Retro-styled mirrorless cameras are not new in the market, yet the charm never fades, touching a nostalgic nerve in those who started their photography careers with manual film SLRs. The Z fc has the distinction of being Nikon’s first retro-styled mirrorless camera, but the Z f now expands this vintage appeal to the Full-Frame line-up with a 24-megapixel sensor and remarkable features.
Nikon Z f review
The Z f design closely resembles that of the Z fc, both having been derived from the popular Nikon FM2 film camera. The notable differences in the front are the location of the model name and the bottom shaped to accept external attachments like a grip or an L-bracket. The top layout largely preserves the Z fc design with dials for ISO sensitivity, Shutter speed, and Exposure compensation, and physical selectors for shooting modes and output modes. The camera gets a dedicated B&W mode in addition to regular stills and videos. The pentaprism bulge and a tiny film-counter type F-number indicator LCD are adopted from the Z fc. The shutter release button of the Z f is threaded to accept a soft release or a mechanical cable release for long-exposure shots.
The rear has a familiar mirrorless camera design albeit a retro finish. The display is fully articulated, and aids in high-angle and low-angle shots in addition to selfies. It also helps to protect the screen when it’s not in use. The Z f has a protruding textured grip to make it easier to hold than the Z fc, however, it’s not as deep as those of the non-retro interchangeable lens cameras. The sturdy magnesium alloy body protects the camera while the embossed faux leather exterior adds a touch of class. Though the Z f has been launched in international markets in various colours, Indian consumers will get to buy only the black version.
The 24.5-megapixel Nikon Z f uses the same full-frame CMOS sensor that is used in the Z6 II, combined with the latest Expeed 7 processor. This processor brings a slew of latest features including automatic subject detection in autofocus, including humans, animals and birds. The camera uses hybrid phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus, aided by 273 focus points. The in-body image stabilisation now offers 8 stops of shutter speed advantage. Furthermore, the stabilisation is centred around the focus point selected instead of the optical centre. Then there’s pixel-shift shooting, which allows you to combine up to 16 NEF images within the camera to produce a high-resolution output of up to 96 megapixels.
The camera features dual memory card slots, but instead of the latest and fastest CFexpress cards in other Z-series full-frame cameras, the Z f accepts an SD card in the main slot and a MicroSD card in the second. Not the best combination for a full-frame camera of this class, but we believe this has been necessitated by space constraints. Incorporating the slower MicroSD card means slowing down the system especially if you configure it to separate Raw and JPEG files. The card slot is within the battery chamber, which makes it difficult to swap cards while the camera is mounted on a tripod.
You can capture 14-bit Raw images with lossless compression, high efficiency (high), and high-efficiency options and JPEG with fine, normal or basic compression options. There’s an HEIF option as well. The Z f offers up to 14 fps high-speed capture for Raw and JPEG large and Fine images. There’s also a 30 fps mode if you choose JPEG with normal quality. Equivalent sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 64,000 without considering the boost modes.
The retro styling is not optimal for videography, yet Nikon has packed the camera with credible video capability. It can churn out 4K UHD footages at up to 60 fps in DX-crop and up to 30 fps with the full sensor area. The camera even offers 10-bit N-Log/HLG in H.265.
The 3.2-inch, 2.1 million dot vari-angle TFT touch-sensitive LCD offers a 170-degree viewing angle. You can use the screen for touch focus and touch shutter. You can also disable this feature if not required. The EVF electronic viewfinder is a 0.5-inch, 3.69 million dot OLED panel. The interface offers a USB Type-C port along with an HDMI Type-D, and 3.5-inch jacks for headphones and external microphones.
The Nikon Z f has an improved autofocus system, and it was quick to detect subjects and latch on to moving targets even in reasonably low light conditions.
The Nikon Z f offers a wide range of White Balance modes, and the Auto White Balance also offers additional sub-modes to preserve warm or cool colours in the frame, making it great for wedding and artificial light photography. Under daylight, we found the preset providing better results than AWB mode, which had a mild warm tint. However, this is not a fault and can be easily corrected in post-processing.
Coming to High ISO noise, the images were absolutely clean up to ISO 1600, and perfectly usable up to 6400 even used highly cropped. At lower magnifications, you can use up to ISO 51,200 without perceptible noise.
We used a Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC card to check the burst speed. Nikon claims 14 fps continuous burst in JPEG Large and fine mode, and we got 82 frames in 7 sec with a 25-second gap to write the images from the buffer to the card, clocking 11.7 fps. So we believe 14 fps is possible with higher speed memory cards. We could also verify the 30 fps burst mode with JPEG large and normal mode.
The dedicated Black and White mode offers two settings — Flat and Deep Tone monochromes, and we were easily hooked on to this mode.
The Nikon Z f appeals to photographers who appreciate a retro design, and the 40mm f/2 kit lens that we received complements this body well. The combination of this lens and the fully articulated LCD will serve well for street and travel photography, photojournalism, and still life. The advanced autofocus system and 14 fps high-speed continuous shooting make the camera well-equipped for occasional wildlife, action, and sports photography especially if you mount it on a tripod with a ball head or a specialised head like the Wimberley head. However, if you plan to shoot handheld with a heavy telephoto lens, you may find the shallow grip quite uncomfortable. There are third-party grips available, but even these are not deep enough to ensure a comfortable hold. Another weak point is the choice of MicroSD as the second card, which makes it unfit for high-speed shooting on a professional level. Nevertheless, with critical improvements in AF, pixel-shift high-resolution mode and competitive video specs, the Z f presents significant improvements over the Z6 II.
A great retro camera at a great price.
|35.9 mm x 23.9 mm
|Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF
|Z mount Nikkor lenses, F mount Nikkor lenses (mount adapter required)
|Approx. 144 x 103 x 49 mm
|Image Sensor Type:
|up to 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD): 60p
|ISO 100 to 64000
|0.5-in. approx. 3690k-dot (Quad VGA) OLED
|(body only) Approx. 630 g