For a few weeks at the end on July and early August I was honored to be one of the few US photographers chosen by Nikon to shoot with a pre-production sample of the brand new Nikon Z 7 full frame mirrorless camera. It was a blast! It was a blast! I used the Z 7 and the FTZ lens adapter with my existing NIKKOR lenses, I did not have any of the new Z series lenses to test. My mission as given to me was to do what I normally do – day & night landscapes on solo trips. The shot above actually from one of my last outings with the Z 7, and turned out to be one of my favorite Milky Way images that I’ve captured this year!
This is my mini-review of the Z 7. I’ll leave the exhaustive reviews of the camera to the normal outlets, and I will just focus on how it worked for my style of photography.
As a landscape photographer that does a fair amount of hiking, one of my favorite features of the Z 7 is the significantly reduced weight and size. I may still carry my big NIKKOR lenses on some hikes, but the weight savings of the smaller body is definitely noticed.
Possibly even more exciting to me than the weight and size of the camera is the new lens mount that promises huge advancements in lenses. The larger diameter and smaller flange distance of the Z mount promises better optical designs, resulting in lenses with very little coma distortion, light fall-off (vignetting), and chromatic aberration, and should be sharp across the entire frame even at the largest aperture. So needless to say I’m looking forward to trying the new Z lenses, especially the 24-70mm f/4 S that should be a great hiking lens because it is very small. I don’t need f/2.8 for daytime landscapes, so I’ll take the weight and size savings of the f/4.
The FTZ lens adapter let me use my existing NIKKOR lenses as if they were fitted on a D850. There were no issues with focusing or light fall-off, everything worked as normal. And the Z 7’s built-in vibration reduction turns any lens into a VR lens, and adds a third dimension of VR to any existing non-Z series VR lens.
You can think of the Z 7 as a D850 in a mirrorless body. The image quality is basically the same as the D850. The sensor was redesigned for the auto focus system but the underlying backside illuminated sensor and resolution are the same as the D850. From what I’m told the Z 6, the lower MP sibling of the Z 7, should perform better than the D750 but I did not test a Z 6 and so I cannot talk about anything from personal experience with that camera.
The Z series cameras use the same EN-EL15 and EN-EL15a type batteries as used in other Nikon DSLRs, so you don’t have to buy a whole bunch of new batteries if you already have these battery types on hand. The big complaint about mirrorless cameras is their battery life due to the EVF (electronic viewfinder) sucking battery power, but my experience with the battery life on the Z 7 was very similar to using the D850. I use live view all the time during the day anyways, and at night I’m doing long exposures anywhere from 10 seconds to 20 or 30 minutes, so I’m already sucking down power regardless of using an EVF. And I’ve heard of wildlife photographers getting well over a thousand shots per charge with the Z 7.
It didn’t take much to get used to the Z 7. Although the buttons and controls are different to accommodate the smaller camera body, enough of the controls are similar enough to existing Nikon cameras that you get in the groove pretty quick, I was using it in the dark with muscle memory (not having to use a light to see the buttons) pretty fast.
The EVF (electronic viewfinder) felt enough like an optical viewfinder that I forgot it was an EVF some of the time. It also doubles as a great loupe for viewing details in image review mode, you can zoom in and see the details even better than on the back of the LCD.
Keep in mind that the remote cable connection port for the Z 7 and Z 6 use the DC-2 style connector on the side of the camera, not the 10-pin connector that is found on the front of the high end Nikon DSLRs. They had to switch connector types to accommodate the smaller camera body design. So make sure to buy DC-2 remote cables if you use a remote release or external intervalometer. There is a built-in intervalometer just like the D850 and other Nikons, but the cameras don’t support anything more than 30 second exposures so if you want to go above 30 seconds you’ll need a remote so you can use the camera in bulb mode, just like most other DLSRs.