In August 2018, Nikon released two long-awaited FX-format mirrorless cameras, the first cameras in the Nikon Z series. The letter “Z” in the name represents the peak of Nikon's relentless pursuit of ultimate optical performance and eagerness towards greater creativity. Join me as I explore the breakthroughs achieved by these new cameras. (Report by Toshiya Hagihara)
A: Backside illumination FX-format CMOS
B: New Z mount system with a large diameter of 55mm and short 16mm flange focal distance
C: In-camera 5-axis image stabilisation with up to 5.0 shutter speed stops of stabilisation
D: 3690k-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
E: New EXPEED 6 image-processing engine
The first two mirrorless cameras in the Nikon Z series, the full-frame Z 7 and Z 6, open a new era in optical performance. These two models have several common features, which I will introduce below.
The most significant point to note is that the cameras employ a Z mount (B). The Z mount’s large diameter of 55mm and short flange focal distance of 16mm not only provide excellent light gathering potential, but also take maximum advantage of the features unique to FX-format mirrorless cameras. The backside illumination CMOS sensor (A) that receives the light employs a hybrid autofocus (AF) system that uses both phase-detection and contrast detection AF. The electronic viewfinder (D) is an OLED viewfinder system with a natural view characteristic of Nikon, who have a long history of making excellent optical viewfinders. As the first Nikon FX-format camera to be equipped with built-in image stabilization (C), the cameras offer an unprecedented 5-axis image stabilization when used in combination with a Z mount lens. The cameras also employ the latest EXPEED 6 (E) image-processing engine, ensuring superior image quality of photos and even full frame 4K UHD movies with no crop.
It can be said that the new system—given that they are mirrorless cameras—makes it possible to achieve a new dimension of optical performance.
The main difference between the Z 7 and Z 6 is in the sensor pixel count. Other differences include the specifications for the normal ISO sensitivity and continuous shooting speed. Since the bodies are physically the same, the placement of the Z 7 and Z 6 in the product line-up is not a vertical one, but rather side-by-side, allowing you to choose your model based on your shooting style.
A firmware update to version 2.0 and above endows the Z 7 and Z 6 with additional capabilities such as Eye Detection AF. Learn about these, together with a detailed explanation on further characteristics of the body and features, in:
Learn more about Eye -Detection AF and what it can do in:
The Nikon Z FX-format cameras employ a new Z mount system with large diameter and short flange distance. The internal diameter of 55mm is the largest, and the flange back distance of 16mm is the shortest among the FX-format cameras released to date. The F mount models had an inner diameter of 44mm and flange distance of 46.5mm, so its size and proximity to the image sensor impacted the appearance of the camera as well. The larger mount allows more light to reach the imaging sensor easily and directly and in copious amounts. Of course, this dramatically improves image quality at the edges. Because there is less need to forcibly bend the optical axis, it is also possible to make lenses more compact, to deliver improved low-light performance and edge-to-edge detail in both stills and videos. As presented in the roadmap, it will be possible to realise lenses with maximum apertures as wide as f/0.95, which did not exist previously for NIKKOR lenses.
The Z mount has earned a reputation for high image quality, and there are now 10 lenses in the lineup that cover the ultra wide-angle to medium telephoto focal lengths.
NIKKOR Z 24mm f/1.8 S
NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S
NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S
NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct
NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S
NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S
NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S
NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S
The NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S is particularly compact for an ultra wide-angle, full-frame lens, especially one that goes as wide as 14mm at the wide-angle end.
The NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct is characterised as a high performance lens that maximizes optical performance.
Z mount lenses, also known as NIKKOR Z, have a newly designated grade of lenses known as the "S-Line" that surpass current industry standards in both design and quality. Adhering to a higher level of manufacturing, the S-Line redefines optical perfection through cutting-edge engineering. These lenses have the letter "S" added at the end of their names.
Nikon camera users will notice that the new cameras are compatible with existing lens mounts using the Mount Adapter FTZ. While it was announced that there is no change to AF speed and accuracy, when I used the camera myself, it compared favourably in terms of operation and there were even scenes where AF focusing seemed to show improved accuracy.
