Image Quality (RAW)9.0/10
Image Quality (JPEG)8.7/10
- Excellent image Quality
- Everyday photography
- Excellent Dynamic Range
- USB Charging
- Lens Options
- High Resolution Photography
- Sports Photography
The Nikon Z50 Review-Nikons First APS-C Mirrorless Camera
The Nikon Z50 is Nikon’s first APS-C mirrorless camera sharing the Z mount with its full-frame siblings, the Nikon Z6 & the Nikon Z7. Aimed specifically at amateurs & enthusiasts the Nikon Z50 is a fairly capable camera and comes with a smartly designed “pancakish” 16-50mm f3.5-6.3 collapsible zoom lens. The Nikon Z50 targets the Sony A6400, the brilliant Fujifilm X-T30 & the brand new Canon EOS M6 II. The Nikon Z50 is available for around $860 for the body only and just shy of $1000 with the 16-50mm Kit lens.
Nikon Z50 Specification
The Nikon Z50 sports a 20.9MP APS-C sensor which is a derivative of the sensor in the Nikon D500. This is the first Nikon APS-C mirrorless Z-mount camera and it does not come with IBIS, unlike its elder siblings.
- 20.9MP CMOS sensor
- Expeed 6 Processor
- Twin control dial interface
- Up to 11 fps shooting with AE/AF, 5 fps with live view
- 2.36M-dot OLED viewfinder
- Uncropped 4K video at up to 30p
- Rear touchscreen tilts up by 90° or down by 180°
- Bluetooth-enabled Wi-Fi (via Nikon’s Snapbridge app)
Nikon Z50 & the Competition
Let’s compare the Nikon Z50 to its natural rivals and we will also add the Nikon D7500 for a good measure,
|Nikon Z50||Canon EOS M6 II||Sony a6400||Fujifilm X-T30||Nikon D7500|
|(With kit zoom)||(16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR)||(15-45mm F3.5-6.3 IS + EVF)||(16-50 F3.5-5.6 OSS)||(15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS)||(18-55 F3.5-5.6G VR & 70-300mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR)|
|Image stabilization||Lens only||Lens only||Lens only||Lens only||Lens only|
|(+ digital in video)||(+ digital in video)||(+ digital in video)||(+ digital in video)||(+ digital in video)|
|Max frame rate||11 fps||14 fps||11 fps||20 fps (e-shutter)|
|5 fps (with LV)||(30 fps Raw bursts)||8 fps (with LV)||8 fps (mech)||8 fps|
|EVF res. (mag)||2.36M-dot (0.68x)||Optional||2.36M-dot||2.36M-dot||Eye-level Pentaprism Single-Lens Reflex Viewfinder|
|Video rate||UHD/30p or 24p||UHD/30p||UHD/30p or 24p||UHD/30p or 24p||UHD/30p or 24p|
|(24p coming in f/w in 2020)|
|Video crop||Full width||Full width (binned)||Full width 24p||Full width (o/sampled)||Full width|
|(unknown sampling)||1.2x crop 30p|
|Mic Socket||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (2.5mm)||Yes|
|Headphone socket||No||No||No||Via USB 3.0||Yes|
|CIPA Battery rating (LCD/EVF)||320 / 280||305 / 250||410 / 360||380 /||950|
|Dimensions||127 x 94 x 60mm||120 x 70 x 49mm||120 x 67 x 60mm||118 x 83mm x 47mm||136 x 104 x 73 mm|
|(15.9 oz)||(14.0 oz)||(14.3 oz)||(13.5 oz)||( 25.40 oz)|
Check out our other Nikon Reviews
|Nikon D780 vs Nikon D850||Link|
|Nikon D850 vs Nikon Z7||Link|
|Nikon Z50 vs Nikon Z6||Link|
|Nikon D780 Review||Link|
|Nikon D750 Review||Link|
|Nikon Z6 Long Term Review||Link|
Nikon Z50 Ergonomics
The Nikon Z50 shares design similarities to the Nikon Z6 & the Nikon Z7. The viewfinder is prominently placed with enough clearance between the nose and back of the device when looking through the viewfinder.
