Nikon’s flagship mirrorless camera offers 45.7 megapixel resolution, hybrid AF with 493 sensor points and 4K video recording in a compact, weatherproof body.
Our tests showed that images captured with the review camera were every bit as good as those taken with the pro-level D850 regardless of which lens we used. It’s always a challenge for cameras with such high resolution to meet the defined expectations for their sensors. The 35mm f/1.8 S lens delivered higher resolution, as expected, but the 24-70mm f/4 S lens wasn’t far behind.
Overall, we found the Z7 a pleasure to use and its more compact size and lighter weight were very much in its favour.
Having only three dedicated lenses is a bit limiting, since using F-mount lenses with the adapter makes the set-up both larger and heavier. But more lenses are promised in the future, with six being added in 2019 and a further three scheduled for 2020.
So far, Nikon seems to be covering the most popular focal length and speed combinations, although there are none longer than 200mm – and the longest prime lens is 85mm.
On 23 August, Nikon unveiled its first ‘full frame’ mirrorless cameras in a streamed presentation from Tokyo. The Z7 is the flagship model, with a 35.9 x 23.9 mm backside illumination CMOS sensor that delivers 45.7 megapixels of effective resolution, the same as the company’s esteemed D850 DSLR camera, which we reviewed in September 2017 . A companion model, the Z6 boasts 24.5 megapixels, which is similar to the four year old D750. But it won’t be available until just before Christmas.
Angled view of the Z7 with the Nikkor Z 24-70 f/4 S lens that will be offered with the camera body. (Source: Nikon.)
We received a Z7 camera plus two of the first compatible lenses – the 35mm f/1.8 S prime and the 24-70mm f/4 S zoom – along with an AF Nikkor 28mm f/1.4 ED prime lens and the FTZ adapter. The kit arrived at the beginning of October just before Sydney experienced more than a week of almost continuous rain.
We only had the kit for a week and but were able to fit Imatest testing into the afternoon and morning immediately after it arrived. Making the most of the time we had, we’ve been able to post some test shots and video clips in addition to the graphs from our Imatest testing. Unfortunately, some shots were recorded in sub-optimal weather conditions and those taken on a sunny day were captured in something of a rush.
We didn’t have enough time to test the camera with the adapter and regular DSLR lenses. Since the supplied F-mount lens had a different focal length from the 35mm Z-mount prime lens, we couldn’t have drawn any parallels between them, making possible comparisons largely irrelevant.
We’ve been promised more time with the camera in a couple of weeks; this time with the 50mm f/1.8 S lens and an equivalent F-mount lens (so we can make comparisons). We’ve also requested a tele-zoom lens to try out with the FTZ adapter. For now, here’s what we’ve been able to discover about the Nikon Z7. The two Z-mount lenses are reviewed separately.
Build and Ergonomics
Both Z series cameras have almost identical bodies with generous (and very comfortable) grips and tilting, touch-enabled LCD monitors. Magnesium alloy has been used for the front, back and top covers with weatherproof sealing at the joints between them, as well as around components like the shutter release button and battery-chamber cover.
This graphic shows the weatherproof sealing in the Z7 body and also in the 24-70mm f/4 S zoom lens that will be offered with the new camera. (Source: Nikon.)
Not unexpectedly, the front panel is dominated by the lens mount, which has a lens release button on the left hand side and two programmable function buttons (Fn1 and Fn2) on the right, separated by a rectangular nub. This makes it easy to distinguish between them by touch.
Front view of the Z7 with no lens fitted. (Source: Nikon.)
The front command dial is embedded in the top of the grip in a similar position to Nikon’s DSLR cameras. An LED embedded in the opposite side of the upper front panel provides a light source to use as AF illuminator, red-eye reduction lamp and self-timer indicator.
Rear view of the Z7 with the monitor flat on the camera back. (Source: Nikon.)
Some significant changes have been made on the rear panel. The tilting, 3.2-inch touch-enabled monitor has a resolution of 2,100,000 dots plus a170° viewing angle and full frame coverage. Colour balance can be fine-tuned and there are 11 levels of manual brightness adjustments.
The buttons that normally align down the left side of the monitor have been shifted to its lower right side and some (notably the Protect button) have been totally eliminated. There are no dedicated buttons for focus mode or metering mode selection, no WB button and no Picture Control button.
The arrow pad sits above them and is similar to the control on the D850. So is the focus joystick tab, which lacks the focus selector lock provided on the D850. It sits above the arrow pad, with the Info button between them.
Above the joystick is the AF-On button and, to its left is the DISP lever switch, which had two positions: Stills and Movie. It replaces the Live View dial/button because the camera is always in Live View mode.
The optical design of the Quad-VGA electronic viewfinder (EVF). (Source: Nikon.)
