The Nikon Z50 is Nikon’s first mirrorless camera with an APS-C sensor and the new Nikon Z mount. It is a compact camera that has almost everything on board for photographers who are looking for a camera with which they can grow further in their hobby. The good ergonomics give you that real Nikon feeling, and the new mount gives you plenty of space, literally and figuratively.
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TEST RESULTS Nikon Z50:
The Nikon Z50 is a good entry into the Z system
The Nikon Z50 is the first mirrorless Nikon with an APS-C format sensor, or DX as Nikon calls it. It is therefore also the first DX Nikon with the new Z mount. That mount is so much bigger than the old, trusted Nikon F mount that we wondered if it would be possible to make a Z camera even smaller than the Z6 and Z7. Why else would you buy a camera with a DX sensor? It’s great that Nikon has succeeded and that the Z50 also looks good. It is really a smaller version of the Z6, with almost everything. Except for one thing, then. That is the built-in image stabilization. As a result, you are dependent on lenses that have that for stabilization with the Z50. The zooms that were specially released for the Z50, the Nikon Z 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 VR DX and the Nikon Z 50-250 mm f/4.5-6.3 VR DX have that. Unfortunately, the fixed focal points for the Z system do not.
BUILD AND OPERATION
The Nikon Z50 can be seen as a reduced version of the full-frame Z6, and that’s quite an achievement. The mount is particularly large. It was already big for full frame, and for a camera with a smaller sensor, it’s huge. Still, Nikon has succeeded in making the body of the Z50 even more compact. That does not mean that it’s really small. Almost all other APS-C cameras in this price range are smaller. The dimensions do benefit the ergonomics. The Z50 fits nicely in the hand. The two adjustment wheels are exactly where you expect them and ensure that you have a lot of control over the camera. On the front, next to the mount release button, we find two programmable function buttons between the mount and the generous handle. On top of the camera, the on/off switch is neatly arranged around the shutter release button. Immediately behind it, there are buttons for starting video recordings, exposure correction and sensitivity. A little farther on the top cap are the dial for the exposure modes with the separate photo/film switch and the second dial for the exposure. The Nikon Z50 is indeed the smallest Z-model, but at the moment it is also the only Z-camera with a folding flash.
The back consists for the most part of the 8-cm, touch-sensitive screen with 1 million pixels. It can fold 90 degrees up and 180 degrees down, so you can also use it for selfies. Although that is a bit tricky when the camera is on a tripod, because the tripod is in front of the screen. The viewfinder has 100% coverage and 2.36 megapixels, which is reasonable these days. The magnification is, converted to full frame, 0.68x. The Z50 does have a microphone connection, but not one for headphones. The other inputs are a micro HDMI connection and a micro USB 2.0 plug, with which the camera can be charged. The Nikon Z50 is weather-resistant according to Nikon, although we do not know to what extent.
The Nikon Z50 has a 20-megapixel sensor. With that, the camera appears to be lagging behind the competition, which is generally at 24-megapixels, and especially the new Canon EOS M6 Mark II, which has a 32-megapixel sensor. However, the images that come from the Nikon are beautiful, and the difference with other brands is not great. In jpeg, the sharpening and the noise reduction at high sensitivities is somewhat hefty. That’s great when you show the images on a screen (which many photographers these days do almost exclusively). If you want to get the most out of the sensor, then of course you shoot in RAW and then preferably not in 12 bit but in 14 bit. That produces slightly bigger files, but you will get the maximum dynamic range. And it is precisely in the area of dynamic range that the Z50 is one of the better APS-C cameras. Highlights can be nicely detailed by slightly underexposing the shots and raising the shadows in the post-processing. In that 14-bit mode, the files are not all that big, because Nikon compresses them very well. Some information is officially lost during compression, but according to Nikon that is not visible.
