Tag Archives: gear

Nikon D7000: The D90 meets the D300

Nikon D7000 at Amazon

The Nikon D90 was released about 2 year ago and the D300 almost 3 years ago (D300s replaced it about a year ago). There’s a pretty big gap between these two price points. The D90 was an incremental upgrade from the D80 and lacked most of the “professional” features of the D300s. The D300s is a beast and has more in common with the D700 then any of the lower priced models. Now we have the D7000 thrown into the mix and boy does it mix things up.

I honestly think the D7000 is one of Nikon’s most significant releases in recent years. The big step in price between the D90 and D300s really priced out amateurs and hobbyists who might have wanted a little bit more than what the D90 offered. The D7000 is priced smack dab in the middle of that gap. As amateurs like myself delve further into photography and hone or skills we become more demanding of our equipment. The D7000 represents an opportunity for shooters like me to get access to professional features for $500 less than previously possible.

So for an extra $300-400 over the D90, what are we actually getting (in my approximate order of importance):

  • 39 AF sensors and 11 cross type (compared to 11 and 1 on the D90)
  • 2016 pixel meter sensor (twice that of the D300s and 4 times that of the D90)
  • Magnesium alloy body
  • U1 and U2 recall modes
  • Ai indexing tab for use with older Ai lenses
  • Improved rubber grip
  • 1/250 flash sync speed (up from 1/200 on D90)
  • Double the minimum shutter speed (1/8000 vs 1/4000 on D90)
  • Quiet single frame advance mode
  • Ambient white balance option for AUTO WB (suppose to handle warm lighting better or at least not try to correct to white)
  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • 6fps (up from 4.5fps on the D90)
  • 4 more megapixels (16.2 up from 12.3)
  • Full 1080p video at 24fps
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Lower ISO 100 now available
  • External mic input
  • 14-bit A/D converter from the D300s

Odds are if you are looking at the D7000 then you have lenses already and just want to get the body, but it is available with the 18-105mm as a kit. Another option is to get the body only and then add on the very nice Nikon 18-200mm VR instead.

Nikon D7000 at Amazon

My JVC KD-R810 Car Stereo Review

Quick take: The JVC KD-R810 is a very nice head unit and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for integrated Bluetooth support. The customizable colors are a plus and they really complete the install in my Tacoma.

JVC KD-R810 – Available at Amazon for about $130 shipped

About 4 years ago I installed a Pioneer head unit and dash kit in my 2005 Toyota Tacoma with excellent results. That stereo got stolen when my truck was broken into this summer and I needed to find a new stereo to replace it. In the 4 years since I did research into¬† different stereos there has been an increase in features being included in units for about the same or a bit more money. iPod, USB and Bluetooth integration are becoming ubiquitous and HD Radio tuners are even starting to be included at lower price points. One big movement coming is towards “Media Receivers” that forgo a CD player completely and are really designed around using an iPod, phone or USB drive exclusively.

Bluetooth: My only Bluetooth experience has been in our Jetta Sportwagen. As far as I know you can only receive calls on that unit and initiate calls from the phone since there is no phonebook support. The JVC KD-R810 does have support for a manual phonebook and can access your phone’s recent received/dialed/missed calls. I mounted the external mic directly below the stereo in my dash kit’s pocket. My wife said I sounded fine the few times we’ve used it so far. Units with the mic built into the faceplate of the stereo have received marginal reviews on Amazon so the external mic was a plus in my book. I also tested streaming music from Pandora on my phone to the unit over BT and it worked flawlessly.

iPod Connectivity: The unit has worked great with my 5th generation iPod. Compared to the factory media interface in our Jetta, the JVC is vastly superior. Browsing is easier with the knob and loading is nearly instant. Spin the knob quickly and it will go into a fast seek mode much like the iPod does allowing you to skip quickly through a long list of items.

