Michael Topham lays hands on Nikon’s first DX-format mirrorless camera in the Z-series
Nikon Z 50: At a glance
- £849 (body only)
- £989 with NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens
- 20.9MP APS-C sensor
- Nikon Z-mount
- 11fps continuous shooting with AE/AF
- Tilting touchscreen
- 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder
- 4K video at 30p
Following on from the success of its Z 6 and Z 7 full-frame mirrorless cameras, Nikon has expanded its Z-series range by announcing a smaller, more affordable model. The new Nikon Z 50, which uses the large Z mount and accepts Nikon’s FTZ mount adapter and F-mount lenses, is Nikon’s first attempt at creating a DX-format mirrorless camera equipped with an APS-C size sensor.
Despite being smaller and lighter than the Z 6 and Z 7, it manages to successfully uphold the style and feel of the company’s Z system while offering Nikon D7500-like features with usability closer to that of Nikon’s advanced entry-level DSLR, the D5600.
This exciting news will be of great interest to budding amateurs and keen enthusiasts who’d like a smaller and lighter system for considerably less than it costs to make the jump up to a full frame Z-series model. To answer the question of what lenses the Z 50 will use, Nikon has also announced a pair of new DX-format Z mount zooms. We’re also glad to report that the Nikkor Z lens roadmap has been updated too, giving us a good indication of how the lineup of lenses will evolve in the near future.
Nikon Z 50: Features
The 20.9MP APS-C CMOS sensor the Nikon Z 50 employs is closely related to the one found inside Nikon’s D500 and D7500, albeit with on-chip phase-detection and an AF working range that sees it focus down to -4EV. The sensor teams up with the same EXPEED 6 image processor that you’ll find in the Z 6 and Z 7, however unlike Nikon’s pair of full-frame models, the Nikon Z 50 doesn’t feature in-body image stabilisation (IBIS).
Instead, Nikon has opted for optical stabilisation in the form of it Vibration Reduction (VR) technology built into its new Nikkor Z APS-C lenses. Forgoing IBIS might be looked upon as a missed opportunity, but by leaving it out it has allowed Nikon to make the Z 50 extremely small while ensuring it hits the sweet-spot in terms of affordability to the consumer.
The sensitivity of the sensor is extendable from ISO 100-25,600 to a maximum of ISO 51,200. It can rattle out a continuous burst of shots at up to 11fps with full AF/AE tracking, making it Nikon’s fastest enthusiast camera to date. As for the hybrid autofocus system, this is made up of 209 phase detection AF points that cover 90% of the frame horizontally and 100% vertically.
Eye and face detection AF are both available, as are 20 in-camera creative filters, a time-lapse mode and 4K video recording at 30 frames per second, alongside Full HD at up to 120fps. A stereo microphone input is located at the side, however a headphone port to monitor audio levels is left out.
Looking at the rear, the Nikon Z 50 showcases a 3.2in, 1040k-dot touchscreen, which tilts down beneath the camera. Nikon say this has been designed for today’s selfie-shooters, however its use as a selfie screen will be somewhat restricted if the camera is mounted to any form of support, be it a tripod or monopod.
Beside the screen Nikon has added permanent touch buttons that can be used to quickly inspect images in playback mode and change the display view – something we haven’t seen on a Z-series camera before. Above the screen there’s a 2.36-million dot electronic viewfinder that displays comprehensive shooting information against a black background on strips above and below the preview image.
Rather than accepting XQD cards, the Nikon Z 50 accepts an SD card (UHS-II compatible) via a single slot that’s positioned next to the battery. An all-new rechargeable EN-EL25 battery provides power to the Z 50. It’s physically smaller than the battery used by the Z 6 and Z 7 and we’re told we can expect to shoot approximately 300 shots on a single charge.
Keeping on the subject of power, the Nikon Z 50 doesn’t feature a USB Type C interface like you get on Nikon’s full frame Z-series models, though it does facilitate in-camera charging via its Micro USB port at the side.
As we’d expect, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are built-in, with Nikon’s free to download SnapBridge v2.6 app available for both iOS and Android mobile devices.
Nikon Z 50: Build & Handling
It’s difficult to appreciate the dimensions of the Nikon Z 50’s body in isolation. Viewing it up against the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 or other mirrorless cameras gives you a much better impression of its size. One of the first things you notice when you pick it up is how comfortable it feels in the hand. Although smaller and lighter than the Z 6 and Z 7, we again find ourselves applauding Nikon’s designers for making a mirrorless camera with one of the most satisfying handgrips of any small mirrorless model on the market.
With a strong magnesium-alloy top and front panel, the Nikon Z 50 feels well made. If you close your eyes and handle Nikon’s three cameras in its Z-series, you can identify the Z 50 by feel alone. Though it’s robust and well constructed, it doesn’t share quite the same muscular, weighty or professional feel as its premium full-frame peers, but then again this is to be expected at its price point.
