Teardown of the Nikon Z7 Mirrorless Camera

Published October 30, 2018

We published our teardown of the Canon EOS-R and then had to decide which of the Nikon Z cameras to do. We decided to go with the top-end Nikon Z7. The Nikon Z6 would be the more appropriate comparison from a price standpoint; the Nikon Z6 is retailing for $2145, the Canon EOS-R for $2299, and the Nikon Z7 for $3545. (FWIW, the Sony A7R III splits the difference, at $3,000.) But we had a Z7 and didn’t have a Z6. And honestly, I was more interested in what the top-end camera looked like inside.

Yes, I know fanboys are going to go berserk about it being an unfair comparison, but fanboys are going to get upset no matter what I do. Nikon shooters will legitimately wish I’d compared both the Z6 and Z7 to help with decision making. I’ll probably crack a Z6 open just to peak at differences when we get them, but I probably won’t make a full tear down.

I also want to mention that the good guys at Kolarivision (I highly recommend them, BTW, should you ever want an IR conversion) have already done a Z7 teardown. I think the two teardowns will complement each other. They give you a great look at the sensor assembly, because removing sensor assemblies all day is what they do, so we just left that alone. We’re going to focus more on the other parts of the camera because repairing dead cameras (and looking for weak points) is what we do. We won’t take out the sensor because I have too much to do, and that part is already done well by Kolarivision.

Nikon Z7 Teardown

Well, the first difference comes early: the viewfinder rubber is clip-on, where the Canon’s was attached with screws. You guys can go ahead argue for a few hours about which is better or worse; I don’t think it matters., 2018


Opening the doors and looking around shows a lot of weather-resisting gaskets everywhere. There is more robust door sealing than we saw on either the Canon EOS R or the Sony A7RIII., 2018


While the Canon had a new type of bracket for their fully rotating LCD, the Nikon has a tilting LCD with standard bracketing that we’ve seen on numerous cameras. It’s tried-and-true, I have no worries about it; tilt brackets are less stressed than rotating-tilting brackets., 2018


Anyway, with external inspection out of the way, we started taking out the obvious screws., 2018


And removing the grip rubber. Another thing that makes absolutely no difference to anyone but us, but we got spoiled with Canon’s new adhesive. Nikon uses more of a ‘you ain’t getting this off without a fight and a heat gun’ adhesive. Kind of a pain for disassembly/reassembly, but the strong adhesive, along with lots of overlapping edges covered by the grip rubber is kind of impressive. In many places the plastic shell doesn’t just interlock; it overlaps, screws together and then is covered with rubber grip and adhesive. That should not only give a superior weather seal, but it’s also probably giving some added strength to the assembly., 2018


Nikon cameras tend to want the bottom plate removed before going on to other things, so we started there., 2018


Those of you who read a lot of my teardowns know that my life revolves around mocking Nikon for having actual wires (how 80’s) winding hither and yon in the camera. I’m pleased to see they’ve obviously been listening to me because the first thing we see is a wire neatly held in a bracket. The white color makes me think it’s a WiFi antenna wire., 2018


The bottom plate, again, has thick weather gaskets both around the edges and at the tripod mount., 2018


The tripod mounting plate itself is OK, but certainly neither as robust as, nor is the screw insert as long as the Canon. When will this matter? Probably never, but I would be careful not to insert an overly long tripod plate or accessory screw on this camera; you might pop the top of the socket off., 2018


With grips off and screws out, the back panel and LCD assembly slide right off., 2018


And at this point, things look much like any Nikon SLR disassembly. You can see the end of that white wire inserting into a plug on the PCB which confirms its WiFiness., 2018


And let me give props where they are due: there is not a soldered wire to be seen, flexes are neatly laid out, and runs are short. It’s an immaculate and thoughtful design., 2018


Let’s also praise some thorough weather sealing. Here you see it along the top., 2018


And here along the sides., 2018


And, of course, the buttons are all well sealed. I think we can safely assume that all cameras have well-sealed buttons these days, but the Nikon Z7 has great sealing everywhere we looked., 2018


With the bottom and back off we can get a nice look up from the bottom at the various boards. If you compare it from a similar view of the Canon EOS R near the end of that post, you can see that there’s a lot less air in the Nikon, mostly because there’s a lot of IBIS in there., 2018


Next step is taking out the EVF. There are very few things I didn’t like about this camera from a reliability standpoint, but one was the diopter adjustment knob. In some ways it’s very nice – you have to pull it out to adjust it, which is good. But when it is pulled out, it feels rather weak and overly flexible. Who cares? Only me. You’ll only adjust this once in a great while and never have a problem. But my theoretical purpose here is to find out what’s likely to break on a rental unit. This will get adjusted with every rental and I suspect we’ll see some breakage here., 2018


