The Nikon Z series of mirrorless cameras are not only smaller than conventional DSLR cameras, they also come with a new lens mount that promises better corner-to-corner image quality with a larger mount diameter and a shorter flange distance, paired with a reliable grip that provides a firm hold regardless of the lens that is attached to it. Combining both the reliable controls of Nikon cameras that have long been trusted by photographers as well as the excellent operability of mirrorless cameras, we can foresee the future design of cameras through the two pioneering FX-format (full-frame) cameras in the Z series. In the following, let’s look at the design of the Z 7 and Z 6 bodies in greater detail.
(Report by: Toshiya Hagihara)
The appearance of the Nikon Z series is eye-catching with an amazingly small body and a large mount diameter, and the overall design of the camera is far from being unconventional with a simple and robust look that characterises Nikon’s cameras.
Nikon has always been dedicated to the use of the F-mount in the past, so the introduction of a new Z mount system has garnered remarkable attention. The Z series mirrorless cameras fully utilise the new Z mount system, but existing F-mount lens users can continue to use their lenses via the Mount Adapter FTZ.
Meanwhile, the layout of the buttons on the rear of the cameras has taken on a new look with the vertical row of buttons now on the right side of the body, making it possible to operate the buttons with only the right thumb while looking through the viewfinder.
Next, let’s take a close look at the front, top, rear and side of the Z 7 and Z 6, the design of which is based on a concept that breaks away from conventional DSLRs.
The relative size of the mount with respect to the body exudes a strong presence. Increasing the mount diameter allows more light to enter the camera, thereby enhancing the image quality all the way to the edges. Nikon arrived at the design of the new 55mm-diameter Z mount after taking into consideration the optimal size, without compromising the ease of use of the camera.
The Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 employ a backside illumination CMOS sensor with focal-plane phase-detection pixels. In contrast to conventional CMOS sensors, the layer of wiring is moved to the back of the photodiodes, thus enabling incidental light to converge more efficiently on the photodiodes.
The Z 7 and Z 6 use a CMOS image sensor with a size of 35.9mm × 23.9mm. The resolution of the Z 7 is approximately 45.7 megapixels, while that of the Z 6 is approximately 24.5 megapixels.
A hybrid autofocus (AF) system is adopted, which combines phase-detection AF and contrast-detection AF. Focal-plane phase-detection AF pixels are arranged throughout the entire image sensor to enable high-speed and high-precision AF. The Z 7 comes with 493 selectable focus points, while the Z 6 has 273. Both cameras offer an image sensor coverage of approximately 90% both vertically and horizontally.
In Low-Light AF mode, AF detection is possible down to -6 EV (with the Z 6) and -4 EV (with the Z 7)*, enabling even faster autofocusing when capturing dark or dimly lit scenes in stills and videos.
The Z 7 and Z 6 also feature Eye-Detection AF*, which automatically detects and focuses on the eyes of a human subject in the auto-area AF (AF-S, AF-C) mode. This is also supported during continuous shooting, making it much easier to capture portraits of moving people that are tack-sharp down directly to the eye.
*With firmware version 2.0 and above on the Z 7 and Z 6
Processing performance is significantly enhanced with the EXPEED 6 image-processing engine, which enables a highly responsive yet natural EVF display as well as high-speed 4K UHD processing during movie recording.
Burst shooting performance also benefits from the image processing power: In high speed continuous shooting (Continuous H) mode, which uses the mechanical shutter, the Z 7 and Z 6 are capable of high speed burst shooting at up to 5.5 fps with AF/AE tracking. In Continuous H+ (extended high-speed continuous shooting) mode, where the burst shooting speed is prioritised, the Z 7 can shoot up to 9 fps and the Z 6 up to 12 fps, all with AF/AE tracking*.
*With firmware version 2.0 and above on the Z 7 and Z 6
Vibration Reduction (VR) is possible along the five axes of yaw, pitch, X, Y and roll when a Z-mount lens is attached to the Z 7 and Z 6 cameras. Compensation along three axes can be performed when using F-mount lenses.
The only difference in appearance between the Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 is the badge that indicates the model number. Similar to the Nikon D850, both Z 7 and Z 6 come with a resistance to various conditions including extremely high and low temperatures, and also weather- and dust- resistant performance.
