New era for Nikon! Z7 & Z6 Mirrorless cameras.

Time to put on your fancy pants. This wildlife photographer is taking an initial look at the new Z7 mirrorless camera from Nikon.

Latest update: 10th Sept (click to jump down)

The new cameras announced by Nikon today, the Z7 and Z6 are Nikon’s first full frame mirrorless cameras. With a larger mount and much smaller body these should offer up some interesting options for travelling photographers.

The new Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras from Nikon. Wildlife Photographer Richard Costin has a hands on preview with the Z7.

Mirrorless means basically just that, no flapping mirror and less moving parts. This comes with pros and cons and as technology marches relentlessly on the cons are diminishing, to the point where Nikon has now put their considerable talents to task.

I could blither on about the specs but there are many other sites that will cover this in depth and I will reserve my main thought for what I do best, that hands on report. Shouldn’t be too long before my spies over at Nikon can sneak me one out and be very assured I will be taking a critical look at what the camera offers wildlife photographers such as myself and its performance. The smaller size should definitely help my back when leaning out of cars near Lions.

Exciting stuff no!?! Look forward to a complete hands on first impressions and review soon but for now check out the info on the official Nikon site as well as the sad but inevitable negging in the forums.

See you soon, with or without a mirror!

Cheetah image taken on a Nikon mirrorless camera by wildlife photographer Richard Costin.

UPDATE 24th Aug 2018

I was lucky enough to have a good play around with the Z7 camera yesterday and quiz Neil and Ricci from Nikon UK. I’ll simply summaries my initial thought here. Also note these were pre-production cameras

The Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera held by wildlife photographer Richard Costin
  • Build quality top notch
  • Image quality as reviewed on camera fantastic, at least to the D850 standard I estimate. Low light was punchy & noise free.
  • Auto-Focus quick and smooth both with native z lenses and using the f-mount adapter. Tracking seemed decent although perhaps not quite up to the (world leading) D5/D500 & D850. Again, this is all based on use in a dark basement at Nikon’s Oxford Circus HQ.
  • Battery seemed to be much, much better than the reported 300 shots. The cameras had been used the previous day for the press and not recharged and still had 60%. After my 30 mins or so intensive playing and burst shooting it only dropped a percent or two. I highly suspect you will get 1000+ shots with it. Nikon were a bit confused why the 3rd party rating was so low.
  • The XQD card will be firmware updated to CfExpress when the cards are released and improve buffer performance.
  • One card slot was for size reasons as well as Nikon UK only having received one single report of an xqd card corrupting since they were introduced years ago in the D4. The xqd cards ‘talk the same language’ as the camera hardware and don’t need interpreting to write to the flash memory was cited as one of the reasons for this.
  • Lens and sensor combos very sharp right to edges.
  • Focus accuracy very, very good (thanks to on sensor AF points I guess).
  • Worked well with the 180-400 + adapter, perhaps hunted a fraction more than the D850 does but this was all hand held in a dark presentation room.
  • The F-mount sensor wasn’t that heavy or clunky. Worked well.
  • Nikon still committed to F-mount DSLR range now and in the future.
  • Cameras are aimed at high end enthusiasts.
  • There was a slight evf stutter when shooting in burst mode.
  • evf was very clear, smooth and grain free even in very dark areas. A pleasure to use and made dark areas easier to see into than with the naked eye.
  • Buffer seemed to be about 20 shots on the Z7 and then a constant (estimated) 2fps as the card cleared in real time with the shutter still held down. This is said to improve significantly once CFexpress cards arrive. Buffer cleared quickly when shutter was release (400mb/s xqd card).

To sum up, so far I was very impressed with these cameras. I am not sure they would replace my DSLR gear for a wildlife trip but I do think that if I was shooting any of the following genres regularly I would dive right in no questions: landscapes, travel, street, portraits (with adapter for now until new lenses arrive), journalism.

I say this as the camera offers top of the range full frame image quality (ala the D850), super focusing and all the above in a much smaller, lighter, discrete package. The stutter when burst shooting gives me pause for thought for fast wildlife and sports but it certainly was no worse really than the mirror flap we have to deal with perhaps. Focus tracking needs proper use to gauge vs the DSLRs.

