The Nikon Z50 is the first-generation Z-mount DX mirrorless camera with an APS-C sensor. Announced on October 10, 2019, together with two compact DX lenses specifically designed for the camera, the Nikon Z50 packs many attractive features, putting it above entry-level DSLRs like Nikon D3500 and D5600. With its price point of $860 MSRP, it competes head-to-head with other mirrorless options on the market such as the Sony A6400, Fuji X-T30, and Canon EOS M6 Mark II. I had a chance to test the Nikon Z50 with the two DX lenses during the past 3 months of traveling in the US and the Middle East, so this review reflects extensive shooting experience in the field.
Sporting a 20.9 MP DX sensor, fast phase-detection autofocus system, 11 FPS continuous shooting speed, ability to record high-quality 4K video at up to 30 FPS without any crop (Full HD slow motion at up to 120 FPS) and a compact, lightweight construction with great body build and ergonomics, the Nikon Z50 is certainly a serious camera to consider for new and existing Nikon shooters.
The two Z mount DX lenses launched with the camera, the Nikon Z DX 16-50mm VR and the Nikon Z DX 50-250mm VR are both attractive choices for those who want to keep their camera kit small and lightweight, but for those who want more lens options, there are plenty of excellent Z-mount full-frame lenses already available, as well as older Nikon F lenses (both DX and FX) using the FTZ adapter. While testing out the camera, I purposefully limited myself to only the two DX kit zoom lenses the camera came with, so that I can demonstrate their capabilities and see if they are sufficient for most day-to-day needs of photographers.
Let’s take a closer look at the camera and its specifications.
Nikon Z50 Specifications
- Sensor Resolution: 20.9 MP
- Sensor Type: BSI CMOS
- Sensor Size: 23.5 × 15.6mm
- Sensor Pixel Size: 4.22 µ
- Optical Low Pass Filter: No
- In-Body Image Stabilization: No
- Image Size: 5568 × 3712
- Image Processor: EXPEED 6
- Viewfinder Type / Coverage: 2.36-million dot OLED EVF / 100%
- Viewfinder Magnification: 1.02× (0.67× FF equivalent)
- Built-in Flash: Yes
- Storage Media: 1× SD, UHS-I Compatible
- Continuous Shooting Speed: 11 FPS
- Electronic Shutter: Yes
- Shutter Speed Range: 1/4000 to 30 seconds
- Exposure Metering Sensor: TTL exposure metering using main image sensor
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-51,200
- Boosted ISO Sensitivity: 102,400-204,800
- Focus Points: 209 focus points
- On Sensor Phase Detection: Yes
- Flicker Detection: Yes
- Video Maximum Resolution: 4K up to 30 FPS (No Crop), 1080p up to 120 FPS
- LCD Size, Type and Resolution: 3.2″ Tilt-down 1,040,000-dot Touchscreen LCD
- Wi-Fi / Bluetooth: Yes
- Battery Life: 320 Shots (CIPA)
- Weight (Body Only): 395 g (13.9 oz)
- Dimensions: 126.5 × 93.5 × 60 mm (5.0 × 3.7 × 2.4 in)
- MSRP (Body Only): $860 (Check Current Price)
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at NikonUSA.com.
Before we go into the camera details, let’s see how the Z50 compares to its Nikon F counterparts and direct competitors on the market.
