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Is the Nikon Z Line Innovative?

Advocate ,
Aug 29, 2018 Aug 29, 2018

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Is the Nikon Z Line Innovative

…or is it just Nikon’s version of what Sony has being doing with their alpha line of professional and semi-professional cameras?

First, let’s go way back to almost 60 years of photographic history when Canon, Minolta (now owned by Sony and renamed as such), and Nikon introduced to North America their camera systems, in March 1959. At that camera show in Philadelphia, the Nikon F dazzled to an instant leadership role. The Canonflex was so popular that all inventory sold-out. And, the Minolta SR-2 became the affordable, quality alternative.

The three Japanese camera companies didn’t invent the Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. They popularized the big camera system with all the lenses and accessories.

The “reflex” part of the name referred to the mirror and prism portion of the camera, which allowed you to look in the viewfinder and see the light coming through the lens. The mirror reflected the light up into the prism and to your eye. The trick to the system was to get the mirror to swing out of the way when you pressed the shutter release, so the light would fall onto the film.

Of course the SLR became a dSLR once the film plane was replaced by a digital sensor. Kodak began to toy with adapting Nikon film camera to a low resolution sensor in May 1991, Nikon, Canon, and then Minolta dove into their own dedicated dSLR cameras from February 2001 through February 2004. During those three years the dSLR went from being an object of curiosity to serious replacements for professional film cameras.

Along the way, Adobe introduced their Camera Raw 1.0 (ACR) plug-in to Photoshop in February 2003 and some serious professional photo development was born.

Four years after acquiring Minolta’s camera line (January 2006), Sony pulled the “R” out of dSLR with an August 2010 mirrorless version of their alpha (“a”) line. A year later, they began to introduce the same technology into the Sony high end a77. In a mirrorless world, the traditional SLR viewfinder no longer has a direct view of the light coming through the lens. The viewfinder is a little video screen.

Is this to say that it’s just taken Nikon 8 years to copy what Sony did?

“Yes.” and “No.” Sony acquired a Minolta line in transition. The alpha “A Mount” lens was a bold move for Minolta, which took the financial strength of Sony and the optical ingenuity of Zeiss, to capture imaginations. The Nikon “F Mount” has undergone many gradual transformations, but it’s still rooted in 1959’s Nikon F.

Where’s Nikon going with the “Z Series” cameras and “Z Mount” lenses? That’s a very closely held secret. The F Mount lenses adapt to the Z Series cameras and 90-some of the current lenses are fully functional on the new Z cameras. It’s clever technology. The lenses are smaller, but the lens mount is bigger, letting in more light.

Will the D Series Nikon cameras get replaced with the Z Series cameras and the Nikkor Z lenses will soon make the F Mount part of fading 1959 history?

We have shot with Canon, Minolta/Sony, Nikon, Pentax, and Olympus. We have come to know that Nikon doesn’t just introduce a couple cameras and 4 lenses. Their technological culture is focused on long range goals. Our guess is that Nikon has some very big things planned and they have revolutionary imaging endeavors that will roll out in the years to come.

But, if Sony and Nikon are fully invested in mirrorless professional gear, is Canon going to sit back and rest on their aromatic laurel leaves? That’s not going to happen either.

Another interesting aspect of this is that Canon and Sony are deeply invested in professional video and digital filmmaking, an arena Nikon has not fully entered. Completely reimagined technologies open new opportunities.

Has Nikon not just made the first moves at projecting their future forward, but could they be igniting huge fires under their competitors business models.

This should get much hotter than what happened in March 1959. An imaging revolution could be starting. After all, doesn’t the media technology sector need to dream big about the next 59 years of image-making?

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Community Expert ,
Aug 29, 2018 Aug 29, 2018

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I think Nikon basically did the right thing here.

My first pro camera was a Nikon F3 way back, and I currently use a D810 and a D800. All this time I've really come to appreciate the versatility and universal compatibility of the F-mount.

I recently got a Sony A7R II because I need the silent shutter in some situations. That was before the Z was announced, and I needed it then, so no regrets. But it did become a very significant expense because I also needed new lenses. Things would have been very different if I could just keep using my old lenses.

There's one big problem with the Nikon Z: it's an ugly little creature. That's right. It shouldn't matter, it doesn't when you work, but it does when you're in the store.

The Sony is an impressive piece of equipment. Very tight and well put together, to the point where it feels like a solid slab of metal in your hand. Like a good wristwatch. The Nikons, on the other hand, have more of a "car" feel: a metal skin with moving parts inside, clanking around. They're sturdy enough, the D800 has hit the floor on two separate occasions, one of them from seven feet up. I picked it right up and nothing was broken.

