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|Thanks to a process of continued improvement, the Z6 and Z7 are going to be hard acts to follow.|
Nikon has already started teasing its forthcoming Z6 and Z7 Mark II cameras, so the question is: just what are they going to bring? We’ve collectively put together a list of what we’d like to see on these updated models. It’s not necessarily what we think Nikon will provide, more a list of what we think would be nice.
Fixing the things complained about
On the hardware side, there are a couple of obvious changes that would immediately justify the incremental implications of that ‘Mark II’ billing: correcting the much-criticized omissions in the original models.
The most obvious would be the provision of twin card slots. It’s a feature many professional photographers lean on, which meant the Z7 looked less attractive to that crowd than it could have been. The Z6 was beaten with the same stick, though perhaps with less justification (though Nikon has tended to include them on even its most lowly full-frame models).
Providing twin card slots would be an easy ‘win’ for Nikon
Wherever you stand on the issue, providing twin card slots would be an easy PR win for Nikon. Adopting the smaller CFexpress ‘A’ cards would, perhaps, make it easier to do without increasing the size of the camera body but then risks incurring the wrath of existing users who’ve bought into XQD and CFexpress type B formats.
Another feature missed-off the original cameras was a connection port to allow a battery grip with duplicate controls for portrait orientation shooting. This would be another comparatively simple way to expand the capabilities of the new cameras.
And, on the subject of battery endurance, a larger battery pack wouldn’t go amiss, if the bodies are being re-worked. I’m sure there will be plenty of comments saying that they’ve had no problems with the existing cameras, but whether it’s to give professional Z7 II-shooters or Z6 II video users one less thing to worry about, additional battery life is rarely a bad thing.
|Yes, XQD (as are the CFexpress type-B cards that Nikon also now supports) are fast, but there’ll be a lot of frustration if the Mark II models only have single slots. Especially in the light of the Z5 sporting twin SDs.|
Moving the hardware forward
Beyond this, it’ll be interesting to see whether Nikon has managed to source new sensors for the new cameras. We’ve not yet seen anything that obviously surpasses the 24MP sensor in the Z6 (also used by other manufacturers, including models as recent as the Sony a7C and Lumix S5), so it wouldn’t leave the Z6 II lacking by pressing on with the same chip. That said, a newer sensor with faster readout could help with both autofocus and video performance, so it would be an attractive upgrade if there’s one available.
The 24MP sensor in the Z6 is still competitive but a newer sensor with faster readout could help both autofocus and video
With regards the Z7 II, a jump from 46MP to somewhere closer to the Sony a7 IV’s 60MP wouldn’t hurt its chances: both in terms of looking competitive against the Sony to newcomers and in terms of giving Z7 users a reason to upgrade.
It seems highly likely that the Z7 II, or even both new models, will gain higher resolution viewfinders. The 3.68M dot EVFs used in the original models were good for their day but there are 5.76M and 9.44M dot panels available now, so we’d expect to see a move to one of those higher-res displays.
Which brings us to the rear LCDs. We’ve really enjoyed the two-way tilting LCD cradles used on the likes of Fujifilm’s X-T3 and Panasonic’s S1 and S1R. We think it’s unlikely, but there’s an argument to be made that a similar design would be a good fit for the Z7 II, and perhaps even a fully-articulated panel for the Z6 II, assuming Nikon continues its impressive work towards providing a camera that’s as adept at video as it is at stills.
Yes, we are aware that there’s a cohort of stills photographers who’d be aghast at such a suggestion, and we suspect Nikon won’t want to upset them too much.
We have to assume there will be some new video features in the cameras, because it’d be senseless to sit back and relax after all the progress made with the Z6. The addition of 10-bit internal capture would certainly expand the appeal of the camera, making Log footage more flexible and allowing the capture of HDRTV-compatible high dynamic range footage.
Alongside this, it would be lovely to see waveform displays added, to make it easier to assess exposure. This would be a big step for Nikon but it does appear the company has been listening to the needs of videographers, so we think it’s possible.
The addition of 10-bit internal capture would certainly expand the appeal of the camera for videographers
Similarly, it would be useful for the Z6 II to display the shutter speed in terms of shutter angle: this would become particularly useful if the camera can shoot 60p footage, as it allows you to maintain a 180 degree shutter angle (meaning a shutter speed that’s twice the frame rate) as you jump between capturing footage at different frame rates.
Beyond this, it’s difficult to anticipate what Nikon could sensibly add to a camera that isn’t trying to be dedicated to video. 6K Raw output would avoid the sub-sampling aliasing we saw in the Z6’s Raw video stream but would entail much larger video files. At the very least, it would be nice to see Nikon communicate more metadata so that Atomos recorders can create ProRes Raw files that allow a broader range of adjustments within Final Cut Pro than is currently possible.
Finally, there are a few aspects of the software and user interface we’d like to see improved.
A generational update of the camera would usually also come with a generation’s improvement in the AF tracking performance. Nikon has continuously improved the AF performance and interface on the Z6 and Z7, so we’d only expect a relatively small improvement, but there is room for improvement on both counts.
Nikon’s tracking in its mirrorless cameras has steadily improved but it still isn’t quite as ‘sticky’ as the latest Sony and Canon cameras, we’ve tended to find. It’s not far off, but it would be nice to see a further improvement, particularly in video mode.
Nikon has been improving the Z6 and Z7’s autofocus interface but better integration of its features would be good to see
As well as the performance, Nikon has also been fine-tuning its user interface: letting you pre-select where you want subject tracking to start, and letting you start and stop tracking by pressing or releasing the shutter button, for instance. But Tracking and Face/Eye detection remain separate modes, built on top of the ‘Auto’ area mode. We’d love to see a distinct mode, let’s call it something like ‘3D Subject Tracking,’ that tracks the subject under the focus point and utilizes Face or Eye detection if that subject happens to possess either of those things. This better integrated system is really simple to use on the latest Canons and Sonys, and it would be good to see it replicated here, just for speed and convenience.
Finally, we’d love to see a return of the ability to format the card or reset the camera by pressing pairs of buttons: it was a feature unique to Nikon DSLRs and became second-nature to many Nikon photographers.
No easy task
Overall, though, preparing this article reminded us just how good both the Z6 and Z7 have become. We thought they were pretty polished first efforts when they arrived, and Nikon has continued to improve them ever since. It’ll be interesting to see what the company will do to top them.
Let us know in the comments what changes, improvements or additions you’d most like to see in the forthcoming models.