Long-gone are the 2011 days when Nikon came up with the interesting, yet not sufficient, J1 mirrorless camera. A good looking merge between a point-and-shoot camera, with interchangeable lenses capabilities. The camera was quite fragile, and mainly touched the wallets of the gizmo enthusiasts, and some early adapters. But it wasn't until 2019 when they really made some substantial progress. Hey, better late than never, right?
Nikon released the Z6 in 2019, and within the past few days, they released the Z5. And unlike Canon, their correlative numbers do make sense. But, what's under the hood of this compact full- frame mirrorless camera?
All people have their own personal reasons for wanting a full-frame photo camera by their side, especially those thinking about making a living with professional photography. And here we are talking about commercial newborn and engagement photographs, to landscape, architecture and portraiture. Some other genres don't necessarily benefit from having a full-frame sensor, but the small size of this camera could still be a positive thing. So if you are willing to do some travel photography or simply getting some family pictures, then this camera could be an interesting gadget to have.
So, what you should know about the new camera built around Nikon's Z mount?
In brief, it is designed for a broader audience beyond the Z7 workhorse and even the aforementioned Z6. It is a lightweight camera that will allow you to consistently develop as a passionate photographer (either at amateur or professional levels) thanks to its lightweight, high quality images and precise autofocus.
Starting at $1,399.95 (body only), we wouldn't dare on calling it an entry level camera (we'll leave that tag for the Z50). But we are confident about the promising opportunity it gives for people willing to move from DSLR cameras to mirrorless systems. Basically, one gets a limited version of the Z6 ($1,999.95).
Nikon has put on some thoughts in their Z mount system, and we dug deeper into this new promising camera!
About the Sensor
After some in-depth research, we've come to the conclusion that the recently announced Z5 comes with a sensor which could be defined as the sweet-spot between the decently iconic Nikon D750 and the Z6. Despite its limitations, it delivers great control when shooting under almost any light thanks to its 24.3 megapixels and image processing technology.
Overall, it is a very well-known fact camera manufacturers have been improving their sensor capabilities. High ISO values are not to be feared anymore, and this camera can crank up its ISO sensitivity up to ISO 51,200 (expandable to ISO 102,400). Nikon states that even at those wicked values, the camera can achieve superb sharpness, detail and clarity. And we are pretty excited to know if this statement corresponds with reality.
For some reason, there has been quite a marketing emphasis on the swift changes one can get while toggling from Auto to Manual. Something that might not seem as much, but pretty useful when shooting under speedy situations like street, photojournalism and even wedding photography.
Mirrorless camera systems are quite stealthy, but if you need extra quietness (like in a maternity or pet session), then you can shoot with the Silent Mode on, which delivers a totally inconspicuous experience.
The Z5 performs extremely well at high-speed shooting modes, with a minimum shutter speed of 1/8000s, enabling us to shoot at very wide apertures even in the brightness conditions. Therefore, you can achieve massive creamy bokeh (with the proper lens) in the middle of the day without any problem with a speed like that. Its continuous shooting rate is 4.5 fps, which is decent for general shooting purposes.
Some people like using mechanical shutters rather than electronic ones. If you fit into this category, don't worry; you'll be able to switch between modes. Although, we recommend shooting with the fully-electronic mode when shooting with long lenses to reduce any vibration produced by your hands.
The autofocusing system on the Z5 gets very close to what you can find in more capable Nikon cameras like the Z6 and even the all-mighty Z7. thanks to it you won't have sharpness issues while taking photos of both people and animals. Its tracking mode operates impressively, and the 273 focus points cover 90% of the frame in both horizontal and vertical shooting modes.
Last but not least, this camera comes with a built-in 5-axis in-body stabilization, which gets even more powerful when considering the 5 stops of exposure correction its sensor can handle. This particular feature takes this camera out of the entry-level concept, making it an excellent camera for anyone willing to move from DSLR systems to Mirrorless without investing too much money.
About the Interface
It might sound like a cliche, but it is true. A camera should become an extension of our vision and our body in order to shoot in a proper way. This, of course, takes some time. Ergonomics and user accessibility makes this task easy to perform. The Z5 feels exactly like the Z6, therefore you can expect a firm grip if you are still skeptical about using mirrorless cameras on the outdoors. Beyond not having the top LCD status screen, the camera enclosing is pretty much the same.
It has a very nice tiltable 3.2" screen with 1,040,000 dots, which is lower resolution but the same size as the more expensive Z model cameras. Having a tiltable screen is perfect when shooting from the hip or for major video purposes.
And don't let that plastic look fool you, the camera is still very well protected against dust and moisture. So you can feel safe when using it under odd situations. But still try to be careful when changing the lens (and this is an advice we've been giving since the era of DSLR cameras).
