Nikon needed to do something big and bold to regain its position in the camera world after the last few years of taking a beating by Sony full-frame mirrorless camera, and they did just that with the launch of their new Z6 and Z7 cameras. Last year, Nikon released the acclaimed D850 DSLR which has been acclaimed as one of the best cameras ever made, but its size and weight take a toll after a while. Sony, Olympus, and Fuji have proven that mirrorless cameras can deliver stunning images in smaller compact forms, and Nikon finally listened. While there are a few things we’d change about the Nikon Z7, here are the top 5 things we LOVE about it:
(NOTE: All non-stock images captured with pre-production camera bodies, lenses, and firmware)
Glorious Weight Reduction
Last month, we flew 12,000 miles to check out the Z7 in Tokyo and brought along a Nikon D850. Set a Z7 next to a D850 — shooting with both, holding both for long periods — and you’ll instantly see and feel the dramatic size and weight differences. The D850 weighs 1015 grams with a battery compared to the Z7’s 675. That’s 33% lighter and you can feel it. When you have to be out all day with a camera that extra 33% will feel like ten pounds by the end of the day. The Z7 might not have the same battery life or dual card slots like the D850 does, but it can do everything the D850 does (and more) in a much lighter body that feels great in the hand.
It’s The Best Nikon Video Camera… Ever
While Nikon has included 4K video capabilities since the D500 and slow-motion since the D850, Nikon’s contrast-detection AF system remains slow and their older F-mount lenses are noisy. The Z7 and Z6 both shoot full-frame 4K video (hear that, Canon?) while offering a hybrid AF system featuring both phase and contrast detection that finally brings Nikon’s still-image AF speeds to video. In our testing, Auto Area Subject Tracking works brilliantly, allowing for easier capture of fast moving subjects and/or when you’re shooting alone. And, Nikon has improved its Full HD 100fps & 120fps capabilities, offering both in-camera slow-motion and true high-frame rate recording. Nikon has been no slouch in the video department in years past either, as the entire series of the show WILFRED was shot on the D800. Now the cameras are lighter, more powerful and have better autofocus. It’s a good time to shoot video on a Nikon.
NOTE: We haven’t gotten to shoot video with Z6 yet, but many are expecting it to outperform the Z7 because it will record 4K video with full pixel readout in FX (full-frame) mode. By comparison, the Z7 only uses full pixel readout in DX (crop) mode.
You Can Keep Your Old Glass
It might sound like a pain to have to buy a $250 (discounted to $150 through the end of this year when purchased with a Z7) adapter to make your older lenses work with the new camera, but the new Mount Adapter FTZ delivers on its promises and then some. To be clear, performance levels will vary from lens to lens. If you own a great NIKKOR lens, it will still be great; if you own a slower NIKKOR lens, it will still be slow. Make sense? Regardless, shooting with F-mount lenses on the Z7 feels like native Z mount glass. The 70-200mm F2.8 and 105mm F1.4 both perform spectacularly in video & still modes. And I would argue the 70-200mm F2.8 is even more capable on the Z7 because you’re able to combine the lens’ vibration reduction with the camera’s in-body vibration reduction to give you extra low-light performance as well as very smooth handheld video (see the above video we shot!). No distortion. No magnification. And they feel like native lenses. If you’re already in the Nikon ecosystem, you’re going to be very happy.
(NOTE: we haven’t done extensive testing with third-party lenses, but in our first test with the Tamron 70-210mm F4, it did not work. An error message popped up on screen.)
Ergonomics & Build Quality
In our opinion, far too many mirrorless camera systems lack the ergonomics of their DSLR ancestors. Sony, for example, makes excellent cameras with cutting-edge features, but they feel a little small and thier touchscreens don’t currently interface with their menu systems. To be fair, the Nikon Z7 isn’t quite as ergonomic as Nikon DSLRs or the new Canon EOS R (our favorite mirrorless body so far). But Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras do feature a wonderfully deep grip, a fully functional touchscreen, easy-to-navigate menu, and the weather resistance of the D850. Much like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, we’d have no trouble taking a Z7 or the forthcoming Z6 out into adverse conditions in the field. I can’t say the same for Sony. And, while the Canon EOS R is weather-sealed akin to the 6D Mark II, it’s not a full pro rig ala the 5Div and 1DXii. The Nikon Z7 and Z6 are ready for all conditions and feel very good in the hand. It’s easy to shoot with them all day.
The Z Mount Itself
We’ve only gotten to try the 24-70mm F4 and 35mm F1.8, but Nikon’s done a very good job with the new NIKKOR Z lens. While we don’t love them as much as Canon’s first RF mount lenses, Z mount lenses promise to be Nikon’s fastest, sharpest, lightest, quietest, and most distortion-free lenses in the company’s 100-year history. The Z mount looks to be an equal partner to the new Z6 and Z7 cameras.