By now you’ve read all the specs for this camera so I won’t bore you with all of that. What I will be discussing is my experience learning and using this new mirrorless design from Nikon. I should mention that it was shipped to me complete with the 24-70 f4 and the FTZ lens adapter.
Let’s start with learning. I’ve been a Nikon shooter for roughly ten years so when I first picked up the camera it had a very familiar look and feel to it. It also has some new functions. The familiar stuff first. Button layout is nice. I am a photographer who likes buttons rather than endlessly digging through menus. Most of the buttons I want are there. Things that I go to often like exposure, focus, and metering controls. The mode dial where I would expect it to be and so on. The new stuff, however, revolves around the differences between DSLR and Mirrorless. The EVF (electronic viewfinder) for instance is something I’m still figuring out. I’ve been going into the menu system and changing the EVF settings in an attempt to find the right mix of viewfinder vs. back monitor vs. image review options. And I’ve gotta tell you, at the time of this review I have not gotten it exactly to my liking but I’m close. There always seems to be something that annoys me. For instance, after taking a photo and then not for a brief time, when I lift the camera to my eye, I have to press the focus button and wait for what seems like an eternity before the live view returns. That was a big problem when I was shooting an event. Definitely got to sort that one out. I also had an issue with the EVF auto exposure in the studio. More on that later. Other than that it’s a camera and I found myself soon very comfortable using it and getting good results.
I also brought the camera along to a gallery showing of some of my work for a Phoenix first friday event at Parkwood Studios. I had planned on just testing out the low light capabilities, which I did, but soon found myself handing the camera over to fellow photographers and had them click off a few frames and mess around with it for a while. I then asked them what they thought of it. Most people were impressed with the usual things like the light weight the bright EVF, and how quick it would auto focus. A few had some trouble finding their way around because they were not familiar with the Nikon layout but after I showed them where stuff was they were soon comfortable with it. The images taken were between 1600 and 3200 ISO and the images were sharp and the noise was extremely low. Everyone commented on the bright, and easy to read top info display and said they could get used to that and liked not having to turn on a backlight like on the older top displays to see settings in the dark. And for the record, there was one person who commented on the single card slot. See my recent blog post on dual card slots for my opinion on that.
I mentioned studio photography and that is the bulk of where I make photographs so naturally I tested it on a couple photo shoots. The vast majority of my photography is still life and product work. I tested it against my current Nikon DSLR in a side by side shot. I also ran through a complete session with only the Z7. My normal workflow is to tether directly into Lightroom but as I found out, while talking with the folks at Tether Tools, there is no tethering support for this camera as of yet. This was a distraction to my workflow but the large monitor and the double tap for zoom on the touch screen worked well enough but I it is still not the same as looking at a calibrated computer screen to check exposure and critical focus. It seemed to work fine but I wasn’t sure until I got the images uploaded after the session. I will often take separate shots of the subject and background to remove unwanted clips and that sort of thing. Not having to align the two or three shots in post from camera movement caused by mirror slap was nice and one of the main reasons for my interest in this new camera. Some sample shots from my test can be found below.
So now it’s time for my conclusions and, as the title suggests, “who is it for”. After using it in a studio environment, I can say it will work well for that. Event photographers will like the bright EVF and low light performance and battery life. If you’re hung up on the single card slot then this is not your camera. It’s small size and weight, comparatively speaking, is a benefit to the landscape and street photographers. The mirrorless camera is, in my opinion, the way of the future and now that almost all camera manufacturers have now entered into that market, I see advances in this technology accelerating over the next several years.