#760. Nikon Z6 & Z7 : Criticism and praise!

#760. Nikon Z6 & Z7 : Criticism and praise!

The full release includes: the Z6, essentially a mirrorless D750 and A7 III competitor, the Z7, essentially a mirroless D850 and A7RIII competitor.

 

For comparisons between the two models, check out this link:

Nikon Z6 vs Z7

My analysis :

In a nutshell, this is a very-low-risk strategy, as it makes full use of existing Nikon building blocks (processors, sensors) and incorporates nothing new except IBIS.

At the same time, Nikon release 3 lenses, 35mm f:1.8, 50mm f:1.8 and 24-70mm f:4.0, and an adapter to use F-mount Nikon lenses. 4 more lenses are due in 2019, and more later.

 

(c) Nikon

 

From my point of view, it looks like a defensive strategy, to stop the loss of Nikon-invested customers, with cameras offering competitive features. On the other hand, by using a longer flange distance (it seems that way from the pictures) than Sony, Sony or third-party Sony-native lenses won’t be portable to the Nikon Z.

(c) ?

So, yes, Nikon now play in the mirrorless space. The Z7 is very probably a very capable camera, though at a cost 500$/€ higher than its Sony competitor. The Z6 can meet the A7III head-to-head, at a similar price point. Considering how well the Sony was received, if Nikon deliver on the promise, it should also be a very welcome addition to the mirrorless field.

Some important features are lacking, such as no eye AF, much lower battery life and no dual card slots, all important to some segments of the photo world.

 

(c) The Verge

Whether that is enough to conquer new customers, and overcome the handicap of a new lens mount with only 3 lenses, only time will tell, but I am not too hopeful, depite all the goodies that Nikon throw in and what they customarily do well, like user interface and weather protection.

A nasty way to describe them is to quote Nikon’s own baseline: “inspiration in every detail”. And to add: “and innovation in none”. But there is life in other ways than innovating, if every detail is indeed inspiringly thought out and flawlessly executed.

And competition is all to the good, as far as customers/end-users are concerned.

PS: much to my surprise, it seems that there will now very soon be A ZEISS CAMERA! Fixed lens, lots of Sony hardware, totally unexpected (Zeiss denied several times wanting to get back to the camera business). So here’s to hoping they have something “big enough” to warrant them diving back in…

 

Pascal adds, in defense of the Z7

Since my voice is supposed to be in support of this new release, let me start by getting my 2 main gripes out-of-the-way.

First of all, look at those buttons everywhere. Digital was supposed to simplify everything, right? Some brands understood this and are now the highest valued in the history of mankind. Others refuse to see the light and are pedalling frantically against the current to get out of the red. Just sayin’

Secondly, the flage distance seems quite high on this camera, which would probably make it impossible to use lenses from Sony and M-mount. If so, that’s a real shame. This seems deeply rooted in feudal Japan, when you could only beat the opponent. Nikon possibly didn’t get the memo : in today’s world, 1+1=3. Collaboration benefits everyone.

 

 

Now for the good stuff.

Jean-Pierre Guaron, a frequent commentator on this blog often tells us that the D850 doesn’t provide enough differentiation from his D810 to justify the upgrade. Given I didn’t update my Sony A7rII to the Mk3 model, I totally get that. We’ve definitely entered a phase when most of us will skip a generation or 2 between upgrades. This, though? Great IBIS + great EVF, that’s a major proposition. So, for existing D8xx users, getting one of these puppies makes a lot of sense. And for those slightly lower down the Nikon hierarchy, it makes it that much more tempting to splurge.

 

 

Nikon are also sending a message, I think, that they are not paying lip service to the whole mirrorless movement. If traditional nomenclature is anything to go by, the 8 series tends to be the amateur/prosumer flagship. So maybe there’s even more yummyness to come in the form of a Z8. The Z8 was a BMW masterpiece, maybe it can be Nikon’s digital chef d’oeuvre, who knows ? 🙂 It took them long enough, but they are now playing a serious game.

Then, there’s the size and shape of the body. Unmistakably Nikon, quite elegant and just about the perfect size for my hands. Forget the specs. What does your body tell you? My body tells me that my initial craving for smaller cameras was a mistake and that holding a grip that’s too small for a long period of time induces a lot of tension that can’t be good for stability and sure ain’t pleasant.

Features, also: what’s the point of being digital if the most basic of digitally enabled features have to be added via apps? The Z7 comes with an intervalometer and possibly other niceties that elude others.