Nikon Z50 vs D3500 vs D5600 and D7500 Comparison
As I have previously pointed out, the Nikon Z50 is positioned above entry-level DSLRs like Nikon D3500 and D5600, putting it closer to what the Nikon D7500 has to offer. Let’s take a look at the key specifications of these four cameras and see how they differ:
|Camera Feature||Nikon Z50||Nikon D3500||Nikon D5600||Nikon D7500|
|Released||Oct 2019||Aug 2018||Nov 2016||Apr 2017|
|Sensor Resolution||20.9 MP||24.2 MP||24.2 MP||20.9 MP|
|Native ISO Range||100-51,200||100-25,600||100-25,600||100-51,200|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||EXPEED 4||EXPEED 4||EXPEED 5|
|Viewfinder Mag / Cov||1.02x / 100%||0.85× / 95%||0.82x / 95%||0.94x / 100%|
|Autofocus System||209-pt Hybrid AF||11-pt Multi-CAM 1000||39-pt Multi-CAM 4800DX||51-pt Advanced Multi-CAM 3500 II|
|Lens AF Support||Z-mount, F-mount via FTZ||AF-S (E and G), AF-P||AF-S (E and G), AF-P, AF-I||AF-S (E, G and D), AF-P, AI-P, IX|
|AF Detection Range||-4 to +19 EV||-1 to +19 EV||-1 to +19 EV||-3 to +19 EV|
|Built-in Flash, Guide #||Yes, 7m||Yes, 7m||Yes, 12m||Yes, 12m|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200||1/200||1/200||1/250|
|Flash Comm. Mode||No||No||No||Yes|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/4000||1/4000||1/4000||1/8000|
|Max Shooting Speed||11 FPS||5 FPS||5 FPS||8 FPS|
|Storage||1x SD UHS-I||1x SD UHS-I||1x SD UHS-I||1x SD UHS-I|
|LCD Size and Type||3.2″ Tilt-down Touch||3.0″ LCD||3.2″ Vari-angle Touch||3.2″ Tilting Touch|
|Wi-Fi / Bluetooth||Yes / Yes||No / Yes||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes|
|Max Video Resolution||4K No Crop @ Up to 30p||Full HD @ Up to 60p||Full HD @ Up to 60p||4K 1.5x crop @ Up to 30p|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||320||1550||970||850|
|Charging via USB||Yes||No||No||No|
|Weight (body-only)||395 g||365 g||415 g||640 g|
|Dimensions||127 x 94 x 60 mm||124 x 97 x 70 mm||124 x 97 x 70 mm||136 x 104 x 73 mm|
|Price (MSRP)||$860||$499 (with kit lens)||$799||$1,299|
As you can see from the above table, the Nikon Z50 has a lot going for it when compared to its DSLR counterparts. It has a similar sensor as the higher-end Nikon D7500 (which is excellent). It sports the latest and the fastest EXPEED 6 processor. Its autofocus system has more AF points and coverage than any Nikon DSLR, and it has a wide AF detection range of -4 to +19 EV. It has a very fast continuous shooting speed of 11 FPS, and it can shoot high-quality 4K videos with no cropping. It is the smallest camera of the group (although it is just a tad heavier than the plastic Nikon D3500). The Nikon Z50 is better in almost every way when compared to the D3500 and D5600 DSLRs. And being a mirrorless camera, it has some features like Eye AF, Focus Peaking and other useful on-screen information overlays that are not found on any of the above DSLRs.
However, when compared to the higher-end Nikon D7500, the Z50 shows some weaknesses. First, the shutter mechanism is different – its mechanical shutter is limited to 1/4000 vs 1/8000, and the flash sync is 1/200 vs 1/250 on the D7500. Second, although the autofocus system on the Z50 appears to be better on paper, I did not find it to be as accurate at tracking fast-moving subjects as Nikon’s proven 51-point Multi-CAM 3500 II autofocus system on the D7500 (more details on the autofocus performance page of this review). Third, the built-in flash on the Z50 is tiny when compared to the flash on the D7500, so if you need more fill-flash power, the D7500 is going to be a better choice. Fourth, the D7500 is the only camera in the group that can command other flashes using Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS). Lastly, if you own older AF-D type lenses, keep in mind that they will work just fine on the D7500, but they will not autofocus on the Z50 with the FTZ adapter.
Overall, considering the price point of the Nikon Z50 vs its features, it certainly looks like a very appealing camera.