Above the monitor is a 3,690,000-dot, 0.5-inch OLED EVF with a 37-degree diagonal viewing angle, 100% frame coverage and 0.8x magnification. This screen has a 21 mm eyepoint, -4 to +2 dioptre adjustment and an eye sensor. Fluorine coating on the eyepiece protection window reduces flare while repelling dirt.
Colour balance and 11-level manual brightness controls are provided as well as auto brightness adjustment. Pressing the camera’s i button while shooting displays camera settings on the screen, enabling users to change settings while looking through the EVF, using the main command dial and sub-command dial.
Left of the viewfinder housing and above the monitor are the delete and playback buttons, which are in the same positions are the D850 equivalents. Unlike the DSLRs, the Z series cameras have no buttons for directly accessing the focus and metering modes, white balance and Picture Control settings, but they are accessible via the touch screen.
The top panel of the Z7 with no lens fitted. (Source: Nikon.)
The top panel has a large mode dial to the left of the EVF housing with the expected P, A, S and M exposure modes plus three user-defined positions (U1, U2, U3). A hot-shoe sits atop the EVF housing and to its right is a small monochrome LCD screen that shows the main camera settings and battery status.
A large rear command dial is semi-embedded in the rear right hand side corner of this panel, which buttons for the ISO, exposure compensation and movie trigger are located on the top of the grip moulding just behind the combined power on/off lever and shutter button.
The single XQD card slot is located near the top of the right hand side panel. On the left side of the camera are the input/output ports, which sit beneath two rubber covers. The headphone output and microphone input sit towards the front, with the longer USB, HDMI, and remote ports nearer to the back of the camera.
The battery compartment is in the normal place in the base of the grip moulding. Both cameras use a new variation of the EN-EL15 battery, which has been used for cameras as varied as the D500, D850, D800, D810, D750, D610, D600, D500, D7500, D7200 and D7100. The EN-EL15b battery in the Z7 is CIPA rated at approximately 330 shots/charge (compared with 1840 shots/charge for the D850). A new EH-7P AC-power charging adaptor has also been introduced for the Z7 only.
Who’s it For?
It’s tempting to see the Z7 as a possible replacement for the D850 because both models appeal to the high-end enthusiast and there are many similarities between them. Both cameras’ sensors have the same effective resolution, along with similar basic characteristics with respect to noise levels and dynamic range as well as potential NEF.RAW quality.
The shutter in the Z7, which is designed and built by Nikon, is also almost identical to that in the D850. It uses the same brake mechanism, leaf spring switch and shutter blade material and has been tested in the camera for 200,000 cycles. However, there are some important factors that set these cameras apart; the table below shows the main differences between them.
|Nikon Z7||Nikon D850|
|Body dimensions||134 x 100.5 x 67.5 mm||146 x 124 x 78.5 mm|
|Body weight||675 grams with battery and card||1005 grams with battery and cards|
|Card slots||1x XQD slot||2 slots; 1x SD UHS-I/ UHS-II compatible, 1x XQD|
|Stabilisation||Sensor-shift type; 5-axis, 5 stops||Lens-based; electronic VR available in movie mode|
|Viewfinder||0.5-inch OLED EVF with 3,690,000 dots, 100% frame coverage, 0.8x magnification, 21 mm eyepoint, -4 to +2 dpt adjustment||Eye-level pentaprism with 100% FOV coverage, 0.75x magnification, 17mm eyepoint, -3 to +1 dpt adjustment|
|Monitor||Tilting 3.2-inch TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 2,100,000 dots||Tilting 3-inch TFT LCD touch screen with 2,359,000 dots|
|AF points||493||153 (incl. 99 cross-type)|
|Max. frame rate||5.5 frames/sec. (9 fps in Continuous High Extended mode – focus & exposure locked on first frame)||7 fps (9 fps with EN-EL18b battery inserted in an MB-D18 grip)|
|Buffer capacity||26 JPEG, 19 losslessly-compressed 14-bit NEF.RAW||200 JPEG, 51 14-bit lossless compressed raw|
|Flash synch.||1/200 second||1/250 second|
|Battery/capacity||EN-EL15b / 330 shots/charge||EN-EL15a / 1840 shots/charge|
|Available lenses||3 Z-mount (F-mount lenses can be used with FTZ Adapter)||80+|
|RRP (body only)||~AU$5499 (with FTZ Adapter)||AU$4997|
This table shows some of the reasons why the Z7 is unlikely to replace the D850. However, there are a few factors where the Z7 out-performs the D850 and/or has capabilities the D850 lacks. One is the new EXPEED 6 processor, which should deliver better JPEG files (particularly at high ISO settings) than the EXPEED 5 chip in the D850. Others include the presence of phase-detection AF with live view – which lets users frame shots with the EVF while recording video – and better video capabilities, along with new functions like focus shift shooting for in-camera focus stacking.
