I had a chance to read all the promotional stuff from Nikon this morning, as well as the mindless chatter of articles on DPReview. My take is that Nikon produced a very nice first try of a mirrorless camera. They got some stuff right and then swung and missed on some other stuff. If I was a Nikon shooter I'd think about adding one of the two bodies to my inventory for things like those times when you really do need a silent shutter or when you really need to have autofocus that works well in video. I think their choice of sensors is perfect; one for ultimate image quality and one for great overall quality and speed (24 and 45 megapixels).
I haven't handled one but it looks like they got the grip right. I'm pretty sure the lens mount will end up being a good decision down the road although I hate the idea of having to buy new lenses when the old Nikon F lenses still work so well. An interesting possible benefit to the people who aren't thinking of making the switch from Nikon F to Nikon Z any time in the near future might be that with other people switching the used market will be flooded with excellent F glass (and bodies) at ever lowering prices. I'm still looking for that perfect D810 but at a $1200 price point. It will happen, it might just take a bit more time.
I'm also happy with the overall styling of the camera but time will tell if it's too small to handle well or if it is too light to provide a solid and vibration resistant platform. By popular demand (and marketing necessity) the cameras feature five axis image stabilization with the Z lenses and three axis stabilization with older AFS lenses. People will love that the AF points in the flagship camera occupy the majority of the frame.
Videographers will scratch their collective heads, wondering why some video features were not improved vis-a-vis the D850 but most will take a wait and see position pending actually shooting some files and looking at them. Nikon seems to view suppliers like Atomos as a natural ally and feature supplimenter for video in that high quality codecs (the sort of which can be handled in camera by GH5 cameras) are only available when using an external video recorder. If you want anything more than 100 Mbs 8 bit files you'll need to use the HDMI port to export into a digital recorder to unlock the good stuff. In a certain way it makes sense but when a two year old camera can suck up faster bit rate files with much more information and then write them in camera you have to wonder how serious Nikon is about the video market....
So, good feature sets, nice new lens mount, in body image stabilization, some backward compatibility with F lenses, a pretty body design, and full frame UHD video are all really nice and useful. We like to think about having these things. But where has the ball been dropped? Where was there potential that remains unrealized? Let's see.
I'll start with the battery. It's a variant of the EL-EN 15 and it's only rated at 330 shots. I know that the camera has continuous live view and those faster processors suck up juice like crazy but I also know that if the marketing team hadn't badgered the designers to try and get close to Sony's dwarfish camera body size they could have made the camera a bit bigger, easier to handle, a more stable platform for handholding, and a home for a bigger and more enduring battery. I think a battery grip will help but one will still get about half the battery mileage one gets with an off the shelf, traditionally mirrored DSLR.
The video specs are nothing to write home about. The 8 bit, 4:2:0 in-camera codec seems underpowered when Panasonic GH5 and GH5s cameras can write up to 400 Mbs in camera and offer a wide variety of 10 bit, 422 files that can be recorded in-camera onto a standard V90 SD card. The GH5S can also offer codecs that allow you to shoot 4K at 60p while the Nikon is restricted to 30p in 4K. According to pundits, who may or may not have actually shot any real video with the new Nikons, the rolling shutter at the full frame, 4K setting is nothing to write home about.
Finally, even though Panasonic showed the way into the hearts and minds of serious filmmakers with in camera tools such as a vector scope and a wave form monitor Nikon chose to stick to the hobbyist route and leave these valuable features out. If you are a serious video shooter and you are using an Atomos Ninja Something or Other you'll be able to take advantage of those advanced features and also "false color" in spite of these features not being offered on the camera.
From what I'm reading they did get the EVF just about right. Very high res and very nice eyepiece optics but they wimped out in the engineering a bit and stuck with a 60 fps refresh rate instead of pushing the envelope and implementing a 120 fps lens rate as debuted in the Panasonic GH5S.
To sum up: I think Nikon put some good thought and design skills into making a better body design than Fuji or Sony have been able to do. Unlike some naysayers I think the bigger lens mount will lead to more interesting and higher performances lenses (if Nikon rises to the challenge). For most social media and web-based video, corporate or otherwise, I think the video specs are quite usable and you could consider this a true, hybrid video camera (thought not as well provisioned as at least two of the less expensive cameras from Panasonic).
People will bitch and whine, mostly for no good reason, about things like the single card slot for memory cards, or the fact that the camera just takes QXD cards. People will always bitch about price. But the majority of camera buyers will be satisfied that these will be great work and play cameras; especially for people who have long used Nikon and are bored with their current cameras and ready to see just how good photography can be with a well designed mirrorless camera with a nice EVF.
It really doesn't matter who was first to market. Panasonic rolled out a full on mirrorless concept ten years ago and the innovation alone certainly didn't rocket them to the top of the market. In many ways I think Nikon was smart to let everyone else grapple with the complexity of innovation and to come along and leverage all the engineering work and the heavy lifting of marketing ground work, done by others, in making mirrorless a successful concept on the eyes of consumers. Nikon was able to continue to sell millions of more traditional cameras while Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Fuji worked hard at selling the "concept" of a new kind of camera to somewhat wary consumers. Now that the concept has been driven home the vast majority of the worldwide market now feel comfortable in making the transition and Nikon has swooped in with no legacy baggage in the space and should be able to grab a great R.O.I. because both they and Canon still own most of the mindshare among photographers who spend and upgrade. A nice strategy. The Zune was one of the first MPEG portable music players but it is now buried in a shallow grave in the tech history grave yard while late arrival, Apple, cleaned up in the space and then used their iPod product as the technical launching pad for the insanely successful iPhone.
Will I buy one of these new cameras? Sure. I'll make construct a rationalization around the idea of just getting the 24 meg version and the 50mm lens and becoming a "one camera and one lens" purist. But you know me. By the end of the year I'll have most of the inventory squirreled away in my bag.
At this point though I'm finding a lot more to like about the GH5S. It's not just a video camera. But more on that later.
What are your thoughts on Nikon's announcement? Will they be able to deliver in bulk? Will they kick Sony's butt? Are still cameras just a dead end? Comment?