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Z7 first impressions

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Old Wednesday 10th October 2018, 04:18   #1
marcsantacurz
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Z7 first impressions

The Z7 arrived today with F mount adapter, so I took a few photos and have a few observations. This is not a thorough or scientific review, I am just sharing some experiences with it.

Ergonomically, the camera is petite and light. I find it is missing some controls that I like on the d850, like AF selection and metering selection. I assigned AF selection to the 2nd front Fn button, but it is hard to hold the camera and that button and turn the dials. I made the 1st Fn button meter select. I sometimes hit the power switch when trying to operate the front dial, as it is very close and just above it.

In usage, the camera turn-on time is pretty slow compared to a DSLR. I'm used to turning the camera off when walking around and being able to turn it on in the time it takes me to get my eye on it. I normally disable the rear screen and only use the viewfinder. I wish the viewfinder rotated 180* so I could store it facing into the camera. I do appreciate the U1+U2 settings, but now need to get back into the habit of using those after training myself out of them with the d850.

The first thing I tried were some "studio" (i.e. living room) shots with two strobes (flashpoint manual, non-TTL). I do these usually on M with 1/125, f/9, ISO 64. The viewfinder with the 24-70 Z and the 105 f/2.8 VF (via adapter) was basically black and could not focus. After much searching, I found setting "d11 apply settings to live view" and turned it off. Then things work well.

Then I tried my Tamron 150-600 g2. No go. The camera reports an error with AF-ON (half depress of shutter release). Tamron put out a vague press release last week with no info on when they might fix things.

I tried the 70-200 f/2.8e. I was not impressed with the AF speed and it hunted a bit when I tried going short-far-short-far. I did the same test with my d850 and it was pretty much instant. So, another negative.

I tried the manual focus peaking and viewfinder zoom with my 800mm f/5.6 AI-s (manual focus). It was very nice getting the focus peaking and zoom through the viewfinder. On the d850, I have to use the live view screen for those same effects. I think the IBIS was also helping, as I was able to shoot it around 1/320th on a travel tripod w/ remote release. The Z7 uses the same remote release cable as the d500 and other mid-level Nikons. These were indoor tests, but they looked promising. I'll take out the monster with the Z7 in the next day or two.

For my outdoor tests with some birds, I had to use the 300mm f/4 AF-P with tc-20eII (equivalent 600mm f/8) and monopod on the lens foot. I shot it at f/10 - f/11 in overcast late day lighting, mostly with a godox v860ii flash with better beamer flash lens. I have to say that for perching birds, this was amazingly good considering that it was hitting focus in pretty poor lighting with f/8 minimum aperture. All the shots attached were from this configuration, and I'll talk about them a bit below.

For BIF, the 300mm w/ tc20 did not cut it. I tried capturing some with AF-C dynamic AF, but the camera mostly just hunted around. I was mostly trying white-tailed kites against an overcast sky, so it was pretty low contrast. I didn't expect much, and got what I expected. I hope that with a long f/4 - f/6.3 lens without a TC, things will be better. This is my main unknown about if I'll keep the camera or not.

The attached photos were all from camera JPG (large, fine) with a little Lightroom processing. They were exported with 1136 px at 144 px/in on the long edge (via Lightroom export options) to fit as post attachments, so the numbers below are not exactly what you see.

The first is a red-tailed hawk on a building. This was cropped to 2222x2222 (4.9 MP) from 8256x5504 (45.4MP), or about a 3x linear crop (1800 mm equivalent).

The second is a sharpie taken right around sunset with pretty bad lighting. The Z7 with that 600mm f/8 TC'd lens was still able to nail the focus most of the time with not too much hunting. There's a crop of it below. This is a full 45.4 MP shot.

The third is not the exact same shot as #2, but similar position and cropped down to 2554x2554 (6.5 MP) or a 2.6x linear crop.

