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Nikon Z f Review

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The Nikon Z f – this review will in many ways mimic what we said and felt about the DX Nikon Z fc. We will however, also be pointing out some of the differences as well and when you may actually prefer the Z fc over the Z f.


Over time, I’ve come to understand that I have an affinity for the process of making images and not just the final image itself. The camera is a part of that process and cameras can be either a tool that is a means to an end. A camera can also be a type of experience.


We are going to review the new FX sensor, IBIS enabled Nikon Z f camera. We will look at it from a tool perspective as well as from the perspective of it from a “feelings” type mode. A review like this would not be complete without also comparing it to the now “little sister” that is the Nikon Z fc.


I’ve owned the Nikon Df for a long time and it is an excellent camera. It harkens back to the SLRs of old, with actual dials with exposure markings for ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation. When I heard that Nikon was bringing out the Z fc, I really was intrigued by what it was going to be and what it could possibly be. That camera is a DX sensor without IBIS. Basically a re-shelled Nikon Z50. Not that this is a bad thing. To be totally honest, I prefer the tactile feedback of the twisty dials over the control wheels.


The Z f however, takes everything that there is to love (and/or hate, depending on your feelings) about the Z fc and refines it and then also enhances other areas almost to flagship levels – akin to the Nikon Z8/Z9.


Let’s start walking this journey of Z f discovery together. Enjoy the read and the images below and feel free to leave you questions, comments and views in the reply section below.


About the images in this review: All images are either straight out of camera JPG or processed from RAW in Lightroom to my liking. I process files from cameras to see what is capable. There are plenty of other sites that go deeper into the technical aspects of cameras. We strive to provide a review of the camera use experience here.




Tech Stuff



The camera is about the same overall style and look as the Nikon Z fc. It is about 9cm roughly larger in height and width than the Z fc Comparing it to a Fuji camra, it is more along the lines of the size of an XT-x. I think this is a better size than the Z fc. It gives you a little bit more real estate to hang on to. It does have a small lip on the right side that allows for your finger tips to grab hold of something.


Having tested this out with primes and zooms, I will say that without an extended grip, using zoom lenses (I tried the Z 28-75/2.8, 24-120/4 and the 70-180/2.8) is a bit of a chore. Not impossible, but also not fun either as I was constantly fighting on holding the camera by having to pinch more with my hand.


Now, juxtapose that with using a prime lens like the Z 28/2.8, Z 50mm f/1.8 S or my Meike 85mm f/1.8 for Z (You’ll be surprised how well that lens works on this camera and on Z cameras in general!) and the lack of having to pinch so much makes it a joy to use. Much less pinching is required. It also allows for me to use my left hand to support the camera when shooting as I need not use that hand to adjust the zoom ring.


Needless to say, I have already ordered the Smallrig L grip for Z f and it should be here sometime in early November ’23.




If you have a smaller lens like the new 28mm f/2.8 SE lens or the Z 24-50mm pancake-ish lens, the camera is well balanced. Even the larger primes, like the Z 35/50 the balance is fine. Even the 28-75 and the 24-120 don’t feel too unbalanced as much as it is just difficult to hold the camera as mentioend above. I would like a bit more of a grip on the body. When using zoom lenses or larger aperture primes, you’ll want to help support the weight with your left hand.


When you first touch the camera, I get an initial sense that the camera is metal and so solid. This is one of the big differences in feel between the Z f and the Z fc. The Z fc felt “solid but hollow”, where as the Z f gives me vibes of the old FM metal cameras.


On the top, you still have the controversial PASM switch. I personally like it. There is a buzz out there with both the Z f/Z fc about that control scheme being “stupid” or “not intuitive”. I consider it different. You may not appreciate it, but once you understand it, in real world use there is a lot to like about it. In my experience, I shoot in Aperture priority mode mostly. However, when I need to shoot shutter priority, I can leave the shutter speed dial at my pre-determined speed and with just one flick of the mode switch, go to shutter priority, be 100% where I want to be when coming from aperture priority and vice versa. That is just one example.


There is also an AUTO setting, which are good for the times when you may give the camera to someone that is not a photographer and you want them to use it.




Shutter Speed – full stops from bulb and time, 1 sec up to 1/8000. 1/3 stops can be adjusted with a command dial if you so choose by putting the shutter dial on 1/3 step. You’ll notice that the Z f has one extra stop of shutter speed – the Z fc only went to 1/4000. In actual usage, I rarely ever bumped up against the 1/4000 on the Z fc, but another difference that some that shoot wide open on fast glass in brighter scenes may appreciate.




