Nikon Z 7II for Landscape Photography: 6 Months On

The Nikon Z 7II is a high-resolution full frame camera and the updated brother of the z7. Now 6 months on, how has the camera performed for me shooting landscapes? Faultless in my opinion. Well, except for one thing, but I'll speak about that later.

It boasts an impressive 45.7-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, a low native ISO of 64, 5-axis in-body vibration reduction, dual memory card slots (one CFExpress and one SD UHS-II slot), 4K video at up to 60fps, a 3.6-million-dot OLED viewfinder, all encased in a magnesium alloy body with dust and weather resistance. The camera has everything I needed to upgrade from the D850.

Now, this is not going to be a Nikon fanboy review, this is going to be me writing about my experiences using said camera for landscape photography, what I liked, how I got on with using it, and what I think should be changed especially for shooting landscapes and for me it's a big one. It's not a deal-breaker but something I think Nikon missed when creating the camera.

Another Brand Is Why I Purchased the Z 7II

As a Nikon user for many many years, I honestly hadn't strayed from the brand until I purchased the Fujifilm XT3. Using the XT3 changed the way I approached my landscape photography and also what led me in a strange way to buying the Z 7II. Not so strange when you hear the reasoning.

Back in 2019, we were booked to go to Everest basecamp for a hiking and photography trip of a lifetime the following year, so I needed to cut down on the equipment I carried. At that time my camera bag consisted of a Nikon D850, a 16-35mm f/4, a 70-200mm f/2.8, a Manfrotto tripod, various filters, a GoPro, Rode mics, and various bits and bobs we all carry as photographers. The total weight was 22kg, which was way too heavy for the recommended 12kg day backpack, so I had to cut back. This is where the XT3, a 55-200mm, and a 10-24mm came in. Smaller and lighter and could still capture the quality of images and video I was seeking for the trip.

After using the Fuji for a little while I quickly saw the benefits of the mirrorless system in terms of weight and size and began glancing slightly reservedly at my D850, which is a phenomenal camera, and I have no complaints there at all. I just realized that I was preferring the more compact size and portability of the mirrorless systems. So the browsing began. I initially looked in the hope that Fuji would be creating a full frame as I was really enjoying working with the XT3. But this was not the case and everything I had been reading pointed towards this never happening. So I invested more time in researching Nikon's mirrorless range.

At that time the only full frame I was interested in was the z7. Nigel Danson was raving about it and so were many other photographers. The only drawback they really mentioned was the cards, two CFExpress slots, and no SD slot. Which meant I would have to buy a few new cards, which are quite expensive, and my current savings were nowhere near that level to add a few extra hundred dollars just to use the camera. So I waited a few months more then Nikon announced the Z 7II with updated features and an SD card slot. It was time. So I sold all my camera equipment including my DJI Mavic 2 Pro, added the savings, and purchased the Z 7II with a 14-30mm f/4, 24-70mm f/4, and haven't looked back since.

Using the Camera

As my main genre for the camera would be landscapes, I purchased an L-bracket while waiting for it to arrive. If you shoot landscapes you'll know how much simpler an L-bracket makes the whole process. Once it arrived I unboxed, charged the battery, inserted an SD card, and attached the 14-30mm f/4 lens, and headed out.

Ultimately lighter than the D850 with a 16-35mm f/4 lens attached the camera felt good in the hand. Although when hand holding for shots every now and again my fingers would depress either FN1 or FN2 button alerting me to either focus mode or white balance changes. Useful though for quick changes when shooting studio portraits or shooting on the fly. I have big hands so perhaps a deeper grip would be better. Most of the time the camera is mounted on a tripod, so this is not such a big issue. My partner uses the Nikon Z 6II and doesn't have this problem; smaller hands.

The menus I was familiar with so it was a breeze navigating them plus I have now programmed U1 and U2 of the top dial menu for my most often used setting scenarios. A feature I had not done before on any of the other models. Everything about the dials and back buttons was again familiar so honestly not much muscle memory change required there.