Color Customization: One other big selling point was the ability to customize the display’s colors. My Tacoma’s dash has an orange/red backlight across all of the controls and aftermarket head units like to use bright alternative colors that clash. The button lights and display can be set to different colors for day, night and menu use. One of the color presets matched the rest of my dash lights exactly and I set it to use that all the time.

Sound Quality: I have a pretty good ear for audio and dialing in an EQ. This unit was much easier to dial in than my previous Pioneer unit. Not sure if it has more power, but it just needed a healthy boost at 50hz and small cut at 1khz. It is very clear and pumps out more than enough low end with my stock speakers. The unit does have a Burr-Brown 24-bit DAC which is a step above what you’d get on a cheaper stereo.

One Con: The only con of the unit I can find is that the display is not polarized lens friendly. With my sunglasses on, the display text is almost completely filtered out. It is slightly annoying, but I shouldn’t be looking at the display when I’m driving anyways.

JVC KD-R810 – Available at Amazon for about $130 shipped

My 2nd Toyota Tacoma Aftermarket Stereo Upgrade

The first stereo I put in my 2005 Tacoma got stolen this summer so it was time to do it all over again. It was a lot easier this time since I wasn’t starting with the stock stereo still installed, but it’s a fairly easy project either way.

Shopping List

Head Unit: Last time I bought a Pioneer unit and liked it, but this time around I was looking for more features, especially built in Bluetooth. I narrowed my choice down to the JVC KD-R810 because it had Bluetooth and good iPod support along with customizable backlight colors. One of the preset colors matched the rest of dash exactly. You can read my full review of it here.

Dash Kit: The Scosche kit is pretty nice and matches the flat silver color on my 2005 SR5 Access Cab almost exactly. I prefer it to the stock stereo which has the textured silver. I chose to run the Bluetooth microphone and the rear USB connector through the back of the dash kit’s pocket. There’s a plastic support piece that screws onto the back of the pocket and it covers up nearly the whole thing. I was able to drill two 1/2″ holes right next to each on each side to feed through the mic and USB. There’s just enough room with the support piece on for the cables themselves and covers up the bulk of the holes. You can kind of see this in the picture below.

Wiring Harness: The wiring harness is a must. Not only does it make installation go quicker, but it avoids having to cut the factory harness off. The wire color on the harness and the stereo are standardized so you just have to match them up and crimp. You can solder them, but either way works just fine. I found joint pliers were the easiest to get a good crimp with.

Final Results: I’m much happier with the install this time. My old stereo matched the color of the dash, but it had white text and green backlighting. I think I prefer the JVC and its black/silver front with matching lighting.

Installation Process

  1. Pop out climate control panel with a screwdriver
  2. Unbolt stereo from dash, 4 total behind the climate control panel (exact head size of bolts eludes me)
  3. Pop the whole stereo out, it’s held on by little clips
  4. Unconnect everything and bring the stereo inside
  5. Transfer the little yellow clips onto the dash kit
  6. Transfer the clock and hazards assembly to the dash kit (kind of a pain to get out)
  7. Wire up the harness to your new stereo, twist matching wires together, stick them in a crimp cap and give a good squeeze with pliers (give them a tug to make sure they’re in there tight)
  8. Drill any holes you might want in the pocket
  9. Install stereo in kit, but be careful not to scrape the mouth of it, the metal sleeve will take paint off
  10. The metal sleeve around the stereo has little tabs, bend those up along the back of the face to help lock it in
  11. Hook the stereo up and test it (having a second set of hands will help here)
  12. Connect the hazards and clock harness
  13. Once everything looks good, bolt the dash kit back on
  14. Snap climate control panel back into place

Nikon D90 vs D5000 vs D3000: Which one is right for you?

If you’re reading this post then you’re probably looking at one of Nikon’s consumer DSLRs. I’ve been shooting with a D70 and now a D90 for 5 years and recently walked several co-workers through buying a DSLR. I thought I’d share how I laid things out for them. As of February 2010 Nikon has three offerings in the consumer DSLR market: the D3000, D5000 and D90. Nikon has placed each of the cameras about $200-300 apart from each other.

