Z 6

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After years of speculation and anticipation, Nikon has finally introduced the new Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6 full-frame mirrorless cameras. Initial reactions have been heated and emotional, as people debate whether or not the single XQD memory card slot will be its downfall, or whether the autofocusing system will be up to the needs and expectations of Nikon dSLR users. And of course there are endless comparisons of whether they live up to the offerings of the comparable Sony a7R III and a7 III full-frame mirrorless models.

Comparing the specifications, the two sets of cameras are similar on many points. The Z 7 and the a7R III are the high resolution models, while the Z 6 and the a7 III are the little brothers, with most all of the same features as their big brothers, but with a lower mega-pixel count. With some features, such as eye-detection autofocus, burst rates, and buffer rates, the Sonys appear to come out ahead, and with many other features the Nikons seem equal or better.

Detail of an official Nikon Press Photo of the Nikon Z7 body.

But I contend that, while Nikon certainly considered the Sony models when designing the new Z series, this Nikon vs. Sony comparison is not their primary concern. Nikon put that aside, and concentrated on Nikon. They designed a “future-proof” lens system with the new Z-mount, which will begin to make a large difference with the introduction of future wide-angle and fast lenses. There is already an f/0.95 lens that has been announced, the 58mm f/ 0.95 S Noct Lens. Most importantly, they designed a mirrorless camera that looks like a Nikon, feels like a Nikon, and functions like a Nikon. The camera buttons will all be familiar to a Nikon dSLR user, and just as important, the camera menus and navigation will be the same.

As anyone who has used a Sony a7 model will tell you, navigating the menus, finding the setting you are seeking, then interpreting a setting and its options can be painful. I can attest to that, I wrote the book on it! (Sony a7R III Menu Setup Guide and Sony a7 III Menu Setup Guide). It is a very different experience from using a Nikon or Canon menu, and it takes a bit of getting used to. Some of the Sony buttons, controls, and functions offer the same issue, and are not necessarily intuitive to either a new user or to a user coming from Nikon. And that is where Nikon wins… with existing Nikon users.

The Z cameras are not necessarily designed for camera users trying to decide between the Sony a7 and the Nikon Z. If a dedicated Nikon user wanted to try out or to jump to a mirrorless system, a Nikon user would have already bought a Sony a7 camera (or a Fuji or one of the other offerings). Instead, the Z cameras are designed for Nikon users trying to decide between buying a mirrorless camera or not buying a mirrorless camera. If they are going to buy a mirrorless camera, there is a high likelihood they will now be buying a Z 7 or Z 6. Nikon has greatly reduced the friction of converting to mirrorless, by offering a familiar camera. And in addition to the camera body, buttons, menus, options, functions, and features being similar to their current Nikon dSLR, Nikon users can painlessly bring along all their F-mount lenses, with the simple addition of the FTZ Lens Adapter. And Nikon users can expect that the image quality is going to be there.

Beyond the hype and chatter, the pre-orders for the Z cameras appear to be happening, and I believe that these cameras are going to be a success. Nikon has finally entered the full-frame mirrorless camera market, and they are here to stay.

If you want help setting up the Menus and Custom Settings of the Nikon Z 7, Nikon Z 6, Sony a7R III, or Sony a7 III, have a look at my comprehensive Menu Setup Spreadsheets, which are all free for a limited time after the introduction of each of the cameras. Or they are always free with a link included within the text guides for each of the cameras, which can be found at my FullStopBooks website, including the new Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Experience comprehensive user guide to the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6.

And if you want to continue to learn, discuss, and ask questions about the settings, features, and functions of the Z 7 and Z 6 from a user-standpoint, please join the Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Setup and User Tips Facebook group!

Nikon Z 7 Nikon Z 6 book manual guide how to use recommend settings setup

If you want to learn more about some of the features and specifications of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6, have a look at my blog post Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 – Beyond the Specifications.

If you want to pre-order or order the Nikon Z 7 or Nikon Z 6, please consider using my affiliate links below. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small commission – thanks!

Nikon Z 7 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MPaiU5 – $3396.95

Nikon Z 7 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

Nikon Z 6 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MKHSe0$1996.95

Nikon Z 6 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

Nikon FTZ Lens Adapter

After several years of speculation and anticipation, Nikon has just introduced their first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Nikon Z 7 and the Nikon Z 6. The Z 7 is a high-resolution model boasting 45.7 MP, and the Z 6 is nearly the same camera, but has 24.5 MP, and costs $1996 vs. $3396 for the Z 7. There are some additional differences such as the number of autofocus points, and the ISO ranges.

Nikon Z 7 body detail

Detail of the Nikon Z 7 full-frame mirrorless camera, including the 3.2″ tilting touch-screen monitor. Official Nikon image.

If you have been reading about these models, you have likely found numerous comparison posts between the two cameras, the Nikon D850 dSLR, plus the competing Sony a7R III and Sony a7 III mirrorless models. Simply comparing the specifications on the surface can be a helpful starting point, but we need to dig a little deeper in order to make true, user experience comparisons.

Continuous Frame Rate and Buffer

For example, the Nikon D850 dSLR lists a 9fps maximum burst rate, but users quickly discovered that this was based on the use of the optional MB-D18 battery grip and EN-EL18a/b battery. The maximum frame rate without the battery grip is 7 fps, and even then that rate is not achievable without the use of specific settings including AF-S, M or S shooting mode with a 1/250 or faster shutter speed, and various settings like VR and auto ISO turned off.

