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Summary

The Nikon Z7 is a high-end full-frame mirrorless camera that jointly launches the Z-system alongside its more affordable, faster but lower resolution sibling, the Z6. The Z7 enters an established and fiercely competitive market, aiming squarely at the Sony Alpha A7r Mark III and essentially matching many of its features as you'd expect: the Z7 gives you a 45 Megapixel sensor with 493 embedded phase-detect AF points, built-in stabilisation, a large high resolution electronic viewfinder, 4k video at 30p, 1080p video at 120p, a tilting touchscreen, 9fps burst shooting and Wifi with Bluetooth. It's an impressive specification to launch with, but one that Sony essentially has offered for the best part of a year. The Z7 fights back with a potentially faster XQD slot (albeit unforgiveably lacking twin slots), interval timer and timelapse video features, broader AF coverage, has arguably slightly better sealing, ergonomics, and menus, and the potential of the wider diameter lens mount (although the first lens to really exploit it won't arrive until 2019). But there's no 4k above 30p, no backlit buttons, no twin card slots, no pixel shift composite modes, and only three lenses at launch, although an adapter does allow you to mount F-mount lenses. I'd say the Nikon faithful will be happy as they essentially now have a Nikon version of the A7r III with decent F-mount compatibility and the potential for some exciting lenses in the future. But for anyone building a new system from scratch, the Sony A7r III remains a very compelling alternative at a slightly lower price.

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Nikon Z7 review so far

The Nikon Z7 is a high-end full-frame mirrorless camera aimed at enthusiasts and professionals, featuring 45 Megapixels, built-in stabilisation, 493 embedded AF points and 9fps burst shooting. Announced in August 2018 alongside the more affordable, faster but lower resolution Z6 model, both cameras launch Nikon’s long-awaited full-frame mirrorless ‘Z’ system.

The Z-system employs a brand new Z-mount with a 16mm flange to sensor distance and a wide 55mm inner diameter, allowing Nikon to more easily deliver high quality across the frame and achieve apertures as bright as f0.95. A 58mm f0.95 Noct lens is promised in 2019, but for now the system launches with three lenses: a 24-70mm f4 ‘kit’ zoom, along with 35mm f1.8 and 50mm f1.8 primes. There’s also the FTZ adapter that lets you use any F-mount lens with 93 models supporting autofocus, and if a lens has optical VR, it works alongside the body-based VR to enhance the stabilisation. Along with the 58mm f0.95, a Z-mount lens roadmap promises native 20mm f1.8, 85mm f1.8, 24-70mm f2.8, 70-200mm f2.8 and 14-30mm f4 lenses in 2019, while in 2020 promises native 50mm f1.2, 24m f1.8 and a 12-24mm f2.8 models. Third parties are also expected to launch Z-mount lenses.

Returning to the bodies, both the Z7 and Z6 share a great deal in common, including full-frame back-illuminated sensors with embedded phase-detect AF coverage across 90% of the frame (horizontal and vertical, and operating down to -4EV with an f2 lens). The sensors are stabilized in the body with 5-axes and up to five stops of compensation. They both share the same weatherproof bodies with magnesium alloy front, back and top covers, sealed to the same standards as the D850. Both share the same 3.6 Million dot Quad-VGA OLED electronic viewfinders with 0.8x magnification and the same 3.2in / 2.1 million dot tilting touchscreen. Both have the same controls including twin control dials, AF joystick, AF-ON button, and a small upper OLED panel for basic shooting information. Both employ a single XQD memory card slot and are powered by the EN-EL15B battery, good for 310-330 shots under CIPA conditions and USB-chargeable. Both can film 4k UHD video at 24, 25 or 30p or 1080 at up to 120p with audio, have adjustable movie AF speed and sensitivity, and are also equipped with microphone and headphone jacks, 10-bit output over HDMI with Nikon’s flat N-Log profile, focus peaking, zebra patterns, and have Wifi and Bluetooth to support Nikon’s SnapBridge technology.

So far, so similar. Where they differ is in sensor resolution, AF points, burst speed and price. The Nikon Z7 has 45.7 Megapixels, 493 AF points, 64-25600 native ISO sensitivity and 9fps bursts versus 24.5 Megapixels, 273 AF points, 100-51200 native ISO sensitivity and 12fps for the Z6. In terms of pricing, the Z6 body will launch at $1999 / 2099 GBP or $2599 / 2699 GBP in a kit with the 24-70mm f4, while the Z7 body will launch at $3399 / 3399 GBP or $3999 / 3999 GBP with the 24-70mm f4 zoom; you can also add the FTZ adapter for just 100 GBP if bundled with the body or kit. Bought separately the 24-70mm f4 costs 999 GBP, the 35mm f1.8 costs 849 GBP and the 50mm f1.8 costs 599, while the adapter costs 269 GBP; clearly it’s worth buying the kits with the zoom and the adapter. Sales start in September for the Z7, 24-70mm, 35mm and FTZ, while the Z6 and the 50mm f1.8 should follow in November. I had a chance to try out the Z7, 24-70mm f4, 35mm f1.8 and FTZ adapter at the official Nikon launch event and you can find out all about my experiences in my first-looks video review below!

