Why I Don’t Recommend the New Nikon Z7 Mirrorless for Landscape Photographers (Yet!)
Update: Since this was written, Nikon has introduced the 14-30mm wide angle lens and therefore this camera is much easier for me to recommend. While I still have some other issues, overall I don't think it is a bad buy at this point.
*Please note I am not associated with Sony in ANY way. They have never given or paid me anything. My thoughts are my own.
I have to admit, even though I only recently made the switch from Nikon DSLRs to the Sony A&Riii (and I really love it), I was very excited about Nikon’s new Z7 Mirrorless. First, I think competition is good for everyone and a killer mirrorless from Nikon or Canon is sure to push Sony to do better. Second, if the Z7 would have turned out how I was hoping (dual card slots, vertical tilting screen, better weather proofing and an awesome small ultra-wide angle Z mount lens), I would have even considered switching back. I only use two lenses, so it’s not exactly a major issue to change systems.
Alas, while the Z7 appears to be a great camera in many ways –and they did get the weather proofing right it seems– the lack of dual memory card slots is a 100% deal breaker for me. I didn’t change to Sony before the A7Riii came out in big part because the A7Rii only had one memory card slot. If you are traveling around the world and working extremely hard to capture an image, having that once in a lifetime shot on just one card is just not something I am willing to risk.
That said, I know many people will be okay with having only one card and I have already started to get emails asking if they should get the Z7 for landscape photography. Unfortunately, there are other reasons I really do not recommend the Z7 if landscapes are your thing beyond the card slots. At least not yet.
No good ultra-wide-angle lens options?
Sony set the bar high
One of the main reasons that I switched to Sony, besides the size and weight, was for their excellent 12-24mm ultra wide-angle lens. Not only is it very small, amazingly sharp and has excellent overall performance — it is also well built and extremely wide. Plus, I can use filters without a filter holder. Together, with a small Sony A7Riii body and one other small lens, the set-up makes for an excellent and tiny kit. Not to mention, being able to tap one button to go to crop mode, turning 24mm into a 36mm at the long end (giving you an 18mp image) also makes it versatile. It is hard to beat!
The Nikon 16-35 is lacking
Nikon has two main ultra-wide options, the 14-24mm F2.8 and the 16-35mm F4. I have owned more than one copy of both. While it is not as good overall as the Sony 12-24 or the Nikon 14-24, the Nikon 16-35 is a great lens and a solid performer. The fact is though, at least for me, it is just not wide enough. Before switching to the 12-24 I was always frustrated with the field of view at 16mm, and after shooting at 12mm for quite a while, I would never go back! Shooting at 12 is really nice, and I find myself at 12 a big part of the time. Besides the field of view, the 16-35 is also a pretty large lens and long for a wide angle. Then, considering that you have to use it with an adaptor on the Nikon Z7 — it becomes flat out big! Which means a significant advantage of using the small mirrorless is practically gone. Plus, you only have 3-stops of image stabilization when using the adaptor.
The Nikon 14-24 is massive
The Nikon 14-24 is also a nice lens, and of course it will get you most of the way there in terms of field of view, but it is HUGE! The 14-24 with the adaptor… wow. Again, you are no longer taking about a super small compact system to say the least. Not to mention, you have to use a massive filter holder to use filters. When I had both Nikon ultra-wides, the 14-24 didn’t see much use because of these issues. And it is still not as good of a lens optically as the Sony.
Nikon 14-30 in the works
The good news is there is a 14-30mm F4 lens in the works that should be released sometime in 2019. Of course, we have no way of knowing how good, or how big this lens will be, but my guess and hope is it will be decent size and great optically. If you already shoot Nikon and have an ultra-wide lens —as long as you are okay with the single card slot— you could certainly use your current lens with the adaptor and wait for the 14-30mm (and by that time Z7 mkii might be out with two card slots :)
As for now…
If you don’t have a Nikon ultra-wide, buying one now to use with the adaptor just doesn’t seem like a good option. Not with the Sony A7riii being so good AND having the 12-24 available right now. Of course, when the Nikon 14-30 comes out, if it is excellent and small, that will, of course, make this mostly a non-issue (I would still miss 12mm, but 14 is close, and having 30mm at the long end would help make up for it). But for now, the lack of a great (small) ultra-wide is a huge issue in my mind.
No light weight 70-200mm F4 on the road map?
While I use an 85mm prime as my telephoto lens these days (again, going to crop mode when needed which makes it a 127mm), I still think a 70-200 along with a wide angle is the perfect setup. If you want to be super light, using a small prime like I do is a great option, but for most people I still highly recommend a 70-200. It is extremely versatile and will work for most types of photography and in most situations when you need to go long. When I go to Antarctica in 2019 I will most likely either buy or rent one.
But Nikon doesn’t even have an F4 version in the works!
If you are a primarily a wildlife photographer, or shoot a ton of sports and in low light, of course the F2.8 version is what you need and Nikon has one on the way. However, if you are mostly into landscape and travel, a 2.8 is just not needed (and of course the size and weight again) and it makes the mirrorless setup so much bigger and heaver. As mentioned, I don’t even shoot with a 70-200 F4 because I want to keep the size and weight down! Only having a 2.8 option coming for this camera is crazy! It just blows my mind as the only option for their “light weight” mirrorless Z-mount. Of course, you can use the current F4 F-mount with the adaptor — but again, it adds that much more length and weight, plus only 3 stops of stabilization (compared to 5.5 on the Sony).
Nothing new or significantly better
Sony still takes the lead
Again, it seems like the Z7 will be a really solid camera and for many people it will be great. But I am so disappointed overall. If they made a few key changes and offered an awesome ultra-wide available at launch or very soon after — I would already have my pre-order in. But as it is, even if you have Nikon glass or if you are a landscape photography looking for a smaller setup, I would still highly consider making the switch to Sony.
The real benefit the Z7 has over the A7Riii is better weather sealing and a more comfortable grip if you have big hands. But considering that the Sony is already fairly weather sealed (I’ve have shot with it in the rain many times now), plus you get two memory card slots along with basically perfect small lenses for landscape photography — it just makes sense.
And the bottom line is…
Again, I would have switched back to Nikon in a second if they offered a better more usable setup overall. I will always use the brand that produces what I consider to be the best gear for my needs. In a couple years, as the system matures, I imagine it will be an excellent option, but as of right now, for landscape photographers at least, I would put my money elsewhere.
Here's a breakdown of what gear I do recommend. Everything mentioned on it has been heavily tested by me in the field.
Feel free to check-out my Youtube channel for other ideas on gear.