Z7

Z7

Nikon Z7 Full Review

By

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What We Love. The Nikon Z7 distills (almost) everything we love about the D850 DSLR into a smaller-yet-still-ergonomic body featuring the brand new 55mm Z-mount, 5-axis vibration reduction, and Nikon's best video autofocus ever. With weather sealing and a dynamic image sensor, you can take the Z7 anywhere and effortlessly manipulate images in post. Featuring 10-bit external 4K video recording & improved 120fps Full HD video recording capabilities, you can create a cinematic masterpiece as easily as you can shoot portraits and landscapes. And the optional FTZ Mount Adapter seamlessly integrates and/or improves over a hundred F-mount lenses.

What We'd Change. Everyone's talking about the missing dual card slots -- unexpected at this price point, to be sure -- but we'd argue the Z7's main failings are found in the still-photo autofocus as well as pricing. TLDR, we miss the 3D tracking system from the D850, D500, and D5, which makes the Z7 camera less capable for sports & wildlife photography. The Z7's AF also struggles in ultra-low lighting (emphasis on ultra) or when tracking multiple moving subjects (to be fair, most cameras do). We'd also wish the camera was one finger-width taller for improved ergonomics. Lastly, the $3,400 launch MSRP seems a touch high, especially when you consider the competition and how the price jumps to $3,550 if you buy the FTZ adapter too.

The Bottom Line. The Nikon Z7 is an admirable first generation product that blends a century of technological advancements with a system looking at photography's next hundred years. Unless you need dual card slots or shoot action, the Z7 is a terrific hybrid option for those who want to make video content and capture high-resolution still images. It's small and quiet and compact and light, yet durable and flexible and with more features than any other camera in Nikon's history.

Pick This Up If... you're a Nikon shooter looking to do more video, in the market for a durable mirrorless camera system that shoots full-frame 4K video, or if you were contemplating the Nikon D850, but held off because of its size/weight or video AF limitations. 


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INTRO

In many respects, the Nikon Z7 camera is a smaller, lighter, more compact version of our favorite DSLR, the Nikon D850. You get the same 45.7-megapixel resolution, 4K Ultra HD video recording capabilities, touchscreen menu system, and magnesium alloy construction with a shutter rated for 200,000 cycles and extensive weather sealing... in a body that's 26% lighter than the D850 and features on-sensor phase detection AF points as well as 5-axis vibration reduction.

Hold the two cameras back-to-back and that 26% weight reduction is visually dramatic. The D850 fits perfectly in the hand, perhaps a little more comfortably than the Z7, and offers more tactile buttons, but you can shoot with the Z7 for hours and hours without fatigue. 

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Even more important is Nikon's new Z lens mount. At 55mm, the Z-mount is 17% wider than the D850's F-mount and features a 16mm flange-mount distance -- the distance between your mount and the image sensor itself -- which is 65% slimmer than Nikon DSLRs. Meaning, the Z-mount lets in over 100% more light, versus the F-mount, and Nikon is now able to make faster, lighter, and sharper lenses with little-to-no distortion and aberrations. 

That said, the Nikon Z7 costs more than a D850 but is missing a few key features and performance specs you'll find the D850. 

Is it finally time to hang up your DSLR? Is the Nikon Z7 the one for you? Let's find out. 

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GEAR USED

For this review, we paired the Nikon Z7 with two Z mount S-line lenses as well as five F-mount lenses -- 
We'll be diving into the NIKKOR Z lenses soon, but our first impressions are positive. They're very sharp and there's virtually no chromatic aberration, which you'll find on almost every F-mount lens, even the amazing ones (looking at you, 105mm F1.4). And we enjoy the balanced, compact form-factor. However, we can't say we've been jaw-droppingly wowed by any of the new S-line lenses, either. For example, I wish they'd gone with a 24-105mm F4 for a more flexible kit lens. I wish we had some longer primes for portraits. 

(By contrast, Canon's new RF lenses are HUGE, but they're also incredibly addicting for the way they render light, color, and bokeh. And they have a more usable control ring.)

