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Nikon Z Series – here’s what we want to Zee next



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Rumors are spreading fast about several new Nikon Z Series bodies soon to launch, and obviously, it’ll be exciting to see Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless range fleshed out. The Z6 and Z7 did a grand job of launching Nikon into the full-frame mirrorless market, but as first-generation models, they were bound to come with a few little disappointments for photographers along the way. And while Nikon has already added improvements via a recent firmware upgrade, of course, we want more than that, don’t we?

There’s the talk of a new high-spec flagship model, possibly called the Z9, as well as a full-frame entry-level Z1 at the other end of the scale to attract newbies, the latter coming without an EVF. And there’s even some chat about a Z Series body with an APS-C sized sensor, which seems a bit bizarre, but if it’s a super high-speed or video-heavy version that would certainly be interesting.

 

buttons dedicated

But what else could a new Z Series camera feature, particularly a flagship model? Here are a few ideas and cravings…

A new sensor and a new resolution

The Z9’s resolution certainly doesn’t need to be any higher. Having used both the D850 and Z7 for well over a year now, I’ve found the 45.7Mp resolution has plenty of juice; there’s bags of detail and the ability to make big crops, too. I don’t think a flagship Z camera will offer much less resolution than the Z7, but I could actually take a dip to 35-40Mp, especially if it meant speedier operation, a big leap in noise performance, and other welcome upgrades like blackout-free high-speed shooting. Sadly, the latter may require a stacked sensor design like Sony’s A9, and who knows when that technological goodness will filter down from the sensor-making mothership.

 

Are any more megapixels needed? The [Z7](https://store.digitalrev.com/product/nikon-z7-body has ample resolution so other advancements are more necessary.

New sensor functionality

I like Nikon, you shift your image stabilization from the lens to the sensor, you get to do a lot of interesting stuff as well as offset camera shake. Olympus, Pentax, and others have made some neat features out of shifting the sensor, and these include increasing resolution when required, improving color and detail recording, and fun stuff like Pentax’s GPS-synced Astrotracer mode where the sensor tracks star movement during very long exposures. Of course, the camera would need a built-in, or accessory GPS unit for this to happen, too.

Once your image stabilisation system is allied to the sensor it can be move to do all sorts of things, such as with Pentax's Astrotracer function that rotates the sensor to track star movement.

Once your image stabilization system is allied to the sensor it can be a move to do all sorts of things, such as with Pentax’s Astrotracer function that rotates the sensor to track star movement.

An articulating screen, with benefits

There’s nothing much wrong with the Z6 and Z7’s LCD displays – they’re big, bright and able to tilt for low and high angle shooting. But ever since manufacturers started putting articulating screens on their cameras I’ve just preferred the ones that can twist out to the side, and, most importantly, turn over to leave the rear of the camera screenless. In that position, there’s nothing to say that the rear of the screen can’t be home to more buttons and dials, even in conjunction with a lower-res quick menu, maybe?

An articulating screen could open up new possibilities for information and button layout.

An articulating screen could open up new possibilities for information and button layout.

A second card slot

I’m 50/50 on this because although the Z6 and Z7’s single XQD slot was a worry when the cameras were launched, I’ve now spent a lot of time with both and never had a problem that two slots would’ve solved. But it’s come to be seen as normal to have dual card options these days, so it’d be good to see two XQDs or an XQD and SD combo on new bodies. To save space, some have suggested using a micro SD format alongside the XQD, but this might cause an imbalance in write speed. Still, a solution could be found in writing to the fastest card first, then backing up to the slower card when the camera is idle? Just saying.

Adding another card slot to the next Z Series body would win Nikon a lot of friends.

Adding another card slot to the next Z Series body would win Nikon a lot of friends.

A removable or tilting EVF

It’s a bit out there, but with the architecture of an EVF replacing an optical viewfinder come a lot of possibilities. As on medium format bodies, like Fujifilm’s GFX series, one of them is to take the EVF off entirely if you don’t need it, but you can also upgrade to an EVF that does something different, like titling for low-angle work, or maybe offering greater resolution and magnification.

