After months of dropping hints and weeks of releasing teaser videos, Nikon has finally officially unveiled its Z series mirrorless camera system. Their launch of the Z-series involved two full-frame (FX-format) cameras, three lenses, and an F-mount (FTZ) adaptor, with more lenses and accessories in the pipeline.
Nikon Z7 – The Z-series Full-Frame Mirrorless Flagship
The Nikon Z7 is the top-of-the-line camera for the Z-series, sporting a 45.7-megapixel backside-illuminated full-frame CMOS sensor with a native ISO range of 64-25600. It contains Nikon’s latest EXPEED 6 image processor, and supports continuous shooting up to 9 FPS. With a whopping 493 autofocus points covering up to 90% of the frame, the Z7 is able to focus quickly and accurately regardless of where you place your subject.
Z6 – Full Frame Mirrorless for the Masses
A small step down from the Nikon Z7 is the Z6, identical to the Z7 in all aspects except for the sensor. The Z6 features a lesser 24.5-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, with has a native ISO range of 100-51200. With the reduced resolution, the EXPEED 6 image processor is able to handle a faster continuous shooting speed of 12 FPS. The Z6 also has slightly reduced autofocusing capabilities, with 273 autofocus points covering the 90% of the frame. This covers the same area as the Z7, but with lesser points, meaning it might not be able to focus as fast or as accurately at some portions of the frame.
The headline feature on both cameras is, without a doubt, in-body image stabilization. In a first for Nikon, both camera bodies support 5-axis in-camera stabilization, making image stabilization the job of the body instead of the lens like Nikon has done in the past. This has been made possible through Nikon’s adoption of a new Z-mount, which marks a departure from almost 60 years of the F-mount on flagship devices.
Besides allowing additional axes for stabilization, moving the stabilization function to the body allows for all lenses attached to be stabilized, even those not originally designed with the feature. This would be a huge plus for those with a large collection of F-mount vintage glass. When paired with modern lenses that already feature built-in optical stabilization, the Z-series cameras are able to work in conjunction with the lens to offer enhanced stabilization.
Another big feature of both cameras is their video recording capabilities. While Nikon’s DSLR bodies have been incrementally building up their video recording functionalities, the Z-series closely mimics the capabilities of very capable video-capable mirrorless cameras like as Sony’s A7 series. Both the Nikon Z7 and Z6 support 4K recording up to 30FPS, and 1080p recording up to 120FPS. They also feature Active D-Lighting, electronic stabilization, focus peaking, as well as 10-bit N-Log HDMI output.
The electronic viewfinder on the Z-series is a 3.69-million-dot OLED screen with 100% frame coverage at 0.8x magnification, while the rear screen is a 3.2-inch tilting 2.1-million-dot LCD with a 170° viewing angle. The bodies are weather-sealed to the “same level of strength and durability” as the D850, and contain the same software user interface as Nikon’s DSLRs. The cameras feature a single XQD card slot (What were you thinking, Nikon?!) and have built-in WiFi and Bluetooth for image transfer. If you prefer using a cable, there is a USB Type C port for high-speed data transfer.
Nikon is also debuting its new Z-mount. With a 55mm diameter and 16mm flange distance, the Z-mount opens up a whole new realm of possibilities, allowing Nikon to produce lenses which are no longer constrained by its ageing F-mount.
At launch, the Z-series will have 3 lenses available: the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S, the NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S, and the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8S. To keep up with the competition, Nikon keeps early adopters on their toes with six more lenses slated for released next year, one of which is the NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct. The fastest lens in Nikon’s history, the 58mm Noct is a demonstration of the opportunities opened up by Nikon’s decision to launch the new Z-mount. However, with such a thin focal plane, this lens will, unfortunately, be manual focus only.
Other lenses in the pipeline include a 20mm f/1.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 14-24mm f/2.8. Refer to Nikon’s lens timeline below for more details.
For those who already own a wide collection of Nikon’s F-mount lenses, Nikon is also launching the Nikon FTZ Lens Adaptor, which will adapt your F-mount lenses to the new Z-mount with full autofocus and metering functionality. The adaptor will support F-mount lenses from AI-type onwards, which amounts to well over 300 lenses released since 1977. Like the Z-series bodies and much of Nikon’s range of professional lenses, the FTZ adaptor is weather sealed.
The release of the Z-series marks Nikon’s grand entrance into the world of professional full-frame mirrorless cameras. Its previous effort, the Nikon 1 series, featured cameras with 1-inch sensors, was aimed more at amateurs and hobbyists. It failed to attract a large following, which had resulted in Nikon discontinuing the 1 series earlier this year.
At first glance, it is obvious that Nikon has modeled much of its range after Sony’s A7 series of cameras. The Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6 feature many similar functions and capabilities as Sony’s A7RIII and A7III, and these cameras are definitely expected to go head-to-head in the market.
At this point, Sony’s cameras are the tried and tested solution, backed by a range of high-quality native lenses from Sony and Zeiss, while Nikon’s cameras are new to the game with just 3 lenses. However, Nikon brings with it over a century of focussed legacy and expertise in the photography industry.
Against Sony, Nikon arguably holds the fort in terms of a mature image processing system and menu organisation. The FTZ Adaptor will also help Nikon to bridge the gap while new native Z-series lenses are being designed. It will be interesting to watch how competition plays out in this segment of the market.
Nikon is definitely playing it safe with the Z7 and Z6, with little revolutionary features of note other than the new Z-mount. You would be forgiven if you thought the Nikon Z7 was just the Nikon D850 DSLR squeezed into a smaller body. Based on paper specifications, most critique would be directed toward its single XQD card slot.
Besides the fact that XQD is a standard that is not widely adopted or supported, many professional cameras in the market today feature 2 card slots, giving professionals a certain level of redundancy and peace of mind while shooting assignments. This had been a pain point for Sony’s A7 series of cameras before the company rectified it in later iterations.
The Nikon Z7 and Z6 mirrorless cameras would be a long-awaited option for die-hard Nikonites looking to get into videography. Despite attempts to implement video-friendly features on their DSLRs, mirrorless cameras have always been a better medium for film-making. Nikon’s Z-mount would seamlessly integrate Nikkor lens investments, bringing Nikon into the mirrorless age without sacrificing its unique design language, trademark operation style, and characteristic image performance.
Price and Availability
Both the Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6 will be available from 27 September 2018. The Nikon Z7 will cost USD 3,400 (SGD 4,665) for the body only, or USD 4,000 (SGD 5,488)as a kit with the 24-70mm f/4S. The Nikon Z6 will cost USD1,996 (SGD 2,739) for the body only, and USD2,600 (SGD 3,568) bundled with the lens.
The NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S and 35mm f/1.8 S will cost USD 1,000 (SGD 1,372) and USD 850 (SGD 1,166) respectively, and will also be available from 27 September 2018. The 50mm f/1.8 S will cost USD 600 (SGD 823), and will be available in late October.
The Nikon FTZ Adaptor will also be available from 27 September 2018 retailing at 250USD (SGD 343).
Local pricing and availability in Singapore have yet to be announced, SGD prices are conversions at rates of the time of publishing.