Nikon is today introducing an entry-level, crop-sensor camera that uses the same Z-mount system as the company’s Z6 and Z7 full-frame mirrorless cameras. The new Z50 costs $859 body only, and Nikon is also introducing two new DX-format lenses alongside it. You can bundle the camera with a 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens for $999.95, and there’s also a two-lens kit that adds a 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR lens for a total of $1,349.95. Even then, you’re still coming in below the $1,800 Z6, but obviously, these cameras are targeted at very different audiences. This one is made for the Instagram generation and for people who want a “real” camera for video. Nikon says the Z50 will ship in November.
The Z50 has a 20.9-megapixel CMOS sensor, weighs under a pound, and has a flip-down rear display for selfie photos and vlogging. (There’s even a Selfie Mode that disables most controls when the screen is down so you don’t accidentally mess up the camera’s settings.) But if you put the Z50 onto a gimbal, the screen will be blocked if it’s flipped. That’s not great for vlogging, so Nikon is developing its own handle for the Z50. The Z50 has a mic input but no headphone jack among its ports.
You can immediately feel and appreciate the Z50’s smaller size and weight when compared to Nikon’s pro-level mirrorless cameras. Thankfully, it retains an electronic viewfinder (2.36 million dots) and 3.2-inch rear LCD, and the grip was comfortable for my large hands. Nikon says the benefits of the Z mount (such as the shorter flange distance) carry over to a crop sensor for an upgrade in image quality.
The camera is capable of 11 fps continuous shooting (with autofocus / exposure) and has a 209-point phase-detect autofocus system, which covers 87 percent of the frame horizontally and 85 percent vertically, according to Nikon. When in low-light mode, the Z50 can focus at -4 EV, which is better than some of the company’s DSLRs like the D7500. The standard ISO range is 100 up to 51,200. There’s a pop-up flash built into the camera as well. Nikon’s eye-detection autofocus is included, and you can toggle between different eyes if there are multiple people in frame.
You get 4K video recording at up to 30 fps (with full sensor readout), and there’s also a 120 fps slow-mo mode in 1080p. Videos can be shared wirelessly from the camera to your phone, which is a first for Nikon cameras. A time-lapse mode is also available in-camera, and Nikon includes multiple picture control modes that you can customize to your liking to reduce the need for post-processing before uploading your shots to Instagram.
Aside from a smaller sensor, the other thing the Z50 loses out on compared to the Z6 and Z7 is Nikon’s excellent in-body image stabilization. The new lenses offer vibration reduction (image stabilization), but the IBIS in Nikon’s pricier mirrorless cams allowed for some brilliant, tack-sharp shots when I was reviewing them. Aside from the engineering challenge of squeezing that stabilization into the Z50’s smaller body, it also would’ve raised the camera’s price.
The Z50 has a magnesium alloy construction and some level of weather resistance — but Nikon says it’s not quite up to the same level as the Z6 and Z7. There’s a single UHS-I SD card slot, and the camera uses a Micro-B connector rather than USB-C. It also has an all-new battery, the EN-EL25.
Though it shares many of the design traits of the Z6 and Z7, Nikon is very much positioning the Z50 as an answer to the latest crop-sensor mirrorless cameras from Sony and Fujifilm. The 16-50mm kit lens looks terrifically compact and lightweight, and I imagine that’ll be the take-everywhere pick between the two Z-mount DX lenses that Nikon has ready for this camera. Unfortunately, early buyers will be left without any inexpensive primes. (Yes, the FTZ mount adapter can also be used if you want to attach FX lenses to the Z50, but Nikon isn’t bundling it with a discount this time around.)
It’s easy to nitpick the Z50 for what it might lack, and it would’ve been nice if Nikon had shipped a camera like this much sooner. But I’m still looking forward to seeing what difference the Z mount makes here.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Nikon also announced that it will soon release its 58mm f/0.95 S Noct lens for the Z mount. The company talks up this manual focus glass as being among the greatest lenses it has ever manufactured — and certainly the fastest. As you might guess, the price tag reflects as much. The Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct lens will be available from select retailers beginning on October 31st for $7,999.95.
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