Nikon's Z7 mirrorless camera is a full-frame 45.7-megapixel beast

The company wants in on a market that Sony's owned for years.

Edgar Alvarez/Engadget

It's over, at last: Nikon's worst kept secret is finally seeing the light of day in an official capacity. Today, the company revealed its long-rumored, highly anticipated mirrorless cameras, the Z6 and Z7. But here, we're going to focus on the flagship model, the Z7. This new shooter features a full-frame 45.7-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor with an Expeed 6 image processor, an ISO range of 64-25,000, a 493-point autofocus system, 9fps continuous shooting and 4K UHD video. That's basically everything you'd want out of a top-of-the-line camera in general, not just the mirrorless kind.

In addition to that, the Z7 comes with 5 axis vibration reduction built in, which will help keep shots stabilized during photo and video shoots. There's also a one million dot tilting, 3.2-inch touchscreen (it doesn't rotate though, unfortunately for vloggers), a top LCD OLED panel for displaying basic information, and a 3.69 million dot high-res OLED electronic viewfinder which Nikon says covers approximately 100 percent of the frame. As with comparable Sony models, the Z7 offers a completely silent shooting mode.

Videographers will be happy to know that, along with support for 4K, 30fps video (8 bit internally and 10 bit N log externally via the HDMI port), there are 3.5mm inputs for headphones and a microphone. Like the D850, the Z7 can also capture 120fps footage with audio, in case you want to make slow-motion clips in post-production.

However, while the Z6 offers a full pixel sensor readout, 4K on the Z7 is cropped to an APS-C (DX) size -- much like Sony's A7R III. You can still shoot 4K without any cropping, but some of the pixels will be binned. Unlike the D850, both the Z7 and Z6 support phase-detect AF for video, bringing Nikon up to the same level as Sony and Canon.

As expected, the Z7 is part of a fresh breed for Nikon, so you'll find a completely new body system dubbed "Z-mount." The same goes for the lower-end Z6. But the good news is, Nikon is making an F-mount adapter available from day one for Z7 (and Z6) owners, which is going to offer them support for all existing Nikkor lenses -- all 90 of them.

That said, Nikon is launching three native Z-mount lenses with the Z7: a 24-70mm f.4.0, 35mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8. It's also developing an insane 50mm f/0.9 lens for its Z-mount camera. On top of those, it will add six more Z-mount models in 2019, including 85mm, 20mm, 14-30mm, a faster 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses. Finally, a 50mm f/1.2, 24mm f/1.8, 14-24mm f/2.8 and three unnamed models will then arrive in 2020, and many more beyond that, Nikon revealed. If there's an area where Sony's mirrorless cameras lack, it's the glass department, and Nikon sees that as an opportunity for the Z7 and Z6.

You'll need an XQD memory card for the Z7 and unfortunately, there's only one slot. We're told CFexpress Type B card support will be coming via a future firmware update. XQD cards can be hard to find, but luckily Nikon is launching its own by the end of September. In terms of connectivity, there's USB-C, Bluetooth and WiFi via Nikon's SnapBridge, and a "PC Ready" feature that'll let you transfer images wirelessly to a desktop or laptop.

The body, meanwhile, is weather-resistant made out of magnesium alloy, giving it that premium feel you've come to expect from high-end Nikon cameras. There are three control dials, and each Z lens will have a ring that controls focus by default, but can be re-programmed for aperture, shutter speed or exposure compensation.

The Z7 and Z6 can be charged over USB-C, provided you use the new EN-EL-15b battery. They're compatible with the EN-EL-15a used on the D850 and other DSLRs, but USB-C charging won't work with the older models. The new battery is only good for 330 shots on a charge, but Nikon told Engadget that pro photographers testing the batteries have been getting up to 600 images. In any case, Nikon is developing the MB-N10 multi-power battery pack that will nearly double the number of shots and video recording times.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to shoot any sample images with the Z7, but what I can tell you is that it's much lighter than it looks -- and that substantial grip makes for a comfortable feel. We'll have a chance to test it out later today at Nikon event in New York City. For now, if you like what you see, get your money ready because the Z7 will be available at the end of September at $3,400 for the body-only configuration (£3,399), or $4,000 (£3,999) as a kit with the new Nikkor Z 24-70 f/4 S lens. The FTZ adapter for F-Mount lenses will cost $250 (£269).

Update: Pre-orders for Nikon's Z7 full-frame mirrorless camera are now open at B&H Photo, Adorama and elsewhere.

Steve Dent contributed to this report.