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The REAL Cost Of Upgrading To Nikon Z7 II For Pro Photographers

Nikon Z7 II

As as pro photographer, part of the job includes keeping pace as tech evolves around you. Let's face it-- electronic devices are on a never ending evolutionary path. They seem to get speedier-- or have more memory--- or get higher resolution, generation after generation. Cell phones in 2020 are a quite a leap forward from where they were in 2010. The same holds true for computers, as well as our topic today, digital cameras.

Over the past decade we've seen digital cameras, in general, consistently gain more and more resolving power, as well as other improvements such as increases in useable ISO range. Now with major manufacturers putting their R&D behind mirrorless, some would argue that mirrorless cameras are the future of pro photography.

Have you been looking to add a cutting edge mirrorless camera, such as the Nikon Z7ii, or other similar models to your photography arsenal? Like most other electronics, the models that push the edge of the technology curve come at a premium-- if you can even get your hands on one! Often, in the camera universe buyers line up and wait weeks and weeks to get their hands on new models after initial release.

One thing is for sure. This cutting edge technology always comes at a premium price. You may think your only cost in upgrading to the Z7 II is handing over your credit card, and paying your favorite camera dealer to buy one-- which as of March 2021 is approximately $3,000 USD. When "living on the edge," however, there may be other costs associated with your new purchase which you didn't initially anticipate. So, before you allocate all your available funds to solely your camera body, you may need a few of the items listed below to get the most from your new camera.

Let's take a look...

Lens Adapter: $250

Been a Nikon user for a while? Great! Guess what? As you probably are already aware, your great lenses you used with your trusty D850 won't work with the Z Series cameras. This is another one of those "as tech evolves" situations, where Nikon has increased the size of the lens mount rendering your old F Mount lenses unusable with the new body.

Not to fear. Nikon has your back. They make a handy FTZ Mount Adapter which will easily let you use older F Mount lenses with the Z system. It's simple to use, and works well (in my experience.)

Lenses: $600 - $???

Are new lenses necessary? No... but come on. Once you've upgraded your camera body, let's face it, all those new Nikon Z Mount lens start to look very enticing. Nikon lenses are optically amazing, and the new lens system has garnered rave reviews across the board. So, eventually, you will be getting some new Nikon glass to replace your F Mount favorites.

The catch here: Some lenses are tricky to find. Some incredibly popular lenses for pros are tough to find in early 2021. Including the 50mm f/1.8 S and the 85mm f/1.8 S, which seem to be hit or miss when it comes to availability.

Some specialty lenses are even trickier! I've personally been trying to get my hands on a 50mm f1/2 S since January 2021... with no luck. Whether this is all Covid related, demand related, or production related... I'm not sure.

Needless to say, you will be, at some point, upgrading your lenses to the new system. For lenses most likely to be used by pro photographers, this would probably start at $600 or so at the low end, and go up to $2400 or more based on what you use for your job.

Memory Cards: $200 - $1000

Although the Nikon Z7 II has an SD card slot, more than likely your primary memory card for this camera is going to be the CF Express card. The fast read/write speeds are designed to keep pace with the image and video files produced by the Z7 II.

The size of the RAW files on the Nikon Z7 II are large-- 50+ Megabytes per image. If you are a wedding shooter and take several hundred photos per event... that's a lot of Megabytes of data!!

What's the issue? Well, if your lifestyle has revolved around purchasing SD cards, you're in for a potentially shocking awakening. CFexpress Type-B cards are very expensive. A high quality 128GB CFexpress Card can easily cost over $200, and the price goes up as your card size increases.

If you're taking lots of photos, you may easily needs a few smaller cards to make it through your event. If you're a hybrid video shooter, you may even need to jump up to a 512B CFexpress, which can be well over $500. See what I'm driving at?

Depending our your type of situation your initial outlay for upgraded memory cards could easily be $500 - $1000 to replace your trusty SD cards. Welcome to the revolution!

PC Memory: $125 - $250+

Those 50 MB RAW files are full of beautiful detail, but if your PC isn't up to snuff expect slowdowns when operating your favorite editing apps such as Photoshop or Lightroom. Guess what? Time to stick as much memory into your PC as your motherboard can handle to keep your work up to speed.

One thing I can't stand are slowdowns on my PC when I'm trying to get work done. Sitting idly while waiting for Lightroom or Photoshop to complete a task is a frustration I prefer to avoid.

When popping those Lightroom files over to Photoshop for editing, Photoshop expands those images as 192MB uncompressed tiff files!! (And this is with a single layer...) Whoo!! We all know that Photoshop will gobble up any available memory it's given access to-- and now that you'll be editing Nikon Z7 II files... it's going to need every bit it can get to keep functioning, and not choke on those huge files.

Permanent Storage $100 - $2000+

Permanent storage, a.k.a. hard drive space, becomes a real issue when working with Z7 II files. Start doing some math-- Based on what we've seen for the RAW file sizes, plus add any Photoshop edited files (essentially duplicating files you've edited and sent back to Lightroom) these numbers start to get LAAARRGGGEEE! Shooting lots of wedding photos? You're now talking possibly Gigabytes of storage space needed for each event or session.

You're little old 2TB external HDD may not suddenly seem as spacious as it used to! What to do? Well you may be able to hold out for a while with your current storage, but if you're the type that hangs on to customer files... you'll be looking for larger options before too long.

Purchasing larger, or more, external hard drives will be a real need in your future. If you're looking for something a bit more robust and future-proof, you may be even eyeing up a NAS device, such as a multi bay Synology or QNAP NAS device.

Graphics Card: $125 - $400+

Graphics card? Yeah-- although this may not be applicable for everyone, from what I can see when editing photos in Photoshop, there are some filters, such as Liquify, which seem to offload processing to your system's GPU. Applying filters to these enormous files seems (to me...) to put a huge strain on your graphics card, and I've noticed a big difference in the real-time rendering...especially using Liquify.

I'm currently using an old, inexpensive graphics card in my PC. Primarily, because it's main purpose for many years was to simply give me multi-monitor capabilities. I don't use it for much else... Now that I'm pushing around these large files, it's become time for a graphics card upgrade to keep my workflow on pace.

This may also be a concern for hybrid shooters who are shooting 4K video. I've been messing around with video lately, and my system grinds to a halt trying to render and play hi-res videos, which is also another sign that's it's time for me to upgrade. As a person who knows nothing about graphics cards... you quickly learn there is an entire universe of options, so this may require some research to find the best card to fit your needs. I must admit I'm not looking forward to doing this research...arg.

Insurance: $150+ per year

If you carry insurance on your gear... you may have just jumped up a few notches in the equipment replacement actuarial tables from your insurer. Not insuring your gear? Well, with a $3200 camera in your hand... plus lenses... it may be time to start!

Insurance companies typically offer equipment insurance on an aggregate or per item basis, based on the value of what needs to be replaced. Formulas will vary from company to company, and are typically bracketed by a particular amount per hundred dollars of replacement value, or a particular amount per thousand dollars of replacement value. Essentially, what this means is the more expensive your gear, the more your going to pay in yearly coverage.

Working with a Nikon Z7 II plus a few lenses can easily vault your equipment value to over $6,000. Do you have $6,000 in cash to immediately replace your gear if it suddenly gets stolen on a job site one day? Ouch! If not, equipment replacement insurance may easily run you $150+ (based on the type of coverage... which gets wonky and goes beyond the scope of this article.) For pro photographers, this is one thing you should not be working without.


So there it is! A few items which "add" to the expense of owning your shiny new Nikon Z7 II. Did I miss anything you feel should be on the list? Please let me know.

Keep on shooting!


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