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Camera Review: Shooting Weddings with the Nikon D7000

I was fortunate enough to have a Nikon D7000 on loan from B&H Photo Video for an extended period of time. There are tons of online reviews of the Nikon D7000 and so I don’t want to repeat much of what has been covered already, but I rather wanted to focus on a question many beginning wedding photographers might have on their minds: can I photograph weddings with a consumer Nikon like the D7000? The easy and short answer is yes. You can photograph weddings with almost any kind of camera. But the big question really is, can the Nikon D7000 be the main camera in the bag or is it more suited as a backup camera.

Nikon D7000 Quick Specs

SLR Camera Nikon D7000
Year Introduced September 15, 2010
Cost $1,499.95 MSRP
Sensor Size 23.6 x 15.7mm
Viewfinder 100%, 0.95x magnification
Max Resolution 4928 x 3264
Megapixels 16.9
ISO rating 100-6400, with 12,800 and 25,600 as options
Auto Focus type 39 focus point with 9 cross-types
Metering Multi, Center-weighted, Average, and Spot
Crop Factor 1.5x
Video 1080p HD Video
Continuous Drive 6 fps for 100 JPEGs
Storage Types Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC
LCD 3.0 inches
LCD Pixels 921,000
Battery EN-EL15 Lithium-ion Battery
Weight 780 g (1.72 lb) with battery
Dimensions 132 x 105 x 77 mm (5.2 x 4.13 x 3.03 in)

Nikon D7000 as a Wedding Camera

For us, the specs of a camera is very important given our shooting style. Below is a list of the most important features for us and how the D7000 stacks up.

Noise and High ISO Performance. As wedding photographers, we’re often faced with many challenging lighting conditions (dark churches, dark reception venues, and etc.) that we can’t always control so we need a camera that can keep up with the challenge. Our shooting style for wedding ceremonies and receptions is to capture mood. So more often than not, we’re shooting ambient and raising the ISO to compensate for the low light. I was actually surprised at how well the D7000 does with noise. It’s probably the second best low noise performing dSLR next to the Nikon D3/D3s/D700. Despite doing well with noise, when you need to go to the extreme high ISO range such as 6400 and above, it starts getting too noisy compared to the pro bodies; much of it has to do with small sensor and lots of megapixels.

Focusing Speed and Focus Points. It’s very important that you’re able to acquire focus at critical moments during a wedding such as the first kiss, the ring exchange, split second reactions, and etc. and the D7000 does quite well when there is plenty of light. In low-light situations, the auto-focus hunts more than I would like. You can certainly help the camera acquire faster focus by using the focus assist on the camera or on a Speedlight, but I find the emitted light is very distracting to capturing candid moments as it often makes your subjects aware they’re being photographed.

Having used cameras with only 9 focus points, I find it necessary (for me) to have a lot of focus points as I use quite a lot of fast glass (f/1.4 or faster) and being able to put a focus point on an eye without having to do focus and recompose means more in-focus shots (Why focus-and-recompose is a bad technique).

Dual Slot Memory Bays. This is one of the best features ever introduced next to high ISO and auto focus and one of my favorite features of the Nikon D3. Anything can happen during a wedding, it’s stressful and fast moving, so being able to set one slot to backup is a great deterrent against lost or accidentally deleted images. Personally I use the overflow option (when one card is filled, the camera automatically switches to saving the images to the second card) as I don’t want to worry about filling up a Compact Flash card during a critical moment and this has come in handy a number of times. Also when we’re doing Day-Of wedding slideshows, I set my second slot to capture medium JPEG so it’s quicker to get the images off the memory card and into a slideshow in time for the big presentation at the wedding reception.

Dedicated Live View and HD Video Switch. This is Nikon’s first HD dSLR that has a dedicated Live View/HD Video switch. With a quick flick of the switch with your thumb, you’re in Live View mode and pressing the record button will activate the HD video mode otherwise pressing on the shutter button will take a photo. It was more of a time consuming challenge to get into video mode on the Nikon D90 or Nikon D3s.

The Drawbacks of the Nikon D7000

DX Crop. Generally not a problem, but sometimes when your widest lens is 24mm, with the 1.5x crop factor, it’s just not quite wide enough. Getting a wider lens (>16mm) will help, but for what you sacrifice for wideness, you gain more distortion. The DX crop will also mean more digital noise is present in the images compared to images taken with an FX body at the same ISO.

Tricky Lighting Situations. One of the major limitations of the D7000 in my opinion is how the camera handles white balance in tricky lighting conditions. At one wedding, there were multiple accent lightings against the wall spread throughout the reception room and no matter what I did, such as dial in a custom white balance Kelvin, all the images had a strong overall purple hue, as it was registering the purple accent lights. Finally I ended up having to shoot the shots with my D3 which captured the scene precisely as I wanted in AWB (auto white balance). I also noticed in mixed lighting conditions such as fluorescents and incandescents, the D7000 doesn’t do very well either.

Weight and Balance. My forearms tend to get quite sore after photographing weddings from the weight of the D3 combined with a professional lens such as a 24-70mm or 70-200mm (sometimes with flash attached also). Having a lighter camera when you’re shooting for 8+ hours a day is nice, but sometimes when the camera is too small or light, it doesn’t balance heavier lenses very well; not a huge issue, but when you’re trying to hand-hold a slow shutter speed (>1/15th/sec), it can be tricky.

