Sunday 28 February 2021

Z5 Up and Downs


Nikon Z5, Z 24-50mm f4-6.3

The first real photowalk with the Z5 happened yesterday, with mixed results.

The bad? My kit lens is bad. It periodically gets confused at wider focal lengths and won't focus past 1m or so. The issue is intermittent and very frustrating. I've already opened a case with Nikon. Normally I'd just do a quick exchange with the store, but I don't want to have to swap the body as well, as I know it's good, I've just about got it setup right and I trust it. This is a little frustrating, I've had the occasional bad bit of kit over the years but I've had two new gear failures in the last 3 weeks, first the original E-M1.2 and now the Z 24-50. 

I've also found a gotcha with the Non-CPU Lens Data implementation. It doesn't write EXIF unless you are using an FTZ adapter. That's annoying for those interested in adapting non-F mount lenses, like myself, or in using 3rd party manual lenses which I'm also interested in. The good? 20 slots in Non-CPU Lens Data vs 9 in most of the DSLR's. Auto ISO and IBIS also still respect the Non-CPU Lens Data set. 

The good? Oh my, that EVF. My favourite OVF's were always the non-HP F3 and the F2 finders. Both are 0.8x and 100%. Guess what the FX Z's all are 0.8x and 100%. Eye relief is very close as well, perfect for me (but not so great for glasses wearers who will prefer lower magnification and a longer eyepoint). The 3.69 Million Dot OLED display is great, best I've owned. I know there are better out there (Leica's 4.4MD, the 5.76MD unit on the A7RIV and the Panasonic S1's and Sony's new 9.44MP unit in the A7SIII and A1) but the Z5 unit is the best I've worked with. I'd seen a similar setup on the X-T3 with 0.75x magnification and wasn't all that impressed compared to the X-T1/2's 2.36MD 0.77x unit, but a lot of that is just implementation. The Fuji's are very good, the Nikon is simply sublime, it feels almost like an OVF. 

Buttons are marginally better than the E-M1.2, for the most part they're very close but the Nikon has 2 real advantages:

1. The Fn buttons on the front are big and easy to find, these are the two most fiddly buttons on the E-M1.2. Only downside here is gloves can hit these buttons on the Z5 and not so much on the E-M 1.2

2. All buttons can be actuated by your right hand except play & delete. The E-M1.2's left shoulder buttons are not reachable by your right hand. This means that you need your left hand to actuate non-lens controls while shooting on the E-M1.2, but not on the Z5. That's a nice bonus. 

The Nikon also has the on/off on the shutter button. I'm kind of ambivalent on this compared to the E-M1.2, because frankly the front control dial around the shutter button on the E-M1.2 was kind of awesome and the Z5's front dial is the weak point in its controls, being very low profile and harder to actuate with gloves. Honestly, the control dial setup on the E-M1.2 was about the best I've seen. The Z5 is quite good, but not quite on the same level. Better button layout on the Z5 though, the different rear dial position makes the dial a little harder to actuate but allows for a better AF-On location.

The older Olympus bodies annoyed me with the on/off location, but the quick sleep feature on the E-M1.2 made this pretty much irrelevant as I could just leave the body on like a DSLR. I need to be a little more cognizant of this as it doesn't sleep or wake up as fast as the E-M1.2. It's not slow, the Z5 is the second most responsive mirrorless body I've owned, the E-M1.2 is just really, really fast. It's actually been quite a while since I've had a body where I just felt it was slow. The last one was the X-E1 I had in early 2019 and I knew going in that it just was an older and slower body. The Fuji X-T1 & X-T2 are quite responsive, as is the A7II, the Z5 and E-M1.2 are noticeably better, with the E-M1.2 on top for things like wake-up speed.

Next up is the files. They're just like the D750 files, just a touch better. That makes them the second-best RAW files I've shot at low ISO (trailing the D800's) and the best at high ISO's (beating the D750 and D700). Just yum. Nikon colour and absolutely outstanding noise performance. Yes, there are better cameras out there, like the Z7 at low ISO and Z6 at high ISO, but the Z5 is already superb. 

I'm pretty surprised by how good the AF is. Not so much the speed, which is good, but how good the tracking is. The tracking features are not something I've ever really used before, but Subject Tracking really does work. Eye AF and face recognition are quite usable, even if it won't track a guy in a 'Fro jumping around and Sony/Canon will. Even with the issues with my kit lens I was able to test this, and I also grabbed a 50/1.8G and have tested it a bit. 

My L-bracket arrived today, along with my Haoge Sony E to Nikon Z adapter. The L bracket is OK, it was cheap and is bright red, but I don't like the extra spacing of the L portion. I'll probably get a Smallrig bracket eventually. The Haoge adapter lets me stack my Sony adapters for now, mostly my M and C/Y adapters, until I get native ones, and will also give me the option of buying E mount manual focus lenses that aren't available in Z mount, like say the Loxia's.

I'm also on the lookout for a Fuji X to Nikon Z adapter. It should be possible as X mount is almost identical in spec to E mount (0.3mm shorter register, but very similar otherwise). That would let me use all my Fuji lenses except the XC35/2 in DX crop mode on the Z5, at 10.5MP it wouldn't be really high-end IQ, but fine for occasional use.

I expect I'm going to use the 24/50/105 combo a lot on the Z5, right now that's a Nikkor 24/2.8 K non-AI, the 50/1.8G and the legendary 105/2.5 AI-S 'Afghan Girl'. If that works well, I'll pick up an AF 24, maybe Viltrox will bring their new 24 to Z mount soon? I've heard good things about their 85/1.8 and it's on my list of interesting things, along with the 7Artisans 28/1.4 and 35/1.4's (not sure which of those I'll get, the cheaper native mount or the better Wen series in M mount). There's no AF replacement for the 105/2.5 though, which somebody should remedy. I'm expecting a 35/85 kit might work once I have an 85, as I already have 2 35's, the Nikkor 35/2 AI, which is decent enough but I've never been overly fond of it and the Super-Takumar 35/3.5, which I like a lot, but it's slow enough that it's not usable in weak light.

These are all fun lenses though, my hiking/landscape kit is the Laowa 15, the 24-50 (once sorted) and a telezoom, likely the 70-300E, and probably the 55/3.5 Micro.

In terms of buying fun lenses, I'm going to try and stick to 3 kinds:

1. Nikkors, both F and LTM
2. Cheap manual lenses, like 7Artisans and TTArtisan.
3. Takumars, I miss my old setup and they're still reasonably cheap aside from 85's.

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