KEY FEATURES
  • 45.7MP BSI CMOS image sensor with on-sensor phase detection
  • No Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF)
  • ISO 64 - 25600
  • Expandable to ISO 32 - 102400
  • 9fps high-speed continuous shooting (extended)
  • 8K Time-lapses with the Interval Timer
  • Compatible Lenses: Z mount (native); F mount (with optional adapter)
  • EXPEED 6 Image Processor
  • Hybrid AF system
  • 493-points
  • covers 90% of the sensor vertically & horizontally
  • switches between focal-plane phase-detection AF and contrast-detect AF
  • 3.6M dot QVGA EVF (OLED)
  • 100% frame coverage and 0.8× magnification
  • 3.2" tilting touchscreen LCD (out of the D850)
  • 5-Axis Vibration Reduction
  • Up to 5.0 stops of exposure compensation 
  • 4K UHD (3840 × 2160)/30p
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 4K video when using the HDMI out
  • N-log color profile boosts dynamic range to 12 stops
  • 8-bit 4:2:0 4K video recording internal or external
  • Full-HD/120p slow motion
  • DX (crop) mode 4K video recording with full pixel readout
  • Active D-Lighting
  • electronic vibration reduction
  • focus peaking (for 4K & HD)
  • Silent shooting mode
  • 12-bit lossless RAW
  • 14-bit uncompressed RAW
  • Interval timer photography (HD or 4K Time Lapse Movie mode)
  • XQD Memory Slot (CFexpress firmware update coming)
  • magnesium alloy body
  • weather sealing
  • shutter rated for 200K cycles
  • Snapbridge 2.5 
  • WiFi & Bluetooth
  • Snapbridge 2.5 
  • PC transfer (RAW, JPEG, TIFF, Video to computer)
  • Dimensions: 5.3 × 4 × 2.7 in. (134 × 100.5 × 67.5 mm)
  • Weight (with battery & memory card): 1 lb 7.9 oz (23.9 oz or 675 g)
  • Support for existing (optional) DSLR camera accessories
  • Supports EN-EL15/a/b batteries 

WHAT'S IN THE BOX

When you purchase a Nikon Z7 kit ($3,999.95 MSRP), it includes:
  • Z7 Camera Body
  • EN-EL15b Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
  • MH-25a Battery Charger
  • EH-7P Charging AC Adapter
  • UC-E24 USB Cable
  • HDMI/USB Cable Clip
  • BS-1 Accessory Shoe Cap
  • AN-DC19 Camera Strap
  • BF-N1 Body Cap
  • DK-29 Rubber Eyecup
  • NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S
  • LC-72B Snap-On Front Lens Cap
  • LF-N1 Rear Lens Cap
  • HB-85 Bayonet Lens Hood
  • CL-C1 Lens Case
  • Manuals & Warranty Card
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BUILD QUALITY & DESIGN

Outside an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, the Nikon Z7 and forthcoming Z6 may be the most rugged mirrorless cameras on the market. They're certainly the most rugged full-frame variants available, thanks to their D850-inspired magnesium alloy construction and weather sealing. 

Visually speaking, the Nikon Z7 is handsome. Clean lines. Grippy, rubberized surfaces. Lots of tactile buttons and a joystick. It's busy, but not cluttered. And, of course, there's the classic Nikon red swoosh up near the shutter button. Unfortunately, however, these well-placed buttons are not back-lit for shooting in the dark.

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On the front of the body, you'll find two function buttons, the front dial, and the lens-release button. Fn 1 & 2 are customizable but automatically set to access White Balance (Fn1) and AutoFocus (Fn2).

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Tucked behind flaps on body-left, you'll find ports for a headphone, microphone, USB-C, micro-HDMI, and remote control.

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Around back, you'll find a 3.6M dot OLED EVF above a 3.2" tilting touchscreen display (same as the D850), Playback & Trash buttons, a photo or video mode selector switch, a rear dial, a joystick controller, and buttons for AF-ON, Info (quick access to settings), Menu, Zoom In & Out, and Release Mode (single, burst, or timer). 