Both the Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 are equipped with an accessory shoe, to which accessories such as the ME-1 Stereo Microphone or an external flash from the Nikon Creative Lighting System can be attached. With these, you can level-up your movie-making with higher quality audio, or expand your image-making creativity with a wider array of lighting techniques such as off-camera flash.
With the Z 7 and Z 6, the control panel offers a clear view with white characters displayed against a black background. The brightness of the panel is automatically adjusted according to the amount of light entering from the lens, making the display less glaring when shooting in a dimly-lit environment.
The buttons around the shutter button adopt the same layout as that on the D850 and D5. They include the frequently-used Exposure compensation button, ISO sensitivity button and Movie-record button to ease your shooting experience.
The magnesium-alloy body, which is lightweight yet robust and durable at the same time, provides reassuring support even during shoots by professional photographers under rigorous conditions.
On the Z 7 and Z 6, the mode dial comes in a simple design with a mode dial lock release located at the centre for locking the settings. User-defined settings can also be registered to the U1 to U3 user settings modes, giving you the freedom to customise and use your preferred settings quickly and easily.
The deep grip provides a firm hold and allows your fingers, even your little finger, to rest on it for excellent stability and comfort. The grip offers a secure hold no matter what lens you are using, even if it is a large telephoto lens attached via Mount Adapter FTZ.
On the Z 7 and the Z 6, the OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) has:
These specifications provide a clear view that makes the image look as natural as that on an optical viewfinder (OVF). An i menu can be displayed inside the viewfinder, allowing users to change the settings while looking into the eyepiece. The EVF displays the view with the white balance and Picture Control settings reflected, but of course it is possible to disable this.
Equipped with a tilting mechanism, the touch-sensitive screen allows for intuitive operation. The high-definition touchscreen of the Z 7 and Z 6 has a resolution of 2.1 million dots. Besides adjustment of the camera settings through touch operation, the image can also be enlarged on the screen via pinch and swipe.
The LCD monitor of the Z 7 and Z 6 can be tilted upward or downward, making it easy to take high-angle and low-angle shots.
Located between the multi selector and sub-selector is an i button, a popular feature on Nikon’s high-end DSLRs. The i button will likely become an important button that acts as the starting point for controlling the camera settings on the Nikon Z series. Items of the i menu, which are displayed when the i button is pressed, can be personalized according to the user’s shooting style by assigning each from the twelve buttons from more than 30 options available.
The Release mode/Self-timer button is used for switching the release mode between single frame and continuous. It is located together with the MENU and zoom (+, -) buttons at the bottom right corner of the camera body, which can be identified easily simply by sliding the right thumb downward while holding the camera. While frequent changes to camera settings using this button might not be necessary, it can be used when users need to switch release mode quickly.
For the Z 7 and Z 6, two large buttons are located between the EVF and main command dial – the DISP button (left) and AF-ON button (right). The AF-ON button is widely used by intermediate or more advanced level users for back-button focusing. Meanwhile, the DISP button, which comes with a lever for switching between the photo and movie modes, can be used to toggle the information displayed inside the LCD monitor as well as the EVF. It can also be used to turn on or turn off display of the shooting information, histogram, and horizontal level. Allowing operation without the need to look away from the eyepiece, this is a convenient feature that reflects the characteristics of the EVF era.
Arranged vertically on the right are the USB connector (top), followed by the HDMI connector and accessory terminal for connecting devices such as the WR-R10 and MC-DC2. The accessory terminal is compatible with a wide range of equipment including Nikon’s remote controllers and GPS units. USB charging is also supported. Located at the bottom is a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth logo, meaning that the camera can also be connected to smart-devices or computers wirelessly via Nikon’s SnapBridge app.
The Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 cameras adopt the XQD memory card format, which excels in high-speed writing and reading. It allows speedy recording of huge data sizes including video files, thus making shooting a stress-free experience. The memory card slot will also be able to support the CFexpress card format in the future.
The new EN-EL15b battery that is adopted by the Z 7 and Z 6 supports USB charging, so charging can be performed easily while on the move via a mobile battery or PC. The cameras also support the existing EN-EL15 and EN-EL15a batteries that are widely used on Nikon DSLRs – good news for existing Nikon users who have them as spare batteries.