Exposure Compensation – You have a +-3 stops of exposure compensation as well as a “C” setting. If you need up to +-5 stops of exposure comp, set the dial to “C” and use the command dial to set the desired levels. The Z f and the Z fc share this setup. The exposure comp dial is easy to find with the thumb and I have no issues adjusting it and keeping my eye in the viewfinder.


ISO Dial – The ISO Dial goes from 100 to 64000. It does spin freely around when not in the “C” position. To get it out of the “C” position, you must depress a button on the top. If using auto ISO, the lowest ISO setting on the dial is the base ISO and the max ISO is set within the menus. If you leave it in “C” the camera will use the base ISO and highest ISO set in the menu.


This is where I had my first handling issue. I would have preferred a lock at each aperture or at last a toggle on/off lock to prevent the accidental changes. Not sure how that happened, it was bumped from ISO 100 while carrying on the Black Rapid strap or if I bumped the dial unknowingly when removing the camera from the camera bag. I do not remember having this issue on the Z fc.




Shutter Release – you have a standard shutter release with an old school thread that allows for you to attach a shutter release cable to it. Power switch is found around the shutter release. The thing about this shutter release is the fact that it sits higher than what you’ll find on a DSLR or the Z6. I’m a fan because I like putting soft releases on my cameras that have threaded shutter releases. The shutter release does sit further back than a DSLR style camera. If you don’t like where the release sat with the Z fc or a camera like the Nikon D f, Fuji X-Pro or Leica M – you’ll probably not like this either. I found the transition to it relatively painless, but your mileage may vary, as they say.




Rear LCD – this is a flip out, tilt screen. Feels very robust and sturdy and easy to see.


The rear LCD has one other benefit to it…touch sensitive! Set to AF only or let it trip the shutter! Don’t want to do either – set it to off!


There is a small aperture number display on the top plate, same as the Z fc.




Something new! B&W option on the stills/video switch. Nikon has provided a dedicated position on this switch to be able to jump right into a monochrome mode. The monochrome picture control it uses is the one that was last set while in the picture control menu. There are 3 presets that come from Nikon and you can create custom picture controls as well. The picture controls are not as robust as what you may find on a Fuji or Ricoh GR II/III, but serviceable enough.




The EVF is great. I had no problems seeing what I needed to see, even in bright sunlight. The eye sensor is under the viewfinder which helps make the EVF activation more accurate in bright conditions.



So how does it perform? The simplest way to describe it is a Z fc styling in a slightly larger body with 90% the AF performance of the Z8 and a better IQ than the Z6 II.


Overall System Performance

The camera fires up quickly. The touch screens are very responsive. The menus, the “i” menu is quick to come up. Even from sleep, the camera is one of the quickest mirrorless to wake and be ready to fire the first shot.




Auto Focus
The AF is similar to the Nikon Z8/Z9. It has the all the same settings and options.


I honestly never had any issue with the AF on the Nikon Z cameras. Yes, the AF system is different than the DSLRs, but they are capable once you get used to them. For what I used them for, and it was a wide and varied set of situations, I could get the Z fc and the Z6 to do what I wanted. The Z8 is more capable in the sense that I don’t have to try as hard to get the AF to stay on target and the Z f inherits those enhancements from the flagship cameras.


I’ve been using the single point small AF mode mostly and it has been very fast and accurate. Of all the images I’ve taken in that mode, I don’t think that I’ve missed a single shot. The focusing is very confident and if you have used the Z8/Z9, you’ll be right at home.

The AF-C is capable as well. It feels like a Z8 level AF.


One thing missing from the Z f is no AF joystick. This means that you’ll have to use the D-Pad or the rear LCD screen to pick AF points.


No issues with this camera in low light either – just check out the Halloween images in this review to see how well it works in low light! The only time I had any issues was when there were strobing lights. Not sure that a DSLR would have faired any better, but in that situation I did not have a DSLR to verify.




Manual Focus

I will use manual focus on occasion, but I’ve had a hate relationship with fly by wire manual focusing. It will get you where you want to be, but being used to the old Nikon manual focus lenses, it is hard to appreciate the fly-by-wire implementations. It is getting easier, but I still prefer a good mechanical linkage for manual focus.


Even with that being said, I do like the focus aids (punch in zoom, peaking) that Nikon provides. On the interchangeable lens bodies, I use focus peaking for adapted lenses. My preference is using yellow peaking.




Battery Life
With the introduction of mirror less cameras, I’ve been wanting the CIPA rating to change from number of images taken to “power on time”. By this I mean that most mirror less cameras deplete the battery more so when they are powered on than the number of shots taken. For example, I’ve had the same mirror less camera in one outing net me 200 shot before I needed to switch the battery and then again on another I got close to 1000.


I started to analyze why and it came down to how long the camera is actually on. To that end, the camera does well with the EN-EL15c.


