• Andrew JK Tan

The Z7 - First Impressions on Nikon's Full Frame Mirrorless offering


Thanks to Nikon Singapore for loaning their earliest set together with a couple of new Nikkor S Series line of lenses for me to play with.

Let me first set the stage for the contents of this blog

1. My impressions are my own and not influenced in any way by others

2. I will try my best to keep my findings in point form wherever I can for easy reading

3. I only had 6 real shoot sessions with the Z7 , I wish I had more time really

4. I was comparing my Z7 experience with my current reference the Nikon D850 DSLR.

o Have ample experience (> 1 year) using the D850 to photograph different genres

o The D850 in my opinion is the best all rounder with the ability to photograph all genres

FIRST Impressions

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 60mm f2.8 micro with FTZ adaptor SB700 flash fired

ISO : 1250

Ergonomics

1. Half the weight of D850 setup : 670 grams VS 1390 grams (D850 with Battery Grip to get 9FPS)

2. Bulge of EVF is great - no more "oily" stains on LCD display anymore (nose now further away)

3. General layout is very similar to the D800 or even D700 Series of DSLRs

4. Superb camera grip even with the smaller size , enough height to rest my little pinkie

5. Smaller yet very solidly build ....... feels "more solid" then my D850 and that's a good thing

6. Button layouts / Joystick / Multi-Selector dial are all there & in very familiar positions

7. After a short session , I could change all my settings WITHOUT lifting my eye from the EVF

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 with Nikkor 1.4x TC-EIII & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 3200

Lens Mount (inner diameter) / Flange distance

1. 55mm for the Z7 vs. 47mm for the D850 (there are many technical merits for the new design)

2. 16mm for the Z7 vs. 46.5mm for the D850

With the new Flange distance of 16mm and a much larger inner mount diameter of 55mm , the new Z mount design now allows for more lens design flexibility potentially producing relatively COMPACT FAST lenses . lens designs with improved edge to edge sharpness and also lenses which will allow for closer focusing allowing better bokeh then before.

Nikon's lens roadmap features the NOCT 58mm f0.95 S series lens and also the f1.2 S lenses

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 with Nikkor 1.4x TC-EIII & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 1600

EVF (Electronic View Finder) replaces the OVF (Optical View Finder)

Now the EVF is definitely new and what a beauty this EVF is !

- 3.6 MIL dots , 60 FPS refresh rate

- Approx. 100% coverage at 0.8x magnification ........ bottomline Z series has a LARGE EVF

- Brightness control excellent (remember an EVF is backlit) , no flaring , crisp & clear

- Very comfortable to look at , yes even when shooting for long hours with no eye strain

- Is it the BEST EVF as what Nikon mentions ? ....... well not quite yet in my opinion

- Having mentioned the above point , it is still an extremely impressive EVF implementation.

- 100% "correct" exposure as long as "apply settings to live view" is turned on

- Now I can also view changes to white balance live

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 with Nikkor 1.4x TC-EIII & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 2500

Speed & Overall Handling

- Able to shoot at 9FPS top speed in its small compact body , it is a fast 45.7MP camera

- When set to 9FPS , a very light burst will shoot off a quick 3 frames easily

- Shutter release is sensitive and similar to my Nikon DSLRs

- It can of course shoot totally silent

- Bracketing is now "easier" as I can change the settings while still looking at the EVF

- Changing burst rate & AF modes are different now but still very easy & fast

- Did I mention the IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation aka VR in Nikon speak)

o 5 stops of stabilisation that works superbly

o works smoothly with VR equipped Nikkor lenses (so keep VR turned on)

o works with non VR lenses too (smiling ......)

- Compared to my D850 , the Z7 mirrorless does NOT slow me down at all

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 with Nikkor 1.4x TC-EIII & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 3200

Image Quality

I am sure this is what everyone wants to find out , well here it is given my limited time with the Z7 and shooting in JPEG FINE* (RAW uncompressed was still not released by Adobe yet)

- Image produced is more then comparable to my current reference the mighty D850

- Colors rendered are smooth , beautiful and what I am used to

- Dynamic range is what I expected it to be

o shadow details & recovery comparable to D850

o highlight recovery a tad better then the D850 (wow !! I have to test more of course)

o I thought D850 had the best JPEG FINE* engine but the Z7 seems a little better still

- High ISO noise performance superb & comparable to my D850

o Details captured were superb even up to ISO10000

- Bottomline , no complaints at all

- Look at the tonal rendering and details at ISO 10,000 (honestly even I am impressed)

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 10,000

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 with Nikkor 1.4x TC-EIII & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 1600

F mount Lenses compatibility & performance

To me this is the most important criteria for existing Nikon F-mount users to consider if we were to acquire a Z7 or Z6 mirrorless camera. So I will share my first impressions with F-mount lenses first. I will update on the new S Series line up in a follow up blog.

