Nikon Z7 Review with 24-70mm f4 and 35mm f1.8

Today on Discharged Networks we are taking a look at Nikon’s first step into the mirrorless market – their top-of-the-line, Z7. Does it surpass the unquestionably great D850, or does it disappoint? Stick around and find out.

Nikon were arguably late to the mirrorless market party, nearly 5 years after Sony for example. But given the market trends and the uptick in popularity of Sony’s A7 series, they have now launched two new models in their new lineup, the Z-series – Z6 and Z7. 

On review, as said, is the Z7, so the higher-megapixel variant that is more focused towards photography, while the Z6 is touted as a videographer’s dream. 

Going through the specs’s sheet:

  • it features a newly developed Z-mount with 36x24mm, 47MP sensor with 493 phase-detection autofocus points on the sensor
  • a 9 fps maximum with a mechanical and 5 fps with electronic front curtain shooting speed
  • support for RAW photos in steps from 12-bit compressed to 14-bit uncompressed
  • a strong focus on video with UHD resolution (3840×2160) at a maximum of 30 frames per second at a bitrate of 144 Mbps; also supporting 1080p at 120 fps and an uncompressed 10bit 4:2:2 over HDMI, which said to be upgraded in teh following months with an uncompressed RAW output via HDMI
  • supports the standard wireless connectivity via Bluetooth and WiFi, enabling wireless control via the Snapbridge app on mobile devices

Well – it’s an impressive specification sheet that quite closely matches the D850, but in a smaller and sleeker body. The latter feels great in our hands, the ergonomics are on point, the doors ports and buttons are all gasketed – so if you shoot in difficult terrain, the Nikon Z7 will be quite up to par.

All the buttons we need are on the right place, they have great tactile feedback and have always performed admirably, with no issues whatsoever. A personal preference would have been to move the jog dial a bit lower so that it would be easier to reach, but that is just me coming from a different system.

A thing we can’t look past is the Z-mount itself. It is by far the largest in diameter with 56mm. With its shortest flange distance on the market, it will support every single lens on the market, no questions asked. Of course, with an adapter. Which, at the time of writing this video there are few of – but that will surely change in the following months and years. Anyways’ while this is an opportunity for greater cross-market appeal, it is also a limit, as the Z-mount lenses won’t be able to be used on any other camera on the market. And that is one of the main gripes I have with the product – the lens selection.

I know that developing a new mount and the whole system is a difficult and time intensive process. Having only a small number of lenses available on launch and none of them high-end, as the Z7’s price tag would logically pair with – so a 50mm 1.4 or 1.2, a 70-200mm 2.8 or something of the like. They are coming, but them not being ready on launch is a mistake, especially given that they don’t hold the largest of market shares. These problems are somewhat alleviated by the FTZ adapter that has full compatibility (AF-C, tracking and whatnot), the upcoming Eye-AF, with the exisitng FX lenses from Nikon and also Sigma’s ART series. So there is a good selection there – but for people looking to switch systems completely, it is a difficult ask.

From the top to the bottom side of the camera, the battery life is great. In my testing, it did over 1200 shots per battery life, or a few good hours of video. So a single day event, let’s say a conference, could be reasonably covered with two batteries. 

Onto a more controversial topic and the reason why professional users will not switch to the Z7 in my opinion – the lack of second card slot. While Nikon did decide for the newer QXD, which are incredibly fast and much more rugged and reliable when compared to an SD card, there is only one slot. If the card gets corrupted, you don’t have a backup and for events where there is no such option as a re-shoot, well, that is a problem.

The LCD and EVF on the other hand are great. I would have liked to see them include a fully rotatable screen, but I understand that some concessions had to be made – and it being only horizontally tiltable is quite enough in my book. As when looking through the 3.8M-dot OLED EVF with an 0.8x magnification rate and 100% coverage, you don’t even want to look at the LCD screen on it, as the latter is as good as they come. The pixels are invisible, and the dynamic range of the panel is excellent. This really is the closest thing to an optical viewfinder I have seen to date. 

Onto the actual experience of shooting with the Z7 – I was presently surprised by the ergonomics as said before, and with the handling of the entire camera. Also, I liked the auto-focus performance, which is often a point of contention with first-generation mirrorless cameras. As widely reported, it is perfectly reasonable. The single shot focus is very fast, accurate and does not hunt at all (except in situations where there is really not enough light to even see naturally, much less shoot efficiently). The video auto focus on the other hand isn’t anything to write home about. The Eye-AF is coming, but given that I have not tested the device with it, I was left to my own devices and the continuous auto focus while usable for shooting non-moving or slowly-moving subjects, isn’t really acceptable due to lots of hunting when shooting dynamic targets. 

It is safe to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the results of photos taken with the Z7, especially given that they were taken on medium price range glass. For all intents and purposes, this is a D850 – it has all the characteristics of latest-gen sensor from it, a good dynamic range with some color shift in the shadows when underexposing, the noise is very well controlled and I never hesitated to use 12800 ISO.

All in all, Nikon’s Z7 is a great first step into the mirrorless market for Nikon. It sets good groundwork with a great new mount that is albeit not really supported, but with a good potential for the future, and some quirks that they are set to be improving in the following months, years and revisions. It has to be said that Nikon is a worthy contender due to it not having a separate Cinema division, so they don’t have to cannibalize video features, such as Canon or Sony. Therefore they are coming out with RAW HDMI output, and that – that I believe will be the game changer that puts Nikon’s mirrorless series on the map. 