Nikon Z50 vs Sony A6400 vs Fuji X-T30 vs Canon EOS M6 Mark II
How does the Nikon Z50 compare to its competitors from Sony, Fuji and Canon? I put together a summary table below that highlights the key differences between these cameras:
|Camera Feature||Nikon Z50||Sony A6400||Fuji X-T30||Canon M6 II|
|Released||Oct 2019||Jan 2019||Feb 2019||Aug 2019|
|Sensor Resolution||20.9 MP||24.2 MP||26.1 MP||32.5 MP|
|Native ISO Range||100-51,200||100-32,000||160-12,800||100-25,600|
|EVF Mag / Cov||1.02x / 100%||1.07x / 100%||0.93x / 100%||1.00x / 100%|
|Autofocus System||209-pt Hybrid AF||425-pt Hybrid AF||425-pt Hybrid AF||143-pt Dual Pixel AF|
|Animal Eye AF||No||Yes||No||No|
|Built-in Flash, Guide #||Yes, 7m||Yes, 6m||Yes, 5m||Yes, 4.6m|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200||1/160||1/180||1/200|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/4000||1/4000||1/4000||1/4000|
|Max Shooting Speed||11 FPS||11 FPS||8 FPS||14 FPS|
|Storage||1x SD UHS-I||1x SD UHS-I||1x SD UHS-I||1x SD UHS-II|
|LCD Size and Type||3.2″ Tilt-down Touch||3.0″ Tilting Touch||3.0″ Tilting Touch||3.0″ Tilting Touch|
|Wi-Fi / Bluetooth||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes|
|Max Video Resolution||4K No Crop @ Up to 30p||4K No crop in 24p / 25p, 1.2x crop at 30p||DCI 4K / 4K No Crop @ Up to 30p||4K No Crop @ Up to 30p|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||320||360||380||305|
|Charging via USB||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Weight (body-only)||395 g||360 g||333 g||361 g|
|Dimensions||127 x 94 x 60 mm||120 x 67 x 60 mm||118 x 83 x 47 mm||120 x 70 x 49 mm|
As you can see from the above table, the Nikon Z50 has pretty fierce competition at similar price points. Aside from a couple of differences here and there, most cameras have nearly identical features in the group. Where the competition truly stands out is in autofocus performance – Nikon’s first generation autofocus system on the Z50 is relatively weak when compared to Sony’s refined AF system. Having previously used the A6400, the differences in AF performance and accuracy are quite noticeable. Fuji’s AF system on the X-T30 is also quite fast, although I would rank Nikon’s AF system to be more accurate for still subjects (more on AF performance later in the review).
Please note that the above table primarily compares key camera specifications and does not take into account the camera system as a whole. If I were to base the above comparison on things like lens/accessory selection, ergonomics and camera menu system, I would place Fuji as the #1 choice for me personally, followed by Sony and Canon. Why Fuji? Because it is the only manufacturer in the group that created a truly appealing line-up of high-performance lenses that are specifically designed for the camera mount and sensor size. Sony has a wider selection of lenses available, but that’s if you take into account its full-frame (FE) lenses. Canon mostly has slow zoom lenses in its EF-M lens line-up.
Until Nikon rolls out high-performance DX lenses that are small and lightweight, it will continue to lose to Fuji and the more mature camera systems out there. I really hope Nikon is not going to cripple its Z-mount DX system as it has done with its DX DSLR cameras…
Build Quality and Ergonomics
Considering how small it is, the Nikon Z50 is built surprisingly well, with excellent ergonomics to match. The whole front part of the camera, including the top and the grip, is basically single-piece magnesium alloy, which is finished nicely with black paint, some rubber and plastic. Similar to other Nikon cameras, the buttons and the dial are all plastic as well. Nikon says that the body is somewhat weather-sealed, although not up to the standards of the full-frame Z6 and Z7 bodies. After using the camera in very cold, rainy and sandy conditions, I have not seen the camera lock up or give me any problems in the field.
