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Nikon Z f camera review | Retro-styled, built for low-light captures

Updated - January 12, 2024 11:16 am IST

Published - January 12, 2024 10:11 am IST

The Z f is built to take in more light, capture smooth bokeh shots, offer rich colour tones, and cover wider views.

The Nikon Z f is a full-frame 24.5MP mirrorless camera that features low-light capabilities, and uses deep learning tech in AF | Photo Credit: John Xavier

For those bored of digital new age designs, Nikon’s latest mirrorless camera is a breath of fresh, or rather nostalgic, air. 

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The Nikon Z f takes inspiration from the iconic Nikon FM2 film camera. The camera’s body is made of magnesium alloy and has a vintage leather-texture finish. The power switch, dials and shutter-release buttons are made from brass, and they work precisely. The Nikon logo, neatly crafted with carved letters, and numbers on the dials, are clearly engraved at the top.

 The power switch, dials and shutter-release buttons are made from brass, and they work precisely | Photo Credit: John Xavier

This new full-frame mirrorless camera is quite heavy, and one needs a SmallRig cage to handle it. The review unit had one attached, but I found the handle part to be a bit small.

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The Z f is built to take in more light, capture smooth bokeh shots, offer rich colour tones, and cover wider views. The ISO range, from 100 - 64,000, makes this camera perfect for night-photography and silhouette shots that use low light. Though there is some noise at high ISO, the output is quite good.  

The camera’s autofocus system recognizes a wide variety of subjects, including people, animals, birds, automobiles, and airplanes. Nikon uses deep learning technology to focus and track subjects, a feature used in the Z 9 and Z 8 models. The deep learning technology in Z f analyses shooting situation to automatically adjust aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Though this tech attempts to match the photographer’s intent, there are some moments when it falls short, blurring subjects while focusing on other elements in the frame. At those points, switching to manual to adjust the dials gets a better image. 

Long exposure shot taken at night | Photo Credit: John Xavier

This camera is great for everyday street photography and low-light captures but may not be the go-to device for taking shots of fast-moving objects. Portrait shots look great, and the creative picture control option helps you customise colour and tonality of the picture. The auto focus accurately identifies faces and objects in group shots. The Z f is capable of auto locking onto the subject’s eyes even when they’re small in the frame. This feature is not just available in the auto-focus mode, but also in manual focus so it is easy to confirm sharp focus.  

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The Z f comes loaded with features like the flat and deep tone monochrome picture controls, slow motion recording, and picture customisation options to name a few. The EXPEED 7 processor takes image-processing to the next level. The monochrome option on the dial adds to this camera’s vintage appeal. The shots are clear and smooth.

Portrait image highlighting rich tonality and contrast | Photo Credit: John Xavier

The tech option I liked the most in this camera is Nikon’s Snapbridge app connectivity. Just by connecting the camera to this app (on your smartphone), you can almost instantly transfer images via bluetooth to your phone. All you have to do is download the app from the App Store, and then pair your phone, through the app, with the camera. Once connected, the app will take care of transfering images and videos to the phone. This option just removes the need for an external drive and a few cables. And, of course, you need to keep substantial space in your phone.

Night light capture at ISO 640 | Photo Credit: John Xavier

Overall, the Nikon Z f is a well-designed, vintage-looking, and everyday street photography camera. Weighing almost 650 grams, without the rig, will make this is a slightly bulky device to carry around for extended periods. But, the Z f is almost perfect for low-light captures and night-time photography.   

Specifications

Effective Pixels24.5 million
ISO SensitivityISO 100 to 64000 in steps of 1/3 and 1 EV
Autofocus SystemHybrid phase-detection/ contrast AF with AF assist
App connectivitySnapBridge
Monitor typeVari-angle TFT touch-sensitive LCD
Pricestarts at $1,999.95
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