A good reason to switch from an SLR to a mirrorless camera is video. Whereas with an SLR you can only use the rear screen for filming, with a mirrorless camera you can use both the viewfinder and the screen, and the difference in operation between filming and photography is often small. That certainly applies for the Nikon Z50. The camera has a separate switch around the selector on the top cover so that you can switch from shooting to filming with a click. You can also choose different settings for filming than for shooting, and the camera remembers that when you go from one position to the other. Another big difference with the DX SLR cameras is that the Z50 can use the entire width of the sensor for filming. So you do not get an extra crop, and that also makes the transition from photography to film easy. Your crop remains virtually the same. The Nikon Z50 can film at 4K up to 30 images per second and in Full HD up to 120 images per second. The Z50 has a flat profile, but no Log profile. The quality is very good. Maybe just a fraction less than the very best cameras in this area, but in practice you won’t soon see the difference.
The Nikon Z50 can only use information from the sensor for autofocus, and that is of course a big difference with the DX SLR cameras from Nikon. In terms of specifications and performance, the sensor broadly corresponds to that of the Nikon D500. But for autofocus, it must be adjusted. The autofocus in live view was not very fast on Nikon’s SLR reflex models. The Nikon Z50 needs to be significantly better, and it is. The Z50 even has face and eye recognition. It works, although your subject must be reasonably close. Following subjects also works well. But do not expect a performance on this point like you get from the D500. The tracking of the Z50 sometimes loses the subject. The Nikon Z50 is therefore a mirrorless entry-level camera and not an SLR specially made for sports photography. You can use the touch-sensitive screen to select the autofocus points. However, that is not possible when you hold the camera to your eye, and that’s a shame.
The Nikon Z50 is a camera with which you as an experienced photographer can do anything, with full control over shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity. Photographers accustomed to a compact, flat camera, with which you can also make calls, often don’t use those. They usually photograph in an automatic mode, after which the image is often processed with a filter. The Nikon Z50 also offers this, on two levels. With the filters, Nikon makes a distinction between filters that only do something with the colors and contrast and filters that apply more image processing. The first filters are the Creative Picture Controls. There are twenty of them, and they give you options such as Dream, Morning, Bleached, Somber, Blue or Carbon. The more radical filters can be selected via the Effects mode on the selection button. This gives you access to filters with which you can, for example, create a miniature effect or a silhouette. The application of the filters can be done both directly while taking the shot and in the post-processing in the camera. For the latter, you can open a RAW file on the back screen, apply a filter and then save the edited shot as a separate JPEG.
COMPARED TO THE COMPETITION
The Nikon Z50 is officially the entry model in the Z system. But the camera offers so many possibilities that you have to know something about photography if you want to get the most out of the Z50. The competition therefore comes more from the more advanced models of other brands. Cameras such as the Canon EOS M6 Mark II, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and III, the Panasonic G90 and the Sony A6400. What almost all of those brands have for the Nikon is a more extensive choice of lenses. The largest is that with Micro Four Thirds, but the Sony E-system also offers a lot of choice. The Micro Four Thirds cameras also have built-in image stabilization that works really well. If you’re looking for a compact APS-C model with lots of pixels, then the Canon scores high, with the same sensor as the Canon EOS 90D that we recently tested. However, if you want to benefit from that excellent 32-megapixel sensor, then you have to invest in good and therefore more expensive lenses. The Nikon is a bit less ambitious when it comes to pixels, but that also makes the files smaller and easier to process and, in combination with the good kit lenses, the results are beautiful.
Nikon Z50 SAMPLE IMAGES
Curious about the performance of the Nikon Z50 in practice? Click on the button below and visit our renewed web gallery with sample images. The images can be downloaded in full resolution to be viewed at 100%.
CONCLUSION: REVIEW Nikon Z50
The Nikon Z50 is a great camera for traveling or just to capture everything around you every day.
The Nikon Z50 is a great entry into the new Nikon Z system. It is also a good alternative to the larger Z6 and Z7. The image quality, ergonomics and possibilities will be more than enough for many users, and the Z50 is smaller, lighter and cheaper. At the same time, the possibilities of the Z50 are so extensive that the question is whether this is a camera that will tempt smartphone photographers to step into the Nikon Z system. If you’re coming from a DX SLR and want to switch to a mirrorless camera, then the Z50 is a logical choice and a very nice camera for traveling or just to capture everything around you on a daily basis.