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How-to's Camera Reviews

Nikon Z7 First Impressions

Jonathan Kandel (JonK)


Keywords: z7, mirrorless, jonk

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I have been handling the Z7 for about two weeks, test shooting in my apartment, general shooting around the neighborhood, and on two dedicated landscape shoots. Following are my observations. This is not a full review; it is not intended to compete with the articles by professional reviewers, and I won’t recite the camera specs — if you are reading this article you memorized them months ago. And my opinions are based on how I set up a camera which may vary from your set up. 

For the benefit of those who have not met me in person — which, given the self-imposed limits of our internet camaraderie, is almost all of you — here’s a brief introduction. I’m 68, 5'5", weigh 160 lbs., and my hands are medium size. I usually shoot Manual Exposure with unlimited Auto ISO, I use back button AF, and I never shoot movies. All that said, here we go.

01

The Nikon Z7 with 24-70mm f/4 S
Click for an enlargement

 

Ergonomics

As anticipated, the camera is small and light. For street, travel, and casual photo walks — in other words, with a prime or a short zoom, the weight savings is very noticeable. Necks and shoulders everywhere will be thankful. Even with longer, heavier lenses — I tested the 105mm f/1.4 and the 70-200mm f/4 — the kit is still noticeably lighter and well balanced.

The Touch Screen is as good or better than its recent DSLR cousins — except it does not articulate as much. It only tilts, not side swing, still very good for overhead and ground-level shooting. 

02

Nikon Z7 Touch Screen
Click for an enlargement

 

According to others’ tests, the battery performs considerably better than the CIPA rating, and performance can be further enhanced. I won’t engage in the debate about the “missing” second card slot except to point out that the failure rate of XQD cards, compared to CF and SD cards, is almost zero.

The grip is very similar to the D850 grip. It is very comfortable. With my fingers fully snugged around the grip and the tips touching the camera body, access to the F1 and F2 buttons with my middle and ring fingers, respectively, is easy and efficient.

The controls on the top right and the back of the camera are in familiar position compared to the D850, but the spacing is slightly changed. The index finger sits nicely over the shutter release and easily reaches the ISO and Record buttons. Pulling the finger back to reach the Exposure Compensation (EV) button requires a bit more effort but is not uncomfortable. The Command Dial felt positive under my thumb. As with the EV Button, the Sub-command Dial requires pulling my index finger back and down, and I find myself occasionally shifting my hand position on the grip. This may or may not improve with more repetition. Those of you with large hands will almost certainly position your hand on the grip differently.

Electronic Viewfinder

The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) is a gem. It provides 100% view, behaving like the optical viewfinder on the D850 but with greater magnification. On the left side of the EVF housing is a button that cycles through four combinations of EVF and liquid Crystal Display (LCD) operation: 

  1. Automatic display switch — display switches from the LCD to the EVF when you put the camera up to your eye; 
  2. Viewfinder Only — The EVF is used for shooting, playback, and menus, and the LCD is off; 
  3. Monitor Only — The LCD is used for shooting, playback, and menus, and the EVF is off;
  4. Prioritize Viewfinder — Similar operation to a DSLR: the monitor only turns on for playback and menus, and the EVF turns on and off as you put the camera up to your eye and later take it away. I’m using Prioritize Viewfinder because of its similarity to what I’m used to coming from a DSLR. That mode probably also uses less battery than the other modes, increasing the total number of shots per charge.

Compared to the Optical Viewfinder (OVF) on a DSLR, the EVF provides a number of new benefits. Seeing the histogram, focus peaking, and highlight warnings in the EVF instead of on the LCD is so much faster and more efficient. For low light photography the EVF is brighter than an OVF; it’s much easier to see the scene. Menus and Image Playback are possible through the EVF, totally eliminating use of the LCD — and the difficulty in reviewing images on the LCD in bright light.

And there’s one other benefit to the EVF. Since it is WYSIWYG, the selected Picture Control is displayed, which is especially useful for Monochrome. For creative types who use the new Picture Controls — Dream, Morning, Pop, Sunday, Somber, Dramatic, Silence, Bleached, Melancholic, Pure, Denim, Toy, Sepia, Blue, Red, Pink, Charcoal, Graphite, Binary, and Carbon — the EVF shows the chosen effect. And — surprise! — Picture Control settings are now read by Lightroom!

Sidebar

Adobe and Nikon have been collaborating. The Z7 NEF contains new XMP data — camera profile (the Picture Control setting), sharpening settings, noise reduction settings, and more — that Lightroom now reads and applies to the image. The usual Picture Controls — Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Portrait, and Landscape — are correctly displayed as the chosen Camera profile in the Profile slot on the Basic Panel of the Develop Module. Interestingly, the Sharpness Amount changes with each of those profiles. More interestingly, the Noise Reduction settings vary with ISO. The Luminance value gradually increases as ISO rises, and the Sharpening Amount is reduced at specified higher ISO values. 

