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Today Nikon has announced a lot of fun toys ahead of Photokina in Cologne, Germany next week. There’s just about something for everyone in the announcements, but what peaks my interest are the new Nikon D7000 DSLR, a brand new 35mm f/1.4 prime lens, and the SB-700 speedlight.

NIKON D7000 DSLR

On first impression the Nikon D7000 DSLR looks fantastic. If I didn’t know that this camera was a replacement for the Nikon D90, I might have mistaken it for a much higher class of camera. In fact, with specs this good on the mid-level body, I’m very curious as to what Nikon will pull out when they replace the Nikon D300s and D700 models.

Major features:

  • 16.2MP CMOS sensor
  • 1080p HD video recording with mic jack for external microphone
  • ISO 100-6400 (plus H1 and H2 equivalent to ISO 12,800/25,600)
  • 39-point AF system with 3D tracking
  • 2016 pixel metering sensor
  • Scene Recognition System (see 2016 pixel sensor, above) aids metering + focus accuracy
  • Twin SD card slots
  • 3.0 inch 921k dot LCD screen
  • New Live View/movie shooting switch
  • Full-time AF in Live View/movie modes
  • Up to 6fps continuous shooting
  • Lockable shooting mode dial
  • Built-in intervalometer
  • Electronic virtual horizon
  • Shutter tested to 150K actuations
  • Magnesium alloy body shell
  • 100% viewfinder
  • ‘Quiet’ single frame advance mode

Looking at these specs, the D7000 actually stomps the Nikon D300s on multiple levels, all in a much more compact form factor – but we shouldn’t be all that surprised. This is called progress.

To me, the features that catch my attention are the 39-point AF system, twin SD card slots, magnesium alloy body shell, Quiet’ single frame advance mode, and 100% viewfinder. All of these points are things that think that the D7000 is going to be serving as a really solid backup in the bags of many professionals.

I love the fact that Nikon is extending the magnesium alloy body down into this level of camera – something Canon has refused to do with their new Canon 60D DSLR.

Naturally, for anyone looking to get into video, the addition of 1080p HD recording with the option for an external mic with full-time AF in movie mode is only a good thing.

For music photography, I’ll be interested in how the high ISO performance of the new DSLR pans out.

NIKON 35MM F/1.4 AF-S

To me, the announcement of the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 completes Nikon’s lineup of fast, AF-S primes that was so severely lacking until the last year of rapidfire releases. Together with the Nikon 24mm f/1.4Nikon 50mm f/1.4, and Nikon 85mm f/1.4, the new 35mm caps off a really nice set of big, fast, and expensive lenses.

Focal length35mm
Diagonal Angle of view (FF)63º (44º with Nikon DX format)
Maximum apertureF1.4
Minimum apertureF16
Lens Construction• 10 elements/7 groups
• 1 aspherical lens element
Number of diaphragm blades9, rounded
Minimum focus30cm
Maximum magnification0.2x
AF motor typeSilent Wave Motor
Filter thread67mm
Weight600 g
Dimensions83mm diameter x 89.5 mm length

The new 35mm f/1.4 has Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coating, so I’m going to take a wild guess that the performance of that lens is badass. Call me a sucker for marketing, but any professional lens that Nikon’s spanked with Nano coating has produced a gorgeous contrast rendering.

For my work, an f/1.4 aperture is fast enough to pretty much open up even the darkest events when combined with an ISO of 1600-3200. At four times as bright as an f/2.8 lens, the max aperture on the new 35mm (and all of Nikon’s other new primes) is enough to make my beloved Nikon 24-70mmm AF-S cry when the light starts to drop.

NIKON SB-700 SPEEDLIGHT

Replacing the old Nikon SB-600 speedlight, the new Nikon SB-700 flash packs in a lot of new features, not the least of which is a much improved user interface. I love that Nikon has pulled out many of the simple functions as dedicated buttons and switches on the back of the SB-700. Dedicated exposure mode, beam pattern, and master/remote selectors are a great improvement here.

In fact, the new SB-700 looks a lot more like a baby Nikon SB-900 than a SB-600 upgrade.

Major features:

  • Improved LCD panel interface
  • 24mm to 120mm zooming head
  • 3 illumination patterns: center-weighted, even, standard
  • 2.5 second recycling with NiMH batteries
  • Commander mode for control of 2 groups (A and B groups)
  • Hard plastic color filters (tungsten & fluorescent)

For Nikon CLS shooters, the big news here is that the new SB-700 can be used as a limited commander unit, with control of up to two additional groups. This feature, which the SB-600 never had, is similar to the limited commander ability available with the pop-up flash on DSLRs like the D700 and D300s, which are also limited to two groups.

Another thing I’m happy to see here is the use of hard plastic color correction filters – a big improvement over the delicate gel filters that Nikon uses with the Nikon SB-900 and all past speedlights.

Of course, as Strobist has already pointed out, the SB-700 lacks a PC-sync port, just like the SB-600. I personally rarely use PC-sync jacks, but this is still a pretty glaring omission from what would have otherwise been a grandslam for Nikon. For folks using the old Pocketwizard Plus II units and similar, which must be connected via PC-sync cords, Nikon has missed the boat here.

For everyone else using hotshoe-capable triggers like the Yongnuo RF-602 and Phottix Strato that I recently reviewed, you’re still good until you want to take the flash off the hotshoe for triggering.

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