Nikon Z7 Review

The Nikon Z7 is the first of the two cameras in Nikon’s new full-frame mirror-less camera system. With its 46 megapixel resolution, rear-exposed CMOS image sensor, it is one of the highest resolution 35 mm cameras on the market and, together with the S-Line lenses, aims to set new standards in image quality. Our test reveals how well Nikon’s first litter was successful and how the picture quality was.

 

Nikon Z7

 

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Robust, splash-proof, high-quality processed housing
  • Excellent electronic viewfinder (large, responsive and high-resolution)
  • Very good image quality up to ISO 3,200
  • High speed (autofocus, storage time, continuous shooting)

Cons

  • Small series picture buffer
  • No eye recognition
  • Wretched slow data transfer via USB-3 interface
  • Not always self-explanatory or sometimes somewhat complicated operation

Nikon Z7

The introduction of the new camera system was a really big event and a big step for Nikon. One year after the hundredth anniversary of the company, the new bayonet at the traditional manufacturer is to create the conditions for the next 100 years, according to the motto. Nikon consistently uses the classic 35mm film format of 36 x 24 mm sensor area, called “FX format” by Nikon (in contrast to the “DX format”, the smaller APS-C equivalent). In order not to have to make any compromises (also in the future), Nikon has chosen a relatively large bayonet diameter of 55 millimetres in connection with a very small distance between bayonet and image sensor (the so-called flange focal length) of only 16 mm. On the one hand, the large diameter makes it possible to construct the lenses in such a way that the light rays still hit the sensor relatively perpendicularly at the edge of the image and thus no loss of light occurs. On the other hand, the large diameter is the prerequisite for the construction of particularly bright lenses, such as the announced Noct with F0.95 luminous intensity (however, Leica has also been building such bright lenses for its much smaller bayonet diameter for years).

The fact that Nikon concentrates fully on the large 35mm full format is certainly a good idea. In recent years, there has been a clear trend towards ever larger sensors. All interchangeable lens systems below Micro-Four-Thirds have disappeared from the market. The APS-C format is widespread and will certainly remain so. But in a few years the 35mm full format will certainly be much more widespread than it is today.

Nikon Z7

The Nikon Z7’s cut compared to a DSLR shows how much space is saved by eliminating the mirror box, optical viewfinder and autofocus unit. With the lens, however, the comparison (different light intensities) limps. [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Nikon Z7

The inner life of the Nikon Z7 here once taken apart. [Photo: Clara Andersson]

At present, however, KB full-frame sensors are still almost exclusively in the upscale segment and this is also the segment in which Nikon has located the new cameras and lenses. More than 800 Euros for a F1.8 standard lens – so far there have been other prices in mind. Top lenses for the full format are not available for little money. But Nikon initially only wants to offer first-class quality with the new system. The lenses presented here all have an “S” in the name for “S-Line”. Thus, it cannot be ruled out that in the future there will be a cheaper lens line for cheaper full-frame cameras. But currently the highest quality is in the foreground.

The impression is already confirmed by my shots with the Nikon Z7 and the 24-70mm F4 lens: The lens is rat sharp up to the edge of the picture and can also be used perfectly with an open aperture (which is only F4). In combination with the large sensor, F4 is not a broken leg, after all, the sensor has enough space for light. So the price for the quality is completely in order and I firmly assume that this will also be the case with the fixed focal lengths already presented.

Nikon Z7

Even the strikingly desingte modern camera strap radiates a certain Nikon self-confidence. Discreet versions of Nikon are also available as an option. [Photo: Clara Andersson]

It’s the same with the cameras. If you take a look at the pricing of the Z 6 and Z7 and know the market, you get the impression that Nikon has based its prices on the comparable Sony models (Alpha 7 III and 7R III). Sure, what else and why not? If you compare the Nikon and Sony models, you can see that Nikon has fortunately transferred its own style from the successful SLR cameras to the Z 6 and Z7 cameras. These include the haptics and housing construction: stable magnesium die-cast chassis on the inside, scratch-resistant plastic parts on the outside with a very pronounced rubber grip, similar to the DSLRs from Nikon recently. But also operating elements, operating concept and menus correspond to what has proven itself with the DSLRs. The whole thing is garnished with a bit more simplicity as well as the very linearly designed housings of the lenses and a stylish and functional OLED status display in the style of some Leica cameras (or the medium format cameras from Fujifilm). Less discreet, but also somehow cool, is the new, eye-catching strap design. If you like it more discreet, you can get more inconspicuous carrying straps not only from third-party manufacturers, but also from Nikon. In Japan I saw a poster at a big dealer, who offers the cameras with one original Nikon belt each individually for the Z 6 (silver grey font) or the Z7 (brown gold font). These belts are available now in the US and the EU since 2020.

Also a sensor shift image stabilization, which Nikon never had with the DSLRs, is now on board with the mirror lots (it would have been really bad, if not). Whether this is self-developed or purchased is not known and can also be irrelevant. What is decisive is that the stabilization creates the promised five f-stops stabilization, which I can already prove. This is an enormous gain in the photographer’s everyday life. This also works with the FTZ adapter and F lenses from the DSLRs. If the DSLR lenses have a built-in stabilizer, both are used in combination. The camera makes the best of it.

The autofocus works just as convincingly as the stabilizer. The autofocus fields cover almost the entire image area (90 percent). With the joystick or touch screen you can set the autofocus measurement where you need it. A green autofocus auxiliary light helps with little or almost no light. Under such boundary conditions, it can occasionally happen that the focus moves aimlessly back and forth. Normally, however, the autofocus is located at the point in fractions of a second – the moment you press the shutter release button halfway, the focus control field already changes from red to green. DSLR photographers should note that there are no front or back focus problems with mirrorless systems, because focusing is done directly at the sensor level. A “tuning” of the camera-lens combination is not necessary. When the autofocus says the image is in focus, it is in focus. In this respect, the combination of the Z 6 or Z7 with the FTZ adapter (read “F-Mount to Z-Mount” adapter) is of course not wrong and does not look stupid at all. I haven’t tried it myself, but the Nikon people and all the journalists who have done it confirm that it works flawlessly and with felt just as fast and precise autofocus.

