After years of Sony dominating the full-frame mirrorless market, Nikon finally put their cards on the table with the new Z series. The Z7 is Nikon’s first hurrah into the full frame mirrorless game, so how did they do for their first try? Let’s find out.
The body of the Z7 is made from a magnesium alloy just like their top of the line D850 and D5, so this camera is built to last. Similarly, it is also weather-sealed, so the Z7 is definitely made for harsh conditions though we didn’t get the chance to see it in action because the weather was fine during testing. It has a nice deep grip and the rubber is appropriately textured so it won’t feel like it’s going to slip out of your hand. As for weight, it comes in at 660g with the battery, which makes it lighter than full-frame DSLRs.
In terms of ergonomics, the button and dial layout for the Z7 makes for efficient control over the camera. Two dials are where your thumb and index finger would be, allowing you to quickly change the exposure. There’s also a joystick where your thumb sits that’s used to move the focusing points. Then, there’s the i button that gives you access to 12 settings which you can customise in the menu system and it’s great because you can have 2 sets of settings for photo mode and video mode. What’s more, there are another 2 customisable function buttons on the grip side of the lens, easily accessed with your ring and middle fingers.
The Z7 sports a 45.7-megapixel full frame sensor with 493 autofocus points. Before we move on to the image quality, let’s talk about the autofocus (AF). The camera was tested using the new 24-70mm f/4 Z lens and the focusing was fast across all focusing mode which includes single point AF, dynamic-area AF, wide-area AF and auto-area AF - in single AF and continuous AF. However, one thing to note is that the face detection in auto-area AF can effectively focus on the face but more often than not misses focus on the eyes. The single-point AF would be better for hitting focus but despite the ease of using the joystick, moving the focusing point can be a little slow.
The new Z mount comes with new Z lenses however you can adapt your existing F lenses to the Z7 with Nikon’s FTZ adapter, giving you access to the range of Nikon lenses. The only other lens we tested the Z7 on was the 50mm f/1.8 which is an older lens, and it didn’t perform too well for the autofocus which was all over the place. We can’t speak for the newer and better lenses adapted to the Z7.
The high-resolution sensor produces extremely detailed images especially at lower ISO, and that’s where it truly shines. The Z7 takes the advantage during well-lit scenarios and when properly exposed, images are tack sharp and not overly noisy. Situations like studio shoots or outdoor sports are some ideal examples.
While the high megapixel count is perfect for brighter environments, it’s actually detrimental to the Z7 in low light. Noise starts to become noticeable at 1600 ISO, while I would say images at 3200 ISO are still useable. I know noise grain can be an artistic choice but you should probably stay away from anything higher than 6400 ISO. The base ISO is 64 - expandable to 32 and it goes up to 25,600 - expandable to 102,400.
Something peculiar is going on with the RAW image files in which settings from selected picture profiles would be reflected in Adobe Lightroom. For example, the Vivid profile would show increased contrast and saturation where it defaults at 0. If this is unfavourable to you, know that the Neutral and Flat picture profiles keep the RAW files as is.
Nikon was never known for video in their cameras. Despite that, they kept the same 4k capabilities from their award-winning D850 and added in Full HD 120p recording for the Z7, making it a beast in the video department and more competitive in the market. Regardless of the resolution and high frame rates, what Nikon really needed to improve was the autofocus and they did to a certain degree. The face-tracking for video is pretty efficient during video mode, however it starts to fall apart even in conditions with moderate light. The camera could detect the subject’s face - as indicated by a yellow box but it kept hunting for the face.
The Z7 only has one card slot for XQD cards, with a firmware update in the coming future for CFexpress card compatibility. The one card slot was met with some pushback mostly because this camera was targeted for professionals, and most professionals wanted the additional card slot for shooting backup images or the extra space for overflow. XQDs are very fast cards but it would still depend on how trusting you are with having only card slot or how reliant you are on the extra space.
For battery, the Z7 uses the new EN-EL15b which can be charged using the usual charger or through the USB-C port on the camera. Older version like the EN-EL15a orEN-EL15 are compatible with the Z7 but those can’t be charged with the USB-C. Despite the CIPA rating of 330 shots for the battery, we managed to get closer to 500 shots within a day without it dying. Granted that was mainly just shooting stills.
The Z7 with the FTZ adapter is priced at MYR 15,688 while the Z7 with the 24-70mm f4 is MYR 17,858. If you want the full package with the body, adapter and lens, it’s MYR 18,288. These are obviously some huge numbers and it should be expected because, again, this camera is targeted towards professionals. All in all, the Z7 is a great full-frame mirrorless camera, worthy to be in any professional’s kit.