Nikon Z7 Review (Is the Nikon z7 Worth in 2020?)

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Last updated on December 16th, 2020

Nikon Z7 is a high-resolution, full-frame mirrorless camera that has quite the same body design as Nikon’s Z6. Nikon Z7 is a camera designed for professional photographers who already own quite a bit of Nikon glass and want to be able to make use of the new S-Line Z-mount lenses to come.

Nikon Z7 Review [Total Overview]

The Nikon z7 is one of the best DSLRs ever, and it has Nikon’s rich history behind it. By contrast, the Z7 is a brand new system with only three native lenses, but strong compatibility with all the old Nikon lenses and a roadmap for future lenses that shows Nikon is serious about its mirrorless system. Based on what you mention, the Z7 could be a nice choice.

The Z7 has a fairly small memory buffer, which perhaps is aided by the use of the faster XQD memory card format, but the buffer could be problematic if you were shooting live-action sports. Weddings, portraits, landscapes, I think will all be good with the Z7.

I wonder if wildlife could run into buffer problems, but at least you’d be outside, which I would hope would offer better lighting than an indoor setting, but who knows, maybe you shoot nocturnal animals. I’m quite happy with my Z7. I like its size compared to D850. I have no issues with its buffer, and my uses are largely similar to yours. I like the quality of the images, and I am excited about the future possibilities that such a wide lens mount will engender.

What Is Nikon Z7?

The Nikon Z7 is a full-frame and high-resolution mirrorless camera. There is almost nothing the D850 can do that the Z7 can’t do almost as well and there is a lot that the Z7 can do that the D850 cannot. While the latter is a more affordable all-rounder, the Z7 is for photographers who demand 45.7-megapixels of resolution for landscape, wedding, or still-life shooting.


Compared to the Z6, it also offers a superior 493-point AF system, along with ISO sensitivity that ranges from 64-25,600. Resolution isn’t the only high thing about the Z7 – its price is also steeper than the Z6, with the latter expected to find favor with amateur enthusiasts, rather than professionals.

This means the Nikon Z7 is very much pitched against the Sony A7R III. Impressively for a first-generation camera, it manages to compete with its more seasoned mirrorless rival. It’s one of the best cameras Nikon’s ever made.

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Nikon Z7 – Design and Handling

First, the big question – will you be happy moving to the Z7 from a DSLR? For most people, the answer is yes – Nikon has designed a slightly miniaturized DSLR. It might not even be considered that miniature if you’re used to using one of Nikon’s smaller, entry-level type bodies.

Deciding to keep the Z7 nice and chunky means that it feels both reassuringly weighty and well built in the hand. We’re told it’s constructed to the same tough standard as the Nikon D850, so it should withstand a shower or two, as well as the odd knock or scrape.

The Nikon Z7 is also a little larger than its closest rival, the Sony A7R III. The upshot of that is that the buttons feel much better spaced and are individually larger than on the Sony, resulting in a much less cramped feeling that you often get when shooting with an A7 series camera. There’s a deep grip, while the array of buttons surrounding will again be familiar to anybody who has used a Nikon DSLR.

There’s the familiar feel of a dual control dial at the front and rear of the grip to adjust shutter speed and manual, while a joystick at the back can be used to shift the focus point around the frame or move through menus.

To take a shortcut to certain features, you hit the “i” button and either use the physical buttons or tap the screen to make changes. Rounding off the button set is a Navidad, menu button, drive mode button, magnification buttons, an AF-On button (useful for back-button-focusing), and a display button. All but the playback and delete buttons are grouped on the right-hand side of the body.

Move back to the camera’s top-plate and you’ll see a mode dial, which is relatively simple to use. You’ve got all your semi-automatic and manual modes, as well as a fully-automatic mode and room for custom groups of settings. Whether the pros that this is aimed at will want to use a fully automatic mode is questionable, but at least it means that anybody can pick it up and start shooting straight away.

Additionally, there’s a top-plate LCD where you can view all the main settings, such as shutter speed, ISO, remaining space on the memory card, and so on. Speaking of memory cards – now for the controversy. The Z7 is packing just one memory card slot, and it’s XQD. Not only is that bad news for anybody who wants to use a second slot for backup or overflow, but XQDs are also not the cheapest to buy, especially considering you’ll probably want to buy a reader too.

For now, at least, anybody buying a Z7 will be furnished with a free XQD card. There is a good reason for choosing this format – it’s faster than SD, and some would say, it’s more robust too. When you’re talking about shooting quickly at super high resolutions, speed is most definitely what you actually need. Expect to see lots of complaints from naysayers, though. It seems fairly obvious that another Z body will be announced in the future that’s aimed more squarely at the serious pro-market, replete with two card slots.

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Key Specification

Let’s take a closer look at what the Nikon Z7 has to offer in terms of specifications, then we will compare the camera side-by-side with the Nikon Z6 as well as the Nikon D850 DSLR.

  • Review Price: $2649 (body only)
  • 45.7-megapixel Full-frame CMOS sensor
  • The 493-point hybrid AF system
  • 64–25600 ISO range
  • 9fps continuous shooting
  • 3.2-inch, 2,100k-dot touchscreen
Pros
  • Superb, DSLR-like handling
  • One of the best electronic viewfinders around
  • Extremely detailed, sharp images
  • In-body image stabilization for handheld shots
  • Intuitive touchscreen interface
Cons
  • Only one XQD card slot
  • The screen doesn’t fully articulate
  • Average battery life
  • Limited range of native lenses at launch

Nikon Z7 Review – Screen and Viewfinder

This being a mirrorless camera, the Z7 has a 3.6-million dot viewfinder, with 0.8x magnification. It’s quite simply one of the best electronic ones on the market, and should even be enough to convince the most fervent optical die-hard that electronic is the way forward. The ‘finder is joined by a 2.1-million dot, tilting touchscreen. The tilting mechanism is handy for composing from awkward angles and comes into play when shooting discreet, street-type shots.

