The Nikon Z6 and Z7 are great, but not all photographers want a full-frame camera. The Z50 has plenty to offer experienced photographers, with a solid build and a comprehensive feature set. We’ve yet to perform our full Nikon Z50 review, but the early signs are very good, it’s an appealing camera.
|Price at Launch||£849/$ body only, £989/$ with 16-50mm lens, £1,199/$ with 16-50mm and 50-250mm lenses, £989/$ Body with FTZ adaptor, £1,129/$ with 16-50mm and FTZ adaptor|
|Processing Engine||Expeed 6|
|Lens Mount||Nikon Z|
|AF System||Phase detection with 209 AF points, Eye AF and Subject Tracking|
|Screen||Tilting 3.2-inch 1,040,000-dot touchscreen, tips down through 180-degrees|
|Viewfinder||2.36million-dot electronic viewfinder|
|Continuous Shooting||11fps with continuous AF and exposure metering|
|Sensitivity||Stills: ISO 100-51,200 (expandable to ISO 204,800), Video: ISO 100 – 25,600|
|Video||4K at 30fps and Full-HD at 120fps|
|Connectivity||Snapbridge 2.6 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Dimensions||126.5 x 93.5 x 60mm|
|Weight||395g including battery and memory card|
Nikon is aligning the new Z50 with the D7500. That means it’s suitable for enthusiast photographers as a mirrorless alternative to their DSLR. Of course, it could also appeal to people buying their first interchangeable lens camera.
As it has an APS-C format sensor, or DX-format as Nikon calls it, the Z50 is a little smaller and more affordable than the full-frame Nikon Z6 and Z7. This will help give appeal to people who don’t count photography as their hobby, but who want a decent camera to photograph their main pastime.
However, the majority of Nikon Z50 buyers are likely to be existing Nikon DSLR owners who have a collection of F-mount lenses. They are able to use their current optics on the Z50 via the Nikon FTZ adaptor. I tested the Nikon Z7 and Z6 with adaptor and I found the focusing just as fast as when I used a native lens, while the image quality was every bit as good as I’d expect. I can see no reason why the same will not be true with the Z50
Inside the Nikon Z50 is a new 20.88Mp APS-C format sensor which is paired with the Expeed 6 processing engine. Together, these enable a native sensitivity range for stills of ISO 100-51,200 with expansion settings going all the way up to ISO 204,800. Meanwhile, the video range is ISO 100-25,600.
The fact that Nikon has kept the pixel count to 20-million rather than pushing to 24Mp or higher, should be good news for noise control. As well as benefiting image quality, this should also ensure good autofocus performance. Consequently, I’m anticipating that the Z50 will be a good all-rounder that’s capable of being used in gloomy conditions as well as bright daylight.
Thanks to the Expeed 6 processing engine, the Z50 can shoot at up to 11 frames per second with continuous autofocusing and exposure metering. This rate is achieved in Continuous High Plus mode while the maximum rate in Continuous High mode is 5fps.
There’s also a silent mode that uses the electronic shutter.
Unlike the Z6 and Z7, the Nikon Z50 has an SD card slot for image and video storage. The Z6 and Z7 each have a single XQD card slot.
In a first for a Nikon DX (APS-C) format camera, the Z50 has phase detection pixels embedded in it. This Hybrid AF system has 209 points that cover 90% of the vertical and horizontal space.
Further good news is that the Z50 has both Subject Tracking and Eye AF modes. Eye AF is a must-have feature at the moment and it’s incredibly useful for portraits and social event photography.
Subject Tracking works in Auto-area AF mode and it’s useful for subjects that move erratically. Pressing the OK button in Auto-area AF mode activates a tracking point which is visible on the screen and in the viewfinder.
You then position this box over the subject and press the OK button again to start the tracking. As the subject moves, the Z50 tracks it around the frame, keeping it sharp in Continuous AF mode. It works with the Z6 and Z7, and it certainly seemed effective within the confines of the UK press event – despite the gloomy conditions. However, I’ve yet to test the Z50 with a really fast subject. The early signs are good though.
We expect a camera to be able to shoot 4K video now, and the Nikon Z50 can do so at 30fps. As usual, there’s a range of frame rates available for Full-HD video recording. The maximum value is 120fps, which is ideal for slowing down very fast action.
