Nikon v2.0: the ‘Digital Turn’ (or simply: new mirrorless Nikon Z6 and Z7)

I usually write about trips and shots I already made rather than ones I’m planning to do. In this case I’ll make an exception…

Nikon has just announced their first mirrorless full-frame cameras: the Z6 and Z7. The whole (photography) world has been waiting (and waiting), has observed, has been overwhelmed, underwhelmed, surprised, amazed, disappointed, and so on. Now, everyone is waiting (and waiting some more…) for the first batches to be shipped; I can only hope for the US folks they don’t have to wait such a ridiculous long time as they did/still do with the D850 (although Nikon has already started apologising in advance with the Z-series…).

On that note: I have pre-ordered the Z7 with my local camera retailer here in The Netherlands. Why? The short answer: because I just have to experience for myself if & how Nikon has managed to improve their products based on previous-millennium technology (literally: their first SLR was introduced in 1959 and their ‘digital SLR’-D1 was announced in 1999).

The long answer…

This is not about just a new digital camera. This is about a leading global camera manufacturer, moving away from mechanically-engineered devices and understanding (albeit a bit late compared to the competition, but that’s a different story) the current paradigm shift to the new Digital Era where mechanics give way to electronics. It’s about digital optics instead of mechanical flappy mirrors in bulky housings.

With that strategic change comes a totally new design: a new and much wider mount for new and (even) better lenses. We’re getting a new image processor with probably even better IQ compared to the D850; perhaps even better white balance straight out of the camera. We’re getting a somewhat changed and assumably improved focusing system with a gazillion focus points. We’re basically getting a new way of shooting images and a new experience that comes along with it…

But, and there’s always a ‘but’… smart folks at Nikon must have decided not to target their current ‘flagship’ DSLR landscape with this new and improved way of making photographs. The Z-series can only shoot about 5-6 frames/second with 14-bit RAW and full auto exposure so forget about shooting fast-flying birds (e.g. snowy owls), sports etc. (the Z7 can do 8 frames/sec. with AE locked so not too bad but still not truly pro-level). There is (currently) no vertical grip planned so be prepared for some uncomfortable positioning of your arms and hands when shooting in portrait mode in tricky wildlife shooting settings. You will not find big pro-level prime lenses (300/400/500/600mm) in their multi-year lens lineup planning, and the list goes on. It’s almost as if Nikon wants us to first get carefully used to this new product and new way of shooting and only ever so slowly shift their and our ‘focus’ from the old to the new; i.e. from the Mechanical to the Digital Era.

It’s very exciting nonetheless! While everyone is already sharing their opinions about this Big Change (as you can expect) there’s really only one way to figure out what Nikon’s new ‘Digital Generation’ of cameras are capable of. And that is to actually get one and experience it yourself…

Over 7 years ago I bought the new D800 as I was really excited about Nikon’s new full frame DSLR. But my copy was also part of the batch that left Nikon’s factory with incorrect/poor quality control and I got the dreaded focus issue. After trying a couple more times I gave up on the D800 series completely and got de D750 instead, which to this date I think had the best sensor (especially at lower ISOs). Then came the D850 (this time with the right quality control…) combining super fast frame rate, an insane pixel count, and an improved imaging processor, basically giving me a reason to sell my D4s. By actually acquiring and using new cameras you will experience and learn (the good and bad) about these new cameras and ways to enjoy and/or improve your photography. Going after opinions is usually just a poor substitute…

I’m expecting my Z7 (very) soon (will not share any details on the exact date although 99% sure when) and I’m already looking forward to share some of my early findings and impressions, in a way similar to my previous posts; i.e. very non-scientific and pragmatic/’user oriented’, in both ‘domestic’ and ‘in the field’ settings. Fingers crossed…

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