Reader Questions About the Nikon Z6 & Z7

"Can I record raw video with any HDMI recorder?"

No. At the moment, only the Atomos Ninja V and Blackmagic Design Video Assist are able to do that with version 3.2 firmware for the Z cameras (remember, you need a paid firmware update to support ProRes RAW or Blackmagic RAW). 

In the Atomos lineup, only the Ninja V will have the full set of capabilities for the Z series video output, at least for the foreseeable future. 

  • Ninja V: 10-bit, N-log, and N-log viewing conversion; plus ProRes RAW with paid upgrade
  • Flame and Inferno: 10-bit, N-log only

"What about other crops?"

The missing crop (from the DSLRs) is 1.2x. The Z7 supports FX, DX, 5:4, 1:1, and 16:9 image areas (the Z6 also supports these, except for 5:4). Note that if you mount a DX lens on the camera or the FTZ Adapter mounted to the camera, the Z6 and Z7 automatically switch to DX crop; this cannot be overridden.

"Will Nikon now go medium format with the Z mount?"

No. A lot of this debate was set off by fan estimated sizes of the lens mount ring in the early Nikon teaser videos, which turned out to be misleading. The actual mount is 16mm flange (distance), 55mm throat (opening). The Fujifilm GFX is a 26.7mm flange, 65mm throat, for example. In general, the medium format cameras are all in the 60's, and while the short flange distance of the Z mount might let Nikon squeeze some sort of small medium format into a camera with that mount, it would end up having some extreme restrictions in lens designs.

"Is the new mount really just a way of selling new lenses? What do the new mount dimensions really mean?"

Yeah, blame Nikon's marketing for people having to ask this question. Also their planning team. By making the flange distance so short and the throat opening so big, you can do two things in optical designs that you had restrictions on before: (1) using the same or similar optical designs you should be able to make a smaller lens; (2) using new optical designs you can push at the boundaries of a lot of different design parameters, including corner correction, light collection, where the entry pupil is, and how light goes from the rear element to the sensor. 

Nikon is sort of trumpeting #2 with the S-line series, though not doing a great job of explaining it and showing off the difference that is achieved. Those first lenses look exceptionally good on paper (and in practice now that I've used them), plus we have some very fast (light gathering) lenses coming down the pike. On #1, Nikon punted for the time being. The brochures do point to "Other Lenses" coming at some time in the future (according to the Road Map, that wouldn't be before the end of 2020, though). I'll bet we see small pancake type lenses that perform well downstream, and that's because of #1.

As for "selling new lenses," that's what all camera companies want to do ;~). It's a given, and Nikon's mirrorless system is no different. But what I'm trying to say here that Nikon is struggling to say is that yes, that new mount opens up a whole new world for Nikon's top optical designers to explore. Word I have from one is that he's excited about this new world in ways he was starting to get a bit apathetic about with the F mount. I like the idea of excited, top-level lens designers, and am looking forward to seeing what that creates.

Here's my former answer on a similar question:

"I was reading the comparison between Sony and Nikon and noticed that you count the larger mount opening of Nikon as an advantage for that system. As of now, the only reason Nikon gave for it is that it would allow for higher quality and brighter optics. But so far, there is no proof that this will actually be the case. We only have the 58mm f0.95 lens in development, but there already exists a f0.95 lens for Sony FE."

Nikon marketing has not done this point justice, for sure.

Sure, we have a third-party f/0.95 lens for FE, but have you actually used it? Huge vignetting, contrast, and corner issues.

The larger mount allows optical engineers to have to bend the light less in many cases, and to shape the light differently than they can in a narrow mount. Think of it this way: can you stuff a V8 engine into a Kia Soul? Technically, yes, it is possible. But not without issues. Far easier to put that V8 into a large truck and get everything a V8 can deliver.

The published MTFs for the first three Z lenses were jaw-dropping, and in practice they've turned out to be the best Nikkors at those focal lengths we've seen. These were near Otus-type results, and that's wide open. We have a new class of lenses now. All the S-line lenses are high caliber.

