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  • Sudhir Damerla

The New Nikon Mirrorless - In-depth Opinion and Biased Review of the Z6


All camera pictures are from the Nikon website / press relaease

I am not a member of the brand community or the NPS. Which means that I will not be able to get my hands on one of the "test / preview" pieces or on any money to review any kind of gear. Heck, I may not even be one of the early guys to get their eyes, let alone hands, on these cameras. But these kind of minor details don't usually stop us photographers from expressing our views on a particular piece of gear, do they?


The last few years have seen the launch of quite a few mirrorless cameras. Right from the Sonys to the "why-these-strange-crop-format" Fujis. While all of them seem to be working their magic for their respective audience, my particular interest lay in Nikon's equivalent offering which had been on the cards for almost a year. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my DSLR, the Nikon D800e. In the 6 years of companionship, the D800e and I have seen many an interesting shoots and in all conditions - dust, wet, dry, humid … what have you! I have some 100,000 frames on it since I got it and I am sure it is good for another 100,000.

One reason (and big positive!) for this is the protection afforded by the presence of the mirror and shutter mechanism which has enabled me to change lenses even at the sea shore with reasonable wind and wave spray in the air.


Why, then, am I so interested in the mirrorless camera? One is this same lack of shutter and mirror mechanism that makes them virtually noiseless while shooting - a BIG positive especially in the wedding environment I shoot in, where it gets very annoying and embarrassing to shoot 3 or 4 fps at intimate weddings. Can you imagine what it does to the mood of a room when the bride is tearfully reciting her vows to the background noise of shutter-clicks? The other is (in theory) the superior Contrast Detection AutoFocus (AF) versus the Phase Detect AF, which seems to be the Achilles’ heel for the D/SLR.

Another important feature everyone seems so excited about in a typical mirrorless camera is the weight of it which seems to be some 250 - 300 grams less than the traditional mirrored cameras. This is an important one for me as well. My camera bag weighs a good 10+ kilograms depending on the lenses, flashes, batteries and accessories I am carrying for a particular shoot. So even though the weight of the bag cannot be drastically reduced, the body in hand going down by 250 grams is a lot of help. (This is one of the reasons why the f/1.4 lenses never appealed to me. It was way too much weight to carry around when you shooting weddings for hours).


Finally, since the mirrorless is turning out to be an exciting choice for wedding photography, it will be a complete win only if it has AF and high ISO capabilities along with smaller file sizes.  Some mirrorless and mirrored cameras already provide this, such as the Fuji mirrorless, Sony mirrorless and Nikon’s Dx Series (which is mirrored and ridiculously expensive). Now I would love to stick to my comfort zone with the Nikon seeing as I have been shooting with them for over 10 years. Adapting to a new system is too much work! So, like many other Nikonians I have been waiting for the Nikon’s mirrorless. Let’s have a look, shall we?


The Nikon Mirrorless



Although Nikon has launched two new mirrorless cameras, Z6 & Z7, we will only be looking at the Z6 in this blog. Nikon Z6 - Now for a very small space in my camera bag, I can have a back up body on my commercial shoots and also the perfect camera to take on wedding work.

Because:


  • ISO 100 to 51200? Check.

  • Hybrid Contrast/Phase AF? Check.

  • 273 Focus points covering the whole frame? Check.

  • Small file size? Check. Super bonus is the Small, Medium and Large RAW files! So unless I really need to, I could be shooting Medium RAW file size for the weddings. This would mean my storage has to be half of what my D800E needed. So plug in a reliable XQD 128 GB and shoot away.

  • Added BIG Bonus - Compatibility with incumbent accessories: I can still use my TTL and existing Godox lights with the Nikon specific triggers and receivers, while continuing with my trusty on camera SB700 flash as and when the need arises. Deal done!


Yes, I know I know, it does not have a dual memory slot. I would have loved it too, but to be honest I have been shooting only SDs on my D800E since the day I got it. So I am not going to stress about it... for now. I have had a couple of issues in the D90  days (I started with the D70, moved up to a D90 and the the D800e. I told you I have been using Nikons since the beginning of time) with failed SD cards, but never lost data. The camera would just refuse to shoot with damaged or failed cards. I predict that in another year, at least, Nikon will come out with a dual card slot. And obviously they will call it the Z6s.