I got irritable (irritable – the feeling I get when I’m nervous) when we were trying to pop off the makeup plug to get to the screw inside. Aaron would try to pry up the makeup plug. The diopter knob would pop out and bend like a palm tree in a hurricane. Aaron: Hold the knob for me. Roger: You are prying with a scalpel. Not happening., 2018


Eventually, (I held the knob with some forceps) the diopter adjustment knob was removed (no fingers or camera parts were damaged during the disassembly) and the EVF came right out. Again, a big, thick moisture seal sits under the adjustment knob. Had I held the knob with my fingers, this would have prevented my blood from getting deep into the camera., 2018


Removing a few more screws let us take the main PCB off., 2018


As mentioned earlier, it’s neatly laid out and not particularly crowded., 2018


The underside shows the XQD card slot and the ports are all soldered on. The audio plug jacks are on a separate sub-board. That’s the date-time battery in the upper right. In the early days, we used to worry about where the battery was because you’d have to change them after a couple of years. It’s not an issue with modern batteries., 2018


With the board out you can look down at the sensor / IBIS assembly. It’s noticeably more compact, has less travel than the Sony system, and seems more robust. From our focus on repair, we see this as a good thing – early Sony IBIS systems would sometimes move enough to jam and/or break. (To be clear, that’s not an issue with newer Sony cameras. I point this out just to show that the manufacturers have been watching each other.), 2018


Certainly, the adjusting posts, which support the entire assembly, are robust; at least the equal to the Canon EOS R., 2018

I should also point out that both Canon and Nikon have used infinitely adjustable spring-over-screw systems to correct sensor-to-flange tilt. Sony uses a shimmed post. In theory, at least, the step-wise adjustment of shims can’t be as accurate as an infinite adjustment; whether the technique actually results in less sensor-to-flange tilt, I do not know. I could imagine, though, that with a wider lens mount, and the narrow depth of field of f/1.2 lenses, sensor-to-mount tilt might require more accuracy.

We took off the port cover next. I won’t show a close-up, but you can make out foam sealing around the release button, and we saw the sealing around the edge that meshes with the back assembly earlier., 2018


Here are the mic and audio out plugs on their separate board., 2018


The port bracket certainly looks up to the task of keeping the audio ports from pulling out, but I’m not sure it does much to prevent, the more common and severe problem of pulling the HDMI port off of the board. Still, all protection is good protection., 2018


Finally, we removed the top assembly. By the way, the magnesium frame you now see is fairly thick, stiff, and heavy., 2018


The usual electronic complexity of all top assemblies is there. And as usual, we aren’t going to spend hours taking it apart., 2018


But I will show yet another close-up of the really impressive weather sealing., 2018


Just in case I haven’t made my point, a couple of more pictures of ‘if there’s an edge, there’s a weather seal’ in this camera., 2018, 2018


I’ll leave you with one last shot of the sensor / IBIS/frame assembly. Not a lot of air in this one, but a lot of really strong looking supports and connections., 2018


This is not marketing department weather resistance. This is engineering department weather resistance. Anything that can be sealed has been sealed. I’m impressed, and I will say for future cut-and-paste blurbs: this is as robustly weather sealed a camera as we’ve ever disassembled.

I don’t believe in weather resistance myself. I believe like life; water will find a way. I believe in plastic baggies and rubber bands. I am, however, a great believer in the idea that if you claim to do something, then damn well do it right. This is done right.

I’m impressed by the very solid construction of the chassis and IBIS unit. I’m impressed with the neat, modern engineering of the electrical connections. Yes, I’m aware that soldered wires carry electricity just fine, but to me, there’s something reassuring about seeing neat, well thought out, 2018 level engineering.

I’m not here to tell you which camera is best to use or has the best performance. I’m just here to say this is a damn well-built camera, the best built mirrorless full-frame camera we’ve taken apart. (For the record, I haven’t torn down a Leica SL.)

Even I don’t buy cameras strictly because of how well they are built. And I can’t say until we take apart a Z6 (and really also whatever Canon releases as their high-end mirrorless) if the build quality is how Nikon’s going to do it or because it’s a flagship camera. I would guess a bit of both. But so far the CaNikon mirrorless have been exactly what we expected.
Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

October, 2018

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Equipment
  • Epsilon

    Well done! I’ll still wait for the next iteration from Nikon before abandoning my 850, though..

  • Oh, man, they gonna’ ban you. . . 🙂

  • Someone

    Thank you Sir.

  • David Cartagena

    As a Mechanical Engineering Technician I would choose a shim instead of a spring 1000x ! Shims are safe and make a sturdy connection and they are certainly not less accurate to use than a spring loaded adjustment screw.

    Best regards


  • David Cartagena

    Seems ??. My old a900 from 2008 and my old KM D7D, and my a700 never had IBIS problems.

  • Robert E

    Thanks for the tear down article. For me, these are always interesting to read. I suspected that something was amiss when the IBIS module on my lightly-used Sony A72 locked up. The “cushions” were replaced, at a cost of $300. I have since traded that camera in for an A7r2. I am hoping that the IBIS module on this newer camera is more robust.