There’s a mic input to enable better quality sound to be recorded via an external mic. In an effort to keep down the size, Nikon hasn’t included a headphone port.
It’s also possible to create Time-lapse videos in-camera.
Although it has an APS-C format sensor, Nikon has given the Z50 the same lens mount as the full-frame Z6 and Z7.
The Z mount has a diameter of 55mm, that’s a big step-up from the 47mm of the F mount. Nikon made that move to lift some of the restrictions that the old mount imposed on lens design.
It also means that instead of being limited to maximum apertures of f/1.4 or f/1.2 at the very most, the Z-mount enables lenses with maximum apertures as big as f/0.95. We’ll soon be able to see how this shapes up in the form of the new Noct 58mm f/0.95.
While the diameter of the Z-mount is larger than the F-mount’s, the flange depth has reduced to 16mm. It’s that and the omission of the mirror that enables the Z-series cameras to be smaller than their DSLR counterparts.
Having the same mount as Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras means that the lenses are interchangeable. So as well as being able to use Nikon F-mount lenses via the FTZ adapter, you can use native lenses such as the Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S, Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S, Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S, Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S and Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S.
Conversely, it’s also possible to mount APS-C (DX) format lenses like the new Nikkor Z 16-50mm VR and Nikkor Z 50-200mm VR lenses on full-frame Z cameras like the Z6 and Z7. However, when they’re mounted, the cameras crops to the DX/APS-C format.
The Z50 doesn’t have in-body stabilisation but the two new DX-format optics both feature Nikon’s VR technology to extend the hand-holdable shutter speed. With the 16-50mm there’s up to 4.5EV compensation while with the 50-250mm lens its to 5 stops.
Nikon Z Lens / S-Line Lens Roadmap
Nikon’s latest roadmap shows one more S-Line DX lens to come in the near future. This is a travel-zoom optic with a focal length of 18-140mm. That’s equivalent to a 27-210mm lens on a full-frame camera.
There are a further 13 FX lenses in the pipeline.
The 16-50mm and 50-250mm lenses are equivalent to 24-75mm and 75-375mm respectively.
In addition to the hotshoe, the Z50 has a pop-up flash built-in. The camera is also compatible with Nikon’s WR wireless flash system via radio-control.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity is built-in along with Nikon’s latest SnapsBridge system, SnapBridge 2.6. This enables the Z50 to be controlled remotely via a connected smartphone or tablet running Nikon’s free SnapBridge app.
SnapBridge can also automatically transfer images to a paired phone or tablet. This functionality has had a chequered history. I found it worked brilliantly with the Nikon D500 when it was first introduced, but there were issues with subsequent cameras and as operating system updates were made to compatible smartphones.
I’m hoping the latest version will have a return to form in the Z50.
Also, the Z50 is compatible with Nikon’s ML-L7 Wireless Remote Control.
According to CIPA testing, the Z50’s EN-EL25 battery has a 300-shot life. In normal use, it’s likely to be a bit longer than that, but a second battery could be a wise investment.
Build and Handling
Although the Nikon Z50 is smaller than the Z6 and Z7, it looks very similar. And while there are advantages to a small camera, Nikon hasn’t gone all-out in the pursuit of downsizing. Consequently, I think the average Nikon DX-format DSLR users will be happy with the feel of the Z50, it’s not a fiddly little camera and there’s a good-sized grip.
The Z50 feels fairly solid. Its front and top plates are made from metal, while it’s weatherproof to the same standard as the D7500.
As with the Z6 and Z7, existing Nikon DSLR users will find they are on familiar ground with the Z50. The interface is instantly recognisable as Nikon’s.
Although it’s a relatively small camera, Nikon has given the Z50 a 3.2-inch touchscreen. This has 1,040,000 dots and is mounted on a tilting bracket.
This bracket enables the screen to be tilted down through 180-degrees for viewing from in front of the camera so shoot selfies or for vlogging. The problem with a screen that tilts down is that the view is blocked if the camera is mounted on a tripod.
According to Jeremy Gilbert, Marketing Director Nikon Northern Europe, the tilting mechanism was selected over a vary-angle screen for its greater robustness and reliability.