Photographers with a collection of current Nikkor lenses should be able to use them without problems when fitted on the Z7 body via the FTZ adapter. However, Tamron has recently issued a caution that some of its F-mount lenses have ‘issues’ it is investigating. Compatibility updates are promised once solutions are found.
Meanwhile, Sigma has confirmed the F-mount lenses in its current line-up have no issues with the FTZ adapter. However, interchangeable lenses without an AF drive motor will operate only in manual focus and some pre-2013 lenses will be incompatible.
1. New Mount. The new Nikon Z-mount has been developed to provide more flexibility for lens designs while taking advantage of the shorter flange-back distance of the mirrorless format. It has a flange focal distance of 16 mm, which is nearly 2 mm less than the flange depth in Nikon’s DX bodies. By way of comparison, the M4/3 standard depth is 19.25 mm, Sony’s E-mount depth is 18 mm and the Fujifilm X-mount is 17.7 mm.
The inner mount diameter in the Nikon Z system measures 55 mm. By comparison, Sony’s E-mount is 46.1 mm, which means the Nikon mount is quite a bit wider larger. The reasons for having such a wide ‘throat’ for the lens are complex.
Large diameter and short flange depth provide flexibility to improve optical quality, particularly with regard to edge sharpness and improved AF coverage. It is also easier to produce telecentric lenses which make the light rays travel to hit the sensor vertically over a larger area, providing greater control over aberrations like vignetting and chromatic aberration. However, there’s a downside to consider. Parallel and near parallel rays exiting the lens will cast sharper shadows than those from angled rays, which means dust-minimisation will be even more important for the Z-series cameras than for Nikon DSLRs.
2. Focusing. The Z7 introduces on-sensor phase-detection autofocusing (PDAF) technology with a newly developed hybrid AF system utilising an array of 493 detectors that provides accurate focusing across 90% of the frame, as shown in the illustration below. PDAF is supported, regardless of whether the EVF or monitor is used for framing shots, which means the viewfinder can be used while shooting movies.
The 493-point hybrid AF point array in the Z7. (Source: Nikon.)
Autofocusing is driven by algorithms that are optimised for the FX format sensor and will use focal-plane phase-detection AF or contrast-detect AF as appropriate.The Z7 provides the following AF-area selections:
Pinpoint AF, which uses contrast detection, enables focus to be concentrated on an area half the size of a single focus point. It is only available in single-point AF mode and for stills shooting.
Single-point AF, which focuses upon the single selected focus point.
Dynamic-area AF focuses on the selected point but if the subject moves, it will re-focus, based on information from the surrounding AF points. This option is only available when AF-C mode is selected and for stills shooting.
Wide-area AF (S/L) expands the size of the focus area. Two AF area size options are available for selection, depending on the size of the subject.
Auto-area AF uses information from all focus points. The camera will automatically detect the main subject in a scene and focus upon it. This mode includes options for face detection and subject tracking.
Manual focusing is also available. In this mode, the electronic rangefinder will indicate whether the subject is in focus and it can detect and identify if the focus point is forward or behind. The selected point turns green to confirm focus.
Interestingly, it seems all sensor points are single-axis; there are no cross-type AF points. Given the density of the AF point array there’s s high probability of the points being able to pick up details that are diagonally orientated as well as orthogonal to the sensor, which means they could be as fast and accurate as cross points.
With Z-series lenses, a distance graphic at the bottom of the screen shows the position of the focus between infinity and the closest point. Focus peaking is available and the camera can automatically detect the highest-contrast edges in the scene and highlight them in a designated colour.
Although we haven’t yet been able to test it, despite the technical differences between F-mount and Z-mount lenses, the F-mount lenses should focus as well on the Z7 as they do on the D850; but not quite as well as the dedicated Z-mount lenses. This is because only phase detection is used when an F-mount lens is fitted.
With Z-mount lenses, the Z7 can take advantage of contrast detection AF and utilise the very fast actuators that move the focusing element group. As manufacturers like Panasonic have proved, this can result in very fast, accurate focusing.
The system in the Z7 can support AF in light levels as low as -4.3 EV with an f/1.8 lens, -4 EV with an f/2.0 lens and -2 EV with an f/4 lens. In addition, the integration of phase- and contrast-detection data gives the system much more data to work with.
3. IBIS. In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) is another new addition to Nikon cameras, although it has been provided routinely by Olympus (the pioneer), Panasonic, Pentax and Sony for roughly five years. Previously, Nikon (like Canon) relied upon lens-based stabilisation, which could correct pitch and yaw but not roll.
