Shooting Aliens with the Nikon Z 7!

I was really thrilled to be a part of the launch of the new full frame Nikon mirrorless camera, the Z7. My mandate for the assignment was to simply have fun, challenge the camera, work in an environment filled with details, mixed light, shiny surfaces, and basically chock-a-block with stuff the Z camera and lens combo could crunch on. And to create a tableaux involving aliens at breakfast. Did I mention having some fun?

Again, me being the product of comic books, bad novels, adventure yarns, and lots of really bad (but highly entertaining!) movies, I submitted a notion involving extraterrestrials, but not the evil type here to consume our water supply or engage in other forms of planetary subjugation. It was mostly about a pair of elderly aliens, out for a bite at what for them was a not-so-local diner. At camera, I did some directing, but basically it was about putting a few strange pieces on the board and sitting back to watch what happened. Preparation, special effects, lighting and camera angle were all key!

Our aliens,  Nik Pjeternikaj & Jeanne O’Brien, were admirably coiffed and designed by SFX artist Catrina Grieco and her team Tiffanylee Adorno & Briana Trischitta.  The befuddled/astonished waitress and restaurant patrons were Alissa Bourne, Nicholas Skidmore, Jeff Kucukistipanoglu, and Meleza Morris. Samantha Brown Peterson, with the assistance of Alexa Casimir styled everyone, as always, doing an amazing job. Deborah Engelsman, Casey Mathewson, Omar Rawlings, Richard Marot, Michael Cali, and Andrew Tomasino rounded out the crew. Music was courtesy of Roy Ashen and the wonderful folks at  Triple Scoop Music. And our BTS video, over on YouTube, was put together by the very talented editor Steve Guise.

Many thanks to Annie Cahill and to Nikon’s Marc Cutler for the wonderful BTS images. Marc also provided crucial technical guidance for using the pre-production model of the Z 7.

The star of the show was definitely the pre-production Z 7 camera. I adapted almost immediately to the EVF–so much information at my fingertips, literally. Focus grab was certain and fast. Shot with both the native 24-70mm f4, and the FTZ adapter, coupled to a 19mm PC. Both approaches were precise and sharp. And, the truly beautiful thing is you’ve got 90% of the viewfinder covered with AF points. Wild. The FTZ adapter gave no signs of image degradation or loss of edge sharpness.

The lighting was a mix of big lights and SB-5000 Speedlights, controlled from camera with the WR-R10 transceiver, which plugs directly into the camera body. I had total radio control over all my small flashes on the set. Did a lot of bouncing and filling with my Speedlights, and when I needed a beautiful but subtle accent, I went with the Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 Plus. It’s simply the best small light shaper I’ve ever used.

Many miles to go with this camera. I envision my road pack now being a mix of DSLR lenses, and a D850 with a Z 7. Beautiful thing is, all my glass works seamlessly with both styles of camera. The Z 7 is light and fast, and will be tremendous field camera. The D850 will continue to be a wonderful production, studio and portrait camera. Best of both worlds, in the same camera bag.

The below video is up on our YouTube Channel. It’s a good account of a fun day in the field, with a future-looking camera.

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