Ok, so Nikon has announced not one but two mirrorless bodies. In many ways, they seem utterly amazing. In the run-up to the announcement, I'll admit I saw a few leaked photos/specs and started to worry if I had maybe jumped the gun by switching to Sony. Maybe Nikon had done the unthinkable and bested the Sony on their first try after all.
Firstly, the Z6 (the A7III's equivalent) is surprisingly close to the Sony in price. That was a surprise. I had expected it to come in at around £2500 or more so the £2100 price is great. The design of the body looks excellent and (importantly) robust. Some have called it ugly but to me, it appears to be an ergonomic masterpiece when compared to many mirrorless offerings. You can tell that they spent their time getting the feel of the camera right. Like the A7III it misses having a drive mode dial, but otherwise, it's superb. I've always loved Nikon ergonomics so this is no real surprise.
Unexpectedly, Nikon has given us a roadmap of lens releases. What this shows is that we won't have the full complement of native 24/35/85mm lenses (essential to us) until around 2020, so we'd have to use the adapter until then. While I would've been able to keep my lovely 85 and 35G lenses, I'd not have saved much size/weight after the adapter has been added, negating one of the main mirrorless advantages in the short term.
In my previous article I posted a few questions and now I have the answers. It doesn't have EyeAF, which I've grown not only to love but rely on. Initial reports suggest the AF isn't quite up to the standard of the D850 and it has less AF points (by some distance) than the A7III. Secondly, the battery life is nowhere near as good - official data put it at less than half the life of the Sony A7III. Even if you can squeeze out twice the amount of shots as its rated for, it would leave me struggling to shoot a 12-14 hour wedding with 3 batteries. This would mean buying 8-12 backup batteries for our four cameras to see us comfortably through a wedding day. That's more cost (see below) and more prep time spent on charging batteries for a wedding.
Early reports suggest that the buffer isn't impressive - certainly not up to Sony standards. This was one of my biggest gripes with the D750 and seems all the more absurd when paired with a body that can shoot such high FPS.
But the real biggie, which has set the internet alight, is the card situation. There is no other way to put it. Nikon has fucked up here. Massively. £2100/£3400 Nikon cameras in 2018 should have 2 card slots. Fanboys will defend it, of course, but this is the same stick they used to beat the old A7 series with. I had expected XQD with an SD backup and that would've been fine but XQD alone makes the camera unworkable for me as a wedding photographer.
So why is the card thing such an issue for me? Firstly is the cost. When I switched from the D750 to A7III, I was able to use all my SD cards in the new cameras. To replace all of our SD cards with equivalent XQD cards would cost over £3700 at time of writing.
Secondly, shooting to one card makes me nervous. I love having a backup card. What's that? You've never had a card failure? Good for you - I've never had a car accident but I still wear a seatbelt. I've had 3 card failures (CF and SD) in my whole time shooting digital, but luckily in all cases, I had a backup card - I just popped out the failed card, put in a backup and kept shooting. I didn't need to rescue the images and just returned the dodgy card to Sandisk for replacement. EASY.
XQD cards are admittedly more robust than SDs but there is always the potential for everything from a catastrophic failure to dropping it into a mug of hot tea (yup, I've done that) when you have one card. Accidents happen. If you're shooting landscapes or wildlife, this is less of a concern - a wild antelope is unlikely to sue you - but for weddings, it's a non-starter for me.
Could I not just shoot multiple cards at the wedding so there are fewer images to lose in the case of a failure? Yes, of course. But this opens up the possibility of me losing a card. I mean, two weddings ago I somehow lost a packet of mints between the ceremony and portraits. WHERE DID THEY GO?!?!? I still have no idea. I like to shoot the whole wedding to a single card with identical RAW backup on another card. The cards stay safely in the camera, and the cameras never leave my side the whole day (they're literally tethered to me). I backup one set of cards and don't write over the other set until the wedding is edited and delivered (in case of any corruptions in the backed-up card). This is the safest system I can think of and I wouldn't want to sacrifice it for this new Nikon.
The first thing that people talk about when you change system is how much it cost. It's not discussed as much when you buy new bodies but let's break it down. To switch to the Z6 we would need:
- 4 x Z6 bodies with adapters.
- 24 x XQD cards (6 sets of cards, the minimum we would comfortably have)
- 12 x spare batteries (to cover us over 12 hour weddings)
With the cheapest prices I could find in the UK, that would work out as £13,356. And that's based on using our old Nikon lenses adapted rather than native Z lenses. You could buy a whole Sony A7III system with lenses for that.
What held me back from switching to Sony in the past was the lack of a second card slot and the limited battery life. Sony rectified this with the third generation A7 iterations. It feels very much like Nikon has dropped the ball. Yes, the camera probably feels better in hand. And it has higher resolution screens and other bells and whistles but is let down in the areas where it matters to me. I'd love to own a Z6 (and probably eventually will) but I don't think I have the stomach to use it professionally for wedding shooting. The next generation Z cameras will probably address these issues, but by then Sony will have moved on as well. Had I waited for this announcement, I'd be now planning my switch to Sony.