The Nikon Z7 is a much-needed addition to Nikon’s camera line up, and there’s a LOT to love about this new system! But even though it’s an excellent first generation camera, the Z7 isn’t quite perfect when we compare it to other mirrorless systems as well as Nikon’s best DSLRs. We think there are a few areas where the Z7 could improve, either via firmware or in future iterations. Please know that this isn’t a “hate” list — as far as we’re concerned, no camera is perfect. As such, we’re definitely recommending that people check out the Z7 and Z6 — the positives outweigh the flaws — but we still have a few notes. Here are our Top 5 Changes We’d Make on the Nikon Z7:
Add Dual Card Slots
The Nikon Z7 was built for professionals. It costs $3,300 plus lenses and plus the adapter (if you want to use F-mount NIKKOR lenses). But it’s only rocking a single memory card slot. And, if you’re in the field, at a wedding, or in any scenario where it’s your job to capture a once-in-a-lifetime moment, you can’t risk card failure. It’s rare, sure, and the single XQD slot (CFexpress compatible coming soon) is blazingly fast, but it happens. We’re much bigger fans of the Nikon D850’s XQD + UHS-II SD slot approach. We understand Nikon engineers needed to save space, but I’d argue you could make the next generation Z bodies one finger taller and (possibly) add in another memory slot.
Tweak the AF System
Overall, the Z7’s AF system is great in brighter shooting conditions, and video AF is VASTLY improved, but we found three areas where Nikon could improve:
- Add Eye AF — While we’ve found the Z7’s AF system to be quite accurate with still and moving subjects, the camera could use a feature like Sony’s EyeAF to perfect shooting shallow depth-of-field. If you’re at F4, it rarely misses, but at F2.8-F1.8, we’d love to see more tack-sharp eyes.
- We Miss the DSLR AF System (For Still Photos) — The Nikon D850 slightly outperforms the Z7 when shooting quick-moving subjects in shallow depth-of-field. The DSLRs 3D Matrix AF is better at tracking smaller objects and faces, where the Z7 tends to hit chests or just miss the eyes. I’d also argue that, by adopting the Live View AF system for both stills and video, some of Nikon’s long-time customers may feel out of place. We’re hoping a few firmware updates can advance the Z7’s AF system to take it from very good to excellent.
- Improve Low-light Focusing — Again, while the overall AF performance is quite good, we took the Z7 into darker environments where the system lagged (even with native Z lenses). In this first iteration, at least, it’s not quite as flexible as Canon or Sony cameras (although all cameras eventually struggle in low light).
Add a Vari-Angle Display
Nikon elected to go with a tilting touchscreen for its rear LCD because they are more durable, but the Canon EOS R vari-angle display gives one-man crew shooters more ease-of-mind when doing self-portraits and/or vlog-style videos. Perhaps there’s a way to develop a flip-out screen that disconnects rather than breaking. We’re not sure. But vari-angle displays offer more flexibility in a lot more shooting scenarios and it would really complete an already wonderfully-ergonomic camera.
Add More Physical Controls
While we appreciate the Z7’s weight loss and more compact form-factor versus the D850 (it’s a LOT easier to use for long shoots), the D850 retains an extra ergonomical advantage. With all of its extra real estate, there are more mode selections buttons and dials in very easy-to-reach areas. Conversely, on the Z7, the two function buttons located between the grip and the lens mount are in a tight space where, depending on hand size, you may find them either hard to reach or too easy to accidentally press. We miss the on-body AF mode selections and shooting speed dial most of all. Perhaps future Z-bodies could trade the current Z7 logo location for a third customizable Fn button? That being said, the Nikon Z7 feels much nicer in the hand than a Sony A9 and A7 (although the Canon EOS R might be our favorite full-frame mirrorless camera ever, ergonomically speaking).
Up Your Video Frame Rates & Internal Recording Capabilities
Nikon made a huge leap forward with the Z7 in terms of video. And, by offering external 4K 4:2:2 10bit video recording with a log profile, they’re even taking a step up and above Sony’s current cameras. But, if Nikon wants to compete with Panasonic’s GH or SR mirrorless cameras or that new Fujifilm X-T3, we’d love to see Nikon add 4K/60p video recording as well as internal 4K 4:2:2 10-bit video recording with a log profile. It’s probably also a good idea for Nikon to offer multiple bitrates for those who want to shoot more professional videos and more casual shooters. We’d also love to see full-frame video recording (no crop) regardless of frame rate, but understand that’s a bit of a challenge. Still, the Nikon Z7 is a very good video camera; with a few more bells and whistles, it could be amazing!
Bonus: Bring Out NIKKOR Z Glass Faster!
Nikon engineers designed the Z-mount to allow them to make the best glass in the history of the company. And, they’re off to a pretty good start. The NIKKOR Z 24-70mm F4 S is very sharp for an F4 lens. The NIKKOR Z 35mm F1.8 S prime is compact and features lovely bokeh. And using the Z7 with adapted lenses like the AF-S 105mm F1.4 or AF-S 70-200mm F2.8 is a joy. But Canon’s new RF lenses made a slightly bigger splash; the RF kit lens is a longer 24-105mm F4 and their 50mm F1.2 prime is simply one of the finest 50mm we’ve ever used. In short, Nikon, we know you’ve got the NIKKOR Z 58mm F0.95 S Noct on the way. And we know you’ve got your roadmap planned out for the next few years. But we want to see your amazing new glass as soon as we can. We think you’ve made the Z7 more capable camera than Canon’s EOS R (and the Z6 is on the way); now show off that badass native Z glass!