Best Landscape Camera?

During my short break dpreview claimed the Nikon Z7 II as the best camera for landscapes, much to the chagrin of Sony fans (and Fujifilm medium format fans who claim they were left out of the competition intentionally).

Yes, you can quibble with me about my use of the words "best camera" in the above paragraph, but dpreview used the words "our pick", "our choice", "our winner", and "best choice", all in three paragraphs.

Here’s the question no one is asking: does dpreview clearly explain why they made that decision? Here’s another question: will NikonUSA marketing actually notice the acclaim and send out some bragging-rights marketing?

Before we go too far, there’s the issue of “best”. Is there such a thing as “best”? Sure there is, but only if you put context on it: clearly described criteria, clearly described and equal evaluation, clearly made conclusions. 

The summary explanation that dpreview presented was “the Nikon’s ISO 64 setting…allows it to capture 2/3EV more light.” I’m not sure that was proven anywhere. ISO, and thus exposure, is a bit of a nebulous thing. Is dpreview sure that they collected more photons at the same aperture/shutter speed, and exactly how did they measure that? And where did they present their theory that “more light = better landscape photos”?  DxOMark, for what it’s worth, rates the Hasselblad X1D-50C and Sony A7R Mark IV at 14.8 in their Landscape test, the Nikon Z7 II at 14.7, so there's the additional needed explanation of how 2/3EV more light can create .1EV less dynamic range ;~).

Meanwhile dprview's stated complaints about the Nikon Z7 II don’t seem to be applicable to landscape photography. Really, we need the AF mode control button on a landscape camera? Worse still, dpreview just deviates from talking about landscape photography completely: “you’ll have to decide whether to use subject tracking, face detection, or a simpler AF area mode.” Hmm. Can’t remember when I needed the focus point to be moving while taking landscapes. Completely missing from dpreview’s fly-by proclamation of winnership is any discussion of things that ARE useful to landscape photographers, like Focus Peaking, EVF magnification, and so on. It’s almost as if they didn’t go out and take any landscape photos (hint: look in the image gallery that accompanies the article).

Meanwhile, the Sony A7R Mark IV—which most people would expect to be picked as the winner—has “Dual UHS-II card slots [which] will be helpful for those shooting fast action bursts of images.” At least there was an uninspiring landscape photo that made it into the photo gallery for that camera.

I could pick apart things even more than I already have, but try as I might I still don’t know why one of these cameras is better for landscapes than the others from dpreview’s article and descriptions.

The funny thing is, I agree with them ;~). 

I thought I was going to use my Sony A7R Mark IV more for landscape work than my Nikon Z7 II, but it simply hasn’t turned out that way. Heck, I thought that Sony’s additional wide angle lens choices were going to push me to the Sony for landscapes, but that didn’t happen even though I’ve now sampled a lot of those lenses. 

My reviews of the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8 S and the Sony 20mm f/1.8G are coming soon (still trying to collect more landscape images with both to complete my assessment). I’m not sure I have a favorite right now. Both are exceptionally good, better than the 20mm solutions I’ve been using. Likewise, both the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 S and the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8GM are excellent choices, too. Again, I'm not sure I have a real preference. Yes, I know the Sony zoom goes wider, but for my landscape work I’m not finding that to be overly useful.

One thing that drives me towards the Nikon for landscapes is my preference for physically wider images. I don’t like the 3:2 aspect ratio for landscapes, and I hate 4:3 for landscapes. The Hollywood DP in me wants wide, horizontally encompassing images, and for that I’ve turned mostly to the 19mm PC-E and a tri-stitch sequence. Because I can mount the front of the PC-E to the tripod—using an accessory I found in Japan—I can make a three-image horizontal sequence wickedly fast, and not worry about parallax issues during the post processing stitching. The PC-E also allows me to control the focus plane while producing excellent acuity. 

Coupled with the data set that the Z7 II captures—which at base ISO does indeed have a few more photons in play and which is easy to post process—that’s why I keep gravitating towards the Z7 II over the A7R Mark IV. I also have to remember to turn off lens corrections on the Sony, as they are used to change the raw data before it is recorded and can complicate post processing. 

Now I’ll be the first one to admit a bias here. I like the Z7 II for my landscape work because it better suits my landscape work. Simple as that. I wish it had real time zebra display for stills, a pixel-shift mode, and a few other things that other cameras have, but it’s the combination of specific personal biases that have me picking the Z7 II. 

Did dpreview tell us what their bias was that pushed them to declare the Z7 II as their recommended landscape camera? If they did, I’m not sure I detected that. I know they read my site, so perhaps they’ll come back with another article, such as their “Scoring Explained” one to tell everyone how they think (for me at least, that article failed to do so. At least they tried ;~).

Meanwhile, dpreview posted their recommendation on May 27, at 1pm PST. NikonUSA’s Twitter feed hasn’t mentioned the dpreview recommendation yet. I wonder whether they will? 

Nikon Rumors, of course, picked up the recommendation quickly and put up a post about it. I’m surprised Sony Rumors didn’t put up a “They’re Wrong” post. But this just goes to show how information bias actually works in the background on the Internet: publish things that agree with your view, don’t publish the things that don’t.  So, not news ;~).

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