"Does the Z6/Z7 have a low pass (AA) filter?"

The Z6 does have a low pass filter (single axis), the Z7 does not.

"Can I clean the sensor on my Z6/Z7?"

Probably, but it's an "at your own risk thing." Nikon did one right thing here: when the camera is off, the sensor VR is put into some sort of a lock position. Many other IBIS type solutions I've seen to date don't lock the sensor position, which led Olympus to disclaim user sensor cleaning, while early Sony A7 models tended to have IBIS failures until Sony beefed up the mechanism.

Nikon, unfortunately, is staying tight-lipped about user sensor cleaning and recommending that a dirty sensor be returned to them for cleaning. 

"What is really different between the Z6 and Z7?"

  • Sensor: 45mp (Z7) versus 24mp (Z6)
  • Low Pass Filter: No (Z7), Yes, on long axes (Z6)
  • Base ISO: 64 (Z7) versus 100 (Z6)
  • Max Image Size: 8256 x 5504 (Z7) versus 6048 x 4024 (Z6)
  • 5:4 crop available: Yes (Z7), No (Z6)
  • Continuous shooting speed: 9 fps (Z7) versus 12 fps (Z6) 
  • Buffer: 23 shots (Z7) versus 36 (Z6) (at 12-bit raw)
  • AF low-level: Z6 has a 1EV advantage over the Z7 in low light
  • 4K video: subsampled (Z7) versus overscanned (Z6)
  • Selectable focus points: 493 (Z7) versus 273 (Z6) (some implication on low light focus ability)
  • Stated battery life: 310 shots (Z7) versus 330 shots (Z6)
  • Initial MSRP: US$3400 (Z7) versus US$2000 (Z6)

"How viable is Wi-Fi directly to a computer as a means of providing backup in case the XQD card fails?"

Not at all, I'd say. I'd actually say that the likelihood that your Wi-Fi connection fails during a shoot is way, way higher than an XQD card failing. Nikon didn't make that single slot decision without doing research. I find hardly anyone that's had a true, documented XQD card failure. They do happen, but seemingly rarely. I've personally had one card break its lock tab, but no logic failures. The more common failures with cards in the past came because of issues in both Compact Flash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) card design, none of which are repeated in XQD (that was one of the original goals ;~). Also, some people are using cards long past their expiry date (e.g. past their write/read limits). That's not to say you could never have a failure with only a single slot, just that I don't believe it likely to be XQD card related unless you've worn out the NAND gates through overuse. One of the most common "failures" I see isn't actually a card failure, it's a write mechanism failure (inability to keep up with the stream). That, too, is not as likely with XQD because it has a very high bandwidth and sustained performance. 

But as for Wi-Fi being the savior here, no, Nikon's addition of connecting to a PC is not very high performance and requires some Nikon software at the computer end. That will be slower than your Wi-Fi connection, for sure. It works fine once you get it configured, but it's slower than most serious users would want, and not something I would rely on, particularly given Nikon's history of computer software support.

"I saw the line somewhere that the Z6/Z7 cannot be operated via the USB-C socket. No more tethering? That sucks."

Unfortunately, grammar and context police don't reside on all Internet sites. That line refers to powering the camera from a USB-C connector during operation, not doing things like shooting tethered. When it comes to power, the USB-C connector can be used to charge a battery inside the Z6/Z7, but not provide power while shooting. Moreover, you need the right USB-C power source to charge the EN-EL15b inside the camera (and it has to be an EN-EL15b, not earlier versions of the battery). 

I've shot tethered with a USB-C cable between my MacBook Pro and the Z6/Z7 just fine. I don't get full USB 3.1 level speeds out of it—probably because of overhead in the camera—but it works well and reliably.

"What's going on with Adobe converters and Z6/Z7 NEF files?"