The EN-EL15c can be charged in the supplied wall charger or in camera with a USB-C cable. This would allow you to use a power bank to charge the camera remotely if needed. One thing to note is that since the Z9, third party EN-EN15 batteries no longer work. The Z8 and Z f require batteries with appropriate chips in them to communicate with the camera. Right now the only batteries that are guaranteed to fully function are OEM Nikon.


Z fc uses the EN-EL25 battery which is smaller and less capacity than the Z f EN-EL15c. The EN-EL15b is also usable in case you have a

hard time sourcing the ‘c’ variant.


CIPA rating on the Z f is around 380 shots.




Memory Cards
This is a point of discussion amongst many out there. The Z fc had one card slot, SDHC UHS Type 1. The Z fc has 2 card slots, but in an unusual configuration. One SDHC UHS type 1 and a second card slot that is micro SD or SDXC UHS type 1.


My plan is to use the micro SD slot as an emergency backup/overflow for the main SD card. Since it appears that Sandisk is having a bit of a quality control issue here recently, I’ve opted to go with a Samsung 256GB microSD. It is not officially supported on the Nikon website, but will test it out to see if it works ok.


Many were hoping for 2 UHS-II SD or maybe even a CF Express/XQD and SD combo.


I’m not one that really kneels at the alter of needing 2 card slots, for me it has always been a nice to have but not a requirement. I’ve been shooting professionally for 20 years and have yet to be hampered by some cameras I’ve used only having one card slot.




This camera does have a built in IBIS system like the Z5/Z6/Z7/Z8/Z9 do. Nikon is claiming in their spec sheet a whopping 8 stops of IBIS stabilization. I’ve yet to test this out fully, but a bold claim none the less and one that I’m sure a lot of people will try and see if they can max out!


For the Z fc, if you need stabilization, you’ll want to look at getting the stabilized lenses like the Z12-28, Z16-50, Z18-140 and the Z50-250, or adapt f-mount VR lenses to the Z fc as the camera body does not have IBIS.


New to the Z f is focus point VR. normal IBIS adjusts the sensor for the entire scene or the center of the frame. focus point VR adjusts the sensor for the part of the scene that the AF point is sitting. This should help keep a lower blur on subjects that are not at the center of the frame.

Nikon Europe has a video that explains this well:





For me, the size of a camera is important. There is a point of diminishing returns on size. You can only go so small before the controls are hard to reach and the camera is difficult to hold.


Feel in The Hand


I already mentioned a little bit about the camera, but will get into more detail now. Grip wise, I would say that it is not really slippery, but I would have liked a bit more of a pronounced ridge on the right side, more than what is already there when using longer and heavier zoom lenses. Smallrig makes a grip for the Z f and I have already ordered it.


Without the grip attached, you do need to hold the camera a little differently, but if you like the way that the old FM/FE type Nikon cameras felt, then this is something you’ll probably like too.


The dials are easy to reach and after a short time, I was able to change them without taking my eye off the viewfinder.


I did have some time to work with the camera and the Nikon Z28-75/2.8, 24-120/4 and 70-180/2.8. Wrangling the camera can be a bit more of a chore without an extended grip. It is workable in landscape orientation. Once you switch to portrait orientation, it becomes apparent that larger lenses will need a grip of some kind to be optimal in handling.




Image Quality – Stills
The 24.5mp (FX) sensor is a back side illuminated (BSI) chip using the newest Expeed 7 processor.


We have classic Nikon files here. Plenty of latitude to push/pull highlights and shadows, even in the JPG files. The colors are fantastic.

If you remember from the handling section above, I mentioned having accidentally bumping the ISO dial from 100 to 640. When I looked at the files on the computer, the JPG I shot were so clean and the gradations in tones so smooth, I would have never guessed that the images were not from base ISO! This sensor is very good and the processing pipeline that Nikon uses is stellar. Basically everything I had hoped and wanted.




The Z f will not only replace the Z fc but also the Z6 in my camera stable, so having something as good or better than those was a requirement – all expectations exceeded.


Lenses make all the difference here and I love using the Nikon Z primes on this camera for a small and travel friendly package. To reiterate, the primes work just fine with the camera as is, zooms are usable, but will benefit from the added on grip. This is the same as how I felt about the Z fc. Quality glass (of which Nikon has plenty) makes this sensor shine, from primes to zooms, there is something for everyone.


Bottom line – if you like the Nikon color science, then you’ll love this. If you want malleable files, you’ll like this. If you want great low light performance…you’ll love this too.


As usual – check out the sample images here to make the determination for yourself.




Image Quality – Video
You have the same 4k and 1080p options here as you have on the other non-flagship Z cameras. It is good video, much better than most people will give it credit. There is an audio input as well as a headphone out to monitor.
I think Nikon could do a better job at selling the video chops of their mirrorless cameras.




