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Designed to be functional

Powering up and shutting down the Nikon Z7 both take just one second, twice as fast as most mirrorless cameras.
Powering up and shutting down the Nikon Z7 both take just one second, twice as fast as most mirrorless cameras. PHOTO: NIKON

The new Nikon Z7 is easy to use and delivers sharp images

The Nikon Z7 is one of the first full-frame mirrorless cameras by the Japanese camera giant.

The 45.7-megapixel Z7 is targeted at landscape, commercial and portrait photographers who want the highest resolution possible, while the 24.5-megapixel Z6 is aimed at photojournalists and sports photographers who prefer speed over resolution.

The Z6 has a continuous shooting speed of up to 12 frames per second (fps), while the Z7 is slower at 9fps. The Z7 has a lower base sensitivity of ISO 32 - more ideal for landscape and fashion photographers - compared to Z6's ISO 100. The Z7 has 493 autofocusing (AF) points, while the Z6 has 273 AF points.

In terms of design and build, both Z models are identical. For this review, I tested the Z7 with the new Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens.

The Z7 is not going to win any beauty awards. Functional is probably the best term to describe its looks. It seems like the Nikon engineers' priority is to shrink the camera body as much as possible while retaining DSLR camera controls. If that was the case, they have succeeded.

Those familiar with Nikon DSLR cameras will feel right at home with the Z7's button layout. Like its DSLR cousins, there is a mode dial on the top left and a command dial on the top right. Next to the command dial is a handy and small monochrome display that shows important information, such as ISO, shutter speed, aperture and battery life, at a glance.

The power switch is a rotary one built around the shutter-release button, while the video-recording, ISO and exposure-compensation buttons are sited behind the shutter-release button.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $5,799 (with Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens)

    IMAGE SENSOR: 45.7-megapixel full-frame

    DISPLAY: 3.2-inch tiltable touchscreen LCD with 2,100,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 3,690,000 dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 32 to 102,400

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 9 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 675g (body only with battery and memory card)

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Along the lens mount, close to the front grip, are two Function buttons that are customisable to let you access settings like white balance and dynamic range.

On the right rear of the camera is where you find most of the controls and buttons, including the mini-joystick, menu and shooting drive mode. This layout allows for easy access with your right thumb, with the mini-joystick especially handy for quickly moving the AF point when composing photos.

You can compose your photos with either the 3.2-inch touchscreen display or the big and bright electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF extends away from the camera's body to prevent your nose from touching the display when you are looking through it.

The ergonomic rubberised grip gives users a good hold of the camera, which feels rock solid, thanks to its magnesium alloy body.

One downer is that the Z7 has only one memory card slot. And it uses the less-ubiquitous XQD card, though it will support CFExpress with a future firmware update. For a professional flagship model, it should have two memory card slots, with one supporting an XQD card and the other an SD card, so that one memory card can be used for immediate backup.

Powering up and shutting down both take one second - twice as fast as most mirrorless cameras.

Using an XQD card with a writing speed rated at 400MB per second, the Z7 was able to take 21 RAW photos in 3.1 seconds before the buffer ran out. Not as fast as advertised.

The Z7's AF was able to lock onto a focus almost immediately under bright sunlight, though not instantaneously like its DSLR cousins. Under dim lighting, it was able to secure a focus in about two seconds with the help of the AF assist light.

During video recording, it also took around two seconds to get a sharp focus when I panned to a new scene or zoomed in to a subject - average for a mirrorless camera. But the videos I shot using the Z7 look sharp and crisp with nice details.

The still image quality is excellent, with sharp details, accurate colour reproduction and accurate skin tones. Auto white balance is also spot-on most of the time, even under artificial lighting in offices and shopping malls.

Image noise performance is top-notch with no noise artefacts visible even at ISO 1,600. Noise artefacts are discernible only at ISO 3,200 and above. But at ISO 12,800 and above, there is significant detail loss.

Battery life is average for a mirrorless camera. It captured around 330 still images in my tests before going flat.

• Verdict: If you are a Nikon user waiting for a full-frame mirrorless camera, you will not be disappointed with the Nikon Z7.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2018, with the headline 'Designed to be functional'. Print Edition | Subscribe