The viewfinder of the Nikon Z 7 (identical to the Z 6) is the best I’ve seen so far. At best the Fujifilm X-H1 might be able to do it, but there are worlds between the video viewfinders of the Sony Alpha 7 III and the Nikon Z7, for example. The viewfinder image of the Nikon Z7 is absolutely sharp to the edge and above all there are absolutely no single pixels recognizable anymore. Even with the writing at the edge of the picture, almost no steps can be seen. In fact, when photographing with the Z7, I sometimes didn’t even have the feeling of looking through a video viewfinder anymore. Even manual focusing is possible with this viewfinder without any tricks like magnifying the viewfinder. I think every SLR photographer will be able to make friends with this video viewfinder.

Nikon Z7

With the three first lenses, here the 24-70mm F4, the camera-lens combination is perfectly balanced. [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Nikon Z7

The shape of the handle of the Nikon Z 6 and Z7 is perfect. It has a small projection into which the fingers literally hook while carrying it. [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Accessories, such as flash units and even the batteries, can be used by Nikon photographers with the Z-System. Charging the battery inside the camera only works with the latest generation, which obviously has additional sensors built in. Older batteries must be charged externally in the charging cradle. The battery life is by the way more than sufficient. I took about 700 photos with one battery charge and some videos. The latter in 4K and FullHD 120 fps, the modes that really suck battery power. And half of the photos were in Raw (NEF) plus JPEG, the other half only in JPEG, because the 32 GByte memory card was in danger of becoming full. In addition I looked at the photos again and again and deleted some. Pure in JPEG and without videos there should be easily 1,000 photos in it. By the way, I almost always used the sensationally good video viewfinder (also to view the finished photos), which consumes more power than the monitor. By the way: both can be switched off completely, which will please photographers who take remote shots, time-lapse shots or the like. And thanks to the status display on the upper side, you could actually switch off the 3.2-inch monitor if you want to photograph energy-efficiently. So I correct myself again. Who works in such a way and renounces to look back probably creates still clearly more than 1,000 JPEGs.

the reason for this is a rather sophisticated energy saving function, which, however, was obviously also set to “quite economical” by me. If the camera is not in use, it switches the monitor to half brightness after a short time and switches it off again shortly afterwards. Shortly thereafter, the entire camera goes into standby, but wakes up again within fractions of a second as soon as you tap the shutter release button.

Nikon Z7

A 45.7 megapixel reference photo taken as a whole. The next two pictures in the slider show small sections from the center and a corner (Nikon Z 7 with lens 24-70mm F4 at 28 mm with aperture F8). [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Nikon Z7

A tiny 2.1 megapixel detail from the center of the 45.7 megapixel photo (Nikon Z7 with 24-70mm F4 lens at 28mm with F8 aperture). [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Nikon Z7

Also a 2.1 megapixel detail, this time from the lower right corner with very high resolution (Nikon Z7 with lens 24-70mm F4 at 28 mm with aperture F8).[Photo: Clara Andersson]

Nikon uses the XQD memory card format for the two Z cameras and has only one memory card slot at all. Both together is, quite honestly, the only thing I don’t like about the new Nikon system cameras. For example, the Nikon D850 SLR camera has two slots, one for XQD cards and one for SD cards. That’s great. Then everyone can use what he wants and if necessary also write two memory cards at the same time or one after the other. So far, only a few digital cameras use XQD cards. As not new, but quite rare format these cards are expensive (with very high writing speed z. B. approx. 100 Euro for a 32GB card, approx. 150 Euro for 64 GB). If you don’t want to read the cards via the camera (which is not really the case), but via a reading device on the computer, you need a corresponding reading device. These are also still rare and also not quite cheap.

Nikon Z7

A 45.7 megapixel photo contains an enormous amount of detail. In the next picture we show a detail enlargement from this photo (Nikon Z7 with 24-70 mm F4 at 26 mm and F4.5). [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Nikon Z7

1.5 megapixel portion of the photo just shown. By the way, this detail is somewhat sharp, the standard tuning is very reserved (Nikon Z7 with 24-70 mm F4 at 26 mm and F4.5). [Photo: Clara Andersson]

The need for an extremely fast memory card is definitely given, at least when photographing raw data in continuous-advance mode with the 45.7 megapixel camera. A NEF file of the Nikon Z7 has 60 MB, a JPEG in the highest quality up to almost 30 MB. Both can be written at the same time, the whole thing again per second. Practically the camera has to write away 800 MB per second. Not even the Sony XQD card, which was in the Nikon cameras in Japan, can do that. Their writing speed is just half the specified (400 MB/s), the fastest SD card we have in the editorial office (also from Sony) comes to just under 300 MByte/s. By the way, a 4K video from the Z7 has a data rate of an impressive 132 MBit per second, but only requires a little less than 1 GByte per minute of video runtime. So less than 17 MByte per minute have to be written to the memory card. We will introduce the XQD cards in detail after the Photokina at the latest, when we have made a full overview and our first own speed measurements.

Nikon Z7

Image stabilizer test passed! 45.7 megapixels at 59 mm focal length for half a second (photo intentionally somewhat overexposed to achieve half a second exposure time with F22). [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Nikon Z7

Hot. Even at half a second exposure time out of hand at 59 mm focal length and 45.7 megapixels (2.1 megapixel detail). The image stabilizer of the Nikon Z7 works perfectly. [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Appropriately, the Nikon Image Space is Nikon’s image storage and publishing service. Anyone who registers a Nikon camera there gets 20 GB of free space and can store and share photos there and, if desired, offer them for download in full quality, just as I have done with these four photos.

