Nikon Z7 Ambassador One-Year Honest Field Review // Underwater and Wildlife Photography & Video


– Hey guys, I’m Noel. I’m an adventure, conservation
and wildlife photographer. Today we’re talking about the
Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera. This camera has been with me
for the better part of a year, and we’re gonna go over
it here in my show, called Hammerhead Gearhead. (rousing guitar music) Just a few notes before we start. This episode is a year in review, meaning it’s a long term review. So, if you are that type of person who holds out on a camera or
any product until it’s tested, then this video is perfect for you. The Z7 came out in August of 2018, but it only made it to my
hands in Feb of last year. So that’s a good year before
I’m making this video. On that note, full disclosure, I am a Nikon ambassador,
specifically a Nikon Z Trailblazer, representing the Z7. That said, Nikon is not
paying me for this video. You see, in as much as I
love and adore the Nikon Z7, I am aware of certain things that I wish Nikon would address, either with another firmware or with the next generation of cameras. No camera is perfect, so
my objective for this video is to not only show you the strengths and some of the weaknesses of the camera, but to show you how to
make it work best for you. This review will also
be in narrative form, so you kinda get an idea
of where I brought the Z7. So, if you’re ready to go through
time with me, let’s begin. Back in January 2019, I was shooting with a beast of a camera, which was the Nikon D850. I was bringing it underwater regularly, and I also brought it to the Subarctic to take photos of polar bears. And as a backup camera,
I had the Nikon D500. So imagine the D850 and D500, it was such a tough tandem to beat. But it also brought along
its own set of problems. This time, it had to do with weight. I was traveling with
more than 60 kilograms of gear at the time, with outdoor gear, dive gear and camera gear, and it was creating logistical issues. So I had to trim down. It’s worth noting that in 2017 I did shift to a mirrorless system. I had a Sony a7R II, but I
had some problems with it, such as a short battery life, there was no native fisheye lens, there was no fast macro lens, and I wasn’t a fan of the color science. So I eventually went back to a DSLR. I bought a Nikon D850, but deep down inside I was wishing that Nikon would come out
with a new mirrorless line. Imagine my excitement when
Nikon finally released the Nikon Z Series in late 2018. Not only was this wish coming true for me, there are a lot of things
that I really, really liked. First is the FTZ adapter. It allowed me to use lenses
that I could not live without, such as the Nikon 8-15 fisheye, the 60 millimeter macro, the 105 macro, This basically meant
that I wasn’t sacrificing in terms of lens lineup. Also, look at the short distance between the mount and the sensor. This basically means that you
can adapt any lens you want. Another is the EN-EL15b battery, which allowed you to charge
the Nikon Z7 via USB. It also meant that I can use
the EN-EL15a for my D850, and also the EN-EL15 for my
D500, across all three cameras. It was just so, so convenient. Last is port size. So, if you’re gonna buy
an underwater housing for an interchangeable-lens
camera like a mirrorless, you first have to buy the
housing itself for the body. Then, depending on the type
of lens that you will use, you will either have
to buy a fisheye port, let’s say for a wide-angle
lens or a fisheye lens, or a macro port for a macro lens. The thing is, the port sizes differ depending on the camera type. So a DSLR would probably have an N120 or a 120 millimeter port. A mirrorless usually has
a 100 millimeter port. Micro four-thirds would
probably have an 85. So when I had to switch from
a Nikon D800 to a Sony a7R II, I not only had to sell the body, but also all my N120 ports, and then purchase N100
or 100 millimeter ports for my new mirrorless system. It was such a big hassle. Now, with the Nikon Z7, Nauticam retained the N120 port for its housing, meaning I could use the same ports that I use for the Nikon D850,
Nikon D500 and the Nikon Z7. So that was so convenient, because I could set up
a very, very modular kit depending on what I was using. So, after nabbing an underwater
housing for the Nikon Z7, I immediately took it down for a spin. Now, I had very, very high
standards for image quality because of the D850, and I wasn’t expecting to be blown away. But safe to say, I was. Underwater images need a lot
of color correction in post, but photos from the Z7 were already great straight from the camera. Color registry was that good. Color accuracy is also very important in realistically portraying
underwater scenes. Images were also really sharp, and the amount of detail
I was able to capture was outstanding. The colors and overall image
quality were nothing short of what I would’ve gotten with the D850, and the dynamic range was
incredibly impressive. Dynamic range is of particular
importance for me underwater, where you could have
the deepest of shadows and the brightest of
highlights in one photo. Just check out this photo that I took, were you have a really bright sun ball and dark crevices in one shot. I was still able to pull out detail from both ends in Lightroom. It’s that loaded. Having great dynamic range
gives you peace of mind when you know you want to
bring out as much detail in every single shot. In March, 2019, I went on
assignment with Greenpeace, and once again boarded their flagship, the Rainbow Warrior III. It was a three-week ship
tour where we campaigned for the reduction of
single-use plastic pollution. So for this assignment, I
brought the D850 for underwater, and the Nikon Z7 for topside photography, simply because the Z7
was just much lighter. The highlight of the
tour was an early-morning non-violent direct action
that involved Greenpeace intercepting a barge carrying
plastic in Manila Bay, and posting a banner that called for the reduction of single-use plastic. The Z7 performed admirably
during this shoot, with the weather sealing holding up against the spray of
contaminated, dirty sea water. It has the same weather sealing,
same gaskets, as the D850, and that in itself was impressive. The top display is also invaluable when I had to change settings when the camera was tucked under my shirt, protecting it from the bigger splashes. This is where the
ergonomics came into play. The grip allowed for a
firm grasp of the camera as our boat was zig-zagging
