The Internet is awash with talk of the latest full-frame mirrorless cameras so what better time to do a Nikon Z7 Review?
In this Nikon Z7 review I cover what’s new, what’s good and what’s not so good and how each impacts us as photographers.
I think it is great that Nikon has come up with a really camera (2 in fact) in the full-frame mirrorless category. I suspect that Nikon might have been bleeding long supporting (and loyal) customers to Sony and that this is their way of stopping that loyal customer loss.
Hang on to your hat – you might land up wanting one of these.
Let’s start with the key specifications and go into more practical detail later.
Maximum Frame Rate:
* Battery restriction note
Full Frame – 35.9 x 23.9mm
5-axis image sensor shift
64 – 25,600 (expandable to 32 – 102,400)
493 AF points
585 g (20.7oz) body only
5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7 inches (134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm)
30 secs – 1/8000th
1 x XQD Memory card
EN-EL15B Li-Ion Type (*EN-EL15a/EN-EL15 can also be used)
RAW, JPEG fine and normal, TIFF
Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF with AF assist. 6 AF options
With the EN-EL15 and En-EL15a fewer pictures can be taken on a single
charge and the AC charging adapter can only be used to charge EN-EL15b batteries
Body only $3,396.95 (as at December 2018)
What's Different or New in the Nikon Z7?
I thought Z7 was a rather strange model designation. Initially I thought it was because they had been knocking out Zs (aka sleeping – Zzzzzzz) while Sony forged ahead.
But I am happy to report that they were doing some serious research and development behind the scenes. I think they needed to in order to avoid losing loyal customers to competitors.
I think the Z7 (and Z6) will go a long way to keeping those loyal supporters in the Nikon stable.
Sensibly Nikon have used the same excellent or similar technology found in the Nikon D850 camera as well as introduced a lot that is new in the Nikon Z7:
- The first and most obvious is the larger Z mount
- In Body Image Stabilisation
- A new and better sensor
- Silent Electronic Shutter and Electronic First Curtain Shutter mode
- Improved Image Processing
- Improved 4K video capabilities
The Nikon Z Mount - Nikon's secret (for now)
That’s right Nikon will not be sharing this with any third-party lens manufacturer’s (Sigma and Tamron) in a bid to grow and protect their own lens sales. Its a pit but one can understand their reasoning.
But there is good news … very good news.
Nikon have produced an F to Z mount adaptor which will allow the use of F mount lenses on the Z7.
What this means to you and me is that we will be able to use existing AF-S and AF-l lenses with no restrictions.
Older Nikon lenses can be used with a few restrictions such as no auto focus on the AF-D lenses.
We can expect to see Nikon rolling out a number of Z mount lenses in the coming months.
Whats so special about the Z mount?
With no mirror to get in the way the lens is much closer to the camera body and this short depth combined with a wider mount diameter (55mm which is about 25% wider than the current F mount) this allows a lot more light to get into the corners of the sensor without constraint.
Taken to the next step this also means that lenses with apertures as wide as f0.95 can be used and reliable sources say Nikon is already working on one such lens, the Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct. More details can be found in the next paragraph
All in all exciting times lay ahead for Nikon fans and we can expect a dramatic increase in image quality, sharpness and of course wonderful bokeh.
Z Mount Lenses Available at Launch Date
To coincide with the launch Nikon released three lenses:
- the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S
- NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S
- NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S
At the same time the also released the Mount Adapter FTZ, mentioned earlier and that they were developing the NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct.
So what is with the “S” designation?
Special, spectacular or something else the S-line is there to distinguish these lenses as the new level of excellence that they will be producing. The S-Line lenses will adhere to a totally new benchmark standard in optical lens design.
They are set to produce a rendering performance that will surpass the current conventional f/4 standard zoom lenses and the offerings of the current f/1.8 wide-angle or prime lenses. With the maximum aperture now on offer, much clearer and sharper resolution can be achieved as well as beautiful bokeh characteristics.
In Body Image Stabilisation - with incredible hand held results!
Nikon have finally adopted in body stabilisation. Previously confined to lenses and termed Vibration Control the in body image stabilisation (IBIS) is much more advanced with 5 difference axis.
How does IBIS actually work?