The in-camera vibration reduction (VR) mechanism corrects camera movements in five directions, as shown in the diagram above. (Source: Nikon.)
The system in the Z-series cameras provides five-axis sensor-shift stabilisation with a promise of five stops of shake compensation. It uses the image’s motion vector information as well as the gyro sensor in the camera to compensate for movement in five axes: yaw, pitch, X, Y, and roll. Being sensor-based, it works with all lenses, including Nikkor F and non-VR lenses.
The VR unit includes a lock mechanism that automatically locks the sensor in place when the camera is switched off. This minimises the risk of accidental impact damage when the camera is in transit.
Sensor dust reduction is commonly associated with IBIS but we’re not sure if Nikon’s existing technologies, which include the Airflow Control system that directs the air moved by the mirror downwards, are being used in the Z-series models. However, it appears the existing ‘Image Dust Off’ tool, which requires the use of Capture NX-D is available. This free download is the primary raw file converter for Z-series camera users.
4. Multiple Exposures. Multiple exposing is supported with four overlay modes – add, average, lighten and darken – available. The camera will display a semi-transparent view of the overlay image being created to assist with composition when adding subsequent shots. Users can select a NEF.RAW image from the memory card to use as the initial image and the camera can save the raw files used for multiple exposures for individual use in the future.
Focus shift shooting enables photographers to record sequences of up to 300 frames, while automatically shifting the focus position to cover the entire subject. Both the shutter release interval and the focus step width are selectable. A new peaking stack image function can create a monochrome preview image to confirm which areas are in focus before images are combined in a third-party stacking application.
The Z7’s interval timer can utilise the high resolution of the sensor to record 8K time-lapse movies at intervals as short as half a second. Use of an XQD card with 400 MB/s writing speed is recommended. A silent shooting function using the electronic shutter makes it possible to record bursts with no sound and no mechanical vibration.
5. 4K Video. Both the Z7 and Z6 can record 4K video at 25 fps (PAL format) or Full HD at 100 fps and can deliver 10-bit 4:2:2 HDMI output. However, whereas the Z6 can read out every pixel in the 16:9 image area, the higher-resolution Z7 has to resort to a combination of pixel-skipping and down-sampling. Users can, however, obtain full-pixel readout if they record video in the cropped DX mode although this will involve an associated increase in effective focal length.
Four AF-area modes are designated for shooting videos: single-point AF, wide-area AF (S/L) and auto-area AF. AF-C is the default movie focus mode and pressing the AF-ON button during movie recording allows users to control when AF starts and stops. AF speed and tracking sensitivity controls provide the flexibility needed for focus pull and other techniques that keep focus on a moving subject.
A significant addition to the video capabilities is the new N-log Picture Control, which has a log tone curve with 4:2:2 sampling and 10 bits of analog-to-digital resolution. This is designed to meet the needs of professional videographers and video editors who want more flexibility to support exposure and tonal adjustments in post-processing without affecting picture quality.
Unfortunately, the N-log profile is only available for recording to an external device via the HDMI port but the Z7 will allow simultaneous recording of uncompressed 8-bit 4K UHD movie files to an in-camera memory card for backup. A new View Assist function will re-grade N-log video so it doesn’t appear washed-out on the camera’s screens, a useful feature for checking footage in the field.
Other video-related features include Full HD 120p/100p recording with the DX crop, the ability to capture still frames while recording video and the first implementation of Active D-Lighting with 4K UHD recording. Slow motion recording is available for Full HD footage with 4x and 5x frame rates. The Z7 can also integrate the 5-axis sensor-shift stabilisation with electronic vibration reduction, which will crop the frames a little to compensate for subject motion.
Customisable highlight alerts are also available, with two selectable zebra patterns for different types of subjects. The brightness of each display can be adjusted across 180-255 levels to verify blown-out highlights in movie clips.
Time coding is also available with the HDMI output, making it easier to synchronise footage and sounds from multiple devices in post-production. Options include count-up and drop frame, the latter compensating for time code discrepancies that occur between the recording frame rate and the actual frame rate for broadcasting.
6. In-camera Image Processing. The Picture Control palette is expanded to provide 20 creative options, each with 11 adjustment steps, which are available in all exposure modes for stills and movie capture. Custom Picture Controls can be created and stored in-camera or produced with the Picture Control Utility 2 on a computer.
Diffraction compensation processing is another new addition, along with a Mid Range Sharpening function to provide three levels of sharpening controls by enabling users to adjust edge sharpening independently of global sharpening.
This diagram shows how the clarity, mid-range sharpening and sharpening parameters overlap to provide fine control over the appearance of subject textures. (Source: Nikon.)
