It has been a while since we last checked in on some new releases in the photography world. There have been quite a few announcements during Q3 and we need to catch up on some of the more exciting ones.
Nikon has had a busy fall and I will document their updates in this post and future posts. Olympus also had an exciting release that I will get to in a future post. Nikon has made some new additions to their mirrorless line and it appears a firmware update might be coming soon as well.
Let’s dive in.
The biggest news recently is Nikon’s announcement of their first APS-C mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z50. The Z50 will be an intermediate level camera and will offer much better pricing for those on a budget versus the full-frame mirrorless line offered by Nikon. The Z50 will compete against Sony’s A6400. These models represent a price point and feature point that sells the most units in the camera industry. So, it is clear that Nikon wanted to make a splash with a great camera that can maybe garner some of those sales.
The Nikon Z50
Price: $856.95 (body only), $996.95 (kit with 16-50mm)
Release Date: November 2019
- 20.9-megapixel DX 23.5 mm x 15.7 mm CMOS APS-C sensor
- 2.4 million-dot (XGA) OLED Electronic Viewfinder
- 209-Point Hybrid Phase-Detection/Contrast AF
- 3.2″ 1.04m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
- Up to 11 fps Shooting, ISO 100-51,200
- 4K Video Recording at 30 fps
- No In-Camera Image Stabilization
- One UHS-I SD Card Slot
- Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
- SnapBridge Support
The Z50 is an exceptionally lightweight and portable camera. It’s easy to carry, it’s compact, and it’s only 14 ounces. It has a brand-new, magnesium alloy body. It is weather-sealed, but not at the same level as the full-frame mirrorless bodies. The reduced sensor size compared to its full-frame predecessors allowed Nikon to pack in a lot in a small body. When measured on every axis, the camera is about a third of an inch shorter. As I mentioned earlier, the Z50 also weighs 14 ounces, about 7 ounces less than the Z6 and Z7.
It will feel small in the hands compared to a Z6 or Z7, which are already much smaller than comparable DSLRs. Whether that is a pro or a con, you will have to decide. Those familiar with the Z6/Z7 layout will see the joystick removed from the back of the camera, the mode switch dial moved to the right of the viewfinder, and the LCD display on top removed.
Nikon has removed the XQD slot that is standard in the Z6 and Z7 and replaced it with a single SD card slot. SD cards are more affordable, more available, and easier to work with, which helps increase the appeal of the Z50 to the general photography community.
A big omission from this camera was in-body stabilization. Nikon no doubt did this to reduce the size, weight, and overall complexity of the camera. All of those things allowed Nikon to price the Z50 very competitively. I have voiced my opinion over in-body stabilization, and I think it is one of the most useful features that come with adopting a mirrorless body. Although there is no in-body stabilization, Nikon compromised by introducing DX lenses that are the first in the mirrorless mount lineup to offer lens stabilization. More on that later.
Interestingly, the Z50 uses a different battery than the other Nikon mirrorless cameras. An EN-EL25 battery will be accepted, versus the EN-EL15 in the Z6/Z7. Battery life is slightly worse than those models, but still extremely good. An added bonus is the ability to charge batteries via USB.
The Z50 sports a 20.9-megapixel DX 23.5 mm x 15.7 mm CMOS APS-C sensor. Although many are claiming this is the mirrorless equivalent of the D500, Nikon is saying not so fast. Nikon says this sensor is the evolution of the D500 and D7500 sensors. Comparative effective resolutions for all of Nikon’s mirrorless cameras are the following – the Z50 is at 20.9 megapixels, the full-frame Z6 is at 24.5 megapixels, and the full-frame Z7 is at 45.7 megapixels.
The Z50 has Nikon’s latest EXPEED 6 image-processing system and Nikon claims the Z50 has the highest standard sensitivity of cameras in its class with a standard ISO range of 100 to 51,200 (expandable to 204,800).
Electronic Viewfinder and LCD
The electronic viewfinder and LCD on the Z50 also have some differences when compared to the full-frame models. The reduced sensor side would hint at a lower resolution viewfinder display, and that is exactly what we get with the Z50. The resolution of the LED panel responsible for the viewfinder image display is at 2,360k-dots for the Z50 (from 3,690k-dots in the Z6 and Z7). The OLED panel is a little smaller as well. Magnification is 1.02x or around 0.68x in 35mm-equivalent terms versus 0.80x for the Z6 and Z7, and also, eyepoint is 20 millimeters down from 21. The viewfinder still has an eye sensor (displays image when you put your eye to the viewfinder) that can be toggled on and off, just like with the Z6 and Z7. Overall, the differences listed are marginal and to be expected in a consumer-grade body versus a pro-grade body.
EVF is still very impressive in the Z50 and fantastic for the price. The specs above are very similar to what Sony packed into the A6400. It is clear the Z50 will be a direct competitor.