In summary, I think the Z7 did a very good job with the 300mm f/4 + TC20eii, which is not normally a great sharp combo. It autofocused pretty well even in poor light with it. The results with a manual focus Nikon 800mm f/5.6 look promising, but I need to take it out to the field. The main negative is non-working Tamron 150-600g2 and hunting with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8e when the d850 has instant focus under same conditions. I need to test with BIF, so no info yet on AF-C performance or subject tracking.

Marc
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Old Friday 12th October 2018, 19:21   #2
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I contacted Tamron about the 150-600G2 with Z7. They asked that I send in the lens for a 3-day warranty repair (plus shipping time).

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Old Saturday 13th October 2018, 00:34   #3
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Thanks for the review. I also am a new Z7 owner, and overall I am pleased with it, though indeed, it is not as capable as the D850 overall. For changing the focus mode, metering mode, and other functions, I have found the "i" button very useful. That button brings up a panel with a variety of camera settings.

I find that the responsiveness of the viewfinder image to changes in exposure controls a VERY useful feature that allows me to do a lot less "chimping" in difficult lighting situations. On the negative side, the AF tracking function is not as useful for birds in flight as is the 3D AF featured with the D850.

I confess that the compact form and quiet shutter appeal to me. I have found using the Z7 kind of addicting.

I also own a Tamron 150-600 g2, and I am surprised (not in a good way) that achieving compatibility requires shipping the lens to Tamron. I hoped there would be a firmware update that could be installed using their tap-in console.
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Old Sunday 14th October 2018, 08:35   #4
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Matt Granger did some (quick) tests with different lenses on the Z7 including Tamrons and rating the focus speed etc. The comment: "strange noise...might do damage to the lens...not recommended to use" seems not good for the Tamron 90mm...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMIAV-exl_o

The big differences between lenses is a bit surprising. Might be that the newer E-lenses (electronically controlled aperture) is working better (200/2 seems to be an exception) or maximum f-stop? Z7 is always measuring with the aperture stopped down (to f5.6) from what I understand. Haven't yet seen any good explanation for this. Nikon DSLR:s is measuring at full stop, obviously better in low light.

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Old Sunday 14th October 2018, 11:28   #5
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Z7's are in short supply her in the UK (especially the full kit).
I'm not convinced that wildlife shooting is one of its strengths. For travel it looks ideal. Also, using those old Ai-s lenses will be fun.
I've had 2 Tamron lenses and returned both. Could not get accurate focus on my D500. I understand there is copy variation with this brand.
Bearing in mind the cost of the Z7, when I purchase mine I will stick to Nikon lenses.
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Old Monday 15th October 2018, 03:21   #6
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I have spent more time with the Z7 and also compared to the EOS-R (I'll post the comparison in a different thread). I shot the 300mm f/4E with 1.4 TC (450mm, f/5.6). It was the best I could do with my tammy not an option. I'll be doing a more thorough review with sample photos on my website later.

Here's the short summary: if you want to do BIF, stick with your d500/d7500/d850. The Z7 has a hard time locking on in any of the AF modes, even when its a dark bird against a blue sky. More details below.

The details....

I shot the 300mm f/4 with TC1.4eiii using M 1/1250, f/5.6, auto-ISO (usually 250 - 400) in AF-C, CH, Dynamic AF area. I tried using the AF tracking feature as much as I could for BIF or birds about to take off from a perch. I used spot metering. I switched between FX and DX crop mode.

Ergonomics

The power switch is easy to find and activate when picking up the camera to shoot, and I do not hit it by accident very often any more when trying to use the front dial. The EVF is fantastic and really enjoyable to use. The diopter adjustment works very well and with the push/pull arrangement to lock it, it turns easily. Shooting in DX mode is much nicer than doing it on FX DSLR because the EVF fills with the cropped view.

I wish it had a fully articulated LCD like the EOS-R so it could be turned in facing the camera. I rarely use the LCD.

The playback button and menu button should be switched. It is impossible to do playback with one hand, you need your left to press the button. I suspect that for non-super-zoom lenses this is not so much an issue, but when the left hand is the support hand, you're kind of out of luck.

I like having the dedicated exposure compensation button, very easy to adjust it while in M mode with auto-iso to account for bright backgrounds.