across the waves. So I had one hand on the
Z7 and another on the boat. The lighter weight and the well-balanced
quality of the camera allowed me to shoot with just one hand. And also, because of
the smaller form factor, I was able to extend my endurance for the whole five-hour shoot, and that in itself was a big deal for me. Now, the true proving
ground for the Z7 for me was in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Every year, I head to the park for five days of glorious diving. Situated in the middle of the Sulu Sea, the gem of Philippine dive destinations was a haven for sharks, school of fish, and other fast-moving subjects. This was a real test, as I read that time that the autofocus of the Z7
was not at par with the D850, nevermind the D500. As it turns out, this
wasn’t a problem for me, especially as I only
shoot in single drive mode and always relied on AF-S. It was a choice not only because I was adapting to the camera,
but also because of habit. There were indeed time though that I wished that the
auto focus was faster, but even then, I was coming
home with a lot of keepers. I never felt that I was missing shots, simply because I’ve always trained myself to wait for the peak of the moment and always prepare for that shot. I even came home with
a really nice portrait of the skittish Blacktip reef shark, which I haven’t been able to
capture for the last few years. The battery life is also worth mentioning. With my old mirrorless, I was changing batteries every after dive, which meant I was really
risking a flood underwater. The Z7, while being a
mirrorless camera, lasted a day. This was impressive, considering I take probably a thousand photos
every single dive day. So sometime in June, I
went from sea to summit to the Cordillera mountain range with fellow Nikon ambassadors. So for this one, we shot landscapes. Now, this is where I fully
appreciated the Nikon Z7 EVF, which I consider to be
the best in its class. We shot landscapes on this trip. But since we were shooting at times where light pollution
could’ve been an issue, I relied heavily on my EVF, so as not to disturb
the other photographers. The EVF is just clear and stunning. It amplifies low light and
even allowed me to zoom. As a result, I never had to
take my eye away from it. Before I became a photographer I was actually a director for eight years, and then I was a video editor
for 15 years before that. The ironic thing is I never thought that I’d be going back to video
until December of last year when I decided to make this channel. I took the Z7 to Thailand to film The Wonderfruit Festival and shoot the first episode
of my mini documentary series. The Z7 is an impressive specimen. The video quality,
especially in 4K, is superb. I also like how, by switching modes, the camera remembers
your settings from video. Coupled with an Atomos
Ninja V and a paid upgrade, you could also record
ProRes RAW externally. But its strength is also its weakness, as you can only do so with
a Ninja V and that upgrade. The internal recording quality is fine, but it couldn’t really take heavy grading. I would be remiss if I
didn’t talk about the lenses. This is the 24-70 f/4. Now, don’t be fooled by
its kit lens designation and its max aperture of f/4. It’s an impressive lens,
it’s sharp across the board, and it’s very, very portable. Such a stellar line-up. In fact, I also want the 14-30 f/4 for underwater videography
and for landscapes. So that brings us to today. It’s been a great year
shooting with the Nikon Z7, so much so that I feel like
it’s an extension of my arm. But what are the things that
I would like to be solved or addressed in the Nikon Z7
or in the Z Series as a whole? Well off the bat, I wish there was a way to record 4K60 internally,
and to a certain extent, record NLOG internally as well. This would be a big help for those who would want to keep a
smaller rig, a smaller system, when they’re running and gunning or when they’re a one-man crew. Let’s also address the
elephant in the room. Improved auto focus, better
Eye-AF, better face detection, is something that will be good to have in the next generation of Z cameras. I mean, this hasn’t
affected me personally, but I know a lot of photographers
who are asking for it. Also, an articulating LCD
screen will be good to have. The Z50 already has this flip-down LCD. But maybe, for the next
Z7 it would be good if it kind of flips to the side as well, so it would be easier
to vlog in some cases. I would also love to see
a native fisheye lens. I know that the market may be small, but after seeing the roadmap, seeing the 105mm macro, the 60mm macro, I’m having high hopes and
my fingers are crossed that they would release this for us underwater photographers. I wasn’t too bothered by
the single-slot XQD card. XQDs are really fast and really robust. I’ve never had a card failure. But if this is what the customers want, then maybe Nikon should listen. Lastly, I’m really hoping that Nikon will come out with an even
higher end D500-type Z camera for sports and wildlife that
has an auto focus system that will blow the
competition out of the water. Now, if you made it this far, then it would seem that you’re committed to getting a Z6 or a Z7 camera. Let me take it one step further and share the accessories
that I got for my unit. For added protection, I
got a screen protector for my LCD and for my top window. Whenever this camera is on my person it gets thrown around just a bit, depending on the assignments that I’m in, so having that extra level of protection gives me so much peace of mind. Now, for shooting video, I
purchased the 8sinn cage, the best-looking cage for the Z6 or Z7, and also the Atomos Ninja V. If you want to see more of my work, head on over to my Instagram. There you will see adventure, conservation and wildlife
photos, mostly taken with the Z7. If you want to see video, check out this Wonderfruit travel video that I shot with the Z7
and the Weebill S gimbal. For next week I will be uploading content on how to better shoot video, whether it’s with a DSLR, a mirrorless, or even a phone camera. So if you liked this
video, please hit like, and also subscribe and also hit that bell so you get notified for future content. It goes without saying that this is the very first
review that I’ve ever done. So if you have comments,
if you have suggestions, if you liked it, if you didn’t, please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear from you, and I would like to take these suggestions and discuss the Z7 further in detail. Cheers, guys. I’ll see you next week.