The viewfinder is crystal clear and to be honest, with my ever-increasing need to wear glasses, this was a godsend. Every now and again I would unintentionally leave my glasses at home, so being able to see the details via the viewfinder or back screen meant I could still comfortably shoot without worrying too much about focus. That being said I had always manually focussed my shots, but with the progress in technology, I find myself now using the camera's autofocus via the touchscreen more and more frequently. Probably to the point of 80% autofocus, 20% manual, depending on what I'm shooting. I also now have a tendency to lock off my focus by switching the lens from auto to manual, once focus has been acquired using the touchscreen autofocus. This of course is not necessary, it's probably my nod to manual focus from days gone by.

In the Field

As with other landscape photographers, hiking for long distances in all types of weather, the weight of the equipment can get you down. So far I honestly haven't noticed the weight, but with the highest hike this year being only 958m, it will be interesting to see if the weight becomes an issue. I don't think it ever will though.

So far I've photographed in varying conditions including rain and wind and the camera has performed great with no issues. As ever, we are always careful when changing lenses but now more so due to the exposed sensor. Perhaps one day someone will create a form of cover that closes when the lens is removed on mirrorless cameras to protect the sensor. For now, I'll just be extra vigilant, as so far I haven't needed to clean the sensor.

The lenses have performed better than my expectations and I would be bold enough to say the 14-30mm f/4 appears to be sharper than the recently discontinued 16-35mm f/4 but that may be just my eyesight. The 24-70mm f/4 is a dream to use with outstanding quality. I've also recently purchased the 24-200mm f/4 but I'm still in the early stages of using that one, so no comments from me for now. Plus a 3rd party lens namely the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 but that's still in the shipping stages as I write.

What I Liked

The images are sharp even if handheld thanks to the synergy between the 5-axis in-body stabilization and z mount lens glass. Handheld panoramas work out 90% of the time with the other 10% being user error. The size weight of the camera is really appreciated by my back over long distances.

With the resolution of the sensor at 45.7 mp, if you need to crop and are not taking too much out of your composition, the resulting image remains tack sharp. Although I'm not a fan of cropping and would rather use the camera to its full potential. So try my hardest to get the composition I want. The image below shows a 100% magnification of a shot at 1/6 sec on the 24-70mm f/4. For myself and these chance encounters, being able to retain as much detail while hand-holding at 1/6 second shows the power of the in-body vibration reduction. Sure I could have boosted the ISO quite a bit for this shot, but I actually was testing the slowest speed I could realistically hand-hold.

A choice of image areas includes FX, DX- useful if I want to push the 200mm just that little bit further, 5x4,16x9, and 1x1, which the image below was shot at. These are features for most modern cameras anyway but it is something I work with quite a bit as I feel it does tighten up your compositional skills.

The autofocus has a better response than the D850 in my opinion. And the touchscreen is far superior both in clarity and friction. I did feel that the back display screen on the D850 wasn't that ideal anyway compared to how good the camera was.

What Could Be Improved

I'm not a tech-head so I can't say "oh, it should be this or it should be that." I'm more of a fit-for-purpose type of person. Does it do what I need, and does it do it well? 

The main thing that the camera is lacking for me, is a fully articulated screen. Yes, it can tilt up and down like the other Nikon cameras. But I honestly can't understand why it doesn't have one when nearly every other camera manufacturer has implemented this. I often shoot low in portrait orientation with the tripod again low to the ground. Having a fully articulated screen would save me from lying down on the boggy ground or even submerging my upper torso in the river to get the composition I'm after. Yes, we will do what is necessary to get the shot but c'mon. Surely adding an articulated screen can't be so much of an issue? They did it with the Nikon Z fc. On that note, they should've made that full frame. 

If Nikon ever releases an articulated screen for it that can be retrofitted, I'm first in line. Yes, this won't happen, but I can dream.

Conclusion: 6 Months On

Would I recommend the camera for landscape photography? Yes, for all genres in fact. Don't get me wrong, I have tested other cameras. The Sony a7R III with a G-Master lens, for instance, produced stunning image quality. But to be honest, the menu system really frustrated me. Perhaps that was a lack of perseverance on my part or perhaps it was a lack of familiarity in the form of the Nikon menu and laziness on my part to learn something new. In saying that though, the Fuji menu system caused me no issues at all. Panasonic Lumix also kindly sent me the Lumix S5 along with a couple of lenses to try. Again, a great camera and image quality. Unfortunately though, for the two weeks I had it, it rained constantly except for a break of around 24 hours and I didn't want to send them back drenched equipment. Although weather sealed it wasn't mine to take that liberty.