Nikon has added XMP data within the NEF file to inform converters of the camera settings. This is true currently for the D6, D780, Z50, Z6, and Z7. On top of that, Nikon embeds lens correction information, as well. That meant that it took awhile before converter makers were able to deal with the NEF changes, but it also meant that Adobe converters quickly picked up on all that XMP data. The result may not be exactly what the camera's internal EXPEED processing would do, but it's closer than before (at least if you accept the Adobe conversion defaults). 

"I’ve read a lot about what can now be done in the PHOTO SHOOTING menu options.  Are the new abilities dependent on Nikon NX Studio or something new to actually take advantage of them? Would hate to see tying camera function to proprietary software Nikon has never done well at and which handcuffs for users."

The new EXPEED6 capabilities are mostly tied to in-camera JPEGs. I suppose if you want your raw files to come out exactly as an in-camera JPEG you'd be mostly restricted to Nikon's software. But that's always been the case. The Adobe converters do pick up on some settings now, but they don't process them exactly as EXPEED would.

"Is the autofocus as poor as Tony Northrup [and a few others] suggest?"

The answer to your question can be found in my review of the Z7. Short answer: no. Autofocus on the Z6 and Z7 are fine, got better with firmware updates, and compare favorably with competitive cameras of the same generation. (Update: the Z6 II and Z7 II have some autofocus improvements that kept them competitive with their same generation peers.)

"Does the Z6/Z7 viewfinder black out at high continuous speeds as some suggest?"

Yes, it can. But you can turn on a setting where you get what we call a "slide show" of images just taken where there's no blackout. However, this isn't the same thing as in the A1/A9 where we have a gen-locked EVF to the sensor, or the dual-stream EVF of the Z9, where we see a real-time stream. The Z6/Z7 continuous stream is lagged to reality a bit, so it makes keeping composition with moving subjects tough.

"The current lens set doesn't appeal to me."

I hear this a lot. You can always use your AI-S, AF-S, AF-P lenses without penalty on the FTZ adapter. 

But I'm actually a fan of the way Nikon has approached the Z lens set. What we're getting are lenses that are clearly better than the DSLR equivalent, and in multiple ways. The 24-70mm f/4 S is the best "kit" lens I've seen in mirrorless, and it holds its own pretty well against the much more expensive 24-70mm f/2.8E DSLR lens. The 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens actually bests the DSLR version, clearly enough that most people should see it immediately. The 50mm f/1.8 S is the best 50mm Nikon has ever made, and without any doubt. 

Nikon's got a lot of lens work cut out for them: they have to basically recreate a 60+ lens set from scratch. They're doing it in a reasonable order, they're designing to new, higher standards, and there hasn't been a dud in the lineup yet. 

"I’m not sure many people will want the 58mm f/0.95 NOCT but never buy it. What gives?"

People want McLaren's and Lamborgini's, too. The 58mm f/0.95 NOCT is what we call a "halo product." One that establishes the potential and credibility of a brand, but isn't necessarily something that many of us will opt for. I don't know that I have a use for this lens (and I already have the two previous 58mm's, which already get rare use). But I'm glad that Nikon's pushing the boundaries of what's possible. For a while, they weren't, they were producing consumer convenience lens after consumer convenience lens.

"Is there really a diffraction correction function in the camera?"

Yes, and it can be turned on or off as you desire. It's right next to the Distortion Control and Vignetting menu items. 

Nikon seems strangely silent on what the function actually does. It appears from close analysis that Nikon is using some simple form of deconvolution. That would indeed tend to recover some resolution. We've had good deconvolution capabilities available for awhile now for post processing raw files, most notably in Piccure+ and FocusMagic, but even in Adobe Lightroom imitates a form of it if you know how the sharpening controls actually work (use Detail greater than the midpoint, keep the Radius small). Photoshop also uses some form of deconvolution in Smart Sharpen and Shake Reduction. But not all deconvolution filtering works the same. The best of the bunch for me has long been Piccure+ (unfortunately no longer available for sale). Adobe's implementations have been the weakest. It remains to be seen where Nikon's fit.

"Does the Z6/Z7 have User Banks?"

