The Nikon Z7 in the Hands of an Urban Photographer

The Nikon Z7 in the Hands of an Urban Photographer

It's been exactly a year since the release of Nikon's flagship full-frame mirrorless camera and the camera has been tested in so many different genres. For this review, I test out this camera for compatibility in the exact kind of photography that I do: urban photography.Urban photography isn't exactly a fixed genre of photography but rather, a mixture of many overlaps of different genres. Urban photography involves principles of landscape photography, street photography, and of course, architecture. To shoot in the urban setting is actually a good preview of many different shooting conditions that a good camera must be able to cater to which is why this review mainly took only two shooting days going around just one city. 

Sensor and Resolution

The sun setting behind the cityscape | Nikon Z7 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/4

Right off the bat, the 45.7 megapixel sensor is very promising for details. There isn't even any room for questioning that. Without a doubt, it has been established that this flagship model camera can really bring out the finest detail in anything that it shoots. Even more, this was evident to me when I shot with it in the city. For most of my shots, I stick to apertures of f/8 and above. This is something that stems from my landscape photography workflow. With the Nikon Z7, I realized that I would sometimes have to hold back on small apertures as having too many sharp details in-focus can be a distraction from composition. True enough, a bit of pulling back might be necessary in post-processing. Then again, that's not really a bad thing. Any photographer would rather have too much detail and manage it from there than have to recover something that is barely even there. Also, for this review, I only used the Z-mount 24-70mm lens but had viable photos for when I would have to crop them due to the lack of a longer zoom lens. Even with a crop of a fourth or even a third of the original image, the output is still significantly large and definitely viable for use. 

Overshooting Dynamic Range and Color Spectrum

An art installation of circular rows of lamp posts | Nikon Z7 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/4

One observation that I found similar between the Nikon Z7 and the Sony A7R III (which makes sense because they have very similar sensors) is dynamic range. Now, it has long been proven that both cameras perceive and record almost 15 stops of light. Now, with dynamic range comes more detail in the extremes of the camera's visible spectrum and with that comes more color. On a regular day (meaning a regular day not shooting with such powerful cameras), I would have to abuse the shadow sliders in post processing to bring out more details in the darker parts of the scene. Shooting with the Z7 made me barely touch the exposure tabs in post-processing. Along with this convenience comes an apparent extension of my shooting window. In the Philippines, our blue hour actually only lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, which means that you might have to pack-up (and give up) after the said time because the city lights may already be over-powering the sky. Naturally, with a wider dynamic range, the camera can handle a few more minutes of dealing with overwhelming highlights. 

Full-spectrum color against the blue hour | Nikon Z7 + 24-70mm f/4

True enough, another unfamiliar experience in testing this camera is that sometimes I would have to desaturate the images, especially in the landscape native color profile because the sensor is able to take in so much information from the highlights and shadows that the colors can become a bit too dense. In a sense, this camera gives you expanded ranges of light and color for you to come up with a balanced exposure and a coherent treatment to your photographs without having to stretch out any parameters. Again, better be reducing something excessive than increasing something that isn't virtually there. 

Speed and Focusing

Bonifacio High Street | Nikon Z7 + 24-70mm f/4

Urban photography barely ever requires any fast paced shooting. The most demanding shooting situation would probably have to be in shooting moving human elements and placing them creatively in a well-planned composition. The Nikon Z7 can do a burst of up to 9 frames per second which is more than enough for the said conditions. Of course, this may not really be enough for more demanding genres of photography, but maybe in the coming months, we will see a Nikon mirrorless camera that will be in the league of the sports-centric flagship models. The auto-focus uses a 493-point Hybrid phase detection/contrast AF system that is very much responsive and able to identify moving subjects. With a bit of mastery over the controls and a bit of waiting, the camera can help you achieve a well planned out visual design without fail. 

Built, Design, and Ergonomics

Shooting cityscapes amidst bouts of rain | Nikon Z7 + 24-70mm f/4

Upon first grasping the Nikon Z7, it felt like a good mix of a lightweight and compact construction but with a durable built. Weather sealing might not be such a big deal for just shooting within the city but it was nice to know that shooting in the rain can be done. In the shooting process, I was quite impressed by the electronic viewfinder on it because even in shooting, the half-inch EVF gave justice to the dynamic range that the camera is able to take in.

Nikon Z7 + 24-70mm f/4

While in shooting with the screen, the 170 degree vertical tilt was quite handy in shooting low angles but it would have been nice to have even a few degrees of horizontal tilt for more flexibility. The touch screen, of course gave additional ease in changing settings, as well a selecting focus points. The Nikon Z7 also comes with the standard modalities in connectivity. WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity, and HDMI and USB Type-C ports for output towards other devices. The option of charging with the USB Type-C port comes in very handy especially in situations where not power outlets are available. 

What I Liked: 

  • Superb image quality
  • Superior built and weather sealing
  • Adaptive Electronic Viewfinder
  • Significant dynamic range
  • Various connectivity options

What Can Be Improved:

  • User interface, specifically the use of dials in setting Kelvin WB temperatures
  • Single memory card slot 
  • No horizontal tilt on the live view screen 
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Robert Teague's picture

I too use the Z7 and love it, so I appreciate the article. I haven't been to the Philippines in about 10 years, but would really love to go back one day. Such a beautiful country full of warm, friendly people. :)

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Thanks for appreciating the PH!

Arun K.'s picture

Waiting for the second generation Z8 or whatever it will be called. In the meantime I am happy with my D850.

Mark Wyatt's picture

I have been seeing some impressive work with this camera.

Jim Cutler's picture

Yup, me too. I love my Z7's. Nice to see your work using it.

Sophie Charlotte's picture

Love my Z6! Not as beefed up as the Z7 but still an amazing camera.