First Impressions: Nikon Z7 and NIKKOR AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR Lens

© 2018 Nikon Inc.

Last month while attending the Nature Visions Photo Expo I had the opportunity to get my hands on the new Nikon Z7, full-frame mirrorless camera and the new AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens. This is not a rigorous review, merely my impressions of Nikon’s latest pieces of kit.

 © 2018 Nikon Inc.

© 2018 Nikon Inc.

Coming from a D750, the Z7 is noticeably smaller and lighter. Both beneficial for landscape photography. However, it did not immediately feel at home in my hand, as some other reviewers have said. The AF On button and Multi-Selector are positioned differently and my thumb had to search to find them. The multi-selector in particular was hard to reach while shooting. The Sub-selector (joystick) can be used to move the AF point, but my hands are used to the multi-selector. With some practice, I’m sure it would become more natural. The electronic viewfinder was as brilliant as promised. So bright and clear you don’t even notice that it’s a display, aside from the wealth of information that is available without taking your eye away from the viewfinder.

 © 2018 Nikon Inc.

© 2018 Nikon Inc.

The overall build quality is excellent and very much Nikon. The AF system was fast and accurate in my tests on the expo floor. The AF system has some trouble with small subjects on low contrast backgrounds, but I was clearly pushing to find its limits, with the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF mounted with the F-mount adapter and shooting indoors.

The 500mm PF lens is pretty remarkable. It is light for a super-telephoto (only 3.2 lbs according to Nikon) and compact as well at just over 9 inches (without F-mount adapter for Z bodies). I could easily hand-hold this lens in the field for hours. The AF was fast and accurate, despite sub-par indoor lighting. I did find the limit of the Z7 + 500 PF combo, as noted above on small targets with low contrast backgrounds, but in real world use, it would likely perform well. The use of the Fresnel lens has enabled a lens with a long reach without the penalty of excessive weight. You do have to watch you light levels and there for ISO because at wide open, it just f/5.6. The extra stop of an f/4 lens would definitely be appreciated, but the light weight of this lens might get you places you would want to carry the 6.8 lbs f/4 500mm.

Relative to its bigger f/4 brother, the 500mm PF is also lighter on your wallet, around a third of the price.

CONCLUSION

I am not ready to make the leap to the Z7, but I would might Santa leaving a AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR under my tree. I also had a chance to get a quick hinds-on look at the D850 while at the show, and it is all they say it is, and yes, I want one.