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Nikon Z fc APS-C Mirrorless Camera Review

John Riley has been putting the classicly styled Nikon Z fc APS-C Mirrorless Camera, with the Nikon Z-Mount, through its paces to find out how good it is at capturing images.


|  Nikon ZFc in Mirrorless Cameras
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Nikon ZFc

Quick Verdict

A terrific small APS-C format camera that delivers the goods and offers a multitude of dials and buttons to allow access to all the main functions. Add gorgeous retro styling and lenses to match, and we end up with something that many photographers will find very appealing indeed. It speaks volumes that after an extensive review of the kit, it still hits the spot that says “I want” regardless of the question of whether or not “I need”, but the quality and handling are there as well. It all adds up to a very desirable bit of kit.

+ Pros

  • Beautiful retro design
  • Control via analogue dials
  • Fast and accurate AF
  • Very high build quality
  • Excellent ergonomics
  • Good quality video
  • Excellent EVF

- Cons

  • No inbuilt VR
  • No weather resistance
  • Some controls too easily nudged
 

 

Nikon has done this before, and the retro-styled DF was a 16.2MP full-frame DSLR that aspired to hit just the same spot that the new Nikon Z fc does. The first thing to notice is of course the inescapable retro styling, and Nikon users from the 1970s onwards will clock the details immediately. We are fortunate to have here two of the Nikon Z fc kits. The SE kit includes the amazing Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8, and the zoom kit includes the equally impressive Nikkor Z 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3. Let's see how we fare as we test out the two camera bodies along with the two lenses.

 

Nikon Z fc APS-C Mirrorless Camera Features

Nikon ZFc
 

The most obvious feature is the retro design, and of course the number of dials and switches that give the camera that firmly traditional feel. Nikon SLR users will be totally at home. However, under the skin, this is a modern mirrorless design, featuring a 20.9MP CMOS sensor, an OLED EVF with 2,360,000 dots and a 3-inch monitor with 1,040,000 dots. It is compact, weighing in at a very modest 445g. The dials and controls are finely machined Aluminium, and this reflects the high overall quality of construction. There is no weather sealing and no built-in VR (Vibration Reduction). The latter depends upon the lens in use.

Looking at the front of the camera we have a dial to set the aperture and the lens release catch. There is also a small button that by default is set to WB, placed rather unfortunately where it can be accidentally pressed every time the camera is brought into shooting position. The saving grace is that no settings are altered unless the command dial is moved as well. The Nikon Z mount has a 55mm wide internal diameter and this is helpful in the design of wide-aperture lenses. It also has a very short flange distance of 16mm, enabling the design of very slim mirrorless cameras whilst making the correction of lens aberrations easier. The FTZ adapter enables the use of Nikon F mount DSLR lenses, perhaps subject to some limitations depending on the lens. For the purposes of this review, the lens mainly used is the Nikkor Z 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3, a retractable design already fully reviewed.

The top plate has most of the analogue style controls. Starting at the left as we look down at the camera, we have the ISO dial, with its press button lock, showing the full range of values up to ISO 51200. H1 and H2 give access to the extended range up to ISO 204800, but as always these higher values are of doubtful quality. Around the ISO dial is the mode selector.

Nikon ZFc
 

Moving to the right, across the imitation pentaprism shape with its traditional leatherette finish, we reach the shutter speed dial. Around this is the lever selecting still photography or video. The main on/off switch surrounds the shutter release button, a most logical place for speed and ease of use. A convenient dial adjusts exposure compensation, compact camera style, and this is again a most useful placement for routine adjustments. A small window displays the aperture in use, but sadly it is of little practical value as its display is all but impossible to see. Finally, a small red button starts and stops video recording. This is not quite as stable to use as the shutter release would have been, but practice helps to avoid shaky starts. The upside is that even in video mode the camera will take still pictures in the usual way, albeit at video resolution. So no sudden unexpected events need be missed.

 

Nikon ZFc
 

Connectivity is assured via WiFi or Bluetooth, and in addition, there is the SnapBridge App for smartphones that enables backup and sharing of images. The camera can even be used as a high-class webcam with the free Nikon Webcam Utility software. This is downloadable from the Nikon website.

The rear of the camera has an excellent 3-inch vari-angle screen that can be used facing backwards or forwards for the inevitable selfies. The controls are standard Nikon, all very logical and well placed, subject of course to the small dimensions of the camera body. Notable is the i menu button that gives instant access to the main parameters that we might want to frequently adjust.  

Key Features

  • 20.9MP CMOS APS-C format DX sensor
  • EXPEED 6 processing engine
  • 12-bit or 14-bit RAW capture
  • ISO range 100-51,200 (expandable by 2 stops)
  • Meter range -4 to +17 EV
  • vari-angle monitor
  • 4K Video
  • WiFi (2.4 GHz)/ Bluetooth
  • 209 AF points
  • Hybrid AF with -4.5 - +19 EV range
  • EN-EL25 battery
  • SD cards (plus UHS-I compliant SDHC, SDXC)
  • 11 fps
  • Shutter speeds 30s - 1/4000s
  • OLED EVF with 100% frame coverage

 

Nikon Z fc APS-C Mirrorless Camera Handling

Nikon ZFc
 

The initial impression is of a beautifully made, highly authentic retro-designed camera that has the major advantage (apart from nostalgia) of having hands-on analogue control of virtually all the major functions. This can be so much more efficient than having to delve into menus. The upshot of this is that in common with many small mirrorless designs, it can be all too easy to accidentally press buttons and change settings without realising. This may initially be annoying, but the answer is familiarity. The advantages of the design do outweigh the disadvantages.

In a practical sense, all the functions are readily accessible and the handling is logical. AF is very fast and accurate, as well as being virtually silent. Features such as Eye-AF work seamlessly. With a sensitivity extending right down to -4EV, low light work is no problem.

 

Nikon ZFc
 

Switch on time has only the slightest of delays, so the camera can be brought into use in one action, the on/off switch being a collar around the shutter release. This one-handed action means that by the time the camera is raised to eye level, it is ready to go. The EVF is a very detailed OLED and its 1.02x magnification gives a relaxed and easy on the eyes view. The monitor is a touch screen, although this can be switched off if desired, and there is a sensor provided to allow auto-switching between EVF and monitor. This too can be switched off.

A day's shooting is no problem, with the EN-EL25 battery delivering approximately 310 shots when using the EVF and 360 shots when using the monitor. It is always a good idea though to have a second battery on hand. A charger is provided, a convenient design that plugs into a power socket directly without the need for any trailing cable. An optional charger cable for in-camera charging is available.

 


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Comments


Niknut Plus
11 3.0k 82 United Kingdom
14 Sep 2021 11:43AM
Now aint that a yummy piece of kit !.....with impressive image quality & not
too heavy.....so reminiscent of my old Nikon FM that I loved !.Grin

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