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Nikon Z7 Camera Review: The Company’s First Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera is Not Really Worth the Hefty Price Tag

Equipped with a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and the first ever on-sensor phase detect system, Nikon has released its first ever full-frame mirrorless camera – the Nikon Z7. It comes jam-packed with features that seem impressive enough to tick off every photographer’s dream camera specs, such as its 45.7 megapixels sensor, 493 on sensor phase detect system, a blistering 9 frames per second, and a 3.6 million dot electronic viewfinder. Would it live up to our expectations? We put it to the test and here’s what we found:


Body and Handling

Nikon Z7: Body and Handling

Due to the absence of a mirror box, the Nikon Z7 camera has a significantly smaller body as compared to its DSLR counterparts. Nikon did not compromise on its grip – there’s a deeper and more secure grip than current mirrorless cameras out there, which makes it comfortable to hold for long periods of time. In fact, the grip of the Nikon Z7 reminds me of its own D800 series, as its controls are all in familiar places. A fellow Nikon user will be equally acquainted and used to the camera’s grip.

The camera also features Nikon’s dual command dials; one at the back of the camera for shutter speed, and one at the front for aperture which can be changed in the menus. There’s also a joystick to select the 493 autofocus points – yet another feature that is similar to that of the Nikon D5 and D850 body, allowing the selection of autofocus points to be done intuitively and swiftly.

Menu Navigation & Usability

Nikon Z7: Menu and Usability
Shot with Nikon Z7 35mm F1.8 S. Edited in Lightroom Classic CC

With a 3.2-inch tilting touch screen, the Nikon Z7 allows its user to interact with the camera’s menus and adjust autofocusing points with relative ease. Sadly, the Z7 does not allow adjustment of the autofocusing point by dragging your finger across the touch screen – an agile and intuitive feature that has been implemented on the Sony A6500.

The Electronic viewfinder (EVF) in the Nikon Z7 is outstanding with 3.6 million pixels, featuring the highest resolution and puts it on par with other high-end mirrorless cameras in the market. The Nikon Z7’s EVF brings the benefit of dynamic display and shows information such as the trinity settings, the autofocus mode – functions that ease the photographer’s performance when this commonly used information need to be referred to.

For example, the photographer does not need to take his eyes off the EVF at all, or if the monitor just isn’t bright enough to be seen. It is also a distance away from the screen, which ensures that your nose wouldn’t touch the tilting monitor. This experience may vary among people of different nasal radix, but for someone whose nose constantly smears grease on my DSLR, I would say the Nikon Z7’s EVF has benefitted me in this way.

Image Quality & Stablisation

Nikon Z7: Image Stabilisation
Shot with Nikon Z7 85mm F1.8G. Edited in Lightroom Classic CC

The Nikon Z7 is equipped with five-axis in body image stabilisation (IBIS), which has proven to be reliable and extremely useful if you are shooting in low light situations or engaging in any forms of motion control photography that will be prone to camera shake. If you were to mount the FTZ adapter on the camera, there will only be 3-axis image stabilisation, which will still be useful for those F-mount lenses that do not have Vibration Reduction (VR) built into them, such as the Nikon 85mm 1.4G or the 105mm F1.4G. If you are using the F-mount lenses that has VR built into them on the Nikon Z7, it will allow the camera’s IBIS to work to its full potential.

Sensitivity to Light

The camera’s new BSI CMOS sensor has a native ISO range of 64 to 25600, and is expandable up 102400. The Nikon Z7 bakes the images’ details to the raw files, which makes minor adjustments to the file automatically when the files are imported into Adobe Lightroom CC. Removing the minor adjustments will result in the noise being grainier, and this is something to take note of for photo editing.

While you may be able to remove all of the settings, it is still an additional step I wish Nikon did not force me to take. Raw files look great all the way up till ISO 6400, after removing the minor adjustments, however, colour noise is noticeable at ISO 6400 when you look at it at 1:1 aspect ratio. ISO 12800 onwards shows severe colour noise and produces grainy images especially in low lighting, making the images close to unusable without applying any form of noise reduction.

Autofocus

Nikon Z7: Autofocus
Shot with Nikon Z7 85mm F1.8G. Edited in Lightroom Classic CC

The Nikon Z7‘s autofocus came as a pleasant surprise. At first, it seemed as though the camera couldn’t focus on continuous and only could do so in the single mode. However, after using it for portrait shoots and a couple of soccer games, the Nikon Z7 impressed me a lot with its performance. Its single autofocus mode is easy to use with its wide coverage, and the ability of the touch screen monitor to focus makes the experience snappy and very reliable, though I noticed a couple of times when it missed focus.

The continuous autofocus mode was what I loved the most about the Nikon Z7. Using a Nikon 70-200mm VR II with the FTZ mount adapter, the camera captured 90% or more shots in focus with all the different types of autofocus mode. All modes held up great, but the best for me was the auto setting as it had the face-detect function and it felt just like the 3D focus mode on most Nikon DSLRs. The Nikon Z7 recomposes focus quickly on a different subject and even keeps up with it. Its 9 frames per second (fps) and absence of the viewfinder blackout definitely made things easier for me during my shoots, as it minimises the need to check if I have missed focus.

Final Verdict

As Nikon’s first ever mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z7 fits into the niche perfectly as a studio, portrait, and landscape camera. Its autofocus excels in these situations as unlike the DSLRs, it is easier to toggle between autofocus points. With a lighter body and a smaller footprint in my backpack, I found myself having fun with it without feeling the usual pain on my shoulders. Its native lenses are also extremely light and portable although there are limited choices at this point. With that said, Nikon has released a roadmap of upcoming releases of new lenses and we will definitely see more in the year ahead.

The ability to adapt my F-mount lenses made moving over to the Z series simple and intuitive with just the use of an adapter, and this is extremely convenient for photographers who have a large collection of Nikon F-mount lenses. I have also not noticed any drop in focus speed between the S-series lenses and the F-mount lenses that Nikon produced. For those who are moving from the Nikon DSLR system, I’ll say that the Nikon Z7 is worth a shot if you believe that a lighter and more compact camera build is what you need in your existing gear lineup.

However, for those who are thinking of switching systems or are looking to get a mirrorless camera, I would suggest looking for other options out there which are less costly and more reliable than the Nikon Z7. The need to add a secondary storage card slot and the lack of an eye or face detector in its different modes is definitely what’s holding the Nikon Z7 back from being the best mirrorless camera out there. However, Nikon did recently announce the eye autofocus function for the Nikon Z series cameras through upcoming firmware updates, and this is definitely something the photography community will be excited to try out when it is released.

I definitely can’t wait to see what Nikon will do and I hope that it will be one that is worth switching over from a DSLR. But for now, I’m still going to stick with my trusty Nikon D810.

The Nikon Z7 is now available from all authorised Nikon retailers. For more information, visit http://www.nikon.com.sg/en_SG/where_to_buy/where_to_buy

Photos by Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC team

Nikon Z7 Mirrorless Digital Camera

$5,149
7

Price

4.0/10

Functionality

8.0/10

Reliability

7.0/10

Image Quality

9.0/10

Pros

  • Lighter and more compact build
  • Ideal for studio, portrait, and landscape shots
  • Outstanding electronic viewfinder dynamic display
  • Good-sized camera body grip

Cons

  • Comes with a hefty price tag
  • Hassle in photo-editing for ISO manipulation
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Darren Chiong

Living on the edge by constantly eating expensive food. Never one to back down from a challenge unless it is Mathematics.

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