Nikon Z7 Hands-On and Opinion

I tried out Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the Z7. With advanced cameras like this it’s always a challenge including even just a decent percentage of relevant features, but I gave it a go! I had the kit lens, 35mm f1.8s, and the FTZ adapter with a Nikon 50mm f1.4g to try the camera with. This is the more advanced and expensive Z camera with 45.7 megapixels. It has a 5-axis in camera stabilizer, flip screen, EVF, and short registration distance of a mirrorless camera.

In this video I go over features, build quality, ergonomics, quirks, and my general opinion after handling the camera:

Thanks to Camera Craft in Rockford, Illinois for allowing me to film there!

Here are a few sample photos from the Z7 (Flickr).

Specifications, features, and notes:

  • 45.7 effective megapixels
  • 1/8000th second maximum shutter speed. The shutter at default settings was very quiet. There is an electronic shutter mode available. 1/200th second maximum sync speed with Auto FP supported
  • The ISO range fully expands from 32 to 102,400.
  • The electronic viewfinder is 100% coverage view with 0.8x magnification and OLED screen.
  • Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF with AF assist. 493 AF points on the sensor. There are a range of different AF area settings from pinpoint to wide and auto-area.
  • In-camera 5-axis image sensor shift vibration reduction.
  • Takes EN-EL15 batteries, and EN-EL15B is capable of USB charging.
  • Video: 4k at 30fps is available. 120fps 1080p had a crop and AF worked in this mode. There is an automatic slow motion setting. Expect the Z6 to be even better in video mode. There is a 30 minute clip recording cap. There is a timecoding option both internally and externally. There is clean 10-bit HDMI output. You can use peaking and zebras in video.
  • Photo / Video switch with an integrated DISP button.
  • Locking mode dial with PASM, U1 – U3, and auto.
  • Dedicated bracketing button that appears to also handle timer modes.
  • The “i” button seems more significant in this camera compared to older Nikons. Things like quality settings, flash, bracketing/timer, white balance, metering, shake reduction, AF/MF…

Handling of the camera, lenses, and accessories:

  • Certainly more compact than a DSLR, but it isn’t light weight. Though, keep in mind I’m used to Canon’s M50 camera now.
  • The 35mm lens isn’t tiny, but it isn’t heavy. This will be a nice fit for the camera over the kit lens. It is fully internal focus, which I like a lot.
  • The kit lens build quality feels like a step above Nikon’s 1.8g lenses.
  • The 50mm f1.4g adapted seemed fine. In the case of Nikon the adapter has to be advanced enough to handle the mechanical aperture lever of most existing f-mount lenses. You won’t get focusing with lenses that don’t have a built-in AF motor.
  • The grip is good, in the land of mirrorless grips, but for my hands I’d say I still prefer the D750’s grip. The ridge near the middle finger/shutter isn’t as pronounced as the D750, which might be the main reason.
  • The grip isn’t as tall as I was expecting. Based on how my hand has to angle to press the shutter, my pinkie is close to coming off the grip. This could be a mixture of weight and other factors. The camera felt better with the 35mm lens over the kit lens.
  • The diopter adjustment dial works like a watch dial. You pull it out to adjust and push it back in to lock. This is a big improvement over Nikon’s midrange and entry level cameras.
  • Though the camera is Nikon, it will take time for existing users to find everything that they need. I had taken mostly JPEG images because it took me a while to find out how to switch to RAW+JPEG. You will be missing some buttons and will rely on the touchscreen more, though the top LCD helps.
  • The bottom of the camera is interesting! There is a hole on the bottom of the camera near the tripod socket. There is also a hole on the side opposite of the grip. The center hole could potentially be used to keep quick release places centered.
  • The top LCD panel has great contrast and work well.
  • The back LCD screen can face fully upward and partly downward. Touch screen seems responsive and has full use through the interface and while taking photos.
  • I’m happy with the command dial on the left. Though I’m sure some will be irritated that it doesn’t work like Nikon’s most advanced DSLRs. Having that extra user setting save mode (U3) will be extremely useful. When using Nikon I used U1 and U2 most of the time. U1 acted as my custom full manual mode most often used with flash. U2 acted as my custom aperture priority mode, which was my workhorse mode.
  • I like how the EVF pokes out the back a decent distance. This makes it easier to use in practice and less likely to touch the LCD with your face.
  • The port covers are very simple rubber. They do easily get out of the way once opened.

Quirks and issues:

  • The obvious one memory card slot. I think Nikon took more flack from this being the first announcement. It’s like Nikon and Canon share notes, but are not interested in what Sony has written down thus far.
  • Things will change, but right now the Z7 with a kit lens and a XQD memory card or two will set you back a significant sum.
  • The memory card door integrated is also the thumb rest. Will this hold up over time? Depending on how you hold the camera there could be constant pressure on the door latch. My D600’s card door eventually became a bit loose.
  • The LCD screen casing is oddly wide. Maybe the right side houses electronics, not sure.
  • Seeing this camera online I thought the four buttons (+, -, bracket/timer, Menu) would be awkward, but they seem to work alright.
  • There is a visible barrier material inside that speaker on the top of the camera. Even so, it’s an odd location for a speaker.
  • Fn1 and Fn2 are in an unusual position. Not something you would use when holding the camera one handed, but they appeared to work fine when using both hands.

Transferred the XQD card data onto my phone with USB OTG support…

I don’t have any XQD cards, but I was able to use one at the camera shop. My solution was to copy the few photos and videos I took onto my phone through a USB OTG connection and a USB XQD card reader. This could potentially be a backup solution out in the field given the camera has a single card slot. With the correct cable I’d imagine you could connect the camera directly to the phone and it would work the same as using a USB card reader.

Conclusion:
It’s a decent start to full-frame mirrorless. Nikon and Canon certainly took notice once Sony started their A7 line, but Nikon and Canon’s delay reflects in their first offerings. This camera doesn’t have feature parity with the A7R III, though on the other hand the Z7 does some things better as well. There will be various types of photographers that this camera will suit well such as landscape photographers and studio photographers.

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