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.
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.
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.
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:
- Automatic display switch — display switches from the LCD to the EVF when you put the camera up to your eye;
- Viewfinder Only — The EVF is used for shooting, playback, and menus, and the LCD is off;
- Monitor Only — The LCD is used for shooting, playback, and menus, and the EVF is off;
- 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!
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.
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