Except for the Fn1 and Fn2 buttons, for me, the ergonomics of the camera just feel right. Everything is easily accessed by your thumb and forefinger when looking through the viewfinder. So no need to drop the camera to find functions when hand-holding. The weight of the camera and lenses especially for long hikes is a definite bonus. The sharpness of the f/4 lenses doesn't give me any reason to complain at all. 

It all felt familiar when using the Nikon Z 7ii and I am glad I moved to the mirrorless system. They say that familiarity can cause contempt, but not on this occasion. On this occasion, it sparked creativity and a lust to use the camera more. 

If you want to find out about the camera and in particular more about the specs and available lenses. You can find it here.

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37 Comments

Timothy Gasper's picture

Damn it Gary. Stop showing me all these beautiful places that I can't get to yet. What are you trying to do here? Frustrate me? Very lovely photos and the perfect landscape. I love Scotland and old England. When the time is right I'm a comin.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Thanks for reading Timothy and glad you like the photos

Eduard Garcia's picture

Why don't you deactivate Fn1 and Fn2 buttons?

Gary McIntyre's picture

Most of the time the camera is on the tripod so they don't get in the way. Plus, they can be handy in the studio

Tommy Botello's picture

You could always configure one of your user modes to be landscape mode where you have those Fn buttons deactivated and all of the other various settings set that you may use exclusively for landscape photography. Then you can switch back to regular shooting modes for studio.

david shepherd's picture

It's about time someone wrote an article worth reading on FStoppers. Nice to see a post with some perspective instead of Clex Aook pretending to enrich the photo world with two-paragraph retweets and embeds to someone else's videos.

As for this article, It's nice to hear some positive reviews for the second-generation Nikon Z line. For Nikon users that are not serious about creating video content, Nikon mirrorless is a sweet tool to have in your bag. With that being said, I wish Nikon would have moved earlier and faster with the Z mirrorless line. Being a happy lifetime Nikon DSLR user, Nikon made waiting for them to develop a mature Mirrorless system very painful. I believe that the Z ii series should have been the first-generation experience. Not only that, there are still things missing from the system that I could not overlook any longer.

The author of the article is a phenomenal photographer and creates stunning work with his choice of tools. I also love that the author is expressing his love for the system. I hope that the Z system continues to evolve and serve its users well for generations to come. The raw ".nef" files are second to none with amazing recovery in the highlights and the movie files are surprisingly easy to edit and grade. With some upgrades and investment into the latest components inside the latest cameras, I believe that the Z system can be a powerhouse in the industry.

J K's picture

What's also refreshing is that I'm not hearing that you MUST have the 14-24Z 2.8 and 24-70 2.8; in order to get the best photos. Nikon's 'kit' lenses out perform their DSLR 2.8 counterparts! Great article and comment.

Steve TQP's picture

I agree with your comment, though given the superb image quality of the Nikkor S 24-70 f/4, I feel that calling it a "kit" lens is kind of inaccurate, because to my mind, the term "kit lens" implies a lesser quality "budget" lens. Just semantics, really. Thanks!

Gary McIntyre's picture

Glad you enjoyed the article and images David, thanks for reading. Im looking forward to trying the camera for video as well as I've seen some great work with it.
As for the reposts, we all do them. Its a great way to introduce both experienced and the new photographers to tutorials and other photographers that will perhaps expand their knowledge base.Fstoppers has a massive following so its a great way to introduce these.

david shepherd's picture

😊

Dave Waldrup's picture

Great article and fabulous images. Makes me want to get there and capture some similar images. I recently bought the Z7II moving from my D850. I do bike trips annually in Europe and look forward to the lighter experience. I like super zooms so I bought the 24-200 Z lens and find it terrific and plenty sharp for me. I agree on your words about a fully articulating display. That's the only drawback for me. Your image of the sheep hand held at 1/6 is just crazy. To get results like that while hand holding is going to revolutionize my photography. Spent some time on Skye in 2010 and want to go back with this new camera. https://davewaldrup.smugmug.com/Daves-Faves/i-DpQv7QT/A

Gary McIntyre's picture

Great images Dave and yes the screen not fully articulating does bother me a bit but the benefits far outweigh the minor negatives. I was pleasantly surprised it did handhold at that. Don't think I'll be trying it too often though.