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On body-right, there's a single XQD memory card slot with a nice thumb-supporting raised-lip.

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Up top, you'll find a Mode Dial that includes three custom User Modes, a small LCD screen displaying your current settings, an On-Off switch and shutter release button, and dedicated buttons for video recording, ISO, and exposure compensation.

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Underneath, you'll find a battery compartment and standard tripod mount.

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35mm, F1.8, 1/125, ISO 320

ERGONOMICS

The Nikon Z7 feels quite good in the hand, has easy-to-navigate menus (more in a minute), boasts a high-quality touchscreen, and retains a good portion of the tactile, dedicated buttons from Nikon's DSLRs. Plus, some of the new NIKKOR Z lenses include a customizable control ring for even quicker, on-the-fly adjustments. 

In short, it's an excellent combination of DSLR and mirrorless ergonomics.

That said, the new Fujifilm X-T3 -- with its tactile exposure triangle adjustment dials -- and Canon EOS R -- with its taller body, Vari-angle display, and more customization options -- have better mirrorless ergonomics. I'd also like to point out that, despite its weight, the Nikon D850 is easier to adjust on the fly because its larger body allows for more buttons as well as less button-density. 

What would we do to perfect future Z-series cameras? I'd suggest making them one-finger taller, consider adding a flip-forward screen, and adding touchscreen AF-point selection abilities when using the EVF.

Despite a few nitpicks, the Z7 the heart of a well-balanced mirrorless system that a joy to use.

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MENUS & DISPLAYS

While I find Canon menus slightly more user-friendly, Nikon menus are better than most. Much of this is thanks to the touchscreen interface, so you don't have to waste time using the joystick or d-pad to navigate. Coupled with ease-of-use, everything is well-organized between the Playback, Photo Shooting, Movie Shooting, Custom Setting, Setup, Retouch, and My menus. In addition to color coding, to separate topics, there's even a HELP button that explains every feature. 

To improve workflow efficiency -- to fight the density inherent in complicated camera systems with dozens of features and settings -- Nikon allows you to add anything you want to your personal My Menu. And, much like Olympus and Canon systems, pressing "i" on the Z7's rear panel gives you instant access to your most-used features; this too can be customized. 

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As for displays, the Z7 features three. The top-facing, settings-focused LCD is handy, clear, and easy to see in full daylight. The 3.6M dot QVGA EVF (OLED) features 100% frame coverage and 0.8× magnification. Quite simply, this might be the best-looking EVF on the market, but we have to give Canon extra credit for the EOS R's smartphone-esque EVF that flips between horizontal and vertical modes depending on how you're holding the camera. (Please add this, Nikon!)

The Z7's 3.2" tilting touchscreen LCD comes straight out of the Nikon D850 and it's still one of the best rear-facing LCDs available today. Clear, bright, and no touch-lag. If we had one complaint, we'd personally prefer a flip-out Vari-angle display -- we find them to be more flexible for low and high-angle vertical shots as well as for one-man video shoots -- but Nikon engineers feel it's easier to break Vari-angle displays than tilting displays. They're probably right, but we'd still love to see a flippy-screen on a future Z camera body.

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For Vloggers interested in using the Z7, you can purchase an external display, something like an Atomos Ninja V, which you might want to do anyway to take full advantage of the Nikon Z7's 10-bit video capabilities. Or, you can pair your iOS or Android Smartphone to the Z7 using Nikon's free app, SnapBridge 2.5, which offers remote photography and video recording, making it a snap to check focus and framing.

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Samurai Artist Kamui - 35mm, F1.8, 1/500, ISO 1600

STILL IMAGE AF

DSLRs like the D500 and D850 boast blazingly-fast and accurate phase-detection AF sensors for shooting sports and wildlife, but shooting video with those cameras' Live View AF modes is painfully slow and warbled by endless hunting. The Z7 rectifies this duality with a new Hybrid AF system that performs equally well in video recording and still shooting modes. It's literally the best Nikon video camera thus far. 

