Can we have a quick discussion about the Nikon announcement?

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?   


crsantin said...

Overall I would agree. It seems like a good first effort that has room for future upgrades and improvements. It's beneficial for all consumers that Nikon is in the mirrorless market now. I love seeing progress even if I cannot afford it. In Canadian dollars, the new Nikon Z is simply out of my league. Over 5k with the kit lens for the Z7 and about 3.5k for the Z6 with the same lens. If it is a good camera for manual focus then I see myself picking up a used one in a few years with a dumb adapter for my mf Nikon lenses. Hopefully, the used Nikon market will become more affordable. The D700 has dropped below 1k here and I did see a D800 for $1200 Canadian, which is unheard of around these parts.

neopavlik said...

It does have 10 bit when going external so that is one benefit.

My sticking points are the adapter won't autofocus my favorite screw drive lenses ( 105 DC , 180 2.8 AF , and 300mm 2.8 AF-D) , no eye AF , and only the 1 memory slot.
I can adapt and get AF on my 18-35, 24-85, 70-300 , and 85mm 1.4G but those 3 lenses I can't AF I like more.

If they took care of those qualms above I'd buy it instantly.

mosswings said...

Initial impressions of the Z7 on DPR are what you'd expect - a good first try, most everything works really well, BUT - Nikon threw away most of the AF interface ergonomics that folks (including myself) love, and there are inexplicable quirks in how it behaves. Again, a good first try, but not something that would blow the A7rIII out of the market.

It did come in at a surprisingly small body size for such a large mount - basically, it's the size of a D5600 with 10mm more between lens and grip. Smaller than that and you can't work easily with the larger lenses. Fortunately, the F-to-Z adapter is both fully functional and relatively inexpensive.

My overall impression is that I wouldn't shell out good money for this generation. I'd want to wait for a DX version, anyway. And the biggest reason why I've held fire on switching to something like a G85 or M5 for my general travel photographic needs is exactly the thing that the Z series doesn't appear to deliver on - AF that's a fairly seamless transition from the higher-end DSLR AF I'm used to. We won't talk about the lenses, which are clearly targeted at the highest end of the market, not the vast middle.

I get that when you have a camera technology that can acquire and track specific features of rapidly moving subjects, the AF UI that was developed for a technology that can't should be rethought...but it looks like Nikon threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Maybe it's time to look at the G85 or M5 again.

Richard Jones said...

I haven't read any of the "mindless chatter of articles on DPReview" on the new Nikon, and was going to skip your article, but the "quick discussion" drew me in. I might as well know something about it, I thought.

"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?"

1. All is speculation, and I don't like to speculate. So, I have nothing to offer to those questions.

2. Being a happy Sony user, I have no interest in the Nikon system, which is why I have not been enticed to click on the DPR reportage.

- Richard

amolitor said...

My first thought on the single card slot was that it was a deliberate and successful attempt to get the gearheads griping about something the actual market doesn't care all that much about.

This will distract the naysayers for a while, and will make the camera appear better than it is -- look, it only has one flaw, and it's something trivial I care naught about!

Michael Matthews said...

If the body is roughly the size of a D5600, as mosswings suggests, it’s too small for me. Might as well stick with my EM5.2 and 1080p. Besides, if I need 4K video there’s always my iPhone 8.

Richard Leacock said...

Hi Kirk,

As you say, Nikon was come out with a competent product and of course "proof will be in the pudding". So we'll have to wait and see how the serious and working photogs use and critique the new gear. Have to agree with you on your take on the video/filming parameters of the camera compared to Panasonic. Overall a better unveiling result than the DF let down (Nice sensor but in a cludgy unergonomic body. Spare parts at the time?)

Other takeaways, a real first for Nikon is a road map of future lenses. Yes, we have to show how "serious" we are about the system, calm the waters and entice the customers with lens possibilities. Like Fuji's market entrance playbook at the time with 3 primes (no consumer zooms), a body not made for the point-and-shoot crowd (Nikon 1) and a roadmap of where they were going. A good strong mission statement. Competent serious gear for photographers...

Overall a good introduction of some product to compete with Sony but also Canon, who's also soon to unveil their "serious" full frame camera/s. Interesting times. But what about DX for the masses (where the real volume, money, brand recognition is at). Later next year? And how will the competition respond? Stay tuned..


Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Just buzzed through the Nikon Z website and headed to the order page. You can pre-order but it doesn't show a delivery date. I called the 800 number and they said a 6Z would likely ship at the end of Sept. I went to the Amazon page for the product and they are showing a "product release" at the end of October. Yeah, right. If I gambled I'd bet on regular folks getting theirs sometime in 2019. Maybe I am too cynical...

TMJ said...

I hope the new Nikons are successful. They remind me a little of the Leica SL, but less agricultural looking.

The lens throat diameters amongst 'competing' cameras:

Nikon F - 44mm
Sony E - 46mm
Canon EF - 54mm
Nikon Z - 55mm

That tell me that the new Canon FF mirrorless will use the same lens mount as the FF DSLRs do at present. That's fine, because I am a Canon FF user.

Frank Grygier said...

Nikon "6 Zed" and "7 Zed" anything but Zed. I am tempted to pre-order the 6Z but I will wait until after the first wave of early adopters this time around. I tend to have visceral reactions to camera gear and this one stirs me like the Olympus EM5 did.

Jason Hindle said...

Speaking of the market for second (or third, or fourth) user glass; I love using good Canon glass with my Sony body. I hope Z turns into a real treat for lens nerds, just like the Sony mount.

John said...

