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Nikon ready to take on mirrorless market with Z6, Z7 cameras

Create: 10/27/2018 - 18:47
Nikon Z6 and Z7


  • Two bodies with full-frame FX sensors
  • Four lenses, including an f/0.95 58mm lens
  • Uses XQD memory cards only

As one of the big camera makers, Nikon has been absent from the mirrorless market for serious photographers. Discover More.

The Nikon 1 line of cameras appealed to novice photographers with some of the later models introducing a few features to broaden its appeal, but the one-inch sensor was clearly a limiting factor in broadening its appeal among enthusiasts.

The camera maker clearly hopes to show that it is committed to the segment with not one, but two, cameras: the Nikon Z6 and Z7, which use full-frame FX CMOS sensors.

Nikon hopes that you’ll forget about the earlier cameras, as its website has virtually no trace that any of the Nikon 1 models ever existed. RIP, Nikon 1.

Cosmetically, the all-black Nikon Z6 and Z7 look like Nikon’s digital (and film) SLRs with its red stripe on the protruding textured hand grip and Nikon emblazed in white on the electronic viewfinder housing. The two cameras are nearly identical with a few technical differences between the two bodies.

  Nikon Z6 Nikon Z7
Sensor FX 24.5-MP full-frame CMOS FX 45.7-MP full-frame CMOS
ISO range 100-51,200 64-25,600
Frame rate 12 frames per second 9 frames per second
Memory card XQD - 1 slot
Size 5.3 x 4 x 2.7 inches
(134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm)
Weight 20.7 ounces
(585 grams)

As can be seen, the cameras are built on the same body shell and share certain physical and technological features, which will be explained below. A fair win chance:
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One interesting thing to note is the use of the XQD memory card. The Nikon Z cameras are its first to require the use of XQD memory cards, although they have been supported in previous models going back to the D4. These cards have been in production since 2012, and their use has been primarily in production-level video cameras, as well as the high-end Phase 1 digital camera.

The XQD memory card supports very fast write speeds and capacities beyond 2TB. The cost for these cards, at this time, are much higher than traditional SD memory cards. A 128GB card typically sells for more than $200, and the largest capacity XQD card available currently is 256GB costs nearly $500. With Micron killing off its Lexar unit last year, Sony is the sole provider of XQD.

Neither camera comes with a memory card, so that cost will need to be factored into the purchase.

Nikon says the cameras also will support CFexpress cards when those become available. CFexpress memory cards will be physically compatible with XQD, but the cameras will require firmware upgrades before a CFexpress card is recognized.


The cameras introduce a new rechargeable battery, the EN-EL15b, which has a larger capacity than the earlier cells. The EN-EL15 and EN-EL15a can be used but Nikon says to expect to be able to take fewer photos. When the cameras run out of power, however, it will be good to have a backup. Nikon warns that the AC charger (plugs into an electrical outlet) for the EN-EL15b should not be used for the earlier batteries.

The batteries can be charged in the camera via USB, but neither camera can be used while charging. Neither of the earlier batteries can be charged in the camera.

The EN-EL15b can provide 310 shots for the Z6 and 330 shots for the Z7, or 85 minutes of video recording for both cameras.

An accessory battery grip is expected to be available. Typically, these hold two batteries and provide for extended shooting, as well as secondary controls for releasing the shutter when the camera is held for vertical shots.

The battery grip, however, isn’t yet available and there appears to be no date when it will be available. TBD (to be determined) would be correct.

For video, both record full-frame 4K video at up to 30 frames per second and up to 120 frames per second for Full HD recordings. The cameras also have separate input ports for microphone and headphone.

As expected, there is plenty of connectivity with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. Nikon’s SnapBridge app allows for quick transfer of images to a mobile device, as well as remotely control either camera.

Neither camera has a built-in flash. However, each does connect to Nikon’s line of Speedlights.


The cameras use the same shutter with both manual and electronic shutters available. The range of speeds runs from 30 seconds to 1/8,000 with flash synchronization being 1/200.

The Z6 and Z7 use an autofocus system that employs both phase- and contrast-detection with 273 autofocus points in the Z6 and 493 points in the Z7.