A few Picture Controls — Clarity, Midrange Sharpening, and Color Filter settings — were ignored, but could easily be added in a firmware upgrade from Nikon. ADL is also read by Lightroom, and while I did not test it, I have been told that the implementation is a bit wonky. We’ll see.

(40 Votes )
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Originally written on November 8, 2018

Last updated on December 22, 2020

Jonathan Kandel Jonathan Kandel (JonK)

Awarded for his high level skills and in-depth knowledge in various areas, such as Wildlife, Landscape and Stage Photography Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Alexandria, USA
Moderator, 8600 posts

11 comments

Neill Graham (NDGraham) on February 16, 2020

Thanks, Jon. Your review has swayed me towards the Z7 with my F mount glass on the FTZ. As I am starting my 70s and recently retired, this will likely be my last pro level camera. So I look forward to the IQ of the large sensor.

Stan Fong (Stan_Fong) on November 18, 2018

Nice review, Jon!

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 12, 2018

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you very much Jon for this thorough review. I believe that while the D850 and Z7 sensors may be similar, the new generation SPEED 6 processor on the Z cameras could very well have a significant impact on rendering. Looking forward to see your image quality tests.

Karen Gottschall (scenicshutterbug) on November 11, 2018

John, Thanks for the review. I didn't realize the menus and playback features were accessible through the EVF. That is a very handy feature! I just returned from a 3-week trip to China where I used the Z7 almost exclusively and was not disappointed with it! I had one problem with moire on a black and white striped shirt in one image. Other images with the same shirt were fine. I also had one slight panic attack when I accidentally hit the EVF button and turned off the viewfinder. It took me a few minutes to figure out what I had done, but it was easily fixed. I used the FTZ with my 70-300 G IF-ED lens a few times. The balance felt fine, but the lens seemed to hunt a bit for focus. I have not yet tested it with any other lenses, so I have no conclusions about this yet. The camera worked superbly with the 24-70 kit lens. I also noticed no problems with battery life, but I shoot almost exclusively with the viewfinder. Karen

Jonathan Kandel (JonK) on November 10, 2018

Awarded for his high level skills and in-depth knowledge in various areas, such as Wildlife, Landscape and Stage Photography Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Otto, I also liked Ming Thein’s review of the Z7. But even he got hung up on minor points — the missing “protect” button, for instance — and he disagreed with the placement of the major back-button controls, notably the DISP button and the Joystick. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. While I am not quite get completely used to the positions, I am sure I would not want those two interchanged. I, um, rarely read anything on depreview… :-)

Jonathan Kandel (JonK) on November 10, 2018

Awarded for his high level skills and in-depth knowledge in various areas, such as Wildlife, Landscape and Stage Photography Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

David, I have yet to do A-B testing, though I do intend to shoot a Colorchecker with both bodies. My gut feeling is that the IQ is the same — no surprise, the sensors are technically very similar. Post work feels the same for Z7 files as for D850 files — in fact, I am using the same preset, as of yet there is no good reason to change it. More to come…

Peter Mandzuk (Petzuk) on November 10, 2018

Good insight to the new Z. Thanks for posting.

David Kuttler (kuttler) on November 9, 2018

Thanks Jon - Enjoyed your opening give a good perspective on how the camera felt to someone with your body which helped me since I have not had a chance to hold one. Can you say something about picture quality from your point of view say compared to the 850?

User on November 9, 2018

Thank you Jon for an interesting and enjoyable reading. Like probably many of you I have read the review at dpreview, and I don't understand why they seemingly blow some minor issues out of proportin. I can recommend the review of Z7 (and the new 24-70) by photographer Ming Thein here: https://blog.mingthein.com/2018/09/29/2018-nikon-z7-24-70-review/

Geoff Baylis (GBaylis) on November 9, 2018

Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Awarded for his generous and continuous sharing of his high level skills with the Nikonians community Writer Ribbon awarded for his contributions to the Nikonians Articles. Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his win at the Best of Nikonians 2107 Annual Photo Contest Winner of the Best of Nikonians Images 2018 Annual Photo Contest

Thanks Jon for an enjoyable read. It's nice to get a hands-on review about what's good for 99% of us rather than those reviews that seem to set out to uncover the 'deficiencies' versus the latest DSLRs Geoff.

David Summers (dm1dave) on November 9, 2018

Awarded for high level knowledge and skills in various areas, most notably in Wildlife and Landscape Writer Ribbon awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Nikonians community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art a

A good practical hands-on article. Thanks John!

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