Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless is remarkably accomplished for a first-generation product, says Andy Westlake, making the Nikon Z7 one of the best cameras the firm has ever made
Nikon Z7 Review: Introduction
Nikon Z7: at a glance
- £3,399 body only
- 45.7MP full-frame BSI CMOS
- New large diameter Z-mount
- Works with F-mount SLR lenses via adapter
- 5-axis in-body stabilisation
- £4,099 with 24-70mm lens and FTZ adapter
The late summer of 2018 has seen a complete transformation of the full-frame mirrorless market. In a sector that was until recently Sony’s near-exclusive playground, the big guns of Canon and Nikon have both muscled-in on the action, introducing brand new systems and lens mounts within the space of a couple of weeks. Exciting times indeed for photographers.
In many respects, both firms have done very similar things, making large-diameter, short back-focus mounts that are touted to allow extra flexibility of lens design compared to the narrower Sony E mount. Their cameras are also SLR-style models that sport chunky handgrips, plenty of external controls, large high-resolution viewfinders and articulated touchscreens. Panasonic’s designers must be pointing at the 4-year-old GH4 – arguably the first mirrorless camera to embrace this approach, when it was still deeply unfashionable – and muttering, “I told you so”.
The first camera of this upstart generation to reach our hands is the Nikon Z 7. This top-end, 45.7MP model is designed to go head-to-head with Sony’s highly-regarded Alpha 7R III, with a remarkably similar configuration and specification. As a first-generation product, you might think it would struggle to match Sony’s design and technology, but you’d be wrong. Not only is the Z 7 a match for the A7R III, in many respects it equals or surpasses the D850, Nikon’s best-ever DSLR. Indeed after using it extensively for a couple of weeks, I think it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that the Nikon Z 7 is one of the best stills cameras ever made.
Nikon Z7 review: XQD card
Before we start to find out why, though, let’s address the Z 7’s most controversial feature: its single memory card slot that accepts XQD media only. Some commenters are adamant this makes it a complete non-starter, because no serious photographer would consider a camera that can’t back-up every file to two separate cards when shooting once-in-a-lifetime events. While there’s a genuine point here for photographers who shoot weddings and such like, it misses the fact that not every user needs this ability, and alternative backup methods are also available.
As for XQD, Nikon’s engineers are adamant that the decision to adopt this super-fast, robust format is essential to future-proof the Z system. Unfortunately it doesn’t provide much practical advantage over SD today, and instead feels like an unnecessary indulgence that forces photographers to buy new memory cards and readers. A 128GB XQD card will set you back £230, compared to £55 for a UHS-II SD, which effectively makes the camera considerably more expensive.
Personally I think Nikon has made a mistake here, and I’d much rather have twin UHS-II SD card slots than that single XQD, or at least add an SD alongside it. But it’s an irritation rather than a deal-breaker, and refusing to consider such a phenomenal camera on these grounds counts as cutting off your nose to spite your face.