Final Thoughts
The Nikon Z f is one of those cameras that is polarizing. It is either for you or its not and it will all come down to ergonomics, really. In all other aspects it is capable and then some. It is a capable camera, a fun camera that gives you tactile feel and use of the exposure settings while giving you state of the art internals that will satisfy 99% of users for years to come. It is one of those cameras that you bond with and love to use because of the process you go through with it, much the same as you would the Z fc or the Nikon D f.


So there you have it. A capable vintage style, FX camera from Nikon with retro vibes and the great image quality and auto focus capabilities of a flagship. If the retro body style is your thing and you are not into the Fuji system, then this camera will certainly be of interest to you. If you are wanting more modern styling – then the Z5/6/7/8/9 will be the body for you.




How about some extras that are not normally part of the usual review! Let’s look at the Smallrig grip/plate as well as how the Z f works with a adapted m-mount glass – specifically the Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 rectilinear!

Smallrig Grip


One of the biggest handling issues the Z f will give to a lot of users, even me is the lack of protruding grip. Now, the prime lenses are no problem, but I did not have a “fun time” trying to use the Z f with any of the Z zooms like the 24-120/4, 28-75/2.8 or the 70-180/2.8.

I usually like to add on bottom plates to my cameras to protect them when I set them down. For the Zf/Zfc, they benefit with zooms having the grip.


Believe me when I say that the grip makes all the difference!








Adapted Lenses
One of the nice things about the Z mount is the slim distance from the lens flange to the sensor. This opens up the ability for adapting almost any lens from any manufacturer to the Z cameras.


I do like and use the FTZ for Nikon AF-S lenses, but manual focus lenses are also plentiful!


I do have a Leica M 240, and one of the most fun lenses to use, when appropriate, is the Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6.


I prefer focus peaking, setting it to low intensity and the yellow color. Super easy and super fun to be able to use those manual focus lenses on the Z f, where they look at home!

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http://www.visualohio.com | BESTLIGHTPHOTO BLOG | 500px Profile & Pics


I shoot Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Pentax and Leica.  Probably not enough!  LOL

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Great review of what looks like the kind of camera I would have loved to own 12 years ago from Nikon. 


Slightly tangential here, but what is this QC issue you mention about SanDisk SD cards? I have always only ever used SanDisk SD cards and apart from one recently breaking physically (don't ask me how), they have been pretty rock solid. 

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18 hours ago, Dallas said:

Great review of what looks like the kind of camera I would have loved to own 12 years ago from Nikon. 


Slightly tangential here, but what is this QC issue you mention about SanDisk SD cards? I have always only ever used SanDisk SD cards and apart from one recently breaking physically (don't ask me how), they have been pretty rock solid. 


I think it is 2 fold.  One is that I'm hearing from other photographers and internet sources that I trust that they are seeing a lot of failures in recently purchased Sandisk cards and hard drives.

Some are because there are quite a few very cleverly disguised fakes out there trying to pass themselves off as authentic Sandisk media (much like we see with fake batteries - a lot on the Nikon side that I've seen myself - which is why I think that Nikon started going with the chipped batteries starting with the Z9/Zf/Z8).

Others have verified that they have original Sandisk cards/SSD drives and such and are having either write failures or out right device failures.

My Sandisk cards in my possession are probably no newer than 3-4 years and have been flawless for me.

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See my content here:

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I shoot Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Pentax and Leica.  Probably not enough!  LOL

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I recently bought 6 new SanDisk Ultra 32GB cards for the real estate work. They have all been fine, thankfully. I also bought a SanDisk 128GB Micro-SD Extreme card for the drone and while I have only flown the little frog about 4 times since getting it the card hasn't given me any hassles (touch wood). I suppose if you are buying from reputable outlets the chances of counterfeit items should be significantly reduced. They can't afford to risk their reputations on dodgy suppliers. 

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@Dallas, exactly right on the suppliers.  A lot of what I’m hearing is eBay, AliExpress and Amazon purchases. 


I buy from actual camera stores locally or online - although B&H Photo out of New York had a bad run for a while where they got a bad batch of fake memory cards from one of their retailers. 

See my content here:

http://www.visualohio.com | BESTLIGHTPHOTO BLOG | 500px Profile & Pics


I shoot Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Pentax and Leica.  Probably not enough!  LOL

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That's quite alarming about B&H selling bad cards. I buy mostly from a South African online business called Takealot and while they do allow 3rd party sellers on their platform the processes to qualify to sell on there are stringent. Also, they have an excellent no questions asked returns policy with free shipping / collection, which is my main reason for using them over most other sellers. 

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