 

Nikon Z7

Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo photographed from a moving boat (Nikon Z7 with 24-70mm F4 at 42 mm, F4, 1/50 second, ISO 4.500). In the next picture you can see a section of this picture again. [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Nikon Z7

Excerpt from the photo just shown of the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo from the hand photographed of a moving (and vibrating) boat. Still sharp. [Photo: Clara Andersson]

Ergonomics and workmanship

Nikon’s goal with the new system was not to build the smallest full-frame system cameras, but to build particularly ergonomic ones without throwing the compact aspect completely overboard. With the almost 13.5 x ten x seven centimetre housing, Nikon has succeeded in keeping up with the size class of the current third generation full-frame system cameras of the Sony Alpha-7 family, but at the same time delivering a more robust housing. With the exception of the base plate and the left side of the case, which contains the wireless interfaces as well as the connectors, the Z7’s case is made of a robust magnesium alloy. In addition, numerous seals are designed to protect against the ingress of dust and splash water into the housing at the level of Nikon DSLRs, such as a D850. Apropos D850: The Z7 is about one centimeter narrower, almost three centimeters lower and one centimeter less deep. Since the weight of the Z7 with less than 700 grams is also a good third below that of the D850, you can definitely say that the mirrorless Z7 is a lot smaller and lighter than a comparable DSLR, even if it’s not a small and light camera in absolute terms, but relatively speaking it is, and that counts in this case.

However, this does not harm ergonomics. The grip is very well formed and offers even the little finger a good grip with a medium sized hand. Thanks to the generous, non-slip, grained rubber coating, the thumb recess on the back and the incision for the middle finger, the Z7 lies securely and firmly in the hand. In fact, the camera is so well balanced that you can hold it quite loosely in your hand without it slipping away. With the set lens Z 24-70 mm F4 S, the Z7 cracks the mark of one kilogram. Nevertheless, Nikon has succeeded in creating a compact set lens that fits well with the Z7, not least due to the pull-in mechanism. Against a slight resistance, it can be extended mechanically and zoomed in with an eighth of a turn. It even has splash water and dust protection.

With the exception of the program selector wheel, all controls important for recording are within reach of the right hand. These include the two optimally positioned and pleasantly running multifunction wheels, the four-way selector, the focus joystick and even the switch lever, which is arranged around the shutter release as usual with Nikon. The shutter release offers a well palpable, albeit quite soft first pressure point and can therefore be pressed gently without tearing the camera.

Nikon Z7

The rear touchscreen of the Nikon Z7 can be folded up and down, the menus are well known. The electronic viewfinder is impressively large and high-resolution [Photo: Clara Andersson]

The program selector wheel to the left of the viewfinder must be operated with the entire left hand. While the index finger must keep the locking knob pressed for unlocking, the wheel can be turned with the thumb or middle finger or both together. Accidental operation is thus excluded. Otherwise, only the playback and delete buttons are located to the left of the viewfinder, which are not needed during recording. The AF-On function, ISO sensitivity, video recording, exposure compensation, continuous advance, and magnification buttons have fixed assignments. There are also two function keys between the handle and bayonet. They do not lie directly under the fingertips, so that one does not accidentally press them. To do that, you have to loosen the grip hand a little to operate it. Good if the second hand supports the camera or lens from below. The upper Fn1 button is preset with white balance, the lower Fn2 button with focus mode, because the Z7 unfortunately does not have a switch for selecting between single and continuous autofocus or manual focus. By the way, the lens ring can also be assigned another function as an alternative to manual focusing, such as aperture, ISO sensitivity or exposure correction. However, these functions are then no longer protected against accidental adjustment.

Such preassigned, but changeable key functions are advantageous for individualization, but do not make operation more self-explanatory. In addition there is the strange peculiarity of Nikon, how the manual white balance is set with the professional cameras and also the Z7. Without a look into the manual (or Nikon knowledge) you have no chance to find out. There is no obvious way to measure the white balance in the menu, in the quick menu, or after pressing the white balance button. In fact, you must first select one of the six memory locations and then press and hold the white balance button for more than two seconds for the camera to offer a measurement to a reference area. Although the Z7 is not a starter camera, even a professional camera should be operated by a photographer with a good knowledge of the basic functions without looking into the manual.

Also otherwise the operating concept resembles that of the high-priced Nikon DSLRs. The quick menu or the main menu, which is divided into seven areas, do not give Nikon connoisseurs any puzzles. Here and there there there are specific, partly new functions, but on the whole you find your way around well. This does not mean that the menu is particularly clear. Eight menu items fit maximum on the screen, up to five menu pages belong to a category. It’s not always easy to find directly what you’re looking for. The individual menu even contains seven pages, whereby an intermediate level brings some order through the color categorization into this submenu. Fortunately, favorite menu items can be stored in a customizable menu to find them faster. Or you switch it to a menu with the last used menu items. This allows you to find settings that you last changed more quickly.

As with a DSLR, the viewfinder is one of the central elements of a mirrorless system camera, at least in the class of a camera costing almost 4,000 euros such as the Z7. The 0.8x magnifying and thus enormously large viewfinder resolves fine 3.7 million pixels. This makes it almost impossible to spot the individual pixels, even though the difference to a classic SLR is immediately obvious. Finally, the viewfinder lights up by itself and displays all recording parameters, the white balance and much more with its live image. The viewfinder offers a far-reaching diopter correction, whereby the adjustment wheel must first be pulled out in order to be able to adjust the value, as is the case with an analogue wristwatch. The viewfinder itself offers a large entrance pupil, but due to the high magnification, which by the way is subjectively quite distortion-free, you still don’t have an optimal overview with the glasses on.

Nikon Z7

The Z7 is Nikon’s first available full-frame mirror-less system camera. The image sensor resolves high 46 megapixels and also masters 4K video recording. In addition, it is movably mounted for image stabilization.

