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Half a decade ago, a new kid alleged Sony fabricated up a d alleged “full-frame mirrorless,” and has spent the aftermost bristles years ablution on everybody else. At first, the air-conditioned kids anticipation this d was impaired and they were blessed to let Sony comedy by itself. Then, as the d bent on, old veterans were aback scrambling to get in. Well, Nikon assuredly got in, and while its aboriginal accomplishment isn’t perfect, it’s absolutely appealing abuse good.

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As a refresher, a brace months ago Nikon appear its aboriginal full-frame mirrorless cameras: The 24.5 megapixel Z6 and the higher-end, 45.7 megapixel Z7. Both cameras use Nikon’s cast new Z Arise arrangement and accept lenses actuality fabricated abnormally for them (just a few at launch, but added will be rolling out over the aing few years). The Z7, which this is a analysis of, is fabricated to attack anon with Sony’s 42.4 megapixel A7R III, and really, with Nikon’s own D850. It’s for pro (or ambitious pro) photographers for whom resolution is maximally important. Nikon beatific me one alternating with its new Z Arise 24-70mm f/4 zoom lens, its 35mm f/1.8, and the FTZ converter, which allows you to use your beforehand Nikon bottle with the new arrangement (I busy a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 to analysis it).

Nikon’s aboriginal full-frame mirrorless camera

Takes absolutely nice photos, video affection is solid

Photos not as aciculate as Sony. Focus isn’t as acceptable either.

For those of you who don’t sprechen sie camera-nerd, aback we say “full-frame” we’re talking about the admeasurement of the angel sensor on a agenda camera. Full-frame agency it best carefully resembles the admeasurement of 35mm film. Remember film? Ha! That was a test. Now the kids apperceive you’re old. Anyway, pro photographers tend to opt for full-frame cameras because they let a lot of ablaze in, and because they excel at accomplishing that coveted bank depth-of-field (i.e. aback your accountable aciculate but the accomplishments is beautifully blurry). This is Nikon’s aboriginal full-frame mirrorless camera, meaning, clashing a DLSR, it doesn’t accept a mirror that flips up and aback aback you shoot. Canon aloof appear its aboriginal full-frame mirrorless as well. Basically, beforehand this year Sony became the top agent of full-frame cameras, and the added big players assuredly accomplished they bare to bustle up and get with the approaching already.

Much of this analysis will absorb me comparing the Z7 to the Sony A7R III, aback it’s the best agnate camera out there. In the absorption of abounding disclosure, the A7R III has been my go-to camera for the aftermost 8 months, aback I purchased it with my own accursed money afterwards I advised it for Gizmodo. Afore that, I attack with the aboriginal A7S (and a Canon 6D afore that). So, while it’s fair to say that I’m acclimated to Sony cameras, I went in this analysis absolutely accessible for the Z7 to beating my socks off, and I fabricated abiding I gave it every adventitious to do so. And in abounding agency it did!

Let’s breach with attitude and aloof jump appropriate into some appealing pictures, shall we? Apparently you came actuality apprehensive if this affair takes appealing pictures. Well, acceptable account for everybody, it does! The afterward arcade contains edited photos. They were attack application the uncompressed, 14-bit RAW, and they appear out of the camera attractive a bit bland. If you’re cutting RAW is because you apperceive you’re activity to adapt them later, so actuality are some shots from a quick circuit through the U.S. Southwest, abnormally Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah (which our government is currently aggravating to about-face into oilfields, and you can still do article about it!).

House On Blaze charcoal at Bear’s Ears National Monument, Utah. 1/400 sec at f/9.0, ISO 280

Valley of the Gods, Bears Ears. 1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 160

Giant apprentice aggravating to affair my van at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. 1/160 sec at f/8, ISO 90

Don’t get TOO excited, this is a assemblage of about 20 images attenuated calm to abate noise. Anniversary accomplishments angel was 15 abnormal at f/1.8, ISO 3200.

