The NEW Nikon Z7…

This blog may seem a little-delayed considering that there is a lot of press out now about the NEW Nikon Z7 out already, and the Nikon Z6 should have shipped and be in the hands of folks by the time you read this, but I felt as though the first week of having the Nikon Z7 wasn’t enough of a test considering it is so different than any of Nikon’s past offerings.  So I’ve been driving my Nikon Z7 for the last three months putting over 10,000 frames on it in both action related and portrait photography on strobes because unlike the D850, which is the culmination of a lifetime of DSLR knowledge/technology.  The Nikon Z7 is something totally different though, totally new, and a total hail mary in the world of Nikon’s camera offerings.

(Photo from Roberts Camera’s website.)

To get started, I am not being paid for this review.  I bought the Nikon Z7 and FTZ Adapter with my own cash monies and took my sweet time to review it because it was my agenda, not that of Roberts Camera or Nikon.  I also did not get any S mount lenses to try as I am not interested in F1.8 or F4 lenses (and most of the internet agrees).  I have heard that the S mount lenses rival the sharpness of Medium Format with the new Z mount on the Z7, but I still haven’t tried them.  I’ve got many friends who say they are the Boss Sauce.  Ambassadors, NON Ambassadors agree.  But I still haven’t shot them.  We’ll see how the future goes, I am sure I’ll buy one or some eventually; just not right now.  That said, this is going to be kind of a long review so let’s get started.

(NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter, 31ISO, Sigma 24-70F2.8Art@70mm. 2 Seconds @F11. Nikon SB-5000 Set to RPT triggered by WR-10 on the Z7).

My first impression of the NEW Nikon Z7 is that it feels like a very solid, a well built, smaller Nikon DSLR.  Its very compact, but again, feels very solid.  Not quite like a pound nails into a board and then make pictures like the Nikon D5,  but I do feel like if you shake the thing you aren’t at risk for feeling any parts move around inside.  The Z mount is large, almost 16% or so bigger than the Nikon F Mount, but very a marginally 1.8% bigger than the Canon EF Mount.  I hate to admit that it looks like Canon had some insight 20 years ago with their much larger EF mount, but the reality is that Canon redesigned their mount for Mirrorless also, meaning that foresight all those years ago turned into an engineering exercise as opposed to actual hardware advantage.

(NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter, 64ISO, Sigma 50mmF1.4Art, 1/40th@F1.4).


So, the Z mount is large but that’s an easy thing to get used to.  Taking off a lens and seeing that big sensor exposed? That’s scary. (See the photo at the top of the post).  I personally prefer the Canon EOS R’s handling of this, by closing the shutter to protect the sensor.  If you lift up the Mirror in your DSLR you’ll notice that the sensor is NOT exposed.  Why they chose to expose the sensor in this body, but no other one is beyond me other than the fact that in order to get an image in the viewfinder the sensor needs to be exposed and processing the light.  Takes too long to uncover the sensor you say?  The camera takes .9 seconds to start up…. so there’s time.  The exposed sensor makes you think twice before changing lenses in any inclement weather that’s for sure.  It also makes me wonder what kind of condensation would appear on the sensor if you spent some time outside in the extreme cold and then came inside.  Granted, I know condensation can appear on any part of the camera that is being touched by oxygen, but any little barrier of prevention helps.   (ProTip: If you are shooting outside in the extreme cold and you are headed back inside, put your cameras in ziplock bags with all the air removed before going inside.  Without air, the condensation will form on the OUTSIDE of the bag instead of on your cameras expensive internal components).


The NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter,  31ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm, 1/500th@F4. Elinchrom ELB500 set to TTL to 9′ above camera right with the wide reflector, triggered by a Elinchrom Skyport Pro on the Z7 Hot shoe..

I digress though, as nothing I did with the Z7 was THAT cold.  As far as function goes the 46 ish megapixel files are beautiful, and I honestly feel as though the sensor performs slightly better than the D850.  It’s kind of an intangible feeling, honestly, as the files look and feel very similar when imported into Photoshop Camera RAW, but they handle differently in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.  More on that in a bit.  The camera handles like a smaller D850 though, except the smaller body ends up lacking some things that the D850 has which is a shame in my opinion.  Things that are missing are the ability to format your memory card by holding two buttons, and or locking images to tag them.  The rating system using the Info (i) menu is good, however when I worked for the Indsytar locking images was great because you could lock images and then format the card to get rid of the junk ones.  I don’t particularly prefer this method and haven’t done it in years, but when handing your cards off to someone else for quick editing it was very useful.  The backlit buttons are gone, probably due to lack of space in the body but also all the buttons to the left of the LCD Screen on the back are gone too.  The Menus are almost identical to the D850 or D5 even so if you have shot with a Nikon in the past it should be like an old glove which is very welcome considering this camera doesn’t function like anything that Nikon has ever made.

(The NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter, 640ISO, Sigma 24-70F2.8Art@70mm. 1/200th@F7.1. Medal lit up by a White light Stylus Streamlight hand held by my left hand to add a little mood to the frame.).