But this double-edged pendulum has swung too far away from still photography performance. 

The Z7 is slower and less accurate than the D850 when shooting fast-moving subjects. To be clear, the Z7's still-photography AF is very good most of the time, but it misses more shots than the D850 and has more trouble reacquiring subjects after a miss. We'd also argue the Z7 desperately needs EyeAF, which is excellent in the Sony full-frame mirrorless systems as well as Fujifilm's X-T3. The Z7's Face Detection works, but when shooting shallow depth-of-field -- F2.8 or above -- it can hit a cheek, eyebrow, or nose when you need an eye. Hopefully, Nikon will address this in future firmware updates.

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teamLab Planets TOKYO - 35mm, F1.8, 1/50, ISO 400

Z7 AF also struggles in ultra-low-light. During our testing, we took the camera to teamLab Planets TOKYO, which was a mixture of lights and colors and reflective surfaces. One moment bathed in flickering rainbows; the next plunged into darkness. Even with an F1.8 lens, Z7 AF performance slowed considerably. To be fair, most cameras aren't great in ultra-low-light, but compared to Nikon's DSLRs, we think the Z7 could improve.

Bottom line, if you shoot action, especially with fast lenses, or moving subjects in the near-dark, you should probably stick with a Nikon DSLR or check out another mirrorless system with EyeAF. 

Outside of those scenarios, the Z7's AF system is terrific when you have time to compose and pinpoint your focus, or with medium-to-slow-moving subjects. In fact, the camera's most accurate still-photography AF mode is contrast-only, and it's incredibly precise but quite slow. If you shoot portraits, macro, street, architecture, or landscapes, you're going to love this camera's AF. 


Check out our full review of the Z7's video AF system!

VIDEO AF

We have no complaints with the Z7's video AF performance -- outside of wishing for EyeAF -- but we wanted to let everyone know your experience will be very lens-dependent. Especially if you're using the adapter. New NIKKOR Z lenses are quieter, smoother, and more video-capable. NIKKOR F-mount lenses vary, from slow and noisy to too-fast and silent. For example, using the 70-200mm F2.8 and the 105mm F1.4 -- both lenses wide open -- the Z7 easily tracked faces of subjects approaching the camera. But, with the AF-S 20mm F1.8, clicking noises drown out your audio. By the way, comparing the Z7 to the D850, the Z7's video AF sinks the DSLR's battleship. No contest.

Honestly, the Z7's video AF performance is the main reason to buy this camera, especially if you're cross-shopping a Nikon DSLR. The Z7 is for hybrid creators, where the DSLRs will give you more sports photography capabilities at a cost of having to shoot manual-AF for video.

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200mm, F2.8, 1/640, ISO 64

SPEED

In terms of burst shooting and buffer, the Z7 performs a lot like the D850. If you're squeezing off smaller burst groupings, the buffer seems limitless. Squash that shutter until the buffer fills up and the Z7 captures ~12 full-res RAW + JPEG and cleared 3-4 shots per second compared to the D850's ~19 full-res RAW+JPEG images and similar clearing times. The D850, though, feels like it'll just keep clicking forever where the Z7 stutters after running the buffer dry. It's also worth noting that, with a near-full 128GB XQD card, the Z7 slows dramatically, taking 15-30 seconds to clear all 12 images. So, if you find yourself needing more speed, try swapping in a fresh card. 

Also, while the Z7 will shoot up to 9fps (in High Extended burst mode), that mode doesn't include autofocus. And I don't know about you, dear reader, but I use burst shooting almost exclusively for moving subjects where AF is key. With AF engaged, the Z7 drops down to 5 or 5.5fps, but our actual testing revealed ~3-4 shots per second. Again, keep your D500 or D850 if you want to shoot action. We've also found the Sony A7R III to be a bit faster, especially when you factor in EyeAF.