5 Replies to “Nikon Z7 Ambassador One-Year Honest Field Review // Underwater and Wildlife Photography & Video”

  1. Nice review. I own 2 Z6 bodies and several Z-mount S-Line lenses as well as f-mounts, which work flawlessly with the FTZ adapter. Agree with most of your observations, including that the so-called focus problems haven't "affected me personally." For video, the face detect is excellent and the touch screen is great for "pulling" focus (I made a video on that). Great work and kudos on your environmental activism. Incidentally, I once drowned a D600 in a leaky housing. 😢

  2. Have watched a number of videos on the Z series, and as far as I can recall, you are the only Nikon Ambassador who honestly took note of its setbacks. Coming from you, Nikon should be proactive on consumer needs, either release a firmware or an upgraded model. Other brands are more aggressive to keep their market segment. To watch and see the playing field, would only pull them down. A Nikon user since I had my first EM back in the late 80s. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I've been looking at going mirrorless for all the reasons you mention. I love my D500 but not so much when I'm traveling 😅 Great review! Thanks!

  4. Thanks for the review Noel, appreciate the video. Being a Nikon shooter I've hung off getting the Z6 and Z7 until some of the common issues are addressed by Nikon (perhaps next generation). I love my D850, pity about the weight, but for the images I get, I'm happy for the trade off.

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