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The Nikon Z7 and Z6 | Who Will Like Them, And Who Will Not

By Matthew Saville on August 25th 2018

Before I dive into my opinion, here’s a little background, so that readers can understand how I’ve arrived at these forthcoming opinions on the Nikon Z cameras: I shoot a wide variety of different subjects, from landscape photography to weddings and portraits. I’ve also photographed competitive/team sports, extreme sports, theater/stage performances, commercial, architectural, product, and wildlife photography. I’ve probably also forgotten a few more.

Simply put, it is clear that certain photographers should find the Z6 and Z7 to be a perfect dream, while others may find them completely inadequate and unacceptable.

Let’s break it down into what are undoubtedly the two main categories of shooters regarding the Nikon Z cameras: If you don’t demand very much from your autofocus or general shooting speed, (landscapes, and many other “slower” or more casual types of photography) …then both the Z6 and Z7 present very tempting new opportunities that were not possible with the D750 or D850. In-body stabilization can truly expand your creative possibilities, of course, while the inherent WYSIWYG of an EVF can certainly make your life easier, even if it’s just a bell/whistle. And let’s not forget the 4K video quality and features have been improved!

Is it good news all-around for these types of shooters? No, if the battery life ratings are to be believed. As a travel/landscape and timelapse photographer, I can go all day (and well into the night) on a single D750 battery. So unless the image quality of the Z6/Z7 is better than the D750/D850, (I always wait for real-world tests before making that call) …you’re really still compromising on perks. Personally, especially as a “slow” landscape photographer, I was hoping to make zero compromises with a mirrorless system.

[Related: Framing The Nikon Z To Their Competition]

If you DO demand very flagship-grade autofocus performance, then it’s definitely worse news: at the very least, you should be waiting to see how a fair number of very experienced photographers have drawn conclusions after lengthy in-the-field use. Based on the specs alone, it’s the prudent thing to do, for any photographer who relies on autofocus to nail wedding ceremony/reception shots in dimly lit conditions, or a professional sports game, etc.


Last but not least, the single XQD card slot. While a horrible shock at first, especially as a full-time wedding photographer, I suppose this could be a manageable drawback even for working pros. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, XQD card readers or stand-alone backup devices are either rare or nonexistent. And there is no way on earth I’ll ever go home from a wedding without a backup copy of wedding photos, preferably a copy that is going home separately with my 2nd shooter.

I heard a rumor that Nikon could offer to swap the XQD slot for two SD slots, but I suspect that’s just wild wishful thinking. As was my eagerness to be an early adopter, for once. I may eventually own a Z6 or Z7, but I won’t be putting my name on any pre-order lists like I thought I might be.

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Marcos Enrique Ruiz Rivero II

    I am considering in the near future (about 5 years) to change cameras and lenses (i have the 810 & 850 and all their big classes in additions to 2 sigmas) due to back issues. I love of my cameras, but they are heavy on my back (i have spine issues), so i am considering switching to a more lighting mirror-less camera. In your professional opinion, which brand most wedding photographer use when it come to mirror-less? I hope by then Nikon have improved these cameras, at first i was exited but then i saw the review and i said i pass for now. Thanks for your insight.

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  2. Amii & Andy Kauth

    Our weddings average 15+ hours. We have at least 3 cameras with us. Queue the D750! Interestingly enough, I am sitting at the car dealership, getting some work done on our van. The service manager is an avid photographer (not a pro). He rocks a D750 because it’s light and 24 MP (good enough for him). It’s why he didn’t get an 850. I asked him about the Z6 and Z7. He’s not interested at this point … too much glass and not interested in having to use an adapter. Guess what never came up in the conversation? Battery life and memory, which are at least two of our concerns as full-time portrait and wedding photographers. Would love to have the ear of Nikon’s market researchers and see who their target market is for this first round of Z6s and Z7s. – Andy

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      My thoughts exactly Amii & Andy! Would love to hear that too.

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    • Matthew Saville

      It is admittedly a pretty smart tactic to firstly go after the consumers, then worry about the pros later. However, I still feel that the A7iii is just as good a choice as a Z6, and the A7Riii is just as good a choice as the Z7, if not a better choice depending on what you shoot.

      But, again, I’m going to reserve final judgment for a while. This is too much of an unknown wild card to make any snap judgments just yet. If anything, I currently suspect that it will turn out to be a relatively awesome camera for /most/ photographers.

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  3. Kyle Stauffer

    Good read as always Matthew!

    I think the frustrating thing for me is that they had the opportunity to put in a player that might hit one out of the park (with minor caveats). They even had the player sitting on the bench waiting. A player that they used before.  The other team has been using a similar player and we’re down 2 nothing. This coach is either incredibly stupid or ignorant.

    Please call me out on the impossibilities of my “if I were Nikon and about to make a big mirrorless statement, i’d include…..”

    1. Flawless F mount adapter – Achievable and looks like they did this

    2. Two card slots -Should not even be a question

    3. Battery life must be AT LEAST be on par with A7III 

    4. Great AF  – If this is as good as current DSLR’s, thats good enough for me for a first mirrorless. Eye AF will come.

    5. Canon to Z mount – If we’re going to make a statement, we’re going to be confident that we’ll be gaining new customers from canon who don’t have a mirrorless option yet.

