Nikon Z7 II

Nikon Z7 II review


Late last year, Nikon announced the Z7 II, the second iteration of its (for now) range topping high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera. As the name implies, this is a refinement rather than a reimagining; and while the updates may not knock your socks off, we really enjoyed the original Z7 and this new model builds on an already successful formula.

The Z7 II still has a 45.7MP full-frame BSI sensor, but it's now backed up by dual processors compared to the single processor in its predecessor. The exterior of the camera is largely unchanged, which is fine by us: Nikon's Z-series cameras offer some of our favorite ergonomics on the mirrorless camera market. Blessedly, though (especially for those of us that moderate online comment sections), Nikon has included dual card slots in the Z7 II for users that need immediate backup or want to easily separate their still images and video clips. See? Something good came out of 2020 after all.

Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 200 | 1/160 sec | F2.8 | Adapted Nikon AF-S 70-200mm F2.8E
Photo by Barney Britton

Key specifications:

  • 45.7MP BSI-CMOS sensor with native ISO 64
  • 4K/60p video with 93% coverage of the sensor (a ~1.08x crop)
  • 5-axis in-body stabilization (3-axis with adapted F-mount lenses)
  • 10 fps burst shooting with single-point AF
  • 3.69M-dot EVF, 3.2" 2.1M-dot rear screen
  • -3EV focusing with F2.0 lens
  • 1 CFExpress / XQD card slot, 1 UHS-II SD card slot
  • New EN-EL15c battery, CIPA rated to 420 shots (LCD), 360 shots (EVF)
  • Compatible with new MB-N11 battery grip with vertical controls

The Z7 II, being the high-resolution model in Nikon's mirrorless lineup, is all about outright image quality. It remains one of the only cameras on the market that provides a low native ISO of 64: this helps maximize dynamic range for high-contrast scenes like sunset or sunrise landscapes.


What we like...

What we don't...

  • Excellent image quality and dynamic range
  • ISO 64 can give IQ advantage over peers
  • Good video quality and features for such a high resolution camera
  • Excellent ergonomics with well-placed controls
  • Effective in-body image stabilization
  • Decent battery life and some backward compatibility
  • USB charging and separate charger included
  • Dual card slots provide flexibility
  • Auto shutter mode avoids the need to manually switch in different situations
  • SD, XQD and CFexpress compatibility
  • Viewfinder is detailed
  • AF features not as well integrated as in its rivals
  • AF tracking not as dependable as best systems
  • Eye AF still appears to fractionally front-focus
  • Battery life behind best of its peers
  • Tilting screen not as flexible as two-way tilt or fully articulated
  • Non-matched card slots demands purchase of multiple formats
  • Viewfinder isn't as high resolution as the best of its peers
  • Requires external recorder for best video quality (10-bit Log or Raw)

The Nikon Z7 II may appear to be a relatively subtle refresh of the original Z7 but the improvements that have been made, such as the second card slot, the option to add vertical control grip, and boosted AF performance will all increase its appeal to the kind of photographers it's aimed at.

We were impressed by how polished Nikon's first generation of full-frame mirrorless cameras were, so it's no surprise that the Z7 II works well. It's responsive in its operation and, though we'd love to see the reintroduction of Nikon's combined AF switch/AF mode button, offers an experience that Nikon DSLR users will immediate feel at home with. There's a good degree of customization without it being necessary to completely reprogram its operation.

The main shortcomings (and they're only really shortcomings in comparison to some very capable opposition) relate to autofocus. The tendency for Eye AF to slightly front-focus and the subject tracking's habit of focusing somewhere on the subject you selected, rather than tracking that precise point are the only real grumbles in terms of performance.

Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 | ISO 64 | 1/640 sec | F6.3
Processed in Adobe Camera Raw. Straightened, whites raised, highlights reduced. One dust-spot cloned-out with heal tool.
Photo: Richard Butler

More of an issue is the way AF area modes, face detection and subject tracking interact. Both Canon and Sony have tracking modes that will use face/eye/person focus as needed, whereas on the Z7 II, you'll need to cycle between modes and engage and disengage functions to get the most out of the camera. Most photographers will find a way to make it work for the subjects they shoot, but it's not as slick as it could be and it can eat into precious custom button availability.

The rest of the cameras' ergonomics remain amongst our favorite of the current full-frame mirrorless options.

Out-of-camera JPEG
Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 | ISO 90 | 1/160 sec | F2.8
Photo: Richard Butler

The best news is that it maintains the image quality the original camera. We've seen advances in other aspects of camera performance since the original Z7 was launched but, particularly in circumstances where you can use its ISO 64 mode, there haven't been many that beat it in terms of IQ.

The Nikon Z7 II is not a cutting edge camera and it doesn't have many exciting new features to dazzle with, but it's hugely competent, very usable and noticeably less expensive than its peers. It's hard to imagine anyone being disappointed with the Z7 II, which earns a solid Silver award. It only misses out on a Gold by the tiniest margin because it doesn't particularly exceed the levels set by the best of its peers, and is behind in terms of autofocus.




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