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Nikon Z7 Real World Review Z Series

Nikon Z7 Real World Review Z Series
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Nikon Z7 Real World Review Z Series

Nikon Pro Mirrorless Camera

The Nikon Full Frame Mirrorless has arrived! If you are a camera aficionado or especially a Nikon photographer I know you are excited about this milestone.  Me personally, I am pleased to be part of Nikon's first mirrorless cameras and lens generation.

I had the pleasure of unboxing my Z7 and wanted to share some of the positives about this camera. Depending on which Youtube channel you stumble across you will find varied opinions surrounding the Z7, mostly unfounded.  Some YouTubers take the approach to put out useless "click bait" rant videos in hopes of driving their views up. My advice is to steer clear of those negative channels as they rarely have content worth your time - false information is spewed because the Elephant has walked into The Room - Nikon. 

My thoughts on the Z7: Opening the box and pulling out the Z7 I was truly impressed with the quality and build. The Nikon Z7 immediately felt at home in my hands Just like a Nikon. I spent a few days to brush up on the new Z7 menus and established a few customized configurations for my photography needs, for Landscapes, for Birds in Flight and another for Macro. 

I find the Z7 camera to be excellent camera overall and especially for landscapes, fine art, still-life, Macro photography and even street photography. Hopefully, Nikon or some 3rd party will release a more compact 35mm pancake type lens to better suit those who desire a less conspicuous setup as Nikon's new 35mm S lens is not exactly compact. Overall the Nikon Z7 handled my shooting style and demands with ease.

Sports and Wildlife: I used the FTZ adapter with my Nikon Z7, 600 f/4 and the results were impressive but not stellar for fast moving wildlife/bird/sports photography. When attached to my 600mm with a 1.4 TC mounted on a Tripod Gimbal the balancing was a bit of a challenge due to how very light camera body is. If an optional battery grip becomes available I will opt in for the grip to add a few more ounces to better balance the Z7 with the 600mm set up. For fast moving subjects as long as you the photographer are capable of keeping the subject in the frame - the Nikon Z7 can deliver sharp in focus images in most cases; Out of a burst of 10, I normally get 4 shots that are usable.  I am still out on whether the Nikon Z7 can meet the expectation of serious wildlife photographers for fast moving wildlife like birds in flight.  The Nikon Z7 did a good job with the 400/500/600mm overall, but I know my D850 would pull down more images in the same situation!  If you are an experienced photographer and have skills the Z7 can deliver for the bird in flight and sports action photography with some missed shots along the way.   Right now, of course, you must use the FTZ adapter to use the Nikon Z with your F mount lenses. 

Reviewing the technical specifications and having a Nikon Z7 in my hands - it is a solid pro-level camera. - I heard lots of complaining about only one card slot, while this is not a big concern of mine I know it will turn some off photographers for sure, yes I wish it had two but it does not and I am already over it. In the short term, I rely heavily on the mount adapter with my current lenses as I transition to the new Z S lens platform. I need to wait for Nikon to release more S lenses that suit my photography needs, especially a new 600mm f/2.8 S lens.

Z price point: Yes the Nikon Z7 is expensive more than I think it should be and this seems to be a trend with Nikon overall. If the Z7 is over budget wise for you the Z6 should fit in more easily and provide a similar experience + better video and with the Z6 lower resolution sensor it will have faster FPS for those needing a longer burst of images.

No eye tracking - Yet!- As I stated in my first initial review of the Z7 that Nikon would correct some focusing challenges in a future firmware release. During the CES 2019 Nikon did just that and will include Eye Tracking and some other features in a Firmware Release this year. Great News and shows the commitment Nikon has with the Z cameras.

In-Camera Stabilization: The Z7 has In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction (VR). The camera stabilization works very well indeed better than I expected and the IBIS allows me to use some of my none stabilized lenses and obtain sharper images. I took the Z7 out with a Macro lens and this Camera is a killer Macro setup. To note that if your lens has a built-in VR switch turning if off will disable the camera VR as well or if you slide the VR to sports it updates the cameras VR mode as well.

The 1 slot issue: As mentioned above, sorry the Z7 supports only one card and if that is a deal breaker for you consider buying another camera that has dual slots. I fully understand the rationale for dual slots for once in a lifetime events requiring some assurance for continuity in case something happens to one card.  I imagine wedding photographers already own a dual slot camera body or two, so maybe a Z7 can be a secondary in that scenario.

Buy good quality cards and replace them on a recurring basis every couple of years - my recommendation! Good advice if you earn a living from your camera. The biggest risk is buying cheap non-brand cards, and think they will last 10 years. I buy the highest rated, name brand cards, and replace them about every 3nd year - depending. I mark all my batteries with the month and year I placed them in use, and if I have a very serious shoot - I take my newest cards and batteries with me. It only takes a few seconds to remove and slide in another card after a number of important photo moments - at least not all images will be lost if something goes wrong. 