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35mm, F1.8, 1/250, ISO 100

METERING

The Nikon Z7 uses TTL (Through-the-lens) Metering System with four different modes. Matrix metering, Center-weighted metering (75% of the frame), Spot-metering (1.5% of the frame), and Highlight-weighted metering. Where Canon systems seem to like a half or full stop of over-exposure, we found the Z7, like other Nikon cameras, has an accurate metering system that corrects for in-frame shadows and highlights. Not much to talk about here; it works quite well.

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70mm, F4, 1/500, ISO 64

STILL IMAGE QUALITY

Last year's D850 DSLR set a benchmark for full-frame image quality and while the Z7 might not be as adept at shooting sports or flying birds, Z7 image quality is equally outstanding. It offers a very flexible combination of color, contrast, dynamic range and, of course, resolution. In fact, the Z7 produces the best single-shot image quality we've seen in a full-frame mirrorless camera (Sony A7R III Pixel Shift shots are sharper, but you can only use that mode with still subjects). 

Will this variation of the image sensor rate as high on the DX0MARK charts? I don't care, to be honest. The Nikon Z7, much like the D850 or A7R III, feels almost like you have a Medium Format camera without the extra cost or crop factor concerns. What do I mean? To give you an example, I was playing with the Z7 and the 105mm F1.4 the other day and snapped a quick picture of my daughter. I had the camera wide open at F1.4, but in the wrong AF mode, so the overall shot isn't bang-on tack-sharp the way I would've wanted. BUT, when you zoom in on the sunglasses, my wife and I are perfectly sharp in the reflection. It's impressive. Plus, as you'll see in the next couple sections, the added resolution does not come at the expense of noise or low-light performance.

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Original.
CLICK to see or download the 5504 x 8256 file.

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Cropped.
CLICK to see or download the 1974 x 903 crop... and massive amounts of fringing.

Of course, the Z7's ultimate potential will be lens-dependent. For now, this means NIKKOR glass -- I've tried out a few Tamron lenses with the FTZ adapter and get error messages -- but NIKKOR Z, AF-S, and AF-P lenses are stuffed with gems. The AF-S 70-200mm F2.8 is fast and stabilized. The AF-S 105mm F1.4 is STUNNING glass, although there is some fringing. And the few primes we tested work wonders. NIKKOR Z glass is sharp and colorful too; I wish it were a 24-105mm lens, but the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm F4 S is one of the sharpest kit lenses I've ever seen. So you have a lot of great options at the moment to push this camera's capabilities. 

The one area where you need to be careful, however, is in your Picture Profile settings. Out of the box, the Z7 is set to Auto which, in theory, is supposed to select between one of the other picture profiles (Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Flat, etc). In reality, the Z7 chooses Vivid more often than not, which is great for landscape and street-photography because you get high contrast image with colors that pop. But, Vivid's overly contrasty look pushes skin tones into an unnatural red (akin to when Sony cameras make people look like they have jaundice). RAW images are, of course, left clean and neutral. But, if you plan to share any straight-out-of-camera JPEGs via the SnapBridget app (see below), you might want to slip out of Auto Picture Control.  

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LEFT: original underexposed image. 50mm, F7.1, 1/20th, ISO 64
RIGHT: same image with the exposure lifted 5 stops & shadows boosted
CLICK to see a larger 5967 x 2015 file

DYNAMIC RANGE

To my eyes, and even doing some unnecessarily-dramatic shadow recovery, the Nikon Z7's useable dynamic range is as good as the Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III, which are two of the best full-frame cameras on the market. 

But there has been a bit of controversy in this area. 

As expected, many of our colleagues set out to do D850 comparisons, and a few folks noticed "banding" in their Z7 images when recovering 5-stops of exposure. In their tests, the D850 did not suffer the same issue. In our tests, shooting the D850 and Z7 back-to-back in the same lighting with the same lens and intentionally underexposing, we do see what appears to be microscopic, faint, horizontal bands across the image when lifting the exposure by 5 stops AND further lifting the shadows by another few stops AND crop or zoom in. See:

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Crop in and behold... banding!
CLICK to see a 3077 x 1549 file cropped from the original file.