More tests (I sense a Stellar’s Eagle landing sequence in my future) soon. If you fancy a smaller high end mirrorless camera you will no be disappointed though, get your preorder in. Exciting times!

UPDATE 26th Aug 2018

Having been featured on a few camera news sites regarding this post I would just like to clarify that despite what a few people seem to intimating I am not paid/endorsed/sponsored by Nikon. I do have a friendly relationship with their support team but it is entirely just that, friendship. I don’t get given free cameras, much to my dismay! I do get the occasional lens cloth though 😳

Please do remember as well, it’s just a camera folks!

Meme, there is a conspiracy everywhere!
31aug

Update 31st August

Well I have had a second, more lengthy and considered hands on today courtesy of Grays of Westminster in London and I have have some additional thoughts…

  • Focus accuracy is the best from any Nikon. Note I say accuracy. Even wide open on the (F mount) 105 1.4 the area under the focus point was always, and I mean always pin sharp. I could’t make what was under that focus point not be pin sharp assuming I had a high enough shutter. It was rather incredible how accurate it was; can’t say enough good things about this. This was with Z and F lenses.
  • Focus tracking in video and when simply looking through the viewfinder may be on par with the DSLRs. Was very solid in my tests running around to and from objects. There is a caveat to this…..
  • Focus tracking for still burst sequences drops quite significantly. I presume this is because the camera has to pass the image to the still imaging processor and then the AF processor in some sort of shared way when capturing raws. This was for objects moving towards and away from the camera. Panning across seemed fine. This would potentially limit if for burst sequences of things running at and away from me at speed. The tracking was good, just not Nikon DSLR good during the burst. Again, when simply viewing or in video mode it was great, about on par with DSLR land give or take.
  • Build quality my initial assessment stands from the other day for the body and 24-70. Solid and great, proper Nikon.
  • Image quality I fully expect to at least match the D850 and probably slightly exceed it. That is to say the best from a 35mm sensor to date of any brand.

I must say I was disappointed to the attitude of some others viewing the cameras at the same event. Quite a few people were rather indigently trashing on the camera as they tried it to the Nikon guy when they were clearly non paying attention to what they were doing. I guess this is fallout from the weird online hysteria surrounding the Z launch. For example…

USER: “It doesn’t focus track, it simply doesn’t track well at all” {sighs & rolls eyes quite overtly}

NIKON: “You have it in AF-S focus mode”

To counter some of the attention grabbing misinformation from the net pundits (note, not photographers) Ricci from the Nikon School in London has been posting some brief videos. Check them out here.

Again here is my roundup for genres….

  • Landscape: Perfect, perfect perfect. Best sensor, smallest size, sharpest lenses. What more could you want?
  • Street/urban: Best sensor, small discreet size. Great.
  • Travel, Again, perfect; best sensor, small size (inc lenses).
  • Portraits: Focus accuracy when using big, shallow DOF lenses makes for more hits when shooting I imagine. The smaller size will be of less interest here and maybe even a hindrance for handling in this case? If you want a spot sharply in focus and the rest with mega bokeh, this camera will do that in spades.
  • Action: It will do a pretty decent job I am sure, but stick to the D5 or D500 as your primary fast action camera (note I have no idea what the Z6 will be like, this is all about the Z7).

What about me and the wildlife? 
Well, if you also have a fast camera for action on longer lenses (in my case the near perfect D500 is my choice) and you want a second camera for best resolution/quality with wider lens and/or for slower subjects then it works very well. I don’t think this would be your primary and only wildlife camera on say a safari due to the tracking limitations at high speeds. If you are on a nature trip with long lenses and you only take one camera (living life on the edge are we!?) then the D850 is still the one stop choice.

I actually expect this will replace my D810 as the companion to the D500 out on safari. Why? Best sensor, smaller size (big plus when travelling) and the D500 takes care of the long lens fast stuff. This is how I expect my thought process to be on my next Masai Mara trip…

Cheetahs running across the plains / birds in the air? D500

Elephants approaching with a sunset behind? Z7

Landscape as the sun is setting? Z7

I always have at least two cameras on safari so the Z7 will slot in very well I imagine. It will also have the advantage of being taken out by myself far more often on causal occasions where I really wouldn’t want to lug a full DSLR and big lens which is a welcome bonus and actually adds a lot of value to the camera for someone such as myself who buys all my gear out of my own pocket.