Scene recognition is not new to Nikon cameras and the technology makes an appearance in the Z-series models.
Sensor and Image Processing
Sensor resolution is the main difference between the Z7 and Z6. While both cameras come with FX-format backside-illumination CMOS sensors, the Z7’s chip has 46.89 million photosites and delivers an effective resolution of 45.7 megapixels, while the Z6 has 25.28 million photosites and an effective resolution of 24.5 megapixels. No anti-aliasing filter is used, enabling maximum resolution from each sensor array.
The sensor chip has an array of phase-detection AF pixels that covers 90% of its surface and copper-wiring circuits enable rapid read-out of AF information. This enables the camera to support continuous shooting at up to nine frames/second when focus and exposure are locked on the first frame or 5.5 fps with AF/AE adjustments.
The new EXPEED 6 image processing engine makes its first appearance in the Z7 and Z6, where it has been designed to optimise the sensor’s high pixel counts and maximise the resolving power of the new Nikkor Z lenses. In the Z7, this processor enables the camera to support the same native sensitivity range as the D850, which extends from ISO 64 to ISO 25600. Lo and Hi extensions expand the range to ISO 32 and ISO 102400.
Image sizes and compression levels are essentially the same as those provided in the D850 and the Z7 provides most of the aspect ratio crops offered in that camera (except the 1.2x crop). Like the D850, the Z7 can record NEF.RAW files with 12 or 14 bit depth, uncompressed or with lossless compression. TIFF files are also supported and RAW+JPEG pairs can be recorded with fine, normal or basic compression.
Images captured with the review camera were every bit as good as those taken with the D850 regardless of which lens we used. It’s always a challenge for cameras with such high resolution to meet the defined expectations for their sensors. The 35mm f/1.8 S lens delivered higher resolution, as expected, but the 24-70mm f/4 S lens wasn’t far behind. Check out the separate reviews of both lenses.
While we had the Z7 sample, Adobe released aversion of Adobe Camera Raw (our preferred raw file converter) with preliminary support for the Z7 camera (but no colour profile) so we have provided comparisons showing some of the results obtained with ACR to augment the results from Nikon Capture NX-D, the software provided by Nikon.
Tests on NEF.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Capture NX-D, showed centre resolution to be well above the defined expectation level, while edge resolution fell just short, which is impressive in these circumstances. JPEG files were a little lower but still centre resolution was above expectations, justifying our high ratings.
Resolution for both file types remained high through to ISO 3200 and then tailed off gradually thereafter, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results above. It’s worth noting that resolution for both JPEGs and raw files remained remarkably high at ISO 6400 but declined sharply for the two highest settings as expected.
Imatest showed colour accuracy to be slightly better than we found with the D850, although the differences between the two cameras were fairly small. The Z7’s saturation levels were slightly lower and closer to the ideal value. It also showed fewer and less dramatic colour shifts.
Both autofocusing and auto exposure were quick to respond and generally very accurate in all types of lighting. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test tracking accuracy due to the prevailing weather conditions and the lack of suitable subjects for the lenses we had.
Long exposures at night contained impressive amounts of detail. Images captured in the native ISO 64 to ISO 25600 range were generally sharp with natural colour levels. From ISO 25600 on, noise became more noticeable and shadowed areas began to block up. The sample images below show the deterioration in image quality between ISO 6400 and the Hi 2 ISO setting.
ISO 6400 24mm focal length, 1/50 second at f/5.6.
Crop from the above image at 100% magnification.
ISO Hi 2, 24mm focal length, 1/200 second at f/11.
Crop from the above image at 100% magnification.
There was a noticeable colour shift from ISO 25600 on, accompanied by a reduction in saturation. Softening was obvious at the Hi 2 setting. At the other end of the ISO scale, shadows were blocked up at Lo 1, which is equivalent to ISO 32. At other sensitivity settings we were impressed by the dynamic ranges is shots we took, even in very contrasty conditions.
Having no flash, we could only test the review camera with tungsten, fluorescent and warm-toned LED lights. The auto setting in the Z7 has three sub-sets: the default A1, which retains the ‘overall atmosphere’ plus two additional settings. One retains warm tones, while the other is supposed to bias colours towards reducing them in favour of white.
Interestingly, we couldn’t see much difference between the three auto WB renditions in our tests and none of them removed the warm casts imparted by the incandescent and LED lights. As expected, the A1 auto setting was able to deliver neutral colour rendition under fluorescent lighting.
There’s no white balance pre-set for LED lighting and the presets for tungsten and fluorescent lighting tended to over-correct. Like most modern cameras, the Z7 provides plenty of in-camera adjustments for tweaking colours on-the-fly and they are straightforward to use.
