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).

  • Z30 — Basically a Z50 with a couple of small improvements but no viewfinder or pop-up flash. Nikon targets this camera at vloggers, streamers, and other video-heavy users, but it still is a competent stills camera, as well, you just have to compose from the fully articulating Rear LCD. A solid introductory camera that needs a few more lenses to really shine. Recommended

  • 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
zfc front selfie

  • Zfc— This camera is really a Z50 II, but with a retro design that incorporates traditional dials (ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation). As with the Z50, that puts the Zfc above the entry consumer level, but still below the high enthusiast level. What did the Zfc add over the Z50 besides the dials? Mostly USB Power Delivery, an articulating Rear LCD, an Exposure Mode lever, the Z6/Z7II autofocus changes, and some slight control shift changes on the rear. It also lost one of the Fn buttons, the ISO button, and most importantly the right-hand grip with which to hold the camera. To attract millennials, you can get the Zfc in six colors other than black. My problem with the Zfc is partly due to the lack of hand grip (makes the camera not well suited to using large lenses) and the way the dials aren't thought through well enough by Nikon (in many ways you'd want to use the camera the dials will lie to you, and aren't active at all). No doubt this is a good looking camera if you like retro panda style. And it's well made and has all the goodness of the Z50's image and video quality. But the Zfc is not the all-around camera the Z50 is, in my opinion.

  • 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, the original Z6 is a good starting place. 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 excellent (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

  • Z6 II — The best of Nikon’s 24mp full frame mirrorless cameras, and a modest update to the original Z6. The Z6 II is capable of just about anything (I've used it for both wildlife and sports shooting with few quibbles). The big changes from the original are dual card slots, a bigger buffer, a new vertical grip option, and some additions and tweaks to the autofocus system, but overall there were dozens of small changes from the original Z6, as well. As a video camera, the Z6 II is nearly unmatched (particularly if you also own an Atomos Ninja V or Blackmagic Design Video Assist and are willing to pay the US$200 update fee to unlock the full potential of the Z6 II): 4K/60P 10-bit 4:2:2 N-log is the top capability, with the added options of ProRes RAW video or Blackmagic RAW capability with the paid firmware update (1080HD goes to 120P). The Z Autofocus Area Mode choices get four new options (over the Z6) that are useful when photographing people or animals, and overall the autofocus system has taken another small step forward. You will still have to learn the focus system to get everything possible out of the camera, though. The Z6 II 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
  • Z7II — All the things I write about the Z7, above, still apply, but now the camera has been improved in a number of ways: additional USB Power Delivery, changes and improvements to the autofocus system, bigger buffer, dual card slots, the ability to use a vertical grip option that has controls, a slight bump in top frame rate to 10 fps, and a number of small, subtle changes in the menus. Nikon simply made a very good camera better, without hurting anything in the process. Moreover, the (over-emphasized) complaint about banding showing up if you perform huge exposure shifts in post processing is also addressed. Yes, we all wish Nikon had done still more to bring the Z7 II up to the D850 level in all respects, but the Z7 II is an excellent camera, currently my #3 in best all-around mirrorless camera to buy (Canon R5 and Sony A1 are the top two, but both are more expensive). Recommended
  • Z8 — A smaller Z9 at a much lower price. Essentially everything in the Z9 (see below) except without the built-in vertical grip, without the built-in GPS receiver, uses a lower capacity EN-EL15C battery, and with mis-matched card slots (one CFe, one SD). Aggressively priced at US$4000, making the Z8 a camera with virtually no direct equal. Highly Recommended

  • Z9 — Nikon's flagship camera comes with a lot of firsts. 120 fps (JPEG only), pre-capture (JPEG only), sophisticated auto subject detection autofocus, blackout free viewfinder, 8.3K 60P raw 12-bit video (plus a ton of other variations), and much more, all in a D6-like pro-grade body, only cut down some in size and weight. Other than size, once you've used a Z9, you won't want to go back to any of the other Z bodies. Surprisingly, Nikon priced the Z9 aggressively at US$5500, and that coupled with its abilities and features made it a sell-out since the day it was announced. Highly Recommended
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