I modified the "i" (info) button to have: metering mode, AF point select, AF mode, Flash mode, Flash EC, Crop factor, plus a few other things I don't really use.

Stationary subjects

Works pretty well here. I used Dynamic AF with single-point and press the OK button. You can then use the arrow keys to move the white box to where you want to start. For a perched bird, I start with the white box centered L/R and in the lower 1/3 of the frame (it remembers this for later). Then half press the shutter and it starts tracking.

The tracking seems very good in this case and even if I jostle around some (like changing my stance waiting for the bird to do something) it stays on the target.

The main problem here is that if you want to re-compose or tracking gets lost, you need to press the OK button again. Releasing the shutter does not stop the tracking. I wish it did. For example , if a branch blows in front of the target and the tracking picks it up, you need to use your thumb to press the OK which usually causes the camera to wobble a bit (for me), then you need to re-acquire and start tracking again.

I don't know why releasing the shutter does not stop tracking and go back to the white tracking ready box.

With or without tracking, I sometimes had to manually focus the lens, then engage the AF for it to pick the right subject. I think the AF "sensor" box is not small enough and it will often pick some background or foreground clutter.

Moving subjects

The AF is not up to this. I saw a review by froknowsphoto on youtube where he shot a soccer game and it worked ok. For birds there can be a large distance difference from last focus distance and they are small compared to the background. The AF hunts a lot and often fails to lock in at all in the time the bird flies by.

If you have a dark bird against a blue sky, it still can miss quite often.

I was mostly shooting White-tailed Kites. I could get reasonable performance form straight Dynamic AF (without tracking) or with tracking, because the bird hovers. If I can get AF lock-on when it is hovering or slow moving, it can then track pretty well.

I briefly tried hummingbirds and gave up. The AF system doesn't pick them out easily. It was too much fighting the AF point selection. Not that it is easy with d850 / d500 either, but at least the 3d tracking point is pretty small and I can usually pick out my subject.

Performance

I think the camera worked pretty well in the continuous high (CH) mode. The display does get a little choppy, but its a decent speed.

The wake-up speed is too slow. I often use a monopod, so from the time I see something to the time I'm ready to shoot is very fast. The camera, not so much. I think it is about 2s to wake up (I did not measure it, and it felt like forever). I missed shots because of this.

As I mentioned, the EVF is fantastic. I can see a lot of detail. I have no problem looking through it for a long time waiting for a bird to do something interesting. The only issue is a bit choppy in CH shooting.

Marc
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Old Monday 15th October 2018, 10:02   #7
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Marc,
thanks for your evaluation. A lot of valuable info there.
I guess there might be firmware updates along the way,
if Nikon have the intention to improve the AF.

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Old Monday 15th October 2018, 10:52   #8
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Thanks for the review Marc.
I need to plan to keep my D500.
Now the challenge for me is how to afford both the Z7 and the 200 5.6PF.
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Old Tuesday 16th October 2018, 06:16   #9
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Just to make sure I was not wearing beer goggles when comparing the Z7 to the d850, I took the d850 out today with the same setup: 300mm f/4E + 1.4 TC and shot with the same 1/1250, f/5.6, auto-iso settings and AF-C 3D tracking. I shot CH, which is 7 fps (standard battery), compared to 3 - 5.5 fps (with focus tracking) on the Z7 (the advertised 9 fps is without focus tracking). Normally, I shoot Qc with electronic front curtain, but I went all out.

It's incomparable to the Z7. And to emphasize that point, I will compared it. The d850 blows it away. And I expect the d500 would be even better (I've since sold my d500 once I got the d850).

There's something about the view through the optical viewfinder that lets me find things much easier than the EVF, even when the lens is out of focus. And the d850 locks in very fast if the 3D tracking dot is near the bird. BIF against a clear sky, the d850 locks in really well most of the time. For birds perching against complex clutter backgrounds, if you aim well, the d850 nails it.

It was much more enjoyable shooting the d850 than the z7. Much higher keeper rate. I was getting sparrows in flight taking off from a perch, from maybe 30' - 40' away (~ 10m). I cannot imaging getting any consistency with that from the Z7.