Video quality was generally very good. Even in contrasty lighting, clips had a wider than expected dynamic range with the default settings and quality was high for each resolution and frame rate we tested. As expected, the highest level of detail was captured in movie clips recorded with 4K resolution, although the other clips looked very good.
Image quality was slightly lower than normal with the high-speed (100p) setting but the two slow-motion recordings maintained good image quality, with the x4 setting marginally better than the x5 one. Autofocusing for movies was fast and accurate, regardless of the recording speed, probably because phase-detection data was instantly available. The camera seemed able to track subjects accurately during the brief time we had for our tests and could readjust both focus and exposure quickly when people passed in front of the camera.
The built in microphones delivered usable soundtracks and the zooming and re-focusing with Z Nikkor 24-70mm f/4.5 S lens produced no apparent interference to audio recordings. Without an external microphone or recording device, we were unable to test all the audio recording capabilities of the camera.
Our timing tests were carried out with the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S kit lens at a focal length of approximately 45mm. We used a Sony G Series XQD memory card, which claims a read speed of 440 MB/second and write speed of 400 MB/sec and was supplied with the camera.
The review camera powered-up in a little over one second, which is a bit slower than the D850. Capture lag times averaged 0.2 seconds without pre-focusing and were almost totally eliminated when shots were pre-focused.
On average it took 0.5 seconds to process each JPEG and a little less for a 14-bit NEF.RAW file. Shot-to-shot times in the single-shot mode averaged 0.4 seconds, which is a little faster than the D850. We found no instances of the camera pausing while shots were processed.
The Z7 provides three continuous shooting settings: a Continuous High (Extended) mode that can record at up to nine frames/second using the electronic shutter with focus and exposure locked on the first frame. There’s also a regular Continuous High mode and a Continuous, both using the mechanical shutter.
In the Continuous High (Extended) burst mode, the buffer filled at 25 Large/Fine JPEG frames which were recorded in 2.8 seconds, which is equivalent to just under nine frames/second (fps). It took 4.8 seconds, on average to process bursts of this type.
Swapping to recording losslessly-compressed 14-bit NEF.RAW files, the buffer capacity was reduced to 18 frames without a loss of frame rate but processing was completed in 4.5 seconds.
In the regular Continuous High mode, the buffer filled at 26 Large/Fine JPEG frames which were recorded in 4.5 seconds, which is a little faster than the specified 5.5 fps rate for this mode. Processing was completed within 5 seconds of the last frame captured in this burst.
With losslessly-compressed 14-bit raw files, the Continuous High mode recorded 18 frames in approximately three seconds, which is marginally faster than for JPEGs. Processing was completed within 4.6 seconds of the last frame captured.
When shooting RAW+JPEG pairs, the capture rate in the Continuous High (Extended) burst mode was reduced to around 8 fps, while the rates for the Continuous High were similar to those we measured for JPEG and raw files. The buffer capacity was reduced to 17 frames and processing time extended to between 5.3 and 6.1 seconds after the last frame was recorded.
We didn’t run timing tests in the low-speed continuous mode or when the image size was reduced to DX format. Nor did we time the capture rates and processing times for 12-bit NEF.RAW files, although the smaller frames should increase both the frame rates and buffer depths a little.
Let’s start by addressing some of the main complaints that have been popping up on imaging websites around the world. As far as we can see, their validity depends upon whether they represent actual impediments to your own shooting pleasure and/or capabilities and if so, to what degree and whether you are able to work around them.
- The body size and ergonomics. We found the Z7 a very nice camera to handle and for us it fitted into the ‘Goldilocks zone’ – neither too big nor too small but significantly smaller and lighter than the D850 (which we found rather heavy). We also found the pared-down button controls very easy to work with. If a function isn’t accessible by a designated button most users will have enough programmable options to configure one accordingly. If not, the menu is comprehensive and easy to navigate.
- The single card slot. Sure, it would be nice to have two but XQD cards are currently available in capacities up to 256GB and Nikon says CFExpress Type B card support will be coming via a future firmware update. Both card types are faster and more rugged than SD cards.
- Low battery capacity. This is inevitable with mirrorless cameras because they rely on EVFs. The solutions adopted by most mirrorless camera owners are to carry a spare battery when protracted shoots are anticipated or to fit a battery grip. The second alternative doesn’t exist for the Z7 since it would negate the benefits of using a smaller, lighter camera. But it’s no great hassle to pop a spare battery (or two) in your pocket or camera bag, so we don’t see this as a major issue.
- Fewer AF options. Sure, they’re different from the D850‘s and there are fewer of them; but we found they were adequate for all the situations we were able to test.
