Early metareview of Z7 (Z6) and Z system

Started Aug 24, 2018 | User reviews
rhlpetrus Forum Pro • Posts: 26,378
Early metareview of Z7 (Z6) and Z system
2

First a disclaimer: I haven't touched or even seen a Z camera or lens live, thus the subject title saying "metareview". For those not familiar with the term:

In science, a “meta-analysis” of the literature on some topic is conducted by analyzing all published results on the topic and obtaining what is considered the state of the art consensus, determining the points still under debate, etc. It’s not a piece of original research (so this is not an original "review" by a user).

I have developed a very early meta-analysis of the available on-line reviews of the Z system, with links to where they are available, to help people see and decide for themselves. Of course, no statistical analysis has been performed to actually determine what is the “truth” about the Z system, but a more “ethnographic” approach, meaning we just describe what the various reviews have put forward in search of a consensus, where it exists, points of contention, methodological shortcomings, etc.

Before moving to the metareview, which will be posted by theme below, we use the final comment in the latest DPR’s post, with which we basically agree, as a pre-conclusion to our analysis.

“Overall, the combination of high resolution, expansive dynamic range, compact size, comfortable handling and great 4K video with intuitive and decisive autofocus is hard to dismiss. We're confident in saying that, as of now, the Z 7 is Nikon's most well-rounded camera they've ever produced.”

Online hands-on reviews and comments

DPR first impressionsDPR where it should go

Digitaltrends

Imaging-Resource

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Renato.
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 rhlpetrus's gear list:rhlpetrus's gear list
Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D +4 more
Nikon Z7
46 megapixels • 3.2 screen • Full frame sensor
Announced: Aug 23, 2018
rhlpetrus's score
4.5
Average community score
4.6
bad for good for
Kids / pets
great
Action / sports
okay
Landscapes / scenery
excellent
Portraits
excellent
Low light (without flash)
excellent
Flash photography (social)
excellent
Studio / still life
excellent
= community average
OP rhlpetrus Forum Pro • Posts: 26,378
Body
1
  1. Camera bodies

Both models’ bodies are exactly same, and, from pricing of Z6 (MRSP < USD2,000), will be the entry-level line of FF Z system to be developed. This is very important re defining probable use of cameras and how their features are adapted to that. For example, they are not designed for pro action shooting, so I won’t discuss issues like technical fps limitations, or other specifically related to pro action shooting. I will discuss AF tracking, in the AF section, as this is relevant for some amateurs, those shooting school sports, or BIF, as they don’t need a camera like a D500 or a D5 and are a likely target audience for the new system.

Body built, ergonomics: Body built (D850 level) and ergonomics have been praised by everyone who has used the camera (see DPR’s staff comments here), and they seem to have better handling than the current competition, slightly larger, more balanced, with larger grip. The top LCD is very handy for many situations, the back layout is simpler than the D750’s, but still has all relevant buttons and controls. There will be a period of adaptation for those coming from Nikon dslrs, but nothing major, it seems. The only major control missing from dslrs seems to be the AF mode selector switch button placed near the lens barrel, many Nikonians will miss it, It was introduced, I think, with the D7000 and is very nice to use. It seems the Fn1/2 buttons may be selected to do that, we have to see if it works well that way.

EVF: this is a major aspect of ML, and one that has been quite disappointing to OVF users trying ML cameras. Here is what DPR’s has to say:

“The viewfinder was likewise met with enthusiasm. The Quad VGA panel is bright and contrasty with a high refresh rate. Our Editorial Manager Wenmei Hill said that, in her opinion, it's the closest you can currently get to an optical finder. Senior Editor Barney Britton mentioned that he started to find the viewfinder in the D850 a bit fuzzy and cool in comparison. It was important for their existing DSLR users that Nikon got this right, and it looks like they have. Unlike many competitors, the viewfinder also doesn't drop in resolution during continuous focusing or burst shooting. That makes it a great viewfinder experience for anyone, not just users of optical viewfinders.”

Pretty heady claims, Imaging-resource says same, it seems that Nikon has done this right, on first attempt, best in class.

Responsiveness: best in class (level of best ML, better than Sonys), but still not like best DSLR level, according to DPR: “The Z 7 doesn't get to quite that level of responsiveness (of top DSLRs), but it also doesn't make you wait an age either. We'd say it's on par with the likes of an Olympus E-M1 II or Panasonic G9, while some of Sony's a7-series of cameras still takes noticeably longer to power on and and take an image.”

Battery life: rating is low (330 CIPA), but DPR says that is not what they saw in the field: “Barney's actual experience with the Z 7 put him at ease; over the course of a 12-hour shoot, he recorded 1500+ images and several 4K video clips before the battery warning kicked in at 10% remaining.” Will need further testing with final firmware.