 

 

The price. The price is right. So it’s 500 quid more than an A7r3. It’s also almost 3400 quid more than a pack of salt and a few millions less than a jet fighter. Price is meaningless. You can afford it or you can’t. What the world needs is statement cameras that do things in the best possible manner and that you will keep forever, not these calculators with lenses that we need to change (at great loss) every couple of years. It has more pixels, more AF spots, more grams, so you could calculate value for xxx on those bases, but that’s not the right way of thinking about it. IN my experience, Nikon do things properly. It’s been a long time since I haven’t shot one. But at the time, the colour was in different league from Sony’s. I (not so) fondly remember 3 days in winter Copenhagen when it only stopped pouring down on me and my D800e to snow on my and my D800e. The thing didn’t bat an eyelid. I wish I could say the same of my successive Sonys. So, yeah, *if everything works as advertised (a big if)*, then it’s totally worth its price.

The lenses. It would have been a nice touch for Nikon to give away the adaptor to at least the frist 1000 buyers of the camera. Who’s going to buy the Z7 without the adaptor? Put it on and you essentially have a better D850 in a more versatile package. That and access to a metric shit-ton of lenses that other brands still don’t offer (long lenses, speciality lenses …) It would have been an even nicer touch to provide compatibility with M-mount.

 

 

Will I be buying one? Well, my love story with Nikon is a long-lasting one. I’m biased in that way. The D80 saved me from photographic extinction and I still love the files that camera gave me (all those on my section are from the D80 and the banner image, by the way, is the very first photograph posted on DS 🙂 ). I only left the stable to be able to adapt Zeiss and Leica legacy glass, thanks to Sony. I *am* tempted, having never felt at home with the Sony A7x series, only considering these bodies (and customer service) as something I had to put up with to use the glass I love. But it’s unlikely I’ll buy the Z7 because the only camera to really rock my world in since Sony’s wonderful Nex-5n is the Hassy X1D and I’m saving my pennies for that.

Still, kudos !

24/08/2018: The humble pie update

(c) Gemma Evans

 

Well, well well … 16mm! It appears the flange distance of this Zeee7 is indeed shorter than the Sony A7xx’s, contrary to what initial photographs led me to believe. Wonderful news !

And, erm, my accusations of feudalism appear to be completely unfounded. My apologies and my admiration go to Nikon strategists and product designers. Not only does this camera seem better and better as previews get released, it also seems to be open to a world of lenses. What remains to be seen is how nice the sensor plays with legacy lenses. Sensor stack thickness on the D810/D850 appears to be roughly the same as Sony’s, or slightly lower. So good news all around.

Can’t wait to try one for myself. The sooner the better.

 


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18 Comments

  1. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron August 23, 2018

    Great article. Thanks Philippe, thanks Pascal.

    The comment that –
    “If so, that’s a real shame. This seems deeply rooted in feudal Japan, when you could only beat the opponent. Nikon possibly didn’t get the memo : in today’s world, 1+1=3. Collaboration benefits everyone.”
    hit home. Call me dumb – but I’ve NEVER been able to understand why these manufacturers go to such outlandish lengths to make sure everything is incompatible. Tamron EXISTS on making lenses to fit other people’s cameras. Zeiss makes a fortune out of it. And that, despite all this “anti compatibility” nonsense.

    You wouldn’t dare drive a car, if everyone out there thought it was fine to drive in either direction, on both sides of the street. What’s wrong with these people? And that’s not a criticism of these new cameras, either.

    But it leads straight into Pascal’s suggestion – give away a free adapter flange to the first thousand customers. How could a jump of over 3 million quid in sales POSSIBLY harm Nikon’s balance sheet? And surely that “freeby” would produce an avalanche of sales, because buyers wouldn’t have to wait for months to get suitable lenses for the work THEY do – they’d already have the lenses, and the limited range of 3 o offer with the launch of these two cameras would no longer be an issue! Brilliant suggestion, Pascal.:) Maybe you could do a “Ming” and consult to Nikon on how to expand their business!

    Sadly, as Philippe has noted, these cams don’t have a dual card slot. I’ve BEEN caught before – 10,000 miles from home, and forced to quit using one card slot – but thankfully, my Nikon had another slot and I managed to finish my trip without losing out. After that unpleasant and unnerving experience, I’m never buying another cam without two card slots, except to fool around at home. Just my reaction – feel free to do whatever pushes YOUR buttons – but the only single slot cams I have are my Nikon compact and my Canon PowerShot. My D7100, D7200 and D810 all have dual slots. I expect dual slots. I demand dual slots. Especially on a camera at this price, and with these other specifications. This one is a deal breaker, for me, Nikon.

