Ted Hesser is a climber and a photographer. He takes breathtaking pictures in places most of us will never visit.
The Z 7 is a high-performance, high-megapixel camera for the kind of pictures most of us will take in places we will visit, but it's also a rugged, weather-sealed camera built to handle the extremes of...well, places adventurous outdoor enthusiasts and pro shooters visit often.
And extremes is where Ted comes in.
When we heard he was heading off on a five-week mission to climb the peaks of Patagonia's Fitz Roy range, we saw the perfect opportunity to put the Z 7 to its toughest test yet.
Climbing in Patagonia is rough going. "What generally destroys gear is the volume of rocky terrain you cover," Ted says.
And it's dangerous going. "Alpine climbing, especially in Patagonia, has to be fast and light—that's where safety comes from in those mountains. It's all about you and your partner's ability to move quickly, to get down and away from weather. The weather is the big x-factor here—it's volatile—so we really count the ounces in all our kits." For the savvy climber it's climb quickly and carry as little as possible. Ted doesn't even carry lens caps; every ounce, every fraction of an ounce, counts.
That's where the size and weight of the Z 7 mirrorless camera came into play along with the versatility of the NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S and NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S lenses Ted carried. "The 14-30mm literally replaced three lenses I was used to juggling for different scenarios." (In case you're wondering about the lack of lens caps, he kept a circular polarizer on the 24-70mm and a 2.1 neutral density filter on the 14-30mm—which is the only zoom of that focal length range to accept a filter.)
Because of its sensor, to me the Z 7 is basically a medium-format camera at this point. It delivers incredible images...
Ted had brought along his D850—but he never used it, which says a lot about the image quality delivered by the mirrorless. "Because of its sensor, to me the Z 7 is basically a medium-format camera at this point," he says. "It delivers incredible images, and there's so much room to work on an image, so much tolerance for adjustment if you want or need it."
It turned out that the Z 7 and its lenses was put to more of a test than first anticipated as the unpredictability of the weather turned out to have a positive side. "We had so much good climbing weather that we extended the trip by two weeks," Ted says. All told, he climbed six major peaks during that time and took...wait for it... not quite a mountain of images.
The Power Point
There was one additional, though not intended test. "This is worth calling out," Ted says, "and it was my biggest surprise about the camera. I wasn't sure how long the batteries would last in the cold, and at the beginning I'd bring along two batteries for each day I went out because I didn't know what to expect. Near the end of the trip I was bringing one battery for every two days. For the last climb I was out five days and brought three batteries and used one. From the start, the batteries for the Z 7 lasted just as long as the ones for my D850 up there in the mountains."
Which prompted us to ask about the temperatures up there. "It would get as cold as zero," Ted says.
Like we said, "...breathtaking pictures in places most of us will never visit."