OMG Nikon Z7 Review by Robin Wong! Kidding. Just Some Quick Thoughts

Nikon has just launched their much anticipated new Z-series full frame mirrorless cameras, Z6 and Z7. There was so much hype and excitement that in an extremely rare occurrence the Amazon owned DPReview crashed after the major Nikon announcement. I did think of trying to get myself an invite to the launch event in Malaysia but knowing how cold the industry has been to myself and other prominent photography bloggers, my chances of getting in would be near impossible. It gets very frustrating that the work photography bloggers do (helping with product announcements, reviewing etc) are generally not appreciated by the brand representatives here. So what else can I do? Just sit back and enjoy watching all the dramas happening from a distance, and maybe, just chime in a little and jot down some of my thoughts on Nikon's latest announcement.

Nikon Z7, they say that if you rotate the letter Z, it becomes N, which is for Nikon. Get it? Get it?
DPReview, the world's largest photography-centric news and review site was unable to handle the heavy load following the Nikon huge announcement. I am sure they have foreseen this coming, yet with preparation, the hype exceeded initial expectation. GGWP Nikon, you have successfully crashed DPReview, that was no small feat. 


There was nothing really new in the photography world when it comes to the Nikon Z series. In fact, Nikon has been terribly late to the game. Sony released the world's first mirrorless full frame camera in 2013. Sony has had many chances to do trial and error and field experimentation with their Alpha series, and they have already so many A7 cameras that it is getting difficult to keep track of the numbering variations of A7 bodies. Nikon taking bite at this chunk of pie this late only meant they are playing very safe, and they better get things right. They have the time to watch and learn from mistakes done by other mirrorless manufacturers. Did they successfully create the perfect mirrorless full frame machine in 2018?

Running down through paper specifications, while the technical aspects of the Nikon Z-series were impressive and possibly spotting some of the class-leading numbers, there were nothing new or revolutionary in the new cameras. 5-Axis Image Stabilization, Olympus got that since 2012, and Sony even implemented their own 5-Axis IS in their A7 Mark not-sure-which-one now. Large and bright EVF, possibly as good or better than the best of what mirrorless today has to offer, but I do not think it is that far from what is in the Panasonic Lumix G9. UHD 4K video shooting with 30fps? I am sure the video will be good, but will not be anything to write home about. The AF bells and whistles, I am sure Nikon being Nikon, they will excel in the AF department, perhaps even best out what Sony has offered. The Nikon Z series seem to be confident and bold and can deliver. They took bits and pieces of the best from many other manufacturers and piece all the puzzles together into a machine that works. 

I am sure the image quality of Z7 will be similar or may even surpass what the current amazing D850 can do. I am sure the Nikon Z series will perform admirably across all aspects, and it will just work. I think the Z7 and Z6 are the mirrorless cameras that Nikon needed to get back into the game. Will they be better than Sony full frame mirrorless cameras? Maybe, but as far as making a product that works, I am sure Nikon will not miss this time. They cannot afford to lose, not this late into the game. 

The more important question now would be: what will the smaller players do? Everyone knows the Nikon full frame mirrorless was coming, and Canon may not be too far behind. What does this mean for Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm? Previously, smaller players had many product differentiation factors in the earlier game - Olympus E-M5/E-M1 at that time were the only mirrorless cameras to be fully weather sealed and have 5-Axis IS. Panasonic had their wonderful 4K video implementation. Fujifilm's X-Trans sensor was showing promise but honestly was not going anywhere either. The specialized features were not so exclusive anymore, everyone else has drastic improvements in Image Stabilization, everyone else has good 4K video capture now. The advantages of these smaller players are vanishing. What will they do?

I am interested to see the smaller players fight back. Create a new revolution. 

As impressive as what the Nikon Z series cameras are, they have nothing new, as I have argued earlier. They basically just adopted what everyone else have been successfully doing. If the big players are playing too safe and just work on formula that guarantee results, then the smaller players will have to be more creative and daring in pursuit of stronger product differentiation advantage. Sony has been known to be very disruptive when it comes to product strategies. I think Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic can benefit from the same and release something completely unexpected and shake the ground a little bit. 

I am thrilled about the announcement myself and cannot wait to read full reviews from reputable sites on the Nikon Z series. Comparisons against Sony is inevitable, and I am not the only one anticipating this. Also, it is about time that Sony is not being the only full frame mirrorless maker anymore. Canon, please do something already. 

What are your thoughts on the Nikon Z7 and Z6? Do share your thoughts! How do you think these new Nikons will change the dynamics of the imaging industry?


19 comments:

  1. I've watched videos from Chris Nicholls of DPR, Tony Northrup. They make good points.

    These Zed cameras (which have lenses that are named S) will be able to bind the faithful Nikon amateurs so stop the bleeding of owners to Sony / Fuji / Micro Four Thirds.

    The event and sports pros might be appalled - they seem to want the failsafe redundancy of two card slots. Surprisingly these bodies don't have Eye AF - Olympus pioneered that so long ago and the tech could be purchased. Wonder why Nikon made those decisions. But would the pros give up their D850? I used one for fun the other day, it does what it does very well - why spend more money on a body that might just equal or perform worse.