    The other thing I noted (i another review that floated onto my desktop ovenight) was rather amusing. Apparently the “Z” and the numeral that follows (6, or 7), must have a space between them – and that is considered to be highly important. God will have to explain that – or Nikon. I can’t. Last I heard, things like that were being described as “piffle”. So, guys, it’s not “Z6” and “Z7” – it’s “Z 6” and “Z 7”. WHOOPPEE! 🙂 Sorry – I don’t get that one – I only worry about things that matter! 🙂 In the context of photography, what matters most to me is “functionality in design”, and a space in the model number of a camera’s number is too bizarre altogether.

  2. Avatar
    Bob Hamilton August 24, 2018

    I hope that, for the sake of the consumer, both cameras are a success. The resulting competition can only help to spur the “old guard” of mirrorless – the real innovators so far – on to even bigger and better things. The “old guard” have no choice as almost their entire photographic businesses and, certainly, what might be described as the “serious” element of those businesses is comprised of the design, production and marketing of mirrorless cameras and the lenses for those cameras.
    However, my take is that, ironically, given the lens road map released for the new Nikon mount, which includes no focal length I can see longer than 200mm, as long as the new Nikon cameras are “good enough”, the real key to Nikon’s success, in keeping its professional, sports and wildlife, long glass shooters happy and loyal, is going to be in the F to Z mount adapter (the “FTZ”) and, in respect of that extremely important market for them, they seem to be relying on the performance of a $250 mount adapter. My experience of lens mount adapters is not particularly good and, for Nikon’s sake, it had better be the best such adapter ever made..!!

    • Avatar
      philberphoto August 24, 2018

      I hope they will be successful as well, but I feel they have been much too protective of their existing products and market share to give themselves much potential to attract new users away from existing brands. Except that, technically, there is nothing stopping one from mounting Canon FF lenses onto a Nikon Z camera once an electronic adapter has been developped. Canon lens on mirrorless Nikon, that would be ironic..

      • Avatar
        jean pierre (pete) guaron August 25, 2018

        Whooppee! Great idea, Philippe! A giant step towards compatibility!

        Last example I heard of, Nikon did something in a software upgrade that “nuked” lenses from third party manufacturers that had previously been fully compatible with the relevant Nikon cameras. People were furious – and their only solution was to find a way to go back to the previous level of Nikon software on their cameras, which apparently wasn’t that easy to do.

  3. Avatar
    Radoslav TEj August 24, 2018

    Great analysis , thanks.
    My take is that as a first attempt they were happy to match specs of SONY at this point (some are even tad better on paper), rather than doing innovation. It is first attempt. I am Sony&Fuji shooter, I won’t buy one,but it is decent attempt (II.gen will gave dual card slots,for sure). Waiting for Canon-if they will do something more classic, stylish, smore simple and functional…who knows?

    I don;’t understand you remark about problems adapting leica M- glass- flange distance is shorter, so you could do that , even adapt Pen F glass and C-mount with helicoid adapter? That would be cool

    • Avatar
      philberphoto August 24, 2018

      Thanks for the kind words, Radoslav. It seems, so far, that Sony have the shortest flange distance of all, making the A7x the platform on which one can adapt the most thrid-party lenses. Early on, it was thought that this would result in such acute angles with WA lenses that there would be IQ issuesin the corners, but now this has been overcome, as there are even 10mm rectilinear designs for the Sony. The issue with Leica WAs comes not fromt he focal length, but from the sensor cover glass thikness, where the Sony has double the Leica spec.

      • Avatar
        Auke August 24, 2018

        The little white focal plane symbol on top of the Nikons shows that the flange distance is very short. I’ve read it is 16mm vs 18mm for Sony

        • Avatar
          pascaljappy August 24, 2018

          Wonderful news, Auke ! I’ve updated the post to correct my mistake 🙂

  4. Avatar
    NMc August 24, 2018

    I have no skin any games but WTF re lens map;-
    50mm 1/1.8, 58mm 1/.95, 50mm 1/1.2, three practically identical focal lengths before any 24mm, 28mm, 70mm, 105mm, sure you do not have to completely fill a lens line-up before offering alternative units but this looks weird to me. It looks like repeating a Sony *mistake*, and to be fair to Sony it was Zeiss who are half responsible for that situation, and they bought a whole lot more to the system, so not a reason to complain.

