The Short Story is: If you desire to stay on the leading edge of photography this is the camera you need! The Nikon Z7 is a top-shelf camera for any photography tasks - the future of Nikon. if you have the funds consider buying a Nikon Z camera. If you need a camera primarily for the video aspect I recommend you take a look at the Nikon Z6. The Nikon Mirrorless Z Series Professional FX is coming soon.
The Z7 Review
Opening the box and pulling out the Z7: It was impressive the build quality is excellent and Nikon Z7 immediately felt at home in my hands Just like my all other Nikons - firm but light. Everything on the Z7 was easy to navigate with many improvements and options for customizations. I spent a few days brushing up on the new Z7 and established a few customized configurations for my photography needs, for Landscapes, for Birds in Flight, Macro and Landscape.
I had been using a Fujifilm XT-2 and XT-3 at the time I purchased the Nikon Z7 so, I was accustomed to the benefits of using mirrorless. If you have never used a mirrorless camera once you do it is hard to go back to a DSLR. Like switching from a film camera to your first DLSR - Magic.
Benefits of Z7 Mirrorless:
- More Information provided in the viewfinder and LCD and is customizable.
- The EVF displays the exposure in real time - WYSIWYG, What you see is what you get.
- No Mirror for more quite operations and less vibration + focus is done directly off the sensor
- Lighter and smaller
- Better Video and Live View
- Faster Frame Rates
- Video Autofocus
- True Silent Shooting
- The BEST time lapse of ANY camera - NO camera on the market is on the Z7 level
- The best ergonomics of any camera
The EVF: The EVF is one of my favorite likes with the Nikon Z7, an excellent EVF. It is what everyone says it is - Big and Bright with minimal lag and excellent refresh rates. Looking through you see your basic exposure information but now you see a lot more information and the best part you can customize what and where you see it. If it becomes too cluttered you can declutter with a touch of the DISP button. On the sides of the EVF is a push-pull diopter to adjust for eyesight with or without glasses, and a button to switch between EVF only, LCD only or both. The EVF also has a long eye relief to keep your nose off the LCD when looking through the EVF.
The LCD: 3.2" of bright easy to read information. Like the EVF you can add lots or minimal information on display + the LCD is touch sensitive allowing you to change many settings with touch without going into the menu. In image preview mode you can pinch and zoom with your fingers, and while zoomed in scroll to the next or previous photo without needed to un-zoom. In short, the LCD is another favorite feature of the Z7, while the LDC does tilt - it will not flip out.
Menus and Customizations: Another Favorite Feature of The Z7. The Nikon Z is highly customizable and offers 3 dedicated slots for profiles and allows 3 profiles for video shooters as well. With a turn of a top dial, you can move from a landscape profile to an Action shooting Profile for example and if you switch to video have 3 profiles for that mode as well. The i menu has been around on other cameras but now you can customize it, remove items you don't use and replace with ones you do. You literally never need to take your eye off the viewfinder to access and change settings from the i menu. You may also set and change the action of function buttons such as what the lens focus ring does, I set mine for f/stops. Even your record button can be set for a function in still photo mode. Bottom Line the Z7 camera is made to fit you.
Battery Life: This depends on how much video you shoot - I think for every hour of video shooting you need 1 battery. For still photos using only the EVF I got near 600 with the LCD I was around 450 with one bar left.
Video Performance: I do not shoot too much video - so my insights are not too helpful here. What I do know is the Z7 is a plausible platform for shooting video secondary to stills. If you are a dedicated video primarily and shoot some stills - take a look a the Z6. All I can say is the Z7 video performance is superior to any other Nikon camera except the Z6.
Ergonomics: Another Favorite Feature of the Z7. In my hand, the Nikon Z7 felt right at home. The grip is deep and provides easy carry characteristics. Nothing about the camera feels cramped or awkward, it feels tough and ready to go.
Image Resolution and ISO performance: Another Favorite Feature of the Z7. People reported banding but considering I don't shoot 6 stops under in low light and try to fix in post, I feel that claim is ridiculous at best. Which photographer shoots 6 stops under? The image quality is absolutely stellar and this is where I feel it is better than the D850. I was amazed at the detailed resolution, clarity, and colors this 45.7 BSI sensor was delivering. To make it even better the ISO performance is also an improvement over the D850 using higher ISOs. This is the only camera so far I used auto ISO without fear of too much noise.
Shutter Performance: Everything from Silent, Single Frame, low speed to high speed continuous and as usual you can set the number of frames in the continuous mode. I mostly us Continuous Low 4 frames. You can limit the number of total frames in a burst, I set mine to 20 but in RAW your buffer will fill up before you get to 20, with JPEGS you may wish to set the number higher.
In-Camera Stabilization: The Z7 has In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction (VR). The camera stabilization works 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 Nikkor 200mm Macro lens and this Camera is a killer in Macro. A note on VR: if your lens has a built-in VR switch turning it 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 lens VR and in-camera VR cannot be set independently. Nice move by Nikon for In-Body Stabilization since that will eliminate the VR buzzing in your videos.