While you can refer to the F mount lens compatibility list for details, the AF-S (G/E/D type), AF-P lens (G/E type), and AF-I lens (D type) can basically be used without any limitations.
In conjunction with the release of the Nikon Z series, Nikon prepared the Mount Adapter FTZ so that previous F mount lenses could be properly supported. This allows you to readily use your favourite lenses, and enjoy shooting with high-speed, high-accuracy AF.
|NIKKOR F mount lens types||Focus modes||Shooting modes|
|AF-S lenses (G/E/D type)/ AF-P lenses (G/E type)/ AF-I lenses (D type)||◯||◯||◯||◯||◯|
|AF lenses (G/D type)||☓||◯||◯||◯||◯|
|AF lenses other than G/E/D types||☓||☓||◯||◯||◯|
|PC-E NIKKOR series /PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED||☓||☓||◯||◯||◯|
|PC Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D||☓||☓||◯||☓||◯*|
|AI-S, AI, AI-modified、Series E lenses||☓||☓||◯||☓||◯|
☓ Not supported
* Supported only for manual exposure in shooting mode
Nikon Z 7/ AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED (FL: 14mm)/ Aperture-priority auto (f/11, 1/1.6sec, EV -0.3/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight/ Mount Adapter FTZ used
The texture of the tree trunks and moss-covered rocks are presented in great detail. The Z 7 achieves precise representation without leaving out any natural details. An F mount ultra wide-angle lens was fitted on the camera using the Mount Adapter FTZ. It offers AF speed and performance comparable to that of the D850.
Nikon Z 7/ AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR (FL: 70mm)/ Aperture-priority auto (f/11, 1/4sec, EV -0.3/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight/ Mount Adapter FTZ used
The shoot was taken with White Balance set to Daylight and Picture Control set to Standard. While the colours such as the greens, yellows, and oranges are reproduced with the existing Nikon colour science, I feel that they look slightly richer than those shot with a Nikon DSLR.
Nikon Z 7/ NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S (FL: 24mm)/ Aperture-priority auto (f/16, 1/250sec, EV -0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Natural Light Auto
When you intend to capture a photo in which the sun is shining straight into the image, unlike with optical viewfinders, you do not look directly into sunlight with the electronic viewfinder, which is better for the eyes*. Even when there is strong backlight, you will be able to capture images that you never thought were possible.
*Find out more about this here.
Nikon Z 7/ NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S (FL: 62mm)/ Aperture-priority auto (f/8, 1/60sec, EV -0.7)/ ISO 360/ WB: Auto
A handheld shot taken in the shade early on a frosty morning. When shooting close-up, I was worried about camera shake. However, thanks to the powerful 5-axis image stabilisation feature, I could capture the image without losing the texture of the frost.
The Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 are fulfilled to the brim with features, and have extremely high potential. The high image quality achieved by employing the Z mount system and new EXPEED 6 image-processing engine is greatly reassuring in landscape photography, where I want to depict a scene in precise detail, right to the edges of the image. Its power is fully demonstrated when expanding an image for large-size printing. Furthermore, the powerful 5-axis image stabilization feature and improved high ISO sensitivity, as well as the launch of lenses with low-light AF and excellent point-image reproduction, lets photographers actively explore bold angles to depict nightscapes and night sky photography even more beautifully, even for dark scenes that one would normally have difficulty to shoot in or scenes where a tripod cannot be used.
In addition, the compact and lightweight design of not just the camera body but the whole system, including the lens and storage bag, makes it easier to carry the camera to remote shooting locations. Minimising fatigue keeps motivation high for the shoot after arriving at the location, so you can immerse yourself in the shoot. From this it can be said that the Nikon Z series take maximum advantage of their high physical mobility, awakening the desire to create works, with potential that enables you to approach subjects using bold ideas that have never been seen before.
Born in Kofu City of the Yamanashi Prefecture in 1964. Hagihara joined an advertising agency and became involved in catalogue production and event planning. Became a freelancer after leaving the company, and currently specializes in natural landscape photography, also actively writing for photography magazines. A member of the Japan Scenery Photographers Association (JSPA).