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Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Wouldn’t it be prettier with some oil derricks in advanced of it? No? Again activity it at 27Monuments.org. 1/250 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100

A guy who knows how to party. 1/1250 sec at f/4.0, ISO 200

My acquaintance who fabricated this rad dome. 1/8000 sec at f/1.8, ISO 100

Inside said rad dome. 1/100 sec at f/4.0, ISO 250

It’s a blaze hydrant, ya big dummy. See? It works in burghal settings, too! 1/2500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100

Grand Staircase sunset. Aloof brainstorm it with uranium and atramentous mines all over! Yaaay! 1 sec at f/22, ISO 100

Like I said, generally, photos attending good. The RAW files activity a lot of flexibility, and colors are about appealing accurate, admitting the auto white-balance gets a little awe-inspiring in low ablaze situations. We’re activity to booty a added dive into the angel affection in a minute, but first…

Let’s allocution about the concrete affair itself. The camera feels acutely well-built. It’s acclimate sealed, the ons and auto accept a acceptable aggregate of click, and annihilation rattles about in it. Like the A7R III, it has 5-axis optical angel stabilization congenital into the camera body, which should advice abate the furnishings of all-a-quiver hands. It additionally has a nice big anchor on it, which Nikon admirers will be blessed to see. In fact, I’d say it actual abundant feels like a Nikon, and bodies advance aural its ecosystem will accept basal relearning to accord with. It alike retains Nikon’s little top console that displays your accepted settings, array life, and how abounding shots actual you have, but now it’s an OLED instead of abominable LCD. Handy!

While the anatomy is a acceptable accord abate than the able-bodied Nikon D850, it’s still decidedly beyond than the Sony A7R III (5.3 x 4 x 2.7 inches for the Nikon vs 5 x 3.7 x 2.5 inches for the Sony). Abundant ado has been fabricated about how above Nikon’s beyond anchor is, and indeed, I adopt it, too! But, we’re talking about a aberration of 0.2 inches. The Nikon is added comfortable, but alone slightly, and not abundant to antithesis out the added aggregate of the Z7. The A7R III fits into backpacks easier, as able-bodied as things like auberge safes.

Where the Nikon absolutely torches the Sony, though, is in the cyberbanking viewfinder (EVF) and the LCD blow panel. Both the Z7 and the A7R III accept EVFs with 3.68 actor dots (OLED) and so both are nice and sharp, but Nikon’s is brighter and clearer. It shows you full-resolution images in real-time (at 60fps) so you can absolutely aught in on the capacity as you’re basic your shot. The Sony shows a lower-resolution adaptation in real-time and alone displays the full-res adaptation afterwards you’ve attack it. Weak. The beyond LCDs are alike added uneven. Nikon’s has 2.1 actor dots to Sony’s 1.44 million, and it’s a aberration you can see.

The bigger aberration with the LCD panels is how the touchscreens work. Nikon’s is acutely well-implemented. Not alone can you use it to baddest focal credibility (and alike breeze photos), but you can use blow throughout the agenda system. That seems like a no-brainer, right? Yeah, Sony doesn’t let you do that. In fact, Sony’s accomplished accomplishing of the touchscreen is half-assed, and in the eight months that I’ve endemic the A7R III, I’ve about acclimated it. With the Z7, I acclimated it consistently to bound change settings, and alike to lock focus on a affective accountable (more on that later).

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It’s not all wine and roses on the accouterments side, though. The Z7 alone has one anamnesis agenda slot, and it’s for XQD cards. You apperceive how you can airing into any pharmacy in the developed apple and grab an SD card? Yeah, not so abundant with XQD. Aback I accustomed the Z7, I was in Albuquerque, NM, which is not a baby town. I alleged three camera food and none of them had XQD. The actuality I batten to at Best Buy hadn’t alike heard of them (luckily she was mistaken and they did accept two cards in the store, which as it happens were fabricated by Sony). XQD cards are fast (400 megabytes/second apprehend and write) and apparently added future-proof, but if you’re traveling away and run out of storage, you’re about absolutely activity to accept to alpha deleting photos. Tougher to acquisition card-readers for them, too, admitting thankfully the Z7 has a USB-C port, so absolute abstracts transfers are quick, and you can additionally use that anchorage for charging the camera on the fly, which could absolutely save your bacon on a continued trek.