The Nikon Z 7 has a similar situation, with the maximum frame rate listed as 9 fps. However, this is rate can only be attained when capturing JPEG or 12-bit RAW files, and the exposure will be locked at the first frame of the burst. The camera will continue to update focus for each shot, when using AF-C focus mode, but not the exposure settings. When using Silent Mode, where shutter sound is completely eliminated, the maximum fps will be 8 fps. When capturing 14-bit RAW files, the maximum frame rate is reduced to 5.5 fps, however this will enable continuous focus, and exposure will be determined for each shot in the burst, and not just locked at the first shot. The maximum rate can be maintained for up to 18 continuous 14-bit compressed RAW images,or 23 12-bit lossless compressed images. Note that the Sony a7R III achieves up to 10 fps (with viewfinder blackout), or 8 fps without blackout, and exposure is not locked on the first exposure with either frame rate, unless desired. The Sony maximum rate can be attained for 40 RAW images, or 89 compressed RAW images. That is a significant difference, which Nikon will need to improve in future models.

Detail of the Nikon Z 7 full-frame mirrorless camera, including the new Z-mount lens mount. Official Nikon image.

Electronic Viewfinder and Touch Screen

Compared to a dSLR, mirrorless cameras such as the Z 7 and Z 6 make use of an electronic viewfinder (3690K dots) rather than an optical viewfinder. An electronic viewfinder can take a little bit to get accustomed to if you are used to working with the optical viewfinder of a dSLR, as there can be a little lag, the brightness changes with the scene and exposure, and it consumes battery life. However it has its advantages. An electronic viewfinder will reflect many of the actual camera settings, such as exposure, white balance, and Picture Control. This not only helps you envision the final image, but can save you in situations where you may have the wrong WB set. It also allows you to see and change certain camera settings, such as metering mode and autofocus modes, while looking through the viewfinder (by pressing the i Button to access a customizable settings screen). It also allows you to review images and movies in the viewfinder, without taking your eye away to view the rear screen.

The Z 7 and Z 6 provide a couple different ways to confirm focus, when manual focusing through the Viewfinder or on the rear Monitor. There is a Rangefinder feature, as found on many Nikon dSLR models, where you place the AF Point on your desired subject or detail, and as you manually focus, the AF Point will illuminate when that detail comes into focus. You can also enable Focus Peaking, where high-contrast edges of the actual subject or detail in the scene will illuminate when that distance is in focus. You can select which color is used to indicate focus. Focus Peaking is often used when manually focusing when shooting video, and still photographers have adapted the use of the feature as well.

The 3.2″ rear monitor has touch-screen capabilities for Live View, navigating menus, changing settings, and for locating your AF Point and autofocusing. This differs from the Sony a7R III, where the touch-screen is only used for Live View and for autofocusing.

Nikon Z 7 body

Detail of the Nikon Z 7 full-frame mirrorless camera, including the rear monitor and controls. Official Nikon image.

Autofocus System

The AF system of the Z 7 and Z 6 is going to be slightly different than you may be used to with a Nikon dSLR. The hybrid AF system (phase-detection and contrast-detection) of the Z 7 has 493 AF points, and the Z 6 has 273 points, both covering 90% of the frame. That means you will be able to focus on and track subjects throughout almost the entire frame, without necessarily having to lock focus and recompose. The on-sensor phase-detection AF system is similar to Live View autofocusing, and thus should be spot-on without having to calibrate lenses (except for lenses that can’t take full advantage of the hybrid AF system, and instead rely on the contrast-detection system).

You will be able to use AF-S Focus Mode for still subjects, and AF-C for tracking moving subjects. The AF Area Modes differ slightly from a Nikon dSLR. You will be able to choose from Pinpoint AF for very precise AF Point positioning (in AF-S mode only), Single-Point AF, 9-point Dynamic-Area AF (in AF-C mode), Wide-Area AF, and Auto-Area AF. If you wish to take advantage of face detection, you will have to set for Auto-Area AF, and enable the Auto-Area AF Face Detection item of the menu. Nikon says that the face-detection will also look at the upper body of the subject, and thus will continue to track it even if the face is momentarily out of view.

Tracking a subject throughout the frame, similar to Nikon’s 3D-Tracking on a dSLR, will be done in Auto-Area AF and AF-C. The implementation of it is a bit different, however, and DP Review goes into detail about the new process. It is a bit more cumbersome than how it is done on a dSLR:

https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikon-z7-first-impressions-review/5

Nikon Z 7 mirrorless autofocus AF 493 point

The 493 AF Points of the Nikon Z 7, covering 90% of the frame. Official Nikon image.

Other Features and Functions

The ISO range of the Z 7 is 64 – 25,600, expandable to 32 – 102,400. With its different sensor, the Z 6 has a wider ISO range on the high end, of 100 – 51,200, expandable to 50 – 204,800.

New Z-mount lens mount – Wider, which will allow for lenses such as the 52mm f/0.9 NOCT lens, coming from Nikon. Three lenses will be available at first, along with a Z to F ZTF Adapter to use Nikon F-mount lenses.

EXPEED 6 processor, new mid-range sharpening parameter, new Creative Picture Controls to create dramatically processed images, such as Dream, Bleached, and Graphite.

5-axis in-camera image stabilization, which will work with both lenses without VR, and lenses with VR.

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To learn about all the features, functions, controls, and customizations of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6, be sure to have a look at my Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Experience. user guide, to be available in November or December 2018. It is a comprehensive 350+ page guide, to help you take control of your camera, and the images you create.

Nikon Z 7 Nikon Z 6 book manual guide how to use recommend settings setup

 

If you want to pre-order or order the Nikon Z 7 or Nikon Z 6, please consider using my affiliate links below. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small commission – thanks!

Nikon Z 7 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MPaiU5 – $3396.95

Nikon Z 7 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

Nikon Z 6 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MKHSe0$1996.95

Nikon Z 6 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281