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.