 

 

 

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Nikon Z7 vs Sony Alpha A7r III

Nikon is under no illusions that the camera to beat – or at least match – is the Sony A7r III, and the Z7 indeed shares a great deal in common with it. in a similarly-sized weatherproof body you’re getting a similar resolution full-frame sensor (45 vs 42 Megapixels), built-in stabilisation (good for 5 vs 5.5 stops), similar burst speed (9 vs 10fps), 4k video up to 30fps or 1080 video up to 120p, quad-VGA viewfinders, tilting touchscreens, embedded phase-detect AF covering large portions of the frame (493 vs 399 points and 90 vs 68% of the horizontal and vertical), and Wifi with Bluetooth.

 

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In its favour, the Z7 employs a potentially faster card format with an XQD slot, but sadly lacks the twin slot capabilities of the A7r III. The literally big difference is the lens mount with the wider diameter flange of the Z7 potentially allowing better performance from wide angles or very bright aperture lenses, although the first lens to exploit this isn’t expected until 2019. The controls and grip on the Z7 are arguably a little better than the A7r III, and Nikon makes greater claims over the weather sealing than Sony, but I don’t think the differences will be huge. The Z7 does at least include intervalometer and timelapse video options in-camera, sorely lacking from the Sony and the AF system works down to -4EV compared to -3EV for the Sony. The Z7 can output 10 bit 4k over its HDMI and its autofocus area is also broader than the A7r III, although it lacks eye-detection, let alone eye-detect with continuous AF of the Sony. Finally a big advantage of the Z7 over the Sony is the ability to adapt F-mount lenses with decent support for autofocus – something that will tempt existing Nikon owners to stay with the brand.

 

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Above: the Z7 employs a potentially fast XQD card slot, but lacks twin slots.

 

In its favour, the Sony A7r III already has a significant selection of native lenses available, as well as being able to successfully adapt Canon EF lenses with AF (although this may end up being possible on the Z7 too). It boasts twin card slots (albeit SD and only one supporting UHS-II), double the battery life under CIPA conditions, a PC Sync port, it has eye detection with continuous AF, and a pixel shift mode to minimize demosaicing effects. The A7r III could also shoot deeper bursts compared to the pre-production Z7 I tested, but hopefully this will improve with final models.

Then there’s price with the A7r III currently coming in a little cheaper, although it has already been out for a year compared to the brand new Z7, which will sell at full RRP for a while. If you’re an existing Nikon owner, then it would make sense to choose the Z7 over the A7r III for better potential compatibility with lenses, accessories and familiarity with the menus. But if you don’t have an existing investment in either, there’s little to choose between them. The large Z-mount has a lot of potential but the first lenses to exploit it aren’t available until 2019 and in the meantime there’s a lot of excellent Sony lenses to start collecting. Ultimately we’ll have to wait and see how the image and video quality compares, as well as the overall speed and handling, but for now there isn’t a decisive leader between them. Nikon appears to have successfully matched most of Sony’s features but not taken a lead. See my Sony A7r III review for more details.

 

Nikon Z7 first impressions

The Nikon Z7 is a high-end full-frame mirrorless camera that jointly launches the Z-system alongside its more affordable, faster but lower resolution sibling, the Z6. The Z7 enters an established and fiercely competitive market, aiming squarely at the Sony Alpha A7r Mark III and essentially matching many of its features as you’d expect: the Z7 gives you a 45 Megapixel sensor with 493 embedded phase-detect AF points, built-in stabilisation, a large high resolution electronic viewfinder, 4k video at 30p, 1080p video at 120p, a tilting touchscreen, 9fps burst shooting and Wifi with Bluetooth. It could be thought of as a smaller and lighter version of the D850 with decent live view and movie autofocus. As such it’s an impressive specification to launch with, but one that Sony essentially has offered on the A7r III for the best part of a year.

 

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The Z7 fights back with a potentially faster XQD slot (albeit unforgiveably lacking twin slots), interval timer and timelapse video features, 10 bit 4k over HDMI, broader AF coverage, has arguably slightly better sealing, ergonomics, and menus, and the potential of the wider diameter lens mount (although the first lens to really exploit it won’t arrive until 2019). But there’s no 4k above 30p, no backlit buttons, no twin card slots, no pixel shift composite modes, and only three lenses at launch, although an adapter does allow you to mount F-mount lenses. I’d say the Nikon faithful will be happy as they essentially now have a Nikon version of the A7r III with decent F-mount compatibility and the potential for some exciting lenses in the future. But for anyone building a new system from scratch, the Sony A7r III remains a very compelling alternative at a slightly lower price.

Note these are my first impressions based on a pre-production Z7 body. Only once we’ve tested final production bodies can we really compare the quality and handling of the Z system. Check back soon for updates!

Order the Nikon Z7 from Amazon, B&HAdorama or Wex.
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