You can swap lenses and flashes, so why not EVFs? A tilting version would be great, as pictured here on Fujifilm's medium format bodies.

You can swap lenses and flashes, so why not EVFs? A tilting version would be great, as pictured here on Fujifilm’s medium format bodies.

An integrated vertical grip – or one to add at least

The Z6 and Z7 handle really well, with a comfortable grip and excellent button layout, especially if you’re used to Nikon’s other high-end models. The one thing that’s missing is a grip for vertical shooting. If you’re used to shooting with an accessory grip or one that’s integrated into the body, it’s tough to do without. Nikon released details of a battery grip at the launch of the Z6 and Z7, but it’s yet to be revealed, and problematically it’s unlikely to feature a shutter button or any other inputs as there’s no option for a physical connection built into the existing bodies. The Z Series body with a grip would be larger, sure, but that would also add room for another card slot, and the included battery would increase the Z Series’ current lifespan.

Get a grip. You'll never look back.

Get a grip. You’ll never look back.

Bring back the pro buttons

If Nikon wants to make a camera that sits at the top of its Z Series line, it needs to function like other top end bodies, and that means losing the traditional Mode dial from the top of the Z6 and Z7, and replacing it with a dedicated Mode, WB, Qual and Metering buttons.

Dedicated buttons for Mode, WB and so on, plus a drive mode selector would be better than dipping into menus.

Dedicated buttons for Mode, WB and so on, plus a drive mode selector would be better than dipping into menus.

Light up buttons

Something the Nikon D850 and D500 did really well-allowed illumination of buttons around the body, with an extra nudge of the on/off dial. You might think this is a questionable refinement, but use it for the night and low-light shooting just the one time, and you’re left wondering why the feature isn’t used on all cameras. Pentax’s K-1 did this really well, too.

Illuminated buttons help with low-light shooting and it's the sort of feature all high-end cameras should have.

Illuminated buttons help with low-light shooting and it’s the sort of feature all high-end cameras should have.

More function buttons

To begin with, I wasn’t convinced by the paddle-like function buttons near the lens mount of the Z6 and Z7, and I was even less keen to see the AF, AF Area, and AF Mode selectors from the D8xx series had been lost entirely from the other side. But I grew to love the functions buttons and now I want more of them. A third alongside the original two would be great, as well as a fourth – or a return of the AF controls – on the opposite side somewhere.

More function buttons or a dedicated AF controller would be a big hit on the next Z Series.

More function buttons or a dedicated AF controller would be a big hit on the next Z Series.

Built in NDs

It’s not going to happen, but I live in hope. As anyone who’s used proper video cameras, or compacts spec’d for a video like Panasonic’s FZ2500 will know, built-in NDs are a lifesaver in bright light and take no more than a simple flick of a lever or press of a button to engage. Even a little 2 Stop ND would be a big benefit when using fast lenses on sunny days. There ought to be a way to include one in a mirrorless camera body, but considering the reduced flange distance of the Z Series mount it would take some grade A engineering, or possibly actual magic to do it. Fingers crossed though.

Built-in ND filters are amazing to find on any camera, let alone a CSC, though for engineering reasons they're unlikely to feature.

Built-in ND filters are amazing to find on any camera, let alone a CSC, though for engineering reasons they’re unlikely to feature.

Animal Eye AF

Nikon has added Eye AF to the Z6 and Z7 via a recent firmware update, and that’s great, especially when shooting moving people and when using a very shallow depth-of-field, but does it solve those same problems when shooting animals? The jury’s out on that. Adding a proper Animal Eye AF, as found on Sony’s Alpha bodies, would be awesome for me.

The current Z cameras have Eye AF, designed for humans, but what about more intelligent species?

The current Z cameras have Eye AF, designed for humans, but what about more intelligent species?

 

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