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Nikon Z6 / Z7 REVIEW “One Year Later”…SORRY NIKON!!!

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It’s been a little over a year since Nikon officially released the Z System with the Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7. This video is my REVIEW a year later. I’ve used both cameras extensively in many different situations from indoors to outdoors to low light and great light.

I still stand behind my review’s of both cameras but a year later there’s a lot to discuss. There’s more competition in the way of the Canon EOS R, Sony a7R IV, Sony a7R III and even the older a7 III.

This is my OFFICIAL Review one year later of the Nikon Z System.

This video was filmed with the Nikon Z6 of which we own 5 of and use as our main video cameras for the majority of our videos.

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Script Transcript

Jared Polin and it’s been over a year since Nikon released their first full frame mirrorless cameras, the z6 and z7.  In the past year we’ve used both of these cameras extensively for Photos and Videos.  Whether it’s been shooting photos of birds in the Florida everglades, portraits in morocco at Disney world, at the NASA neutral buoyancy Lab in Houston Texas, on the move set of Todd’s Feature Film, concerts and even for sports…i’ve fully embraced Nikon’s Z system.  Not to mention that 95% of the videos we’ve shot over the last year have been on the Nikon Z6.  All Photo News Fixes, Real World Reviews and this video are filmed on the Nikon Z6.  So the big question is, how’s the Nikon Z system holding up a year later?

Well…’s complicated, much more complicated then a year ago when I initially reviewed the cameras.  Let me be clear, I 100% stand behind the Real World Reviews we put out. The Z system is a fantastic system capable of capturing images across a wide spectrum as well as solid video.  We’ve proven that time and time again.  So anyone who’s invested in the Nikon Z system should be happy with their choice.  

Now that that’s out of the way, lets dive right in to the the nitty gritty that’s bound to upset some people.  I’m personally using the Z system less and less for my own photography and will fully explain why throughout this video.  I’ve sold a large collection of Nikon F glass because I want to fully invest in as much Z glass as possible when it comes out.  And honestly as many of you know, after 23 years shooting Nikon, I’ve started to shoot more and more with the Sony system.  Five years ago I would never have guessed I’d be making that transition. 

Let’s take a look at what my concerns were a year ago with the Z system.  My first major concern was the lack of high end native Z glass.  Nikon made the decision to focus first on what I called “mid-level glass” in the way of f1.8’s.  A year ago I was super harsh on the 1.8 glass but after using the 50, 35, 85 and now 24 1.8, I have to say I really like them.  Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer 1.4’s and 1.2’s but the Native glass has been super sharp, fairly quick focusing, easy to travel with due to it’s weight and size and the reason I sold overlapping F glass.  But where’s the better glass?  Sure Nikon got out the 24-70 2.8 Z mount but we’re still waiting on a 14-24 and 70-200 2.8.  I also want to point out the 70-200 2.8’s going to be close to double the size in length to Canon’s RF version.  Nikon’s released a pretty much worthless lens for the masses in the way of the 58 .95 Noc while we sit here waiting for 1.4’s and 1.2’s.  Again. Canon’s released an entire lineup of RF glass that blows Nikon out of the water.  There’s 1.2’s, a 28-70 f2 and the entire Hebrew trinity of 15-35, 24-70 and 70-200 2.8.  Sure, I still prefer the quality I’m getting out of the Z6 and Z7 over the EOS R, but the EOS R in combination with all the RF glass is certainly a good sign for the future of Canon. Nikon MUST get better glass out at a faster pace.  There’s a lens roadmap through 2021 and we’ll have to wait and see if Nikon can fulfill it.  I’ve said all that without even mentioning the amount of glass Sony has both natively and from Tamron and Sigma.

I do want to take a second to say I’m looking through the lens of a professional photographer and honestly what I want in a camera system when I’m making these statements.  It’s important to add that piece of context.

