The key thing I will retain from these discussions isn't so much how good the D7000 is or it not relative to the P65+. It is also not how close the DxO DR is to real DR.
What I retain, especially after reading fascinating threads at DPreview, is that most people - including people going pretty deep into the technicalities of photography - are not able to measure DR as part of their photographic experience. DR is most often confused with the ability to recover highlights (a property that only depends on sensor ISO calibration) while it is only about noise in under-exposed areas.
Designing a sensor that will have very clean shadows involve making other compromises in order to achieve a general balance. This involves huge R&D investments and is probably an order of magnitude more complex than raising pixel count. Yet most customers don't see it and keep fighting every objective measure of it.
We - more or less advanced photographers - have been just as guilty as the rest. We have been saying "more DR", but are mostly unable to recognize it when it shows up.
The net result of this is most probably going to be next generation sensors with less DR... why should these companies keep investing huge money to improve a camera characteristic that we think we care about, but actually don't?
They would all be much better off do what Phaseone does, under-expose all their shots one stop by turning ISO 100 into ISO 200, and calibrate the software chain so as to be able to recover one stop of highlights. So much so for the myth that advanced photographers prefer to shoot with slides films.
Those are a good points, Bernard.
Speaking for myself, the only reason I'm concerned about issues of DR, is because in the past I've sometimes been disappointed with the quality of shadow detail, not only regarding shadow detail in certain slides I've scanned, but also the shadow detail at base ISO from DSLRs I've used.
In the house of a friend of mine, there's a very large and impressive print of a waterfall hanging on the wall, taken by a professional photographer who appears to have done all the right things, neutral density filter for a slow shutter speed, and polariser to smooth the specral reflections on the water surface at the foot of the falls.
But in my view, the scene has one major flaw. All the deep shadows are totally black (0,0,0,).
From a distance, that's not too bad, but from close-up it looks a bit odd to me, a bit unnatural.
Would it be fair to presume that the reasons such shadows are totally black is not just for an esthetic reason, black is beautiful, but to hide the fact that the detail in those shadows is crap, due to a lack of sufficient DR capability of the camera and the processing chain?
Reluctant as I am to show my rejects in order to demonstrate a point, here are a couple of casual shots of a waterfall in a rainforest taken several years ago with a 6mp DSLR and Sigma zoom at base ISO. They were casual, no tripod or ND filter, but correctly exposed in accordance with the principles of ETTR. The 100% crops highlight the problems in the deep shadows.
Another interesting characteristic of the D7000, which has been noticed by some perceptive posters at dpreview, is that DR is now so good at base ISO, there is no image-quality advantage in using a high ISO setting.
In other words, the D7000 now behaves like a DB. An ISO 800 shot is no better than an ISO 100 shot underexposed 3 stops.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to this situation, ie, underexposing at base ISO instead of increasing ISO for the desired shutter speed at the desired aperture.
The disadvantage is that the review jpeg on the camera's LCD might be too dark for you to properly assess if you've captured the moment successfully, although I tend to think this is a trivial concern. If you havn't captured the moment successfully, too bad. The moment has passed.
For me, I think the main purpose of the LCD review is to determine whether I've blown the highlights, which brings me to the advantages of this characteristic of the D7000.
The concept of ETTR (expose to the right) has been a much-discussed topic on this forum over the years. So much so that the issues should now be clear to everyone.
If you do not give a 'full' exposure, whatever the ISO setting, you are not going to get the full qualities of tonal range and low noise that your camera is capable of.
However, there's a huge practical problem with this methodology of ETTR. In one's attempt to get a 'full' exposure, it's just too easy to blow highlights.
If you have the time, and can retake the shot because the 'moment' is not critical, the LCD review image is useful, at base ISO, even on the D7000.
However, if you are not as base ISO because you need a faster shutter speed and/or need to stop down for greater DoF, then the risk of blowing highlights is of greater concern.
This quality of the D7000 seems to me to be a significant advantage for 'manual' shooters. You choose the aperture and shutter speed that's required for the shot, in the circumstances, whatever the lighting. If you raise ISO, you have to worry about ETTR issues. If you leave the camera at base ISO, the image will be underexposed, but you can be completely confident there will be no blown highlights and no loss of image quality, when shooting RAW of course, after compensating for the underexposure in ACR.
I like it.