No. We get the more prosumer U1, U2, U3 settings on the Mode dial instead.

"Can I power the camera from USB? Can I charge my EN-EL15?"

USB as a power source to the camera only works for one thing: charging the new EN-EL15b battery in the camera. You can't charge an older EN-EL15a or EN-EL15 battery, and you can't power the camera from USB. (This changed with the Z6 II and Z7 II)

You could, however, use the E-P5B in the Z6/Z7 and work a plug to its cable from your USB power source. As it turns out, there are several such solutions available, including one to D-Tap batteries by GyroVu, and the Case Relay system by Tether Tools.

"Will the CFExpress firmware update make the camera's buffer better?"

We first need to understand the question. XQD is two-lane PCIe with a max potential of 1GBs writes. CFExpress (CFe) in its first iteration is two-lane PCIe with a max potential of about 2GBs while writing. Both card types share the same dimensions and pinouts. The problem here is that the actual speed achieved by a camera during writes is gated by the electronics in the camera. The current XQD-equipped Nikons seem to max out near 300MBs for writes. Thus, implicit in this question is another question: has the XQD slot changed in the Z systems from that used in the D850? No, it didn't. 

In actuality, the CFe support in the Z6 and Z7 actually reduce the performance with a full buffer a bit, probably because of extra software sitting on top of the built-in hardware capabilities. Most of the time, the XQD and CFe performance will be near identical in the camera. Where you would get a benefit is in ingesting cards to your computer with a state-of-the-art card reader. There, CFe is significantly faster than XQD.

"Do I buy a D850 or a Z7?"

A question that requires a lot more information on your part. I've long advocated the right tool for the right job. If I needed to take silent images of pro golfers on tour, well, that's a Z6 or Z7. If I need a deep buffer for fast, erratic action, that's a D850 (or D6). 

But for a real assessment, I'd need both your usage information and your specific needs/desires.

"Do I buy a Nikon Z6 or a Sony A7 Mark III?"

Similar question, but there's more to this answer. Nikon F-mount shooters with AF-S lenses already have a predisposition towards the Nikon. Those without Nikon lenses would probably have a predisposition towards the Sony, as the available new lens choice for the A7/A9 series is much larger at the moment.

"Can you get the Z products under NPS Priority Purchase?"

No for the original Z6 and Z7. You can still get a Z7 II under NPS Priority Purchase.

"Most people seem to be comparing the Nikon Z7 to Sony A7R Mark IV, but isn't another comparison to the Fujifilm GFX50s?"

Yes, true. Actually very true if the lens capabilities are as good as Nikon is promoting for the new Z lenses. I've held off reviewing the GFX50s, but I think I'll now need to do a fairly direct comparison against the 45/61mp DSLR/mirrorless options.

"Why only a single slot?"

That's a good question that Nikon didn't answer (and should). I'm shocked that they didn't anticipate needing to answer the question. I'm also actually pretty sure that somewhere in their organization they have the answer to this question, but it just shows you how problematic their marketing is that they couldn't supply a clear answer to anyone at the launch or in the followups post launch.

As I've noted elsewhere, I—and many others I've encountered—use my D500 and D850 as a single slot camera. Why? Because SD slot use slows down the camera in a variety of ways. I've never had an XQD card failure in tens of thousands of images shot. Actually, it probably is into the hundreds of thousands now. Note: all cards eventually fail. That's why you should regularly refresh your card stock.

Which leads me to what I believe the answer from Nikon would actually be if the engineers were asked: the measured field reliability of XQD cards is extremely high; SD as a second slot (or both slots) would slow the camera down; and two XQD cards would have been problematic to fit into the space available. QED: one XQD slot. (Nikon added a second SD slot in the Z6 II and Z7 II)

"Okay, then, how big of an XQD card should I buy?"

I've long played conservative with this. I don't like putting all my images in one basket. My suggestion has generally been along the lines that 500 or so images on a card is about the most you should really target. That's near a 64GB card for the Z7, even shooting NEF+JPEG, as a lot of folk probably will do early on with the camera. I'd rather have two 64GB cards than one 128GB card, all else equal, too. 