    The statement/halo product of 58mm 1/.95 is not getting that much attention in the online headless chicken race for comments. Perhaps this product will be the one that *jumps the shark* on narrowest depth of field is best photography ideology with the gear heads. Lens designers need to consider how images are pulled together more than isolation, with or without a high cholesterol rendering.
    Regards Noel

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy August 24, 2018

      Hi Noel,

      they are obviously counting on users making do with their current F-mount lenses. Good news for Nikon owners, not so sexy for transfuges. To be fair, there’s a ton of F-mount gear to be used, but they do need to provide the mainstay lenses pretty quickly.

      That 58/0.95 is a mystery to me. First question is why ? And the answer is probably because the bayonet design makes it easier than before. But it’s still a slippery slope. This has to be exceptional or it will be laughed at. If they come out with a lens that costs Otus money, they’d better deliver Otus performance. We’ll see.

      I’m eager to test the first few lenses. In my past experience, Nikon glass has always been good but lifeless. It lacked sparkle. Maybe this new mount can free the design teams and will lead to something really interesting? Fingers crossed.

      All the best, Pascal

      • Avatar
        NMc August 25, 2018

        “We’ll see” is absolutely the point, if the native mount lenses set a standard that gets people engaged then they have a system in infancy with a great deal of potential, meanwhile the competition is growing and evolving. If on the other hand the first lenses do not gel as a system in the minds of consumers then Nikon have a great deal of work to do to re position the system when/as it evolves. Or they could give everyone a great deal of confidence and announce cooperation with at least a select group of lens partners, your 1+1=3. The two Zeiss full frame mirrorless lens ranges alone is more than the proposed number of Nikon’s available two years from now. The choices for current M mount lenses is several times more again!

        The presentation of the marketing felt backward looking, insular and defensive, yes it is very important to provide a transition for your existing customer base so long as you do not compromise the new system. Two cameras sort of directly competing with the established player looks like they know how to do duopoly more than camera systems. I hope they read DS for their own good, more sense here than the whole of DPreview comments section (not much of a compliment I know 😉 ).

  5. Avatar
    Joakim Danielson August 24, 2018

    Hi
    Note that the flange distance is 2mm shorter on the Nikon Z cameras compared to Sony A7, 16 vs 18.

    Just tried one out in the store, very good view finder and ergonomics.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy August 24, 2018

      Hi Joakim, nice to hear from you.

      Yes, I didn’t know that at the time (post updated, now) and that is really great news. It means I can try using my M lenses and also that Nikon is really thinking differently. What a welcome camera.

      So you’ve been able to play with one? Lucky you. Were you able to make any photographs ?

      • Avatar
        Joakim Danielson August 24, 2018

        No photographs to take home and I didn’t even have a card with me or anything. Anyway this was a pre-production unit so I’m not sure they would have allowed for it. I don’t have any high hope for Leica M ultra wides but it will be interesting to try longer M-lenses and other legacy lenses because I have pre-ordered a Z7 🙂 and I hope this will be an excellent landscape camera and also fun camera for legacy lenses and maybe now it is finally time for me to learn about video shooting.

  6. Avatar
    PaulB August 25, 2018

    All

    Wow! What a storm of commentary the new cameras have generated. I knew it would be big. But we are getting more than I expected.

    So I have a couple of comments to add here.

    First, the sensor cover glass and other filters need to be very close (thinner), if not identical, to the DSLR bodies, or F-lenses will not work as well. If they are thicker, then we will have similar adapting issues as adapting lenses to the Sony A7 bodies.

    For example, Nikon and Canon DSLRs use a 1 mm cover glass, Leica M bodies use a cover glass that is 0.5mm, and Sony uses a cover glass that is 2.5 mm thick; I have also seen claims the Sony glass is 2 mm. The surprise was reading that M43 cover glass is 5 mm thick.

    As mentioned above, it is the cover glass thickness that influences how adapted lenses work on a mirrorless body. From my experience the reason Leica M lenses seem to render better on M43 than Sony FF is, the smearing effect occurs beyond the edges of the frame, unless you are using a 21 mm or wider; Sony crop sensors perform between these two extremes.

    My second comment is, has anyone else noticed how much the new Nikons resemble the Panasonic LUMIX G9? I first picked up the similarities reading Thom Hogan’s description of the body layout. Then I looked at photos for the first time.

    PaulB

  7. Avatar
    PaulB August 26, 2018

    All

    Here is something I thought of a little bit ago that goes with my most recent post.

    With a 16 mm flange to sensor distance, almost any lens could be usable on the new Nikons. But due to their exclusive use of this distance, Nikon S-lenses won’t be usable on anything else.

    At least, not until someone develops a true universal back with interchangeable mounts.

    PaulB

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy August 27, 2018

      Thanks Kristian ! Will take a look at this immediately.

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