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The Nikon Z7ii Mirrorless -- First Thoughts

This past friday, I received my Nikon Z7ii body that I preordered from Bedford Photo and Video's OKC store back in October. Along with the camera body, I ordered an MB-N11 Battery Grip and an FTZ Adapter (since the only lenses I have are F-mount). I can't say enough about the great folks at Bedford's OKC store. Good people. If you're looking for any kind of photo gear, go talk to them. If they don't have it, they'll get it, in pretty short order, too. Since I have not had the time I'd like to play around with this new camera, these are only preliminary thoughts, but over the next while, I'll be shooting more and more with it, and I'm sure I'll be posting more as I get to know it better.

Nikon announced this new addition to their mirrorless line several months ago, and made it and Z6ii available for preorder in October. The release date was set for around the first of November for the Z6ii and for around the middle of December for the Z7ii, hence the delay between ordering and receiving it.

This is my first mirrorless camera. I didn't bother with the first versions or the Z6 or Z7 simply because they only had one card slot. I can't have a camera with only one card slot. Sadly, cards have been known to fail, so since I first started in the world of digital photography back in 2004 with a Nikon D2h, I have had all of my cameras set up to record to both cards simultaneously. The long and the short of it is that I refuse to go on vacation to some far away place, shoot some lovely photos that cannot be recreated, and then discover that the one and only card in the camera has died. And of course, for anyone calling themselves a professional photographer, having only one card slot is asking for disaster. I don't see how anyone could even think of passing themselves off as professional without some kind of instant backup, and a second card slot does that for me.

Having said all of that, It is a pretty incredible camera. Does it have any drawbacks? Sure, and I'll get to those later, but for now, I have to say, it's pretty impressive.

I went with the Z7ii instead of the Z6ii because I wanted the 45 megapixels. I grew up photographically in a black & white darkroom, where cropping was standard operating procedure. This means that unlike many of my colleagues who have spent so much time shooting transparencies, where cropping is not possible, I have lots of leeway with my framing when I shoot. This is especially important when I'm shooting architecture, because it allows me to correct the perspective in post. I can get close in-camera, but truly accurate corrections need to be done in the computer. Likewise, when I shoot wildlife for myself, I very often simply cannot (or shouldn't, for various reasons) get as close to the critter as I might like. It's one thing to shoot an environmental portrait of some animal, but when it's still just a speck in the frame, even with a 500mm lens with a 1.4x converter, being able to crop is a must. I've spent the last several years shooting with a 36mp D810, and coming from a much-smaller resolution D2h, it was a revelation. Given my shooting style and the normal subject matter for my shooting, I can't see myself ever going back to a camera that has anything less than the maximum resolution possible, and the Z7ii delivers that.

While both the Z6ii and the Z7ii shoot video, with the Z6ii having the bigger video chops, I seldom shoot video (the last time was my granddaughter's pre-pandemic birthday party), it made more sense to me to go with the Z7ii. I can still shoot video, and it'll look great, but I don't need the advanced features offered by the Z6ii's video capabilities.

Of course, the Z7ii's list price is $1,000.00 more than the Z6ii, but again, that trade off was worth it to me to get those extra megapixels. The Z5, which is an excellent camera, simply doesn't have the features I want and need in a camera.

One of the things I was most interested in on Nikon's mirrorless cameras, and the reason I went in that direction instead of picking up a D850 has to do with the Z7ii's focus points. I don't know of any DSLR that allows the focus points to move even close to the edge of the frame except in live-view, and the circumstances under which I use live view can be counted on one finger. I am, always have been, and always will be a viewfinder kind of photographer.

But I have been frustrated on numerous occasions with the need to focus on a subject, then recompose because it wasn't possible to move the focus point to the part of the subject that had to have critical focus (such as an eye in a portrait or wildlife shot). The Z7ii fixes that problem -- in spades: not only will the focus points move anywhere in the viewfinder, I am finding the Eye-AF to be amazingly accurate. More on that in an upcoming post.

Another thing that I've wanted for a long time Nikon seems to have addressed in the Z cameras -- being able to lock the custom menus. This may have been true of the original Z 6 and Z7, but I don't know since I haven't owned one of those.

My old DSLRs had four custom menus in the Shooting menus and four more in the Custom menus. Being a forgetful sort, I would change something on the camera for a specific shoot, and forget to put it back for the next shoot that was under different conditions. And it could be anything. I was finding some pretty amazing ways to get stupid. So I adopted the custom menu idea Nikon had put in the DSLRs. In both the shooting menu and the custom menu, the A bank was what I referred to as "General Shooting." These were setting that were good for almost anything where you just pull the camera out and shoot. I prefer to shoot in Aperture Priority, with auto WB, and a few other specific settings. The in bank B, I set up Wildlife Shooting -- manual mode, very high shutter speed, wide open aperture, auto ISO, auto WB, etc. Bank C was shooting with speedlights, and Bank D was shooting with studio strobes (which included manual mode, and locking shutter speed to the sync speed of the lights, and locking the aperture to the aperture I was going to shoot at.

The problem with these old Nikon menus was that there was no way to save, or "lock" the menus once set up. If you changed something (like the shutter speed in the Wildlife bank), the next time you used that menu bank, that new shutter speed was in there, not the one you had saved when you set up the bank.

The new way of doing this (which I'm pretty sure is a holdover from the original Z cameras) is User settings -- U1, U2, and U3. So where I had four before, I now have only three, so I'll use those three as my custom setups and my General Shooting will simply be Aperture Priority. U1 becomes wildlife, and so on.

But more importantly, if I change something while in a particular user setting, that change is not carried over to the next time I use that user setting. This means I can get as crazy as I want, an still get back to the original settings. For me and the way I work, this is a very positive change.

I'll write more about the new Nikon Z7ii in upcoming posts, including the very few shortcomings I think the camera has, none of which I consider close to a deal breaker. So far, the positives far, far outweigh the deficits. More to come, hopefully soon, including my thoughts on the Eye-AF and the MB-N11 battery grip. **The three bird images were shot at OKC's Lake Hefner, using the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR on the Nikon Z7ii with the FTZ adapter. 1/3200 sec, f/5.6, -/.7 EV, Auto ISO, Auto WB. The concert shot was taken at the OKC campus of That's a video wall behind them. Nikon Z7ii with a AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED, with the FTZ adapter. 1/80 sec, f/2.8, -0.3 EV, ISO 100

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