A few more Nikon Z-Series Notes
After the initial hype (and the corresponding outpouring of disappointment and scorn) lots of details have begun to emerge about Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras, and there are a couple of interesting tidbits that I came across. So here are a few notes in no particular order:
Wireless tethering of Raw files
The new cameras have 5gz WiFi built in, and in conjunction with Bluetooth allows the by now usual connection to a smartphone and tablet app. However, it also allows wireless tethering to a computer. This isn’t just for Jpeg files either, it will work with RAW too, which will make this very useful for studio use. Nikon also mentioned that the cameras are compatible with their LAN attachment for faster transfers and wired connections.
About that buffer
A couple (ok, a lot) of people have been complaining about the relatively small buffer in these cameras. There are mixed reports from the launch event about the effect of this in real-world situations. One person who tried it at the launch event said it was a little slower than expected, however, according to others who were, they reported that the cards are so fast, files are written almost immediately, and the buffer is clear, effectively instantly after shooting. They also don’t seem to lock up like Sony cameras do while writing the buffer. I think we need to wait and see on this one, as the reports are mixed.
3rd party lenses seem to work fine
People have been wondering if the ZTF adaptor would work as well with third party lenses, such as Tamaron and Sigma, as it does with Nikon lenses. While the cameras are still in production and haven’t been widely tired yet, Nikon did hold a hands-on event for press and select bloggers. At least one person tried the FTZ adaptor with a sigma lens and there didn’t appear to be a problem.
The control ring on Z-Mount lenses is assignable during video.
What I assume is what would normally be the focus ring on the new Z-Mount lenses is actually considered a “control” ring, and is assignable when shooting video. With it, you can have fine, clickless control over things like aperture or exposure compensation. I’m not quite sure how this works in practicality, but it’s an interesting option to have.
Both cameras include an intervalometer and have the ability to produce time-lapse sequences, without needing additional accessories.
The battery life specs are not based on real-world usage
People are freaking out over the battery rating of 350 shots on the Z7, however, DP Review is calling this an extremely conservative rating. When shooting with pre-production unit, they reported shooting over 1400 shots as well as video. The camera uses the same battery form factor as the D850, so the idea that the battery life makes the camera unusable (as some online trolling would have you believe) may be overblown (shocker). When it gets out in the wild, we’ll have a better idea of what the battery life is really like.
There was also a misprint on Nikon’s website that initially stated that the battery life would be only 10-15 minutes during video shooting. This was incorrect, and they have now fixed it to read 85 minutes. I’m kind of shocked that they made such a big blunder for such an important product launch but anyway. The problem is that trolls have been leaving this incorrect detail as in comments on videos and posts all over the internet so it will be taken as truth by lots of people who don’t do their own research.
Apparently, (I haven’t confirmed this) the battery has the same electrical capacity as the Sony Z type battery, but the actual number of shots is much lower, suggesting that either they are measuring this differently, or Sony’s internal components are much more energy efficient.
Inconsistent reports on focus performance
There seem to have been some really inconsistent reports on how well these new cameras focus. Some users were reporting that the cameras focus quite poorly, comparing hem to a previous generation Sony. However, other users had a completely different experience, and reported that the autofocus performance was surprisingly good. It should be noted that the cameras were all using pre-production firmware, so there could still be bugs in it, or there could be other issues that only seem to have affected some users and not others. Or it could be just differences in perception between users.
Another factor is that Nikon seems to have chosen poor locations for this event. Various people who were at both the London and US laugh events complained that the lighting was extremely poor. They were also not allowed to shoot outdoors. This seems to have been a poor choice by Nikon, and it smacks of being rushed. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the cameras aren’t quite as ready as they should have been for such an event, but they chose to go ahead with it anyway.