The beyond botheration with accepting alone one aperture is a abridgement of redundancy. Solid accompaniment anamnesis cards abort sometimes. It , but it’s not uncommon. Best pro cameras now accept two agenda slots. With the A7R III my RAW files go to one card, while full-sized JPGs accompanying go to the added card. Alike if my RAW agenda fails, I’ve still got full-quality, absolutely accessible JPGs as a backup. This feels like a big absence for the Nikon, abnormally for pros whose livelihoods depend on actuality able to bear images at the end of the day.

Battery activity is accession problem. The Z7 is alone rated to 330 shots (CIPA rating) if you’re application the EVF or 400 if you’re application the LCD (which best pros don’t), and that meant I was scrambling to get it to a charger in amid shoots. Sony Alpha’s batteries acclimated to absolutely suck, but that isn’t the case anymore. The A7R III gets 530 aback cutting via EVF and 650 shots via LCD (sometimes more), which a actual cogent advantage. That makes a big aberration in best shoots or multi-day treks.

Okay, let’s attending at some added appealing pictures. This arcade shows you some edited vs unedited shots.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, edited. 1/160 at f/8.0, ISO 64

Same photo, as it came out of the camera.

Valley of the Gods in Bears Ears, edited. 1/320 sec at 5.6, ISO 160.

Same, as it came out of the camera.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, edited. 1/100 sec at f/5.6, ISO 72

As it came out of the camera.

Generally speaking, photos attending actual nice. Nikon’s adeptness to natively shoot as low as ISO 64 gives you some added adaptability in ablaze alfresco environments (the Sony’s congenital ISO is 100, admitting it can kinda go bottomward to ISO 50 with agenda trickery). Aback you attending at the (massive) full-sized images you see that they are sharp, colors are able-bodied balanced, and it has solid activating range. But there are some appealing hasty allegation already you zoom in, both acceptable and bad.

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On the added side, this camera lets a lot of ablaze in. Aback cutting at the aforementioned settings as the A7R III the Z7’s angel was brighter every distinct time. This translates to bigger aerial ISO performance, and yep, it’s bigger than the A7R III. Aback cutting in low-light at ISO 6,400 and 12,800 the Z7 had acutely beneath babble and images were brighter as well. Alike images attack at ISO 25,600 are actual accessible for best applications abbreviate of printing.

Nikon Z7. 1/100 sec at f/4.0, ISO 6400. Actual low noise.

Sony A7Riii. 1/100 sec at f/4.0, ISO 6400. Hardly noisier.

100% crop, with the Nikon on the larboard and Sony on the right. The Nikon is absolutely brighter and has a bit beneath noise.

Nikon Z7. 1/100 abnormal at f/5.6, ISO 12,800. Again, a actual accessible image!

Sony A7Riii. 1/100 sec at f/5.6, ISO 12,000. Additionally good, but hardly darker and noisier than the Nikon, as you’ll see in the circumscribed attack on the aing slide.

Again, the Nikon (left) is hardly brighter than the Sony (right) and has a lighter babble pattern.

Nikon Z 7 assuming its aerial ISO skillz. 1/100 sec at f/40, ISO 25,600. Unedited

Same attack as last, but agilely edited in Adobe Lightroom. It’s not pristine, but it’s usable.

Unfortunately, it’s not a apple-pie win in this department. The Sony has beneath babble at lower ISO settings, and this finer impacts the activating ambit of the Z7. Say you’re cutting a arena with a lot of contrast, like a actuality backlit by a sunset. You acclimatize your settings so that the highlights are not blown-out, cerebration you’ll aloof accompany up the caliginosity later. The botheration is that bringing up the caliginosity brings out a lot of noise, added than with the Sony. Worse, DPReview noticed a amalgamation botheration aback bringing up the caliginosity (i.e. a band pattern). It’s not article you’d apprehension if you were aloof announcement to amusing media, but at full-size (and alike afore that) it’s noticeable. DPReview thinks it’s due to the appearance apprehension credibility on the angel sensor, but it’s account acquainted that Sony’s angel sensor is congenital the aforementioned way yet it doesn’t ache from that problem.

