The Short Version Nikon Z Camera Reviews

Here are my concise opinions about the various Z models. For more details, see the full reviews in this section (hint: click on the product name after each bullet).

  • Z50 — This camera slots somewhere between a Nikon D5600 and D7500 DSLRs in terms of features and performance. That puts it above the entry consumer level, below the high enthusiast level. What sets the Z50 apart from its true competitors (Canon M6 Mark II, Fujifilm X-T200/T30, Sony A6100/A6400) tends to be its Nikon-ness. The Z50 uses Nikon's long-established DSLR design language so thoroughly, that pretty much any Nikon DSLR user will be near instantly comfortable with the Z50. Moreover, it's a solid performer, using Nikon's well-established 20mp DX sensor (D7500, D500) coupled with the Z system autofocus. One small niggle: Subject Tracking AF is the old-style of the original Z6/Z7 firmware, not the newer, more 3D Tracking-like style of current Z6/Z7 firmware. Video is way more than competent: the Z50 is a solid 4K performer that produces excellent 8-bit 4:2:0 files in camera. A pop-up flash makes it versatile, and the two Z DX lenses that were announced with it are both excellent, and at the top end of what you'll find in kit lenses among camera companies. The Z50 is a great travel camera with the two Z DX lenses: compact, light, versatile. I throw in an FTZ and the Nikkor 10-20mm AF-P lens and have a 15-375mm (effective) three-lens kit that is a tight fit in the very small Tenba BYOB Insert 9 bag (4 x 9 x 6"). This is the camera I bought my mom (a long-time Nikon user herself). Recommended

  • Z5 — Nikon's lowest cost full frame mirrorless camera is a lot like their original 24mp camera, the Z6. The differences may not be meaningful for many considering such a camera. In particular, the Z5 has less video capability than the Z6 (though it has competent, cropped 4K video and excellent full frame 1080P video); focus and image quality performance in very low light isn't quite as good with the Z5 as with the Z6, but still decent; and the frame rate is restricted to a max of 4.5 fps. Unlike some makers, Nikon didn't go on a "cripple crusade" to create their low end. The Z5 has a remarkably robust set of features, and basically the same body as the higher model. Even the EVF is the same. Things many see as benefits is the ability to power the camera from USB and the dual SD card slots. With the 24-50mm f/4-6.3 kit lens, the Z5 also turns out to be one of the most compact, yet capable, travel cameras. Recommended

  • Z6 — If 24mp and full frame mirrorless is what you're looking for, this is about as good as it gets. Ignore all those YouTube naysayers out there: this is a really good camera capable of just about anything (I've used it for both wildlife and sports shooting with few quibbles). As with all the Z cameras to date, Nikon shot a little low: the Z6 slots just below the D780 DSLR in terms of specs and features. But that's also reflected in the price, which tends to be less than its most direct competitor, the Sony A7 Mark III. As a video camera, the Z6 is nearly unmatched (particularly if you also own an Atomos Ninja V): 4K/30P 10-bit 4:2:2 N-log, with the added option of ProRes RAW video capability. About the only missing capability would be 4K/60P (HD goes to 120P). While I never had the kinds of issues with focusing that the YouTubers all claimed, three solid firmware updates have improved things to the point of no complaints. However, the Z Autofocus Area Mode choices are not the same as the Nikon DSLRs: you will have to learn the differences to get everything possible out of the camera. The Z6 with the 24-70mm f/4 S lens is arguably the best 24mp full frame "kit" you can buy. Add the 14-30mm f/4 S and a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-P lens on the FTZ adapter, and you have a high-performing travel kit that's capable of pretty much anything you'd want to do, better than the equivalent Nikon DSLR equivalents, all while being smaller and lighter to carry. Recommended

  • Z7 — I've long held that the Nikon D850 DSLR is the best all-around interchangeable lens camera you can buy. Again, Nikon shot just a little low with the mirrorless cameras: the Z7 slots just below the D850 in quite a few ways. So maybe the Z7 isn't the best all-around ILC you can buy, but it's close. One reason is that the DX crop mode gives you 19mp, basically equivalent to the Z50 and DX DSLRs. So for wildlife and sports shooting when you're pressed for lens, the Z7 can suffice and produce usable results. Video isn't quite as good as the Z6, as the Z7 uses line skipping when used at full frame due to the high pixel count, and it produces artifacts at times where the Z6 won't. Where the Z7 looks to fall short against competitors is in the comparison to the Sony A7R Mark IV. Sony opted to go to 61mp, while the Z7 is 45mp. Frankly, you need to be printing big, use really great lenses, and use excellent shot discipline to produce a meaningful difference with the Sony. It's actually a slightly different feature that is Z7's Achilles heel against the Sony: lack of pixel-shift capability. 45mp pixel-shifted would pretty much answer the "must have more/better pixels" complaints that make people consider the Sony. One thing I'll point out: the Sony A7R Mark IV isn't so much an all-around ILC as the Z7 is. If you're a landscape or architectural photography, maybe you'll take the A7R over the Z7. But for most everything else, those 61mp—particularly considering Sony's huge file sizes—will turn into a liability. Recommended
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