Robert Teague's picture

I went to the Z7 a couple of years ago, but I had to handle one before I was convinced to give up my DSLR. I've shot 5x4 for many years, so I'm comfortable with a bigger size camera. I never saw any justification for going to the Z7 II. I have a couple of 64GB XQD cards that fit my needs.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Thanks for reading Robert. Totally agree with not moving from the z7 to z7ii really no need.

Steve TQP's picture

Nice article about the suitability of the Z7II and Nikkor S lenses for landscape photography! I too, traded in my Fuji kit, but for the Z7 (a month before the Z7II release), and a few NIkkor S lenses, including the 24-70 f/4, the stellar sharp Nikkor S 50 f/1.8, and the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 Nikkor AF-P with FTZ adapter. I find that all the NIkkor lenses on the Z7 produce extremely sharp, detailed images (jpeg +raw), and make quite nice 30" x 40" prints. The Nikkor AF-P 70-300 with FTZ adapter is also surprisingly sharp, though IMHO, just slightly less so than the NIkkor S lenses. Would I have preferred the Z7II over the Z7? Maybe, but crucially, since they use the same processor/engine, the extra "speed" and buffer of the Z7II are inconsequential for my landscape/product photography since IQ is virtually identical (at Base ISO). Thank you.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Thanks for reading Steve. For myself I could've kept the lenses for the d850 and got an adapter but it really was a weight and portability issue mainly. Yes fantastic prints from the sensor.

John Perhach's picture

While I don’t personally own a z7ii, I do however own a z7i and honestly as someone that doesn’t really give a damn about getting insanely deep into the weeds about tech stuff like numbers for this or that. All I know is that coming from a d810 that I beat the shit out of is that I love my Z7i.

So far besides the cheap ass rubber eye cup ripping and causing the auto changing between the back screen & viewfinder screen I really have no complaints. Even my old 3rd party Amazon batteries work just fine with it which was something I was worried about because my d810 would eat batteries and a friend told me that their d850 couldn’t use the 3rd party batteries because it drained them to fast. I have also had the chance to test out the weather sealing at some spray monster waterfalls and so far that has been great even with using a ftz adapter for my 16-35f4 lens.

All and all I personally think at the end of the day it all comes down to our camera’s are just tools that we use to capture what it is our minds eye see’s while in the field. You can have the very best newest gear out there and still not can get a great photo while others with lesser gear, but they know how to use it to it’s fullest capture killer images.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Great comment John and a true one. Its not the camera it's the person using it.

Timothy Linn's picture

As someone who has owned an X-T3 with its three-way tilt screen and an R5 with its flippy screen, I'll just say be careful what you wish for, particularly if you use an L-bracket. Personally, I find the flippy screen—while more versatile in theory—to be a complete PITA. With or without an L-bracket, it is slower to deploy. With a traditionally-shaped L-bracket, you are extremely limited in terms of the flippy screen's angle of view. To get full use of the flippy screen, you need to either detach the vertical portion of the L-bracket (which defeats the purpose) or you need to buy an L-bracket with the vertical portion shifted forward. It's all an annoying compromise. The Fuji design, on the other hand, is faster, more discrete, safer for the screen, and doesn't interfere with an L-bracket at all. For a landscape shooter that doesn't need to see himself/herself while in front of the camera, it is the easy choice. If I could swap out the flippy screen on my R5 for Fuji's three-way tilt, I would do it without hesitation.

Larry Chism's picture

I'm not sure what L bracket you are using but none of the brackets I tried on my Z7 caused any problems with my tilt screen.

R S's picture

He’s referring to a flippy, not tilt, screen where the bracket interferes with the flippy hinge.

Michael Piziak's picture

I wander if the over sized lens take away from the ergonomics of the small mirrorless body.
Also, didn't Sony make a cover that closes when the lens is removed on one of their mirrorless cameras - correct me if I'm wrong.

R S's picture

I’m pretty sure the Z7 has a single XQD card not dual CFExpress, hence the false controversy and online frothing on release.