Thanks to the proximity sensor, the viewfinder activates automatically as soon as you take the camera to your eye. The button to the left of the viewfinder controls whether an automatic switchover takes place, whether only the rear screen is used, or whether the latter remains deactivated. This saves the most power, because the live image only needs to be displayed as soon as you take the camera to your eye. The live image can display grid lines, a 3D spirit level, a live histogram and an exposure preview in the viewfinder or on the screen. The viewfinder image even resolves fine enough to allow an evaluation of the sharpness without magnifying glass or focus peaking (both of course available). In addition, the light amplification ensures that you can still see something in the viewfinder even if it is already too dark for the eye. Of course, powerful lenses still have an advantage here.

With a diagonal of eight centimeters and a resolution of over two million pixels, the rear screen is hardly inferior to the viewfinder. It is a touch screen that can be tilted 40 degrees downwards and 90 degrees upwards. At least in landscape format, this allows shots from frog and bird perspectives on the outstretched arm and virtually replaces a “light well viewfinder”, so that one can also take inconspicuous photographs in front of the chest with a screen behind the camera and even trigger them with a fingertip. With a brightness of over 700 cd/m², it also effortlessly illuminates against the bright sun. The touch function is not only limited to the selection of the autofocus area or the shutter release, but also extends to the displayed parameters and even the main menu. If the Z 7 were not so wonderfully operable via keys, it would certainly be used more often. Anyone who prefers typing on the screen will be pleased. By the way, the viewfinder eyepiece is so far back that the nose does not “stick” to the screen. However, there is no touchpad function while looking through the viewfinder, as the Z7 offers a focus joystick that many conservative photographers prefer anyway.

In addition to the rear screen, the Z7 also has an information display on the top of the camera. It displays the most important recording parameters in white, illuminated text. The lighting cannot be switched off, but when switched off this display is also dark and no longer readable.

Nikon Z7

The Nikon Z7 offers numerous interfaces. A stereo microphone and headphones can be connected, but Mini-HDMI and the modern USB-C for battery charging are also built in. An accessory socket is also not missing.

Nikon was generous with the interfaces and built in almost everything the photographer’s heart desires. The rubber covers don’t look too good, but they work. The microphone and headphone sockets should even delight videographers. The HDMI interface of type C (mini-HDMI) is small enough, but not as susceptible as the micro-version type D. Nikon has also opted for the modern USB-C type for the USB port, which can no longer be plugged in the wrong way round. Via the USB interface, the EN-EL15b battery can be charged directly in the camera, if desired, with up to three amps and thus just as quickly as in the external charger. The batteries EN-EL15 and 15a also fit, but cannot be charged in the camera, but only with the included charging cradle. But Nikon also supplies the USB power supply, so it serves both fractions. Unfortunately the Nikon doesn’t charge the battery with any USB charger. We couldn’t see a pattern (for example a minimum performance) and so all we can do is try it out. In addition, the Z7 has a multi-function connector, for example for a clip-on GPS or a remote release cable.

What the Z7 lacks, however, is a flash sync socket. Of course, the Z7 offers a standard flash shoe with center contact and TTL contacts, but no internal flash. A connection for a functional portrait handle is also missing. A pure battery grip however should be there too. That wouldn’t be wrong either, because although the large EN-EL15b is in the shaft, only 330 CIPA-standard shots are possible. The number of pictures depends anyway strongly on the use, with serial picture function it is more, who works much with the viewfinder, will be able to take a few pictures less than with screen use. Bluetooth or Snapbridge also needs energy, although not much. After all, the battery bay is located very far away from the metal tripod thread, which is located in the optical axis, so that the battery can also be changed with a rather large mounted tripod quick-change plate.

There are a number of reasons why spirits are likely to split over the memory card slot. The flap is opened together with the thumb tray and thus generously exposes the shaft. Singular. Unfortunately, the Z7 lacks a second memory card slot. But even the selected memory card format XQD does not have many friends. It is still considered exotic, the memory cards and readers are significantly more expensive compared to SD. But the cards are more robust and theoretically faster than current SD memory cards. Although the Z7 offers with over 200 MByte per second the fastest write rate we could measure so far, this would also have been possible loosely with fast SD cards, after all there are of these also nearly 300 MB/s fast models. It’s also annoying that a card reader is practically obligatory, because despite the theoretically fast USB-3 interface, the data transfer rate via USB cable in our editorial office creeps along on three different computers with a maximum of 17.5 MB/s (an external SSD connected instead for cross-checking purposes brings it up to a whopping 280 MB/s, a Sony Alpha 7 III manages almost 80 MB/s). The Z7 is not recognized by the computer as a mass storage device, but as a camera, and is therefore accessed via a slow protocol. Transferring several 60 megabyte raw files in this way becomes a torture.

Equipment

The program selector wheel of the Nikon Z7 comprises a total of eight positions. There is even a fully automatic mode in which the camera makes all shooting settings. Nikon, on the other hand, has not included any motif preoramas, which is a good thing in this price range. Instead, in addition to the classic creative programs P, A, S and M, there are three user programs on the dial, so the photographer can directly access three different configurations. ISO auto and exposure compensation also work in manual mode, so you can take pictures with auto but fixed exposure time and aperture.

Nikon Z7

The Nikon Z7 offers a very well shaped and ergonomic handle. The shoulder display, which provides information on the most important recording parameters, is also practical.

The mechanical shutter offers up to 1/8,000 second short exposure times and works quite quietly. It is also possible to activate an electronic first shutter curtain to reduce vibrations. In addition, the Z7 offers a quiet release with purely electronic shutter. However, this restricts some camera functions and does not allow shorter exposure times than with other camera manufacturers. The bracketing functions include classic bracketing, white balance bracketing and even focus bracketing. The maximum number of shots in a bracket depends on the step size. With 0.3 to 1 EV, up to nine shots are possible, with 2 and 3 EV exposure distance, there is a maximum of five shots. This is loosely enough for HDR recordings. In addition, Nikon is able to capture and assemble HDR images directly. The exposure difference and smoothing can be adjusted, and the individual images can also be saved separately from the final result.

