Before I kick this off, I want to give a disclaimer. I'm a Nikon fan, I shoot with a Nikon, and most of my Lenses are Nikon, but I think i'm pretty objective. You know how those Apple fans go "oh you should get an Apple" and then when you ask them why, the answer is always "Oh cause they're just better". We'll I'm pretty sure I'm not going to do that. I love some of the tech and features built into Nikon bodies, but they're not perfect, and I don’t think any camera is.
Nikon and the legends over at Macarthur Camera House were kind enough to hook me up with the Z7 to use for a week and while they asked me to review it, they did specifically ask me to be as objective as possible, which is what I’m going to do, no bias here!
I also want to keep the review relevant to the kind of shooting I do, i.e. landscape, seascape, street ect as otherwise this review, would stretch out to phonebook length.
To me the body felt very solid. The buttons give good feedback and feel, and the grip on the right hand side is nice and deep. I've heard some reports and feedback from other photographers that it doesn't feel quite as well built as the Canon equivalent. That may be true, the Canon does feel like an absolute tank, but this certainly feels very, very solid in hand. It is slightly lighter than my current camera, weighing in at 675g, but feels well balanced with the lenses I used with it (14-24 f2.8, 24-70 f4, 70-200 f2.8)
The button layout is slightly different to any modern Nikon full frame camera, but it's not too tricky to get your head around. The left hand dial now adjusts the advanced shooting modes (apeture priority, shutter priority, manual ect). By default, the other shooting modes (high speed continuous, low speed continuous, timer ect) are accessed via the touch screen, but many of the buttons and dials are adjustable, so you can customize the layout however you'd like.
I found the EVF (electronic view finder) excellent. Some people hate them, some love them. I'm definately the latter. It has a good amount of detail with 1,228,800 pixels, this matches the Sony, and is significantly more than the canon EOS R.
One of the big advantages of an EVF is the fact that you can see exactly what you're going to shoot (exlcuing any long exposure effect obviously). You can see your exposure and you can see your depth of field without any dimming. Not just that, you can have your histogram displayed in there, along with a virtual horizon. I do a fair bit of real estate photography which requires you to not only bracket shots because of the big variance in exposures required between inside and out, but you also need to make sure you horizon is level. This of course means that you need to be using a tripod, but given the huge dynamic range of the Z7 and the virtual horizon built into the EVF you can actually get away with shooting hand held in some cases. This is a huge, huge advantage for someone like me. You can position your camera in areas you may not have been able to previously, and get workable images.
The EVF does have a few negatives however; firstly there is some lag. It never really bothered me too much, but it is noticeable when you're used to an optical view finder. Secondly, in low light the EVF will crank the iso way up and and also increase the exposure time, this leads to additional lag. Again, for me, it wasn't a huge deal but it could be a pain depending on what you're shooting.
Oh, and the Z7 has lens profiles built into it, and automatically applies lens correction when looking through the EVF, which can be really helpful as well.
One of the features I was really keen to test out was the in-built image stabilization, which Nikon call Vibration Reduction. The vision I had in my mind with VR was to be able to shoot landscapes and water flows with exposures of around 1/4 of a second hand held. Again, this would rid me of the need to use a tripod and and make shooting water flow just so much easier. I wasn't initially aware however that the 5 axis image stabilization is reduced down to 3 axis when using adapted F-Mount lenses, and most of my time spent with the camera I was using the Nikon 14-24 f2.8 (F Mount).
In practice, if you shot ten exposures at 1/4 of a second, you’d probably get one or two sharp ones. If you were using a native Z-Mount lens, It’d be more like nine out of ten If you're using an adapted lens with built in VR however, the effect will compound. I did a bit of filming at 200mm handheld and it's surprisingly smooth. VR is a small advantage if you're going to be using adapted lenses, but it'll be immensely helpful when Nikon releases a full range of Z-Mount lenses.
Image quality is fantastic. 45.7 MP means huge amounts of detail, but also means you need high end lenses, a rock-solid tripod, and a decent PC to take full advantage of it all. You can reduce the resolution, and crop down to APS-C levels in camera if you want however. Like the D810 and D850, the Z7 has a native base ISO of 64, which gives a huge dynamic range, with shadows retaining plenty of detail.
At the other end of the scale, the Z7 handles high noise really well. At 6,400 there is almost no noise and you can push all the way up to 25,600 and have usable images (in a small instagram crop at least).
I feel like the wifi is a missed opportunity. You connect your phone to the camera using Nikon's app, Snapbridge, which lets you download pictures, and remotely control the camera. Using the app you can switch through aperture priority, shutter priority, manual ect and you can adjust all settings on the exposure triangle, as well as exposure compensation and white balance, which is all good. The problem is that the camera takes ages to connect, and it disconnects every time you go back to the app's main menu. Also, it's a pain to use for really long exposures greater than 30 seconds. You can't select bulb mode from the app, so you need to go into the camera, select manual, then bulb mode, then go back to the app. Not a huge deal in itself, but the app doesn't let you set a timer or an exposure time, so you need to hit the shutter button and hit it again when you think you've nailed the exposure. No timer appears on the screen, and you can't exit out of the app to open a timer app because this will disconnect you. I do alot of long exposure photography and I really found this one annoying. Also, for some strange reason, you can't use ISO 64 with bulb mode on snapbridge, which for me makes it useless. If i'm shooting a long exposure landscape image, I’d want the lowest possible ISO.
I did like how I could preview the images on my phone however. One afternoon I was shooting down at Kirribili and a few of my friends were shooting at different vantage points around the Sydney Harbor. I could quickly share with them images straight out of camera without taking a photo of the back screen.
Despite what Nikon have said, I didn't find the focusing to be as good as the D850, and in some cases even my D800. In good light it is very quick, but in reduced light with low contrast it would often hunt. You would need to position the focus point over an area of significant contrast and hope that it nails it.
You can select a small, medium or large focus point (as well as area focus ect) but I found the medium focus point to be the quickest. The native lens i tested (24-70 f4) was slightly better than adapted lenses, but neither were amazing.
For me, these are the main points. Yes it only has the one card slot, and battery life is a little less than a DSLR, but it's not too bad. Is it worth buying? I think it depends on what you're shooting with at the moment and also how rich you are. It's currently sitting at $5,500 with the adapter, which is unbelievably expensive, almost $1,000 more than the D850. If you shoot weddings, portraits, sports ect i'd probably go for the D850, but if you're almost exclusively landscape like me then it's an absolute cracker, and will only get better when new native lenses become available.