That said, I'll bet that an awful lot of folk opt for 128GB cards on the Z7, as they'll feel that's closer to what they'll get out of the battery in a day's worth of shooting.

For the Z6, divide by 2 (e.g. 32GB would be what I use, and 64GB should be a full battery's use). 

One thing that plays into this, though, is the transition from XQD to CFExpress. If you're thinking you want to pick up CFExpress cards, I'd tend to suggest you just start with the most affordable XQD cards, which may change your card buying dynamics a bit. I certainly wouldn't be stocking up on expensive 240/256GB XQD cards now if I thought I'd be using CFExpress in a year or two.

"Does the Z6 have focus stacking?"


"Isn't there a vertical grip for the Z series?"

We have the MB-N10 Multi-Power Battery Pack. That external unit will take two EN-EL15b batteries and appears as if it might connect into a dummy battery in the camera (ala how the EH-5 works). But it doesn't have a vertical shutter release or any controls. It's a mess of a product.

Folk who want the grip because their little finger falls off the bottom of the camera's grip should look into getting an Arca-style base plate for the Z6 or Z7. The SmallRig baseplate, for instance, is just deep enough where most people will find their pinky now supported.

The Z6 II and Z7 II solved the grip problem by adding contacts and Nikon providing a new grip, but that new grip doesn't work on the older Z6 and Z7 bodies.

"How do I power the Z6 and Z7 from AC?"

A surprisingly difficult question to answer for the new user. Why? Because for some reason Nikon's EH-5 AC adapter is missing in action; it's a constant back-order status. The old versions are no longer available, the newer version also not available anywhere on demand. You need the EH-5 and an EP-5B coupler to use AC on the EN-EL15 battery cameras. 

Third party AC power options do exist [As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]. How well they work I haven't tested (fortunately, I still have my older EH-5 and EP-5). 

"I have a WR-R10 receiver/transmitter. I thought this was a round 10-pin but looking at it the round-pin is actually an adaptor and the receiver pulls out to reveal a rectangular connector. Do you think this would this work with a Z7 series?"

That's exactly correct. The round 10-pin bit is an adapter that pulls off the base; the Z6/Z7 only need that small base.

"Why no flash? Which small flash should I get?"

Nikon chose to keep the body small, and frankly, the mirrorless camera companies tend to avoid built-in flash because it depresses the CIPA battery statistic numbers considerably. Nikon's current Speedlights (SB-300, SB-500, SB-700, SB-5000) all work with the Z cameras, but frankly I'm surprised we didn't get a Z-specific flash (and that there isn't a power connector at the hot shoe, ala Nikon 1). The good news is that you can use the small WR-R10 base unit plugged into the left side of the camera and an SB-5000 as a wireless remote flash. Not having the circular 10-pin connector is actually a step forward, believe it or not (for the DSLRs you have to seat the WR-R10 base unit in a bigger right-angle adapter/extension, and that is highly prone to breaking).

"SnapBridge? Again?!?!"

Look a little closer. Nikon did something I and others asked for: they now support both ad hoc and infrastructure mode with the Wi-Fi. That means that we can now transfer images directly to our computers (through our router or directly to our computer using Nikon Wireless Transmitter Utility). 

SnapBridge was miserable when it first came out, as I documented many times. It got better over time to the point where what it does is reliable for what it is doing (2.0 and later versions of it). It appears that Nikon took another step in the right direction with the Z models, and I applaud that. Now if they'd only implement the other things I asked for when I met with Nikon executives in Tokyo back in 2010. Baby steps.

"Nikon has not told me why I need the [Z6/Z7] camera. They have not given the press people a message that they can all relay. So what happened? The Northrups say the AF is terrible, Jared Polin says it’s great. Nikon mentions the superior optics of the S-line. Jared Polin calls it slime (slime line) because it’s low end consumer lenses. Even went so far as to ask Nikon when the pro line of lenses is coming.

