DPReview, the absolute bestest digital camera website on the interpipes, has reviewed the Nikon D7000 and given us a complete understanding, only hinted at with other reviews, of the camera's advantages over others.
We had some early tests showing it do very well in comparison to Canon, we had the DxOMark review that had it completely trouncing the Canon, and finally this. A full, blow-by-blow analysis. It's as we should have expected. The Nikon does outperform the Canon in almost every way, but where it does this is fantastic. The Nikon has a dynamic range of 9.2 EV, with all of the extra range going into the shadows.
You might prefer extra range in the highlights, since it's easier and cleaner to bring out blown highlights than it is to try and illuminate shadows. I go the other way. Shadows define the drama of a shot for me. I want a super-smooth transition to black and pure black when I get there. I don't want to have to punch up the blacks and contrast in post to fix that problem. I expose for the highlights and then work with the curve in post.
That extra shadow range results in noise-free shadows. On page 17, the reviewers compare a dark shot from the Nikon to one from the Canon and apply a +3.0 exposure to clearly reveal shadow noise. The Nikon? Almost none. Brilliant.
That being said, Canon's image pipeline is still better at extracting detail. But while this criticism might have been of importance in earlier models, I think that in these days of 18Mp cameras, the better detail is almost inconsequential. Moreover, to see the differences in detail will require lenses that almost no one will buy. I'd imagine that most people in this segment of the market will buy the camera and either use the kit lens (which undoubtedly sucks) or buy a $500-$800 zoom lens which won't come close to exceeding the sensor's ability.
It's taking awhile, but the megapixel wars seem to be waning. Color reproduction and noise levels are much more important, and it's here that the Nikon handily beats the Canon. Bravo Nikon.
Nikon D7000 Review (DPReview)