    What is clear is that the Sony A7 family is no longer alone and the pie will eventually now have three slices - Sony / Nikon / Canon. Reduced volume may or may not worry Sony - for years they are focussed in the market despite the long years of R&D, investment etc...

    Both Olympus and Panasonic have not wasted their time being first in mirrorless. They have been fleshing out their catalogues with high performing big, expensive bodies and lenses so that their lens range and body range is extensive. It's good that they did this BEFORE Nikon came on the scene because now, the most expensive bodies are also fighting for a slice of that pie. They are better off than they were during the Four Thirds days - then, the sensor tech was handicapped, the lenses were not as small as they could be.

    Will the buyers continue to reward Olympus and Panasonic for their determination or will they just switch to Nikon full frame, carry big lenses? My crystal ball is not clear. What is evident - now is not the time to fumble on the OM-D E-M10 line. And to focus on some exciting small primes.

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    1. I think the crystal ball now is getting muddier than ever! Exciting times indeed, and more developments are definitely coming. Olympus and Panasonic will not sit by idly, they will have something up their sleeves.

      Canon full frame mirrorless is not going to be long now, let's see what they have to offer.

      What about the Eye AF? Did you mean auto EVF switch? Or was it Eye Detection AF that is a sub category of Face Detection AF?

      Olympus and Panasonic have matured. They have a rather complete lens selection now. I really hope both companies will continue to push the boundaries of what their camera bodies can do.

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    2. > What about the Eye AF? Did you mean auto EVF switch? Or was it Eye Detection AF that is a sub category of Face Detection AF?

      I was wondering the same (someone mentioned this in the comments on DPReview as well).

      Turns out it's a feature started by Sony that tracks the eye of your subject that is the closest to the camera.

      As someone who never uses AF tracking features, I can't say I'm sad to see this is not enabled, but maybe it could actually be added later as a firmware update. Just guessing here.

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    3. If that was the Eye AF that Ananda was talking about, he was right, Olympus started it, not Sony. Though I have not used either to say which is better.

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    4. I remember that eye detect was a Fuji photo printing machine idea. Then Olympus pioneered it on their camera bodies. Olympus started with left eye or right eye, then nearest eye. Sony being later and full frame was the one to impress the newcomers.

      Also notice IBIS on Sony and Nikon Mirrorless becomes only 3 axis if the lens is old. Olympus has not said that they lose 5 axis in this same case.

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  2. I think the big thing that a lot of onliners want to say "doesn't matter" is the FTX adpater. The fact that you can use just under 100 existing f-mount lenses at full functionality and other f-mount lenses without AF, but metering...is...well a HUGE selling point for a lot of people, including me.

    This is Nikon getting into the mirrorless game seriously. Yes, they may not have too much bleeding edge tech, but it is entry time. I have a feeling that the D% comparable version of the "Z" mirrorless will be what the Sony A9 is right now. I just know that I appreciate the fact that I can use my existing f-mount lenses until the Z mount lineup matures.

    I read a lot on the DPReview site about the AF. So long as I can get D750 AF performance, I'm fine. I have a D500 if I need Uber awesomeness in AF. I didn't expect Nikon to come out with the first mirrorless to be D5/D500 level. Yes, it is a bit different and I'm sure people will want something closer to what the DSLR has now. I will contest, though, that even on teh D500, I find that I use AF-S single point and AF-C with d9 almost exclusively. The Z6/Z7 seem to have those with some other tracking options...which should be good for most.

    The fact that AF in video is now reliable is a great thing. A good option for when having to focus manually would be problematic.

    Did Nikon kill anyone else in the market? No, but I think they now put everyone else in the mirrorless market on notice that they are here and ready to play. This camera, in my opinion, is enough to keep diehard Nikon shooters with Nikon and not looking to the only other player in town for FX size sensors - Sony.

    So much to digest and consider....but I think all a positive direction for Nikon. Now, I will have a great companion camera to go along with my m43 gear, which I can slim down some and reduce the redundancy across my Nikon and Olympus gear. Yes....I'm still going to live in multiple camps. Right tool for the job.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Robin on the subject and for entertaining mine on your blog.

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    1. Sorry - typo - I wrote FTX and that should have been FTZ adapter.

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    2. Right tool for the right job, always! Glad that you agree with that too.
      So far the AF performance during early tests show that it is very good, may not be as good as D5/D4 but certainly one of the best among mirrorless systems. And yes the AF in the video is already shown to be effective, thanks to the inclusion of Phase Detect AF.
      At the moment the FTZ adapter may seem to be a good solution since it opens up lens choices. That may be the main strategy to keep many Nikon users from swaying over to the Sony camp. However, I am not a Nikon user, and I am more interested in their new "S" lenses, which will be optimized in design for use with the Z cameras!

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  3. I can't understand, why Nikon put just one Card-Slot (XQD!) in their Z6/Z7. What are your thoughts about this?

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    1. I agree with most complains about the single card slot. The camera is huge enough to have space for two slots, unlike most other mirrorless cameras from Olympus or Fuji that may compromise in size if 2 slots were fitted in. There is no reason why Nikon should not have included dual slots.