Honestly, though, this type of pixel-peeping is worthless.

Why? Because when you do the same thing to a D850 shot and crop in, the image is equally unusable. Yeah, there's no banding, but it looks just as bad.

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Behold the Nikon D850 image with exposure lifted by 5 stops AND shadows boosted.
CLICK on the image to see the whole image.

At the end of the day, if you need dynamic range -- for landscape, product, architecture, & travel photography -- the Nikon Z7 has you covered, and then some. Is the D850 a touch-cleaner? Maybe... under severe manipulation while zooming in by over a hundred percent? But you honestly can't go wrong with either camera when shooting it in the real world.

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Original framing. ISO 64 vs ISO 25600.

ISO

Along with excellent dynamic range, the Nikon Z7 performs well at higher ISOs. Shooting samples in my home office as well as examining shots Michelle captured at the New York launch event, the Z7 produces very good images up to 10,000 and, assuming you don't have to crop, usable images all the way up to ISO 25,600. 

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Cropped in on ISO 64, 6400, 12600, & 25600
Click HERE to see the full-sized images of each.

Like with any system, there's more noise and less sharpness as you push past ISO 10,000, but the Z7's grain-reduction processing works wonders. The Z7 can't quite see in the dark, but what images it does produce are excellent. And, of course, when shooting at native ISO 64, you have such a clean, resolute image, where you can crop and/or recover shadows without ruining your shots. 

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VIDEO QUALITY

The Nikon Z7 is capable of recording 4K 2160/30p Ultra HD video in 10-bit 4:2:2 with N-log for more dynamic range and colors, but requires the use of an external hard drive that we don't currently have. 

That being said, we spent a great deal of time with Nikon's 8-bit 4:2:0 recording resolutions and frame rates. Much like the D850, the Z7 shoots full-frame 4K videos at 24p, 25p, and 30p as well as full-frame 1080p videos up to 60p. If you want to shoot Slow Motion, the Z7 offers two 1080p varieties at up to 120fps, both requiring shooting in the camera's 1.5x DX-format crop. Option One is in-camera slo-mo, a lower-bit-rate option where you select your playback frame-rate and it's baked into the file. Option Two is higher quality and more akin to what you'll find in Panasonic, Sony, and Fujifilm systems. You simply shoot at 100 or 120fps and then manipulate the footage in editing software. We're glad to see this here.

You can also opt to shoot 4K in DX crop-mode, where you'll get full pixel readout of your 4K source (in full-frame or FX mode, the camera downsamples footage to 4K).

While we loved the look of Nikon D850 videos, the Z7 produces similar contrasty, colorful, vibrant videos in a system with better autofocus as well as higher quality slow motion. However, due to the camera's higher resolution sensor, there is some aliasing and over-sharpening to deal that may rob videos of natural fine details.

Still, outside of no 4K/60p, which is offered on certain Panasonic & Fujifilm cameras, and Nikon's fly-by-wire lens options, which are harder to use when you want to pull-focus precisely, enthusiasts and pros will have no problems using the Z7 (and impending Z6) to make cinematic digital videos.

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200mm, F2.8, 1/500, ISO 64

STABILIZATION

The first Nikon camera to feature 5-axis in-body Vibration Reduction (VR) -- often called in-body image stabilization or IBIS in other systems -- the Z7 is capable of up to 5.0-stops of exposure compensation with native Z-mount lenses OR VR-equipped F-mount lenses. If you shoot with non-VR F-mount lenses, the Z7 still offers 3-axis in-body VR. This is especially helpful for a high-resolution sensor where any movement, however slight, robs you of sharpness and fine detail, especially as you lower your shutter speed. As such, the Z7 can shoot cleaner images at lower ISOs than the D850.

For still photography, the Z7 includes three vibration reduction modes -- off, On, and Sport. For video recording, you get those three options PLUS an Electronic Vibration Reduction option, which crops the image slightly. 