The handgrip protrudes substantially and provides an excellent grip. The overall body is sleek, built out of very lightweight magnesium alloy. This allows a secure grip and easy control which makes this an excellent camera in terms of excellent usability. Couple that with the body-only weight of 395 gm or a mere 14 oz. and this is an excellent travel camera coupled with the super-lightweight pancake kit lens. Even adding the DX 50-250mm f4.5-6.3 VR and the kit weight still does not exceed 1 kg. Weather sealing is provided, another plus, if you are looking for a travel camera, although not to the level of the Nikon Z6 or the Z7.
The Z mount is quite prominent and takes up most of the front of the camera. There are two customizable function buttons alongside the Z-mount & the Lens release button. The top part is missing the top plate LCD screen found on the full-frame Z devices. There are two control dials on the top. This provides easy control over the exposure settings. Nikon’s ‘Easy Exposure Comp.’ option allows you to access exposure compensation in Shutter- or Aperture-Priority modes, without any need to press any other buttons. The mode dial also has a small toggle switch which allows you to switch between stills and video mode easily. Since both modes retain their respective exposure settings separately, this eradicates any need to change settings between modes. The Nikon Z50 sports a 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder which is pretty much in sync with what the competition has. The viewfinder offers a 1.02x magnification ratio. The view has very little distortion even at the corners.
The Nikon Z50 has connectivity ports on the left of the body. There is a micro HDMI port, a USB socket, and a microphone terminal. The Z50 supports charging through the USB V2.0 port. There is a 3.2’’ touchscreen on the back with a resolution of 1,040k dot. The screen extends outwards and upwards and at a right angle to the body. This extension allows it to clear the protruding eyepiece above.
The screen also tilts downwards to a full 180 degrees thus allowing selfies & V-logging. Mounting it a tripod will, of course, nullify this functionality and I just don’t see why Nikon did not choose a more standard approach for a flip screen, like how Canon does. The touch screen supports tap to track AF or simply just moving the AF point around. The biggest disappointment here the inability to use the screen as a trackpad while using the viewfinder. The screen also has three additional functions via the three capacitive touch buttons on the right side of the screen. These are the DISPLAY & magnification settings. The screen supports zoom and pinch functionality. The Nikon Z50 has a popup flash at the top (Thereby negatively affecting overall weather resistance).
The user interface is exactly the same as the rest of the Z cameras and the DSLR variants. This allows any existing Nikon user to switch over to any of the three mirrorless cameras and feel right at home. There is the customizable “My Menu” tab to allow you to access your favorite setting easily and quickly. The Nikon Z50 has the new EN-EL25 battery. This battery is rated at 320 shots when using the touch screen and 280 via the viewfinder. Real-life usage, however, shows a much better performance. Take into account, however, that extensive usage of Wi-Fi will affect battery usage.
The Nikon Z50 Sensor & Processor
Nikon Z50 Sensor Size
The Nikon Z50 comes with a 23.5 x 15.7 mm CMOS sensor, which has a diagonal of 28.26 mm (1.11″) and a surface area of 368.95 mm².
The sensor is a variant of the 20.9MP sensor used on the D500. Since this is a mirrorless system the phase-detection system is on the sensor via a series of layers or masks. The Z50 uses the full width of the sensor to deliver video. Image processing is done by the speedy Expeed 6 series of processors. Also of significance is the relative resolution is around 4 to 6 megapixels short of its primary competition and a significant 12 megapixels short when compared with the Canon EOS M6 II. Nikon says that this helps to improve low light performance.
Picture Control & Effect Modes
The Nikon Z50 has a plethora of Effect & Picture control modes. Below is the full list of picture modes.
- Close up
- Night portrait
- Night landscape
- Pet portrait
- Autumn colors
The Effects Modes are listed below,
- Night vision
- Super vivid
- Photo illustration
- Toy camera effect
- Miniature effect
- Selective color
- High key
- Low key
These modes can also be applied to the video along with standard images. Keep in mind that based on the modes, certain features may not be available, like a flash, AF or RAW.