By allowing the sensor to adjust to camera movement on the 5 different axis.
For the technical this is achieved through the use of built-in gyroscopes to adjust for lateral and rotational movement adjusting for 5 different axis: vertical, horizontal, yaw, roll and pitch.
The advantages of IBIS.
- Probably the biggest advantage for the bulk of current Nikon shooters is the ability to now have the best image stabilisation with all older lenses that never had built-in vibration control, provided you have the FTZ mount adaptor!
Suddenly those old, excellent lenses are taken to a whole new level.
- With so much more stabilisation hand held photos are so much sharper. In some cases the effect of this has been reported as being by as much as 4 stops! That is quite phenomenal.
- From the lens manufacturer’s point of view it decreases the complexity of future lens design.
- Fewer moving parts in the lens makes for less likelihood of a lens going wrong.
- Should be easier to upgrade as newer bodies come out with better systems. Previously and upgrade could have necessitated buying new lenses over time. The IBIS system will mean only camera bodies need be upgraded.
BSI CMOS Sensor - a close relative ot the superb D850 sensor
To compliment the new mount Nikon have designed a new BSI CMOS sensor which appears to be a mixture of Nikon and Sony technology with a similar chip to that of the Nikon D850.
What does that mean to you and me?
Well for me the good thing is it still has the low range 64 ISO.
For the rest the sensor now has phase detection pixels built in to it (great for hand held stability – or should that be instability?) as per the IBIS described earlier.
Using the live view for rapid shooting is less than ideal in that the image review updates aren’t very good and the burst rate reduces from the regular 8 frames per second (fps) down to 5.5 fps.
On top of that the buffer is surprisingly (and disappointingly) small for such a high end camera.
While 23 12-bit, or 18 14-bit, RAW photos before the rate drops dramatically is more than acceptable for a lot of action shooting it does compare badly against the D850 which is almost limitless by comparison. The transfer to the XQD card is reasonable but no where near as good as the D850 – a bit disappointing Nikon.
The Electronic Shutter and First Curtain Shutter - pushing the limits
The Z7 now has an electronic shutter mode that makes it comparable to the Sony A7iii (proof that Sony were setting the pace).
What does this mean to us as photographers?
- The silent shutter has about 1/15th readout speed according to those in the know with a more technical bent.
- In burst shooting it will probably result in elongated or compressed images of moving subjects and rolling shutter artefacts in the form of slanted verticals when panning. Neither of which you really want.
- Severe banding is also likely to occur under certain types of artificial light.
Electronic First Curtain Shutter
The electronic first curtain option uses an electronic shutter to start the exposure and a mechanical one to end it.
And what does this mean to us as photographers?
Apparently (I haven’t seen it in action) selecting this option, which is ‘off’ by default, limits the maximum shutter speed to 1/2000th second and the maximum ISO to 25,600. Still confused?
Let me explain …
The electronic shutter opens fist and the shutter reads the image information vertically in bands before the mechanical shutter opens – thus reducing any camera vibrations to a very small percentage time of the exposure – in the Nikon Z7’s case a maximum of 1/2000th second.
Advanced Image Processing - Expeed 6
The new Expeed 6 adds a few extra image processing benefits:
- Diffraction compensation which adjusts and sets the camera’s sharpening based on the selected aperture.
- In the Jpeg image options an Mid-Range Sharpening options which allows you to independently tune the edge sharpening over and above the overall image sharpening.
Video Capabilities - making things easier for the non-videographers
The video (4K) is a small improvement on the Nikon D850 and should make videography for the non-videographer (me) a bit easier.
Two options are available in terms of sensor size – you can opt for the full-frame sensor or a APS-C crop sensor.
For the technically minded there is the ability to output a 10-bit 4:2:2 Log stream over HDMI or to simultaneously output and record an 8-bit signal. The Z7 can also film 1080 footage at 120 fps.
For non-videographers the use of the same on-sensor phase detection Auto Focus system, the same one that is available for stills mode, will have a positive affect on their non-video skills.
Time now to take a look at the competition and see how the Nikon Z7 stacks up against similar models.
The following table of comparisons only shows the different full frame mirrorless cameras in a similar league to the Nikon Z7 – trying to compare apples with apples.
