Nikon Mirrorless: First Impressions of the Z6 & Z7

Nikon has officially announced its new mirrorless, full-frame camera line along with a completely new lens mount. Nikon’s dive into the mirrorless market means that Sony finally has a true competitor. Canon is very close to revealing its new mirrorless line too, as their mirrorless announcement is rumored to be early this fall. In short, this is great for photographers. Sony is undoubtedly dominating the mirrorless market and making incredible cameras. Competition can only be a good thing though. We should see great improvements in camera technology and design in the next coming years. It also means that the Nikon and Canon users out there will have access to the mirrorless market without having to switch systems.

Let’s focus on Nikon’s announcement and preview the two new cameras. The new mirrorless cameras are the Nikon Z7, a challenger to Sony’s A7R III, and the Nikon Z6, a challenger to Sony’s A7 III.

Here’s a quick specifications breakdown and Nikon’s official announcement – https://www.nikon.com/news/2018/0823_mirrorless_01.htm:

Nikon Z7

  • 7MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 64-25600
  • 9 fps Continuous Shooting
  • EXPEED 6 Image Processing Engine
  • UHD 4K30 Video
  • 493-Point Phase-Detect AF System
  • In-Body 5-Axis Vibration Reduction
  • 2″ 2.1m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • One XQD Card Slot 

Nikon Z6

 

  • 5MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100-51200
  • 12 fps Continuous Shooting
  • EXPEED 6 Image Processing Engine
  • UHD 4K30 Video
  • 273-Point Phase-Detect AF System
  • In-Body 5-Axis Vibration Reduction
  • 2″ 2.1m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • One XQD Card Slot

 

The bodies and build quality of the Z6 and Z7 are identical; all differences are in camera technology and price. The Z6 will retail at $1,996.95 (body-only) and the Z7 at $3,396.95 (body-only). Both are available for pre-order now, with the Z7 slated to ship end of September and the Z6 shipping this November.

Along with the new camera system, Nikon also revealed their Z-Mount lens mount. The Nikon Z6 and Z7 are the first cameras to have the new mount. Three Nikkor Z lenses with be available at launch for Nikon’s new mirrorless family; a 24-70mm f/4, a 35mm f/1.8 and a 50mm f/1.8. Nikon also revealed a road map for nine new lenses to come over the next few years. Current Nikon lenses will be able to be adapted to the new mount as well. Nikon confirmed that they will release a FTZ Mount Adaptor at launch, which will allow existing F-Mount lenses to be used on the new mirrorless bodies (with working autofocus and automatic exposure).

Now, there are a lot of articles online that will cover the specs in detail and I encourage you to check out DP Review’s great coverage of the cameras for more on that end. I want to discuss my initial takeaways and what it means for us wildlife and landscape photographers.

  • Only One Card Slot

Yes, you read that right. Both models have a single XQD slot…that’s it. What was Nikon thinking? In my opinion, this is a big miss. It doesn’t mean much to me personally, but it means a lot to the market. Many photographers use two card slots for redundancy so they can back-up their images to an additional card in case there is card failure. Others shoot RAW on one card and JPEG on the other. Personally, I use a single card, but I still don’t like this. I’d love to have the choice to use an XQD or SD card or both.  Sony’s pro mirrorless bodies give you that option. Size and weight is important, but it’s not so important to cut out a feature that should almost be guaranteed in any new pro camera body.  I know the portrait and wedding photographers are up in arms over this, it’s not a deal breaker for me, but it does leave me scratching my head.

  • In-Body Stabilization

One of the most important features available on mirrorless bodies is that of in-body stabilization. In-body stabilization is possible with DSLR models, but the price to engineer it would sky rocket the price of camera bodies…so it being available in mirrorless bodies is a definite bonus. This is one of THE most important features for me.  Landscape photography is my passion. I want to create great landscape shots and we know how important composition can be. Often, the best compositions come from finding a unique angle or perspective, but to get that perfectly sharp shot you need to setup and position your tripod just right, sometimes it’s impossible to do that. That’s where in-body stabilization comes into play. The Z6 and Z7 sport a 5-axis in-body image stabilization system, similar to Sony. That gives you 5 stops of stabilization. That can almost eliminate using a tripod in a lot of situations. I have heard reports of Sony users hand holding shots at slow shutter speeds like ½ second and still getting a sharp, usable result.  I hope Nikon’s system is comparable. Regardless, one day in-body stabilization will remove tripods from the equation for the majority of image situations and that’s exciting to me. This is great for wildlife shooters too. Now, you should be able to get the benefit from in-body stabilization as well as the stabilization from VR lenses if you adapt them. For instance, adapting the 400mm f/2.8 VR to a Nikon Z6 or Z7 could give you a nice cushion in terms of stabilization.