Also important about the camera's layout, the electronic viewfinder on this camera is very good. So no more laggy experiences, if you see it, you get it. Get everything in control when framing with your eye, from exposure to white balance and some other picture controls in real time.
Some Interesting Internals
One might think that having two card slots wouldn't be much of a thing, but demanding shooting situations have proven us on the benefit of having this feature in a camera. From regular SD cards to the later UHS-II, now you can shoot with two cards in this camera.
We find that dedicating one card for raw files and another for JPEG is quite an advantage in terms of work flow. Some other people find that picking one card for video recording and the other one for still images is more useful. Whichever you might be, we do advise you to use fast cards, and if you are going to mix them out, then you should specify the camera to record either raw or video files into the most capable one. Or the one you might trust the most.
Pro Tip: When keeping your SD cards in a nice SD Holder, put the full ones with the logo facing down. That way you'll gain some precious time when changing from one card to another. And who knows, it might even save you from deleting a batch of photos on the field. Trust me, it happens.
Mirrorless cameras have had an everlasting issue with power, which is understandable due to the amount of energy they spend. But this camera comes with a decent battery which allows on average 400 shots. A decent amount if you are not a crazy finger person. Also if you need to, you can charge the battery through USB power with the optional UC-E25 cable.
Z Mount Lenses and More
Since the announcement of the Z7, Nikon has unveiled some interesting lenses at a still slow but consistent rhythm. We expect that with this new camera, they release more interesting lenses.
But until that day arrives, you can benefit from all the Nikkor legacy thanks to the optional FTZ native adapter. This will allow you to use over 90 F-Mount Nikkor lenses: from full frame fisheye to macro lenses, as well as their popular fast primes and massive super telephoto lenses, and pretty much anything in between. So don't worry if having a lot of F mount lenses is holding you back from making the switch. But wait, there's more! Nikon's website states that you can even use approximately 360 classic F-Mount Nikkor lenses with it.
And speaking of which, they have released an interesting kit-lens, especially for those into street photography. The new 24-50mm F/4~6.3 lens is quite small, making it perfect for this usage. It measures 51mm (2") long when retracted, and has a feather weight of only 195g (0.43lb). Nikon describes it as dust and drip resistant, which must not be confused with weather sealing. you can get the lens in the $1699.00 Z5 combo, or for $399.00 on its own.
We do know about the importance of investing at some point on a native Z lens. And the reason why is pretty simple, mirrorless camera lenses have been designed to fit closer to the sensor, guaranteeing better image quality thanks to its reduced gap between elements. When using an adapter, the space gets expanded, reducing image quality to some extent.
This overview wouldn't be complete if we had left out the video mode on the camera, which for $1399.95 we find it to be just sufficient. And despite the creative freedom that Nikon has promised with the camera, we are sure that it wouldn't impress the heavy content creators.
On the other hand, the casual video users (I'm still not sure how to use the video mode on my Fujifilm camera) will find this feature to fulfill their using expectations.
The Z5 can record 4K/30p video, but not with the entire frame of the camera. For this, the camera makes a 1.7x crop (which is a bit larger than an APS-C sensor) for continuous video recording. This "sacrifice" allows the camera to record without overheating, and if you want to use the full sensor's width, then you can always shoot at 1080 (which is the regular HD we all are pretty used to having around us). Although it seems quite limited, the Nikon folks have built-in headphone and microphone sockets for a more pleasing recording experience.
Carrying it Around
Interchangeable lens systems are made from freedom, and are rarely fixed to a specific bag due to the multiple array of lenses one can attach to them. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep your camera safely packed when moving, commuting, roaming and traveling.
For this matter, we've designed stylish leather messenger bags for keeping your camera and favorite lenses fitted in an elegant layout. Pick between our mini and larger size genuine leather Torres Messenger Bags here.
And if you are more of an always-in-hand camera type of person, then you'll find our selection of shoulder and hand-straps to be the perfect solution for never missing a shot!
Pro Tip: Using the native logo-branded camera strap will make you more noticeable when shooting, something I personally hate happening to me.
Full-frame (or 35mm format for the more seasoned photographers) has a long tradition of being the standard format in photography. Since the appearance of digital cameras, this particular image size became almost unreachable for the vast majority of people. And it is still today away from the hand of the masses, but we are perceiving some image democracy with several cameras on the market so far.
We've mentioned the Z6 and the Z7 a lot in this article, and we excuse ourselves a bit from falling into that pit. But it had to be done so you can understand how cool the Z5 camera is. It delivers a very similar experience of the more expensive cameras, at a reasonable price for a full-frame camera. Just a couple of years ago this was the standard price for a mid-entry (APS-C) DSLR camera. And now we are closer to having cheaper and innovative ways to access the mighty desired full-frame world.