The photographer can select between the OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) and the 3.2-inch LCD monitor. Nikon claims 11 brightness levels for the EVF. The monitor tilts up or down and is touch-enabled, allow the photographer to not only browse through the camera menus, but also to select the focus point and release the shutter or start a video recording.

Still images are saved as RAW or JPG, while the available video formats are MOV and MP4. No clip can be longer than 29 minutes, 59 seconds.

Both bodies have built-in five-axis image stabilization, which Nikon says provides up to five stops of compensation. When certain F-mount lenses are used via Nikon’s FTZ adapter, the lens’ vibration reduction can work in conjunction with the body’s image stabilization, although it is reduced to three-axis stabilization.


Mirrorless cameras have a very distance between the lens mount flange and the sensor. That means that existing Nikkor lenses cannot be mounted directly to either body.

Unsurprisingly, Nikon has developed the Z mount for this line of cameras. At its launch, four lenses were announced with three available.

  • 35mm f/1.8 S, US$849.95
  • 50mm f/1.8 S US$995.95
  • 24-70mm f/4 S US$599.95
  • 58mm f/0.95 S Noct, price not announced

Of these, the 58mm will hold the most interest and is not yet available. Its expected release date. Nikon hasn’t provided any technical details of the lens. The price should be expected to be several thousand dollars.

Missing from the group is a portrait or medium telephoto zoom.

If this lineup isn’t enough, a photographer can always use one of the full-size Nikkor lenses, including going back to the manual-focus Nikon AI lenses. This is made by possible by the Nikon FTZ (F to Z?) adapter (US$249.95).

The adapter provides physical and electronic compatibility. Compatibility extends to Nikkor DX lenses made for its APS-C bodies. Although it doesn’t state so, the body should automatically enter into an APS-C cropped sensor to compensate for the smaller image circle and to avoid vignetting.

In time, we should expect to see more third-party lens adapters that allow older manual-focus lenses to be mounted to this camera, much like what is available in abundance for every other mirrorless system.

Here is Nikon’s chart showing lens compatibility: https://www.nikonimgsupport.com/ni/NI_article?articleNo=000042296&config...


  • The Nikon Z 7 is US$3,399.95 for the body only and US$3,999.95 for the body and Nikkor Z 24-70 f/4 S lens.
  • The Nikon Z 6 will cost US $1,995.95 for the body only and US$2,599.95 with the body and Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens.


The Nikon Z appears to be a considerably more formidable camera system than its previous mirrorless cameras that comprised the Nikon 1 series.

It’s not surprising that there are just a handful of lenses, because it’s an entirely new system. No doubt, Nikon will add to this stable of lenses, provided the camera proves to be popular.

That brings us to another point. Nikon clearly is a late comer to the mirrorless segment – at least when it comes to the advanced amateur or pro photographer. Nikon, Canon and Ricoh/Pentax have clearly taken a “wait and see” approach to mirrorless, even as other camera makers have created popular new products in this space.

Although both cameras are strong in specs, Nikon is clearly lagging behind its competitors. The requirement for XQD makes sense from a technology standpoint, but it probably won’t be popular, given that you can buy SD cards easily and inexpensively. The XQD card needs widespread adoption for it be an affordable recording medium.

Next, these are the first two cameras, while some of Nikon’s mirrorless competitors are on the third and fourth generations of their flagship cameras, while offering a small stable of other devices for entry-level and mid-range photographers.

The choice of the letter Z is also curious. While it sets it apart from its rivals and the Nikon 1 devices, it should also be noted the “z” is the last letter in the alphabet.

Nikon’s status as one of the big camera makers should propel sales. The bigger question is whether it can bring back those photographers who have bought into other mirrorless systems.

The 58mm Noct is interesting, but its likely high cost won’t make it a first choice for most photographers. This system needs portrait, wide angles and telephoto zoom lenses. It also needs different bodies for those who don’t want an SLR-style body.

Nikon probably won’t commit to any of these things until sales make that viable. Some buyers won’t commit until they see the same level of commitment from Nikon.

About the Author

Mike Elek is a longtime journalist and was one of the original editors for The Wall Street Journal Online. He also has worked as a reporter and editor in Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Vineland, N.J.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; New York City; and Hong Kong. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He shoots with film and digital cameras.