Nikon make a big deal out of the bigger Z mount, with a lot of fluff about "letting more light in". That's nonsense. The reality is that the back element is much closer to the sensor, so that has to be bigger to avoid vignetting and a too steep angle to the corners of the sensor (even assuming it projects a perfectly flat field). It just needs more room. With the back element further away that's not a problem, or not nearly as big, which is why F lenses + adapter works splendidly.

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Advocate ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/D+Fosse  wrote

The Sony is an impressive piece of equipment. Very tight and well put together, to the point where it feels like a solid slab of metal in your hand. Like a good wristwatch.

In all candor when Janet & I began to research this piece, we realized that we missed out on the introduction of the Sony a77. In retrospect, it was somewhat clunky.

Since we're in the Baltimore-Washington area, we see many tourists. She of them carry the Sony A7R II in their belt. It's like a mobile phone to them. We also see professional nature photographers out hiking a biking through the region. Small systems are essential.

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Advocate ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/D+Fosse  wrote

I think Nikon basically did the right thing here.

Admittedly, our first reaction to the Z6 and Z7 was, "Who is the market for this? Is it hobbyist? Semi-professional?"

It doesn't have that D5, D850 kind of look. So, we think we have to get these things in our hands and see if they feel like an extension of out creative energy.

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New Here ,
Jan 19, 2020 Jan 19, 2020

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LATEST

ha, ugly little creature is so dead on. 

 

It's rather odd to me that the whole z system is so hideous (actually it makes me kind of upset how ugly it is), the camera branding forehead has that really frowing curve to it, the ftz adapter had that uselessly large tripod mount that can't come off and doesn't line up with the base of the camera - making it very weird to put the camera down -, the prime lenses are probably the most awkward of everything though, their so long nose and tube-like and all exactly the same that it makes me realize that the designers at nikon actually don't care at all about industrial design practices at all. After this history nikon has of designing incredible 35mm slr's like the fm3a or the f3hp, i expected a lot more - and by a lot more i mean an ounce of care. 

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LEGEND ,
Aug 29, 2018 Aug 29, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/Brian+Stoppee  wrote

Is the Nikon Z Line Innovative

in a word NO

this is great design... everything a pro needs right there where they need it

Screenshot (1270).png

however the rest of the camera is a bad joke

this is structurally unsound... what happens when you need to turn the camera on its side on a stand?

Screenshot (1271).png

and this is just retarded... a screen needs to be viewable from different angles for selfies, macro work

Screenshot (1269).png

this camera was pushed out the door because Nikon is behind the times and not making sales... and they are behind the times because they are old people who don't understand that the world has moved on

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Community Expert ,
Aug 29, 2018 Aug 29, 2018

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They had to do it this way. They had to ensure continued full usability of the F lenses, and at the same time they had to build a new mount for upcoming native lenses. An adapter may not be an elegant solution, but it works. In this segment, customers have invested a lot of money in glass.

They also very obviously went to great lengths to maintain all controls exactly where they are on a D-series body. Again, I think that's basically a smart decision - and possibly explains why it looks so disproportionate and disjointed. Like it was randomly put together from spare parts.

It did come a bit too late. My plan going forward is that the Sony system gradually phases out the Nikons. Yes, I'm that impressed with the alpha. It's a beautiful piece of work, and the Sony lenses are superb.

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Advocate ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/D+Fosse  wrote

It did come a bit too late.

We're pretty sure this is Nikon's 1% downpayment on a much larger plan.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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I don't see any reason the Z series couldn't eventually replace the D series. These are fully professional-grade cameras, as are the Sony alphas.

What's different now is that a small and compact body can deliver quality in the niche previously occupied by medium format. A Leica was always a nice camera, but it was no match for a Hasselblad. That's changed. Today, the bottom is about to fall out of the MF market. Phase One will probably survive for a while longer, but I don't think anyone anticipated only a few years ago what it was possible to squeeze out of a 36 x 24 sensor - not to mention how much lenses have improved to meet the demands of this high resolution. The old manual lenses are vastly inferior to their contemporary counterparts (I still have a couple and there's no contest).

In other words, size no longer matters.

Having used the Sony for a while I'm convinced this is the way forward. It feels a lot more modern than the D810.