The Nikon Z 50 has a simplified top plate. The mode dial is located where the top plate OLED panel is found on the Z 6/Z 7 and the switch around the mode dial lets you change between shooting stills and video in an instant. Movie record, ISO and exposure compensation buttons are all grouped together behind the shutter button and the front and rear dials are perfectly positioned for intuitive control of exposure settings.
Beside the lens mount there’s a pair of customisable function buttons, with the option to load frequently used settings directly from the ‘i’ button at the rear. With no joystick it’s just like Nikon’s entry level DSLRs in the way the d-pad is used to shift the AF point around the frame. The touchscreen is extremely responsive to light touches and lets you navigate the main menu with great accuracy.
Nikon Z 50: First impressions
At the time of writing this first look we’d only spent a few hours with the Nikon Z 50; however this was long enough to establish that Nikon are really onto something with their latest release. The Z 50 manages to preserve the look, styling and excellent handling characteristics of the Z 6 and Z 7 in a lighter and more compact body. Iy goes without saying that the way a camera handles and operates is hugely important, and the Z 50 feels extremely comfortable to pickup whilst not being too fiddly to operate.
It gives us a good clue as to where Nikon’s DX-format line up is headed and how future models, whether they’re more or less advanced, might look. Although Nikon hasn’t officially said so, we sense this could be the beginning of the end for Nikon’s DX-format DSLRs.
My only reservations are the Z 50’s lack of USB Type-C port and fairly restrictive flip screen, which isn’t any good for low or high angle shooting when shooting in the portrait format. In all other respects the Z 50 has tremendous promise, and what with it hitting the market as such a competitive price, it looks set to give other popular APS-C mirrorless cameras like the Sony A6400 and Fujifilm X-T30 a run for their money. Watch this space for our full review.
Nikon Z 50: First DX-format Z mount lenses arrive
To coincide with the launch of the Nikon Z 50, Nikon has announced its first Z-mount DX-format lenses for the Z-series. The NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR is a compact retracting zoom that’s equivalent to 24-75mm in 35mm terms. It features a Vibration Reduction lens unit in its construction to help eliminate handshake and allow users to shoot up to 4.5 stops slower than would otherwise be possible.
It also has a minimum focus distance of just 20cm and a silent control ring. The construction of the lens is made up of 9 glass elements, including one extra-low dispersion (ED) element to correct aberrations and provide excellent sharpness and contrast. To keep the lens as light as possible (136g), Nikon has used a plastic mount at the rear as opposed to more robust metal one.
The second zoom – the NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR has also been made as small and lightweight (405g) as possible. It covers a 35mm equivalent range of 75mm-375mm and features a minimum focus distance of 50cm. Manual focus, aperture or exposure compensation can be controlled from its silent control ring and its Vibration Reduction system is effective to five stops. It too has a plastic mount, with filters and adapters being attached via a 62mm thread.
Nikon Z 50: Availability and pricing
The official sales start date for the Nikon Z 50 and accompanying DX-format Z-mount lenses is the 7th November 2019. Nikon has priced the Z 50 and lenses very competitively, with camera and lens kits starting under £1000.
The Nikon Z 50 with the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens costs £989, while buying the Nikon Z 50 with both the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and the NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR costs £1199. The price of the Z 50 body only will be £849, which works out £80 less than the Sony A6400 and the same as what you’d pay for the Fujifilm X-T30. Canon’s recently announced EOS M6 Mark II (£869 body only) is similarly priced to the Z 50.
As well as offering lens kits, Nikon will sell the Z 50 with the FTZ mount adapter for £989. Purchasing the Nikon Z 50 with the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens and FTZ mount adapter will set you back £1129.
The price of the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens on its own will be £329, with the NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR costing £379.
Nikon Z 50: Upcoming lenses
The recently updated NIKKOR Z lens roadmap reveals that in addition to the two kit zooms released with the Z 50 at launch, Nikon has plans to make a DX-format lens covering a focal length of 18-140mm.
The updated roadmap tells us what other full-frame lenses we can expect to see in the near future too. New S-Line primes on the way include a 50mm f/1.2 and 20mm f/1.8. Two compact prime lenses; a 28mm and 40mm are forthcoming, and so are 60mm Micro and 105mm Micro lenses.
A selection of zooms are on the way too, including an S-Line 14-24mm f/2.8, S-Line 70-200mm f/2.8, S-Line 24-105mm and S-Line 100-400mm. The aperture ranges of the latter two lenses are yet to be revealed. The two other lenses on the roadmap are a 24-200mm and 200-600mm, but again the aperture ranges of these optics aren’t yet known.