But actuality comes the bigger abruptness of all. Nikon has congenital a acceptability for authoritative the sharpest cutting cameras around. It’s aloof a kinda accepted affair in the camera world. I was absolutely abashed to acquisition that the Sony A7R III was sharper. Consistently. Across three altered lenses. Now, we are talking a appealing slight difference, but it’s noticeable. Booty a gander:

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Nikon Z7. 1/500 sec at f5.6, ISO 100

Sony A7R III. 1/500 sec at f5.6, ISO 100.

300% crop. Nikon on the larboard / Sony on the right. The Sony has way added detail in the blind and curve about the window.

Nikon Z7. 1/500 at f/4.5, ISO 100.

Sony A7R III. 1/500 at f/4.5, ISO 100.

100% Nikon on the larboard / Sony on the right. Again, capacity are a lot bluff on the Sony

Nikon Z7. 1/500 sec at f/6.3, ISO 100.

Sony A7Riii. 1/500 sec at f/6.3, ISO 100.

300% crop. Nikon on the larboard / Sony on the right. The atom in the copse is a lot clearer on the Sony.

Nikon Z7. 1/500 at f/5.6, ISO 100.

Sony A7Riii. 1/500 at f/5.6, ISO 100.

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200% crop. Nikon on the larboard / Sony on the right. Again, detail is added characteristic on the Sony. Did not see that coming.

In the attack of the van, attending how abundant added arrangement is arresting in the blind on the driver’s ancillary window, and on the allowance of the window, too. The aforementioned can be said of the lifeguard belfry shot: the copse atom is way added acutely defined. Individual petals are a lot bluff on the annual pic, too. Frankly, this blew my mind. My expectations area that Nikon would mop the attic with Sony in this department. I did 13 altered 1:1 allegory shots and acclimated three altered lenses for anniversary camera, but the after-effects were the aforementioned anniversary time. Again, the aberration is slight, but it seems Nikon’s new arrangement has some assignment to do here. [NOTE: You are acceptable to download the RAW files from a agglomeration of these tests so you can bawl at us and acquaint us how amiss we are about aggregate and we’re acutely in the abridged of Steve Jobs and/or chemtrails. Bang actuality to go to the burner Google Drive we fabricated for this purpose.]

In bigger news, the Z7 assuredly feels like it can authority its own in the video department. Nikon was awfully backward to the d on the video front, but it does a solid job here. It can shoot 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps (albeit alone in the circumscribed Super 35 mode). Focus tracking is accessible in video approach and while it absolutely isn’t absolute (it tends to briefly lose capacity that are walking against the camera) it about works abundantly well, and you can change the acceleration at which it racks focus, so it can attending nice and smooth. Picking the accountable you appetite to clue requires a brace added accomplish than it should, admitting (this is accurate in photo mode, as well).

Unfortunately, the Z7 does still display a fair aggregate of rolling bang (aka “the Jell-O effect”) aback panning; a accepted problem, but one which Sony has managed to break on the A7R III. The start/stop almanac on is placed abundant added calmly than Sony’s (which is active a the EVF), but unfortunately, it alone works if you manually cast the about-face from photo approach to video, which I begin annoying. Overall, I would say that the Z comes out net-positive on the video side, and it’s acceptable to see Nikon demography it seriously.

How does it assemblage up aback it comes to action, you ask? I’d accord it a solid “not bad.” If you appetite to shoot full, 14-bit RAW photos while tracking autofocus and auto acknowledgment in amid each, it can alone aggregation a beggarly 5.5 frames per second. If you’re agreeable to alone clue focus again it goes up to 8fps, and if you’re air-conditioned with aeroemism 12-bit RAW again it’ll go as aerial as 9fps. The A7R III, though, can do 14-bit uncompressed RAW at 10fps, while tracking AF and AE. The Z7 additionally has a actual baby buffer, so it will jam afterwards about two abnormal of cutting (depending on your resolution), admitting the absorber will bright actual bound acknowledgment to the accelerated XQD card. The A7R III has a beyond absorber (3 abnormal of uncompressed RAW or 7 abnormal of aeroemism afore it jams), but it takes for freakin’ anytime to bright to the SD card, and you can’t change some of the settings (or about-face to video) while that’s happening, which can be frustrating.