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Hands-on Review

We took a look at Lenovo’s second attempt at a true 2-in-1 – a laptop with two screens in one laptop (one being a high quality IPS 4k display, and the other an e-ink affair that is unique on the market). Does the bleeding-edge development work or is it just another attempt that does not work?

We’ve already looked at the original Yoga Book when it came out a few years ago, and while we found it an interesting product that was pushing the technical boundaries a bit, it was fatally flawed as far as usability goes – and we were quite hoping to see the next revision that we’re reviewing today, the C930. So, does it improve on the predecessor and is it actually usable?

First things firsts, the Yoga line from Lenovo has always been stunning to look at. It has this high quality finish, a sleek-yet-sturdy build quality that doesn’t feel like it is going to break in our hands, and it has the performance to boot. But that’s what you get in every other laptop in this price range – hell in most of the cases you get better specifications, so what does it have that the competitors dont?

Well, it’s quite obvious, isn’t it? You are not typing on a physical keyboard when using it. You are not typing on a display as it was the last time – well it is a display, but it is an e-ink display. The latter stands out hte most when first looking at the Lenovo Yoga Book, as it has this sharpness that is inherent to e-ink displays that you just don’t get on LED or OLED screens. It is also very responsive for an e-ink panel – you can’t expect it to have a 144 or 240 Hz refresh rate, far from that, as it updates a few times a second. But still, when trying to draw on it (as it’s also a Wacom tablet), it has almost no obvious lag, except if you go really hardcore and try to overload the processing chip – then it lags a bit, but it’s nothing that would substantially worsen our experience of using it.

The sketching mode is the thing that differentiates it from the competition, as it has an incredible amount of details you can get out of the sketches with its over 1000 pressure sensitivity levels that enable a good gradiation when drawing with the pen. It also includes a force-touch functionality that has 4 distinct functions built in and is good enough for basic work – so hobbyists, quick sketching, making short notes on the tablet or work surface. They go hand-in-hand with the form factor that is very portable, light weight and the battery that lasts a long time – but it’s not for serious work.

It’s only bitmap, so black or white, no shadows. And you can’t even do colours, so the applications are limited. That is also the experience we get from the e-ink keyboard that has this vibration feedback. It looks good, is realistic and has a good feedback, but it’s a far cry from any, any physical keyboard. It just proves the point why BlackBerry lasted so long on the mobile stage just because of the physical keys, when it was vastly outmatched by every other competitor on the market. A physical keyboard, no matter how bad, is infinitely better than any force-feedback. You just can’t get any speed and consistency out of – maybe you could with lots of effort invested and time. In our limited 2 weeks of use of the Yoga Book we just didn’t get to the stage that it felt natural, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But then again I believe that this product isn’t meant for a serious worker – it is meant for a technology enthusiast that likes the tech and can appreciate it being bleeding-edge and can live with the few quirks that are a consequence of using a first-generation device. But it has to be said that the Yoga Book looks incredibly elegant, modern and premium with its matte dark-gray in combination with glossy black on the inside, with the minimal Lenovo gray engraving on the upper that doesn’t scream LENOVO, but is still there; the performant screen that is great no matter how you look at it – and when looking at the Yoga Book from that prism, it’s a perfectly reasonable product. It can work, if you can live with the consequences. 

But given this is a tech review of an enthusiast that tries to nitpick whenever possible, I have to point out a few obvious shortcomings – such as the buttons that are way too sensitive on the device as when positioning it on our lap for example, we often times accidentally clicked on the volume dial or even the power button (and sent it to sleep!). Likewise, the copy button on the Wacom pen is a good idea, it’s just either too sensitive or positioned too low on the pen, so that when you try to draw something or sketch an idea out, you accidentally press the copy image button and generate a screenshot of your desktop and move it to the e-ink display. Quite annoying.

I also have to note the uneven responsiveness of the pen, which just does not work as consistently in the edges and the menu bar as it does in the middle portion of the screen, which was quite frustrating, as you have to press multiple times, sometimes harder, sometimes softer – it did not respond to anything consistently. All of the aforementioned were further amplified by the responsiveness when the surface on which we were drawing was not meticulously cleaned and had some fingerprints and finger smudges on it. 

But if you can live with these shortcomings, I am sure that the Lenovo Yoga Book C930 will be a product you will be happy to use, casually of course.

Silent Monster PC Build – Noctua NH-D15, ADATA XPG DDR4 RAM, i7 6700K,..

We got sent some goodies from ADATA, namely their XPG 2x8GB 2600MHz DDR4 RAM kit and the SU800 256GB SSD. We kitted it out with a GIGABYTE Ultra Durable motherboard, i7 6700k overclocked to over 4.5 GHz, a passive power supply and of course the Fractal Design Define R3 – a staple in the silent computing enthusiast space.

Audio-Technica ATW-1701 Unboxing & First Look

The ATW-1701 is part of Audio-Technica’s System 10 lineup that features an affordable price, yet high quality construction and use of the best technologies on the market. It is designed to be used on DSLR and mirrorless cameras via the 3.5mm jack, although it also features a balanced out for more demanding shoots. Expect a full review soon.