Next up Auto Focus.  The Z6 and Z7 have very similar auto focus systems.  They offer pretty much edge to edge focus points with the Z6 points being larger and less plentiful compared to that of the Z7.  I have plenty of action photos, portraits and other images to show how capable the Z system is when it comes to auto focus.  But after a year of using it and now comparing it to the updated EOS R focus system and all the Sony’s including the older a7 III, the Z system is my least favorite of the group.  Again, don’t get upset if you own a Nikon and feel like you’re being attacked, you’re not, I’m sharing my thoughts based on using all systems extensively.  And again, the images I’ve captured with the Z series prove it’s capabilities.  

There’s one thing that’s become more apparent in the last year with the Z’s auto focus system.  That it’s just weird.  Anyone who’s used the Z system in continuous focus will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it does this weird back focus to front focus and then settles in the middle on the subject.  It’s like it’s hunting or using some sort of contrast detect focus where it moves back, forward and then finally onto the subject.  It’s not the slowest thing in the world but it’s certainly not as fast as Nikon DSLR’s.  

Moving focus points to where you want them is slow.  The joystick is great and in the right place but moving single points around the screen just feels slow, cumbersome and so 2010.  There’s no touch and drag af on the LCD screen like the Canon and Sony which has lead me to missing shots as I fight to move the points to where I need them to be.  When I switch to Dynamic Area AF, the focus points cover 1/6th of the frame making it harder to know exactly where your actually focusing when in continuous.  Once again, I have plenty of keeper images that prove the AF system works, but what I don’t have are those missed images I didn’t get because I couldn’t move the focus points quick enough to the subject.  But Jared, what about eye af?  When the Z6 and 7 came out they did not have eye-af but they do now.  The eye af is…okay, it’s not exactly something I can trust to help me more than hinder me.  The problem is, if it misses and can’t re-aquire the subject, you have to switch focus modes to reset it thus leading to missed shots.  Canon’s updated eye-af is better than Nikon’s and we all know Sony’s is the best of the bunch by many lightyears.  In terms of focus tracking all Sony’s up and down the lineup out perform the Z system and is one of the reason I’ve made the switch to Sony from Nikon.  Being able to trust that eye-af will find my subject and track them continuously throughout a frame has allowed me to capture images I might have other wise missed with the Nikon.  I fully trust Sony’s auto-focus system.  Can Nikon get better here and what do they need to do?  They need a better way of moving focus points quickly for people who are shooting action.  The old joystick method just doesn’t cut it in this day and age.  They need lock on tracking and eye-af that you can trust and rely on and I don’t think we will ever fully get that with firmware updates in the Z6 or Z7.  I honestly think eye af is better in the Z50 then it is in it’s full frame brothers. Let’s hope something they’re doing in that camera right, can find it’s way into a pro camera as weird as that sound.  The world of auto focus has changed, Canon’s on the right path, Sony’s all but perfected it and Nikon’s languishing behind.  Hopefully in future “pro” bodies they can get it more right.  With all that being said, if you shoot landscapes, the Z7 might be the best choice for you.  

On the flip side, if you’re shooting portraits you might find some difficulty handling the cameras and moving the focus points when shooting verticals.  Since eye-af is not reliable enough yet, you have to resort to pushing the points around with the joystick.  This could have been made easier by attaching the MB-PEN15 vertical grip but nooooo, Nikon decided against a functional vertical grip and instead gave us a battery pack with no buttons, that’s the worst feeling least ergonomic design in this history of design.  So the lack of grip has been an issue since the z system was announced and will continue to plague any shooter who wants a real grip.  Canon has a vertical grip for the EOS-R and Sony offers a system wide grip for their cameras.

Card Slots or should I say card slot.  The one card slot in the Z6 and Z7 has not been an issue on any of the shoots I’ve done.  But I will say it’s lack of two cards slots is a major contributing factor to me taking a Sony on the road with Bernie Sanders.  I just can’t risk losing an entire shoot because a card fails or the camera fails the card.  I get it, back in the day we had one roll of film in the camera and up until 12 or so years ago we had one card slot.  In this day and age as a professional shooter, I demand two card slots for piece of mind and security.  And that shouldn’t be too much to ask for.

