Yawn, another "first impressions" post to add to the mix

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anotherMike Veteran Member • Posts: 9,158
Yawn, another "first impressions" post to add to the mix

Yup, yet another "quick impressions" post!

Yet, you're here!

I promise I won't argue about whether adapters turn great lenses into the underside of mexican pepsi bottles (although if you'd like, feel free to take a break from my post to order some popcorn as you read yet the four trillionth argument about said topic, I'll wait!), and unlike so many who post "quick impressions", I'm actually going to give you a disclaimer of sorts, and tell you what subjects I photograph, what I value, and what I think about this Z7 camera and the lenses we have so far in Z mount, so you can see if what you (the reader) shoot and value match what I do (and if we don't match, order some more popcorn, and don't place much value into what I say).

Really, at this point so early in the game, readers should just assemble the collection of "first impressions" posts to kind of see what consensus might be building. A lot of this is just early conjecture, because none of us have had adequate time to do proper, thorough testing. But hey, it's free - not like this is a paid site, and I'm not some youtube shill trying to stir controversy to gain site hits.

Anytime you read a post/review/quick impressions thought, I think its important that you know what the writer values. I'm primarily a landscape and occasionally studio shooter. I have very, very high standards (as anyone who knows me from my usual hangout, the Nikon lens forum would tell you). I print, and believe in the print, usual sizes range from 13x19" on the small end to 17x22/A2 on the large end. I come from a large format background, have shot every format except 8x10, have worked with almost every brand, have owned or shot with over 55+ Nikon lenses plus dozens in other mounts, and my general aim is to match tool to task as opposed to making "absolute" pronouncements about a piece of gear. In terms of mirrorless cameras, I've shot the Sony A7 and A7r-II in FX, and the Olympus in smaller formats. Importantly for this discussion, I have a pretty clear preference for an OVF over an EVF, and up to now, there was nothing from Sony that made me consider switching or even acquiring one of their bodies, mostly because I have a distinct and strong dislike for their ergonomics. So those are my biases and preferences.

So while it would have been really cool to have a Z7 with 4 card slots, 512 different AF modes, an EVF that told the future by at least an hour (for lottery ticket purposes, of course), 16K/120fps video at 4:2:2 to the XQD card, a thousand shot buffer, and a built in george foreman grill for when I get hungry at sunset hour and want a tasty burger while waiting for the cool light, that isn't what we got. So let's talk about what we got:

1) Picking up and working with the Z7 is a pleasure. Ergonomically, I consider it *vastly* superior to the Sony bodies. Note that this isn't in any way a commentary regarding the *capability* of the Sony bodies; they obviously are very competent cameras, capable of producing nice imagery. I just hated working with them, to put it mildly. The menu and UI is both familiar to DSLR-Nikon, but at the same time, there will be some differences you'll have to pick up, given a lot is driven by the rear screen.

2) The EVF is actually something I could use, and that might be the first time I've said that, since I'm pretty much an OVF fan. I don't know the technical reasons "why", but the EVF on the Z7 seemed more "real" and was sufficiently bright. I'd say in my admittedly limited experience with EVF cameras, this is my favorite. However, on the negative side, panning or moving the camera quickly while looking through the viewfinder produces kind of a strange effect, which I didn't like. I don't know the technical reason for this - my rough guess might be the refresh rate isn't up to that of the Sony bodies, which seem to bother me less in this regard. Overall, for the work I do, I could use this camera for landscape and most (more static) studio work, but I'd pick a DSLR over it for shooting things that move around a lot.

3) AF: While I'd love to report that the AF in dynamic mode is so amazing that it can track a black fly buzzing around tweaked up on epinephrine and caffeine in a black cave, that's not the case. I don't consider the AF in any way "bad", but it's not "the best thing ever" either. In the more dynamic modes, it didn't seem to have the "confidence" or "directness" in choosing a point and staying with it. Not horrile, not a deal breaker, but let's be honest, I don't think this body was meant to replace a D5, 1DX or even Sony A9 for the sports shooter. Myself, I found I had little issues with the AF in the more classic AF-S modes with either single point or a small grouping. For what I do, it wouldn't pose a problem. Folks who need edge-of-art AF systems because they shoot in complex AF scenarios, this ain't likely their camera: The Sony (or possibly the new Canon) might be better tool/task matches here.