I attached an example, which I had to downsample to fit as attachments. I do not think the Z7 could have done this series of shots (and if it did, I should have bought a lotto ticket instead).

Photo #1 shows the approximate starting point. This was taken in DX crop mode. After this photo, I changed the camera to FX mode then reset the tracking on the right bird. It took off and I pressed the release, and the first shot I got is #2.

#2 shows the full frame view of the first shot in the burst after I fully depressed the shutter release. In that time, the bird had already flown around the back of the bush.

#3 is a 2.9x crop of #2, in 5x7 aspect ratio. #2 is 8256x5504 and the crop in #3 is 2801 x 2001, a 2.88x diagonal crop factor. That's about 1281mm (300mm x 1.4 x 2.9).

#4 is another BIF shot with tracking, same crop.

#5 is the final shot in the sequence, same crop.

Just so I am not picking only on the Z7, based on my experience with the EOS-R, I don't think it could have done this sequence either. It is too slow in continuous low, which is the mode that prioritizes tracking.

The approximate DoF of 420mm at f/5.6 is +/- 4.4".

Marc
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Last edited by marcsantacurz : Tuesday 16th October 2018 at 06:19.
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Old Thursday 18th October 2018, 10:11   #10
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Originally Posted by marcsantacurz View Post
I attached an example, which I had to downsample to fit as attachments. I do not think the Z7 could have done this series of shots (and if it did, I should have bought a lotto ticket instead).
Your hands-on experience of Z7 and EOS R from a birder view are highly welcome. Apparently AF-C /tracking of the D850 remains "industry-leading". My own Nikon V2 is struggling with small birds in flight, so I have considered an upgrade, but it seems the Sony RX10 iv cannot handle "small BIF" much better. What's left are the D850 and the D500.

However, I don't find your example too convincing. The bird on the left is still in focus. For birds flying in a right angle to the camera, my V2 works good enough ("lock focus"). Various sources recommend to use "group area AF" with the D500 for small birds in flight rather than 3D tracking.

I understand small birds flying towards the camera are tough for any gear, including the D850, only the D850's rate of success is higher. Still, I wonder how good the success rate in such a situation (e.g. a sparrow) actually is.
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Old Thursday 18th October 2018, 12:19   #11
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Originally Posted by HermitIbis View Post
Your hands-on experience of Z7 and EOS R from a birder view are highly welcome. Apparently AF-C /tracking of the D850 remains "industry-leading". My own Nikon V2 is struggling with small birds in flight, so I have considered an upgrade, but it seems the Sony RX10 iv cannot handle "small BIF" much better. What's left are the D850 and the D500.

However, I don't find your example too convincing. The bird on the left is still in focus. For birds flying in a right angle to the camera, my V2 works good enough ("lock focus"). Various sources recommend to use "group area AF" with the D500 for small birds in flight rather than 3D tracking.

I understand small birds flying towards the camera are tough for any gear, including the D850, only the D850's rate of success is higher. Still, I wonder how good the success rate in such a situation (e.g. a sparrow) actually is.
I find that even my D7200 in 3-D tracking mode rarely keeps up with anything swifter than a lumbering Pelican or soaring large raptor. The gun (and widely acclaimed) implementations of Nikon's 3-D tracking system is in the D500 and D5. Even the D850 can't quite match those two. I don't think the Z7 has covered itself in glory if it can't even match the D850.

For smaller, faster, erratically moving subjects I find I'm mostly using the Centre Point (an expanded mode would be great) , and perhaps this is what the little Sony would be best set to as well - along with a coresponding drop in frame rate to something more manageable.



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Old Thursday 18th October 2018, 14:06   #12
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Originally Posted by Chosun Juan View Post
I find that even my D7200 in 3-D tracking mode rarely keeps up with anything swifter than a lumbering Pelican or soaring large raptor. The gun (and widely acclaimed) implementations of Nikon's 3-D tracking system is in the D500 and D5. Even the D850 can't quite match those two. I don't think the Z7 has covered itself in glory if it can't even match the D850.
My Nikon V2 took 21 consecutive shots of a crow sailing into my direction - all sharp. A juvenile Western marsh harrier was tough, only half of the 17 shots in 1 second were sharp. Limited success with doves/dippers. Almost zero hits with smaller or faster birds (sparrow-size) flying towards the V2.