The screen’s touch-sensitivity has clearly been very well thought through too, unlike Sony’s A7 offering. Not only can you set the focus point and fire off the trigger via a tap of the screen, but you can also use it to navigate around the quick and full menus, as well as swiping through images in playback and tapping to display an enlarged view of the scene.

Some may complain that the screen doesn’t fully articulate – or use a clever pivot design like the Fuji X-T series, as a tilting screen is redundant if you want to shoot portrait format. But tilting is better than nothing and in some situations is quicker and less awkward to use. Which you prefer is likely to be down to your individual preference, but it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker either way.

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Nikon Z7 Review – Image Quality and Performance

With a setup that is quite similar to the Nikon D850, we were hoping to be met with superb images and excellent focusing from the Z7. Happily, on the whole, we have not been disappointed. Images are extremely detailed, show great colors, and, especially when using the new S series lenses, very sharp indeed.

In our lab tests, the image detail naturally lowers as the ISO is raised, but it remains higher than most other cameras on the market. Even at ISO 12,800, the resolution is at the highest you’ll get from a 24-megapixel camera. The Z7 performed admirably in our noise tests too, with its ISO 1600 images almost as good as its incredible, noise-free shots at the base ISO 64 setting.

Most of the time focusing is quick and accurate, but when using the tracking autofocus option (found in the Auto-area AF option), it struggles ever so slightly to keep up with erratic and fast-moving subjects. In fact, we’ve found its cheaper brother, the Nikon Z6, to be slightly better at tracking speedy subjects. Needless to say, the Z7 won’t be causing the Sony A9 any sleepless nights, but then again, the Z7 is not really designed as a sports and action camera.

Instead, you tend to get better results from using continuous focus with either Single Point or Wide-area AF selected, something which is easier to do with relatively predictable sports or actions.

Leaving the Z7 in matrix metering mode results in well-balanced exposures in all but the most challenging of high-contrast scenarios. Automatic white balance does well when shooting under artificial light, but it can be a little on the cool side in daylight or overcast conditions – switching to a white balance preset of your choice is a good way to get around that.

One of the most important advantages the Z7 brings over something like the D850 is the addition of in-body image stabilization. This works very well with the native lenses, as well as F-mount lenses via the adapter, to help you shoot handheld and still be left with sharp shots – a real bonus for low-light and telephoto work.

Battery life is a bit more standard – the Z7’s CIPA rating is 330 shots from charge, though it’s fair to say that’s a little conservative. During my testing, I filled a 32GB card and it only went down to 71%. For most enthusiast users it should last a day, but pros should definitely invest in at least one spare battery (which will set you back $69.99).

Handily, the battery can be charged in the camera via a USB-C charger, though this won’t work if you’re using an old EN-EL15a battery from an existing camera.

Why Should I Buy the Nikon Z7?

The Nikon Z7 is one of the best high-resolution, full-frame cameras you can buy right now. Rather than attempting to protect its DSLRs, Nikon has gone all-out to make a professional mirrorless camera that feels like a traditional Nikon – and in most ways, it’s succeeded.

If you’re an existing Nikon DSLR owner – particularly one who owns a higher-end model like the D850 – you’ll be able to pick up the Z7 and use it in almost the same way that you’re used to. That makes it very appealing for those who are keen to pick up all the advantages of a mirrorless model but are a little cautious about making the transition.


There will be many working pros who are so put off by the lack of a second card slot that they’ll be playing the waiting game a little longer for a ‘Z1’ or ‘Z3’ to come along.

It’s also true that for amateur improvers, the Z6 is a far more suitable Nikon mirrorless option. We’ve now reviewed that camera and rate it as our favorite full-frame mirrorless all-rounder, alongside the Sony A7 III. In many ways, this chassis is more suitable for keen amateur photographers, particularly with that single card slot and slightly limited battery life.

Still, one card slot aside, this is close to being the perfect first step in what almost certainly looks like the future for Nikon and its rivals.

Our Verdict

One of the finest cameras Nikon has ever made and a genuine alternative to Sony’s A7R III, the Z7 has more than exceeded our expectations of its first full-frame mirrorless camera. The Z7 is a very important model for Nikon as it is the company’s first-ever full-frame mirrorless camera.

The camera includes many new features and technologies, such as the all-new Z mount, which is larger in diameter and has a much shorter flange-back distance than found in the company’s SLR cameras, allowing Nikon to leave behind the limitations of the 60-year-old F mount.

The Z7 also features in-body image stabilization, a first for Nikon, as well as a new hybrid-AF system, which none of their DSLRs have. The pressure on Nikon from competing mirrorless camera manufacturers has been growing in recent years, so Nikon had to pull out all the stops and get their new mirrorless system started off on the right foot.

The end result of extended research, development, and engineering at Nikon headquarters is a full-frame mirrorless camera with a very impressive list of features and excellent overall performance, both in our lab and in the field. However, while the Z7 is no doubt a very impressive first step for Nikon, like every camera and especially the first of its kind from a manufacturer, it’s not without its flaws.