YouTube [now pronounces] the Z's a “not quite Sony previous generation AF” with toy overpriced lenses out of it. It’s all right to buy though. Comments sections on fora continue down the spiral and declare the Z's useless because of the single card slot, the low rated battery life, and various other complaints.

Nikon is in trouble."

And people wonder why I say that Nikon marketing sucks ;~). If I were in charge of the Z launch marketing, I'd expect to be fired.

Let's try to break this down a bit.

"Nikon hasn't told you why you need the new cameras." Yes, absolutely correct. Nikon's messaging is all over the place, yet nowhere. "Mirrorless Reinvented." How? Why? What? Just throwing slogans out isn't marketing. Slogans without any connection to user problem solutions are even worse than no marketing at all. Nikon would have been far better to just stick to tried and true feature/benefit tandems, as in "Detailed and fast EVF shows you how your photo will look before you take it." "High eyepoint means that those with glasses can see the full viewfinder at once." And so on. You do find a fair amount this feature/benefit tandem on the NikonUSA page for the Z's, but strangely, the events page that Nikon managed to get everyone in the world going to for the teasers, nope, it only ever had teasers. Wasted opportunity.

"Haven't given the press a message to relay." Yep, still correct almost two months later. The one message they keep sending is "the mount is bigger." They fail to do much to tell anyone why you'd want to trumpet that. Buried on NikonUSA's Web site used to be a curious video, which attempted to get a message across, but ultimately failed (now removed). Right idea, wrong execution. And as far as I can tell, the press hasn't been given even what little message there is in that video other than as an anecdote. 

"The YouTubers are hot and cold." Well, that's a risk you take by making them the primary folk you cater to in your launch and subsequent PR campaigns. I can tell you that I didn't hear a peep from Nikon from NAB 2018 through the actual Z product launch, despite having asked them several times directly to keep me in the loop (and they agreed; which they then failed at doing). Ironically, I'm not the type to make a snap judgment based upon one pre-release event like the YouTubers were. So if they were afraid of what I might write had I been invited to the press confab in New York, they made a serious miscalculation there. 

"Not quite Sony previous generation AF." It was too soon to make any judgments about that at launch, though I would have said that the Nikon AF was more than equal to the previous Sony AF plus a bit more, but not exactly equal to current top-level Sony AF (e.g. A9). I have some complaints about current generation Sony AF, too, which I don't have about the current Z AF ;~). Both companies eventually used firmware updates to further improve what was already good AF. Today, the Z6 and A7 Mark III autofocus, for example, are nearly equivalent in performance, but require somewhat different learning to master fully.

"Toy overpriced lenses." Nikon seriously goofed up here. As I've written several times now, we got the best 35mm, 50mm, and f/4 mid-range zoom lens we've ever seen out of Nikon, and maybe anyone at a new mount launch. Too many people were judging these new lenses solely on their aperture specification. Here's a line Nikon marketing should use: "We're going to set a new standard for what people should expect out of an f/1.8 lens [and f/4 zoom]." That might get people's attention. Seriously folks, Nikon couldn't market their way out of a Sam's Club store. Even if we lit up the exit with fireworks and had large arrows pointing to it.

"Failure. Nikon is in trouble." No to both. The Z6 and Z7 aren't high volume, true consumer products. They just need to pull in a reasonable number of those Nikon faithful that have been sitting waiting, and I believe they have and will continue to do so. If Nikon is smart, they'll have their ear to the ground and will be fast to address any shortcomings that are found. The firmware updates show that Nikon either knew what to fix or were listening, maybe a combination of both.

Where Nikon is open to failure is in their feeder system. Basically everything from the lowest Coolpix to the D5600 is sending off warning signals and needs to be addressed. And there the marketing messages are going to be even more important to get right. The Z50 didn't exactly help that, as Nikon spent too much time on the vlogging side of the marketing, and not enough time actually telling us how good a camera it really is (and it's good).

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