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  4. This blog maintains a much more civil tone on approaching this topic compared to some other blogs that seems to be seeing the arrival of the Zed series (Canadian) as the herald of the slow death of M43.
    I switched from Nikon to M43 mostly because of health issues last year and since then I bought a PenF for my wife and a couple of nice lenses. I use em5ii mostly but as I am relatively new to M43, my question is - what kinda of strategy can M43 implement in the near future to compete in the market? tech, price etc.
    The Nikon ghost is tempting me a bit in my honest confession.

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    1. I always maintain a neutral stance, despite my open love and fanboyism for Micro Four Thirds.

      I don't think Micro Four Thirds will die anytime soon. In terms of system maturity, it takes years for Nikon or Canon to reach where Micro Four Thirds is currently. I am not denying the potential of the Z system, I am just saying it takes time. In that amount of time, it is up to Olympus and Panasonic to do something, hopefully something exciting, unusual and smart.

      Price war will not be the wise step to go about here, people are willing to pay a bit more to get a better performing system. Strategy? Some new, note-worthy features. Probably in terms of how the camera is used.

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  5. I switched to M43 (Olympus OM-D E-M5) four years ago after almost 8 years of using Nikon DSLR because I was tired of having to bring such a big gear everywhere around with me. The 5-axis image stabilization of the Olympus was also a big selling point for me: for the first time of my life, I could take sharp pictures down to 1/6th of a second! Very useful for night street photography (did I mention I am lazy and don't want to gather a lot of gear with me all the time, so tripods are not an option? ;))

    With that said, Nikon had always a special place in my heart. That, and the fact I never really adapted to the zooming direction on my Olympus :D

    Nikon is finally moving into the mirrorless world, and with nothing else but a full frame camera. As you mention, Robin, there is nothing revolutionary, but FINALLY they implemented image stabilization in the camera body... Honestly, I was starting to think they just couldn't hire the proper engineering team to do so (even though I have to admit it's probably not the real reason, seeing Nikon is such a big player in the photography world).

    Anyway, I will keep an eye on the reviews that will soon pop up everywhere. The Z7 is definitely out of reach for me in terms of prices, but since I was considering getting a new camera (even though, to be honest, I don't shoot that much and my OM-D E-M5 is still doing a great job for what I need), I might seriously consider the Z6...

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  6. When i see the size of FF lenses i see why i will always stay with Olympus .Did you see that 58mm on a Z?And the cost 6000 USD For ultimate what?300 mm f4 from Oly rules.

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    1. And only a manual focus lens at that. Ughh

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    2. Honestly i believe that FF is dead just like the medium format.They just don't know it yet.Technology advances so much that in the next years nobody not even the pros will want those huge lenses.I still remember that pros used to say that they need big SLRs just to be taken seriously.Now what?Z cameras mean business? Nikon and Canon have to go mirrorless if they want to survive but with these big lenses i don't think so.

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    3. I don't foresee the mass market (consumers) needing full frame, especially not at those high selling price. An OM-D or any Fuji cameras are more accessible, with smaller and cheaper lenses. But full frame system isn't going anywhere, it is a matter of how to make them more affordable to really fight with other systems.

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    4. Maybe, but not because it is a better system but because big companies are behind FF.

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  7. We are at a point in time where all the cameras are pretty good. I had watched the pre announcement videos, with interest, over the past month and they sold these new cameras as being revolutionary in the videos.
    Nikon has been tops in two areas and that is sensor megapixels and AF. They are good but everyone else's, especially Oly and Sony has drastically improved their AF and MP. Everywhere else Nikon has been so far behind for years and now they finally have entered the EVF world, after so many die-hard fans proclaimed mirrorless would never take off and only a fad.
    Missing the 2nd card slot in a camera priced that high is crazy!
    I think what happened is Nikon afraid that if they instantly release a new camera that really is professional, with a whole new mount, then they would cannibalize their other camera sales. Let's remember that sensor size is not what makes a photographer (or camera) professional.
    Looking at what was produced with the Z6 and Z7 was the minimum they could put out without looking too antiquated. There really is nothing new in these other than the mount. Until we see real world test we won't know for sure, but specification-wise, it's just two year old+ tech wrapped up in too small of a body.
    I was hoping there would be something new and amazing that would cause competition, but seriously, I don't see one thing that is revolutionary. Needless to say I was disappointed when the new cameras "Z" cameras were introduced this week. I was hoping for serious competition on features never introduced before.
    I've been completely happy with M43 since switching. FF size cameras and lenses don't interest me that much since the quality from M43 in the real world is right on par. Pair with a good RAW processor like CaptureOne and you have an excellent system.
    We are probably a year away from the next M43 Pro introduction. I would like to see what that will be too. From what I've seen in the smart phone camera world resolution on 4/3 sensor could easily go to 40MP. 4/3 sensor is over 6x larger than what Huawei sensor size is and it's up to 40 and that small size. Do we need the resolution? I don't think so but it would get the numbers up.
    What I would like to see is a 200mm Oly 1.8 (or faster) prime! I would be the first in line for that one!

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