Cards: A major complaint from those interested in using these cameras for events, especially wedding photographers, is the lack of a second card slot. Some have proposed that there is the possibility of a dual SD card pack in place of the single XQD one, but that’s not discussed by Nikon, time will tell. For other types of photography, like studio, landscape and for most amateurs (likely the largest crowd to go for the current cameras), this is certainly a minor point, but it is relevant, as the Sony’s FF MLs have it, and many have complained about it. Also, choice of XQD card for a camera that is not designed for action shooting seems a bit odd.

Buffer: poor, in a word, no comments. Buffer also takes some time to clean, unlike D500 and D5, but that, again, is linked to these cameras not being designed for action shooting, as is becoming obvious since launch.

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Renato.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhlpedrosa/
OnExposure member
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Good shooting and good luck
(after Ed Murrow)

 rhlpetrus's gear list:rhlpetrus's gear list
Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D +4 more
OP rhlpetrus Forum Pro • Posts: 26,378
Stills IQ (sensor and lenses)
1

2. Stills image quality

Sensors: easy to determine a consensus, as they are very likely same or similar updates of current D850’s and D750’s sensors. Sensors’ IQ should be state-of-art, both at low as in high ISO settings.

Nikon claims: The Z 7 and Z 6 are equipped with a new backside illumination Nikon FX-format CMOS sensor with built-in focal-plane phase-detection AF pixels, and the latest image-processing engine, EXPEED 6.

The D850 uses EXPEED 5 (version 2017), D750, EXPEED 4 (version 2014), so, maybe some IQ improvements could be due to that, but EXPEED 6 is likely more about AF and video.

Measurements: the 45MP sensor in Z7 is certainly same as or a minor update of the D850’s, which, at 64 ISO, is the FF benchmark (DxOMark). At higher ISO values (6400-12800), the 42MP sensor used in the A7rIII is slightly better in measurements (DxOMark), regarding DR and Tonal Range, but same re Color Performance. As for the D750’s sensor, which is from 2015, it is, now, slightly behind that of a7III, according again to DxO Mark. It is likely that the sensor on the Z6 is an update of that sensor, with dual gain stage as ISO moves up or even same basic silicon as in the a7III.

Visual evidence: using DPR’s image test, RAW option, I see slightly better rendering from D850 and D750 compared to A7rIII and A7III, respectively, at base ISOs and at 6400ISO, but certainly others will think otherwise.

Lenses: a consensus is forming that the two primes made available are of outstanding quality. The kit zoom is also of good quality. Nikon claims that it comes from new design made possible by large mount with reduced flange distance.

Nikon claims:

On the Z24-70 f/4:

  • Optical design that suppresses variations in aberrations from shooting distances of close-up to infinity, demonstrating sharp resolution even in the peripheral areas of the frame from the maximum aperture, as well as fine point-image reproduction
  • Achieved a minimum focus distance of just 0.3 m across the zoom range

On the Z50 f/1.8:

  • Thorough suppression of axial chromatic aberration ensures superior resolution with faithful reproduction of the fine textures in subjects, even from maximum aperture
  • Sharp and clear rendering of details from the center of the frame to the peripheral edges, regardless of the shooting distance
  • The soft and beautiful bokeh characteristics at any shooting distance possible only with a fast (bright) lens

On Z35 f/1.8:

  • Sharp resolution even in the peripheral areas of the frame from the maximum aperture, effective suppression of sagittal coma flare that enables superb point-image reproduction when capturing point light sources in night landscapes, and the soft and natural bokeh characteristics expected of a fast (bright) lens.

Evidence: re measurements, the MTF charts published by Nikon show striking improvement over the F-mount versions. The samples from DPR show that the Z35 f/1.8 has excellent bokeh characteristics and extremely good resistance to flare. The sample with Z24-70 f/4 are also very good, with very good bokeh for a zoom.

Preliminary conclusion: stills IQ is already outstanding for both cameras, new lenses are excellent, coming lenses will make system likely the best overall native FF system in terms of IQ.

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Renato.
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OnExposure member
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Good shooting and good luck
(after Ed Murrow)

 rhlpetrus's gear list:rhlpetrus's gear list
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Eden_808 Regular Member • Posts: 216
Re: Stills IQ (sensor and lenses)

Nikon have missed a huge opportunity imo. With 1 card slot and no Eye-AF it can't compete with the cheaper sony A7iii.

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ChapelThrill23 Senior Member • Posts: 1,165
Re: Stills IQ (sensor and lenses)
1

Eden_808 wrote:

Nikon have missed a huge opportunity imo. With 1 card slot and no Eye-AF it can't compete with the cheaper sony A7iii.

It can't compete with those features of the A7iii. It can compete with other features though!  Two missing features does not a bad camera make.

OP rhlpetrus Forum Pro • Posts: 26,378
Stills AF and Video

3. Stills AF

Here there are mixed reports. First, DPR claims that the AF-S is excellent, better in speed than that of A7s:

“We’re happy to see that AF-S doesn’t slow the AF system down as much as it does with some competitors that opt to go through a full contrast-detect hunting stage that gives the impression that the AF system is itself slow. For example, AF-S is slow (by design) on Sony cameras, while AF-C is lightning fast, often with no compromise. Nikon has opted for a more consistent experience between AF-S and AF-C. While Nikon tells us that AF-S does use a combination of phase- and contrast-detect, the latter step is hardly noticeable.”