How’s the feel of the body a year later and how’s the system holding up.  The body still feels nice in the hands for the most part.  It has a deep grip along with a fair amount of customizable buttons.  In terms of durability, we’ve taken the Z system on numerous flights across the country and into many different shooting environments and they’ve held up well.  Has dust on the sensor been an issue, no, not really.  Of course some shows up at higher apertures but that’s a given in most systems.  To be honest, we feel we have more dust on our Sony sensors than Nikon’s.

In terms of button layouts, I like the newly designed a7R IV and a9 II’s button placements over the Z system.  The Nikon’s still have a better less plastic feeling rubber, but the amount of buttons on the Sony’s are more functional and customizable for my shooting style.

Shooting Speed.  Nikon did a very good job with how many frames per second you can get with the Z6 and Z7.  Even in the high+ mode where the live view shooting is hindered slightly, shooting and composing is still easy.  They may not shoot as fast as the Sony’s but the Nikon’s both shoot faster than the EOS-R by a few frames per second.

The EVF and screen are still some of the best you can find on the market. They both are sharp, clean, large and accurate which is all you can really ask for.  Now would be a good time to mention that Sony’s LCD’s absolutely SUCK and Nikon’s is so much better.

But what about image quality?  The image is fantastic and in my opinion the Nikon Z series produces some of the best files around.  I prefer the RAW files of the Nikon over both Sony and Canon.  They seem to have more give along with being more accurate right out of the camera.  I’ve produced massive 40×60 metal prints from the Z7 with adapted glass and the end results are fantastic.  That’s also not saying the results wouldn’t be fantastic from the Canon or Sony because they would.  But Jared, if you like the files so much, why did you decide to take a Sony with you to Photograph Bernie?  That’s a great question and a question I debated for weeks leading up to the shoot.  First I was going to take the Z7 because I had a nice selection of lenses and could record a dirty out of the EVF so everyone could see my settings and focus points.  But then I got to thinking what would happen if the one card failed?  Would I run into trouble switching lenses being that some are Z mount and others are F mount?  Would the 1.8 Lenses be fast enough for darker situations?  Would I be able to use eye-af to help me…or would it hinder me from getting the shot. Will I be able to move the focus points quick enough to get the shots?  Will not having a vertical grip lead to more missed shots?  Then three days before I left, the Sony a7R IV landed on my door step.  It had massive megapixels, two card slots and EYE-AF with lock on tracking that blows the Nikon out of the water.  I didn’t have to worry ass much about one card failing.  I didn’t have to worry that I wouldn’t be able to move the focusing points fast enough to get the shot. In fact, having eye-af and lock on tracking in the Sony enabled me to get images I flat out would not have been quick enough to get if I were using the Nikon Z series.  Having access to 1.4, 1.8 and 1.2 glass, made a huge difference in the quality of my images.  So in my opinion I made the tough, but right choice to push the Nikon aside for the foreseeable future.

I need to reiterate once again, if you invested in the Nikon Z system, you did not make a mistake.  There’s no doubt in my mind you have already captured and will continue to capture fantastic images with your cameras and lenses.  Again, this video is based off of my thoughts on using this system for the last year for the type of photography I do.  If you’re heavily invested in Nikon Glass and love the results your getting, now is not the time to jump ship.  If you shoot slower paced subjects than I do, than this system is a super solid choice.  But, and this is the but that’s going to ruffle some feathers.  If you’re starting off fresh today and have no system loyalty, no older gear to worry about, than the Z system might not be the right system for you.  I’m just going to say it, if you’re starting today from scratch, an a7 III or the future a7 IV or current a7R IV might be the best choice for you.  My hopes are that Nikon in the next year can come out with a Pro Mirrorless camera that bridges the gap that Sony’s built and bring me back into the fold.  Until Nikon can catch up with Glass and technology, I will be shooting Sony.   And no, Sony isn’t paying me to make this video.  The truth is simple and will definitely leave Nikon shooters angry, but the Z system with all it’s positives and potential does not hold a candle to other offerings on the market at this current time.  Now I’m not saying the z series might not get there one day…but right now, it’s not the best option around.