While we haven't seen a full-frame mirrorless system that can keep up with Olympus and Panasonic Micro FourThirds IBIS systems (smaller sensors are easier to stabilize), the Z7, in our opinion, outperforms Sony IBIS for smoothing out handheld video. The in-body VR does a nice job of removing hard footsteps and bumps while walking, and the E-VR takes it one step further, although some may prefer shooting clean and then processing with something like Adobe's Warp Stabilizer. That said, if you want Stedicam-style smoothness, you'll need a gimbal or stabilizer. 

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FTZ MOUNT ADAPTER

The Nikon Z camera system has yet to see its full potential. We don't know how the firmware and NIKKOR Z lens ecosystem will evolve, and right here in 2018, the pickens are quite slim. Enter the Mount Adapter FTZ, which you can pick up for $150 with the purchase of a Nikon Z camera system before the end of 2018

As mentioned above, we used the FTZ adapter with NIKKOR AF-S primes like the 20mm F1.8, 35mm F1.8, 50mm F1.8, and 105mm F1.4. as well as with extremely capable 70-200mm F2.8. While the Z7 is still slower than the D850, when shooting stills, the F-mount lenses performed just like the native Z-mount lenses. And some of the lenses, like the VR-capable 70-200mm F2.8, performed even better than when using them on a D850; I was able to hand-hold for video at a full 200mm and the Z7's AF system tracked a moving subject. Honestly, the footage looks almost like the camera was on a tripod. That was the moment -- standing on a staircase at a temple in Tokyo -- where I knew Nikon delivered on their promise for adapted-lens compatibility. 

However, there are two drawbacks you should know when considering using this adapter.

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(No soup for you!... or Tamron lenses.)

First, Nikon has NOT promised third-party lens compatibility. I've seen videos of people using F-mount Sigma lenses with the Z7, which is great, but I can't verify this personally. We tested a few F-mount Tamron lenses on the Z7 and received error messages, rendering the lenses unusable for casual or professional shooting. Will this change? We can't say, but the third-party lens manufacturers may have a lot of work to do. (By comparison, we had no troubles adapting third-party glass to the new Canon EOS R.)

Second, while still photography integration was seamless, video performance is very lens dependent. For example, the 70-200mm F2.8 is ultra fast and quiet, but its focus-racking is a little too quick. Also, even though video AF is improved on the three F-mount primes we tested -- less hunting -- they're far too noisy to use if you want to record audio into the camera itself (it's the same on DSLR, to be honest).

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BATTERY LIFE

The Nikon Z7 includes one EN-EL15b battery with purchase, but will also run on EN-EL15a batteries seamlessly (save for no in-camera charging) or the EN-EL15 with a slight loss in performance. Nikon claims the one battery should last for about 330 shots or about 85 minutes of video recording.

In our real-world testing -- scorching, humid summer days in Tokyo, shooting hundreds of photos, recording multiple video resolutions & frame rates, checking our shots and footage regularly, wirelessly transferring images, and learning the ins-and-outs of the menu system -- we killed one EN-EL15b every 4 hours.

Compared to a DSLR, this is a big step down, but an expected tradeoff when jumping to a hybrid mirrorless system. But, remember, our initial testing was about as demanding as things get. In situations where you've already mastered the camera, and you're shooting mostly stills, you can get closer to 1,000 shots over a whole day.

Also worth noting: the Z7 body-only and kit variants include a charging AC adapter as well as a standalone battery charger. It's great to have in-body charging as an option, especially if you have multiple batteries to charge. But the implementation disappoints. First, in-camera charging is noticeably slower than the dedicated charger. And second, the Z7 won't run via the AC adapter alone (ie, you need a battery inside for it to work), but the battery won't charge if the camera is powered on, so there's no way to extend battery life when you're near power. For our two pennies, stick with the remote battery charger, unless you're charging multiple batteries overnight.

If you're planning to shoot video, or heavy mixed-media situations, picking up an extra battery or two is a smart investment. Also, if you use the camera's wireless features (see below), make sure to pop the Z7 into Airline Mode when you're not using SnapBridge 2.5 to extend battery longevity. 