    6. New focal lengths since it’s not likely to immediately buy a focal length already owned if we have a good adapter – How many photographers would set down two cameras attached to a 35 and an 85 for a 35-85 f2?? Combine that with an in camera stabilization and it’s this wedding photographers dream!! That new 35 and 50, I don’t understand the thinking there…..

    I really wanted to update all of my cameras this year. That idea has been shot and it’s frustrating!

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    • Matthew Saville

      I blame the lack of dual SD card slots on Sony themselves, and Canon.

      You have to think about WHEN Nikon was actually making the big decisions for the development of these cameras. Which was, of course, years ago. Canon did both the 6D and 6D2 without dual card slots, and yet they were just as popular (ore moreso) as the D600/D610, and D750.  Sony made six, coun them SIX, A7-series bodies before they got to the relatively recent A7Rii and A7iii, and they all had single, relatively slow, SD card slots.

      It was in this environment that Nikon decided, “you know what, nobody else is bothering to compete with us on this dual SD card slot front, so instead we’re going to just “blow them away” with a single ultra-fast XQD card slot, for that price point.

      If anything, the Nikon D7500 should have been the writing on the wall for the Z6 price range, if not the Z7. Nikon went from the D7000 to the D7100 and D7200, all with dual SD card slots, …and Canon and Sony did nothing. So, Nikon said screw it, the D7500 gets a single SD slot. 

      Of course us pros can talk all day about how having dual SD card slots was in fact one of the decisive advantages that drew us to, and/or kept is with, Nikon in the first place.

      But the bottom line is that Nikon probably did tons and tons of market research on this issue, and we are in fact in the minority. Most people would probably rather have a single ultra-fast XQD card slot, because FPS are more impressive and desirable than redundancy. Sad but true.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Regading your other points, I agree. The battery life, autofocus, and lens selection need to all be either equal to, or better than, current DSLR options, otherwise it’s a no-go. I’m not giving up great battery life, let alone great AF, just for IBIS or a WYSIWYG viewfinder. Period.

      I’m sure an EF->Z adapter could be made, but obviously it would likely have to come from a third party like metabones.

      From what I hear, they ARE working on “new” focal lengths, such as a 14-30mm f/4, which could be really cool. But honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with starting things of with tried-and-true focal lengths like 35mm and 50mm. They’ve been around for so many decades for a reason- they’re great focal lengths.

      I wanted to be an early-adopter, too. If I were JUST a landscape and/or timelapse photographer, I’d be all over BOTH a Z7 and Z6. But unfortunately, for now, any camera that I buy needs to ALSO be 100% capable of shooting a wedding with the low light AF, great battery life, and dual card slots of my D750. End of discussion.

      I’ll stick around, because obviously I love Nikon ergonomics and functionality + customization compared to either Sony or Canon, and it seems like Nikon has indeed gotten everything right with this new mount and body style. But unfortunately, I’ll have to either retire from weddings very soon, or wait to see what Nikon does with the second generation of Z-mount cameras. :-(

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      Nikon has  ignored the wedding photographer/photo journalist since the D700. I don’t get it because the majority of D750, 5D3, and A7III sales have to be coming from wedding photographers. To make a great wedding camera is to make a camera that can do 99% of what the entire market wants/needs. If it weren’t for ergonomics and a pile of Nikon glass that I love, i’d already have an A7III. Sigh

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    • Matthew Saville

      I think the D750 is quite the contrary to that statement regarding the wedding photographer market. Until the Sony A7iii, the D750 was the ONLY camera under $2K that offered pro AF and dual card slots. Period. And as wedding photographers, we often opt for the slightly lighter weight camera body, if we shoot all-day events like Hindu weddings, and/or the slightly more affordable body, if we’re the type of wedding shooter who uses two cameras at once. In both regards, the D750 beats the D700 handsomely.

      I don’t feel like the ergonomics and control layout etc. of the D750 is too much “less professional” than the D8xx series, or the original D700, to be considered the best wedding photography camera on the market. I do wish the D750 would have a successor that has at least some of the D850’s new AF realted buttons and overall improvements, but I know that’ wishful thinking for what they call an “advanced amateur” camera class.

      The Z6 could have definitely been that camera, though, had it included an SD card slot with the XQD.

      I suspect that Nikon simply got too much feedback about the slowness of the SD slot in both the D500 and the D850, from wildlife and sports photographers, that it drowned out any “happiness” that was being spoken of by wedding photographers who wanted the convenience of instant raw backup, and didn’t care as much about buffer depth or FPS.

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      I do own and love 750’s, but never felt the trust or quality with it that I do the full magnesium bodies. I traded that trust/feel for the 24mp sensor while saving $1300 per camera and it was a good decision.

      Thank you for the replies… I know you’re a long time Nikon shooter and it’s always good talking to you!

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    • Matthew Saville

      The D750 is “full magnesium”, trust me haha. I’ve owned two of them with more than enough scratches on the various body part surfaces to prove that they’re metal underneath the paint…

      It’s just a slightly lighter, smaller camera than the D8xx series and so not only does it feel a little less “robust” due to its weight, there is also just a touch of flex in the grip when you really strain it. Plus, of course, the slightly “prosumer” aspects to the control layout, some which I love, (U1 and U2, yes!!) …and some which I hate. (Putting the QUAL button right between WB and ISO? What were they thinking?)

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