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LEGEND ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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yes Sony jumped early, got their design sorted out and are now cleaning up the lions share of the market so Nikon has to wake up | do better to catch up... this camera is ok as a first step for them but that is hardly a glowing recommendation for someone looking for a camera now

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Advocate ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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Ussnorway  wrote

Nikon has to wake up | do better to catch up...

How about Canon?

Do we feel there is a future mirrorless version of the https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/eos-1d-x-mark-ii-bodyEOS-1D X Mark II or EOS 5DS?https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/eos-1d-x-mark-ii-body

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LEGEND ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/Brian+Stoppee  wrote

How about Canon?

i have just grabbed a sx60... they retail here in Australia for about $500 and on paper they are not the best things around

the wifi is from Windows 8 days so the software is outdated and doesn't run on my Windows phones... I had to code my own app to control the camera remotey but most people have iphones so thats not a major imo

the sensor is to small for pro use but its light, fast shutter with the batch shot option, good mic, zooms in and made to be used by real people in the field

i.e, this is my display... sun in your eyes or need to put the camera on a strange angle = no problems

PowerShot-SX60-HS---Flexible-shooting.png

as different to this retarded design... boss says to put in a display so here, you can't adjust it so good luck getting the shot but we don't care because we don't use cameras

Screenshot (281).png

p.s, best of luck trying to press all those buttons as you take a shot as well

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Advocate ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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Over the years, some very professional photographers have sought our advice on camera bodies which they can toss in the back seat of their cars and not shed a tear if someone broke into the car and stole the thing.

The Canon users want a Canon. The Nikon users want a Nikon. There's never a satisfactory camera for these pros. The camera bodies, which are a few hundred dollars have a UI which is very consumer oriented.

The market for a EOS-1D X Mark II is very different than the PowerShot market.

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LEGEND ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/Brian+Stoppee  wrote

The market for a EOS-1D X Mark II is very different than the PowerShot market.

agreed

that camera would work well on a stand (at eye level with no sun behind you) but i have to wonder if any pros would use it... they can prob use one of those buttons to order a pizza while they set the shot up

of course the best camera in the world is the one you have with you

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Advocate ,
Aug 30, 2018 Aug 30, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/D+Fosse  wrote

What's different now is that a small and compact body can deliver quality in the niche previously occupied by medium format. A Leica was always a nice camera, but it was no match for a Hasselblad.

Are you comparing today's digital sensor marketplace to the days or 35mm vs. 6x6 film?

We have not had the time to do any 2018 research on Hasselblad digital sensors, but there had been some valid claims made for image quality from physically larger sensors. We're not up to speed on how that stand today.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 31, 2018 Aug 31, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/Brian+Stoppee  wrote

there had been some valid claims made for image quality from physically larger sensors

There's always an edge in larger sensors - all things being equal it will always produce higher quality. The point I was trying to make is that the distinction is now pushed beyond the practical. You no longer need medium format to get those eye-popping, stunningly sharp and crisp images that can be blown up for all practical purposes. You can do it with a Leica-sized Sony alpha or Nikon Z.

I can put a Zeiss 35mm on my Sony and put the thing in my pocket  - and still produce state-of-the-art imagery fit for billboards. We've never in history been in this position before. It's a paradigm shift.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 31, 2018 Aug 31, 2018

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Here it is, BTW, sitting right in front of me next to my phone. A little bulkier admittedly, but not much bigger overall:

sony_full.jpg

That innocent-looking lens, the Carl Zeiss 35mm/2.8, is a wolf in sheep's clothing. If you really want to bring all those 42 megapixels home, this lens will do it. It has no less than three aspherical elements, and the front element is concave, bulging inwards.

Speaking of photography and trends, there's one really interesting one that has gone largely under the radar. Watch out for Sigma! They're in the process of recreating themselves as the Carl Zeiss of the East. They already have the optical quality, and a growing reputation, now all they need to do is raise prices a bit to be taken really seriously.

I did quite a bit of research in finding lenses for the Sony, and one name kept popping up constantly: Sigma. They consistently perform at the top of all charts, and indeed, their 35mm/1.4 "Art" is already held up by many as something of a reference. I'd have gotten that one instead of the Zeiss, if it wasn't for the bulk and weight. I needed something light.

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Advocate ,
Aug 31, 2018 Aug 31, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/D+Fosse  wrote

The point I was trying to make is that the distinction is now pushed beyond the practical. You no longer need medium format to get those eye-popping, stunningly sharp and crisp images that can be blown up for all practical purposes. You can do it with a Leica-sized Sony alpha or Nikon Z.

