Nikon Z7 Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera: Autumn Field Test

October 14, 2018  •  4 Comments

Autumn Reflections, Paw Paw River, Michighan 3 BAutumn Reflections, Paw Paw River, Michighan 3 B

Amidst the recent flurry of Nikon full-frame mirrorless camera reviews, I am pleased to share my first photos from the Nikon Z7 and some non-technical first impressions.  My Z7 arrived last Thursday, on the eve of a quick trip family visit to Southwest Michigan. Thus, I had no time to create custom camera settings, nor did I think to bring a tripod for this family visit. So, the images shown here were shot with the camera hand held in RAW file format, using Nikon camera factory settings (apart from resetting the Color Space to “Adobe RGB”). 

Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4.5, 1/160 sec; f/8; ISO 1250   Lone Autumn Leaf, Milham Park, Portage, MichighanLone Autumn Leaf, Milham Park, Portage, Michighan

Weather conditions during the first three days of the visit prompted a true test of the camera, as it was consistently rainy with dark cloud cover, low contrast lighting and windy as well.  Photos of the river and forests were all taken under these low light conditions.  The last day of our visit we were graced with broken cloud cover and filtered sunlight, allowing for a bit easier shooting of the pumpkin and flower shots.

Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4.5, 1/20 sec, f/7.1; IOS 2000.   Autumn, Milham Park, Portage, Michigan 1Autumn, Milham Park, Portage, Michigan 1
 

The many features and specifications of the Nikon mirrorless full-frame cameras are too numerous to recount here in this posting. That said, my first impressions of the Nikon Z7 for nature and landscape field photography, outfitted with the Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 kit lens, are as follows:  Flower Power, 29th Street Farm Stand, Paw Paw, MIchiganFlower Power, 29th Street Farm Stand, Paw Paw, MIchigan

- Under extremely low lighting conditions, the built in vibration reduction (VR) and useable high ISO levels allowed me to shoot the camera in handheld mode at f/8 to f/11, capturing the river images with a fairly deep depth of field.  

Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4.5, 1/60 sec; f/8; ISO 1250
 

The VR utilizes a five axis stabilization system, which is to achieve vibration reduction to a shutter speed up to approximately 5 stops.  The ISO range on this camera is 64 – 25,600, expandable to ISO 32 – 102,400. Pumpkins, 29th Street Farm Stand, Paw Paw, MIchigan revPumpkins, 29th Street Farm Stand, Paw Paw, MIchigan rev

Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4.5, 1/100; f/5.6; ISO 200  

- While I was skeptical about using an electronic view finder (EVF) for landscape photography, I quickly made the adjustment to this new shooting mode.  The EVF on the Nikon Z7 displays a large (0.8x magnification), high resolution (3.6 million dot) image.   Closed for the Season, Milham Park, Portage, MichighanClosed for the Season, Milham Park, Portage, Michighan After just a few shots, I found this EVF to be a big help in composing scenic images under the low lighting conditions. In the bright viewfinder, I spotted distracting content “hidden” in the corners of images and I was also quick to recognize images requiring exposure adjustments.  White Squash Pumpkins, 29th Street Farm Stand, Paw Paw, MIchigan 3White Squash Pumpkins, 29th Street Farm Stand, Paw Paw, MIchigan 3

Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4.5, 1/160 sec; f/13; ISO 800
 

- On first glance, the size of the Nikon Z7 was a bit larger than I had anticipated. That said, my impressions changed for the better when I set the Nikon Z7 next to my Nikon D850, which was outfitted with the Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. As other reviewers have noted, the design and build quality of the Nikon Z7 are truly impressive. The body is remarkably rugged, using a weatherized design seemingly made of the same overall high quality materials deployed in the Nikon 800 series.  From my standpoint, with the Z7, Nikon has created a field capable camera with excellent ergonomics, including a deep handgrip and a perfectly sized protruding EVF eyepiece. 

Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4.5, 1/50 sec; f/7.1; ISO 1250

- The Nikon Z7 body looks and feels like it is built to withstand the hardships of outdoor photo treks under extreme weather conditions, e.g., rain, snow, blowing sand, etc. The scaled down body and lenses should work well with fanny pack type camera bags, which will be ideal for the long day hikes we often undertake for our Southwest landscape photography. 

Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4.5,  1/320 sec; f/11; ISO 200
 

- As expected, the image quality of the Nikon Z7 is superb. It employs the same size 45.7 MP CMOS full-frame sensor as that used in the Nikon D850, but the sensor has 493 phase-detect autofocus points.
The camera is  supported by a next generation image processing engine, the Nikon Expeed 6 ISP.  Some 90% of the image area is covered with focus points.

- The only downside of the camera which I have noted to date involves the virtual horizon display, which I use regularly to make certain that the camera is level and squarely upright for landscape and architectural photography.  This is especially important when setting up a shot with a tilt-shift lens (e.g., Nikkor PC-E 24 mm f/3.5 ED Tilt Shift Lens). The Z7 will display a  graphic circle depicting the virtual horizon on demand in the EVF display. However, the non-transparent circle is situated in the center of the viewfinder, where it largely obstructs the center of the image.  The display of virtual horizon information on the D850 is far superior, wherein small indicators on the bottom and side of the view finder do not distract from the image.    I am wondering if there is possibly another display option for the virtual horizon and/or if the D850 type display format might be offered in a Nikon firmware update for the Z7. 

The lens adapter for the Nikon Z7 – The Nikon FTZ Mount Adapter – was backordered at the time of our Michigan trip and just arrived a few days ago. I am anxious to try out my other Nikon F-mount lenses with the Z7.

While this posting is by no means an exhaustive review, my first impressions of the Nikon Z7 are very favorable. The scaled down body size of the Z7 will make it a natural favorite for photography treks involving long hikes, as well as family and travel photography. I’ll have an opportunity to more fully field test the Z7 during upcoming trips to Monument Valley, Arches National Park and Death Valley,  and will share these results along the way.     MWR


 

 


Comments

Jeff Luth(non-registered)
Nice commentary, Marcus. I'm a Canon guy, but the Z7 looks like a sweet, highly capable camera. Thanks for posting!
Eric Hatch(non-registered)
Excellent, useful, review designed entirely to hate people of lesser means and lower skills hate your guts. Actually this looks like a really Splendid camera and I'm particularly pleased to hear about it telling the d850 sensor. Still, I will wait to get a peek at the rumored Fuji med. format before rushing out to the nearest liquor store armed with a 38 pistol.
Marcus Reinkensmeyer(non-registered)
Steve - Thanks much. I think you’ll really like having the Z7, even without your tripod!
Steve Stilwell(non-registered)
Thank you for these helpful comments. Your shots look great. Can’t wait to get my Z7!
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