Nikon Z50 Auto Focus
The Z50 essentially has the same AF system as the FF Z cameras. This is a hybrid AF system that depends on contrast detection as well as Phase-detection. With 209 AF points, this hybrid system covers 90% of the imaging area. All available AF modes can be accessed through the ‘i’ menu. The Nikon Z50 has single (AF-S), Continuous (AF-C) and the Full-time AF mode for use during Video recording. The AF-S is meant to handle stationary subjects and the AF-C to manage moving subjects. The Full-time AF mode tracks and adjusts the focus as the subject moves, but immediately locks focus on the shutter button half-press. The AF-Area mode allows you to select the AF point singularly or in groups or clusters.
Nikon Z50 Single AF Mode
In the Single AF mode, you can choose from Pinpoint AF, Single Point AF, Wide-Area AF (Large or Small) & Auto Area AF. As the name suggests, Pinpoint AF & Single-point AF are for precise targeting of small areas in the frame. However, Pinpoint AF is relegated to stills mode only and not meant for Video due to the time it takes to focus in this mode. The Wide-area AF modes are meant for larger areas of focusing. The smaller selection is again for a smaller area in the frame and the larger likewise for a large area of focusing. The Auto Area AF mode will automatically search for a subject in the frame and will automatically latch on to a face it detects. In the case of multiple faces, you can use the multi-selector control.
Nikon Z50 Continuous AF mode
The continuous AF mode incorporates single-point AF, Wide Areas AF (Large & Small), Dynamic-area AF & Auto-area AF. The Single-point AF & both Wide-Area AF modes work in AF-S modes however the focus adjusts if the shutter button remains depressed. The Dynamic Area AF mode allows you to pre-set the focus location. However, the camera smartly recognizes movement from the surrounding areas and allows keeping the subject in focus. The Auto-area AF keeps erratic subjects in focus. It can easily track subjects automatically, but also allows specific subject tracking which can be activated by pressing the OK button in Auto-area AF mode. Just position the tracking box over the subject and pressing ok again locks in the target. The subject tracking box now changes color to indicate target lock. The camera will now track the subject and in AF-C mode will automatically adjust the focus as the focal length changes.
Nikon Z50 AF performance
The overall performance of the Z50’s AF system is good and it functions well in all modes. Refocusing is a tad slower as compared to its rivals, but not a deal-breaker. The problem, however, lies in how we interact with the AF system. Switching between modes is not as easy as other systems and face detection should be accessible in all modes. We are hoping a firmware update can make things easier in the near future.
Nikon Z50 Auto ISO
The Nikon Z50’sAuto ISO mode allows you to set an ISO ceiling beyond which the camera will not allow the ISO to increase. Depending on shooting conditions, the system will adjust the ISO but not allow it to go beyond the predefined ceiling. In tandem with this, the system also allows you to predefine a minimum shutter speed to allow the camera greater flexibility in providing cleaner shots as the shooting condition changes. If you are using a tripod, you can easily set the minimum shutter speed to 1/60th or even lower. The Auto ISO feature will simply change the exposure based on the lighting situation. As the light dims, the camera will automatically lower the shutter speed to let in more light while at the same time not allow the ISO to exceed the pre-defined ceiling, thereby keeping noise levels under control. The Auto ISO mode also allows the use of a flash, either pop up or external. However, when using a flash, the minimum shutter speed is not taken into account and the flash sync speed is used, in this case, 1/200th of a second.
Nikon Z50 Image Quality
Nikon Z50 Dynamic Range
The Z50, simply speaking, has an excellent dynamic range. The camera will easily capture excellent detail, thus allowing RAW images to be captured at lower ISO settings and then amplified to brighten the image and retains highlight details easily. The Z50 uses lossily compression, however, the system smartly discards noise in lighter tones and thus retains original image quality. The sensor display ISO Invariance allowing you to underexpose images and then amplify and bring out the highlights in post-processing without any additional noise input. The Z50 captures some of the cleanest images we have seen when compared to its closest rivals.
Nikon Z50 Lenses
The Nikon Z50 has only two designed-for-APS-C Z-mount lenses. These are the 16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR & the 50-250mm F4.5-6.3 telephoto. These are both VR lenses to counteract the lack of IBIS on the Z50 and perform well. But these happen to be basic kit lenses with limited maximum apertures and you cannot expect class-leading Bokeh or even superb low light rendering.
