Photography is all about smartphones these days, but there are still situations where those little cameras will never manage to do the job of the real shooter. For photography enthusiasts and professionals, Nikon had a range of mirrorless cameras before the Z7 came along but they used a smaller sensor. The Z7 has comes in with a full-frame sensor making Nikon one of just three companies in the world to have this offering, the other two companies being Sony and Leica. Amongst the many advantages of a mirrorless camera is size. Nikon has managed to build a very well-rounded camera comparable to its flagship D850 in a much smaller footprint.
The Z7 looks like it is half the size of Nikon’s D850. It’s much smaller and yet has a super sturdy and solid feel like most of the Nikon line-up. Like many of the DSLR range of cameras it is also made of a magnesium alloy and is weather-sealed. An ergonomic design helps maintain the buttons in the right place (at least for Nikon shooters) and the grip seems to work rather well for a variety of hand sizes. In all, it just feels right in the hand.
Apart from the smaller size and weight of the camera, the next most noticeable thing is the size of the lens mount. The new Z-Mount is huge, at 55mm it looks like a giant, specially when compared to the other DSLRs. Knowing Nikon, it is not going to let the old classic F-Mount fade away into oblivion. They have promptly provided an F-to-Z adapter. This suddenly opens up the opportunity of using any F-Mount lens that you previously owned on the new Z7 and they work without any issues. Over 300 lenses are supported and the best part is, you do not compromise on the light or image quality by using the adapter. Some non-CPU based lenses do not auto-focus but at least they work, and protect your investment.
A new mount means new lenses. The Z7 has a series of lenses already available and more coming out soon. The kit lens, a 24-70 mm f/4.5, is a really nice and versatile lens for both stills and video. The lens is light and super sharp. One really nice touch is the new lens-lock. It prevents the barrel from sliding out and unless unlocked the camera will not shoot.
The Z-series lenses have been criticised for their pricing, they are a little expensive, but if one was to get the kit lens along with FTZ mount adapter then all your old lenses work just fine.
Using the camera was quite a pleasure. If you are a Nikon shooter, you will feel at home right away. The LCD at the back is semi-articulating and touch enabled. The touch menus and systems have improved vastly compared to some of the older Nikon models. What initially felt like a gimmick is now an essential part of most photographer’s workflow and gets extremely useful in many situations.
The controls and buttons on the camera are all in the right place and very familiar to anyone who uses Nikon. For new users too, they are very intuitively placed and one would feel comfortable in no time at all. As with the pro DSLRs the Z-series also offers a lot of customisation and personalisation of the camera. Set it up for various shooting styles, be it stills or video, and be ready for any situation.
The image quality on the Z7 is simply superb. At 46 megapixels, the amount of detail that is captures is just incredible. Even the in-camera processed images are very useable for quickly being shared, but if you shoot serious stuff, then the RAW images have it all. Good dynamic range and a vast amount of detail. Images are about 50 MB in size so one does need large amounts of storage. Speaking of storage, that is one of the areas the Z7 is not doing very well. It has only a single slot XQD card. At the time of writing, the news on XQD cards is also not very positive with one of the prime manufacturers threatening to stop production.
Another first for Nikon is the in-body image stabilisation. A wonderful addition to the Z7 allowing you to shoot in many challenging situations and yet providing the best image quality and sharpness.
Electronic viewfinders have been the bane of mirrorless cameras. But Nikon paid extra attention to this and has built a very usable EVF. It is accurate, with little to no lag for most situations. Rapid action photo situations may suffer a little, but for the most part, it is actually very good. One thing I found odd to use was in a low-light situation the viewfinder was still showing a very bright image, but once you get used to it you do tend to trust it a little more. When you think of Nikon, you never think video. The Z7 is about to change that. It does video very well. Packed with features, 4K videos are suddenly so much easier to make. This camera would be very well suited to the budget film-maker.
Overall, the Z7 is a very well-rounded camera for both still and video. While it is not without problems the series will see improvements given the commitment of Nikon.