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First Look: The new Nikon Z 7 mirrorless camera

Now that the cat is out of the bag and I’ve had a chance to reflect on Nikon’s mirrorless system announcement, here a few initial thoughts. It is still roughly a month away from the Z 7 being released, which Nikon is putting up against Sony’s flagship A7R III. Has Nikon come up with a complete game-changer? Or is the Z 7 just another mirrorless camera in the market? Here’s an initial closer look…

Key specs

The Z 7 is a 45.7-megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera. It’s capable of shooting up to 9 fps stills and 4K video at 30p. The Z 7 has an ISO range of 64-25600 and has a single XQD card slot. It has 493 autofocus points and features 5-axis in-body vibration reduction. It also comes with built-in Bluetooth and wi-fi.

Who the Z 7 is meant for

First and foremost, the Z 7 is aimed towards professional photographers — specifically portrait and commercial pros. I say this because the specs are similar to what you’d find on Nikon’s pro/portrait flagship camera, the D850. 45 megapixels will get you stunning detail that fashion and other subjects require. It’ll make food jump off the page for a restaurant, and low-light capabilities will certainly be superb as is the case with most pro-level Nikons.

If you are currently embedded in the Nikon system, the Z 7 will make it easy for you to keep your current Nikon gear. The FTZ adapter is intriguing, allowing photographers to have dual vibration reduction in both the camera body and with Nikkor F-mount VR lenses. Having that capability with an adapter is virtually unheard of. I’ll be curious to see how fast and accurate autofocus performance is with the adapter.

Who the Z 7 isn’t meant for

While the Z 7 can fit a wide array of photographers, it’s not meant for two groups of photographers. One, sports shooters. While the quality and resolution will be amazing, having only 9 fps will be a limitation that sports shooters won’t want to deal with. Secondly, photojournalists probably won’t be drawn to the Z 7, mainly because of file sizes. 45-megapixels files will mean longer import and export times, and overall larger files to work with. It’ll slow down their process.

If you aren’t already a Nikon shooter, there’s no reason to switch. There are limited lenses unless you buy F-mount lenses and an adapter. Had there been more lenses (like a 70-200mm, or prime wide angle lenses in the 20-28mm range, which are both slated for 2019). I can see the argument made. But right now, the Z system is clearly geared towards portrait shooters because of this.

Here’s what I like

The ergonomics of the Z 7 seem very similar to the A7R III, and I like the familiar buttons and interface on the back of the camera. The front of the camera is sleek. I’m worried that photographers with larger hands will still find it to be a bit cramped.

The LCD on the top of the camera is a win for me, especially when shooting in low-light conditions. As is having dual control wheels (one in front, one in back) and dedicated ISO and exposure compensation buttons all features from Nikon DSLRs.

I also like the articulated screen, but I wish they had made it fully articulating like what Olympus and Panasonic offer in their high-end bodies.

Finally, the fact that nearly all existing accessories will work with the camera means that current Nikon users won’t have to go out and buy new flashes, triggers, microphones or anything of the sort. It makes the price a little bit easier to handle.

Some minor button oddities

When I look at the back of the camera, I find myself scratching my head some. First and foremost, the AF-ON button is placed all the way to the right of the back of the camera. If you’re a back button focus shooter, I find it easier to have this closer to the viewfinder, where the DISP button and photo/video toggle switch is located.

Secondly, I’m wondering why there aren’t more custom function buttons available on the camera. There are two in the front, and I’m going to assume you can map some on the back to be other functions as well. But it seems like wasted space to have zoom in and out buttons on the back of the camera (when you can just use the control wheels). That space could’ve easily held one or two custom function buttons.

Is it a Sony killer?

While the Z 7 has some intriguing features and is a great first step into mirrorless by Nikon, I really don’t see anything that puts it a step above Sony’s A7R III. First and foremost, there are a few drawbacks. Being limited to one XQD card slot will make event shooters nervous, and for me personally, that’s a deal-breaker. I like having an in-camera backup. Beyond that, the only big spec difference is there’s no eye tracking feature in the Z 7.

The price difference isn’t a ton — the A7R III retails for $2998, while the Z 7 comes in a bit higher at $3399.95 — but Sony already has a strong presence in the mirrorless market, while Nikon is charging a $400 premium for a brand new camera in a system with limited lenses, the FTZ adapter notwithstanding.

Being a former Nikon shooter, the Z 7 is intriguing, but right now I think it just misses the mark for me. It doesn’t have that “wow” factor. I like the idea of the new Z mount and the potential that Nikon’s mirrorless system will have for the future. Nikon has to start somewhere. For now, it’s still playing catch up.

Pre-order?

These new Nikons are available for pre-order starting today.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the Z 7? Sound off in the comments below!

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