Nikon Z7 First Impressions

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The Z7 arrived today with F mount adapter, so I took a few photos and have a few observations. This is not a thorough or scientific review, I am just sharing some experiences with it.

Ergonomically, the camera is petite and light. I find it is missing some controls that I like on the d850, like AF selection and metering selection. I assigned AF selection to the 2nd front Fn button, but it is hard to hold the camera and that button and turn the dials. I made the 1st Fn button meter select. I sometimes hit the power switch when trying to operate the front dial, as it is very close and just above it. 

In usage, the camera turn-on time is pretty slow compared to a DSLR. I’m used to turning the camera off when walking around and being able to turn it on in the time it takes me to get my eye on it. I normally disable the rear screen and only use the viewfinder. I wish the viewfinder rotated 180* so I could store it facing into the camera. I do appreciate the U1+U2 settings, but now need to get back into the habit of using those after training myself out of them with the d850.

The first thing I tried were some “studio” (i.e. living room) shots with two strobes (flashpoint manual, non-TTL). I do these usually on M with 1/125, f/9, ISO 64. The viewfinder with the 24-70 Z and the 105 f/2.8 VF (via adapter) was basically black and could not focus. After much searching, I found setting “d11 apply settings to live view” and turned it off. Then things work well.

Then I tried my Tamron 150-600 g2. No go. The camera reports an error with AF-ON (half depress of shutter release). Tamron put out a vague press release last week with no info on when they might fix things.

I tried the 70-200 f/2.8e. I was not impressed with the AF speed and it hunted a bit when I tried going short-far-short-far. I did the same test with my d850 and it was pretty much instant. So, another negative.

I tried the manual focus peaking and viewfinder zoom with my 800mm f/5.6 AI-s (manual focus). It was very nice getting the focus peaking and zoom through the viewfinder. On the d850, I have to use the live view screen for those same effects. I think the IBIS was also helping, as I was able to shoot it around 1/320th on a travel tripod w/ remote release. The Z7 uses the same remote release cable as the d500 and other mid-level Nikons. These were indoor tests, but they looked promising. I’ll take out the monster with the Z7 in the next day or two.

For my outdoor tests with some birds, I had to use the 300mm f/4 AF-P with tc-20eII (equivalent 600mm f/8) and monopod on the lens foot. I shot it at f/10 – f/11 in overcast late day lighting, mostly with a godox v860ii flash with better beamer flash lens. I have to say that for perching birds, this was amazingly good considering that it was hitting focus in pretty poor lighting with f/8 minimum aperture. All the shots attached were from this configuration, and I’ll talk about them a bit below.

For BIF, the 300mm w/ tc20 did not cut it. I tried capturing some with AF-C dynamic AF, but the camera mostly just hunted around. I was mostly trying white-tailed kites against an overcast sky, so it was pretty low contrast. I didn’t expect much, and got what I expected. I hope that with a long f/4 – f/6.3 lens without a TC, things will be better. This is my main unknown about if I’ll keep the camera or not.

The attached photos were all from camera JPG (large, fine) with a little Lightroom processing. They were exported with 5 MP max resolution (via Lightroom export options) to fit as post attachments, so the numbers below are not exactly what you see.

The first is a red-tailed hawk on a building. This was cropped to 2222×2222 (4.9 MP) from 8256×5504 (45.4MP), or about a 3x linear crop (1800 mm equivalent).

Red-tailed hawk on building
Nikon Z7 with Godox v860ii, Better Beamer flash lens, Nikon 300mm f/4, TC20eii
Camera: NIKON Z 7, Focal length: 600mm, Aperture: ƒ/11, Shutter speed: 1/200s, ISO: 640, Taken: 2018-10-09 18:16:44, Exposure bias: +4/6EV, Flash fired: yes,

The second is a sharpie taken right around sunset with pretty bad lighting. The Z7 with that 600mm f/8 TC’d lens was still able to nail the focus most of the time with not too much hunting. There’s a crop of it below. This is a full 45.4 MP shot.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Nikon Z7 with Godox v860ii, Better Beamer flash lens, Nikon 300mm f/4, TC20eii
Camera: NIKON Z 7, Focal length: 600mm, Aperture: ƒ/10, Shutter speed: 1/200s, ISO: 640, Taken: 2018-10-09 18:50:29, Flash fired: yes,

The third is not the exact same shot as #2, but similar position and cropped down to 2554×2554 (6.5 MP) or a 2.6x linear crop.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Nikon Z7 with Godox v860ii, Better Beamer flash lens, Nikon 300mm f/4, TC20eii
Camera: NIKON Z 7, Focal length: 600mm, Aperture: ƒ/10, Shutter speed: 1/200s, ISO: 640, Taken: 2018-10-09 18:49:55, Flash fired: yes,

In summary, I think the Z7 did a very good job with the 300mm f/4 + TC20eii, which is not normally a great sharp combo. It autofocused pretty well even in poor light with it. The results with a manual focus Nikon 800mm f/5.6 look promising, but I need to take it out to the field. The main negative is non-working Tamron 150-600g2 and hunting with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8e when the d850 has instant focus under same conditions. I need to test with BIF, so no info yet on AF-C performance or subject tracking.