The focus bracketing function can be found in a separate menu item and offers various settings from the number of shots to the step size of the focus shift, the time interval, the memory folder and much more. The Nikon can only assemble the recordings on its own, this has to be done on a PC with suitable software.

The autofocus system of the Z7 works with almost 500 phase autofocus sensors, which are distributed far to the edge of the image acquisition sensor. From infinity to two meters, the Z7 focuses with the set lens in less than 0.2 seconds, which is very fast. The shutter release delay is 0.07 seconds, which is fast but not record breaking. DSLRs also reach this level, but some mirrorless system cameras, on the other hand, are much faster. In total, the shutter release delay including focusing is 0.16 to 0.24 seconds, which is a very good value. The autofocus only works reasonably well when tracking motifs, though. After all, there is also a face recognition, but no eye recognition, which can be extremely helpful for portraits. The precision of the focus is also good. In darker environments the autofocus doesn’t start to skid, but it becomes noticeably slower. With the native Z lenses, autofocus works fastest, but lenses connected via the FTZ adapter also focus fast, in the AF-S not slower than on a DSLR. AI, AF-S and AF-P lenses work without restriction. The adapter does practically nothing else than convert some air, shield it darkly, adjust the difference between the bayonet support dimensions (F and Z) and of course the connection itself.

Nikon Z7

The tripod thread of the Nikon Z7 lies exemplary in the optical axis. The distance to the battery compartment is also comfortably large despite the compact camera dimensions.

The serial shooting function should theoretically achieve up to nine frames per second. Practically, however, this was not the case with us. There are various restrictions. With a mechanical shutter, for example, the maximum is eight frames per second; only with an electronic shutter can the nine frames per second be achieved. But here, too, there are some limitations: With 14 bit raw recordings, it is again only eight frames per second. In fact, in JPEG we achieved 7.8 frames per second and in Raw (14 bit) only 6.7 frames per second, both with electronic shutter. The biggest shortcoming, however, is the much too small buffer. While Sony has huge buffers and slow memory card interfaces built into its cameras, Nikon does it the other way round. In JPEG, the Z7 can withstand the high continuous shooting speed for at least 30 images, which is sufficient for most situations. With a full buffer, four continuous shots per second are possible continuously (respectable given the high resolution), but after 200 shots at the latest there is definitely an end, which the camera sets as a maximum via menu setting, which can be reduced if desired. In Raw, on the other hand, the buffer is full after only eleven shots, after which it continues with a respectable 3.6 serial shots per second. At a good 60 megabytes per lossless compressed 14-bit raw, this is over 200 megabytes per second of writing speed. A live image as well as exposure tracking during continuous shooting is only possible at a reduced frame rate of 5.5 frames per second. With faster frame rates, the last photo taken is displayed in the viewfinder, which, with a few exceptions, is a real disadvantage of many mirrorless system cameras.

Thanks to the movable image sensor, the Nikon Z7 allows theoretically and practically up to five f-stops longer exposure times without a tripod than without a stabilizer. The sensor is shifted on three axes (horizontal, vertical and in rotation), five axes are compensated: In addition to rotation, there are horizontal and vertical pans as well as camera shifts. Depending on the recording distance, sometimes one is stronger, sometimes the other. For distant motives the swivels are a problem, for the Near ones rather shifts. The image stabilizer is noticeable by a very low acoustic noise, but above all by its effective work. It also works with adapted lenses. If the lens itself has an optical image stabilizer, the lens compensates for the swivels. This is especially useful for telephoto lenses and much more effective. The camera image stabilizer compensates for the remaining three axes. There are no special functions like a pixel shift resolution increase with Nikon.

The Z7 records videos in a maximum 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) at up to 30 frames per second. In Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), up to 120 frames per second are possible for slow motion effects or particularly smooth motion sequences. The sensor shift image stabilizer remains active and the entire sensor width can be used for filming. With the exception of the trimming from the 3:2 sensor format to the 16:9 video aspect ratio, there is no loss of image angle. However, the video is recorded using line skipping, so not all image sensor cells are used. If you want, you can switch on an electronic image stabilizer, which calms the image significantly, but also has some image trimming. The Z7 tracks the autofocus gently and quite safely. The sound is recorded either via the integrated stereo microphone or via an externally connected stereo microphone. There is also a level indicator with a level control option, and the sound can be controlled live via headphones.

Nikon has installed both Bluetooth and WLAN in the Z7, which work together in the system called Nikon Snapbridge. Thanks to Bluetooth, a permanent connection to the smartphone can be maintained in a relatively energy-saving manner, so that, for example, geo-information from the smartphone for geotagging the images can be stored directly in the EXIF data when saving. Snapbridge also enables background transmission of small thumbnails. WLAN is activated for everything that requires a higher data transfer rate. It is not only used to transmit high-resolution images to the smartphone, but also for remote camera control via app including live image transmission. Since the second generation of Snapbridge, more extensive camera settings are possible. More details about Snapbridge and geotagging with the Z7 can be found in the photo tips available via the links below.

 

Nikon Z7

The memory card slot of the Nikon Z7 only holds one card in the exotic XQD form factor. The cards are more expensive than the SD standard, but theoretically faster and more robust.

In contrast to earlier Snapbridge versions – this was a big criticism – the WLAN interface is no longer bound to Snapbridge, but can work independently. This enables wireless transfer of photos to computers. Also in the studio, a wireless remote control of the Nikon Z7 is now possible from the computer, which of course also works wired (so-called tethering).