While I get the point that a tilting hinge is more robust and more affordable than a vari-angle screen, plus adding a vari-angle screen would make the camera, bigger, it’s natural to support the camera from underneath when you’re shooting a hand-held selfie. This blocks a bit of the screen.
When the screen is flipped down, the physical button control is reduced to minimise accidental setting changes and the touchscreen comes to the fore.
The Z50’s screen is very responsive to touch and you can use it to make setting selections and adjustments via the main or Info menu.
One thing you can’t currently do, however, is use the screen to set the AF point while you look in the viewfinder. That’s disappointing as there’s no joystick control either. Nikon UK’s representative indicated that there may be a firmware update to give the screen this functionality.
As it stands, the AF point is shifted via the navigation pad while you look in the viewfinder. If you’re using the screen, you can just set the point with a tap of your finger.
Interestingly, the Z50’s screen has a column of icons etched on to its right side. These are active touch-sensitive buttons that give access to useful features such as the magnification control, help and display options.
As the Z50 is a mirrorless camera, it has an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Nikon has plumped for a 2.36-million-dot unit. That’s lower resolution than the 3.6million-dot EVF’s in the Z6 and Z7 but there’s less area to cover, so the density is likely to be similar.
The Z50’s EVF also has the same elements as the Z6 and Z7’s, which is good news from a clarity point of the view, but those camera’s viewfinders are prone to showing some chromatic aberration.
So far, I’ve used a pre-production Z50 in gloomy conditions and the EVF seems very good. The image looks nice and natural and noise is kept in check.
The top-plate of the Z50 is fairly clean with just a mode dial, command dial and the power switch around the shutter release. Just beneath this, there’s a sub-command dial for making setting adjustments.
The front of the camera also has two customisable function buttons near the lens mount. They’re within convenient reach of your fingers around the grip.
It’s too early to call exactly how the Z50 will perform. I’ve shot with a pre-production sample, but I’m not allowed to share the images here. However, I can share some shot by Alex Stead for Nikon UK.
The image quality from Nikon’s recent DSLRs and the Z6 and Z7 has impressed us. And the Nikon D7500 and D500 also have 20Mp DX-format sensors, although they are older chips and use the older Expeed 5 processing engine. That should mean that the Z50 is capable of producing better quality results. And judging by the results I saw on the back of the Z50, it’s not going to disappoint.
When I tested the D7500 I found it maintains detail levels well up to about ISO 6400. And although coloured speckling becomes visible when ISO 12,800 images are examined at 100%noise is still controlled well up to ISO 51,200. I think the Z50 will at least match that.
Of course, the imaging sensor is used to assess white balance and exposure with the Z50, so it will respond differently from the D7500. However, as the Z50 has an electronic viewfinder that can show the image as it will be captured, provided the preview is accurate, there should be no excuses for dodgy exposures and wayward colours.
The Z50 is the first Nikon DX-format camera to have on-chip phase detection pixels. I’m hoping that they perform at least as well as the pixels on the Z6 and Z7. Although the autofocus performance of these cameras dips a little when the contrast is low, it’s up to shooting sport and fast-moving action.
My first impressions of the Z50’s focusing are very good. I used it in low light and it seems very fast and accurate. Also, when it identifies more than one face, it puts a box around the face it’s going to prioritise with an arrow indicating the navigation key that’s required to jump to another face. It’s super-easy to use.
In addition, the Eye AF system appears pretty snappy to spot an eye in the frame.
I’m eagerly awaiting a review sample of the Z50. I can’t wait to shoot with it in ‘real-world’ situations to put it through its paces and see what to can really do. However, I’m feeling quietly confident.
I love how the Z50 feels in my hand and it makes a tidy little package with the 16-50mm pancake lens. Stash the 50-250mm lens in a bag, and you’ve got a really versatile kit.
I’m slightly disappointed by the lack of a joystick and the inability to use the screen to set the AF point while you look in the viewfinder. I’d also prefer a vari-angle screen. However, the additional control and change to the screen would add bulk and cost to the camera. Maybe these features will come to a camera between the Z50 and Z6?
Overall, however, I think that Nikon has done a good job of gauging what its customers want from a camera. I’m sure there will be a few who are wishing that the Z50 had a 24Mp sensor rather than a 20Mp chip, but I think they won’t be disappointed by the image quality. We’ll have to wait and see to know for sure though.