Nikon unveils Z 7 and Z 6 pro-grade mirrorless cameras


Nikon has been teasing its first pro-grade mirrorless system for weeks, and it's finally shed a light on what to expect from its next generation of cameras. The Nikon Z family comprises two bodies: the Z 7, with a 45.7-MP sensor, and the Z 6, with a 24.5-MP photon collector.

Both Z bodies use backside-illuminated, full-frame 35-mm sensors with integrated phase-detection AF systems and in-body, five-axis image stabilization. Nikon claims it's distributed phase-detection autofocus sensors over "approximately 90%" of both cameras' image areas, but the Z 7 will have 493 focus points within that area while the Z 6 will make do with 273. Both cameras will also augment their phase-detection pixels with contrast-detection autofocus when it's needed.

The two cameras also differ in the sensitivity ranges they offer. The Z 7 supports a range of ISO 64 to ISO 25600. That range can be expanded to ISO 32 at the low end or ISO 102400 at the top end at the cost of potential changes in image quality. The Z 6, with its lower pixel density, natively supports ISO 100 to ISO 51200, and its range can also be expanded to ISO 50 at the low end and ISO 204800 at the top end.

The heart of any mirrorless camera is its electronic viewfinder, and Nikon has equipped both cameras with a 3.69-million-dot EVF (or 1280x960 resolution, according to DPReview). Nikon also allows shooters to compose and choose their focus points on the Z bodies' rear touch screen, which folds out and flips to give the viewer the proper angle at all times.

Today's camera buyers expect video competence to go with stills shooting, and the Z bodies both have some features that will help them do double duty during motion-picture shoots. The biggest improvement to the video-shooting experience with the Z system is that the on-sensor phase-detection autofocus lets video shooters make do without a focus puller in a pinch.

Nikon also allows shooters to use an N-Log color profile for greater flexibility when color grading, and that profile can be used with 10-bit output to external HDMI recorders for even more breathing room in challenging scene conditions. Video pros can also add time code to their recordings for synchronization with other cameras and equipment.

Both Z cameras can shoot 4K video at 30 FPS using their full sensor areas, although DPReview says the Z 7 relies on a form of line skipping during full-frame 4K recording that can result in artifacting. Switching over to DX (or APS-C) mode cures this problem for discerning videographers, according to the site, and the Z 6 apparently doesn't need to perform line-skipping even in its full-frame video mode. Slow-mo shooters will find support for 1920x1080 video at 120 FPS, too.

Nikon's Z cameras abandon its long-running F mount in favor of a more flexible creative canvas for its lens designers. The Z mount has a 55-mm flange diameter and a 16-mm back-focus distance to allow lens designers to bring lenses' rear elements closer to the sensor for better performance. Nikon is supporting those bodies with three Nikkor Z lenses: a 35-mm f/1.8 S prime, a 50-mm f/1.8 S prime, and a 24-70 f/4 S zoom.

The Z-mount lens lineup is a little thin to start with, however, so Nikon is making an F-mount-to-Z-mount adapter that will let shooters use their existing bags full of Nikkor lenses. Nikon claims this adapter will let about 360 of its past lenses work with some degree of autoexposure or autofocus, and the Z bodies' built-in stabilization will either stabilize non-VR lenses or augment VR lenses' capabilities for sharp shots.

To really show off what the Z-mount can do, Nikon is developing a massive 58-mm f/0.95 lens bearing its "Noct" branding (after another famous wide-aperture 58-mm lens from 1977). This beast of an optical system will apparently be manual-focus-only, and it'll feature an on-lens readout capable of showing aperture and focus distance. 

The Z 7 will be available September 27 for a $3400 body-only suggested price or $4000 with the Nikkor Z 24-70 f/4 S lens. The Z 6 will hit store shelves in late November for $2000 body-only or $2600 with the 24-70 f/4 S lens. The Nikkor Z 24-70 f/4 S will also be available separately for $1000 from launch.

The 35-mm f/1.8 S will list for $850 when it arrives on September 27, while the 50-mm f/1.8 S will go for $600 in late October. The FTZ adapter will carry a $250 price tag when it arrives alongside the Z bodies on September 27. Nikon has a roadmap of future lens development plans so that shooters can plan around the arrival of native glass for the system, too.

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