Almost two years after announcing its first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z6 and Z7, Nikon has revealed the Nikon Z5. It sits below the 24Mp Z6 (and the 45Mp Z7) in the company’s line-up of full-frame mirrorless cameras. It’s designed to be the entry-point for full-frame mirrorless photography and it’s aimed at existing Nikon DSLR users as well as new photographers.
Nikon's Z-series cameras have impressed me so far. They have great handling and produce excellent quality images. The Z5 could be the most popular model to date, combining a full-frame sensor with a relatively small size, a compact kit lens and an attractive price. It's great to see that Nikon has used the same electronic viewfinder as in its Z6 and Z7, retained the tilting touchscreen and opted for dual SD card slots.
- Compact size and full-frame sensor
- Nikon Z mount
- Best in class viewfinder
What is the Nikon Z5?
- Camera type: Full-frame (FX) mirrorless
- Announced: 21st July 2020
- Lens mount: Nikon Z
- Sensor: 24.3Mp full-frame CMOS
- Autofocus system: 273-point Hybrid (combines phase and contrast detection) with Eye AF for humans and animals
- Stabilisation: 5-axis in body
- Viewfinder: Electronic 0.39-inch 3,690,000-dot OLED
- Screen: 3.2-inch 1,040,000-dot tilting touch-screen
- Maximum video resolution: 4K (with 1.7x crop)
- Maximum continuous shooting rate: 4.5fps
- Storage: Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II
- Connectivity : Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, SnapBridge
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 134 x 100.5 x 69.5mm (5.3 x 4.0 x 2.8inches)
- Weight: 590g/ 1 lb. 4.9 oz body only, 675g / 1 lb. 7.9 oz with battery and memory card but without body cap
Although the 24.3Mp Nikon Z5 has a similar pixel count to the 24.5Mp Z6, the two cameras don’t have the same sensor. While the Z6 has a back-side illuminated sensor design, the Z5’s sensor is a standard CMOS chip. That helps to keep the price down a little.
However, Nikon has still embedded phase detection pixels on the Z5’s sensor and the hybrid AF system has a total of 273 user-selectable autofocus (AF) points.
Enticingly, there’s also Eye-Detection AF that is programmed to lock on to human eyes and Animal-Detection AF for getting cats’ and dogs’ eyes sharp.
Naturally, the Z5 has Nikon’s two-year-old Z mount, which has a much wider mouth than the older F-mount and therefore has greater scope for fast lens development.
While Nikon may be pitching the Z5 as a first full-frame mirrorless camera, it hasn’t omitted one of the most prized features – in-body image stabilisation (IBIS). This operates over 5 axis and is claimed to give up to 5EV shutter speed compensation
As you’d expect, the Nikon Z5 is capable of shooting4K video. However, there’s a 1.7x magnification factor to take into account. That means that the Nikkor 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens gives framing comparable with a 41-85mm. That’s a bit disappointing, but as the screen doesn’t flip around to the front, it’s unlikely that the Z5 will be used for hand-held arm’s-length vlogging.
Despite its small size, Nikon has included mic and headphone ports on the Z5, and there’s an HDMI connection that is thought to provide a clean feed.
Dual card slots
Although the Nikon Z6 and Z7 were generally well-received, they have been criticised for having just one XQD memory card slot. Nikon hasn’t gone down this route for the Z5, it has two card slots, both of which accept SD-type cards and are UHS-II compatible.
That’s handy for extra storage or for back-up in the event of a card failure. Alternatively, video can be saved to one card and stills to another.
Although the Nikon Z5 introduces a new battery, the EN-EL 15C, the camera can accept EN-EL 15B batteries. In addition, the camera can be powered via its USB Type-C connection.
Build and Handling
Given the current restrictions, I’ve yet to handle a Nikon Z5. However, I’ve had an exclusive briefing about the camera and I’ve seen it being handled.
It’s clear that although it is a little smaller than the Z6 and Z7, the Z5 has a decent grip on the front and a thumb ridge that appears very similar to the ones on Nikon’s existing full-frame mirrorless cameras.
The control layout on the back of the Nikon Z5 is also the same as on the Z6 and Z7. That means it has a joystick for shifting the AF point around while you look in the viewfinder and there’s an ‘i’ button that gives a quick route to a 12-feature menu.
There’s also a switch for swapping quickly between stills and video shooting.
The top of the Z5 is a little different from Nikon’s existing full-frame mirrorless cameras. For example, the mode dial, which is on the far left of the Z6 and Z7 top-plates, is just to the right of the viewfinder. That means that there isn’t a secondary screen, but that’s not a major loss as the Z5 has a tilting touchscreen.
It’s good to see that despite being an ‘entry-level’ full-frame camera, the Nikon Z5’s exposure mode dial has three customisable settings alongside the usual options of auto, program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual.
Further good news is that the video record, ISO and exposure compensation buttons are all around the shutter button in the same location as on the Z6 and Z7.
In addition, there’s a dial towards the back of the top-plate and one just below the shutter button, so you can adjust settings quickly while your eye is at the viewfinder.
Nikon Z5 screen and viewfinder
As I mentioned earlier, the Nikon Z5 has a tilting touchscreen. This can be tipped up for viewing from below head-height, or down for viewing from above head-head. However, it can’t tip right down for viewing from in front of the camera like the Z50’s screen.
That means it’s not helpful for selfies, but that’s probably not a major deal for most prospective Z5 owners.
At 3.2-inches across the diagonal, the Z5’s screen is bigger than average, while its 1,040,000-dot resolution is respectable rather than groundbreaking.
Unlike Sony, Nikon makes good use of its cameras’ touchscreens. That means that although there are plenty of buttons and dials, you can access and adjust most features with a tap on the screen. It makes navigating the menu and making setting selections much more intuitive than button presses, but you can do that if you prefer.
With 3,690,000dots, the 0.39-inch type OLED electronic viewfinder is very good for an entry-level full-frame camera. In fact, it’s the same viewfinder as in the Z6 and Z7, which is great news as they’re very good and produce a really natural view.
Although we’ve seen 24Mp sensors from Nikon before, and we know that the Z6 and Z7 autofocus systems are very capable, it’s a little too early to talk about the Z5’s performance.
However, Nikon’s recent cameras have impressed for their detail gathering and dynamic range, and I’ve no reason to think that the Z5 will be any different.
At 4.5fps, the Z5’s maximum continuous shooting rate isn’t going to win any awards, but that is still be fast enough for shooting most sports.
While I’ve yet to get my hands on the Nikon Z5, I think it has a great combination of features. The tilting touchscreen has proved its worth on the Z6 and Z7, and while I’d prefer a variable screen, it’s a bonus over a fixed screen on a camera that is designed to be an affordable step into full-frame mirrorless photography.
The viewfinder is also impressively well specified and should ensure a comfortable transition for anyone moving from an optical to an electronic viewfinder.
Initially, the Z5 will only be sold with the new Nikkor Z 24-50MM F/4-6.3 kit lens which is claimed to be the smallest full-frame zoom lens available. It makes for a very compact full-frame kit.