7000, you can see and understand the advantages of a clearer view of your entire scene with a 100% view, pentaprism viewfinder.

Processor: The Nikon D5100 and D3100 use the fast Expeed 2 image processor just like the D7000. This allows for more video options including full 1080p HD at 24fps, overall faster processing of stills and video files, and the ability to maintain fast continuous speed shooting for numerous frames. The D90 has the older Nikon Expeed processor, which is also fast enough to handle its processing needs.

review compare D7000 vs Nikon D5100 vs D3100 vs D90 size
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Continuous Shooting Speed: As you work your way up the Nikon dSLR line-up the cameras’ continuous shooting speed and maximum shots at that rate increases. The D3100 shoots 3 frames per second (fps) in continuous shooting mode, the D5100 shoots 4 fps, and the D7000 shoots 6 fps for up to 100 shots. The D90 can shoot 4.5 fps up to 100 images. If you often capture action and really need the higher frame rate, such as for sports, action, or wildlife shooting, you are going to have to seriously consider the D7000 over the other cameras. Paired with its advanced autofocus system, this fast frame rate can sharply capture moving objects is all types of situations. A nice feature of the D7000 is that you can adjust the low speed continuous mode to shoot anywhere from 1 to 5 fps, using the custom settings.

Memory Card: The D5100, D3100, and D90 all use a single SD memory card. The D7000 accepts 2 SD cards, where the second card can be used in a variety of ways: overflow when the first card fills up, JPEG on one / RAW on the other, or mirrored backup of the first card. The second card can come in handy as well if one is shooting video files, and one card can be designated for stills and the other video.

Battery and Battery Grip: The D5100 and D3100 both use the EN-EL14 battery, and the D7000 uses the new, higher capacity EN-EL15 battery, which will last for over 1000 shots. The D7000 accepts the optional MB-D11 battery pack/ vertical grip which is constructed of magnesium alloy. The D90 uses the EN-EL3e battery and its optional battery pack/ vertical grip is the MB-D80. The D5100 and D3100 don’t accept a battery grip. The battery pack /grip is handy for providing the ability to use a second battery and thus prolonging shooting time, and also creates a larger camera body which some users find more comfortable, especially when shooting in portrait orientation.

Full HD video: The D5100 shoots 1080p and 720p video at 24, 25, and 30 fps. The D3100 shoots 1080p at 24 fps and 720p at 24, 25, and 30 fps. The D7000 also shoots 1080p at 24 fps only and 720p at 24, 25, and 30 fps, up to 20 minutes with full-time continuous autofocus. The D90 offers 720p video at 24 fps, with a 5 minute shooting time.

Ease of Operation: While beginners may find all the buttons, controls, and menus of any dSLR difficult and confusing at first, the menus and controls of the D5100 and D3100 are pretty basic and simple to learn for a dedicated user. The additional controls and menus of the D7000 and D90 are all quite intelligently designed and will become intuitive and straightforward for the more advanced user once they are learned and understood. Again, have a look at helpful guides such as my Nikon D7000 Experience and Nikon D5100 Experience to begin to learn to master all the advanced features, settings, and controls of these powerful dSLR cameras.

If you are interested in comparing the D5100 or D7000 to the comparable Canon models, have a look at these articles:

Nikon D5100 vs. Canon T3i

Nikon D7000 vs. Canon 60D (and 7D)

Purchasing these cameras: If you plan to buy any of these cameras, accessories, or anything else through Amazon.com or Amazon.com UK, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little something for referring you, which will help support my blog. Thanks! In the USA, use the links throughout this post or use this referral link to Amazon. And for those of you across the pond, click here for my referral link to Amazon UK. Thank you for supporting my efforts!

See the Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon $899

See the Nikon D5100 – Body Only on Amazon $799

See the Nikon D7000 – Body Only on Amazon $1199

See the Nikon D7000 and 18-105mm Lens on Amazon $1499

See the Nikon D3100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon

See the D90 on Amazon $739 body only or $1049 with 18-105mm lens

Purchasing from the UK? Use my Amazon UK referral link here. If you wish to purchase from B&H Photo, Adorama, or direct from Canon, please click on their logos on the left side of this page or on the Gear page. Thanks!

Accessories and Books: Now that you are on your way to deciding on a camera, you should also start looking into photography gear, accessories, and books. Check out these links, dSLR Photography Gear, Accessories, and Books, which discusses essential gear plus accessories specific to Nikon cameras; Equipment for Travel Photography, which discusses useful and practical photo accessories and equipment for both everyday and travel photography.

