Thoughts on the New Nikon Z-Series
So today, Nikon finally announced the company’s new Mirrorless cameras, the Z7 and Z6. I say finally because the leaks and rumours seem to have been going on for months, not to mention Nikon’s own teasing of the new system. So now that they’re official, what do I think?
I’m not going to go too much into the specs and details of what’s in these cameras, as that’s been done by now on about a billion other websites. Instead, I want to express my own thoughts on the new system, as both a long term Nikon owner, and a mirrorless fan.
On both accounts, I’m very excited.
Both of these new cameras are pretty solid first entries into the full frame mirrorless field by Nikon. While some people have been falling over themselves to find fault with them, I think that they tick a lot of the right boxes for a lot of users. If you were a Nikon shooter who was on the fence about switching to Sony for example, they offer a lot of compelling reasons to stay with Nikon for now. One particularly big one is the compatibility with existing lenses, which I’ll get into in a minute.
The obvious comparison is to Sony, as Sony’s A7 series is the closest there is to the Nikon Z cameras right now. Compared to the Sony offerings, there are both good and bad points, and Nikon has chosen to focus on ergonomics and making the cameras as Nikon-like as possible over some technical things. They’re not perfect by any means. The lack of a second card slot has been much talked about in the last few hours. I understand why this is an issue for some shooters, although the internet has perhaps overreacted to this a bit.
Dual card slots haven't always been standard, and cameras worked perfectly fine before that, so while it is a shame that Nikon has not included dual card slots, and I get that for some people this is a deal breaker, but it hardly makes them useless as some people are hyperbolically claiming. In my opinion anyway. For example, the Canon 5D Mark 1 and 2 were the goto wedding photography cameras for many years, and only had one card slot, yet now people are saying that it's "impossible" to use these for weddings because they only have one card slot??. Again, I appreciate that this is an issue for some people, but I don't think it's as bad as its being made out to be.
While there are areas where Sony has the edge, there are also some areas where Nikon has outdone Sony. For a start, the screen and viewfinder seem to be better. I have always had an issue with Sony screens. It’s actually put me off in some respects, and was my biggest issue when using the A7II and my A6000.
For video, Nikon are offering a new log profile and 10-bit video, but only with an external recorder. This is both good and bad. Obviously it would be nice to have this internally, but Sony doesn’t do 10 bit in any way, despite people requesting this from Sony for years. It’s unclear what the internal recording will be like. The format is h.264 but there’s no indication from the specs what the bit rate is, so I expect it isn’t great. The camera also offers IBIS with up to 5 stops of 5 axis stabilisation.
The reaction from some die hard Sony fans has been kind of hilarious. One fan site I saw bashed the new cameras saying they were just copying Sony, and were in no way better, before listing a comparison chart which conveniently left out the areas where Nikon exceeded Sony in the specs (better screen, better viewfinder, 10 bit video output). I have nothing against Sony, and Nikon releasing these cameras does great things for the overall market, even if you’re not a fan. Competition is always good. Another video complained about the lack of lenses, and bashed the ZTF adaptor, almost dismissing it completely as not working well enough, despite never having actually used it, and contrary to numerous reports that it functions flawlessly and works as well as adapted lenses.
At the end of the day though, it is all about the lenses, and while Nikon has only launched three native Z Mount lenses, the FTZ adaptor, by all accounts of people who have used it, makes normal F-Mount lenses perform as well as native lenses. Numerous people have reported that they observed no difference in performance. This is quite a feat. Sony fans have been dismissing the value of this, insisting that adapted lenses won’t be as good (because there’s some tradeoff on Sony systems using adapted Canon lenses) but thats doesn't seem to be the case. Nikon seems to have done a great deal of work to make sure that F mount lenses would work well on the new camera.
Some people have also pointed out that the adaptor is expensive (although, about the same cost as a metabones) but that cost is significantly less than replacing all your lenses. The value of this shouldn’t be underestimated. If you’re a Nikon shooter, and you want to switch to mirrorless, this option lets you keep your Nikon glass and use it effectively natively. If you were to switch to Sony, you would have to sell all your lenses and buy Sony options, incurring the loss involved of selling your gear second hand. Depending on how much Nikon glass you have, that adds up fast.
I have approximately €4000 worth of Nikon lenses (new value), which alone is the cost of a camera. I could buy a second Nikon Z6 with what I would save in lenses. And that is precisely what will sell these cameras.
At the end of the day, Nikon’s new Z mount, and mirrorless cameras are only at the beginning of their journey. These first offerings are just that, first offerings, and in my opinion pretty damn good. I would absolutely consider one of these as a replacement for my D700. Is Sony better in some respects? Yes. Is it enough to make me switch to Sony? Maybe not. As I said, the cost savings of being able to keep my lenses are significant, for very little difference in performance.
So who do I think these cameras are for?
If you’re a Nikon DSLR shooter, they’re a perfect way to switch to mirrorless. If you’re primarily shooting stills and have a big investment in Nikon glass, they’re a great solution, unless you absolutely need dual card slots. I’m still on the fence about video until more details are available, but they’re better than previous Nikon offerings in terms of video.
If you’re a Canon shooter, you’ll probably want to wait and see what Canon releases (hopefully soon).
If you’re a Sony shooter, these are not going to make you switch, but their entry into the market will be good for you, as the competition will continue to spur Sony’s innovation. Hopefully, this will encourage Sony to also offer 10- bit video soon too.
Photography isn’t a zero-sum game. There’s plenty of room in the market for everyone, and having one of the big two make such a serious entry into the mirrorless market is good news for everyone. If you’re the owner of an existing mirrorless system, I really don’t know why you need to feel threatened, as some people apparently are, given the reaction from some online about this. Your chosen brand isn’t going away just because Nikon decided to launch a new camera. This is great news for everyone, because it strengthens the market, and provides real competition at last. Now we just have to wait and see what Canon does.
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