SD Card Slots. This may not necessarily be a drawback for you, but having only used dSLRs with Compact Flash card slots, I don’t own any SD cards. And actually, in order to use the D7000, I ended up purchasing some Sandisk SD cards; not a huge issue by any means, but can be inconvenient. Also those SD cards are so damn easy to lose and now you have to carry two sets of memory types.

Conclusion

Having used the Nikon D7000 to photograph a number of weddings and events, I have to say this is probably the best mid-consumer dSLR I have ever used. The Nikon D7000 is a great performing and affordable camera that is quite capable of photographing weddings and often times I forget it’s in the sub-$1500 market. With a number of pro features such as 39 auto-focus points and dual SD memory slots, the Nikon D7000 is nothing to laugh at and I would highly recommend it to any amateur or professional photographer. The Nikon D7000 is what I would use as my “everyday” camera rather than get a stiff neck and sore back from lugging around the D3.

Now here’s the thing, just because you can photograph weddings with a D7000, should you? I know there will be people who will argue that its not the gear that makes the photographer, but the vision, and I certainly agree, but having the right tools will certainly make your life easier. When you are entrusted with capturing valuable memories, this isn’t the place to use tools that can potentially limit your abilities to prove a point. The main reason I felt comfortable using the D7000 photographing a few of the weddings was because my D3′s were always at my side ready to step in and save the day. The D3 really shines at the wedding reception when the lights dim to a level that is darker than off and you have tricky mixed lighting scenarios such as accent lighting with the DJ’s disco ball. Sure, I could have thrown on a flash and controlled the lighting situation, but my clients didn’t plop down a wad of cash for their fancy accent lighting only to see none of it in their wedding photos. Our approach to the wedding reception is to capture the emotion, the mood, and the feel, not to just take a photo. Often times that means shooting ambient with little to no light; our cameras are regularly dialed in at ISO 6400.

Now at the end of the day, the client isn’t going to truly care whether you photographed their wedding with a D7000, D3, or even a Nikon or Canon for that matter. All that matters to them is whether or not you captured the moments and memories that are most important to them. And for that reason, I could never use the Nikon D7000 as my only or primary body to photograph weddings professionally.

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12 Responses to “Camera Review: Shooting Weddings with the Nikon D7000”

  1. Igor says:

    Seems like your biggest issue with D7000 is noise. That’s why I sold all my pro zooms and now shoot with primes. Instead of shooting 2.8 ISO6400 I shoot 1.4 ISO1600 and get very usable images. Plus D7000 & pro primes is much more lighter setup.

    • Richard Bui says:

      Yes! I've started to switch over to shooting with just primes now and it's great! Plus my wrist and arms don't feel like they're going to fall off anymore after a wedding.

  2. Steve says:

    Of course you wouldn't use a D7000 as your primary camera to shoot weddings as you have a D3.

    • Richard Bui says:

      Definitely. But I'm sure there are people who only have 1 pro-body and looking for a more budget alternative and so wanted to show how well (or not) a D7000 can serve as a backup.

  3. Leo Silve says:

    Thank you for a gr8 review. I use a D700 as my main camera for weddings. Never had a problem with it. I decided to get the D7000 as my back up. I only have the 16-85mm DX lens with it. All my other lenses are full frame. During church ceremonies, I use telephoto primes with the D7000 to get that extended reach, while the D700 handles the closer shots. My fav tele prime for the D7000 is the 180. Fantastic combo! After the ceremony, I mainly use the D7000 for group shots and quick casual shots, preferring the D700 for the formals and beauty shots. Been doing weddings for many years. I wouldn't hesitate shooting them with these cameras.

    • Richard Bui says:

      Thanks for the reply and insight! Very interesting you use the D700 for the group shots, I would have opted for more wideness, but I can see how having the extra megapixel might be a good choice as well. Thanks for sharing!

  4. John Evans says:

    I personally think the gear you use also depends on the price you are charging in regards to weddings at least. I have seen a few photographers whom up front tell you they don't use $5,000 bodies and that is why they don't charge $3,500 to do a wedding. They charge a modest fI personally think the gear you use also depends on the price you are charging in regards to weddings at least. I have seen a few photographers whom up front tell you they don't use $5,000 bodies and that is why they don't charge $3,500 to do a wedding. They charge a modest fee to pay for their time and focus more on getting great shots. ee to pay for their time and focus more on getting great shots.

  5. HVS says:

    http://3foto.ro all pictures are made with D7000

  6. The D7000 makes a great backup for weddings. Obviously, it's a matter of taste too but I find it's not too noisy at high ISO so shooting in low light is not an issue. Generally the Nikon's have been quite good at presenting acceptable grain, resembling film to a certain degree IMO. in fact, with the D7100 around now, you can pick the older model up quite cheaply as an additional backup body. In the UK at least, there's a £100 cashback offer going till the end of May, so it comes in at around half the price of the newer model. It's not always about getting the latest and greatest, just something you can work with. Although new is nice, I actually think we have reached acceptable quality levels with the previous generation of cameras already.

  7. I decided to get the D7000 as my back up. I only have the 16-85mm DX lens with it. All my other lenses are full frame. During church ceremonies, I use telephoto primes with the D7000 to get that extended reach, while the D700 handles the closer shots. My fav tele prime for the D7000 is the 180. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I certainly enjoyed every bit of it. I have got you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you post…

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