What happened to the art of photography? People have become so hung up on specifications. I call this phenomenon the “Sonyfication” of the minds…
Nikon just announced their first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z6 and Z7, and it has not been long until the pundits of the web have thrown these 1st-gen cameras under the bus. The reason? Lengthy tables of spec sheets opposing the various camera manufacturers. Suddenly, the lack of a dual memory card slot is the biggest dealbreaker of all time, which is quite funny when some of these previews are shot on a camera that has only one slot (Canon 6D mk2)… Anyway, it is true that, for what we have seen so far from the previews that have surfaced on the web, the performances of the Nikon Z6 and Z7 in terms of EVF blackout and auto-focus remind more of the past generation of mirrorless cameras than the current state-of-the-art.
But everyone is missing out the most important. When you buy into a system, it is a long term decision. What matters, is that the camera you buy makes you want to go out and shoot, and even though the manufacturer might have a little bit of catch-up to do with the competition, you trust they will keep on improving their bodies after each iteration. When I bought the Fujifilm X-E1, it was one of the slowest AF camera available, and the video output was unusable. I reported all that and yet I got into the Fujifilm ecosystem, because I could see Fujifilm’s vision and I adhered to it. I bought a camera that renewed my joy to go out and shoot, not the most advanced camera on the market technically speaking.
Unfortunately, Nikon is also missing this bar. Clearly, the design of their bodies is more aimed at enthusiasts than hardcore pros or even the so-called prosumers. The top-left dial on the left was inspired by the one of the D750 with a PASM dial and an auto-mode, rather than the one of the D850. While it makes sense that the Z6’s ergonomics are close to the D750’s, it is more surprising that the Z7’s ergonomics are not closer to the D850’s. Nikon has preferred to save money on the production cost, by using the same body for the Z6 and Z7. However what does not make any sense at all is that they have left this top-left dial without a sub-dial, while both the D750 and the D850 have one. The D610 has one. You have to go down to lower-end models such as the D3400 not to find a sub-dial. This unfathomable decision is undoubtedly going to cripple the shooting experience. Some programmable buttons will have to be used for functions that wan usually be found in this sub-dial, while they could have been used for something else. This means that the Z-shooters will need to dig into their menus to change more settings than what should have been the case. And a camera that forces you to go into its menu system more often than not, is not a camera that makes you want to take it and go shoot with it… and that’s the biggest flaw of the Z6 and Z7. Hopefully is Nikon is planning higher-end models of their Z-series, not necessarily in terms of specs to shine in comparison tables, but in terms of ergonomics to shine in the hands of those who are actually using these cameras.