The D500 must beat the V2 at "small BIF". But maybe not with a lens that I could afford! While a V2 lacks the multiple settings, its default works nicely, with a large focus point and not easily being distracted by a background.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chosun Juan View Post
For smaller, faster, erratically moving subjects I find I'm mostly using the Centre Point (an expanded mode would be great) , and perhaps this is what the little Sony would be best set to as well - along with a coresponding drop in frame rate to something more manageable. Chosun
"Expanded centre point" sounds like the group area AF of the D500 where five points combine to one focus area. It must be close to the experience of the V2. The other common recommendation for the D500 is to put "sensitivity" to -2, to avoid focus jumping on a background object. A similar "inertia" is typical for the V2 as well. - Dropping the frame rate is a fascinating idea. I've read this in a piece written by Thom Hogan:

Quote:
At 1/1000 and 5 fps the D3x has more mirror-down time than the D3 and D3s do at 8 fps
...suggesting you need to give the AF a little time!

This thought resonates with me, along the line of "Haste makes waste" [German: Eile mit Weile]. Thomas Stirr has suggested to try it out with various Nikon1 models, possibly 10fps works better for small birds than 15 or 20fps.

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Old Thursday 18th October 2018, 21:07   #13
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I'm not surprised that these first mirrorless full frame cameras cannot keep up with the DSLR in C-AF/tracking. If it were easy to execute, it would have been done already. Olympus tried hard and a couple years ago claimed the E-M1 II would approach DSLR performance with C-AF/tracking, and although they did make a significant improvement, it was still clearly inferior to the best DSLR's, and that was their 2nd attempt in a ~$2K camera body.

I'm much more interested in the possible performance improvements we might see in the first short native Z-mount lenses, for general photography or landscape photography. The first reports on the 35mm f/1.8 S do not sound that great. Lloyd Chambers seems to be obsessed with getting ever more resolution using the latest/greatest lenses and cameras. He is expressing disappointment with the new S lenses. He is not finished testing, but a few days ago he said the 24-70mm "performs poorly at the wide end" and the 35mm f/1.8 has "absurd amounts of focus shift." He had not yet tested the 50mm f/1.8 (he requires a subscription to access his full reviews).

Let me know if you see other test reports especially on the 35mm or 50mm native Z lenses. Thanks.

Dave

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Old Monday 22nd October 2018, 22:45   #14
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I'm not surprised that these first mirrorless full frame cameras cannot keep up with the DSLR in C-AF/tracking. If it were easy to execute, it would have been done already. Olympus tried hard and a couple years ago claimed the E-M1 II would approach DSLR performance with C-AF/tracking, and although they did make a significant improvement, it was still clearly inferior to the best DSLR's, and that was their 2nd attempt in a ~$2K camera body.

I'm much more interested in the possible performance improvements we might see in the first short native Z-mount lenses, for general photography or landscape photography. The first reports on the 35mm f/1.8 S do not sound that great. Lloyd Chambers seems to be obsessed with getting ever more resolution using the latest/greatest lenses and cameras. He is expressing disappointment with the new S lenses. He is not finished testing, but a few days ago he said the 24-70mm "performs poorly at the wide end" and the 35mm f/1.8 has "absurd amounts of focus shift." He had not yet tested the 50mm f/1.8 (he requires a subscription to access his full reviews).

Let me know if you see other test reports especially on the 35mm or 50mm native Z lenses. Thanks.

Dave
I've been following the diglloyd reviews and yes, he is not so impressed with the 24-70 Z mount. He is particularly interested in edge-to-edge sharpness for landscape work on tripod, sometimes with slow shutter speed.