About that card slot
I’m not going to go into the merits, or lack thereof of the single card slot again, as I covered it in my initial thoughts, but there are a few additional points about it. According to Jared Polin, Nikon stated that the reason for the single card slot is that two XQD card slots would be too big and would have required a larger camera. They wanted to go with XQD as it is a better format and more future proof. Not the that it will also be able to use CFAST cards at some point too.
People had also complained that there was only one manufacturer of XQD cards (Sony) but that is no longer true. Nikon has announced that they are also now going to sell the cards, and Delkin also announced that they would be making XQD cards. In order to get the cards cheaper and for there to be more support, there needs to be scale, and by putting an XQD card slot on these cameras, Nikon is attempting to do that, in the same way that Apple did with USB3 (or USB 1 initially). In both cases, Apple got the same kind of flack, but in the end, it just pushed the standard to be adopted more quickly. Of course, this strategy is a risk and it could backfire, but time will tell.
It was also pointed out at the event that Nikon sees these as upper mid rage enthusiast/semi-pro cameras, rather than fully fledged pro models. I suspect that a D5 pro level version will follow at some point. (Rumours are that one will be out in time for the Olympics)
48 Hours of Lunacy
After the official launch, the internet seemed to go into complete meltdown over these cameras. People are falling over themselves to see who could bash them the most. Most of the people commenting and criticising were doing so based off numbers on a page rather than actually using one. The reaction reminded me of the original iPhone launch, were people criticised the specs, and compared them to other phones complaining about all the ways other phones were better (on paper) but without actually using or holding them, and look how that turned out.
The Nikon Z7 and Z6 could well be a disaster, but I think that determination should be based on actual usage and actually using the camera rather than people arguing on YouTube about who can outdo each other in their criticism. I even saw videos reacting to other peoples reactions to other people who had tried them. So, reactions to the reactions to the reactions. I mean, it’s ridiculous.
Some of the commentators even contradicted themselves in the same paragraphs as to why these cameras and Nikon were Doomed. It really was like watching the aftermath of an Apple launch. The reaction from a select number of Sony users was particularly childish. One Sony fan site has published almost nothing but links to articles bashing Nikon for the last few days. To misquote Shakespeare: “methinks they doth protest too much.” My brain started to hurt after a while so I had to stop reading/watching articles and videos about the cameras, because it was starting to make me mad.
The thing I found the funniest about all this: people were bashing these based on various specs and numbers and basically things on a page. No one seemed to care if these cameras produced nice images or not. Almost none of the commentary was about image quality. At the end of the day, surely the point of a camera is the pictures it takes, and yet, no one seemed in any way interested in what I would argue is the most important factor. Which makes me believe that the crazy deluge of reactions was a combination of trolling and mob mentality, given that the number of people who have actually used one of these cameras is actually quite small.
In my opinion, this isn’t a single “win or lose”, or “one and only shot” attempt from Nikon. This is the start of a long-term effort to transition to Mirrorless. That effort will take time and this is just the first iteration, and a way to attract early adopters. The idea that Nikon would leapfrog 3 generations of Sony technology, in an area that is new to it, in one go is kind of daft if you think about it objectively. They decided to focus on the areas that Sony was traditionally weak in, ergonomics and usability, rather than the technical aspects where Nikon undoubtedly has a disadvantage. But this is only the beginning. It’s not going to happen overnight with one single pair of cameras, and people expecting it to, really should try and see the bigger picture.
Could they be terrible? Quite possibly, but I don’t know, and the deluge of commentary and reaction has just made it more confusing rather than less so. I will try them out for myself before forming an opinion, but personally, I’m optimistic. My personal theory of product launches in the age of the internet is that the success of a product is inversely proportional to the amount of crap written about it when it’s launched, and so, these should be a runaway success by that metric! The level of hysteria shows the amount of interest if nothing else, but the problem with this kind of hysteria is that it clouds actual information and useful details.
I can’t wait to try one for real, and see what it’s like to take photos with. Remember those things?
The reason we're into photography in the first place? Anyone?