The Z7 has a whopping 493 phase-detect autofocus credibility that awning 90-percent of the angel sensor, compared to 399 appearance ascertain credibility for the Sony, which doesn’t extend as far to the edges (though it additionally has 425 contrast-detect AF points, which helps alike things out). On paper, it’s a bright win for the Nikon, and indeed, I begin that in AF-S (single) mode, in acceptable lighting, the Nikon was about faster to lock focus on an object. Move to AF-C (continuous) and it’s a altered story. The Nikon spent a lot of time hunting for focus, while the Sony was added decisive, abnormally in dimmer conditions. The Z7 has face detect, which works adequately well, admitting it did lose the accountable somewhat regularly. It absolutely doesn’t authority a candle to Sony’s Eye-AF, which focuses on the aing eyeball of a accountable and works shockingly well, alike at a actual bank abyss of field.

What else? Nikon’s agenda arrangement is awfully bigger than Sony’s. It’s abundant added intuitive, and the adeptness to use the touchscreen to cross through it makes it alike easier to use. Sony’s makes me appetite to hit myself in the arch with a hammer, admitting it does activity a bit added diminutive ascendancy with agency to adapt the camera. Nikon’s on blueprint is actual intuitive, but I ambition its joystick had a little added bang to it. I additionally absent Sony’s scroll-wheel on the aback which I consistently use for quick ISO adjustments.

In agreement of lenses, Sony has a bright advance here. If you buy Nikon’s FTZ advocate you can use around all of the full-frame bottle Nikon has fabricated over the years, and usually with all of the cyberbanking appearance intact. In fact, the camera’s in-body stabilization may accomplish some of your old lenses alike bigger than they were. I don’t adulation the ergonomics of the FTZ, though, which accouterment the weight of the camera added advanced and gets in the way of some tripod plates, which is why it has its own threaded hole. Practically, that’s activity to accomplish alteration aback and alternating amid congenital and acclimatized lenses affectionate of a pain. It’s additionally account acquainted that Nikon is not currently administration specs for the Z Arise system, which agency that your admired third-party lens maker (e.g. Sigma, Rokinon, etc.) will accept to reverse-engineer a arise if they appetite to accomplish lenses for the new Z cameras. That seems astigmatic on Nikon’s part, abnormally because it alone has three Z Arise lenses accessible currently.

It’s account advertence that, like best contempo Nikon DSLRs, the Z7 has a congenital intervalometer which lets you booty timelapses afterwards the charge for added equipment. I adulation this and it’s crazy to me that Sony hasn’t chip this yet. That said, I did accept it abort on me already while attempting a alternation of continued exposures for brilliant trails. It was declared to go for three hours but for an undetermined acumen shut off afterwards aloof twenty minutes. In speaking with Nikon reps, we weren’t able to get to the basal of what happened. As far as I know, this is an abandoned hiccup, and we can’t say for abiding this affection has problems. I’m still adequately blessed with how it angry out, admitting (note: that’s a blended of about 20 images). It additionally has a congenital time-lapse cine mode, which is accession nice addition.

Overall, this is a actual acceptable first-effort in the full-frame mirrorless amplitude from Nikon. No, it isn’t as acceptable as the Sony A7R III, admitting costing 400 bucks added ($3,400 vs $3,000), but realistically, Sony had a freakin’ five-year arch start. What’s amazing is how aing Nikon got to the Sony on its aboriginal attempt. For bodies who apperceive they appetite to be/stay in the Nikon ecosystem, I ability alike acclaim it over the D850, admitting its shortcomings, but that’s because I’m a big accepter in mirrorless. Basically, Nikon has stepped into the d accessible to play, and I’d apprehend the mark II is activity to accomplish some austere waves.

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