Nikon Z7 First Look

Key Features

  • Review Price: £3,399 (body only)
  • 45.7-megapixel Full-frame CMOS sensor
  • 493-point hybrid AF system
  • 64–25600 ISO range
  • 9fps continuous shooting
  • 3.2-inch, 2,100k-dot touchscreen

What is the Nikon Z7?

One half of Nikon’s new full-frame mirrorless camera duo, the Z7 is the power couple’s high resolution model with a 45.7-megapixel sensor. It’s aimed at professionals and has a price tag to match.

In terms of body design and usability, the Z7 is identical to the more affordable Z6. But under the bonnet there are few crucial differences, including a more powerful, 493-point autofocus system.

Can it compete with its main rival, Sony’s A7R III? I tried one out at Nikon’s launch event to get an idea.

Nikon Z7 – Design and handling

Both of Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras use the same body design and construction. If you’re coming to Nikon mirrorless from its DSLRs, you’ll likely feel right at home as Nikon has basically designed a slightly miniaturised DSLR. In fact, it might not even be considered that miniature if you’re used to using one of Nikon’s smaller entry-level bodies like the D3400.

Making the decision to keep the Z7 nice and chunky means that it feels both reassuringly weighty and well-built in the hand. We’re told it’s constructed to the same tough standard as the Nikon D850, so it should withstand a shower or two, as well as the odd knock or scrape.

The Z7 is also a little larger than its closest rival, the Sony A7R III. The upshot is that the buttons feel much better spaced and are individually larger than on the Sony, which helps it avoid the cramped feeling you often get when shooting with an A7 series camera.

There’s a deep grip, while the array of buttons surrounding on the body will again be familiar to anybody who has used a Nikon DSLR. There’s the familiar feel of a dual control dial at the front and rear of the grip to adjust shutter speed and manual, while a joystick at the back can be used to shift the focus point around the frame, or move through menus.

To take a shortcut to certain features, hit the “i” button and either use the physical buttons or tap the screen to make changes. Rounding off the button set is a navi-pad, menu button, drive mode button, magnification buttons, an AF-On button (useful for ‘back button focusing’), and a display button. All but the playback and delete buttons are grouped on the right hand side of the body.

Nikon Z6 Z7

Moving back to the camera’s top-plate for a second and you’ll see a mode dial, which is relatively simple. You’ve got all your semi-automatic and manual modes, as well as a fully-automatic mode and room for custom groups of settings. Whether the pros that this is aimed at will want to use a fully automatic mode is questionable, but it at least means that anybody can pick up the Z7 and start shooting straightaway.

Handily, there’s also a top-plate LCD where you can view all of your main settings, such as shutter speed, ISO and remaining space on the memory card.

Speaking of memory cards, it’s time to brace yourself for the controversy. The Z7 is packing just one memory card slot, and it’s XQD.

Not only is that bad news for anybody who wants to use a second slot for backup or overflow, but XQDs are not the cheapest to buy, especially considering you’ll probably want to buy a reader too.

For now at least, anybody buying a Z7 will be furnished with a free XQD card. There is good reason for choosing this format – it’s faster than SD, and some would say, it’s more robust too. When you’re talking about shooting quickly at super high resolutions, speed is most definitely what you need. Expect to see lots of complaints from naysayers, though.

Nikon Z7 – Screen and Viewfinder

Nikon knows that it needs to win over DSLR die-hards with the Z7. One huge potential stumbling block is convincing photographers to move from an optical viewfinder to an electronic one.

To combat that, Nikon has equipped the Z7 with a best-in-class electronic viewfinder that should please even the fussiest photographer. It offers an impressive 3,690k-dots, as well as 0.8x magnification.

We need to try this viewfinder in a variety of different shooting conditions, but it is a hugely impressive EVF.

You get a bright, clear view of the scene, no noticeable lag and all of the benefits an electronic finder brings (such as being able to quickly check whether you’ve got the shot). If you’re in any doubt, pop into your local camera shop to give it a go.

The viewfinder is joined by a tilting, 3.2-inch, 2,100k-dot touch-sensitive screen. The tilting mechanism makes it handy to shoot from slightly awkward angles, while the fact that it’s touch-sensitive means you can control various settings, move the focus point around the frame and even fire off the shutter release.

One slight disappointment is the fact that you can’t continue to use the screen while shooting through the viewfinder to alter focus point – something that many other mirrorless cameras offer. Still, using the joystick is a good alternative.

