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20 September 2010

DSLR Market Heats Up With Nikon D7000 and Canon EOS 60D

Photographers who want to shoot video have much to be excited about with the two new cameras on offer from industry icons Nikon and Canon. This is actually the second piece of Nikon news as they recently announced a new model D3100, but that camera was such a yawn my first reaction was TTQN = Time To Quit Nikon.

My faith in Nikon was restored when the D7000 was announced though it still leaves much to be desired.

Canon EOS 60DFirst, lets talk about the Canon EOS 60D. With a single glaring exception, this is a kick-ass offering from Canon. It is an 18 megapixel DSLR that also shoots 1080 p HD video. Sure, the body is not professional quality and the sensor is not full sized, but in the emerging world of DSLR video and still shooting, this camera got a lot right.

The resolution is very respectable as is the 60D's ability to use an external stereo microphone with complete manual control of that mic's level. The camera also features a fully articulated screen display which allows self-shooting reporters/documentary shooters to see their framing without running back and forth to the camera.

There are three 1080 p frame rates on the Canon EOS 60D as well as several options at lower video resolutions. The camera also works with the vast majority of very fine Canon lenses out there so it should fit right in to many camera bags and yield excellent results. Where Canon fell flat on this body was video autofocus. While other video cameras have this feature and even Nikon has shown it on two DSLRs, for Canon it was a bridge too far. In most other respects for the price, this is a very good offer from Canon. There are rumors that another announcement from Canon is coming soon so perhaps they will overcome the autofocus issue with the new product?

Nikon D7000Next up, what may very well be my next camera, the Nikon D7000. This DSLR is a bit more expensive than the Canon 60D, has less resolution at 16.2 megapixels, lacks full manual control of an external microphone and is missing the multiple frame rates at 1080 p as well as the useful variable angle LCD monitor of the Canon offering, serious drawbacks all, but it does offer something the Canon body lacks: real autofocus during video shooting and live view operation.

Now before you go saying "professional video folks and cinematographers never use autofocus," a) you are wrong about pro video folks, they do use it on some occasions but film cameras used by cinematographers don't ever offer autofocus so that point would be correct. But, b) there are times when it can be handy and it sure as heck is a great feature to offer.

To clarify an earlier point, the Nikon D7000 offers limited manual control of an external stereo microphone: off, low, medium and high. Eh. Not great but I can live with it. The camera body will work with an amazing array of Nikon Nikkor lenses, even some of the older lines but in some cases limited functionality. The body, while not fully pro, is a metal allow and very well sealed against dust and moisture. Both it and the Canon both offer HDMI jacks which is nice but the 60D's manual states that live viewing via HDMI may result in a smaller image size than full HD. That is not the case during playback and I've not seen the D7000's manual yet.

An area where Nikon has consistently failed is the delivery of 1080 p HD video. It is as if they were sleeping. With this body and the D3100 they finally have their first offers, but how long after Canon has had it on body after body? Even now the D7000 only offers 1080 p at 24 fps (23.97). Really? Come on Nikon. No 25 or 30 fps?

I do like the duel SD card slots, acceptable resolution, lens compatibility, external mic jack, iso range (starting at 100), and relatively high speed 6 frames per second still shooting for a camera of this class.

What's missing? Those other 1080 p frame rates (I actually want to see 60 p, and even 120 p for action), real external microphone manual control (perhaps two real jacks too - even xlr), the vari angle lcd monitor viewfinder, and how hard would it be to add a mini-phone headphone jack?

So faced with the choice of switching from Nikon to Canon for the 60D, given a bag of Nikon accessories and lots of Nikkor glass, I find the D7000 is a compelling argument to keep it Nikon. For now.

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