During my 6 days , I had the opportunity to use the following F-mount lenses onto the Z7 using the FTZ adaptor

- 60mm micro f2.8

- 80-400mm f4.5/5.6

- 200-500mm f5.6

- 1.4x TC-EIII (tele-converter)

I am very glad to report the following :

- the F-mount lenses work great (AF wise) with no loss in image quality

- did not notice AF speed & accuracy being impacted at all

- Z7 with the 200-500mm with 1.4x TC focused so accurately & fast (reference images above)

- With the 60mm micro , it also autofocused accurately at minimum working distance

Bottomline , the FTZ adaptor works extremely well & potentially allows existing Nikon users to make full use of of the existing porfolio of F-mount lenses (well over 90+ F-mount lenses with full compatibility). This is really great news for existing hard core F-mount users like me.

Some of you will be asking it the FTZ adaptor works with 3rd party lenses , from what I have seen , YES it does work but some of the lenses may need firmware updates to be fully compatible.

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 with Nikkor 1.4x TC-EIII & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 3200

Autofocus Capability

This is an important performance area that I wish I had more time with and with varied subjects to test it with. This is the area where the feel & implementation has changed the most if compared to the Nikon DSLRs. Gone are the Dynamic area & 3D AF modes that Nikon users are so familiar with.

The Z7 has subject tracking capability , capable of tracking faces and even if the person turns his back to the camera.

Photography

- Firstly AF-S is superbly fast & so silent with S series lenses (24-70 f4S and 35mm f1.8S)

o I found using Single & Wide-S AF area modes the best

o in some cases Wide-S was even better

o there is a Pin point mode which I did not get to use successfully so far

o overall speed & accuracy comparable to my D850

- AF-C tracking works reasonably well on the subjects that I had tested so far.

o When focus was achieved during tracking , AF confirmation remains RED

o I would have liked for it to turn green , hopefully Nikon will do a firmware fix on this

o not turning green when in focus while tracking affected my confidence a little

o slowed down my reaction time on shutter release as I was not used to it not turning green

o first impressions on tracking performance - not as accurate or as quick as the D850

Like I mentioned , I need to do a more thorough test on subject tracking speed and accuracy when I have more time with the camera but this is my first impression so far. The AF tracking speed of the Z7 can be tuned so there is more testing to do for sure.

Videography

Huge improvement in subject tracking AF if compared to my D850 which was already the best in Nikon's DSLR line up. So this is really great news for Nikon users.

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 60mm f2.8 micro with FTZ adaptor SB700 flash fired

ISO : 1000

Battery Performance

There were many concerns & critique when the Z7 was officially specified to have about 330 shots capability on a full charged battery.

I am however glad to report that as usual Nikon has been overly conservative.

- with the 60mm with FTZ adaptor & flash fired on every macro shot , achieved approx 480 shots

- with the 200-500mm + 1.4x TC-EIII shooting wildlife & birds , I managed to get 500 + shots

- with the 24-70mm S Series shooting regular stuff, I managed 700 shots +

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 with Nikkor 1.4x TC-EIII & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 800

In SUMMARY

There is still so much for me to share on the capabilities of the Z7 mirrorless camera. I will have to however leave it in other follow up blogs as I let you digest the contents of this blog first.

LIKES

- excellent ergonomics

- smaller size & solidness

- image quality more then comparable to my D850

- responsive

- compatibility to F-mount lenses using FTZ adaptor with minimal loss in AF accuracy/speed

- EVF (badly exposed shots will never happen again)

- I finally have a Nikon camera that I can use single-handed for macro YAY !

- AF-S is superb and comparable to D850 (given what I have tested so far)

- IBIS (In Body Image Stabilsation works great & compatible with VR lenses

- battery life much better then specified

- almost no learning curve to use the Z7

- Weather sealed as the D850 ...... it did seem that way as I used the Z7 in the jungles of Brunei

More to Test & Opportunites for Improvement

- AF-C tracking capability with tougher subjects

- AF tracking focus confirmation not turning "green" when in focus

- A single card slot which many are "complaining" about , but not a necessity or deal breaker for me as even with my 2 slot DSLRs , I set them to work in "overflow" mode even when doing my commercial jobs. Having said that having 2 slots would still be a better option.

Camera : Z7 Lens : Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 with Nikkor 1.4x TC-EIII & FTZ adaptor

ISO : 1600

Final Words

Nikon definitely has created a very impressive Full Frame Mirrorless imaging product with the Z7 camera right off the bat. Rather then being "blown away" , it held it's own when compared with my reference DSLR D850 & that says much about the quality and capability of the Z7.

Would it convince existing D850 owners to switch to the Z7 ...... I do not think so (at least for now) but I am convinced that it can easily qualify to be a 2nd camera or even 3rd camera. It is that good with it's own merits over existing DSLRs.

Definitely a Full Frame Mirrorless Camera for the Photographer !

Look out for my upcoming Z7 blogs as I share more on it's features and new findings.

Cheers,

Andrew

#Z7 #mirrorless #Zseries