Seems these are nice cameras. Waiting to see what Canon comes up with, though. I’ve already tried and given up on Sony and I’m sure both Canon and Nikon will satisfy my desire to have a FF mirrorless camera that I actually like to use.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

John, it's funny, the modern Sony cameras checked all the right spec boxes and the files were fine but the cameras physically were such that the only ones I really warmed up to were the bigger, older styles like the a99, the a900, the RX10iii. The A7 series lost me somewhere in the mix. A classic case of familiarity breeding contempt (at least for the handling).

Eric Rose said...

I'll stick to my G85 for now with maybe a GH5 in the near future. I have a ton of old Nikon and Canon glass and would love to use it on a FF camera but these new Z cameras do not excite me.

Doug Chadwick said...

I read what I could and one question was not answered. As a Sony and Nikon owner/user I wonder how the FTZ adapter handles exposure coupling on pre AF-S lenses. There is no AI ring but there is a stop down lever inside. So is it stopped down all the time like the Sony? If so, why the lever inside, you don't need it.

None of the reviewers mentioned this and the Nikon and store web-sites don't answer the question.

Actually I have a second question, but this one will take time. How tolerant is it of lenses not designed for sensors with exactly the correct amount of cover glass over this particular sensor. I guess we will know that next year.

mosswings said...

Michael Matthews -
The Z6/7 are roughly 100mm high by 134mm wide by 70mm deep; the D5600 is 97mm high by 124mm wide by 70mm deep. So slightly smaller than a D7500, about the same width - to get finger clearance between that big mount and the grip. That height dimension is to the top of the hot shoe. The Z6/7's shoulders are squared off like the D7500, but higher, so have a grip that's about as high as a D500's, which few complain about. Don't discount it because of raw dimensions - the overall handling looks to be not like that of a small-body consumer Nikon at all. The goal was to provide a quality FF handling experience with the S-series lenses, including the trinity which will come out in 2019 according to the lens roadmap.

We'll need to get one in hand to verify.

David said...

I may have fallen for it, but don't actually think Nikon messed up anything.
1. The EVF looks good, something Panasonic has recently messed up in going back to field sequential displays.
2. The back screen looks great.
3. There added IBIS, something I thought would not happen.
4. The mount seems large enough to actually support IBIS, so may be more effective than any Sony full frame as their mount is too tight.
5. This is just me but added 6 custom WB settings. This will be perfect if use the camera as full spectrum conversion.
So whats there to complain about.
1. AF choice, well this is fixed in firmware or next model. All that you need with on chip sensors is there.
2. Video specs, this can be fixed in firmware. But I think Nikon is taking a lets see who buys it approach. They added log as a bone to see who bits. But no fully articulated screen. I think next model will be for video if they see buyers.
3. Only one card and odd choice. This may be the only thing that actually bothered me. Not using SD cards. But I do buy a new high capacity card with each camera. So not an issue, but this would be the only camera for me not with CF or SD. I even use a SD to CF adapter to drop in SD cards in my other CF cameras. So this would be a change.

I think Nikon got it all right and this will mark the end of the F mount. As example, look at the Canon mirrorless M mount camera. That one has nothing great about it and selling very well. So Nikon with no major mess ups may have just stolen the market.

David said...

I think Thom Hogan (bythom.com) did a pretty good job explaining how the adapter works with the older lenses.

Anonymous said...

I hope they are problem free. If they are, I can see adding one to my kit.

Frank Langford said...

Not really that interested in FF mirrorles. I sold most of my Nikon equipment some years ago.

I do still have a D2Xs though !!

I now use M43 cameras . Currently a GX8 and a G9 with Olympus lenses mainly.

Re the new Nikon Z cameras. The memory cards are expensive, at least here in the UK . 64 mb Sony card is £154.00 on Amazon UK. !!! Quite surprised that there is no drive selector , unless I have missed it on the publicity shots of the body. I believe it even has scene modes, why ? The price, is I think a bit to high as well. That may come down later.

£ 269.00 for the adaptor ? About a 100 if you buy a bundle , ie lens and body. It really should have come with the body at the price point of the camera.

As Kirk has said many times most recent digital cameras are way over specified. They are a computer with a lens mount and a viewfinder. And just a tool to capture an image, like any camera.

I wonder how many will buy the 45 megapixel Nikon and view the images on a 1920 X 1080 monitor ?

Still, I wish Nikon and Canon good luck with their " new " cameras

Gato said...

Woke up this morning thinking about the new Nikons -- sad that a guy would wake up thinking about cameras, especially one he does not plan to buy.

My thought is: Did Nikon miss out by not sharing mount and protocol details with adapter and third-party lens makers? (At least I have read they did not share, but that might be something they chose to keep secret if they did it.)

Could they perhaps have enticed Metabones to work up an adapter for Canon lenses to be released around the same time as the camera? I'm thinking that would have almost guaranteed a significantly larger group of early adopters. I cannot see where that hurts long term Nikon lens sales -- most users will probably want dedicated lenses eventually -- but in the short term it opens possibilities in a huge segment of the market who will otherwise wait for Canon.

Craig Yuill said...

These new cameras represent a nice first try at mirrorless by Nikon? I thought that Nikon's nice first try and mirrorless had the names J1 and V1.

Unknown said...

Anyone that doesn't spend time with their customers to see what they want in new gear is doomed to fail. I've always had the impression of Nikon as an old school somewhat arrogant group that doesn't care what consumers think. Their lenses are are way over priced and they have yet to fill the pipeline with D850's. I shoot with a D850 and carry a D810 in case of any mishaps, so 2 card slots wouldn't be a deal breaker for me. While I anticipate getting a Z7 at some point I'm gonna wait before investing over $4k for a mirrorless Nikon with mount adapter...