And to sum it all up, here is a brief, mostly serious synopsis to help you make the camera decision:

Get a Nikon D3100 if you are new to photography or to digital SLR photography and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a camera because you might only be using it on Auto mode, or if you don’t plan to really “get into” photography beyond taking better photos than you are able to with your compact point-and-shoot and having the ability to use various lenses.  The D3100 is a camera one could outgrow in time if they work at their photography and advance. See the Nikon D3100 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D5100 if you are new to photography or to digital SLR photography and think you will want to experiment beyond Auto mode, or want to upgrade from an older entry level model because you want higher image quality and more mega-pixels, or HD video. If you have been happy with the features and controls of your previous basic dSLR camera and have not discovered the need, in your use of it, for any specific additional advanced features, there may be no need to look beyond the D5100.  The D5100 is a camera one can grow with, but it is also one a user could outgrow if they are dedicated to their photography and start to require more advanced capabilities. See the Nikon D5100 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D90 if you have outgrown the capabilities of an older Nikon like a D3000 or D40 through D60 due to your greater experience and more demanding shooting needs which require more direct or sophisticated controls and customization options. Or you have been pretty pleased with your D70 or D80 and its features but wish to upgrade for the increased image quality and mega pixels (or HD video). And/ or you need a more rugged camera for your frequent and demanding shooting and off-the-beaten-path traveling needs. Or if you need the increased 4.5 frames per second continuous rate to shoot sports or action. If you typically shoot on Auto or Program mode, you may not need a D90. If you do not manually select your own focus point and have never used exposure compensation you may not need a D90. If you have never used the AE-Lock [AE-L] button to lock exposure you may not need a D90. If you don’t understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO and don’t intend to learn more about it, you may not need a D90. Or unless you plan to dedicate yourself to learning this camera and the principles of SLR photography and grow into this more advanced camera, consider saving the money or using it towards a better lens.  The D90 is a camera one would not outgrow as it has advanced features and capabilities, but its drawback is that it is now outdated. See the Nikon D90 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D7000 if you have extensive experience with a D3000, D40 through 60, or D70 through D90 camera, and you know and understand most of the D7000’s advanced features and customization options, and you specifically need some of them for your demanding shooting needs. If you haven’t passed the above “criteria” for a D90, you probably don’t need a D7000. If you have never used A aperture priority mode or M manual mode, you probably don’t need a D7000. If you have never used autofocus tracking settings to track a moving subject across your frame and worried how an interfering object would affect your focus you might not need a D7000. If you have never used spot metering to determine a critical exposure level you may not need a D7000. Or unless you plan to dedicate yourself to learning this camera and the principles of SLR photography and grow into this very advanced camera, consider saving the money or using it towards a better lens. However, if you often need to take 100 consecutive photos at the rate of 6 frames per second, you do need the D7000. Immediately. Even if you just sometimes need that. Totally worth it. That’s 16.67 seconds of continuous shooting. Who doesn’t need that? You’d make Eadweard Muybridge proud.  The D7000 is not a camera one would outgrow for a long time, and in fact will meet many of the demands of a professional.  See the Nikon D7000 on Amazon.

(Please note, the D3100, D5100, D90, and D7000 all have these features and capabilities I just listed: manually selected focus points, exposure compensation, AE-Lock, auto-focus tracking, and spot metering. I’m just using them as a determination of your experience level and needs.)

Was this post helpful?  Please let others know about it by clicking the Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ sharing buttons below, or linking to it from your blog or website, or mentioning it on a forum.  Thanks!  Want to help support this blog with no cost or effort?  Simply click on the Amazon and B&H Photo logos on the left side of this page to go to those sites and make your purchases.  They will then give me a little referral bonus!

Comparing the Nikon D300s vs. D7000 vs. D90:

Since the Nikon D5100 was recently announced, I have updated this post to include all the current Nikon dSLR offerings. Read the updated post Nikon D5100 vs D7000 vs D90 vs D3100 here.

Just as Canon has made the decision between its consumer and pro-sumer dSLR cameras difficult due to the fact that they all share so many features, now so has Nikon with the release of the extremely admired new Nikon D7000. Although the D7000 sits above the Nikon D5100 and between the Nikon D90 and the Nikon D300s in price and features, its impressive new sensor, increase in megapixels and resolution, improved autofocus (AF) system, and construction and controls have made it a viable upgrade not only to the D90, but it some aspects it even challenges the more expensive, semi-professional D300s. Have its impressive specs created a lame duck of the D300s?