But then, in AF-C, they see some limitations, especially regarding tracking, despite the fact that the system seems to work well, much better than anything Nikon have produced so far for dslrs, in LiveView. With current firmware (not final), they noticed that “performance itself of our 0.51 firmware camera was positive, but with room for improvement. While the camera did a good job of continuously refocusing on a moving subject for single shots, the hit-rate during bursts for erratic subjects suffered.”

They also complained that the zones available were limited, meaning they would not cover a large área of the frame. This implies that the current top system in DSLRs would be a better choice for action shooting. The Sonys, especially the a7III and a9, have better tracking systems, we have to wait for final firmware, but these first offerings are obviously not up to professional action shooting level, regarding AF performance.

4. Video

I won’t say much about video, as I have little experience with high-level videography. The early reports imply excellent AF performance and also many technical details not available from other makers, like wider DR abilities. Those interested should read the video chapter in DPR’s early review, but here is a comment on the sample video using continuous AF:

“Autofocus in video is smooth, decisive, and fast. It's intuitive to select a subject by tapping on it in Auto Area AF mode, and the performance - based on our initial impressions - matches the performance of the best video autofocus systems we've ever tested. This is a huge step forward for Nikon in the video arena.”

The video here looks very good, including AF:

https://www.dpreview.com/articles/1904416326/nikon-z-7-sample-videos

It seems that Nikon has finally produce an ILC with competitive video, if not state-of-the-art.

Thanks for checking, add your own views and info.

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Renato.
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OnExposure member
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Good shooting and good luck
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 rhlpetrus's gear list:rhlpetrus's gear list
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sandy b
sandy b Veteran Member • Posts: 9,538
Re: Stills IQ (sensor and lenses)
1

Would you consider yourself a Pro shooter? I'm not. I also chimp often and carry handfuls of cards. My old D700, one of Nikons best DSLR, never cost me a shot shooting weddings. The MTBF for these cards is hundreds of thousands of shots. I love 2 slots in my D750, but it's only set up overflow.

  • My opinion? Most forum shooters who profess how much they need them, really don't. Working pros don't hang out on geek forums much. 
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OP rhlpetrus Forum Pro • Posts: 26,378
Re: Stills IQ (sensor and lenses)

sandy b wrote:

Would you consider yourself a Pro shooter? I'm not. I also chimp often and carry handfuls of cards. My old D700, one of Nikons best DSLR, never cost me a shot shooting weddings. The MTBF for these cards is hundreds of thousands of shots. I love 2 slots in my D750, but it's only set up overflow.

  • My opinion? Most forum shooters who profess how much they need them, really don't. Working pros don't hang out on geek forums much.

Definitely non-pro here. I have shot weddings, baptism events, birthdays, all strictly family/friends, no payment involved, and never had an issue with cards. But if I had money on the line, I think I'd use the dual card slots of the D7000 not just to go for more images or video, but for duplicates. I understand the worry.

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Renato.
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OnExposure member
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Good shooting and good luck
(after Ed Murrow)

 rhlpetrus's gear list:rhlpetrus's gear list
Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D +4 more
OP rhlpetrus Forum Pro • Posts: 26,378
Re: Stills IQ (sensor and lenses)

ChapelThrill23 wrote:

Eden_808 wrote:

Nikon have missed a huge opportunity imo. With 1 card slot and no Eye-AF it can't compete with the cheaper sony A7iii.

It can't compete with those features of the A7iii. It can compete with other features though! Two missing features does not a bad camera make.

I'd like to see this eye thing versus the Z's face recognition feature in real shooting, when people move their heads around and eyes are not available in a clear way, like for candid portraits, wedding, etc.

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Renato.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhlpedrosa/
OnExposure member
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Good shooting and good luck
(after Ed Murrow)

 rhlpetrus's gear list:rhlpetrus's gear list
Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) Nikon D7000 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D +4 more
Elias Gimenes New Member • Posts: 1
Re: Early metareview of Z7 (Z6) and Z system

Z Mount .... Nikon masterpiece, see that your new mount is able to cover a medium format sensor ........

JimKasson
JimKasson Forum Pro • Posts: 33,859
Cover MF?

Elias Gimenes wrote:

Z Mount .... Nikon masterpiece, see that your new mount is able to cover a medium format sensor ........

This is untrue. The GFX throat is 65 mm, and that's a crop-MF (33x44 mm ) sensor.

Jim

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rumple
rumple Senior Member • Posts: 1,680
Re: Stills IQ (sensor and lenses)

Eden_808 wrote:

Nikon have missed a huge opportunity imo. With 1 card slot and no Eye-AF it can't compete with the cheaper sony A7iii.

"face detection" on Nikons, at least on D500s and D850s, focuses on eyes.  One assumes the same is true of the Z series.

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