I think you will find it interesting.
Canon EOS R
Sony A7 iii
64 – 25,600
100 – 40,000
100 – 51,200
100 – 51,200
100 – 204,800
30 – 1/8000 sec
30 – 1/8000 sec
30 – 1/8000 sec
30 – 1/8000 sec
30 – 1/8000 sec
Yes (no NFC)
Yes (no NFC)
1 x XQD
1 x SD
1 x XQD
2 x SD
2 x SD
5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7 in
134 x 101 x 68mm
5.3 x 3.9 x 3.3 in
(136 x 98 x 68 mm)
5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7 in.
(134 x 101 x 68 mm)
5.0 x 3.8 x 2.9″
126.9 x 95.6 x 73.77 mm
5.39 x 4.33 x 3.39 “
(137 x 110 x 86 mm)
Price as at January 2019
A table such as this does not give the entire picture and lenses, mount adapters and other accessories should be taken into account – especially if you are considering changing your entire system.
The table is intended as a useful guide only and the features that have been shown are the more common features photographers ask about.
It is interesting to note that certain brands and models may be inferior in one category but top of another – I guess they can only fit so much into a body for a certain price point.
Nikon’s entry into the full frame mirrorless market is a good thing for us photographers for many reasons but not such a good thing for those of us who suffer from GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) or NAS (Nikon Acquisition Syndrome) – haha, but that’s a nice problem.
Nikon launches are always highly anticipated and they are masters at creating hype as has been the case with the Z7 and the Z6.
In fact I think their marketing on these cameras could not have been better. From all reports, and from my own experience, both cameras are superior to Canon’s EOS R announced at roughly the same time. I am not sure if the launch date was planned to coincide or if it was sheer luck. Whatever the case I thing Nikon have their nose in front of Canon.
The Nikon Z7 is more likely to be compared to the Nikon D850 and the Sony A7R iii and the fact that it is even considered in such esteemed company shows what an excellent job Nikon have done with it.
There’s a lot to the Nikon Z7 and to be honest I would love one but may hang back from actually purchasing one for the faster Z6 as I do not need all the megapixels that the Z7 offers (be nice to have though).
There’s a lot to like about the Nikon Z7 and a few things that are a bit of a disappointment
- Menus and buttons familiar to Nikon users
- Compact yet well built body that fits comfortably in the hand
- Excellent weather sealing
- All those Megapixels 45.7 coupled with the new MP BSI-CMOS sensor gives us exceptional image quality and outstanding resolution
- First Full frame mirrorless Nikon
- Lenses do not need micro-adjusting
- FTZ adaptor allows the use of existing Nikon lenses
- Tilting screen for those high and low shots
- The IBIS – brilliant for slow-shutter-hand-held stills, low-light shooting and videos
- An excellent EVF displaying all details
- AF point placement through touchscreen or joystick
- All AF points are easily visible and accessible
- Silent shutter mode
- An improved (over Nikon D850) video
- 10-bit Log 4K footage over HDMI
- Top-plate info display – all cameras should have this!
- Easy Wi-Fi + Bluetooth connectivity
- Can be charged using USB
- Limited buffer – disappointing
- Single card slot
- No fully articulating
- AF system hunts a bit in low light because of limited sensitivity
- Inferior face detection/recognition
- Live feed only available at 5.5 fps (not at 9fps) and drops the EVF refresh rate
- AF Tracking lags behind competition and is cumbersome to engage and disengage
- Limited customisation on AF button
- Inconsistent metering, heavily weighted to AF point
- Aggressive noise reduction at high ISO
- The Electronic First Curtain Shutter (EFCS) is “Off” by default but is needed to avoid possible shutter-shock.
- EFCS limits the maximum shutter speed to 1/2000
- No Two-Button-Reset or Quick Format – why?
- Shortish Battery life (400 shots) – especially for all day shooting
First and foremost photographers that require extreme detail in prints – such as landscapes, macro etc.
Photographers wanting a small bodied camera in full-frame format. If you shoot a wide-range of genres but don’t print large images then this camera will do very nicely – thank you!
Not Recommended For
Photographers who need a faster burst rate with fast auto-focusing, longer battery life and greater buffer depth.