Other reviews (like Brad Hill) have said they think the 24-70Z is sharper than the 24-70 E, so if you want a 24-70 with VR for hand-held shooting, I think the 24-70 Z is very good.

Lloyd has reviewed the 35mm Z mount: https://diglloyd.com/blog/2018/20181...sideAspen.html

Marc
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Old Monday 22nd October 2018, 22:52   #15
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However, I don't find your example too convincing. The bird on the left is still in focus. For birds flying in a right angle to the camera, my V2 works good enough ("lock focus"). Various sources recommend to use "group area AF" with the D500 for small birds in flight rather than 3D tracking.

I understand small birds flying towards the camera are tough for any gear, including the D850, only the D850's rate of success is higher. Still, I wonder how good the success rate in such a situation (e.g. a sparrow) actually is.
I agree that this series likely showed something different than what I said. After looking at it for a while, what I think it better showed is that the d850 stayed locked on to the stationary bird without getting confused by the front of the bush, even though I was moving the camera around a little hand held in the series.

The Z7 locks on to closer objects much easier than the d850. Maybe the group AF (or Area AF, I forget what they call it now) that the tracking is based on takes over too easily. In any case, I find with the Z7 it is either locking on to near-by foreground clutter or locking on to background clutter more than the d850's system.

I will try to put together some actual 3D series where the bird flies towards me. I have some from the EOS-R where it missed everything except the first shot spreading the wings. It also at a disadvantage because the shooting rate is so much less (~3 fps vs 7 fps).
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Old Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 03:08   #16
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I've been following the diglloyd reviews and yes, he is not so impressed with the 24-70 Z mount. He is particularly interested in edge-to-edge sharpness for landscape work on tripod, sometimes with slow shutter speed.

Other reviews (like Brad Hill) have said they think the 24-70Z is sharper than the 24-70 E, so if you want a 24-70 with VR for hand-held shooting, I think the 24-70 Z is very good.

Lloyd has reviewed the 35mm Z mount: https://diglloyd.com/blog/2018/20181...sideAspen.html

Marc
Thanks Marc. That photo of the aspen is impressive in its sharpness/detail, and I had overlooked this strong praise from Lloyd:
...there can be no doubt that the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S not only delivers a far superior image to any previous 35mm Nikkor such as the Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G, it delivers an outstanding image by any standard, at least with a little stopping down). Color, contrast, detail—it has it all: Nikon has never built a wide angle prime lens this good. That is, setting aside the atrocious focus shift, which must be understood and dealt with.
That is pretty high praise from a perfectionist like Lloyd, and upholds the future promise of the system as more native Nikon and 3rd party lenses begin to appear.

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Old Thursday 1st November 2018, 02:36   #17
marcsantacurz
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Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marcsantacurz View Post
I contacted Tamron about the 150-600G2 with Z7. They asked that I send in the lens for a 3-day warranty repair (plus shipping time).

Marc
I got the Tamron 150-600 g2 back from Tamron today. It took them a bit more than 3 days.

The service performed was "complete overhaul, cleaning, and adjustment." That did not fix the Z7 issue. The note at the bottom was:

Quote:
We are still waiting on direction from our parent company in Japan on whether our lenses are compatible or not, and what the next step is. We apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you, Customer Service.
On the bright side, I got a very clean and brand-new looking lens back and I shot my 300mm f/4 a lot more than otherwise. It's unfortunate the the person who originally replied to my email (or bot?) didn't know the situation.

Marc
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Old Friday 16th November 2018, 16:54   #18
marcsantacurz
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Tamron announces firmware update. Hope it works.

https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=369991
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Old Tuesday 15th January 2019, 20:37   #19
Neil
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Thanks for sharing your experiences Marc. I have the Z7 and the D500 which I use with the 300/4 PF with teleconverters, the 300/2.8 AFS and the 500/4 AFS. Handling still favours the D500 as its a bit more robust in the hand. For shooting hand-held video thought the Z7 wins hands down. The inbody stabilising is excellent and negates the needs for a tripod. The cropping on the Z7 image is very nice and the image quality is better.
I wish I had a D850 though. Its the king.
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