Gary McIntyre's picture

You are totally correct

Jon Martin Solaas's picture

When you count in all the extra batteries needed, how much weight do you really save? (By all means, go for Z, I've become quite a F hoarder, and look forward to upgrade to D850 one day. The more D850 in the market the better... Mirrorless is the future, but when I look at the top specs today I simply can't imagine how I'll ever need it, or afford it, so for me I think F is far better value for a long time still. And yeah, it's good exercise too :0)

Gary McIntyre's picture

Battery wise I was lucky that the D850 ones did the job. Weight-wise I'm quite conservative now and only take one or two lenses when going out on longer hikes.Definitely no complaints when it comes to the D850 or lenses it was really a matter of necessity and using the XT3 that made me swap to mirroless system. Thanks for reading.

Jim Cutler's picture

Gary, could not agree more. The glass and the Z7. I too want the fully articulating screen. But it's funny that when someone asks for that there are a lot of critical "amateur feature that's not needed!" posts. Clearly you and I both would like Nikon to add that.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Hopefully one day Jim they will add onto a full frame. I don't see how anything can be classed as amateur feature if it's something that would benefit your practice. And in a lot of cases keep you clean and dry :)

Jason Savelsberg's picture

I was a former Fujifilm user as well until the Z7 came out. The 45 megapixel full frame sensor, increased dynamic range with ISO64, and the professional Nikon Z lenses increased the quality of my images overnight. To the extent that even my non-photographer friends noticed the improvement and asked if I got a new camera.

I still like Fujifilm, but for landscape, the Z7 series is simply the best this side of Medium Format.

Hugh Wolfe's picture

Gary this was a very honest review, thank you. Oh and I did just recently subscribe to you're YouTube channel, good stuff over there...

Eleven years ago I purchased a D700 along with 16-35, 24-70, and 70-200. They've preformed flawlessly but I too was swayed briefly by the Fujifilm XT3. I even bought one, along with a couple of lenses, but sold it later as I like you discovered that it was too small for my hands, I was continuously fumbling the controls...

Just recently I looked at (held) a Z series camera and to be honest it still feels a bit smallish, but perhaps with time, and the right lens, I could adapt. Now my quandary, I'm not leaving the Nikon world as I'm familiar with how they work, but I'm torn between purchasing an additional camera body, D850 as I could easily utilize my existing F mount lenses. Or, go for a Z camera with an adapter which is somewhat less than ideal. But that temptation to "start over" with new Z mount lenses would be strong, and they'd probably work better than my older F mount varieties...

Is the Z series physically larger than the Fujifilm XT3?

Gary McIntyre's picture

Thanks for reading Hugh, and subscribing. The z series lenses are not much larger than the fuji ones so there is not much weight gain there. I was apprehensive to give up the D850 because of the quality of images it produces. But the smaller size of the z7ii and knowing that technology improves it wasn't too much of a decision to make. I now also have the 85mm Viltrox 1.8, which is a big heavier beast but it produces really sweet images for a 3rd party lens.

Maurie Hill's picture

Thank you for a excellent real review Gary. I have the Z7 (and circumnavigated Scotland with it in ‘19) and agree with everything you’ve reported. Except …. I have Fn1 set to toggle spot meter and Fn2 set to lock exposure. With my user settings on matrix metering, I find this a good use of these two buttons in a landscape environment.

I researched a lot of your work prior to my junket around your country, and found it extremely inspirational. And like you, my D810 sits (heavily) in the dry cupboard these days and just the Z and its two f4 zooms get to travel. Well, when we can travel. Stuck at home in Covid-times, I am lucky to live in New Zealand (like you in Scotland) where stunning landscapes abound.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Beautiful landscapes in New Zealand Maurie. One day I'll get there. Again the D810 is another great camera but as you mention the z and lenses travel better, much better. Thanks for reading.

Toma Paunovic's picture

Great article! As a Sony shooter, I kind of envy Nikon Z for that wonderful 14-30 F4. People are raving about F2.8 zooms, while for landscape it's stopped down performance and size/weight is what counts more. 14-30 f4 + 24-200 looks like a great combo to me, that superzoom performs excellent stopped down and its really compact as well.

Robert Teague's picture

Interesting. I prefer the f4 range for travelling, but for doing landscapes, I much prefer the 2.8 range.

Toma Paunovic's picture

Are you shooting landscapes @2.8?

Robert Teague's picture

Rarely, but it's more about the size, weight and discipline. The size and weight encourage me to use a tripod, making me more disciplined about my approach. That comes from years of shooting 4x5.