  • That’s very good to know about Nikon’s whole future WRT grip rubber. Yay!

    As a wedding photographer, I’d be shooting with a Z6 tomorrow if it had dual card slots.

    As a nightscape / landscape / timelapse shooter, I’d be owning both a Z6 and Z7, if I knew the image quality could be truly equal to the D850, and equal/superior to the D750.

    I guess we’ll wait until the next generation…

  • Finally! A camera body that’s safe to rent for Burning Man! 😀

  • Ayoh M

    “IBIS assembly. It’s noticeably more compact, has less travel than the Sony system, and seems more robust.”

    Roger in what way would you say the IBIS assembly seems “more robust”?

  • wilson

    Nikon has already confirmed plans for a battery “pack” and confirmed that it will NOT have vertical photo controls on it. So not a “grip” in the sense that most photographers know.

  • Not THAT Ross Cameron

    Ahhhh (loud clunk as the penny drops 🙂 Just a suggestion – if LR hadn’t done so already, there might be sufficient material for a blog from the perspective of changes in approaches to repairing cameras for SLR to DSLR to mirrorless. At the general level – I imagine too much detail to go down to specific manufacturers or models, unless there are particular standouts.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Canon, as always, are half-assing their stuff.
    Nikon, on the other hand, are betting the farm on the Z’s being a success. I’m sure the next generation will be very attractive bodies (the current ones have a weak processor, and are hamstrung by that).
    Thank you Roger and Aaron for the disassembly!

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Since I don’t think you’ll do either just to make a few of us happy, can we at least count on you doing one of the new Panasonic S cameras? *wink wink, nudge nudge*

  • davev8

    lucky the R will transfer jpegs real time to a mobile device automatically

  • Michael Ogle

    With age, a spring loaded screw may move but a shim will be the same until the camera dies.

  • Tony Pérez Martínez

    Please take the shutter of the camera apart! Look for any oil leaks. Hope the Z6 is as well built as this one.

  • TurtleCat

    Random Dpreview user post doesn’t boost your argument by much. And it doesn’t rule out the more likely error: user error.

  • EVener

    To Roger and the rest of the LensRental team: Thank you for this and all of the other teardowns and lens testing you do. It is much appreciated.

  • rich

    did nikon put any connector in the battery compartment for future battery grip potential like in old cameras? since they didn’t put any at the bottom of the camera.

  • Andreas Werle

    Thanks for the tear down, Roger. It is always a pleasure to read!

  • dave

    Awhile back Adobe had a mac bug that’d kill your drves if you used backblaze and over 15 of my external drives bit the dust but I had so many recovery tools from mac bundles that it was crazy how my MBP wouldnt see them but these apps would and would mount them in safe mode so you could get data off (after you took drive out of case and put it in a dock). has a disk formater that they recommend to use every time and it might work and it’s free.

    But I agree on the sansdisk, I’m only buying the 95mb ones from now on but will probably try one of the new sony tough ones but I have zero trust in sony products lol

  • @disqus_6iO68J6Eyr:disqus The camera couldn’t see it, my macbook couldn’t see it, so the only option was that VAIO. I tried formatting the card via the standard Windows format tool and then via command line (after deleting and creating a new partition) – no dice! Not a big deal – I’m just sticking to SanDisk going forward.

  • Funny!!! 🙂 But that was actually a Sony camera (the first gen A7r).

  • Perry

    for over 3000 euro the Z7 should have better weather sealing than the EOS R.

  • Jason Andersen

    Rodger….since I’m old, I have an old school question. For a photojournalist in a war zone, would a Nikon F2 or Z7 stand up to more abuse?

  • Dre de Man

    There is a line of code in the controller software of the Sony cards: if maker note = Nikon corp. then data loss = 1, else data loss = 0

  • I agree about fanboy being sexist, yet superfan doesn’t really have the childish immaturity connotation. Fanbrat?

  • That’s exactly it. We don’t see a lot of difference in the price of, for example, replacing a modular EVF or recalibrating an AF sensor. Hourly repair rates are such that a $200 module replaced in 15 minutes is no more expensive than 2 hours of calibration and disassembly.

  • Not THAT Ross Cameron

    Thanks for putting it into context Roger. So if there is an electronics failure, does that mean that the fix would likely involve replacing a modular component, rather than a mechanical part? And I guess the bigger & more complex (say sensor & IBIS unit) the more expensive?
    I’m not trying to start a whole DSLR vs Mirrorles debate – web is already full of that nonsense – just understand the relative pros & cons.

  • osynlig fog

    Thank the maker for a single XQD/CFe. SD is old and unreliable. Two XQD would have made the camera bigger. This camera is way smaller and lighter than a D850 (have you actually worked with these cameras or are you just trolling?) and, importantly, can operate in complete silence. I’d take the Z7 over the D850 any day of the week.

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