The LCD is a lower resolution than Z6/Z7, but it is a touch screen and it supports selfie shooting…a feature not available with the Z6 and Z7. The LCD is actually the same size as the full-frame models, at 3.2 diagonal inches. The screen resolution is at 1,040k-dot versus 2,100k dot. 1,040k-dot is actually a higher resolution versus the Sony A6400.
The screen is mounted on a tilt-only articulation attachment, which is extremely helpful in my opinion. I use the tiltable screen a lot with my own shooting. The mounting mechanism allows the screen to be flipped downwards a full 180 degrees. That can be useful for framing selfies (yes, this is a thing) or doing video recording. The screen on the Z6 and Z7 cannot do that. The LCD has an 11-stop brightness adjustment so you can adjust the LCD depending on the conditions you are shooting in.
Autofocus and Eye-detection (a first for Nikon!)
The Z50 adopts the hybrid autofocus system that combines phase-detection pixels across the sensor, as well as contrast-detection via data from the sensor. This is the same system employed in the Z6 and Z7. There are 209 autofocus points, which offer 87% coverage of the frame vertically and 85% of the frame horizontally.
For basic comparison, the Z6 and Z7 have 90% coverage in both axes. The Z6 has a 273-point AF system, the Z7 sports a total of 493 AF points. The Z50’s autofocus system has the same EV as the Z7, with an operable range from -2 to +19.
The Z6 and Z7 gained Eye-AF through a recent firmware update, but the Z50 will be the first camera shipped from Nikon to offer it as a feature. It is the first Nikon DX-format camera to have the feature. The Z50 has both face detection and eye detection capabilities, which is a huge bonus for portrait photography. I believe at this time Sony is the only manufacturer that has developed effective Eye-AF for wildlife.
Video features are almost identical to the Z6 and Z7. Yes, the sensor size is smaller and there is no in-body stabilization, but truly the only things left out are time code support, a headphone jack (there are an internal stereo microphone and a 3.5mm jack for external microphones), and Nikon’s N-Log profile. Other than that, the Z50 packs a ton of video features. There are a ton of shooting modes, ranging from 4K to Full HD, and some cool slow-motion video features.
The DX-Format Kit Lenses – THE NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR
Nikon also released two new lenses with the Z50 announcement. The two new mirrorless lenses are specifically DX-format lenses, but any Nikon Z mount lens can be used with the Z50, just keep in mind the FX to DX disparities. The new lenses are the 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and the 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR.
The new lenses follow the same trend as the Z50 and find the balance between size/weight and sharp optics. The lens covers a focal range from 16mm to 250mm, which is quite nice for DX-format. The two lens options should have great applications for landscape photography and wildlife photography. The 50-250mm will be the longest lens available for Nikon’s mirrorless line (granted it’s DX-format).
The Z50 differentiates itself from current Nikon DSLRs with its 16mm flange focal distance. A similar flange on the Z6 and Z7 has allowed Nikon engineering flexibility when it comes to manufacturing new lenses. We have already seen that with their 14-30mm f/4 and will continue to see incredible steps forward with lens creation. Canon is on the same trajectory with their releases. The large-diameter and flange design allow for an incredible lens, and these two DX lenses should be vast improvements over the current kit selection for Nikon DSLRs.
As mentioned earlier, the Z50 does not have in-body stabilization, but these lenses do have Nikon’s patented Vibration Reduction (VR). When attached to the Z50, Dual Detect Optical VR is enabled on the Z50 and will provide stabilization for users. Nikon states that camera shake compensation will be equivalent to 4.5 to 5 stops. Nikon also says that both lenses feature reduced focus breathing and a customizable control ring for smooth control of aperture or exposure compensation.
Both the new NIKKOR Z DX lenses unleash the potential of the Nikon Z mount, using the superior design flexibility made possible by the large-diameter and the 16mm flange focal distance to deliver outstanding optical performance and sharpness in a deceptively compact form factor.
These lenses look exciting, but you can still use an FTZ adapter to attach many traditional Nikon F-Mount lenses as well.
The Nikon Z50 looks like an impressive camera at its price point, and it should directly compete with Sony’s new A6400. These two cameras represent the most attractive features for the price point for most buyers. The Z50 is a 20.9-megapixel DX-format company, that pairs well with the current full-frame options from Nikon. Nikon has also released two DX-Format specific lenses that are extremely small, while still being very impressive optically. The Z50 is a consumer-grade camera and will not provide the same image quality and features of the Z6 or Z7, but that is obviously factored into its price. At $860, the Z50 is a great value and should be a popular camera.
Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special. Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image. Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world. As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals. You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com
Don’t Miss the Next Session of BCJ “Live”
Image Review: Landscape Edition
with Matt Meisenheimer & Kenton Krueger
Tuesday, Feb 23rd, 2021 at 11 am (Mountain)