Nikon D7000 vs D300s vs D90 macro lens
photo by the author

As I always like to point out, when you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around where you look at the new features and speculate if you really need or will use them. The latest cameras almost always have more impressive features and specifications than the preceding models, but if your needs and shooting style don’t required those upgrades then it is possible that you can save some money and be completely happy with a less expensive or earlier model.

Sensor and Image Quality: The sensor of the D7000 is greatly improved over both the D90 and the D300s in a couple of ways. The D7000 has 16.2 megapixels, where the D90 and D300s each have 12.3 megapixels. This increase in resolution allows for more intrusive editing of the files in Photoshop, the ability to crop a picture and still obtain an image with high enough resolution for printing or display, and allows for larger prints. In addition, the improved sensor, manufactured by Sony, results in better performance at high ISO settings and in low light, better dynamic range, tonal range, and color sensitivity. Have a look at dxomark.com to compare the sensors – run your mouse along the red-to-green color bar to the right of the graphs to see how these differences affect images.

Exposure Metering: The 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor of the D7000 is also improved compared to the D90 and D300s, and will result in better TTL metering performance of straightforward and complex lighting scenes and situations. All three cameras offer matrix metering, center-weighted, and spot metering. With center-weighted metering, the D90 can make use of your choice of a 6, 8, or 10mm center circle for its weighting, while the D7000 and D300s add a 13mm circle option to that.

Autofocus: The autofocus system of the D90 has 11 autofocus (AF) points with the center one being the more accurate cross type. The D7000 boasts a significantly improved AF system of 39 AF points with 9 of them being cross type. The D300s offers 51 AF points with 15 being cross type. The AF systems of the D7000 and D300s allow for you to use these points in various ways including automatic AF point selection, single point AF, and dynamic area AF using your choice of 9 points, 21 points, all points, or all points with 3D-tracking. With the D7000 you can also use a custom function to limit the AF system to 11 points, which may be more manageable for someone who wishes to manually select their AF points.

Nikon D7000 vs D300s vs D90 macro lens
photo by the author

Body, Construction and Size/ Weight: The D90 and D7000 appear very similar at first glance, but the plastic body of the D90 has been upgraded to the partially magnesium alloy body (top and rear) of the D7000. This adds slightly to the weight: 1.5 lbs for the D90 vs. 1.7 lbs for the D7000. The D300s is slightly larger than the other 2 bodies, and weighs in at 2.2 lbs, with full magnesium construction. The sturdier construction of the D7000 vs. the D90, including its nicer rubber gripping surfaces, creates the impression and feel of a more professional body. The D7000 and D300s have weather sealing at the memory card and battery doors. All 3 cameras have a 3″ rear LCD screen as well as a top LCD panel. It is worth noting that the magnesium alloy body of the D7000 does not fully extend around the front, and thus the area surrounding the lens mount, which plays an important role in supporting a heavy lens, is plastic. See this image of a D7000 skeleton next to one of a 7D for details.

ISO: As mentioned in the Sensor/IQ section above, the high ISO performance of the D7000 is greatly improved over both the D90 and the D300s. The tests at dxomark.com tell this story, along with the fact that the native ISO range of the D7000 is 100-6400 expandable up to 25,600. The other two cameras have a native ISO range of 200-3200 expandable to 6400. This means that with the D7000 you can use higher ISO settings when required, such as in low light situations, and not have as much difficulty with digital noise, particularly in the shadow areas of images. Early reports indicate that the high ISO performance is excellent.

Controls: The controls of the D7000 are similar to the D90 with some changes including the addition of the shooting mode ring under the mode dial (to change from single shot to high speed continuous to self timer, etc.), and the live-view switch with movie record button inside it. The top AF button of the D90 is incorporated into the AF switch and button at the base of the lens on the D7000. The D300s has entirely different switches, dials, and buttons than the other two cameras, however this allows for quicker and easier access to more features on the D300s since the D300s has more controls and settings directly available on the body. The D7000 also offers more white balance options than the other two cameras, plus 2 customizable user settings (U1, U2) on the mode dial, and you can assign functions of your choice to buttons such as the Fn Button.

Wireless Flash: All three cameras allow for advanced wireless lighting using the built in flash with Nikon Speedlights.

Brief commercial interruption: I would like to mention that I have written an eBook user’s guide for the Nikon D7000. After spending so much time studying, experimenting, writing about, comparing, and discussing the camera, I decided to put some that knowledge into eBook form! The guide covers all the Shooting, Setup, and Playback Menu settings and Custom Setting options – with recommended settings – plus discussions of how, when, and why to use the cameras’ settings and features, (metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes, advanced autofocus use, focus lock, exposure lock, and more) for everyday and travel use, to help you take better photos. Click HERE to learn more about it – Nikon D7000 Experience – and to view a preview, or purchase it!