Does anyone know is Sony if still making Nikon's sensors? I read Nikon was in talks with Samsung about sensors.

Not everyone fell in love with the sensor in Canon's EOS 5DS. Canon invested quite a bit in the R&D on that one.

Here's what's on my mind, if you have the bank account of Nikon and choose to outsource sensors to your competitor and you have the even greater financial clout of Canon, and some of your fanboys are not cheering for your biggest MPix effort, how are smaller players able to compete?

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LEGEND ,
Sep 01, 2018 Sep 01, 2018

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build a better mousetrap

Sony jumped quick and now everyone gets their cameras instead of Canon or Nikon just like a guy named Bill marketed a better OS and now people use Windows instead of IBM... you don't compete with the big boys but you can move in different paths fast when you don't have to have a 100 pointless meetings everyday to point out to old people why change is needed

big companies are run by old people who have stopped learning and become set in their way, the people under them are also old and think the same way they do [or are just too afraid to say otherwise] so they become out of sync with real world and once their customers start dieing off | leaving the work force then their products stop selling and some young person will make a camera in your glasses or a chip that goes in the eyes which becomes the next big thing

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Advocate ,
Sep 01, 2018 Sep 01, 2018

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Ussnorway  wrote

big companies are run by old people…

We have to remember that professional cameras, like computers, apps, printers, etc are not driven by consumers. The big money comes from enterprise sales (business, government, non-profit). That makes stockholders happy. There's a dependable cashflow.

The young people who sleep in front of the Apple store, to get the newest iPhone, gets great publicity, but the majority of the iPhones are sold to enterprise users. The same is true for professional media technology products.

So the moral of the story?

If you love media technology products, hug the people who run enterprise operations (even if they are not old… is "old" 55, 45, 35, or 25? I suppose it is all in the mind of the discriminatory accuser).

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LEGEND ,
Sep 01, 2018 Sep 01, 2018

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people buy cameras... they may work for big busniess but they pick a camera based on what other people tell them is needed and which cameras are good or bad + what is cheap and can I get a free t-shirt

p.s, old people are the ones that know all they need to and stop looking for new ideas... the age in years is not the issue

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Community Expert ,
Sep 02, 2018 Sep 02, 2018

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Don't forget that Sony and Nikon were in two very different places. Sony had an empty lot, they could build this from the ground up. That's not necessarily a good position, because they are going to make a lot of initial mistakes and learn as they go.

Nikon, OTOH, had to fit this into an existing ecosystem. They have probably been running this as a secret side project for years. They're not really "behind", they just had to bring this up to speed, to go beside, and complement, their existing product line. They had to make sure the Z is ready. They can't make mistakes.

In short, Nikon and Sony are more or less side by side in this. And Canon will likely join soon, with their own product that they have been working on for a long time.

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Advocate ,
Sep 02, 2018 Sep 02, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/D+Fosse  wrote

They have probably been running this as a secret side project for years. They're not really "behind", they just had to bring this up to speed, to go beside, and complement, their existing product line. They had to make sure the Z is ready. They can't make mistakes.

In short, Nikon and Sony are more or less side by side in this. And Canon will likely join soon, with their own product that they have been working on for a long time.

A high up exec at Nikon alluded to this, to Janet & I around 2007. It was in very early R&D stages and took a VERY long time to be in a place where the technology was possible.

Our guess is that this is similar to things Apple and HP develop for years but cannot move forward until their suppliers can deliver.

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Advocate ,
Sep 03, 2018 Sep 03, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/D+Fosse  wrote

And Canon will likely join soon, with their own product that they have been working on for a long time.

We have to remember that Canon has a huge presence in broadcast optics (often coupled with Sony cameras) and has a growing role in cinema. Sony also has some presence in the cinema space, since they own a very production studio.

Canon would seem to have quite a jump on mirrorless but have yet to show their cards.

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Advocate ,
Sep 05, 2018 Sep 05, 2018

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/Brian+Stoppee  wrote

https://forums.adobe.com/people/D+Fosse   wrote

And Canon will likely join soon, with their own product that they have been working on for a long time.

We have to remember that Canon has a huge presence in broadcast optics (often coupled with Sony cameras) and has a growing role in cinema. Sony also has some presence in the cinema space, since they own a very production studio.

Canon would seem to have quite a jump on mirrorless but have yet to show their cards.

It's official Canon is unveiling the details of Canon EOS R system September 12.

The mirrorless future is:

     • Canon R
     • Nikon Z
     • Sony a

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