Nikon Just Teased Their Next Gen Bodies: Here's What They Need to Have

Nikon Just Teased Their Next Gen Bodies: Here's What They Need to Have

Nikon has just teased a countdown to the Z 7 II and Z 6 II, with an announcement apparently coming October 14th. Are these just going to be iterative improvements, or is Nikon going to deliver an enticing upgrade for Z users to strike back at Canon's mammoth R5 announcement?

Since the Z 7 and Z 6 first came out back in 2018, there has been a number of significant announcements in the mirrorless world, perhaps most notably the Canon R5. I'm not a heavy video shooter, so I'll leave the finer points of the video discussion to others. Instead, we can just talk a few major numbers: 8K and 4K120. Both of these beat the existing video offerings of the Z series. An upgrade to even just feature parity here would be nice, but again, I'm not buying a stills camera for its ability to shoot video of any resolution.

What I would like to see instead are quality of life improvements and fixes to the omissions that come with the Z 7 and 6, being first-generation cameras. One of the most notable is the lack of a vertical grip. Considering how great the Z 70-200mm looks, being able to mix in a vertical grip for ease of use (and even faster continuous shooting?) would be a big improvement. Also, as the Z lineup continues to receive larger lenses, getting some more weight and grip on the camera wouldn't hurt!

Another glaring omission is the second card slot. Yes, XQD is very reliable, but there's no need to leave out even just a secondary SD slot for peace of mind or workflow optimization. While I'll leave it to the comments to fight out what form this second slot should take, I'd like to make the case for it to be a more pedestrian option than CFexpress or XQD. While those formats are blazingly fast, the cards are more expensive and less readily available. I've still got a stack of perfectly serviceable SD cards, and I know I can find a replacement in just about any place I'm shooting; the same can't be said for CFexpress.

More could be done with the firmware, too. Pixel shift shooting has become available across a number of other bodies, but is still missing here. A number of features also just feel rough and user-unfriendly. Consider that focus shift shooting screen: what exactly is a focus step width of two? 2mm? A 2 out of 10 on the possible range of steps? This is just one example of where Nikon doesn't take full advantage of the high-quality display available to them. Also, while firmware updates have improved things, the overall state of AF remains messy. I've shot with Nikon for a number of years, but that experience isn't really helping in deciphering the appropriate AF setup for a number of situations. I'm not sure if they've just hit the performance boundary for the first generation Z's hardware, but there is room to improve. In a previous article, I pointed out how the firmware should be more customizable and accessible; these bodies would be a perfect time to implement that.

On the body side, I'd like to see some more versatility to the flip-out LCD. While I don't expect to do much vlogging, just having a greater range of motion would come in handy. Currently, it can feel a bit limited to flip out, even in the few axes that are supported. A great candidate for a spec bump would be the existing but anemic wireless capabilities. Wi-Fi 6 would be great to see, but I'd settle for a Wi-Fi speed that could make wireless tethering truly viable, at least in a studio or on-location capacity.

This is a more minor note, but I'd also like to see this announcement actually be a product launch. Too many of these "launches" of tech products have actually just been paper tigers. I get that the lack of availability can be blamed on a myriad of things, including perfectly understandable reasons like COVID, but it's still annoying to deal with a teaser, followed by a pre-pre-announcement, then a launch, followed by a lack of general availability for weeks or months after launch. Consider the Z 70-200mm, which was announced in January, but still isn't really available. I get the business strategy behind it, but it doesn't make things any less annoying from a consumer standpoint.

What Shouldn't Change

I expect there'll be the usual little bumps to specs, like a slightly faster frame rate, higher-resolution EVF, or similar, but there's one number I really don't want to see go up, and that's the price. I felt like the Z 7 was priced very well for what it offered, particularly in combination with a few of their promotions. Especially if this update is as underwhelming as I expect it to be, I certainly don't want to see the pricing go shooting up. Unfortunately, that seems to be the trend across all the manufacturers, with ever-higher premiums for gear (just look at the price of the 50mm options for the Z series, which aren't so nifty fifty).

