The wait is finally over!
Nikon has unveiled not one but two brand new full-frame mirrorless cameras, an absolute first for the company, in the form of the Nikon Z7 and the Nikon Z6.
While both the Z7 and the Z6 are now available for pre-order, they will ship separately in September and November, respectively.
For Nikon, this is no less than a historic moment because the all-new Z mount system debuting on the cameras effectively replaces Nikon’s F mount, which has been around since as far back as the late fifties.
Barring the model numbers engraved on the front of the two Zs, the cameras are almost identical, sharing the same dimensions; the same magnesium alloy and weather-shield construction; as well as the same weight.
What separates the two, however, is found inside of the cameras, like in the case of the Sony a7 Mark III and the a7R Mark III.
Before we go into the differences let’s check out what’s common between the new Zs, starting with the design and build quality, which definitely give you a positive first impression.
The Zs are only marginally bigger than the a7 Mark IIIs, with a larger and taller front grip making it all the more comfortable to hold, especially when you’re using bulkier lenses.
The button layout is excellent, with everything feeling precise and tactile.
The still/video mode selector on the rear and the two function buttons close to the grip on the front are particularly well-placed, allowing for easy and handy access.
The cameras allow a good amount of customization, too, including personal menu options, along with a quick menu.
The ADF joystick is fast and precise – no complaints there, as well.
Another clever feature on the two Zs is the inclusion of a function ring that gives you the flexibility to use it for the aperture, for manual focus, or for exposure compensation.
The rear LCD touchscreen is fairly large and quite impressive in its precision and reactivity, in addition to offering an excellent resolution.
A second much smaller screen on top of the cameras is there for you to check your settings, like the ones you would find on high-end DSLRs and some mirrorless cameras.
The EVF is nice and sharp, with more than three million dots of resolution and a pretty decent 0.8X magnification.
Connectivity options are aplenty on the Zs, including a USB-C port, HDMI, microphone input and a headphone output.
Surprisingly and most disappointingly, Nikon has incorporated only one memory slot and that too the XQD type, instead of the more popular SD version.
The XQD’s larger form-factor is, likely, the reason behind limiting the Zs to just one slot; however, given the reliability of SD cards today, Nikon would have been better placed giving two SD slots, instead of a single XQD option, like it did for the D 750.
The autofocus on both cameras is pretty fast and responsive, easily detecting moving subjects with no stutters, whatsoever.
An FTZ adaptor costing $250 will afford you the luxury of full compatibility with Nikon’s huge array of F-mount lenses, which is great news, particularly for existing Nikon users who are likely to have collected a number of these lenses, over time.
Other specs include 4K video, time-lapse feature, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, a silent shutter, as well as an electronic first-curtain shutter, or EFCS, which is designed to eliminate “shutter shock” – the shaking that originates from the shutter mechanism.
The battery life is rated at around 300 shots for both cameras, which isn’t really something to write home about, considering the Sony a7 Mark III and the a7R Mark III can do twice as much.
The cameras use the EN-EL 15b 7.0V 1900mAh 14Wh battery but they are also compatible with the older 15a version, although Nikon warns that the battery life may prove to be even worse with the older ones.
The USB charging option, however, makes up for the low-battery life – somewhat.
The Z6 and the Z7 are the first Nikon cameras to feature 5-axis stabilization of up to 5.0 Ev (CIPA) and can also work in conjunction with VR lenses and manual focus lenses, although in 3-axis stabilization instead of 5.
Sensor stabilization works as well for the videos, too, plus you can also make the most of the software stabilization option.
Now that we’re done with similarities, it’s time to take a look at the differences that set the two cameras more than $1,400 apart – with the Z 7 selling for $3,399.95 while the Z6 priced at $1995.95.
The first difference between the Z7 and the Z6 are their sensors, and although both are based on a back-illuminated structure and lack the AA (anti-aliasing) filter, the Z6 has 24 megapixels, as opposed to the 45.7 megapixels the Z7 is blessed with.
The ISO range is also different (ISO 100-51200 for Z6 and ISO 64-25600 for Z7).
The next thing that separates the two is the auto-focus points – Z6 has 273 phase detection points compared to the Z7’s 493.
Speaking of video, we have 4K recording up to 30fps and a bit-rate of 100Mbps.
In conclusion, neither the Z6 nor the Z7 is bringing anything new or game-changing to the mirrorless table and that isn’t already there.
As a matter of fact, the single memory card slot and the poor battery life is a step, or two, backward in the mirrorless game.
On the positive side, the design ergonomics feel great, the build quality is quite premium, and balances well.
Speaking to Digital Camera World, Nikon’s senior product manager Tim Carter cited three reasons as to why he thinks anyone would want a new Z-system, especially if he/she is a Nikon user.
“Firstly if you’re already a Nikon user, with the FTZ mount adapter you’ve got compatibility with all of your existing lenses,” Carter said.
“I think the ergonomics and handling, the way you interface with the camera, is number two for me. It feels like a Nikon. The menu and touchscreen, the top plate, and everything. The viewfinder – it’s as close to a DSLR as you can get in a mirrorless camera,” he added.
“And then number three, amazing image quality with Z-mount lenses. What these can deliver is above anything that you can get from a DSLR,” he said.
Speaking about the future of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, Curtis told DCW:
“I think you’re gonna have die hard DSLR users who are more than happy with what they’ve got. D850 is the best DSLR ever made. There’s huge amounts of people are very happy with that, very happy with using DSLRs.
They’re probably not even interested in switching to a mirrorless system,”
He concluded: “We’re not abandoning DSLRs. Both systems will work alongside each other. What we can uniquely offer is the best DSLR system, and the best mirrorless system, side by side. The best of both worlds.”