Whatever your photography style/preference/budget you can’t say Nikon aren’t giving us fantastic options at all levels. Stay calm and carry on all, there is something for everyone.

Now, how do I post a youtube video with the thumbnail of my hands on my head to get some more hits? Need to set up some affiliate adverts first perhaps…. Ahem.

10sept

Update 10th Sept 2018

Having read through a large pile of email regarding mostly the autofocus and single card slot. I highly recommend anyone concerned reads Thom Hogans excellent summary of the state of play

My view mirrors (hah!) his. Back when the D3 first came out it introduced two CF slots for us photographers and I was thrilled. All the thoughts of redundancy and the like came to mind and for a while I used the mirror option on the two slots doubling up my card costs (a bigger concern back then). A few cameras later and reevaluating my workflow I am almost always in overflow mode. Cards are reliable, assuming you are sticking with the genuine branded ones (sandisk and lexar are my staples) and by far not the weakest link in the camera system.

Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera

With these two new cameras, all else being equal (bear that statement in mind) sure, I would take two slots any day. Why wouldn’t I?! However, not at the expense of size, as size is the key factor for me wanting this camera. Let alone any technical restrictions that would impose in the small body. The D5 is a huge beast and presumably has plenty of room to have two controllers running at full speed no problem.

Given the choice (and we can only presume it was a technical choice on Nikon’s part) I choose the smaller compact body vs the extra slot. I would also rather only have 1 XQD than 2 SD. XQD (and soon CFexpress) cards are solid and reliable both physically and in the make up of their digital interface. As well, especially in a smaller camera I doubt we could get two independent controllers to write to the cards completely separately. Genuinely not a deal breaker for me and I shoot some pretty unrepeatable moments out in the field. If you had asked me 10 years ago, maybe I would be fretting but I am not now. The advantages this camera can offer in certain situations would diminish if the size was bigger, price was much higher and power consumption much greater; if those weren’t issues (and they would be) then give me two slots. But they are and the compromise to drop a slot was, for me, the preferred compromise.

With regards to the focus, as mentioned in my previous update the focus is spot on and super quick to track when simply engaging the AF and drops a little when the shutter is actually fired. This could be an issue if I weren’t backing the camera up on Safari with the D500 &/or D5 but this camera is for the more considered moments I encounter as well as trekking and light travel. For all but the fastest of action this camera should deliver the best, sharpest, richest images of the Nikon lineup. All that in a tiny, super portable package is just a real treat. Mine is arriving in the first wave so expect a full and honest review early October.

See you next time.

Comments 4

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      Author
  1. While I generally like Tony’s channel, I’ve found that preview shows are sometimes contradictory, especially when no serious review has taken place. From those that have used the 2 cameras in practice, it appears that general handling, performance and image quality are very good – and this is mainly what you use a camera for. Not specs.

    An example is the battery “issue” (because CIPA notes this at 300 shots) – which is actually a non-issue because reported in-the-field usage is 1500+ shots on a charge; very good I’d say especially for a mirrorless cam.

    On the whole, I’d say Nikon have done a pretty good job for a 1st gen launch with 1 or 2 nigglies. I know the inevitable comparison will be against Sony’s A7 gen 3 cams and quite rightly so – and against these, Nikon also fairs pretty well spec-wise with a few exceptions; and based on practical test reports, image quality is significantly better. The design choices also give Nikon good leeway on future developments for the range.

    The Sony’s have justifiably developed a good rep (as have guys like Fuji, Pana and Olympus in their respective segments). Let’s give the Z’s a chance before putting them down right at the gate (as many seem to be doing).

  2. Post
    Author

    Hi Robby, thanks for commenting! Good points.

    I have never seen a video from the Tony chap but I would be interested to know if he runs adverts on his videos? If so it can be very temping for people to simply use click-bate techniques simply to get more views. Say something shocking or controversial for the sake of getting hits. I know that sweaty ‘angry’ bloke on YouTube does and which is why I try to steer clear of lone reviewers that pad with adverts.

    Dpreview have been doing a good job with the release news imho.

    Thanks!
    Rich.

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