I really like the body design. They nailed the placement of controls in the way I've come to appreciate from Nikon bodies going back to my D3, and there's not much I would change. Illuminated or otherwise differentiated buttons around the D-Pad would be nice, but that's a nitpick of an otherwise excellent layout. Otherwise, the size is just right. It's big enough to be comfortable to grip, but small enough to remain portable.

Lastly, but most importantly, I like the overarching strategy and niche of the Z system. Setting aside a few frivolous lenses, each lens has been an excellent performer, striking the right blend of functionality, price, size, and other characteristics. There's not one to stay away from. The bodies at the high end have delivered a solid blend of specs at a reasonable price point and fit in well with the DSLR line, albeit with a few odd concessions to their DSLR counterparts. My biggest wish is that they keep this levelheadedness going forward, keeping the Z system affordable, versatile, and accessible, while still delivering quality that competes with the flagships from other manufacturers.

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Spy Black's picture

...except this isn't "next gen", they're merely modified first gen bodies. Granted, all improvements welcomed, but these are not 2nd gen bodies.

Alex Coleman's picture

Yeah, it’s tricky to define generations with some of these products. I’d hope after years these improvements are more significant, but that’s less likely based on the naming. Was the iPhone’s S models a new generation in your opinion?

Spy Black's picture

I don't follow Apple stuff, so I can't comment on it. These new Nikon bodies are certainly not new gen, although certainly welcome updates.

Jim Cutler's picture

Spy Black, exactly right. Nikon's next big bodies are well in development. This month's new bodies are nice updates of the Z6 and Z7 with grip, even better AF and 2 card slots. Anyone talking about how this month's announcement is gonna blow Sony and Canon out of the water don't understand that these bodies are a refresh. The next iteration from Nikon will come later.

Peter Perry's picture

That’s not true at all, I read one of the articles where Nikon was saying it won’t be a Sony sensor in the Z6 II, that tells me it is a different camera.

Spy Black's picture

Even if that were true, and I haven't heard any of that, it's still a first gen body that's had mods. They obviously designed it with the option to mod down the road, and here they are. So it could certainly have the potential to image like an entirely different camera, but it's still based on the 1st gen frame.

Peter Perry's picture

Turns out it wasn’t true as they pretty much used exactly the same sensor and that’s somewhat unfortunate as the Z6 needed really good lenses to get the best from it.

Miha Me's picture

Pretty sure Nikon will ignore any hardware change advice 2 weeks away from launch! 🤔

Alex Coleman's picture

Ha ha, thankfully I’m not an exec at Nikon then! This is more a discussion of what I’d want to see in these bodies to prompt an upgrade, as well as to encourage some community discussion around the direction of the Z system.

Martin Peterdamm's picture

a huge downer, but the pricing might be also important. or doesn't even matter in the end because most pro photographers are still without any jobs right now.

Alex Coleman's picture

They’re releasing into a tough market for sure - part of why I want to see pricing remain aggressive, not inflated.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

To me the Z5 seems like a great option. I would like to try that. I think Nikon is coming along nice. Not that terrible expensive and attractive cameras. I am positive and optimistic about Nikon:)

Les Sucettes's picture

There’s nothing exciting in just Mirrorless iterations of DSLR bodies. You’ll need the two Z6/7 but what would really excite me is responses to the more tactile Fujifilm approach. Have a rangefinder that is photography focused and another that is more of a classic SLR setup with all the videography functionality... (yes, that means with shutter, ISO, Exposure compensation dials and lenses with Aperture dials). And do not treat the rangefinder as a “entry level product” like Sony does. It needs to compete with Leica and have the functionality of the Fuji Pro2/3 - be a Pro4!

I.e. these should not be setup as a gimmick - not like that failed dslr they did before. They need to be designed with the professional in mind. Proper balanced, powerful, and considered. Bring back the Nikon FM and SP!

Now that would excite me.