Nikon Z7 – Features

Although the Z7 and the Z6 use the same body design, there are big differences in a few key areas. The Z7 has a higher resolution 45-megapixel sensor (compared to the 24.5-megapixel sensor of the Z6).

It also has a better AF system, with 493-points, compared to the Z6’s 273. You get approximately 90% coverage of the frame, which is very appealing to DSLR users who are used to having to deal with a very central spread of focus points. We need to test focusing speeds more, but initial impressions at the launch event were very good.

Another significant difference is in the ISO range. The Z7 gives you a native ISO range of 64–25600, while the lower resolution Z6 equips you a 100–51200 ISO range. While that isn’t exactly restrictive, it’s clear that the Z7 is not the one that’s intended for low-light shooting.

Finally, frame rates from the Z7 are a little slower – understandable considering that massive resolution. You’ll get 9fps shooting, compared with 12fps from the Z6.

The Z7 has an official battery life rating of 330 shots. Nikon tells us that in the real world, some photographers have managed to push this to almost double that, but it’s still small fry compared to something like the Nikon D850.

There are two bits of good news though; a battery grip which will hold two additional batteries is in development, and there’s in-camera USB charging for power boosts while you’re out and about.

Nikon Z7 – Lenses

Nikon is obviously keen to show existing DSLR fans how much it still loves them. Although the new mirrorless cameras use an entirely new Z-mount, you can buy an optional FTZ adapter (which costs £269) to let you use existing F-mount lenses with it.

Nikon Z6 Z7

At launch, Nikon is announcing just three proprietary lenses for the new mount. There is a 24-70mm f/4 lens (which is sold as part of a Z7 kit), a 35mm f/1.8 and a 50mm f/1.8. Nikon has also announced the development of a 58mm f/0.95 ‘Noct’ lens, with the ultra-wide aperture being possible due to the wider dimensions of Nikon’s new mount.

Nikon has also shared a lens roadmap, which shows that there will be a slew of different lenses available in the next two years, including zooms and primes. Nikon’s new F-mount 500mm lens, which is super-small (for a 500mm) would also make an ideal partner to this camera for sports and wildlife shooters.

Nikon Z7 – First Impressions

We’ve had to wait quite a while for the Z7 to finally make an official appearance, which has given Nikon’s biggest rival in this market, Sony, quite a headstart.

Nikon is clearly attempting to win back any lost audiences who may have jumped ship, and with the Z7, we think it stands a good chance. Those who were on the verge of ditching all their Nikon gear now they have something quite exciting to cling onto, too.

Nikon Z6 Z7

After what felt like a long time spent worrying about cannibalising DSLR sales, it now seems like Nikon is thinking sensibly about the future.

There are lots of interesting features to love about the Z7, including that fantastic viewfinder, super-sharp sensor and handling, which manages to balance a small size while remaining satisfyingly chunky.

However, there are also a couple of things that are likely to rankle with the many photographers who’ve waited so long for the Z7 to make an appearance. Top of that list is the decision to stick with a single XQD card slot – yes, they’re fast, but many pros will not want to risk being without a backup in once-in-a-lifetime shooting situations (sports, weddings, even wildlife).

Initial impressions suggest that image quality will be fantastic, but we’ll be keen to put it properly through our lab tests to confirm that – watch this space for a full review before it launches in late September 2018.

Nikon Z7 – The Rivals

Sony A7R III

It’s taken Nikon so long to come up with the goods that we’re already three generations in to Sony’s highest resolution full-frame mirrorless. The Sony A7R III offers up a very similar resolution to the Z7 (42 megapixels), a faster frame rate (10fps), dual card slots (SD, though), plus a similar high-resolution viewfinder and screen combo – but it’s available at a cheaper price than the Z7.

If for some reason, you’re coming to the market anew and aren’t already tied to the Nikon ecosystem, for now at least, the Sony wins out.

Nikon D850

Nikon D850

In some respects, the Z7 is like a miniature Nikon D850. It’s got the same tough construction, a similar high-resolution sensor, and comparable frame rates. You also get a much better battery life, an optical viewfinder and traditional handling.

But the price you pay is a heavier and larger body and no silent shutter option. There’s not necessarily a clear winner here per se, but if you’re considering upgrading, you now have an extra round of thinking to do.

Features

Camera type Mirrorless Camera
Megapixels (Megapixel) 45.7-megapixel
Image Sensor Full-frame CMOS sensor
LCD Monitor 3.2-inch, 2,100k-dot touchscreen
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