Nikon Z 6 & 7 Mirrorless Camera field report.

In 2018 Nikon introduced it first prosumer mirrorless cameras, the Z6 with a 24 mp sensor and the Z7 with 45 mp sensor. From the first press reports and having used a couple of other popular mirrorless cameras I was underwhelmed. Still I watched and waited to see the actual field results from working photographers rather than the professional camera reviewers. In March with the night sky in its glory with both the Milky way and aurora visible depending on your location I began to see reports of the excellent high ISO results of the 24 mp Z6. With a article on night sky photography deadline rapidly approaching I contacted my Nikon representative to see if I could borrow a Z6 for testing. After a week or so I found where the UPS driver had skillfully hidden the box from Nikon by dropping it over a five foot fence behind a bush 3 days prior in the rain. At least the box and packing passed the drop and moisture test.

In the time since I received the Z6 and it's lenses I have had many requests for my opinion on the Z cameras so here it goes. I will not go into details or the technical descriptions of the lenses and cameras but I will cover my opinion of it's usability and functions in a number of field situations. I have used the cameras in many situations including photographing the Milky Way, Wildlife, Landscapes, Portrait, Fast Action, Night Rodeo, Snow Storms, Desert Heat and fine powder dust just as I would with my D850's.

Here is my first impression of the short comings per the web reviewers.

A Single Memory Card Slot .... 

Like most photographers, I have become accustomed to having two card slots and like many of you I have used the second card for overflow. So in my case the second card is very rarely used and not really missed. I shoot with 128 (now 120) gb cards so I can easily get through a days shooting before I backup to a second memory device. That said, if you regularly store your images on both cards as you shoot you may feel you no longer have the security of everything being written to 2 cards, you are right but it is worth noting that the XQD has been the most reliable camera storage device produced to date. Still I would like to have a second card slot because more is better.

Poor Autofocus ....

If you are comparing the Z machines to the D5 you are correct. The Z6 (better of the two) and the Z7 do not live up to that standards nor does any another camera made today. Of course that is no excuse for a new camera not being the best even if the processor is handling twice the data of the D5. So how does the autofocus work compared to the D500/D850 ?  Too close for me to call. Have I had the autofocus hunt excessively? Yes. Geyser steam in the snow does give the Z7 all or more than it can handle. I recently photographed a night rodeo with a group attending my Wyoming Cowboy and Wild Horse Workshop while using my Z7, and the FTZ adapter with a 70-200 f 2.8 GII lens, with what I consider very good results. I was using single point continuous focusing and when I missed a barrel racer coming out if the shoot or had the sensor off of the subject for more than a split second the images were soft. When I put the sensor where it should be the AFC lock on again.  When I turn on A10 Dynamic-area AF assist and A11 low light AF assist it seemed to stop the loss of focus. Truth is, it only happed once during the rodeo. So my vertic is: Yes, it should be improved but it is better than the second best general purpose DSLR camera ever made the D810 and on par with the D850 after firmware version 2. 


Z7 iso 5000 Cody night rodeoCody Night Rodeo

Nikon Z7 ISO 5000, 70-200 F 2.8, 1/400 raw direct from camera.

Aprox 400% crop ISO 5000 raw out of the Camera Z7

Approx 4:1 crop or 400% raw out of camera un edited except cropping.

 400% raw un edited400% 4:1 Crop Raw un-edited
Of course there are other minor issues but they are minor like any other new camera. A couple of the things I really like: 
The general layout of the buttons and there size. With the exception of image review and delete all of the back of the camera buttons are on the right side an can be reached with my thumb while shooting. The ISO button is in the same location as the D500/D850 which make for quick adjustments.
EVE information. Live histogram to compensate for changing light as you shoot. Focus peaking to confirm DOF while shooting.. During back button focusing you can touch the manual focus ring on the lens and focus peaking is actuated in the view finder defining what is in focus.

So that is my short overview of the Nikon Z machines.

Full disclosure : Nikon did loan me the Z6, FTZ Adapter , 24-70 f4, 35 f1.8,50 f 1.8. After 5 weeks of shooting with the Z6 I purchased the Z7. Not because there is any real differences in the cameras, but I am addicted to high megapixel cameras even though I often shoot in very low light where the higher ISO capabilities of the Z6 shine. I will be adding a Z6 of my own soon. 

More to come.............
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