Video

The Z7 is arguably Nikon's best-suited camera for video thanks to impressive specifications, solid video quality and useful video tools. On-sensor AF makes it easy to maintain focus while rolling and stabilization allows for hand-held shots.

Users can select between good quality 4K footage using the full width of the sensor or great quality 4K footage using a Super 35 crop. There's also a 1080/120p capture option for footage that can be slowed down by 5 times (for use in a 24p timeline). Nikon's Flat Picture Profile is easy to work with in post for run-and-gun style projects. For the highest quality footage, 10-bit Log can be recorded out over HDMI and graded in post.

Key takeaways:

  • Competitive 4K capture with phase detection AF from full width of sensor or Super 35 crop
  • 10-bit log available over HDMI (with corrected preview option)
  • Camera retains different settings for stills and movie shooting
  • Simple to switch between stills and video shooting
  • In-body IS effective for stationary hand-held shooting
  • IS system tends to fight against hand-held pans, causing jittery shots
  • Touchscreen and AF joystick for easy AF point placement
  • Microphone and headphone jack
  • Rolling shutter noticeable in fast pans
  • Experienced videographers unlikely to enjoy manual focus experience

Internal video modes

The Z7 offers the following 4K capture options in MPEG-4 or H.264 format:

Frame size/rate Crop Capture method
4K/30,25,24p Full-frame Line skipping
4K/30,25,24p Super 35 Oversampled

HD video capture is available in the following:

Frame size/rate Crop
1080/60,30,25,24p Full-frame
1080/120,100, 60,50,30,25,24p APS-C

For slow-motion video, the camera can record in 1080/30p slowed down x4 times or 1080/24p slowed down x5 time, internally (APS-C crop). Alternatively you can record 1080/120p and slow it yourself in post.

External video capture

The Nikon Z7 can output 10-bit Log footage - called N-Log - over HDMI to an external recorder.

Log gamma attempts to capture as much of the original scene's dynamic range as possible while retaining enough information to still allow processing and adjustment of the files (essentially trying to make a JPEG that can be edited more like a Raw file). Moving to 10 bits of data means you can retain more tonal information about each stop of DR, giving you much more flexible footage.

Nikon has also added a 'View Assist' function to let you shoot with a 'corrected' preview while outputting the flat, washed-out Log feed.

The camera can't capture 10-bit footage internally, so N-Log can only be sent to an external recorder. There'll be some people who want 8-bit internal Log capture, but you can at least see why Nikon might decide not to offer this much less powerful option.

10-bit N-Log vs Flat Picture Profile

The above video offers a quick comparison of Nikon's Flat Picture profile - available when shooting any internal capture mode - to N-log footage captured to an external recorder.


Video tools and features

Focus peaking in 4K

Unlike the D850 the Z7 offers focus peaking in 4K mode. Sadly, it cannot be used at the same time as highlight warnings, so you'll need to switch between the two.

Timecode

The Z7 also gains the ability to record timecode. This can be set to On, On when HDMI out is in use or Off. There are the usual drop-frame, rec run and free run options, along with the ability to set the camera's clock. Like most consumer cameras, there's no means of accepting a sync signal.

Better video processing

The 'mid-range sharpening' option added to the Picture Control image parameters remains available in video mode (and, like the D850, can be set to different values for stills and video shooting modes). The Z7 also gets the ability to apply vignetting correction, diffraction compensation and auto distortion control to its video footage, too.

Headphone, microphone, HDMI

The Z7 has built-in headphone and microphone sockets as well as a Mini HDMI port.

Video autofocus

In addition to 10-bit Log output, the biggest change between the D850 and the Z7 is one that isn't listed in the specs: usable autofocus in video. The move to on-sensor phase detection means the camera is now aware of subject distance while shooting video, which increases both speed and dependability. And we can confidently say that autofocus in video is up there with the best. Tracking and refocusing on subjects is straightforward and reliable. That's an enormous step forward for Nikon, matching or besting what Canon and Sony offer.

The biggest change between the D850 and the Z7 is usable autofocus in video

With the exception of Pinpoint and Dynamic Area modes, the AF options for video shooting match those for stills shooting and behave in a similar way. In fact most of the AF system works fairly consistently in video mode, to the extent that AF-C only refocuses while you're pressing the shutter or AF-On button: if you want the camera to refocus all the time you're recording, it's AF-F (Fulltime AF) you need.

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 matches the performance of the best video autofocus systems we've tested. This is a huge step forward for Nikon in terms of video.

This quirk presents an interesting way to shoot, especially for those who aren't overly familiar with manual focus pulling using peaking, or just haven't got the time to do so. AF-C essentially lets you engage autofocus only when you want it, then halt it when you don't, giving you absolute certainty that it won't wobble or discover a new subject.

AF-C only refocuses while you're pressing the shutter or AF-On button: if you want the camera to refocus all the time you're recording, it's AF-F (Fulltime AF) you need

The main difference between stills and video AF is that you have two different parameters to fine-tune the AF behavior. In movie mode there's a 5 position 'AF Speed' control, depending, for instance, on whether you want the camera to slowly drift between different subjects or rapidly follow a single subject. There's also an 'AF Tracking Sensitivity' option to give the camera an indication of whether it should expect to make significant changes to focus distance, if another object obscures your initial subject, for instance.

Manual focus

More experienced videographers are likely to be disappointed that the system has moved to focus-by-wire lens designs but has not included an option to give a linear focus response, meaning you can't plan a focus pull and be sure that the same movement of the focus ring will give the same degree of focus change. Some people may also be put off by the fact that Nikon focus rings rotate backwards compared with all other brands and again, Nikon has decided not to let you change this.

The Z-mount's short flange-back distance should provide plenty of room to add adaptors for videographers wishing to use other lenses. It'll be interesting to see whether Nikon's decision not to share the mount specifications inhibits the introduction of third-party offerings, beyond the official FTZ adapter.

Video Quality

The Z7 can shoot 4K UHD video from the full width of its sensor but with vertical line skipping. This can lead to occasional jaggies, moiré and a slight drop in low light performance, relative to stills capture. But overall, UHD full-frame footage looks competitive, on par with the D850 and just a bit behind the a7R III.

The Super 35/DX crop region uses all the pixels to give what we'd consider oversampled video - the result is very high quality 4K footage that looks better than full-frame 4K and almost as good as cropped 4K from the Sony a7R III.

The camera can also shoot 1080p footage at up to 120 fps, allowing 1/5th speed slow-motion footage if played back at 24p.

From our field testing, rolling shutter performance in the Super 35/DX crop region looks identical to what we saw on the D850 in both its full-frame and crop modes, which is impressive considering the Z7 is oversampling. We generally find this level of rolling shutter isn't too bothersome, mainly posing problems in fast pans and the like. Once you switch the Z7 into full-frame 4K mode, the rolling shutter effect is unfortunately magnified, and is more noticeable in casual shooting.

Sample footage

The Z7 is a good choice for run-and-gun style video. The short video above was shot in the camera's full-frame 4K/24p mode to make the most of the wide end of the attached S 24-70mm F4. All footage was shot hand-held using the Flat Picture Profile and edited using Color and Hue/Saturation Curves in Final Cut 10.4. Aside from a little stabilization weirdness in the vertically panned clips and some occasional focus hunting, the footage is all around very usable.

Our video first impressions

Here's the DPReview TV team's first take on the Z7's video specifications.