Z System Miscellany

I'm deep into testing cycles at the moment. That, coupled with some emails has prompted me to point out a few miscellaneous things:

  • The 70-200mm f/2.8 S and the TC's aren't going to work properly on your Z6 or Z7 if you haven't upgraded to the latest camera firmware. It might look like it's working, but you'll eventually notice things like the fact that you can't set VR ;~). 
  • Speaking of VR, the 70-200mm f/2.8 S uses element re-centering, just like the AF-S lenses do. It's one of the reasons why the edge-to-edge results look so good: the optical system is re-centered just prior to taking the shot, regardless of motion correction. Non-Nikon lens systems can get into situations where the IS elements have shifted to an extreme to compensate for motion, and thus can show side-to-side issues. However, the drawback to Nikon's system is that if you're not handling the camera well to start with, you can see your framing seem to jump from shot to shot. The view just before you took the shot was de-centered, the camera re-centered the elements just before the shutter curtain opened, so when the view returns, it's slightly off from where you thought it was. Sport VR mode was one way Nikon attempted to deal with this. Sports shooters were often panning with subjects, so Nikon came up with a mode that minimized the frame adjustment that worked for them. It may be that some are seeing this for the first time—again, it's been a trait of Nikon lens VR for decades—because the Z cameras add some sensor adjustment, as well.
  • What do you do when you see ERR in the display(s)? First, take the lens off and see if the shutter is closed. I'll bet it is. With the camera still on, pull the battery. Put the battery back in and take a photo (even if it says ERR still). 99 times out of 100 that will clear the message and the camera will be fine again. There seem to be a few cases where the Z's get out-of-sequence and leave the shutter closed when they shouldn't. This reports to the camera electronics as an error, regardless of how triggered. If you can clear the error, all is good. That 1 time in a 100 is when you have a real shutter issue. If ERR keeps repeating or you can't clear it, it's time for the camera to be looked at by Nikon. But don't panic over an occasional random ERR. I've seen this maybe three times on my Z7 since it first came out, a couple of times on my Z6. 
  • Here's one I hadn't experienced before: somehow when the rear lens cap on my 2x teleconverter got put back on after shooting, it got on too tight. I couldn't get it back off by hand. Never had that problem before. So what do you do? Go to the kitchen and get this  Worked like a charm. But this does bring up something I've not had to deal with before: if the rear lens cap can get stuck once, it'll get stuck again, right in the middle of nowhere when I don't have a kitchen handy. So now I'm going to be a little paranoid about rear lens caps. Hmm, maybe carry one of these? The Z cap is 2.5" and this opener deals with up to 2.7". (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

As a bonus, here's a teaser about how I view some lenses before I get around to posting their reviews:

  • 20mm f/1.8 S. Quite a good lens. Some will complain about size, though.
  • 24-200mm f/4-6.3. Not as good as some claim, but still clearly the best FX superzoom Nikon's made.
  • 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 DX. Also not as good as some claim, but still the best DX telephoto zoom Nikon's made.
  • 58mm f/0.95 NOCT. Better than many claim (!), but it's tough to come up with a viable use case.
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 S. Yeah, this lens is going to be out of stock for a long time. Best fast telephoto zoom ever. By anyone.
  • 1.4x and 2.0x TC. If you have the 70-200mm f/2.8 S, you're absolutely going to want one or both of these. This from someone who doesn't tend to like TCs.
  • TTArtisans 11mm f/2.8 fisheye MF. It'll keep me happy until Nikon comes out with a full frame fisheye.
  • Viltrox 20mm f/1.8 MF. Like it better than I thought I would. Still heavier than I want at this focal length.
  • Meike 25mm f/1.8 MF DX. An absolute bargain, particularly if you use it at f/2.8; Z50 users need to take note.

Yeah, a lot of new gear passing through my studio right now. I'm backed up on writing about what I've found, and still have a bunch of tests to complete on most of this gear. One thing that's clear is that Nikon upped their game in terms of lens performance with the Z mount. Every single lens is better than its F-mount equivalent. So even if Nikon can't explain why the Z mount was the right choice, in practice they prove it with every new lens. 

Meanwhile, it's simple to slap a non-electrical Z-mount on the back of some simple Chinese optics. We've got a couple of dozen examples of that so far. What's interesting is that, while many of these lenses show some old-school attributes such as higher lateral chromatic aberration, they tend to perform well above what you'd expect for their prices. As long as you're okay with manual focus and exposure and no relevant EXIF data, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up a lens or two that fills a gap you can't find a Nikkor for. Check out what's available in the Third Party Lens section of this Web site.

Finally, I'm deep into work to finish the Z5 book and review. Again, I'll tease you: the difference between a Z5 and Z6 really falls down to three things: (1) low light focus, (2) frame rates, and (3) high-end video capability. For many, that makes the Z5 a clear bargain. For a few, it means that you should consider the Z6 when it's on discount. I've yet to see a review that accurately assesses the Z5, let alone the differences with the Z6. Indeed, I've seen quite a few that come to erroneous conclusions or make statements that I find to be wrong. 

Here's something that should open your eyes: so far I've found over three dozen differences between a Z5 and Z6. Three dozen. I'll probably find more before I'm done. I've often written about how new Nikon models have various small differences. The Z5 is rapidly becoming the camera I'd point to as to how that works. And don't jump to conclusions: many of those differences are positive (e.g. USB power). Some are negative (e.g. the removal of the Top LCD). There's a reason why it takes me so much time to review things: the devil is in the details.

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