Nikon Z7 | Hands-On Preview & First Impressions

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Last night in Seattle, WA, local camera shop Glazer's had a special event for photographers and videographers in the area who wanted to check out the latest offering from Nikon. With the recent announcement of the Nikon Z Series, a new lineup of cameras and lenses for the brand, they've been doing events over the country for creatives to come and try out their latest piece of hardware.

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Upon checking in to the event, creatives were gifted with both swag and paperwork on the new Z Series and the thought process behind developing it. 

After about a 30 minute presentation from our friendly Nikon representative, we got some hands on time with the Nikon Z7, as well as the new FTZ Mount Adapter with the new AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, the new 24-70 f/4 S lens, and the new 50mm f/1.8 S!

 Nikon Z7

Nikon Z7

 The Nikon Z7 (Left) next to the Nikon D7100 (Right)

The Nikon Z7 (Left) next to the Nikon D7100 (Right)

After spending a few minutes with this thing, and using it in tandem with my D7100, I can say that Nikon has done a really nice job with this as their first time going mirrorless. I won't say that it's perfect, but I will say some of the backlash it's received online from people might have been warranted, but also excessive. I'll get to that in a bit. 

Ergonomically speaking, it feels great. The grip is DEEP and fits comfortably in my hand. The viewfinder juts out far enough from the back where I'm not pressing my nose against the rear touchscreen, and button placement on to the top feels familiar, while the rear buttons feel like they're all in logical places. Everything feels clicky, which makes it feel like my inputs are being recognized. Having that confirming feedback is always a joy. 

The info at the top of the camera feels so much more modern now thanks to the new screen. It will take some getting used to after using the DSLR lineup for so long. The touchscreen on the rear is sharp and images look gorgeous on it.

Everything that I was able to shoot with this was fast and sharp. What I'm really looking forward to is trying this out with something like the Atomos Ninja V + N-Log at 10-bit 4:2:2. I've been getting more technical with my video work, and would love the ability to deliver an even higher grade of work to clients. This camera can take the battery from the D7100, but can't charge those older batteries in the body via USB-C. Not a bad trade off if you're coming from a camera that already uses that battery type. 

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While the Z7 is small, the lenses are huge because of that new 55mm Z mount. One (PRICEY) XQD card slot on the side means this camera is future facing and is a statement to what Nikon thinks will be the future as far as storage media. That one XQD slot has been a talking (or balking) point for the last week. Plenty of professionals, with good reason, have said that having one card slot is poor choice on Nikon's part and they wouldn't purchase the camera because of that. It's a fair point to make; outside of commercial work and editorial shoots, I've shot a smattering of weddings for close friends. All three of these occasions are situations where the client is paying you, The Professional™, for images and are trusting you, the creative business person, to be reliable with saving your images. If your card fails and you have no backup, you're SOL, both financially as well as your reputation. That's a huge risk. But here's where it gets interesting. 

For starters, the Z Series is brand new. It has time to grow and evolve, just as the DSLR line has done before it. Secondly, and what was most interesting to me during the presentation last night, was the emphasis on it being not a replacement to your DSLR, but an alternative; a complementary piece to the gear you already own. In this way, Nikon seems to be softening the downside by offering full compatibility with over 360 of their previous F-mount lenses via the FTZ Mount Adapter. In an ideal user situation, your main body would be a D850 with the Nikon Holy Trinity (or Hebrew Trinity, s/o to Fro), and a few primes, and the Z7 would be a very powerful, yet light B camera that works with all your existing lenses. In this way, Nikon is hedging it's bets on mirorrless while giving itself time to mature the system. My hope is that they aggressively build out the system, because they're off to a really good start with this and the Z7.

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I'm happy that Nikon has finally joined the mirrorless fray. I'm happy that they finally have a Log format for video and it's full frame with no crop and it's 4:2:2, even if it's external. And despite the disappointments, I'm happy that this thing is playing by it's own rules and making the scene more competitive again. I think that is going to be a great upgrade path for people like myself who are coming from APS-C cameras and use a similar battery to the Z Series. 

What are your thoughts on the Nikon Z Series? Leave a comment here or find me on FacebookTwitter & Instagram.