When it comes to ergonomics, Nikon shooters will feel right at home with the Z50. First of all, the grip of the camera is deep and very comfortable, especially when comparing it to other cameras like Sony A6400, Fuji X-T30 and Canon EOS M6 II. And despite the big size of the Z-mount, Nikon left plenty of room between the mount and the grip to make the camera comfortable even for those with larger hands. Similar to other Nikon DSLRs, the grip is covered with textured rubber, providing great comfort when using the camera for extended periods of time. Here is the view of the top of the camera that shows the depth of the grip, as well as the minimal number of buttons and dials on the top of the camera:
As you can see, the top of the camera is somewhat similar to cameras like D3500 and D5600, although there are a few important changes to keep in mind. Aside from the dedicated ISO button, the Z50 also features a front-dial – something you never see on entry-level Nikon DSLRs. This is great, because it makes the camera much more functional in the field, especially when one needs to make quick exposure adjustments.
However, the Z50 does not feature a top LCD that displays useful information, such as the one we see on the Nikon D7500. Considering how small the Z50 is, it would have been tough to fit an LCD screen on the top of the body without compromises, so I personally do not consider it to be a huge negative. Everything else on the top of the camera is self-explanatory, with no surprises.
The back of the camera has seen more stripping of buttons to take a more minimalistic approach, which I personally welcome. Take a look at what Nikon has done here:
Compared to the Nikon D3500 and D7500 that have a total of 10 buttons, the Z50 only has 6 total buttons, in addition to the multi-selector OK button. Nikon was able to do this by moving three of the buttons to the touchscreen area. Now, if you want to be able to zoom in / out via the EVF or the LCD, you have to touch the right side of the LCD screen.
While this might not be ideal for those who want to use gloves or have issues finding the area to touch when looking through the viewfinder, I personally did not find it to be much of a hassle in the field for a number of reasons. First of all, the “OK” button still works very well for zooming into the captured image at 100% (see Nikon One-Click Zoom Feature), and if you want to zoom in to 100% when using the LCD or the EVF while shooting, you can still do that by programming one of the buttons on the camera. In fact, you can customize the same “OK” button to instantly zoom to 100% view, which is pretty cool! I am happy to see all the button and menu customizations that Nikon allows with the Z50. The “DISP” button is another one that has been moved to the LCD, which I personally don’t mind either, as I do not use it very often.
So far, everything Nikon has done seems great, and it really is. However, there is one major issue I noticed from the get-go when handling the Z50, and it is the same thing Nikon engineers plagued the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras with – there is no way to get rid of all the overlay information when using the LCD! I don’t understand how Nikon does so many things right only to royally screw up something so basic. When shooting with the Z50 on a tripod, there is no way to turn off information overlay (such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), no matter how many times you toggle between different display options. There is no menu in the camera that allows you to change this behavior, so you basically have to live with it. We are now three cameras into the Z line-up, and it is almost hard to believe that Nikon has completely ignored this issue. All that’s needed is a simple firmware update, which we are yet to see.
My workaround with the Z50 so far has been the same as with the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras. While composing, I use the EVF instead of the LCD, which shows the overlay information on the bottom and does not obstruct the image. After that, I switch to LCD. It is a pain in the rear end to do this every time, so I am still hopeful that this issue is going to be addressed someday…
Another issue with the Z50 has to do with its LCD tilt-down screen. Nikon wanted the Z50 to be marketed as a camera for vloggers, so it designed the LCD screen so that it can be tilted down, as shown below:
Except, considering that most vloggers are going to be using a tripod to mount the camera on, and the tripod socket is literally in the middle of the LCD screen, I wonder what in the world Nikon engineers were thinking when they came up with this novel idea. The LCD screen tilting does not work if you mount a camera base plate. It does not work if you mount the camera on…anything. So what is the purpose of the tilt-down screen? I guess it only works when shooting selfies handheld!
The Nikon D5600 is much more useful in this regard because it has a tilting screen that can be opened to the side and tilted – that’s what Nikon should have done with the Z50.
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