Starting with a clean slate has
enabled Nikon to come up with its most capable ILC yet when it comes to shooting videos. Apart from the obvious advantage of the mirrorless configuration for this application, the Z 7 is very well featured for videography, including zebra patterns, an N-Log gamma profile (to optimise dynamic range), a focus-peaking display and embedded time coding.
While the lower-res Z 6 records with a full pixel read-out (i.e. no pixel binning) from across the full sensor width at 6K resolution before down sampling to 4K for enhanced image quality (similar to Sony’s A7 III), the Z 7 also uses a full pixel read-out, but only in the APS-C ‘DX’ format so the 1.5x focal length magnification factor comes into play. However, the image quality is still excellent as it records at 5K resolution before down sampling to 4K so sharpness and definition, in particular, both benefit. Time-lapse sequences can be captured in the 8K res.
The 4K clips are recorded in the Ultra HD resolution of 3840x2160 pixels at 25 fps (PAL standard) or 24 fps with MPEG-4 AVC/H .264 compression in either the MOV or MP4 formats. The Full HD (1920x1080 pixels) frame rates run up to 100 fps (or 120 fps in NTSC) to create slow-motion effects (up to 24 fps x5). The Z 7 has built-in stereo microphones with manually adjustable levels and an attenuator, and these are supplemented by both a stereo audio input and output (both 3.5 minijacks). The sensitivity range for shooting video is 64 to 25,600, expandable to ISO 102,400. The maximum recording duration is the 29 minutes and 59 seconds imposed by the EU tax legislation on video cameras (but by-passed if you use an external recorder).
The native N-Log tone curve is only available via the HDMI output which delivers 10-bit 4:2:2 colour. The handy ‘View assist’ function displays gradation compensation while recording with N-Log for confirmation of the final look of the footage.
Simultaneous recording to the memory card isn’t possible with the 10-bit streaming, but simultaneous recording is possible with 8-bit 4K UHD recording (2K to the memory card). The Z 7 supports the Atomos Open Standard protocol for HDMI triggering and timecode while, in turn, the new Atomos Ninja V recorder/monitor will support the 10-bit 4K N-log output from both Z series cameras.
The video functionality is extensive and includes continuous AF with subject tracking and the options to adjust both the speed and tracking sensitivity. All the ‘PASM’ exposure modes are available along with the ‘Picture Control’ presets, the ‘Creative Picture Control’ presets, ‘Movie Active D-Lighting’ processing and exposure compensation. The latter can be applied very smoothly via the multi-function control ring that’s a feature of all Nikkor Z lenses… and it can also be used to adjust the focus, again very linearly and smoothly.
Because our loan period with the test Z 7 was very short, we didn’t have enough time to fully explore its video capabilities or shoot more than a couple of clips (and there was no chance to sample the 10-bit HDMI output), but the potential is undoubtedly there and we suspect it may well attract as many videographers as photographers.