Picture quality

The Nikon Z7 is equipped with a 35mm sensor (36 x 24 mm) with a resolution of almost 46 megapixels. It is a backward exposed CMOS sensor, so that the light sensitive area is larger than conventional CMOS sensors, where the traces are above the light sensitive area. As a side effect, the sensor can also better process light that is not incident quite vertically. This results in fewer color fringes, vignetting and edge blur. Basically, the Z7 sensor is very similar to the Nikon D850, but the integrated phase autofocus sensors alone show that this is a new development. According to Nikon, the sensor was developed in-house, but is manufactured on behalf of another manufacturer, who in turn uses Nikon equipment for chip production. Even if Nikon does not produce it itself, there is a lot of Nikon technology in it.

Nikon Z7

Large full-frame sensor, even larger bayonet: According to Nikon, this makes it possible with the Z7 to use particularly fast lenses, but you still have to wait a bit for them.

The Nikon Z 24-70 mm F4 S already shows a very high resolution in the image center with open aperture. Over 70 line pairs per millimetre (lp/mm) at 50 percent contrast are no problem at all, in wide-angle even over 80 lp/mm. When dipping down, the resolution can only increase up to F5.6 partially in the image center, then diffraction reduces the resolution somewhat. Nevertheless, the high resolution remains loose up to F11, only beyond F16 does the resolution drop below 60 lp/mm, which is still a high value. At the edge of the picture, the zoom surprisingly resolves weakest in telescopic position. While at short and medium focal lengths there are already very good 55 lp/mm at open aperture, which can even be increased up to 64 lp/mm at F11, the lens has to be stopped down to at least F8 in telescope position, but in doing so it shoots beyond 60 lp/mm (at F4 it’s only just 38 and at F5.6 46 lp/mm) and even reaches a best value of 67 lp/mm at F11, which gives the highest edge resolution of all focal lengths.

The Z 24-70 mm F4 S hardly shows any optical errors. The distortion is perfectly corrected by the camera, even color fringes in the form of chromatic aberrations were not measurable. The situation is different with the edge darkening. In wide-angle and telephoto mode, this loss of light is clearly visible in the corners of the image with an open aperture of up to 1.4 f-stops, even if its course shows itself to be gentle and natural. Dimming to F5.6 helps, from F8 the edge darkening is negligibly low with less than half a f-stop.

The Nikon Z7 offers ISO sensitivity from 64 to 12,800, which can be extended to ISO 32 and up to 51,200. However, these enhancements are accompanied by various losses in image quality. The signal-to-noise ratio is at a good level of more than 40 dB up to just under ISO 200, but remains acceptable at over 35 dB up to ISO 1,600, and drops dramatically above ISO 6,400. The noise always remains fine-grained, but from ISO 3.200 on it shows a slight brightness noise, which increases strongly above ISO 6.400 (all measurements in JPEG format). Colour noise, on the other hand, plays practically no role. Up to ISO 3,200, the Z7 shows a very high texture sharpness, which then decreases sharply. While at ISO 6.400 there are still sufficient details, at ISO 12.800 at the latest the images show clear losses of fine structures. At low ISO sensitivities, on the other hand, there is even a slight over-sharpening, whereby the sharpness artifacts remain within limits.

While the input dynamic at ISO 32 is only a good ten f-stops due to the signal attenuation, it reaches eleven f-stops at ISO 64. Up to ISO 800, the input dynamic decreases only minimally, but remains at a high level of over ten f-stops up to ISO 6,400. Up to ISO 51.200, it breaks into eight f-stops. With the exception of the signal-damped ISO 32 with a flatter curve, the tonal value transmission shows a clear increase in contrast, especially in the medium brightness range, which leads to a crisp image display. The output tonal range is extremely good up to ISO 64 with 256 of 256 possible brightness gradations and then decreases quite linearly with the increasing sensitivity. Up to ISO 200 the value is very good with over 224 brightness gradations, with ISO 400 it is good to very good 192 gradations and with ISO 800 still scarcely good 160 gradations. Above this, the output tonal range decreases more slowly until it just falls below the value of 128 steps at ISO 6,400. The values of less than 96 gradations for all higher sensitivities are no longer within the acceptable range.

Nikon Z7

The supplied Nikon EN-EL15b battery can be charged directly in the camera. The older types EN-EL15 and EN-EL15a also fit, but can only be charged in the charger supplied with the camera.

The color deviation of the Nikon Z7 is unusually high for a professional camera. The colours are quite trendy, especially orange, red, magenta and purple. Cyan tones are clearly shifted towards blue. This creates a subjectively beautiful, colourful picture impression, but is anything but neutral. The various white balance adjustment options, including a configurable automatic function, are not really a problem, especially as the manual white balance is extremely precise. Only above ISO 12.800 are there slight colour casts in the image, which become stronger with higher sensitivity.

As already mentioned at the beginning, the Nikon Z7 exposes extremely conservatively-cautiously. You could say she avoids the lights like the devil avoids holy water. If you don’t take care of a slight exposure correction before taking the picture, depending on the subject from +0.3 to +0.7 f-stops, the pictures appear a bit dark, but offer a good depth drawing as soon as you work them out with the image processing. Especially in the case of JPEG recordings that one does not actually want to edit, one should pay attention to this. In raw format, on the other hand, the cautious exposure is definitely an advantage, as the necessary drawing can be worked out perfectly, especially as a much higher color depth of up to 14 instead of 8 bits per color channel is available.

All in all, the Nikon Z7 offers excellent image quality, especially at low sensitivities, thanks not least to the very good Z 24-70 mm F4 S zoom lens. Up to ISO 800 there are hardly any limitations in image quality, but even up to ISO 3,200 they remain within reasonable limits. The situation is different with ISO 6.400, which can still be used in case of need, but should not be used. From ISO 12.800 the image quality drops significantly. So the Z7 is by no means an available light camera. She feels most comfortable at low sensitivities, for example in landscape and studio photography, wedding photography (outside) or other subjects in good light, where her excellent image quality comes into its own.