4) HOLY HELL, JUST ONE CARD SLOT?? Please. Give me a break. I shot film. I shot 1 card slot for a million+ frames. In the 15 years I've been digital, I've had about half a dozen images across more than a million frames be corrupt. Oh, and that happened to be in bodies with two card slots, and both cards had the same corrupt images. Not a problem for what I do. If something is important, ya do what we did in the 35mm film days: carry two cameras. The odds are that one camera will brick on you far more than one card will brick on you.

5) Buffer: Yup, it's smaller than some sports oriented cameras. But man, it CLEARS really fast. For landscape work, not an issue. For studio work, I'd blow my elinchrom strobes to bits if I tried to shoot fast enough to overload the buffer. Not a problem for what I do. Again, if you need a high burst depth body, and are shooting that much, this ain't your gig. Pretty simple.

The Lenses:

Ahhhhh. Now it gets interesting. Sadly, quick impressions translates into "nowhere enough to be considered a real test", but within that context, my current feeling is that, at least for me, the S line lenses might just be THE reason to get the Z7, irregardless of how imperfect/horrendous/etc the Z7 is considered by so many pre-release forum experts. I'm a lens guy - spent the last 6 years doing exhaustive subjective testing, including print (and blind print) comparisons, leaving all brand biases and emotional attachments to what I owned on the table, and came up with what I feel is an extremely high performing lens kit with best-in-class or second-to-best-in-class lenses at my core focal lengths. Only about 1/3 of my lens kit is Nikon, and I've been openly critical about Nikons lens performance for the resolution/clarity/transparency centric shooter for some time now.

Getting to the point, if the S line is anything like that 35/1.8 S lens, I may have to eat a lot of words, because the #1 thing I got out of spending time with the Z7 isn't any kind of crazy love of fanboyism for the Z7 - oh sure, it's a nice body, and I think it's a really great first effort that seems more mature than first efforts, and I don't have too much negative to say when viewed against my needs, no, the #1 thing I walked away with is how bloody damned good that 35/1.8 S just might be.

Yes, I know it needs to be properly tested, and I wasn't able to do that. That is abundantly clear. However, looking on images at 100% on the very clear back LCD, this lens is SHARP, to the edges, flat out wide open, within the constraints of DOF. At F/4, it reminds me of that kind of micro-contrast and resolution you get with the truly great lenses like the Otus 85/1.4. I don't know of ANY other wide angle other than possibly the Zeiss Milvus 35/1.4, which I sadly have not yet gotten ahold of, but hear great things about, that is as sharp, to the edges/corners, at early/mid apertures. The Nikon rep showed me comparisons against the Sigma 35/1.4 Art, a lens I own and know well. The 35/1.8 S looked to be better. It very well might end up being the best 35mm lens you can mount on an FX body. And it's not a heavy monster like my (incredible) Zeiss Milvus 25/1.4 either - and it's a hell of a lot cheaper. I can't tell you how it's axial CA is, because I couldn't find a quick test scene to test that - and maybe that will be the downfall once people get it in the real world, but it sure seems like this lineup of lenses are quite a bit different from what we've been getting in F mount over the years.

Scary thought: The Nikon rep says the 50/1.8 S is supposed to be better (!!) I don't know when Roger Cicala will get around to this guy, given he'll need a new mount for his bench, and probably a sacrificial lamb camera to power the lens, but I'll be curious for sure.

The 24-70/4 "kit" lens seems to be a very competent performer. Not quite as transparent/clean as the 35, but in the wide to normal ranges, very sharp. An F/4 max aperture means those who need a 24-70/2.8 won't be interested, but this might be good enough even for a picky guy like me who has a clear prime preference for landscape work, at least in the wide to normal range, stopped down to F/5.6 or so. I was pretty impressed with it, and I bet a lot of folks will gloss over it just because it's kind of an ugly lens with a "boring" specification.

Right now, I'm going to consider a Z7 at some point just because of that 35/1.8 S lens - if the tests and reviews match what I think about it. I might be wrong, I might be very wrong, but something tells me Nikon is *done* screwing around, and the S line of lenses might be the primary reason to own these bodies more than anything else.

Thanks for reading, enjoy your popcorn and continue on to your next heated thread


Edit: As I finished this post, I heard from a friend of mine who just came from a dealer event over the weekend who basically said the same thing: He was impressed mostly with the 35/1.8 lens. Interesting...

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