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WIRELESS

Just a couple short years ago, SnapBridge was a struggle to use. So much so I never did. Now, with SnapBridge 2.5 and the Z7, it's better than ever. It takes less than two minutes to set up and about 30 seconds to connect afterward. With the app and Z7 paired, you can download jpeg files (2MP or original size stills, or movies) directly to your iOS or Android devices, which is perfect for sharing on social media and/or backing up if your smartphone has iCloud or similar. 

The other terrific feature is remote photography. Everyone knows you can use a smartphone as a remote display/controller, but until the Z7, SnapBridge has been limited to still photos only. With this camera, you have access to both still mode AND video recording, which is great because the Z7 doesn't have a flip-forward screen for vlogging or one-man crews. It's very helpful for double-checking focus and framing. 

Unfortunately, while you can adjust shutter speed, ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, and self-timer in stills mode, you can only start/stop and adjust the self-timer in video mode. To work around this limitation, simply pop back to the SnapBridge main menu, adjust settings on-camera, and then hop back into Remote Photography video mode and you're good to go. Not ideal, but not terrible either.

Overall, SnapBridge 2.5 is a nice step up, especially on the Z7, but we'd love to see more video adjustments & support for RAW editing (or RAW transfer to Lightroom or other third party apps) as well as adjustable settings when recording videos remotely.

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20mm, F1.8, 1/160, ISO 160

PROS & CONS

Pros
  • Medium Format-esque resolution
  • The best Nikon video camera ever
  • In-body Vibration Reduction
  • Hybrid AF system
  • Beautiful Colors
  • Lots of dynamic range
  • Excellent NIKKOR F-Mount compatibility
  • Improved wireless functionality

Cons
  • Pricey compared to the competition
  • Lacks dual memory card slots
  • Not quite as ergonomic as the D850
  • Not for shooting sports, wildlife, or fast action
  • No flip-forward screen
  • Nikon DSLR AutoFocus (D850, D500) is a bit quicker for still photos
  • No 4K/60p or internal 10-bit 4:2:2 video recording
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105mm, F1.8, 1/250, ISO 800

BOTTOM LINE

Is the Nikon Z7 the best camera ever made? No. Is it perfect? Nope. Are there things we'd change? Yup. (Dual card slots, Vari-angle display, improve the still-photo AF, upgrade video capabilities, and lower the price.) Is it overpriced? Probably.

Do we love this camera? Hell yeah, we do!

The Nikon Z7 blends a compact form factor with durability, smart ergonomics, and a high-resolution image sensor capable of rendering contrasty, colorful imagery oozing with dynamic range. The 24-70mm F4 S kit lens is terrific too, and the FTZ mount adapter works wonders, giving you access to Nikon's best F-mount lenses. (Just know you'll need an external microphone for video work on many F-mount lenses.)

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35mm, F1.8, 1/250, ISO 100

If you're a Nikon shooter looking for a high-resolution full-frame camera that tackles 4K video as well as it does stills, the Nikon Z7 is an excellent option. It's the first true hybrid Nikon system.

However, if the missing dual card slots is a deal-breaker for you OR you're primarily an action photographer, the D850 is probably a better fit. Especially now that the D850 is cheaper.

It's also worth noting that we're VERY curious to see how the Nikon Z6 compares (and will find out VERY soon, stay tuned!). Sharing many of the same specs and features, but with fewer megapixels, the Z6 promises to be faster, boasts full-pixel readout when shooting full-frame 4K video, and costs $1,400 less than the Z7. Our best guess is that it's going to impress a lot of pros and enthusiasts looking to spend around $2,000 where its easier to forgive compromises. 


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Want to know more about the Nikon Z7, Z6 or Z-mount? Check out  --


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35mm, F1.8, 1/250, ISO 640

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35mm, F1.8, 1/1250, ISO 64

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120mm, F2.8, 1/320, ISO 1000

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69mm, F4, 1/800, ISO 64

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70mm, F4, 1/125, ISO 2500

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50mm, F4, 1/80, ISO 4000

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.