With every DSLR that Nikon has produced, the light enters the lens, and is refracted via a pentaprism into the viewfinder, a light meter, and the Autofocus module.  With this camera, the light goes into the sensor and the sensor alone meaning the cameras Expeed 6 processor has a lot more work to do than the Expeed 5 in the D5 or D850.  The sensor doing all the work isn’t necessarily bad, looking into the EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) is actually a breath of fresh air in certain circumstances.  Shooting outside, for example, is fantastic because it dulls down your view when you are shooting into bright light sources.  The EVF also has the advantage in regards to shooting with Fast Primes (IE F2, or 1.4).  With a DSLR the viewfinder is only as good as your own eye, in that, you put your focus point on your subject and sometimes you just hope the camera has achieved correct focus. With the 3.7 or so million pixel EVF its very easy to tell if your frame is in focus or not.  In fact, if manual focus is preferred the camera creates a red wall in the frame, that moves to show you where the plane of focus is.  This is called Focus peaking, and honestly not since the Split Pentaprism viewfinder has Manual Focus been so effective or useful.  With my DSLR bodies when I manually focus My frames end up more often than not misfocused because if the camera can’t tell where the focus is my eye in the viewfinder isn’t always a better option.   This feature is absolutely fantastic as it comes to older lenses.  Got some old AIS lenses? Get em out, they are super useful again.  How about some exotic glass?  With the FTZ, that works great too.

(NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter, 31ISO, Nikon 200F2VR2N, 1/160th@F2. Elinchrom ELB1200 inside of Elinchrom Rotalux 39″ Deep Octa to camera left triggered by Elinchrom Skyport Pro on the Camera hot shoe.)

I said before that I don’t have any S Mount lenses, so everything I have shot has been done with the FTZ adapter showing how well the Z7 and FTZ translates functionality in the Legacy lens system. Nikon did a great job of having FTZ Adapters readily available for the Z7 at launch to help get Pros to on board with the Mirrorless system.  I myself would not have bought one had the FTZ not been available at launch.  I’ve shot almost every lens I own with the Z7,  and each has performed almost exactly as it would on the D5 or D850.  That includes the Sigma Art lenses that I own and my 400F2.8 at an NCAA Football game.

(NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter, 250ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR, 1/1000th@F2.8)


Speaking of a football game.  There has been a lot of hoopla online about the Z7s tracking ability, and high-speed shooting abilities (or lack thereof).  So I took my Z7 on a paid gig shooting Indiana University Football to give it a shot and see how it did, in fact, perform.  The thing that I would like to now reiterate is that there are a lot of hype people on the internet and a lot of other people who claim to be getting to the bottom of things when really they are trying to make a shocking allegation to garnish clicks on their youtube channels.  This is not to say they are all wrong about all of the things, but be smart and do your research, don’t just listen to one person’s claim here or there.  That said I feel like the Z7 is fully capable of shooting sports, however, I don’t think its the camera you WANT to shoot sports with as your primary body. (At least not yet).

(NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter, 2000ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR, 1/2000th@F2.8.)

Let me qualify this.  Internet folks have determined that at Continuous High+ the camera does not inf act fire at 9fps.  This is only a half-truth, as if you are shooting on Manual exposure in 12 bit raw the camera will fire at 9fps.  At 14bit raw the camera will fire at 8fps, which is plenty fast enough for sports (anybody remember the Nikon D2h or the Canon 1D?).  But the key is that the camera NEEDS to be in Manual Exposure to do this.  If you have AutoISO turned on, and also Aperture Priority (A) or Shutter Priority (S) or Program mode (P) the camera does indeed slow down.  Most sports photographers I know however shoot in Manual as any program mode gives too much variation in exposure for when the event is done.  The one deficiency that the Z7 has for sports is also a strength.  The EVF.  While Beautiful to look at, and use outside for sports the EVF will also give you a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) exposure which means you know if your frame will look bright, dark or just right before you shoot it.  The downside to the EVF is the shooting experience.  With a DSLR when you shoot at Continuous the mirror pops up and blacks out your view for a fraction of a second and then you can see what’s going on for a fraction of a second to track action.  With the z7, instead of the frame blacking out very quickly you get a preview of the shot you just took, which is grand.  However, you do NOT get a quick look back at the action to help to track it.  This is terrible honestly because now you are tracking your action 1/8 of second after it has happened.  Try following a football player running a ball 1/8 of a second behind the action.  It’s no good I tell you.  Some have said, you should be able to shut this off, but at the time of this writing your choice in Continuous High+ is to either A, have the preview of what you just shot, or B Darkness.  Nothing at all.  Yikes.


(NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter, 400ISO, Nikon 400F2.8VR2, 1/3200@F2.8)

With that, the sports shooting experience wasn’t all that bad.  The 46mp files were fantastic to work with, and the camera did, in fact, track the action very well, missing focus to about equivalent to what I feel a D850 would have done.  I think the D5 is still the better action camera, and this should be no doubt since it is almost twice as expensive, but also in that the Z7 is not designed or marketed as a camera for shooting sports or crazy low light stuff.  The Z6, on the other hand, is marketed for more speed and low light, but I don’t have one of those and currently have no plan on adding one to the kit (but obviously that can always change).  The beautiful things that the Z7 adds to the sports or event photography table, is the ability to autofocus very quickly while doing a “hail Mary”.   A Hail Mary is holding the camera high over your head and aiming to make a picture of some kind from an angle higher than you can see.  Basically, you pray you to get something.  The whole flippy screen revolution changed how photographers do this in that they could at least aim their shots. Now, however, with the Z6 and Z7 the live view is the same thing you would see if you pressed your face to the viewfinder/EVF.  This means that you get Full Autofocus in terms of speed and accuracy, whilst also holding the camera crazy far away from your normal field of vision to get that photo.  This is super cool.  This coupled with the Focus peaking and the flippy screen make the Z7 and or Z6 an incredible option for a remote camera, assuming you set it to NOT fall asleep.  A DSLR is “instant on” when you mash the shutter.  Thanks to the EVF and In-Body Image Stabilization the camera requires about 1 second before you can take a photo.  This is an eternity if you are in a hurry.  Right now I do not believe there is an option to shut off both the EVF and LCD FULL TIME, but let the camera just sit awake and ready to go.  This is something I’d like to see in a firmware update.

(NEW Nikon Z7, with FTZ Adapter 640ISO, Nikon 14-24F@2.8N@14mm. 1/500th@F20.)

Something else worth noting briefly is the battery.  The internet seems to think the battery is going to die just by turning the camera on.  (This is an exageration, but CIPA says 330 shots….). Let me tell you this is incorrct.

Photo with iPhone 6

Another thing the internet is talking a lot about is the Low Light autofocus. I’ll be honest, if I am in a dark room the Z7 does perform well, but I still feel more confident in my D850 or D5.  Not that I think this is a slight against the Z7, it could just be my uneasiness toward Phase Detect or contrast detect autofocus.  My gut reaction to the Low light Z7 autofocus is that tt feels as though the Z7 will focus as quickly as the D850 and D5, but the D850 and D5 are more accurate.  There easily could be some setting that I have wrong, that makes this so, but I am not sure.  The D5 and D850 are rated to -4 EV for low light focus, right along with the Nikon Z7.  However, to get -4EV you need to turn “Low Light AF” to ON in the Z7 menu, and this, in fact, DOES slow the camera down a little.  The only difficulties I had with the Z7 in low light thought were the very low contrast kind, in which case the D5 and D850 may have not performed any better. (Think Polar bear in a snowstorm kind of low contrast).  In general low light though? Combined with the IN BODY IMAGE STABILIZER, the Z7 really does do a nice job.

(Nikon Z7 with NEW FTZ Adapter, 640ISO, 1/15th @F4. Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm)


While I haven’t touched on every single aspect of the Z7, I think that these things I have mentioned have been very important; at least they are the things that are very important to ME.  I have been using my Z7 pretty consistently since I got it and really like and feel comfortable moving back and forth between it and my D850.  Most people do not bat an eye when I move back and forth between such a large and or small camera either. The final image result is what matters after all.  The Nikon Z7 has been a bit of an experiment for me.  I am excited about the prospects of MIrrorless, but the big question is: is it ready?  I think that the Z7 proves that Nikon is very serious about the Mirrorless Market.  In no way do I think this is a “Sony Killer:”, however, I do see this as a shot across Sony’s bow.  Sony has had 3 generations of mirrorless cameras to this point, and this is Nikon’s first full frame pro attempt.  While not perfect, Sony should take notice because it was not far off the mark.

(Nikon Z7 with NEW FTZ Adapter, 100ISO, 30 seconds @F 6.3. Sigma 24-70F2.8OS@52mm Camera held in place with a Benro C48XL Tripod and a Ball head. Light painting done with White, Red, Blue and Green Stylus Streamlights. After Emily was painted I rolled my focus ring to the minimum focus distance to paint the background.)

Will I keep using my Z7?  Yes, I most definitely will.  I sold my D750 in order to add this camera to my kit, and while I will miss some of the High ISO and speed of the D750 (which I could have gotten with a Z6 instead) I am very pleased with what I have been able to make and produce with this camera. It is not quite as unstoppable as my D5, nor is it quite as well rounded as the D850, however it is definitely related to both of them in so many ways.   I think that the Nikon Z7 really is an incredible addition to my camera kit and after this experiment, I feel that when they come out with a “Pro’ sized body in mirrorless I’ll be ready for it too.  What I would really like to see is the D6 handled like they did the D5.  When the D5 came out, photographers had the option of two CF cards or two XQD cards.  I only know one person with the CF card version, and Nikon knew that those numbers would be super low like that. They wanted to make people happy though.  As far as the D6 goes, I’d like to see a full-size F Mount body, but with the option to buy either WITH a mirror, or Mirrorless.  I’d likely have my order for the Mirrorless version in to Roberts Camera right away.  Speaking of Roberts, if you are interested in a Nikon Z7 (or Z6) you should check with them too.  Have a great holiday, and thanks again.  More soon.