The Not-So-Good-Apparently

  • The D-Series lenses will lose auto-focus capabilities. But no AF-D lens is really collector worthy anyway. So jump onto the G series right away if you already haven't.

  • The battery life isn't really stellar at some 300-400 shots per charge. But, what we have gathered from other reviews from people who have actually used the camera, is that real world usage is showing some 900 shots with video thrown in? Also, now the battery charger is a USB compatible device, so you can bring along your massive battery banks and charge these batteries anywhere you want instead of hunting around for a wall socket. This does mean that the battery banks weight offsets any advantage from the lighter camera  body, so don't expect your bag to get any drastically lighter. In my opinion, this is still a positive. At least now its not dead weight!

  • No eye focus. Is this really a big deal? I understand that the AF tracking algorithms have been changed on the Z(s). And I think that the Pin-Point focus mode combined with the advanced tracking will yield the same result.

  • No Dual Card Slot. Personally, this will be the biggest downer for me.

  • It’s going to take a while for the third party lenses to come up with the Z mount. This is the price of any new innovation anyway. Nikon was at least sensitive enough to design and manufacture the FTZ adapter - a good solution for this transition transition.

The Absolute Delicious:

  • Continuation and seamless integration for Nikon users without major (additional) investment. Every bit of Nikon gear you have collected so far will work. Albeit, a few restrictions... such as the lack of AF with the D series lenses among a few others.

  • The familiar menu and control system has been carried onto the Z series. Waahoo!

  • Opportunity to buy a lightweight backup body for the D8XX series owners and at a worth-it price too.

  • Joe McNally will make more videos now :-)


In all honesty, I don't think that the Z6 or Z7 is aimed at the pros. As someone rightly said, the pros are never the early adapters. This is squarely aimed at the prosumers while testing the mirrorless waters (Haha… get it?). I will recommend that you to wait for a year if you are a pro and want to go completely mirrorless. If you are already own a ton of Nikon Pro gear , this could be your backup body, for now and for when you go mirrorless with your main body.

But are we worrying too much at this point. Do we need to upgrade? Do we need a mirrorless to shoot at 1.4 with eye focus or pin point focus or whatever?


D90 with a 85mm, 1.4f

See the picture above? I shot it on my D90 with a 85mm, 1.4f, single point AF-S. There are ways to make magic happen with any body with any lens with any style of focus. I guess what I am saying is that I believe that with every innovative step forward, some adaptation is unavoidable. It is for us to figure out how we make use of the progress to our advantage. I say this from experience. I used to shoot manual focus on film all the time and walked away with some great images. So I adopted to the manual focus on the DSLR and walked away with these...


Now for the exciting bit!

  • All your existing old glass will have a 3 stop VR via the stabilized sensor!

  • Focus Peaking will make focusing with manual focus lenses much easier than focusing with the DSLRs!

  • 1:1 preview in the EVF!

  • Supports the EL-EN 15 batteries.

  • Same level of weather sealing/ proofing as the D850 including the magnesium alloy chassis.

This my friends is as seamless as it can get! There are many more features, especially in the video section, which I won’t talk about in this blog. Perhaps in a future one. There are many more in-depth reviews on the internet which go deep into each and every detail of this camera. This blog post is not meant to be that at all. This is my view on the new Z series and how it will (hopefully) fit into my workflow and need.

Do we have to go mirrorless? Not right now, but I think this is the end of the road for the Nikon DSLRs . I'm sure there is enough glass to go around for now via the FTZ mount. And Nikon has done a wonderful job of making sure the Nikon users have a smooth transition into the world of Mirrorless.


Now, does anyone have a inside contact with Nikon? I am desperately waiting to get my hands on one to try real soon!


And finally, is it just me or.......







PS: I haven't talked about the missing pop up flash which is on every Nikon DSLR except the D1/2/3/4/5. I will get to it another day!

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