- Dust on the sensor. We found this to be a genuine problem. Not only is the sensor closer to the top of the lens mount (and more vulnerable to environmental contaminants) but because of the more telecentric designs of the lenses, light rays exiting the rear element will be almost parallel and, therefore, cast harder and more obvious shadows on the sensor. You need to be really careful when changing lenses and try to keep the sensor clean.
Overall, we found the Z7 a pleasure to use and its more compact size and lighter weight were very much in its favour. Having only three dedicated lenses is a bit limiting, since using F-mount lenses with the adapter makes the set-up both larger and heavier.
But more lenses are promised in the future, with six being added in 2019 and a further three scheduled for 2020, as shown in Nikon’s published roadmap above. So far, Nikon seems to be covering the most popular focal length and speed combinations, although there are none longer than 200mm – and the longest prime lens is only 85mm.
The Z7 has only just gone on sale locally and street prices are sticking close to AU$5500, with the FTZ mount adapter included – except for one local site we visited that had the camera and 24-70mm S lens listed at $99,999.00 (which is surely an error). Prices for the body and 24-70mm f/4 S zoom lens are around AU$6200 and adding the adapter lifts this bundle to around $6500. In each case, you’ll pay more if you buy through an overseas website, even without the inevitable GST and shipping costs included and some sites won’t ship to Australia.
Image sensor: 35.9 x 23.9 mm backside illumination CMOS sensor with 46.89 million photosites (45.7 megapixel effective resolution); no AA filter
Image processor: EXPEED 6
A/D processing: 12 or 14 bit (lossless compressed, compressed, or uncompressed)
Lens mount: Nikon Z mount (accepts F mount Nikkor lenses with mount adapter; restrictions may apply)
Focal length crop factor: 1x (1.5x in DX mode)
Image formats: Stills: JPEG (DCF 2.0, Exif 2.31), NEF.RAW, RAW+JPEG, TIFF; Movies: MOV, MP4 (H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding, Linear PCM, AAC audio)
Image Sizes: Stills – FX image area: 8256 x 5504, 6192 x 4128, 4128 x 2752; DX image area: 5408 x 3600, 4048 x 2696, 2704 x 1800; 5:4 aspect: 6880 x 5504, 5152 x 4120, 3440 x 2752 ; 1:1 aspect: 5504 x 5504, 4128 x 4128, 2752 x 2752; 16:9 aspect: 8256 x 4640, 6192 x 3480, 4128 x 2320; Photographs taken during 4K movie recording: 3840 x 2160; Photographs taken at other frame sizes: 1920 x 1080; Movies: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) at 30p/ 25p/24p; 1920 x 1080 at 120p/100p/60p/50p/30p/ 25p/24p; 1920×1080 (slow-mo) at 30p x4, 25p x4, 24p x5
Image Stabilisation: 5-axis image sensor shift (integrates with lens shift in VR lenses)
Dust removal: Image Dust Off reference data (requires Capture NX-D); image sensor cleaning
Shutter (speed range): Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal-plane mechanical shutter; electronic front-curtain shutter; electronic shutter; (1/8000 to 30 sec. in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV, Bulb, Time, X-synch at 1/200 sec.)
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3EV or 1/2EV steps in P, S, A, and M modes
Exposure bracketing: 2, 3, 5, 7 or 9 shots with increments of 0.3, 0.7, 1.2 or 3 EV
Other bracketing options: Flash, White balance, Active D-Lighting
Self-timer: 2, 5, 10 or 20 seconds delay; 1 to 9 exposures at intervals of 0.5, 1, 2, or 3 s
Intervalometer: Yes, for time-lapse movies
Focus system: Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF with AF assist; 493 points in single-point AF mode; detection range: -2 to +19 EV (-4 to +19 EV with low-light AF)
Focus modes: Single-servo AF (AF-S), Continuous-servo AF (AF-C), full-time AF (AF-F; available only in movie mode) ; predictive focus tracking Manual focus (M): Electronic rangefinder can be used
AF-area modes: Pinpoint, single-point, and dynamic-area AF (pinpoint and dynamic-area AF available in photo mode only); wide-area AF (S); wide-area AF (L); auto-area AF
Exposure metering: TTL metering using camera image sensor with Matrix, Centre-weighted (75% weighting on 12 mm circle in centre of frame) and Spot (4mm circle on selected focus point) and Highlight-weighted metering patterns
Shooting modes: Auto; programmed auto with flexible program (P); shutter-priority auto (S); aperture-priority auto (A); manual (M); user settings (U1, U2, U3)
Picture Control modes: Auto, Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, Flat Creative Picture Controls (Dream, Morning, Pop, Sunday, Sombre, Dramatic, Silence, Bleached, Melancholic, Pure, Denim, Toy, Sepia, Blue, Red, Pink, Charcoal, Graphite, Binary, Carbon); selected Picture Control can be modified; storage for custom Picture Controls
