Conclusion

What we like

What we don't

  • 45.7MP BSI-CMOS sensor offers excellent resolution, image quality
  • In-body stabilization great for run-and-gun video and low-light stills
  • Highly-detailed EVF
  • First full-frame Nikon with a usable silent shutter mode
  • Touchscreen and joystick for AF point placement
  • AF points easily visible
  • No need to micro-adjust lenses
  • Flip-out screen for high and low shots
  • Offers both usable full frame 4K and detailed, over-sampled 4K from APS-C crop
  • 10-bit Log 4K footage over HDMI
  • Flat Picture Profile useful for getting the most out of internal video
  • Body is small, light and sturdy
  • Weather-sealing
  • Top-plate info display
  • Easy to use Wi-Fi + Bluetooth for sharing
  • Headphone and microphone socket
  • USB charging
  • Menus familiar to Nikon DSLR users
  • AF system hunts in low light, due to limited sensitivity
  • Face detect less reliable than competition
  • AF Tracking less reliable than competition
  • AF Tracking cumbersome to engage/disengage
  • Touchscreen cannot be used for touchpad AF when using the EVF
  • Limited AF button customization
  • Significant rolling shutter in full-frame 4K footage
  • No live feed at 9fps
  • Live feed at 5.5fps suffers from significant drop in EVF refresh rate
  • Very limited buffer
  • Inconsistent metering, heavily weighted to AF point
  • On-sensor AF causes banding, slightly limiting usable dynamic range
  • Aggressive noise reduction at high ISO
  • Electronic first curtain shutter (EFCS) needed to avoid potential shutter shock (yet is off by default)
  • EFCS limits shutter speed to 1/2000
  • Two-Button-Reset and Quick Format actions missing
  • No linear response option for video shooters wishing to manual focus
  • Battery life on the short side
  • Single card slot
  • No flip-around screen for vlogging

Overall conclusion

The Nikon Z7 - the brand's first full-frame mirrorless camera - is also its most well-rounded camera for stills and video, and an exciting indicator for what's to come from the 101 year-old company. But first generation products are rarely perfect, and the Nikon Z7 is no exception.

What Nikon got right

For the most part, the camera feels, handles, and operates like a smaller, lighter full-frame Nikon DSLR - from button placement to menu layout, to the robustness of the build quality and the comfort of the grip. But there are some small differences, namely in the way the AF system operates. It is also the first Nikon full-framer with a truly useful silent shutter and mechanical in-body stabilization. On the cinema side it offers a wide variety of 4K video capture options that should satisfy both home-movie-makers and advanced videographers alike, but possibly not established professionals.

Room for improvement

While the Z7 technically offers the same calculated Raw dynamic range as the D850, on sensor AF points lead to banding/striping which limits usable DR. Autofocus, while reliable in good light, hunts more than we'd like as light levels drop. And AF tracking as a whole lags behind the competition, as well as Nikon's own full-frame DSLRs, both in terms of reliability and usability.

Edited to taste in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 2200 | 1/250 sec | F1.8 | Shot with the Nikon Z 35mm F1.8 S

Class-leading dynamic range, AF performance (including tracking) and robust build quality are the three core factors we've come to love about Nikon DSLRs. While the Z7 is built well, its dynamic range and AF usability and performance come up a little short. Still, it represents a huge leap forward for Nikon cameras, especially in terms of video capability, image stabilization and the new Z mount. And for a first generation product, we're hugely impressed. For would-be-buyers, waiting another generation couldn't hurt, but Nikon got enough right in the Z7 that we wouldn't talk you out of buying it either.


What we think


Richard Butler
Editor
The challenge for the Z7 is that it will inevitably be compared with both the Nikon D850 and Sony a7R III: setting the bar almost impossibly high. The fact that it comes close: offering essentially D850-like image quality and competitive, usable video, is impressive. The AF system feels like it needs a bit of a polish but the Z7 acquits itself well in a vast range of circumstances, even when compared with the very best.


Barney Britton
Editor
It’s perhaps disingenuous to call the Z7 a ‘first generation’ product given its pedigree, but considering that it’s Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the Z7 is an impressively solid product. Video and still image quality is impressive, and I love the way that it handles. My only complaints are an over-fussy autofocus interface and somewhat inconsistent AF tracking performance. Overall the Z7 is a hugely attractive camera.

Compared to its peers

It's tough to compare the Z7 to its mirrorless peers without first comparing it to its DSLR counterpart, the Nikon D850: arguably the best DSLR we've ever tested. On the stills side, we prefer to the D850 for its more usable dynamic range (no risk of striping) and more reliable AF system. But if small size, or a quiet shutter is a concern, the Z7 might be better for you. For video, the the Z7 is our pick thanks to focus peaking in 4K (which the D850 omits), in-body stabilization and 10-bit Log out over HDMI.

The Z7 may not body slam the competition, but it holds its own. Edited to taste in ACR.
ISO 7200 | 1/1000 sec | F4 | 33.5mm shot with the Nikon Z 24-70mm F4 S

The most obvious and direct comparison on the mirrorless side is the Sony a7R III, another camera we hold in extremely high esteem. And the similarities between these two cameras are remarkable; spec for spec, they nearly mirror one another. But the Sony is a third-generation product, while the Nikon is a first, and it shows. While there are things we prefer about the Nikon (like more sensible menus, better operational responsiveness and a more comfortable grip), in terms of raw performance the a7R III manages at least match it in everything from Raw dynamic range, to video quality, to AF reliability. We also love Sony's Eye AF. These differences aren't huge, but overall, the a7R III will likely be the more capable option for most users.

This brings us to the Canon EOS R. Despite being positioned in different classes, at different price points, both cameras represent their respective brand's first foray into full-frame mirrorless and as such, comparisons to the Z7 are inevitable. Though we're still finalizing the EOS R review, we generally find that the Z7 is a better handler, with more polished ergonomics as well as a leg up in image quality. While both cameras represent first attempts at something new, the EOS R feels a touch unfinished, in a way that the Z7, for all of our caveats, does not. But we'll dig into that in the full review, coming soon.


Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Nikon Z7
Category: Semi-professional Full Frame Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Nikon Z7 is an extremely well-rounded digital camera and suitable for a wide range of photographic and video needs. It packs outstanding image quality and very good 4K video in a lightweight, well-built package with in-body image stabilization. Autofocus is less reliable than the competition and the buffer can be limiting for fast action, but overall, the Z7 is a pleasure to shoot with.
Good for
Hybrid stills and video shooters, photographers looking for a versatile tool for a wide range of subjects in a compact package.
Not so good for
Those needing class-leading autofocus performance, faster burst rates, or greater buffer depth.
89%
Overall score