Now that I have the Nikon Z7 for over a month now I wanted to try it out with my Super Telephotos the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED FL and the Nikkor 600mm f/4 ED FL lenses to test the capability of the Nikon Z7 on very big FX glass.
Anyone who owns a Nikon Z7 and never experienced a mirrorless camera before knows the Nikon Z7 is a different experience from a DSLR but, at the end of the day, you get an image. What are the shooting differences between the DSLR world and the Nikon Z mirrorless world.
The Electronic View Finder: Biggest difference comes via the Nikon Z7’s Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). There is a lot of information displayed in the Nikon Z7 EVF which basically informs you of your shooting configuration, plus a lot of other information – all good stuff. With a DSLR’s optical viewfinder your readout is the basic “what you need to know” shooting information. Looking through an Optical Viewfinder one can look through the lens at any time and see the environment in front of the lens. The Nikon Z7’S EVF needs to be turned on and activated but, once turned on if not used for 30 seconds it goes to sleep and the only way to reactivate is with a half press of the shutter release. By default, the Nikon Z7 is will go into power down mode after 30 seconds, thus the EVF will be dark requiring a half shutter release to energize it causing a one or two-second delay before it comes back to life. This delay can be problematic if your camera went to sleep right before some fast-moving action happens.
You can change the Power Down settings using the pencil menu, C Timers/AE Lock -> C3, Power Off Delay. However, there is a downside to having the timer set to a long period such as 30 minutes. The downside is when a VR lens is mounted having built-in VR the VR feature in the lens will be activated continuously while the camera is active, unlike a DSLR which only activates the lens VR during focus/shutter activation. So, if you extend the camera’s Power Down to say 30 minutes the lens VR will be running and draining batteries while the camera is active.
VR in Summary: It is nice Nikon Z7 has a built in body image stabilization (IBIS) useful for lenses not having VR. however, I don’t believe the solution is optimized with lenses that have built-in VR. I prefer to use either the IBIS or lens VR and have VR only be active during focus or shutter actuation and not run the entire time the camera is on.
Change of shooting habit: With my DSLR’s optical viewfinder I can see the world in front of me any time, and as necessary adjust the exposure to capture the image I see. My shooting behavior in manual mode with a DSLR is to compose, set exposure and then capture the image. With an EVF by default, you need to activate the EVF if it went to sleep, adjust the exposure, compose and then capture the image. The EVF displays the scene in real-time based on the camera’s exposure settings so, if your subject was in a bright lighting then moved to another shadow area it may be too dark to see anything or too bright causing you to lose track of the subject.
The problem here is being able to track subjects moving from bright to dark areas with an EVF especially shooting in full manual mode. You can override the EVF by setting the EVF brightness from automatic to the manual which might be better for wildlife photographers that need to track faster-moving subjects. This is less of an issue when shooting in auto ISO or Aperture Priority as the camera will attempt to adjust the ISO or aperture based on the metering/scene settings.
Change of Habit Summary: If you are a manual mode wildlife/bird photographer you will need to adjust your shooting style or camera settings to get the best results from the Z7.
How does the Z7 perform with Super Telephotos: In my opinion and experience so far, I give it a thumbs up. The image quality is excellent and all the photos represent nature in fantastic color and contrast. Once accustomed to the Nikon Z7 I never thought much about the camera and found myself mainly focused on the shooting experience and enjoyed it tremendously.
Focus Speed and Tracking: The speed difference is negligible but I have to give the edge to the D850 overall, in my opinion, the Nikon Z7’s focus tracking has more area to worry about and due to this larger dynamic focus area the more prone to the focus jumping off subject. I wish I could set the focus area in the dynamic I feel that would increase the hit rate on fast moving birds in flight. In the current Dynamic AF mode, the area is too extreme and allows the camera too much area to focus on. So, the focus can be unpredictable more so than the D850. I found that If I allowed my subject to move more than 50% outside the focus tracking box and a background was behind, the Z7 would re-focus on the background.
The Nikon Z7 is new to the market, there may be optimal settings that need to be tested for that fast-moving birds/wildlife which can increase the tracking and focus accuracy more dependability. Out of the box, the Nikon Z7 handles the job but the shooter needs to accurate with tracking the focusing area in relations to the subject for better results.
For wildlife like birds moving through trees or slower moving animals, the Nikon Z7 is very capable with superior image quality and resolution. For the highest demanding fastest moving of subjects I recommend an optical DSLR, with an electronic viewfinder you need to work at your skills but for everything else, the Nikon Z7 is a really amazing camera and supports Nikon's legacy lenses and Creative Lighting System.
|Gitzo Series 3
||Gitzo Series 4
| Benro Gimbal
|| Wimberly Gimbal
For my wildlife setup, I use the Wimberly Gimbal Head with a Gitzo Series Three Carbon Tripod. However, using the 600mm I feel a series 4 or even 5 tripod would be more appropriate.