The other option for the Z-mount is the full-frame lenses where we have a much wider spectrum of focal lengths and performance. However, these have been designed for FF bodies with inbuilt IBIS and therefore very few have VR inbuilt. Also, the cost factor here is another major concern.
The last option is to use F-mount lenses via the Nikon F to Z adapter. These are however large lenses and aren’t really that comfortable on the small Z50 body.
Nikon Z50 Video Performance
Similar to the Z6 & the Z7, the Nikon Z50 has excellent video performance delivering great footage. With 4k at 30p and FHD at 120p, the Nikon delivers great video in a variety of color modes with the only criticism being the lack of Log option. The Z50 has focus peaking to help determine exposure and excellent control over mic behavior. The Z50 boasts an optional wind-cut filter, attenuator, ability to adjust the recording volume and narrow the frequency response range for optimal human speech. The camera retains separate settings for stills and video and you can easily jump between the two and start working without unnecessary fiddling with the settings. Autofocus performance is steady and consistent in all AF modes. The AF mode easily tracks subjects and holds on to them giving a crisp looking video. The rolling shutter rate of 21ms is great and therefore not really discernible unless you pan really fast. Overall 4K performance is excellent.
Nikon Z50 Conclusion
The Nikon Z50 is a superb addition to the mirrorless APS-C category and a worthy rival to the likes of the Fujifilm X-T30, the Sony A6400 & the Canon EOS M6 II. The ergonomics are great and so is the interface. The easy portability of the system with its kit lenses is another plus point. In terms of performance, the great image quality & excellent video performance makes it a credible option. Battery life is low, but USB charging is a great add on. Implementation of the AF system is the primary issue here and needs to be streamlined and less complex.
The biggest concern here, however, is lens availability. With just two designed for the Z50 lenses, the system is a little weak at this point and using the F-mount lenses via the adapter defeats the whole purpose of a compact APS-C mirrorless system. If Nikon really wants the Z50 or its successor to be a serious competitor in the APS-C market, then they must have a number of VR lenses meant for these systems. We need some primes and wide-angle lenses taking full advantage of the sensor and be a credible threat to the Sony & Fujifilm systems in place.
So is the Nikon Z50 a great option?
If the kit lens provides you with what you require then definitely it is a truly excellent camera system. The image quality is great, the color reproduction is classic Nikon, the dynamic range is excellent. And for most beginners or enthusiasts the kit lenses are just fine. Also, there are a number of F-mount primes which will work amazingly well with Z50 via the adapter.
However, if you are a more serious shooter and need more lens options, you can take a look at some of the below-listed systems.
Nikon Z50 Competitors
We have already compared specs with a few relevant competitors at the beginning of this article. Let us take a glance at these cameras.
The Canon EOS M6 II
Ergonomically just as good and light, the Canon EOS M6 II has a better lens selection and in the long run, really won’t make much of a difference in the image output. These systems are evenly matched in performance with the exception of overall image resolution where the difference is significant. The price difference is also negligible and the system is a very good enthusiast piece.
The Sony A6400
The Sony A6400 again boasts a better lens selection, a truly great AF system and probably the worst ergonomics in the class. Also, the kit lens isn’t the best. However, it still is a formidable camera and delivers excellent images and superb video.
The Fujifilm X-T30
The X-T30 is a powerful performer with best in class video capabilities, truly excellent lens line up and good ergonomics. The X-T30 offers a headphone option and best of all Log capture. If you like a retro-looking performance machine, the X-T30 is just the camera for you.
The Nikon D7500
Ok, I know this is not a mirrorless camera, but this remains an excellent option at a comparative price point thanks to a recent price reduction. Lens selection is pretty much unlimited and this has excellent video capabilities as well. It remains a powerful contender if you are partial towards a DSLR instead of a mirrorless, especially looking at the battery life a DSLR brings to the table. It is the heaviest of all the ones listed above, but it truly is a mini D500 and that is praise enough.
Other Picaspec Nikon Reviews Below,