  • Lens Support

For all you out there with a closet full of Nikon F-Mount lenses, they will be adaptable and fully integrated with Nikon’s FTZ Mount Adapter. Now, you never want to put another element in between the sensor and lens when you don’t have to, but initial reports say the adapter works great. I’m most looking forward to Nikon’s 2019-2020 releases though. Nikon announced their flagship 14-24mm f/2.8 wide-angle back in 2007 and they have been due to release a new wide-angle. It looks like we will get two of them in the next two years in the 14-30mm f/4 and a new model of the 14-24mm f/2.8. The new Z-mount was engineered with a larger diameter mount, which Nikon says allows more light in and will make for great optical innovations in the future. I’m really excited for their future releases, especially since I’m mainly a landscape photographer. The new wide angles should be fantastic lenses. For wildlife, it looks like most of us will have to adapt Nikon’s super tele F-Mount primes for a while. There are no new super teles slated for release as of now.  For 2018, new Z-mount lenses available will be a 35mm f/1.8, a 50mm f/1.8, and a 24-70mm f/4.

  • Battery Life

One of the biggest complaints for the early Sony mirrorless bodies was battery life. It was pretty pathetic when compared to DSLRs. Since then, Sony has made huge improvements and battery life was one of my concerns for Nikon’s mirrorless bodies. The Nikon Z6 and Z7 have battery life specifications of 310 and 330 images respectively, as measured by CIPA. Compare that to the Nikon D850 at 1840 shots. This is quite alarming, but real life battery performance is often much better than the listed CIPA standards. Some testers have reported getting 1600+ shots out of a single charge. This is something that should be monitored when the cameras are actually shipped out and more reviews surface. I understand that an EVF will suck battery much faster, but I’m hopeful for some decent battery life. There is a dual-battery grip being developed by Nikon, but I’m not interested in expanding the size of the body to get battery battery life. The grip could be very useful for wildlife shooters though, as it should expand the buffer as well as the battery life.

 

My Thoughts

I am a Nikon shooter and I am genuinely excited about this announcement. I’m happy Nikon is moving into the mirrorless market. However, I am not planning on purchasing a Nikon Z7 and I will keep my Nikon D810 for the time being. This is their first iteration and there will be bugs that will have to be worked out. It will be a process, just look at Sony’s development, their first release had issues, but they’ve now pretty much perfected their mirrorless line. It’s great that Sony now has a competitor in Nikon, and they should gain another very soon in Canon. Sony is producing fantastic mirrorless bodies, but I am confident Nikon can do the same and potentially produce even better mirrorless bodies. Hence, I’m planning on waiting to purchase a Nikon mirrorless camera and I have decided to not switch to Sony (I was considering it). I really don’t want to have to adapt an F-Mount lens to the new Z-Mount system on the new Nikon cameras so my plan is to wait until the new Z-Mount wide-angles are released, specifically the 14-24mm f/2.8 in 2020. My hope is that Nikon will release new mirrorless models by that time, which are much improved over the Z6 and Z7. Overall, the Nikon Z6 and Z7 look great, I think the ‘good’ features outweigh the ‘bad’ by a lot.  Check out some of the in-depth reviews that have been posted around the internet since the release last week. Handling, autofocus, and image quality seem to be excellent judging by the early reviews. I recommend buying either model if you’re in the market for a new camera. I will be passing for now, but I can say for sure that I will eventually be purchasing a Nikon mirrorless body.

 

Matt Meisenheimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin.  His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.

Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.

As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.

You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com

1 reply
  1. Bob Panick
    Bob Panick says:

    Its nice to see Nikon finally release a mirrorless camera. I moved to Olympus mirrorless cameras 4 years ago, and sold the last of my Nikon gear 3 years ago. I don’t plan to move back, if nothing else my wife would kill me for spending that much money, again.

    What amazes me is the hype these cameras are getting. I’m sure they’ll produce nice images, but by the standards of mirrorless technology these are pretty basic cameras. If Olympus, Panasonic or Fuji had released a camera with just basic functionality like this, they would go out of business. Frame rates are pathetic for mirrorless, the buffer is anemic and they only have basic mirrorless functionality. Steve Perry did an interesting review of the specs and panned the cameras for wildlife. His take is the D850 and D500 are still superior cameras, and I agree with him.

    What I can’t figure out is why Nikon and for that matter Sony haven’t copied what Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji pioneered in mirrorless. Really, both Sony and Nikon are years behind the state of the art. I’m not going to go into all the details, of the differences, go take a look at the Olympus E-M1 mark II or the Panasonic G9 or GH5 to get an idea of what state of the art looks like.

    Reply

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