The Nikon Z7 has been worth waiting for
People waited with growing impatience. What for? For Nikon to come up with a genuine contender in the mirror-less race. And then they did it. They announced the Z range. And suddenly they hit a goal. And apart from the fact that the learning curve has stymied some people the fact is that this is about as good as it gets in full frame high megapixel 35mm Photography. Not that any of the contenders has struck an outright killer blow on the competition as all the current pro cameras are pretty awesome. And all have things that people would change. But you can’t get past the results. They are good.
Nikon have won a lot of friends with the cameras that they have released recently.
Personally I am one of those people that feel that Nikon have really hit the ground running remarkably well. In recent years they brought the Nikon D850 to the market and frankly it is head and shoulders the best DSLR camera that we have ever used. I agree with those reviewers that say that at present it is easily the best camera in that format available and in many ways in the 35mm field if you want to use a DSLR and your pockets are deep enough it would be the ideal choice. Having said that, size is a factor which is why people are looking at mirrorless.
Its about making better lenses.
It’s not the format and size that has got our attention. We don’t mind using DSLR at all. In fact for some applications a DSLR is obviously needed. But mirrorless cameras have their advantages and it’s not simply size.
Both Canon and Nikon appear to see the value of making good lenses even better
What both Nikon and Canon have realized is that better lenses are possible. They chose to attack the problem of mirrorless from two sides. They looked at form and lenses. And that’s brilliant. Digital sensors have the ability to record remarkably fine detail. Sometimes the lenses are the limiting factor though not to the degree that might be argued… Changing the way that lenses are made so that they can be optically better and positioned in a better form on the camera body is a stroke of genius. It really shows that someone has been thinking about this issue carefully. Other companies have approached the issue of better lenses by using smaller sensors and they have achieved remarkable clarity from small sensors using the Micro 4/3 system which, you discount at your peril. It is actually quite amazing and people should stop and look at it. MFT or micro four thirds is a lot better than those that have a fixation on full frame might have you think. We’ll talk about that elsewhere.
For now though, taking it from the Nikon Z series camera and using a remarkable full frame sensor, then the approach has been to design a completely different mount and make lenses that are remarkably good optically and provide an excellent basis for both still images and video.
Image stabilisation built into the camera is always preferable
Then too we are so impressed about the fact that Nikon decided to build the image stabilisation technology into the camera body which we always regard as the very best place to put it. There is no doubt that it is essential in photography and most photographers will tell you that they tend to shoot images at the lowest ISO rating that they can. So for example if you go through a professional catalogue you will probably find that most of the photographs are taken around 200 ISO or less where possible. That is certainly true of our catalogue. Image stabilisation often allows you to get a shot using a lower ISO rating and is therefore essential. However when stabilisation is built into a lens it increases its weight and makes it more complicated. When it is built into the camera body it means that every lens that you fit to that camera is automatically able to take advantage of the stabilisation. It is just fantastic. So for the first time we have a pairing of a high megapixel sensor with inbuilt stabilisation and now we are seeing some amazing lenses of a quality that we haven’t seen in this form before. For me it’s like carrying round a medium format camera that is remarkably small and has all the advantages of the 35mm format. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration but that’s what it feels like and it certainly gives results that are in that ilk. We’ve used a number of medium format cameras and we’ve never been able to achieve the sort of results using any of those cameras up to 50 megapixel that we can get from the Z7 when paired with their new S series lenses when we nail the shot. Rich full images with lots of room to work to bring out the shadows if needed.
So after trying the Z7 for while how do we feel? The converter for fitting Nikon lenses is good. A great idea well implemented. Adds size but we can understand the thinking behind it. If you have lots of native Nikon glass then the adapter provides an option. For me I’ll just use existing Nikon glass on the DSLR. Coming back to what’s really exciting though. It’s the NEW glass. The lenses are what it’s about. It’s always been important to use good lenses. And this is where Nikon have made amazing advances because the S series lenses are something else. The S series 24-70 is one of the best lenses of that focal range we have ever used. And we’ve used them all. From simple to esoteric. This one is so even and sharp that it takes the camera’s potential to a new level. I like the Z7 generally but I wasn’t feeling all that enamored with it when using the adapter. Don’t know why really but I didn’t feel that the focus when using the adapter with third party glass was exceptional and looking online there appears to be a few that had that experience.. however forget that.. now the S lenses give us something to get our teeth into. And I’m shocked at the improvements.
The quality of image is very good when the focus finds its point. Sadly it misses more times than I am comfortable with. On a recent evening shoot we shot with two mirror-less cameras The Sony A9 and the Nikon Z7 and the results when compared were startling. In 309 images taken the Z7 focus missed almost 60 times whereas the Sony A9 missed focus just once in over 400 shots. In a further trial against the D850 we got similar results though the D850 missed none. In sunny conditions with glare it gets a lot better but it is a niggling worry. I guess it hunts more than i would like.
The Z7 is frankly close to being the most well-rounded mirror-less camera that I have used in full frame format. But it isn’t. Its a great overall design and size. But until the focus is better it isn’t up to being in my kit unless shooting in bright conditions or shooting manually. I wish the focus were better but at the moment I am hoping for a firmware improvement.
Hats off to Nikon for a job well on the way but not yet ready for 5 stars.
Other good things
The grip is superb
The metering is excellent
The weight is great
The EVF is clear and bright
The menu system is simple. [Why do people complain about these things…? Its not rocket science and easy to navigate.]
The ISO rating is great
The images are usable up to 6400 ISO for our purposes [We could easily go higher and get prints up to A3] but as noted we would always shoot below 1000 and mostly our average is 200 so its there but for most photographers it won’t matter that much.
Speaking to other photographers about full frame and the general opinion is that Nikon have really got it right. They were talking about the bodies. But when you add in the S lenses which are priced competitively then you have a system with legs that is already delivering excellent results.
We will add some images here soon.
Just one caveat with these comments. We have yet to try the Z6 but we understand that it is the same camera with a different 24.5 megapixel sensor. I’m firmly of the opinion that 20 megapixel or there about is plenty for any application up to poster size and beyond. Exposure technique remains much more important than the megapixel count of a sensor. Speed is also important and that is achievable with full frame with a lower megapixel sensor much more easily than with higher megapixels.
A few comments re Lenscraft Photography. When we comment on equipment in these pages the comments are based on use in the field. They are never based on a single use or just a couple of days using the equipment. We try the equipment with at least two disciplines in photography and determine how it performs from there. Lenscraft Photography is a website devoted to photography and sharing experiences with equipment. We are not affiliated with any manufacturer. We have used equipment professionally from Canon, Nikon, Ricoh, Minolta, Sony, Leica, Olympus, Hasselblad, Zeiss, Sigma, Pentax, Zenit, Bronica, Rollei & Kodak.
Some of these companies have been absorbed into others. Currently we regularly use equipment from Olympus, Nikon, Sony, & Hasselblad. [Plus lenses from Zeiss and Sigma]