Nikon Z50 Review

The Nikon Z50 (or Nikon Z 50 as Nikon prefers to write it) brings Nikon’s mirrorless camera technology to the hobbyist market. Nikon’s mirrorless cameras could be tempting, but not everyone can afford them!

Nikon’s 1st stab at creating interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras didn’t specifically set the world on fire; the 1-series’ relatively small, low-resolution 1-inches CX sensor – with a 2.7x crop aspect – quickly fell behind its mirrorless rivals.

More: Best Lenses for Nikon Z50

Nikon Z50 Price

The answer was the Z mount, which was introduced in past due 2018 and so arrived somewhat later to the mirrorless party. But if you’re going to turn up late, you’re likely to have to make quite an entrance – and the Nikon Z 50 has certainly completed that.

With the revolutionary Z install in Nikon mirrorless cameras, the company rethought its lens mount from the ground up. The initial two models, the full-frame Nikon Z7 and Z6, really showcased this cutting-edge tech, with a range of ‘S’-range lenses that are amongst the sharpest we’ve ever tested.

This qualifies Nikon’s Z cameras as among the best mirrorless cameras you can buy. But they come at a hefty price. Now, a shade over a year since the launch of the Z mount, Nikon has brought out its first more affordable mirrorless Z-mount model, and it already looks like one of the best digital cameras for hobbyists and lovers.

Much of this cost saving is due to the Z50 using an APS-C ‘DX’-size sensor, as used in its selection of DSLRs from enthusiasts down to entry-level, and this has enabled the camera to release with a price tag well in $1,000/£1,000. This DX body is certainly fitted with the same Z mount used on the full-frame mirrorless camera models, so full-frame Z lenses can be mounted directly onto the Z50 (and the new Z DX lenses will suit the Nikon Z6 and Z7, immediately engaging crop shooting mode). Using the same FTZ adaptor, existing DX and FX lenses for DSLRs can be used on the Z50 too.

Key Features

The smaller physical sensor size isn’t the only place where savings have been made. This model doesn’t feature ‘in body image stabilization’ (IBIS), so the lenses that start with the brand new model have Nikon’s Vibration Reduction built in.

But otherwise, the specs are truly impressive. The 20.9 MP DX-format sensor borrows the fast, wide Hybrid-AF (autofocus) system from Nikon’s full-frame ‘Z’ cameras, with 209 AF points covering 90 percent of the sensor width and height. Its 11fps continuous shooting range (with full autofocus and auto publicity) almost matches the Z 6 (and exceeds the Z 7), and certainly puts it up amongst the fastest shooters around, complementing many pro-level DSLRs. It’s a great low light performer too, with a native ISO range of ISO100-51,200 at up to -4EV.

And the Z50 is great for video, shooting 4K across the full sensor width, rather than a cropped version that some rivals have employed. 4K time-lapse sequences could be developed in-camera, while shooting in Full HD adds additional slow-motion footage mode.

The Z50 also features an electronic viewfinder. It’s lower-resolution than its full-frame cousins at 2.36 million dots instead of 3.6 million, but we found it to be sharp and with few signs of the lag that have plagued some of Nikon’s competitors. Electronic viewfinders do take a little getting used to, but once you perform, seeing the effect of your exposure settings through the viewfinder before you take the shot is normally nothing short of brilliant.

A tilting 1.04 million-dot touchscreen flips by 180 degrees to sit below the camera body, and is primarily made for selfies and vlogging use; Nikon sees a huge part of its target market to end up being ‘influencers’ who use platforms such as Instagram and Youtube to share content. This does mean that the screen would be obscured when found in this way if the camera were mounted on a tripod, but Nikon offers hinted that a solution to this is in the works.

Build and Handling

The camera may be physically smaller and lighter than full-frame Z models, but it uses a similar deep grip that is comfortable to hold. It has fewer buttons than the Z6 and Z7, but touch icons etched next to the touchscreen replace some of the efficiency of the physical control keys.

There are both rear and front-mounted scroll wheels that enable aperture and shutter speed to be quickly changed, among other functions. The direct exposure setting dial flips from the still left to the right side of the top plate, compared to the Z6/7, but in a space-saving (and cost-conserving) measure, there’s no top LCD. Two programmable ‘Fn’ buttons allow commonly used configurations to be quickly changed, and are in the same place as the Z6/7, nestled close to the lens mount.

In all, it feels very much area of the existing ‘Z’ family, but even smaller sized. If the Nikon Z7 is the mirrorless equivalent of the Nikon D850 pro full-frame DSLR and the Z6 the Nikon D750 enthusiast full-frame model, then the Z50 is roughly on par with the Nikon D7500 (and perhaps the Nikon D500) as an enthusiast APS-C camera, and Nikon provides hinted that we can further expect to see also lower-cost mirrorless entry-level versions released in the fullness of time to fit alongside the Nikon D5600 and Nikon D3500.

Performance

One of the biggest selling factors of the Nikon Z50 is how light and compact it is, but you can’t truly appreciate these qualities until you’re actually shooting with it. We got the Nikon Z50 around Bath city centre on an active Saturday afternoon, and it was a satisfaction to shoot with. It quickly slipped into a small messenger bag, which intended we didn’t need to mess around with a proper camera bag for a casual trip out.

However, despite its diminutive and unassuming size, the Nikon Z50 is capable of much more than just travel and holiday snaps. The Z50 was flawlessly suited to a run-and-gun shooting style as we captured quick snaps in the bustling town centre. With a little and non-threatening profile – plus the incredibly useful tilting touch screen LCD – the Nikon Z50 is properly suitable for street photography.

Verdict

Technically, the Z 50 might sound like a scaled down version of the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7, however in the flesh it includes a very different feel. Nikon has done a remarkable job of offering such a small camera such a solid one-handed grasp, but quite apart from the size of the camera, we had been impressed by the 16-50mm pancake kit zoom lens which is one of the slimmest APS-C kit lenses we’ve yet seen and runs on the ‘proper’ mechanical zoom rather than an electrical power zoom system – these always feel rather ‘disconnected’.

But even more compared to the camera and its kit lens, we are impressed by Nikon’s pricing. Body only, the Z 50 costs less than a few of tis chief APS-C rivals, and the pricing for the kit zoom lens and twin lens bundles is absolutely quite remarkable.

We were happy with the image and video quality produced by the Nikon Z50, and genuinely enjoyed zipping around the back streets of Bath capturing quick snapshots with this dinky little camera. Overall, we think this is a fantastic enthusiast mirrorless camera (at an even more fantastic price), and proves that Nikon has a clear vision for its Z-mount cameras. We can’t wait to discover what it pulls out of its handbag of tricks next.

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