Reviews |Nikon Z30

Nikon Z30 Review

Nikon Z30 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£699

$699

Our Verdict

In essence, the Nikon Z30 is the Nikon Z50 without a viewfinder but with a vari-angle screen, a tally light, a new record button and the ability to record video for longer. By itself, the vari-angle screen could be enough to entice vloggers or would-be vloggers towards it rather than the Z50, but of course there are several non-Nikon options available as well. Nikon’s SnapBridge, however, will be popular with anyone who is used to creating and sharing content via their phone, and the Creative Picture Controls enable very attractive stills and video to be created in-camera.

So far, the only stumbling block seems to be the omission of a viewfinder and in-body image stabilisation, which is disappointing for photographers wanting a camera that will help them ease into shooting more video.

For

  • Excellent build quality
  • Vari-angle touch-screen
  • Nice image quality

Against

  • No viewfinder
  • 4K only up to 30p
  • Limited APS-C (DX) lens range

What is the Nikon Z30?

The Nikon Z30 is Nikon’s first entry-level interchangeable lens camera that is specifically aimed vloggers and those who are primarily interested in shooting video – but it can, of course, also shoot stills.

It’s an APS-C or DX format camera and it features a 20.88MP sensor that is said to be ‘very similar’ to the one in the Nikon Z50. As it features the Nikon Z mount, the Z30 can be used with any of Nikon’s Z-mount lenses whether they are designed to cover a full frame or APS-C format sensor.What is the Nikon Z30?

Specification

  • Camera type: Mirrorless
  • Announced: 29th June 2022
  • Sensor: 20.88Mp APS-C / DX (23.5×15.7mm) CMOS
  • Processing engine: Expeed 6
  • Lens mount: Nikon Z mount
  • Sensitivity range: Stills: ISO 100-51,200; expands to 204,800, Video: ISO 100-25,600
  • Viewfinder: N/A
  • Screen: Vari-angle 3–inch 1,040,000-dot touchscreen
  • Autofocus: Hybrid (phase and contrast detection) AF with 209 AF points, Eye AF for humans and animals
  • Continuous Shooting: 11fps with continuous AF and exposure metering
  • Video: 4K at 30fps and Full-HD at 120fps
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I
  • Connectivity: Snapbridge, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 128 x 73.5 x 59.5mm
  • Weight: 405g with battery and memory card
Nikon Z30 review

Features

As I mentioned, the Nikon Z30 has an 20.88-million-pixel APS-C format sensor. This is paired with the Expeed 6 processor which enables a sensitivity range that starts at ISO 100 and goes up to ISO 25,600 for video or 51,200 for stills (with expansion settings of ISO 102,400 and 204,800).

It’s also possible to shoot stills at up to 11fps (frames per second) with full autofocus and metering capability, but without Live View between each shot. Dropping to 5fps enables Live View between the frames.

Video can be shot at up to 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution at up to 30p or Full HD (1920 x 1080) at up to 120p. There’s also electronic stabilisation (E-VR) which imparts a crop of around 1.3x, but it’s only available with frame rates up to 60p. If the frame rate is pushed to 100p or 120p, the  E-VR is deactivated and greyed out in the menu.

Perhaps surprising in a video-centric camera, the Nikon Z30 doesn’t have a Log mode, but then it is intended as an entry-level model. Instead, the colour and contrast is controlled using the Picture Controls which are said to have been tweaked to suit video more than stills. The list includes the 20 ‘Creative’ Picture Controls which can be used when shooting stills or video.

There is an external microphone port along with the ‘sensitive’ built-in stereo microphone, but there’s no headphone port.

In addition, it’s possible to record for up to 125 minutes uninterrupted, which is great news for some vloggers, and Nikon’s Webcam Utility can facilitate live-streaming with the Z30. For long live-streams or recording sessions, the Z30 can be powered via the supplied USB-C cable connected to a mains or other power delivery supply.

Like the Z50, the Nikon Z30’s hybrid autofocus system has 209 autofocus points. This is backed-up by both animal detection and eye detection AF for stills and video, with the detection area covering about 90% of the sensor vertically and horizontally.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity is also built-in along with Nikon’s SnapBridge technology. As well as allowing images (with or without hashtags) to be transferred automatically to a paired smartphone, SnapBridge enables 4K video transfer to the phone. It’s also possible to update the camera’s firmware using the smartphone app and SnapBridge technology, which is less hassle than using a computer.

Video and stills are saved to an SD-type card in the single UHS-I card slot.

Nikon Z30 review
Left: Nikon Z30, Right: Nikon Z50

Build and handling

While the specification of the Nikon Z30 is very similar to the Z50’s in many respects, it looks quite different because it doesn’t have a viewfinder. Instead, images and video must be composed on the 3-inch 1,040,000-dot vari-angle touchscreen. Unlike the Z50’s tilting screen, this flips out the side of the Z30 and can be angled up or down, or rotated to face forward. When the screen is turned forwards, the Z30 automatically switches to self-portrait mode.

This screen gives a decent view, but there are inevitably reflections in bright sunlight and I found myself wishing for a viewfinder.

The lack of a viewfinder means that Z30 has a flat-top, so it looks less like a mini DSLR. However, the controls are broadly similar to those on the Z50 and there’s an exposure mode dial on the right of the top-plate, complete with a couple of customisable settings. There are also two command dials, one towards the back of the top-plate and the other on the front of the camera at the top of the grip.

Nikon Z30 review

A switch on the back of the Z30 lets you flick quickly between stills and video recording. Conveniently, the camera remembers the settings that were selected for stills and video so you don’t have to adjust the exposure when you switch between the two.