Nikon Z7

The FTZ adapter allows the operation of Nikon F lenses, with AF-I, AF-S and AF-P lenses also with autofocus. [Photo: Nikon]

Bottom line

With the Z7, Nikon has succeeded in creating a very good mirrorless system camera. It doesn’t outshine everything that has been there before and is not perfect either, but it does a lot of things right. The case is very robust and ergonomic, better than the established competition in a direct comparison. There are one or two smaller pitfalls in operation, but they can also be found in the Nikon DSLRs and thus belong to the Nikon tradition. The electronic viewfinder is a real delight, the viewfinder image is not only large, but also high-resolution, high-contrast and sharp. Even the large screen knows how to impress. All in all, the camera also offers very good performance: autofocus and storage times are fast, the continuous shooting rate is high in view of the enormous resolution. However, Nikon was too stingy with the buffer memory, which reduces the continuous shooting performance in terms of stamina. And you won’t want to miss the Sensor Shift image stabilizer anymore, which stabilizes every attached lens, no matter if native or adapted. Videographers will also enjoy the quiet Z7 with its many interfaces, especially as the 4K video function does not require a horizontal crop. With image quality as the most important discipline of a camera, the Z7 is completely convincing. It also effectively has a very high resolution, which is not least due to the very good S-Line lenses. However, there are still far too few of them, so that the set with the FTZ adapter for the unrestricted use of almost all Nikon F lenses and the Z 24-70 mm F4 S seems the most attractive, but costs almost 4,500 euros.

The Nikon Z7 really inspired me. Ergonomics and housing quality are super, the image quality of the full-frame camera outstanding, in which the excellent zoom lens has an essential part. The extremely good video viewfinder lets you sometimes forget that you are looking through an electronic viewfinder at all, so sharp is everything to see. The only thing I don’t like is the fact that Nikon only uses the XQD memory card format, which is not widely used – I would have liked an additional SD card slot here.

Firmware update 2.00 for Nikon Z7: Now with eye autofocus

After two announcements in January and February 2020, the firmware update 2.00 for the mirrorless full frame system cameras Nikon Z7 is finally available. In addition to the promised eye autofocus, there is also an improved low-light autofocus, which still works with the Z 6 in significantly less ambient light than with the higher resolution Z7. Furthermore, the firmware update also includes an exposure tracking function for the continuous shooting function and some minor improvements.

Nikon Z7

With the firmware update 2.0 the Nikon Z 6 and Z7 get an eye autofocus. The focused eye is outlined in yellow. A small arrow indicates that you can switch to another eye with the focus selector. [Photo: Nikon]

With the update to firmware 2.00, the Nikon Z 6 and Z7 now recognize not only faces but also eyes in the corresponding autofocus mode. This is especially helpful for portrait photography with shallow depth of field. The photographer can easily switch between several recognized eyes. Of course, eye autofocus works not only in AF-S mode, but also in AF-C mode. Another autofocus improvement concerns focusing in low light conditions. After the update, the Z7 can still focus to -2 instead of -1 LW as before, the Z 6 can even focus to -3.5 LW instead of -2 LW as before.

But the continuous shooting function also benefits from the firmware update. The Z 6 and Z7 now not only track the focus, but also the exposure in continuous-advance H mode. Other minor improvements include a shorter black-out phase for automatic image control, exposure with electronic first shutter curtain, which can now be automatically activated by the camera when needed, revised help texts, a few minor bugs in the video function and My Menu, and a change in the color of the focus area when the AF On button is pressed.

Further details about the firmware updates and the operation of the new functions can be found on the Nikon support website (see link). There you can also download the updates and read how to install them. If you are not confident enough to do this yourself, you should contact your specialist dealer or Nikon Service. The promised compatibility to CFexpress memory cards and the raw video recording function, however, Nikon wants to deliver with a later firmware update.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Nikon
Model Z7
Sensor CMOS 35mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)46.9 Megapixel (physical)
45.7 Megapixel (effective)
Pixel pitch 4.3 µm
Resolution (max.) 8.256 x 5.504 (3:2)
Video (max.) 3.840 x 2.160 30p
Lens Nikon Z 24-70 mm F4 S (zoom lens)
Video viewfinder EVF, 100 % field coverage, 3,690,000 pixels resolution, 0.80x magnification (sensor-related), 0.80x magnification (KB equivalent), diopter compensation (-4.0 to 2.0 dpt), -4.0 to 2.0 dpt)
Monitor 3.2″ (8.0 cm)
Disbandment 2.100,000 pixels
tiltable yes
rotatable
swivelling
Touchscreen yes
AV connector HDMI Mini Output (Type C)
Fully automatic yes
Automatic scene modes
Program automation yes
Program shift yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
Manual yes
Bulb long time exposure yes
HDR function yes
Panorama function no
Exposure metering Matrix/multi-field measurement, center-weighted integral measurement, spot measurement
fastest shutter speed 1/8.000 s
Flash
Synchronous time 1/200 s
Flash connection Hot shoe: Nikon, standard center contact
WLAN yes
NFC
GPS external, permanent smartphone connection|wired or plug-on receiver
Remote release yes, cable release, remote control via Smartphone/Tablet
Interval shooting yes
Storage medium
XQD
Sensitivity
automatic ISO 64-25.600
manually ISO 32-102.400
White balance
automatic yes
manual measurement yes
Kelvin input yes
Fine correction yes
Autofocus yes
Number of measuring fields 493
Speed 0.16 s to 0.24 s
AF auxiliary light LED
Dimensions (mm) 134 x 101 x 68 mm
Weight (ready for operation) 671 g (housing only
)1.168 g (with lens)
Tripod socket in optical axis
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manual on lens
Battery life 330 images (according to CIPA standard)
– = “not applicable” or “not available”

This test of the Nikon Z7 with Nikon Z 24-70 mm F4 S was made with DXOMARK Analyzer.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Robust, splash-proof, high-quality processed housing
  • Excellent electronic viewfinder (large, responsive and high-resolution)
  • Very good image quality up to ISO 3,200
  • High speed (autofocus, storage time, continuous shooting)