Special shooting modes: Active D-Lighting can be selected from Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, or Off; multiple exposures; HDR (high dynamic range), photo mode flicker reduction; electronic vibration reduction, time codes, movie log output (N-Log) available for video recording
Colour space options: Adobe RGB, sRGB
ISO range: Auto, ISO 64 to 25600 in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV; Expansion to approx. 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, or 1 EV (ISO 32 equivalent) below ISO 64 or approx. 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 1, or 2 EV (ISO 102400 equivalent) above ISO 25600 available
White balance: Auto (3 types), natural light auto, direct sunlight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, fluorescent (7 types), flash, choose colour temperature (2500 K to 10,000 K), preset manual (up to 6 values can be stored), all except choose colour temperature permit fine-tuning
Flash: External flash only; i-TTL flash control
Flash modes: Front-curtain sync, slow sync, rear-curtain sync, red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction with slow sync, slow rear-curtain sync, off
Flash exposure adjustment: -3 to +1 EV in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV available in modes P, S, A, and M
Sequence shooting: 5.5 fps in Continuous High mode; max. 9 frames/sec. (14-bit NEF/RAW: 8 fps) with focus and exposure locked on the first frame;
Buffer capacity: 26 JPEG, 19 losslessly-compressed 14-bit NEF.RAW
Storage Media: Single slot for XQD cards
Viewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF with approx. 3,690,000 dots (Quad VGA), 21 mm eyepoint, 100% frame coverage, 0.8x magnification, -4 to +2 dpt adjustment, colour balance and auto and 11-level manual brightness controls and eye sensor
LCD monitor: Tilting 3.2-inch TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 2,100,000 dots, 170° viewing angle, approximately 100% frame coverage, and colour balance and 11-level manual brightness controls
Playback functions: Full-frame and thumbnail (4, 9, or 72 images) playback with playback zoom, playback zoom cropping, movie playback, photo and/or movie slide shows, histogram display, highlights, photo information, location data display, picture rating, and auto image rotation
Interface terminals: USB Type C, HDMI Type C, 3.5 mm mini-pin jacks for microphone and headphones, accessory terminal for MC-DC2 and other optional accessories
Wi-Fi function: IEEE 802.11b/g/n 2412 to 2462 MHz (channel 11) 2.4 GHz band: 7.0 dBm Open system, WPA2-PSK; Bluetooth 4.2
Power supply: EN-EL15b rechargeable Li-ion Battery Pack; CIPA rated for approx. 330 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 134 x 100.5 x 67.5 mm
Weight: Approx. 675 grams with battery and card
Distributor: Nikon Australia,1300 366 499; www.nikon.com.au.
Based upon JPEG files.
Based upon NEF.RAW files (14-bit, uncompressed) converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Nikon Capture NX-D.
Based upon NEF.RAW files (14-bit, uncompressed) converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with warm-toned LED lighting.
30 second exposure at ISO Lo 1, 44mm focal length, f/4.
25 second exposure at ISO 100, 44mm focal length, f/4.
8 second exposure at ISO 1600, 44mm focal length, f/6.3.
4 second exposure at ISO 6400; 44mm focal length, f/10.
4 second exposure at ISO 12800; 44mm focal length, f/14.
2.5 second exposure at ISO 25600; 44mm focal length, f/16.
2 second exposure at ISO Hi 1; 44mm focal length, f/18.
1.5 second exposure at ISO Hi 2; 44mm focal length, f/20.
35mm focal length, 1/500 second at f/6.3, ISO 100.
Crop from the centre of the above image at 100% magnification.
Strong backlighting; 65mm focal length, 1/500 second at f/9, ISO 200.
70mm focal length, 1/80 second at f/6.3, ISO 500
Wide brightness range subject; 24mm focal length, 1/25 second at f/8, ISO 220.
16×9 image area; 35mm focal length, 1/1000 second at f/8, ISO 100.
24mm focal length, 1/40 second at f/5.6, ISO 100.
70mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6, ISO 800.
The following video clips were all shot from the same position.
Still frame from 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) video clip recorded at 25p.
Still frame from 1920 x 1080 video clip recorded at 50p.
Still frame from 1920 x 1080 video clip recorded at 25p.
Still frame from 1920 x 1080 video clip recorded at 100p.
Still frame from 1920 x 1080 video clip recorded in slow-motion mode at 25p x4.
Still frame from 1920 x 1080 video clip recorded in slow-motion mode at 24p x5.
RRP: AU$5499; US$3399.95 (body only)
- Build: 9.1
- Ease of use: 9.0
- Autofocusing: 9.1
- Still image quality JPEG: 9.0
- Still image quality RAW: 9.2
- Video quality: 9.0