In addition, the red record button has been made more prominent and it sits just to the right of the exposure mode dial and behind the shutter release button. There were a few occasions when I hit the exposure compensation button instead of the record button, but generally, I found it quickly.

Nikon has also added a tally light to the front of the Z30. This is a red light that illuminates when the camera is recording and it’s a helpful inclusion for anyone in front of the camera. As usual, a red box also displays on the screen when the camera is rolling, so there shouldn’t be any missed scenes.

While the top of the Z30 may be different, the grip is still deep like the Z50’s, which should help keep the camera steady when shooting-hand-held. It’s not a natural pairing, but I mounted the new Z 400mm f/4.5 on the Z30 and it doesn’t feel as ridiculous as you might think.

Nikon Z30 review

Performance

While the Nikon Z30 is primarily aimed at vloggers, it’s also a capable skills camera. There’s a good level of detail visible in images captured at the lowest ISO settings and it’s maintained well up to around ISO 6400. With 20.88Mp, they can’t compete with the 24Mp Nikon Z6 II or 45.7MP Nikon Z7 II, but they still look good at normal viewing sizes. If you pixel-peep ISO 6400 images, however, you’ll spot that the very finest details are a bit smudged and there’s subtle coloured speckling in the raw files.

Nevertheless, images look natural throughout the native sensitivity (ISO) range and (with the right white balance) colours match the original scene when the Standard Picture Control is selected.

Naturally, the Z30’s AF doesn’t match the Nikon Z9’s, but it proved very reliable during my testing. The human eye AF is reliable and the animal eye AF is reasonably good, but it’s not the best available – especially with birds.

Like Nikon’s other Z-series cameras, it’s important to ensure that the Z30 is set to full-time AF (F-AF) when you’re shooting video. Continuous AF (C-AF) only works when the shutter release is half-pressed but in F-AF, there’s no need to press a button.

It’s disappointing that Nikon hasn’t stabilised the sensor in the Z30. The stabilisation (VR) system in the Z 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 VR kit lens does a reasonable job of keeping the footage steady if you’re standing still with the camera, but there’s always the odd jerk. Turning on the in-camera electronic stabilisation (E-VR) makes the footage a bit smoother and irons out some of the movement, but it’s still not up to the job if you walk with the camera.

If you’re holding the camera at arm’s length with the camera pointing back at yourself as you walk, the fact that the camera’s movement follows your own makes the clips more acceptable, but as a rule, if you’re planning to shoot run and gun video, you need a gimbal for the Z30.

When it’s held steady, the Nikon Z30 is capable of producing very attractive 4K that has plenty of detail and looks natural. The Full HD results are also very good and it’s great to see 60p and 120p available. The Z30 is an entry level camera but we’re seeing more models offering 4K 60p these days and, as it’s aimed at vloggers, it feels like a significant omission from the Z30.

As you’d expect a windmuff is essential in anything other than windless conditions if you’re going to use the onboard mic, but it does a decent job of recording ambient sound and speech to camera. As usual, an external microphone is the best option and it would be nice if this could be paired with headphones for checking sound quality, but there’s no headphone port.

Nikon’s entry-level DSLR series, which includes the Nikon D3500, has an excellent Guide Mode that helps photographers learn about photography and uses non-technical language. It would’ve been nice to see this rolled out the the Nikon Z30 and expanded to explain videography. There are Auto and Program options on the mode dial to help beginners handle exposure, but they don’t take the selected frame rate of the video into account fully. A little explanation would go a long way here.

Nikon Z30 review

Nikon Z30 sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution Nikon Z30 images. Copyright applies.

Nikon Z30 image gallery

Nikon Z30 sample video

This video was shot on the Nikon Z30 using the Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens. The cameras was set to record 4K (3840 x 2160) MOV and the white balance was in Auto mode.The Picture Control was set to Standard apart from where indicated. Most of the footage was shot hand-held (apart from where indicated). The VR (Vibration Reduction) was on but the Electronic VR was off. Audio was recorded using the on-board mic and the volume is reduced where the wind noise is unpleasant (it was a breezy day).

The video below was shot on the Nikon Z30 Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 60p and is played back at half-speed. The lens-base stabilisation in the Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR was on, but the electronic stabilisation was off.

Verdict

The Nikon Z50 is a great little camera but the flip down screen is quite frustrating as it’s blocked from view if you put the camera on a tripod or grip. Nikon’s workaround came in the form of the SmallRig Vlogging Plate, which attaches to the bottom of the camera and enables it to be off-set on a tripod. It works reasonably well but the camera  is unbalanced. The switch to a vari-angle screen is a much better solution for the Nikon Z30, and its Eye AF works well for vlogging, but the lack of in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) is disappointing.

I’m also surprised that Nikon hasn’t given the Z30 a viewfinder. It may help keep the cost of the camera down, but it means that the shape of the camera had to be changed more significantly in comparison with the Z50, which would likely impact on production cost. More significantly, it reduces the appeal of the Z30 somewhat to photographers who want to start shooting video. In bright light. it’s also problematic for videographers trying to assess exposure, focus and composition.

While the Z30’s AF system means you rarely need to worry about whether the subject is in focus, beginners could use a little more help with exposure and other setting selections. Nevertheless, the Nikon Z30 is a capable little camera that produces nice-quality images and video.

guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Channyuk
Channyuk
1 month ago

This looks like a great package. I use the Z fc for recording video and that works great, and I expect the Z 30 will work even better as it has meaningful touches that make video creation even better.