Cons

  • Small series picture buffer
  • No eye recognition
  • Wretched slow data transfer via USB-3 interface
  • Not always self-explanatory or sometimes somewhat complicated operation

Nikon Z7 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 35mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)46.9 megapixels (physical) and 45.7 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 4.3 µm
Photo resolution
8.256 x 5.504 pixels (3:2)
8.256 x 4.640 pixels (16:9)
6.880 x 5.504 pixels
6.192 x 5.504 pixels
6.129 x 3.480 pixels (16:9)
5.504 x 5.504 pixels (1:1)
5.408 x 3.600 pixels (3:2)
5.152 x 4.120 pixels
4.128 x 4.128 pixels (1:1)
4.128 x 2.752 pixels (3:2)
4.128 x 2.320 pixels (16:9)
4.048 x 2.696 pixels (3:2)
3.440 x 2.752 pixels
2.752 x 2.752 pixels (1:1)
2.704 x 1.800 pixels (3:2)
Picture formats JPG, RAW, TIF
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel), 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.31), DCF standard (version 2.0)
Video resolution
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 30 p
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 25 p
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 24 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 120 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 100 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 25 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
Maximum recording time 29 min 59 sec
Video format
MOV (Codec H.264)
MP4 (Codec H.264)

Lens

Lens mount
Nikon Z

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 493 sensors, autofocus working range from -4 EV to 19 EV, contrast autofocus
Autofocus Functions Single Auto Focus, Continuous Auto Focus, Tracking Auto Focus, Manual, AFL Function, AF Assist Light (LED), Focus Peaking, Focus Magnifier
Focus control Depth of field control, dimming button, Live View

Viewfinder and Monitor

Monitor 3.2″ (8.0 cm) TFT LCD monitor with 2,100,000 pixels, viewing angle 170°, brightness adjustable, colour adjustable, tiltable 90° upwards and 40° downwards, with touch screen
Info display additional info display (top) with illumination
Video viewfinder Video viewfinder (100 % field coverage) with 3,690,000 pixels, 0.80x magnification factor, diopter compensation (-4.0 to 2.0 dpt)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement (measurement over 2 % of the image field)
Exposure times 1/8,000 to 30 s (Auto
)1/8,000 to 30 s (Manual)
1/8,000 to 30 s (Electronic Shutter)
Bulb Function
Exposure control Fully Automatic, Program Automatic (with Program Shift), Aperture Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual
Bracketing function Bracket function with maximum 9 shots, step size from 1/3 to 3 EV, HDR function
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 64 to ISO 25.600 (automatic
)ISO 32 to ISO 102.400 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, cable release, remote control via smartphone/tablet
, remote control from computer: certain functions
Picture effects Blue, Brilliant, Landscape, Monochrome, Neutral, Pop Color, Portrait, Sepia, Toy Camera, 18 more image effects
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sun, White balance bracket, Fine tuning, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent lamp with 7 presets, Incandescent lamp with 1 presets, From 2,500 to 10,000 K, Manual 6 memory locations
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 9.0 fps at highest resolution, low speed 1-5 fps
, high speed 5.5 fps (NEF 5 fps)
Self-timer Self-timer with intervals of 2 s, special features: additional 5, 10 and 20 seconds forward, 1-9 shots with 0.5, 1, 2 or three second intervals
Timer Timer/interval recording with max. 9,999 recordings, start time adjustable
Shooting functions AEL function, AFL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Flash no built-in flash availableFlash shoe
: Nikon, standard center contact
Flash range Flash sync time 1/200 s
Flash functions Auto, Fill Flash, Flash On, Flash Off, High Speed Sync, Slow Sync, Flash On Second Shutter Curtain, Flash Exposure Compensation from -3.0 EV to +1.0 EV

Equipment

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory
XQD
GPS function GPS external (permanent smartphone connection|wired or plug-on receiver)
Microphone Stereo
Power supply Power supply connectionUSB charging function
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL15 (lithium ions (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 1,030 mAh
)1 x Nikon EN-EL15a1
x Nikon EN-EL15b330
Images according to CIPA standard
Playback Functions Video editing, crop images, rotate images, protect images, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, playback magnifier, image index, slideshow function, zoom out
Face recognition Face recognition
Picture parameters Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Special functions Electronic spirit level, Grid can be displayed, Orientation sensor, Live View, User profiles with 3 user profiles
Ports Data interfaces: Bluetooth, USBUSB type
:USB 3.0 SuperSpeedWLAN
: available (type: A, ac, B, G, N)
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Mini (Type C
)Audio input: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo with power supply))
Audio output: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo, 3-pole))
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″ in optical axis
Case Splash guard
Features and Miscellaneous Expeed 6 Image ProcessorSilent
ModeDust Data
Capture (Capture NX-D)
Eyes SensorSnapbridgeActiveD-LightingMulti-exposure
(add, brighten, darken)
5-Axis Image StabilizerExposure Brackets
(Flash, Acrive D-Lighting)
Adjustable Microphone LevelTime-lapse Video
(Maximum 8K)

Electronic Image Stabilizer (Video)
Timecode RecordingN-Log-Output

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 134 x 101 x 68 mm
Weight 671 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Nikon BF-N1 (Camera Cover) Lens AccessoriesNikon
BS-1 (Hot Shoe Cover)
Nikon EH-7P Special Battery ChargerNikon
EN-EL15b Special BatteryNikon
MH-25a Special Battery ChargerNikon
UC-E24 USB Cable Carrying Strap
AN-DC19, Eyepiece Cover DK-28, USB Cable Clip
optional accessory Nikon EH-5c Power SupplyNikon
EP-5B Battery Compartment Adapter CableNikon
MB-N10 Battery / Battery Grip

 

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