About the Photographer
Nikon professional DSLRs have defined excellence in sports & wildlife photography for decades, not to mention photojournalism, where Nikon cameras invariably sweep the World Press Awards. The reason is simple: handling & ISO performance. Nikon DSLRs always offer class-leading ISO performance at the low-end, (D850), class-leading high-ISO + low-noise performance (D5), as well as most complete professional APS-C offering (D500). By developing class-leading auto-focus, comfortable and intuitive ergonomics, supported by rugged durability, Nikon empowers the action photographer with the tools for capturing the moment like no other. While the mirrorless era is upon us, as of this writing there still is no mirrorless system that offers all of what “The Holy Trinity” of Nikon’s DSLRs bring to the table:
The Professional’s Choice when it comes to action. The Nikon D5 is actually a niche camera; it is not for everyone. Basically, the moment low light comes into play (especially when there’s movement), this is when the D5 truly shines. This means the moment you are shooting over ISO 2500 (which happens when you’re shooting “long glass” in early morning, at dusk, night, as well as in jungle conditions), no other camera compares. Even with the recent updates (Canon 1Dx Mk III, Nikon D6, Sony A7R2), the Nikon D5 outperforms them all past ISO 2500. With superb AF acquisition, the finest high-ISO dynamic range & low-noise performance, in the industry, the Nikon D5 is still the benchmark, allowing the photographer to make the most out of any/all photographic opportunities under challenging lighting conditions.
See @ Nikon: Nikon D5
The Nikon D850 was the first DSLR of any kind to receive a perfect 100 DxO Mark, offering the finest base ISO performance of any camera available, surpassing even medium format at its lowest ISO setting. To quote DP Reveiw, “… we feel that the D850 will satisfy the needs of an incredible variety of photographers, and we’re comfortable saying the D850 is the best DSLR on the market today.” Although the D850 is fully-capable of capturing wildlife images, where it remains peerless is for landscape, portraiture, and artistic macro imagery at base ISO. With stunning dynamic range and incredible color fidelity, the D850 remains “The Standard for Image Quality” within the industry.
See @ Nikon: Nikon D850
While APS-C cameras are usually looked down upon as wildlife cameras, the D500 is actually pretty hard to beat. Winning multiple awards its first year in production, the D500’s combination of reach (1.5x crop factor), top image quality within its class, great dynamic range, along with pro-level ergonomics & customization—and a better AF system than any other camera but the D5—all add up to make the D500 a solid choice for wildlife. Quite simply, the D500 is the best DX (APS-C) camera ever made. Even when using the best FF cameras, if you crop-in to DX, the D500 is actually the better performer at that point … up to ISO 2500, where the D5 is King, crop or no crop. Therefore, any time I need reach, the D500 is my preferred wildlife action camera, so long as there is decent light.
See @ Nikon: Nikon D500
Having watched the mirrorless revolution grow, we have all seen other brands struggle to pioneer their tech development (poor build quality, over-heating batteries, limited EVFs, and sub-optimal lens mounts). During this developing stage, Nikon sat back and watched. With the mirrorless market now maturing, and with proven tech having been established, Nikon has made its entry into the fray with its own mirrorless camera offerings: The Z-Series. Nikon’s new Z-Mount, when looked at critically, offers key advantages in multiple important aspects, over the alternatives.
To begin with, the fit and feel of the new Nikon Z cameras themselves are on another level. Not just ergonomically, but also in their structural integrity. This is a critical difference. While other companies offer non-ergonomic, cheap-feeling “toys,” Nikon offers professional tools. Remember, you can never ‘upgrade’ important structural deficiencies “with downloads”; your camera either has a solid fit & finish … and it either has rugged durability … or it does not. The Z cameras have both. They are rugged & built-to-last and they are ergonomically-excellent in the hand.
As important as the superior structure and feel of the Nikon Z-series is, their EVF (what you see) is also several cuts above the competition, as is the resolution of their LCD screens. The combined total of these physical advantages creates a camera that you not only will enjoy for a long time, but that will last (and remain relevant) for a long time also. This is vital both for long-term enjoyment as well as for holding re-sale value, should you decide to upgrade to a new Z model.
Finally, the Z-Mount itself possesses critical specifications which position Nikon for future leadership in the segment. The Z-Mount’s 16mm flange distance, mated with its 55mm throat width, means Nikon’s Z-Mount lenses will always have engineering advantages over what is available from other systems. Nikon’s mount dimensions also mean Nikon Z-mount cameras can be adapted to implement any other lens from any other manufacturer … while no other system will be able to take advantage of any of Nikon’s stellar Z-mount ‘S’ lenses. This makes Nikon’s Z-Mount the most flexible and capable in the industry.
Z-Mount cameras are not only the most physically-fit in the mirrorless segment, structure-wise, but Nikon’s forthcoming professional ‘S’ lenses will offer levels of edge-to-edge clarity, rendering, and subtle color-correction, not possible in any other mount. And I am totally onboard with this.
The Z7 is essentially a mirrorless counterpart to the D850. Having owned the Z7 for nearly 2 years, and after the recent firmware updates, I find that it is superior to the D850 in most ways. A few negatives remain:
1) There is a lag in response time, when you first turn the camera on, and 2) its limited AF modes and tendency (sometimes) to lose focus for fast-moving nature, leaves me with the impression that the AF of Nikon’s DSLRs remains more polished for action.
That said, in most ways, the AF of the Z7 beats all of Nikon’s top DSLRs. For one thing, the recent downloads have upgraded the Z7 by adding Eye AF, which no DSLR can do, making the Z7 superior for all human portraiture (pets also). Further, and more important for my usage, for long-range wildlife photography, the Z7 also retains auto-focus ability on my 800mm f/5.6 lens, while using the 2x Extender. No DSLR can retain AF w/ a 2x Ext., on my 800mm, while the Z-Mount cameras can. This means, for long-distance bird portraiture, I can deploy a 1600mm f/11 optic and retain AF. This is a huge advantage.
Moreover, in all other “normal” circumstances, the Z7’s “In-Body Image Stabilization” (IBIS) significantly amplifies the effectiveness of any MF lens, as well as any quality AF lens without VR. Since I really enjoy MF glass, the combination of the Z7’s class-leading EVF (indispensable for macro), its IBIS, as well as the additional bonus of its ability to focus-peak when hand-holding, I now opt to use my Z7 almost exclusively for most non-action nature work (when not using a tripod).
I still consider the D850 to be a superior landscape camera on a tripod … and the D5 and D500 to be superior low-light action camera for wildlife. In almost any other category, the Z7 is my choice. In particular, as a macro option, and especially as a “walkaround” or travel camera, the Z7 is already my favorite option to deploy.
See @ Nikon: Nikon Z7