Nikon S-Line Roadmap
 Lack of native lens - Other than the three announced S lenses, hopefully, Tamron, Sigma and other 3rd party lenses companies come to the table to offer their S lenses for the Nikon Z series.  You may have heard some (not all) Tamron lenses have compatibility issues working with the FTZ adapter. While this is not a Nikon issue this amplifies some risk in using 3rd party lenses.  Sigma and all Nikon lens work with the FTZ adapter - so Tamron has some work to do with their specifications. I personally believe the issue is the voltage requirements of some Tamron lenses - time will tell.

Using the FTZ adapter: I tested most of my many Nikkor, Sigma and my newer Tamron lenses and all worked perfectly. The focus speed test results for most adapted lenses did show a slight delay but hardly noticeable it varied from lens to lens. The newly improved S lenses will take some time to reach the market so the FTZ adapter is a must in my opinion especially if you have F mount lens in your collection. Nikon should have included the FTZ for free when purchasing the Z7. At least you get a $100.00 discount if purchased with the Z camera.

The biggest refinement is the NEW Z lens mount. This is AWESOME!! I can not wait until Nikon releases a 400mm f 1.4, 600mm f2.8, or the 800mm f/4 S lens.  Nikon has a huge hit with Nikon's new Z platform that will result in superior low light, lighter and sharper higher resolution imaging overall.  The Z mount is a whole new ballgame for Nikon photographers. Keep in mind the larger mount means less glass and light bending to render an image on the sensor and should translate to smaller lighter, sharper lens as already mentioned. I for one welcome moving ahead with the Z mount and Nikon did the right thing by not continuing with the dated F mount. This new lens mount will be a foundation for some amazing things to come.

Things I like: 

  • I like the three programmable User Modes allowing to quickly change between camera profiles - Sports vs Landscapes
  • I like the programmable lens focus ring on the S lenses
  • I like the Electronic Viewfinder - big, bright and easy to read
  • I like the Best Ever live view on a Nikon Camera Body - finally one that works
  • I like the ergonomics and build quality of the camera body - very solid - and weather resistant - it is a Nikon
  • I like the much-improved video features and focus tracking while in video
  • I like the USB C that facilitates charging the battery
  • I like the lightweight camera - makes me want to pick it up and use it 
  • I like the new lens mount and what the future holds for new lenses
  • I like the In Body Camera Stabilization - IBIS makes my old lenses new again
  • I like the Focus Peaking for use with my older manual focus lens

Photography used to be mechanical, mirrors, pentaprism and chemical in the SLR days, then DSLRs were born and they brought forward the legacy mirror box and pentaprism that we were accustomed to, but now we are collectively moving to the age of full digital & electronic imaging. This is our transition period and it will last well into the next decade. I never consider what we have today is settled, progress is always before us waiting to be discovered. Nikon has a long history of compatibility, with that comes the challenge of moving forward all the while keeping its customer base happy with the knowledge Nikon's future of photography looks promising.

Would I recommend a Z7?  Yes, for most photographers! I have owned dozens of Nikon Film SLR and Digital SLR Cameras over the years.  I can attest the Z7 if an excellent camera in it's on right - not perfect but it certainly has impressed me and I immediately felt at ease using the camera and not struggling to find my settings.  I compare the Nikon Z7 to the day I moved from my Nikon F100 Film SLR to my First Nikon DSLR, after one day with the first DSLR I stated, I will never go back to FILM and then promptly sold the F100 and digitized all my emulsion film and never looked back. Nikon Z7 Mirrorless is similar to that experience - I will move away from my DSLRs and in this case, I don't need to digitize any film moving forward :)  I am very very pleased with my Nikon Z7.

Final Thoughts: If you are starting your journey in photography I highly recommend the Nikon Z7, as the future of what is to come with the lenses will be well worth it.  If you have a pile of F mount lenses and own a DSLR - I would recommend you pick up a Z7 or Z6 with FTZ adapter cause the world of Nikon Z Mirrorless is an amazing experience. 

Thanks, Nikon! I grew tired of lugging around my large DSLRs, the Z is a breath of fresh air without compromise in performance, image quality and many advantages over that of a DSLR. I weighed my decision to buy a Z7 on many factors, not just specifications. One factor was the company, Nikon and knowing Nikon's history of photographic excellence, I know investing in the Z platform will be a smart move.  The Nikon Z7 is a very rewarding top quality camera so much so as to make me consider selling all my Fujifilm gear, D850, D500 and buy a Nikon Z6 or another Z7 as a backup camera - that is how impressed I am. Now that I have a Z7 my DSLRs are gathering dust.


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Photographer's Notes

The Nikon Z7 is a very powerful mirrorless camera more so than the D850. What makes the D850 somewhat more capable at the fastest sports/wildlife action is because the D850 does not have a portion of the processor and memory working to update an EVF.

The Nikon Z7 has a faster processor than the D850 and a lot of the processing power goes to managing the Z's fly by wire inputs and outputs whereas the D850 is more tuned to the focus and tracking.  

If the Nikon Z7 was an optical DSLR it would outperform the D850 in all regards.

  • NIKKOR 24-70mm f/4 S
Camera Body
  • Nikon Z7
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