D800->Z7 or wait for next generation?

Started 6 months ago | Questions thread
mgblack74 Contributing Member • Posts: 694
Re: D800->Z7 or wait for next generation?

Spare-time photog wrote:

Although I followed this forum in the last months, I am quite unsure at the moment if I should buy the Z7 and sell the D800, or wait for the next generation model. Currently I am using a D800 for my amateur photography.

Main interests are portraiture (on location and sometimes in a studio), landscape, travel and to some extent events, i.e. small concerts in dimly lit rooms. BIF, wildlife, sports and action only to a very, very small amount, next to nothing.
I use speedlights for my portraiture work and also available light, partly I shoot at night, with the citylights as a background, hence the use of flash

What are my main requirements?

1.) My main reason to switch is to get rid of AF fine tune/AF micro adjustments and to get precise AF all the time. This requirement is madatory. The more I dived deeper in portraiture the more I recognised, that the focus was not nailed in a lot of pictures. I fiddled around with Reikan software to AFMA my lenses but only with limited success. So I send all my gear (the D800, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8) to Nikon to check and adjust. The result is better, but sometimes the camera struggles to nail the focus. Then I bought a 85/1.8 lens and it missed the focus a lot. By the way a second lens was even worse in combination with my camera. So Nikon checked and adjusted the 85 lens, too. The results are better, but I am still not convinced, that the miss-focus plague is gone forever, as the focus problems in the past seem to be distance and brightness dependent and quite complex. At the end it is a DSLR.

2.) Sometimes my D800 AF is hunting in dimly lit situations, and so does the life view AF, so it would be nice if the new camera shows an improved behavior in dim light conditions. This would be a nice to have feature, but it is not mandatory.

3.) I want (nearly) full frame AF point coverage. Obviously this box is ticked, the Z7 fullfills that requirement.

I was lucky to use the Z7 for two or three hours during a workshop under real conditions, with an early 1.0.x firmware. Regrettably I wasn't instantly convinced, the AF system seems to be a weakness, i.e. I got the impression, that it is not that much superior in comparision to my D800:
At the moment I am shooting in AF-C with back button focus nearly all the time, but with the Z7 I tried, I noticed several times even under daylight conditions, that it hunts more then once. That was new to me, although I had to admit, that I can't say wether my D800 is quite free of hunting in such situations or if I got only used to it, so I don't recognize it anymore or if it was just a user error handling the Z7.
So I switched to AF-S and the hit rate was dramatically higher. But even there I had a series of pictures which are out of focus, whatever it was at the end of the day I had mixed feelings about the Z7, which brought me to this forum.

Hopefully I can get here some valuable experiences of former D800 users, who can give a comparision of the Z7's AF system related to the D800 in general and especially the experience with the AF-C modes.

My third worry:

As I use very often flash, I am a little bit concerned by the shorter flash sync time, being 1/200 (Z7) and 1/250 (my D800).
Is this of any major importance? I understand that there will be a significant loss in flash output at shutter speeds at or shorter than 1/250 with the Z7, but should I worry about it? Some kind of complication that I am not aware of at the moment?

But my main concern is the potential need for AF fine tune. After reading all that stuff here and in blogs (e.g. https://blog.reikanfocal.com/2018/10/the-new-nikon-z7-investigating-with-reikan-focal/ and this one https://eduardolibby.com/2018/12/22/nikons-z7-requires-af-fine-tuning/ ) I feel unsure if a switch to the Z7 is the right step to get rid of AFMA now and forever.

Thank you very much for reading all the text!

I’ve had the D800 (with the infamous left side AF issue), the D810 and D850. I recently sold my 4+ year old D750 and bought a Z6. I’ve used the Z6 now for on location editorial portraits, weddings and studio headshots. The D750 also had a flash sync speed of 1/200. The D850 is the greatest DSLR I’ve used. For a while the D3s was on that pedestal.

Every D8xx series has been better than the last. In subtleties like mirror dampening, AF performance, WB etc. I’ve used the D850 hard since new. And you know what camera I reach for most often now? The Z6. It’s made me want a Z7 to replace the D850. For the stuff that you and I shoot we don’t need D5 AF performance. We just need it to be accurate. And the Z AF is far more accurate than the D800. The D800 has 15 cross type AF points. All centrally clustered. The Z6/7 doesn’t have cross type but the Z’s outter AF points that cover the same area as the D800 are much more sensitive. AND for portraits in portrait orientation, you can put the AF point on the eye. Where as with the D800 you had to do a mini “focus and recompose” technique. Not so with the Z’s.

As far as flash sync speed..... the D800 has such a violent mirror slap that it needs that 1/250. The D810 and even the D850 improved that each time. The Z’s with 1/200, rear current sync, electronic shutter and IBIS has zero mirror slap (obviously) and shows no sign of hand shake induced blur. The bonus with the Z7 is a native ISO of 64. So if you’re concerned with canceling out ambient light, that ISO with a closed down aperture will kill everything. The D800 to Z7 is a huge improvement. You won’t go wrong.

 mgblack74's gear list:mgblack74's gear list
Nikon Z6 Nikon PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED Nikon AF-S 105mm F1.4E ED Nikon Z 24-70mm F4 Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 +1 more
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