Viewfinder: The D90 has a viewfinder with 96% coverage of the actual resulting image, while the D7000 and D300s have improved large, bright 100% viewfinder coverage.

Nikon D7000 vs. D90 vs. D300s macro lens
photo by the author

Processor: The D90 and D300s have the Nikon Expeed Processor, while the D7000 has the improved Expeed II processor. This allows for more video options including full 1080p HD at 24fps, and overall faster processing of stills and video files.

Continuous Shooting Speed: The D90 can shoot 4.5 frames per second (fps) up to 100 images, the D7000 shoots 6 fps up to 100 shots, and the D300s shoots 7 fps – or 8fps with the battery grip. If you often capture action and really need the higher frame rate, such as for sports or wildlife shooting, you are going to have to seriously consider the D300s over the D7000. Otherwise, 7 or 8 fps is often complete overkill in typical real-life use.

Memory Card: The D90 uses a single SD memory card. The D7000 accepts 2 SD cards, where the second card can be used in a variety of ways: overflow, JPEG on one / RAW on the other, or mirrored backup of the first card. The D300s uses 1 CF card and 1 SD card, which also can be configured in a variety of ways. The second card can come in handy as well if one is shooting a lot of video files.

Battery: The D7000 uses the new, higher capacity EN-EL15 battery, which will last for over 1000 shots, and accepts the optional MB-D11 battery pack/ vertical grip which is constructed of magnesium alloy. The D300s uses the EN-EL3e battery and the optional MB-D10 battery pack/ vertical grip. The D90 also uses the EN-EL3e battery and its optional battery pack/ vertical grip is the MB-D80.

Full HD video: The D90 and D300s offer 720p video at 24 fps, with a 5 minute shooting time. The D7000 improves this tremendously with full 1080p HD video at 24 fps for up to 20 minutes with full-time continuous autofocus. Plus it offers 720p at 30, 24, and 25 fps.

Price: See below

Shooting Experience: The D7000 feels and performs great. After spending some time with the D7000, and getting over all its quirky differences vs. Canons – as far as menus, custom functions, and buttons/ controls – I’m really beginning to become attached to it. I actually prefer some of the controls it provides vs. the Canons plus some of the options it provides, such as the optional grid in the viewfinder, the ability to limit the AF points to 11 including the 9 cross type points – for quicker manual selection, the ability to change the continuous low shooting speed between 1 to 5 shots (I complained over a year ago that the 7D should have had that feature as its 8 fps is usually overkill for me), and the versatility to change the size of the central spot size for center weighted metering. Also, thank goodness the D7000 includes the ability to reverse the + and – directions of exposure compensation, because the Nikon default is just plain wrong!

So as you can see, the D7000 truly is an improvement over the D90 in every way, and an improvement over the D300s in many ways. Unless you have a couple very specific needs that only the D300s can accommodate – such as faster continuous shooting speeds, direct access to certain controls and settings, and a full magnesium alloy body – then it may be difficult to justify the older D300s over the new D7000.

Purchasing these cameras: If you plan to buy any of these cameras, accessories, or anything else through Amazon.com or Amazon.com UK, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little something for referring you, which will help support my blog. Thanks! In the USA, use the links throughout this post or use this referral link to Amazon. And for those of you across the pond, click here for my referral link to Amazon UK. If you are in another country, click on one of my Amazon links, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on your country for your local Amazon. Thank you for supporting my efforts!

See and buy the Nikon D7000 – Body Only on Amazon $1199

See and buy the Nikon D7000 and 18-105mm Lens on Amazon $1499

See and buy the D90 on Amazon $739 body only or $1049 with 18-105mm lens

See and buy the D300s on Amazon $1449 body only

Purchasing from the UK? Use my Amazon UK referral link here. If you are in another country, click on an Amazon link, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on your country for your local Amazon. If you wish to purchase from B+H Photo please click the link below. Thanks!

Accessories and Books: Now that you are on your way to deciding on a camera, you should also start looking into photography gear, accessories, and books. Check out these links, dSLR Photography Gear, Accessories, and Books, which discusses essential gear plus accessories specific to Nikon cameras; Equipment for Travel Photography, which discusses useful and practical photo accessories and equipment for both everyday and travel photography.

DPReview has excellent, very thorough reviews of all of these cameras, including one just published for the D7000.