The Z7 EVF

Nikon made a big deal about how good the EVF on the Z6/Z7 would be, and indeed, it is very good. But I continue to get a lot of questions about just how good is it really.

Well, first things first: if you don't get too out of control with the WYSIWYG nature of the EVF—in other words, aren't increasing saturation, contrast, or using a janky Picture Control—I find the EVF very natural in good outdoor light. I didn't particularly notice that the view wasn't optical other than the fact that there is a small amount of latency (lag), which I measure at a bit more than 20ms (that's 0.02 second). This implies that the EVF speed is about 60Hz, by the way. 

Where the EVF starts to show its electronic nature is in low light indoors (or night scenes outdoors). That's because the camera will apply what it needs to in terms of a temporary ISO boost to show you what the exposure might look like (assuming you're not in manual exposure mode). The exposure in my office at the moment (gray rainy day, only ambient light through semi-transparent blinds) is ISO 3200 at 1/16 and f/4. At those settings, two things start to happen. 

First, you'll see noise. It's generally very small and not at all obnoxious due to the high resolution of the EVF, but it's there and noticeable. 

Second, if you've set a good exposure, in low light that exposure is brighter in the viewfinder than your normal vision (using the defaults), and depending upon how you have Picture Controls and White Balance set, may be showing you color and linearity that's different than your eyes are producing when not looking through the camera.

Curiously, I find that a manual exposure of about two stops under almost matches the EVF (in Auto) to the scene in my office. But I can't set the EVF manually to match (e.g. -5 isn't two stops, apparently). When I do match the EVF exposure to the actual scene before my eyes, once again the EVF does a remarkably good job of keeping the linearity correct. 

Frankly, the Sony A7Rm3 EVF is way noisier (with larger noise patterns) and worse in natural linearity and color rendition than the Nikon Z7 in the exact same conditions. Moreover, it's been my experience outdoors in good daylight that the Sony EVFs look more like EVFs than what your eye normally sees optically, something I can't say about the Nikon.

My initial conclusion about the Z7 EVF, therefore, is that Nikon has done a very good job with their implementation. It's not perfect, but it's far easier to forget you're using an EVF on the Z7 than it is on the A7Rm3, in my experience. Someone was paying attention to the emotional/subjective experience at Nikon, and it shows. 

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