It’s felt like forever ago since we first heard word that Nikon was finally developing a full frame mirrorless camera. And after months of speculation, rumour and leaks, it’s finally official. Today, Nikon has released the new Z mirrorless series with two Z6 & Z7 cameras, three new 35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8 & 24-70mm f/4 lenses, and an FTZ lens mount adapter.
Nikon’s new Z mirrorless system brings with it a new Z mount. With a massive 55mm inner diameter and 16mm flange distance, Nikon says that this huge lens mount, which is 17% wider than the F Mount, allows more light and greater lens/camera connectivity. Nikon says that the new Z mount is “fully compatible with over 90 F Mount Nikkor lenses”.
But let’s take a look at those cameras. The Nikon Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras seem identical in many ways, and from the outside they’re indistinguishable aside from the number printed on them. But let’s get the differences out of the way first.
Nikon Z7 Mirrorless – $3,396.95
Nikon’s new flagship full-frame mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z7, features a 45.7 Megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor with a native ISO range of 64-25,600. It contains the new Expeed 6 processor allowing for up to 9 frames per second shooting. The Z7 also contains a new autofocus system boasting 493 autofocus points that cover 90% of the image.
Nikon Z6 Mirrorless – $1,996.95
The Z6 is the lesser of the two models, but it is by no means a slouch. It contains a lower resolution 24.5MP sensor, with 273 on-sensor phase detection autofocus points. Thanks to the lower pixel density, The Z6 offers a higher ISO range of 100-51,200 and shoots at up to 12 frames per second.
Aside from the resolution, the number of AF points, ISO range, and continuous shooting, both cameras are essentially the same.
Designed to up against both their own range of DSLRs as well as the competition, they both house some fairly impressive features. But they both also have one or two issues that may become dealbreakers for some users. But there are also many positives to help aid the transition for Nikon DSLR users looking to make the leap to mirrorless.
We’ll get the biggest negative out of the way first.
There’s only a single XQD card slot
The Nikon Z mirrorless cameras both utilise XQD cards, which may be updated in the future to be compatible with the impending CFexpress format. The problem is, both cameras only contain one of these slots. Now, memory cards have definitely become more stable and reliable as time has gone on, but to not be able to create backups as you go will be a dealbreaker for many professional shooters, especially those who shoot weddings or other unrepeatable events.
Personally, I think at least for the Z6, I’d have been totally happy to have had a couple of UHS-II slots instead of XQD.
But there is definitely a lot of good.
They’re compatible with a bunch of pre-existing DSLR accessories.
The Z6 & Z7 utilise the same EN-EL15 batteries we’ve been using since the Nikon D7000. Specifically, they come with a EN-EL15b battery, but are said to be compatible with both the original EN-EL15 and EN-EL15a. This will be a nice bonus for anybody coming from a D7x00, D500, D8x0 or other body that uses EN-EL15 batteries.
They’re also compatible with Nikon’s existing AWL/CLS flash system. That’s the one that’s been around since the Nikon F6 and D2h series bodies. So, it should work with every Nikon speedlight from the SB-800 & SB-600 onwards, and also all of the current compatible 3rd party lights that offer HSS & TTL capabilities.
The Nikon WT-7/A/B/C Wireless Transmitters are also supported by the two bodies, offering remote control and wireless file transfer. While most people won’t have a use for these, this will be handy for event shooters, or those who want to get around the single XQD card slot and still make backups while they shoot (albeit a bit slow).
Both bodies offer 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
IBIS was obviously going to be a big deal with Nikon mirrorless cameras. They’ve put off including it in their DSLRs, would they implement it in their Z line of mirrorless cameras? They didn’t do it with the Nikon 1 series, after all. But Nikon actually came through.
The IBIS system offers 5 stops of compensation, and best of all, it’s compatible with F Mount lenses mounted to the FTZ lens mount adapter. Whether or not it will still utilise F mount lens VR in combination with the sensor stabilisation seems to be unclear at the moment – I’ve seen conflicting reports with no solid confirmation. But, there is at least some form of stabilisation in the camera with F Mount lenses.
3.2″ 2.1m dot tilting touchscreen LCD
Nikon have stuck with the D850 style tilting touchscreen LCD. Personally, I’m a little disappointed with this. Maybe it’s just me, but where are the cameras with the flippy out LCDs? The Canon 6D Mark II has become quite a popular vlogging camera since its launch thanks to being the only full frame camera out there with a flippy out LCD. Many people use Panasonic GH5 for the same reason.
Sure, Nikon isn’t best known for their video, although it doesn’t look too bad in these cameras. I do wish they’d give us something more capable than the D5x00 series with a flippy out LCD rather than a tilting one for shooting video. But that might just be me.
3.69m dot EVF with 100% coverage
I’ve never been a huge fan of electronic viewfinders, but they have started to grow on me. It certainly offers its advantages over the optical viewfinder of a DSLR. you get to see exactly what you’re shooting (unless you’re using flash), and you get features like focus peaking for when manually focusing. But for me, I still prefer an optical viewfinder, so I’m going to reserve judgement on this until I get to try one in person.
4K UHD video with 10Bit uncompressed HDMI output
Video is the one area where Nikon seems to have consistently failed. Whenever people ask “Which camera should I buy for video?”, Nikon is the least likely to be recommended except for specific use cases (like perhaps the D5x00 series, for vlogging). But it looks like Nikon might have actually learned a few lessons with the video on these cameras.
Both cameras offer 4K UKD at 24/25/30fps as well as 1080p FHD at up to 120 frames per second. Like the Sony models, this is 8Bit footage. So we don’t get 4:2:2 10Bit like we do from the GH5. But, one advantage the Nikons do hold over the Sony A7 series is that the Z6/7 HDMI output is 10Bit uncompressed N-Log. We’ll have to see how this compares in the real world vs the Sony’s 8Bit output.
The rest of the stuff
As one would expect, the Nikon Z6 & Z7 mirrorless cameras feature all the weather & dust sealing we’d expect from a new camera today. And this is one area where Nikon has really excelled for the last decade or so. It’s also an area where Sony seems to have consistently failed with their A7 series cameras. This could be something which sways many shooters to stick with the dark side.
They all have a bunch of picture styles for when you’re shooting video (assuming you’re not using N-Log) or jpg. Each of these picture styles features adjustable levels from 0-100.
Another huge feature contained within both cameras, that seems to have been omitted from the Sony A7III is a built-in intervalometer. Of course, Nikon’s DSLRs have had a built-in intervalometer ever since at least 2005 with the Nikon D200 (this was the first Nikon DSLR I owned that featured it). So, it’s not really a surprise that it’s included in the two new mirrorless bodies. Lack of a built-in intervalometer has been a serious issue with a lot of Sony shooters hoping to do timelapse, though, especially when previous models allowed you to at least install an app to add this capability.