Alex Coleman's picture

Interesting. Did you ever try the DF? Not exactly your stated design, but closer to it. I personally like the double wheel mechanism more than the dials I had on my XT1.

Les Sucettes's picture

The Df was a step in the right direction but it was targeted as a “retro camera”. What I mean by that is simply that they charged a higher price for bad quality, an average sensor, and layout of dials was not well considered. They only really brought out one lens for it too. It wasn’t a system like what Fuji does. Don’t get me wrong - by system I mean that there needs to be specific lenses that are tailored to that camera and the ability to use the other lenses of the lineup as well. If you look at Fuji they do that brilliantly - the lines are blurred but there are lenses that are clearly tailored for particular needs: street/social/journalism, sports, etc. and they fit a particular camera best that suits the niche!

Instead Nikon did cosmetics with average qualityand charged a high price for it.

And then they concluded that there’s no market for it, when really they just put out a bad product and treated as an accessory rather than a tool.

Alex Coleman's picture

Yeah, with the shrinking market all around, I think the only way to deliver on a specialization like "manual controls as the controls" is to commit entirely to it like Fuji did. Regardless, Nikon's had a couple orphaned products that could have been promising. DF, Keymission, DL series all come to mind.

Michael Krueger's picture

I had to look up the DL series, shame they never released it.

Deleted Account's picture

Did you just publish an article declaring what you would like to see with a product which is already ready for release?

I guess it will generate clicks, but it doesn't seem like it serves much practical purpose.

Martin Boaring's picture

Did you just use a tautology?

Deleted Account's picture

Apparently I did.

The grotesquery of my linguistic slip in no way alters the pointlessness of this piece of writing.

James Redondo's picture

Speculating on new product features/wish listing immediately prior to announcements is a staple of the Internet. Where ya been?

Mike Schrengohst's picture

I don't know - I do know that Nikkor Lens quality is in the toilet. My organization has used Nikons since 2007. I have used Nikons since 1975. I have 4 Nikkor 10-24mm AF S 3.5-4.5G ED lenses that are in the discard pile. 2 of those were returned to get warranty work done on. My guys shoot Motorhomes - so the environment is not stressful. But now I have had 4 of them fail. They get loose internally and just quit focussing. I have checked on repair pricing but it was more expensive to repair then getting a new cheap lens. We have switched over to the cheaper 10-20 Nikkor because if they are going to keep failing then at least I am not throwing that much more money away. I have used Tamrons but for now the cheap 10-20 Nikkor seems to be OK. But really - what has happened to the great Nikon quality?????

Alex Coleman's picture

An 11 year old design of a consumer wide angle being used in a professional capacity doesn’t seem like a great litmus test for quality.

Unfortunately it’s just the nature of complex electronics that things will fail - if you’re comparing it to your experiences with gear from the 70s and 80s, you’ve got to consider how different the price, complexity, and design constraints are.

A manual focus 24mm, like would be common back then, should be just as durable - but if you want a 10mm capable zoom, with autofocus, for less than $1K, concessions will be made.

Deleted Account's picture

Alex makes a valid point.

I used to ride bixycles for a living. My attitude was everything fails. The top shelf stuff is super expensive with not much extra quality over mid-range stuff. The mid-range stuff would get a hell of a lot more quality for a little bit more money than the entry level stuff.

Buy mid-range, it's the best bang for buck. But EVERYTHING will fail.

barry cash's picture

This is their very last chance so they might have pulled a rabbit out of the hat if not...BYE BYE

Deleted Account's picture

It's starting to look like only Canon, Sony, and Fuji will survive.

Although in the long term they'll likely all die.

James Redondo's picture

I expect these to be iterative updates, as the article states. I just hope that Nikon offers a generous trade-up program for current Z body owners. We took the risk on their Gen 1 FF MILC offering, after all.

Anthony Cayetano's picture

My money is on “slightly better” than the first models.

Peter Perry's picture

So far, we’ve seen the processing will double, the sensor will be different, the AF will be heavily improved, and the video will at least be 4K60P. That tells me these are second gen bodies.