Using the FTZ adapter: I tested all of my many Nikkors and Sigma lenses. My 3rd party Tamron 90 and Sigma 180mm did NOT work. My other NEWER Nikkor Lenses worked perfectly. The focus speed test results for most adapted lenses are hardly noticeable and varied from lens to lens. As S lenses will take some time to reach the market so the FTZ adapter is a must in my opinion especially if you have an F mount lens in your bag. At least you get a $100.00 discount on the FTZ if purchased with the Z camera. If you have Tamron/Sigma or other 3rd party lenses please visit their site for compatibility, not all 3rd party lenses work with the FTZ sorry to say.
Focus Performance: Read my "Improve Focus for a Nikon Z6 or Z7 Camera" link below. Lots of variables dictate the results you achieve. Variables such as lens choice (adapted/non-adapted), shooting environment, lighting situation, the subject, distance, and the person holding the camera. In good lighting using a native S lens, the focus performance is very good. Good face detection, as well as eye detection all, work in real-world situations. Nikon promised eye detection and they delivered! I upgraded My Zs to the latest firmware and it was awesome!
* For Movie Mode, you can change the focus speed in the menu as well at tracking sensitivity, I use 4 for speed and high 2 for AF tracking sensitivity (video mode) and get good results.
Button and Dials: Rear buttons are not backlighted which I enjoy on my D850 for astrophotography. The Z7 button layout is easy to navigate and not too crowded with the i menu button is placed right below the joystick to allow quick thumb access to i menu items. A couple of buttons have been moved and others dropped altogether. The ones missing are not missed by myself. The LCD screen and i menu more than make up for the ones dropped.
How does the Z7 perform in the field: Excellent - feel free to take the camera with you in inclement weather conditions - top-notch weather sealing. The Z7 can go where you go even to Mount Everest if you keep the batteries next to your body during the ascent and when you summit slap in the battery with an 8-15mm and shoot away.
Landscape and Stationary Photography: Out in the field I used the 24-70 S lens, 35mm S and 50mm S with pin pinpoint sharpness edge to edge. Nikon has no better Landscape camera than their Nikon Z7. It is stellar at landscapes due to the high resolution and very accurate color and dynamic range.
Sports and Wildlife: Using FTZ adapted 600mm ED FL and 400mm ED FL For fastest of-moving subjects, the Z7 would at times miss focus unless I repointed the camera to another object. When the Z7 did nail focus the images were stunning. While the FTZ is an excellent adapter for the Z camera the combo with F lenses has some focus performance issues when faced with complex backgrounds and fast-moving birds.
Z price point: The Nikon Z7 is an expensive camera that seems to be a trend with Nikon and now Nikon is offering a $400.00 trade-up (visit eBay and buy a cheap working camera like a D70 for your trade up). Too bad Nikon did not offer a trade up from the onset which sounds like the Z sales are slumping due to focus performance issues and Nikon has a stockpile of Zs in inventory. Another pain point - Nikon screwed me out of $400.00 along with all other early adopters and further infuriating many by falsing stating Nikon had "re-invented mirrorless" how not true that was and how slighted we feel after the fact. My 30 years of Nikon dedication is coming to an end because how poorly the Z was implemented, marketed and how Nikon basically sold a lemon. The Nikon 1 V3 actually had better focus performance and that is so sad.
If the Z7 is over your budget the Z6 should be a better fit and provide a near-identical experience with better video and with the Z6 lower resolution sensor it will have faster FPS for those needing a longer burst of images.
Lack of native lens - Other than the three available 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. Not all Tamron lenses work with the FTZ and 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 on their end.
The NEW Z lens mount. This is AWESOME!! If the Z mount lives up to the promise we should start seeing very sharp and fast S lenses coming out of Nikon. I hope one day Nikon releases a 400mm f 1.4, 600mm f2.8, or an 800mm f/4 S lens.
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
Things that need attention from Nikon:
- Focus Performance (read my blog post: Improve Focus for a Nikon Z6 or Z7 Camera) link below
Would I recommend a Z7? Yes! and here is the rub, If you can accept and live with the fact the camera will not nail focus each and every time in difficult shooting situations than for sure the Nikon Z7 is well worth your consideration - especially for landscape photography with a large 47mp sensor and superior image quality and compact size the camera stands tall out in the wilds of landscape, still life and general photography.
Final Thoughts: Over many years I have owned dozens of Nikon Film SLR and Digital SLR Cameras. I can attest the Z7 is an excellent camera in it's on right - not perfect but it certainly has impressive features and I immediately felt at home using the camera and not struggling to find 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 HAVE moved away from my Nikon DSLRs. Overall, I am very very pleased with my Nikon Z7 for everything I ask of it.