A System Guide to Nikon Z

bythom nikon z

Items on same line indicate model updates. Different lines indicate varying model levels.

Nikon re-entered the mirrorless camera market a few months after the exited it (with the Nikon 1). Instead of going for very small cameras with a very small crop sensor (1"), this time Nikon went with a pair of full frame models, which differ primarily only in the sensor used.

The Z6 is a 24mp sensor, the Z7 is a 45mp sensor. In many ways the Z6/Z7 combo slots almost exactly between the Nikon D750 and D850 DSLRs, with the Z6 being very D750 like, the Z7 being very D850 like. Indeed, the Z7 and D850 share the same basic sensor design, while the Z6 has a completely updated version of the sensor used in the far older D750.

Choosing between the Z6 and Z7 is relatively easy. The only differences between the cameras are:

  • Resolution / Size: 24MP (Z6) vs. 46.5MP (Z7). The Z6 will have less resolution, but smaller files.
  • AA Filter vs. None: The Z6 will have micro-blur for less moire due its AA filter.
  • Speed: 12 FPS vs. 9 FPS. The Z6 will shoot faster.
  • 12-bit raw buffer: 36 vs. 24. The Z6 can take more continuous shots without stopping.
  • Video: Oversampled 4K vs. Sub-sampled. The Z6 will have better video.
  • Price: $2000 vs. $3400. The Z6 is less expensive.
  • AF Points: 273 vs 493. The Z6 has larger AF points.
  • Base ISO: 100 vs. 64. The Z7 will be better at low ISO.
  • ISO at Dual Gain point: 800 vs 400. The Z6 tends to be better at higher ISO values.
  • 14-bit raw sensor readout: 1/22 vs. 1/16. The Z6 will exhibit less rolling shutter.

That focus performance is not quite D5-generation DSLR in level, but higher than some older Nikon DSLRs. It takes some adjustment for a Nikon DSLR user to get the full performance that the Z6/Z7 is capable of, which led to a lot of focus complaints in early hands-on testing. 

Both bodies are feature rich, including advanced features such as focus stacking, multiple exposure, time-lapse, and more (indeed, it takes me over a 1000 pages to fully do justice to these cameras in my Z6/Z7 book).

In terms of lenses, we have five lenses at the moment (with eight more due by the end of 2020):

  • Primes — 35mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8. Both these lenses are better than any other prime at that focal length Nikon has produced in the past. These are very high quality lenses.
  • Zooms — 14-30mm f/4, 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/4. I'm going to sound like a broken record: these zooms are at least as good, if not better, than any Nikon has produced in the past. The 24-70mm f/4 may be the best kit lens you can buy at the moment for a full frame camera.

Nikon wasn't kidding when they said that the mount changes freed up their optical designers to create better lenses. And we haven't yet seen the lens that they have been touting as their halo lens (the 58mm f/0.95 NOCT). 

Unlike Canon RF, the Nikkor Z lenses do match up very well with the bodies from day one. The Z6 and Z7 are high consumer, prosumer cameras, and the Z lenses tended to be priced and perform at an even slightly higher level.

text and images © 2020 Thom Hogan
portions Copyright 1999-2019 Thom Hogan-- All Rights Reserved
Follow us on Twitter: @bythom, hashtags #bythom, #sansmirror