D3000

When the D5000 came out Nikon needed something new to fill in the low end of their line up. The D3000 is pretty much the exact same camera as the D40x and D60 that previously held this spot. Aside from a .5″ larger LCD screen, there’s not going to be much difference between them. If you’ve never touched a DSLR before and your budget is tight, then this is a good place to start. It will be a good solid camera, but until Nikon refreshes it with a new model I don’t think the D3000 offers the best bang for your buck.

Amazon has the D3000 with 18-55mm VR kit lens for about $465.

D5000

Nikon D5000The D5000 is a big step up from the D3000 in terms of technology and functionality. The most visible difference is the tilt and swing LCD screen, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Internally, the D5000 has a much newer CMOS sensor than the D3000. This is the same sensor in the D90 and it provides much better performance at higher ISO settings. It also inherited built in chromatic aberration correction from the D90 which removes fringing that can appear in brightly lit shots. You also get the ability to take video.

At this point, features are starting to trickle down from improvements being made on more expensive models. If you are more serious about photography, but still relatively new to the DSLR world then this is a good option. The added features are well worth the extra money.

Amazon has the D5000 with 18-55mm VR kit lens for about $685.

D90

Nikon D90The D90 sits at the top of Nikon’s consumer DSLR line up. From here there’s a fairly big jump to the prosumer D300. There’s two things that really set the D90 above the D5000: controls and lens compatibility.

Without getting into every little difference in controls I’ll just highlight two. The first is the D90’s front scroll wheel. The D5000 and D3000 both have one on the back for your thumb, but the second wheel on the D90 gives you quick access to changing other settings. In manual mode for example, one wheel controls the aperture and one controls the shutter. On the D5000 and D3000 you’d have to fiddle with menus to set one of them. In Program mode, which I shoot 95% of the time, the back wheel can tweak the shutter/aperture ratio, but I configured the front wheel to set exposure compensation which normally requires a simultaneous button press.

The next control difference is the inclusion of a customizable shortcut button on the front of the camera next to the lens mount. This can be hit with your index or middle finger to bring up a menu of shortcuts to the menu items you use most. I have a couple things like ISO and White Balance menus on there that I access frequently enough to not want to dig through the entire menu system. Both of these additional controls are big for me and I don’t think I’d want to move to a camera without them.

The other thing to consider when comparing the D90 and it’s D5000/D3000 counterparts is lens compatibility. The D90 includes a built in AF motor which means it is compatible with older AF lenses; the other two do not. On the D5000 and D3000, the only lenses that will autofocus are the ones with AF-S built in which isn’t a big deal if you plan to stick with the 18-55mm or other newer lenses. If you wanted to shoot something like the older but excellent 50mm f/1.8 then the D90 is your best option.

If my discussion of the D90 went over your head then that’s a good indication the D5000 is more than enough camera for you. The D90 provides good bang for your buck if you are going to get serious about photography. The kit includes an 18-105mm VR lens which will give you more reach than the 18-55mm. You also have the option of getting the D90 body by itself and then adding on whichever lens fits your needs the best.

Amazon has the D90 with 18-105mm VR kit lens for about $1035. The D90 Body is about $780 by itself.

Sigg Wide Mouth Water Bottle Review

It took me a while to jump on the Sigg bandwagon, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sigg added wide mouth bottles to their product line up. I immediately liked these better than their older bottles for several reasons:

  • Easier to fill wide mouth and option to use ice cubes
  • Cap threads are made of plastic rather than metal, little nicer to drink from
  • No coating on lip of spout, my brother has had this rub off over time on his newer bottles
  • Better grip from the built in grooves on body of bottle
  • Compatible with all Sigg caps

I really like these bottles and take one to work with me everyday. I quit our “water cooler club” which was costing close to $6 a month just for water so it has more than paid for itself. Amazon has them at a very reasonable price with several colors to choose from.

Sigg Wide Mouth Water Bottle

Sigg Wide Mouth Bottle – 1L (34oz) at Amazon.com