That’s a spicey title, and I apologize, but I have a lot to say about The Nikon Zf and it’s the first time I’ve ever really had this level of pull to buy a camera that I don’t need.
Of course, Nikon doesn’t love me and I didn’t get a sample of the camera even though I’m in Japan, but I have seen many a review, and it looks like Nikon was a little more careful with this camera and letting reviewers have early access and unsupervised first looks.
For good reason, Nikon needs to play the defense a little more because we all know the first thing the Sony shills would do is compare it to a Sony A1, then talk about how bad the Nikon $2,000 camera is compared to Sony’s $7,000 flagship. While never mentioning the screen resolution, screen quality or price.
Except when Nikon came out with the Z8, a better camera than the A1 at almost half the price. Then the shills got embarrassed so they had to compare it to the Sony A7rV where Sony could at least pick up a win in resolution.
It’s very cutthroat out there for Nikon, but it looks like they just unleashed a truly amazing camera that is hard to find fault in.
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In this article, I’ll display images I’ve made with the Nikon Z6 to get an idea of how the sensor renders. From the samples I’m seeing, it looks like it has the Nikon Z6 sensor, softer tonality due to the AA filter, but with the Nikon Z8 extra punchy saturation and contrast. I’m very curious to see the actual RAW performance. After shooting with the Z8 for the last few months, I do kind of miss those Z6 tones a little.
I wrote an article on the Nikon Z8 Color Science a few months ago if you want to get an idea of how this new processor is balancing the colors. Keep in mind, that the Zf will still have the AA filter so it will produce a softer almost more filmmick look.
Table Of Contents
The Nikon Zf – A Legend Is Re-Born
I see a lot of people drooling over this camera, people texting me trying to control their impulses, comments everywhere are very positive and it looks like it’s going to be a pretty huge hit. Just a lot of the spec nerd influencers don’t seem to love it, as they don’t really understand the concept.
Luckily my autism is primarily hyper-focused on retro and usability and anything with Fuji in the name, with brass of course (yes I even ride a Fuji bike). So for me, this camera is almost irresistible as I also love everything about it except the flippy screen. I’ll take the L on the flippy screen since it’s the only Nikon camera to have a real one, and it actually makes sense on this body – more on that later.
It also seems that the influencers trying to assign their opinions to their audiences don’t seem to be working on this one, which is good to see. Generally, I see positive comments everywhere.
Although the Sony TikTokers bros will likely still make their “Nikon is a potato” videos, as they continue to be brainwashed by their “Bro, Sony slaps, low key fire, on god fr fr” favorite influencers with their brand new caseless iPhone 15 Pros “gear doesn’t matter” bros.
Also, it does look like opinions on this camera are fairly split even among content creators, and for Nikon, that’s a huge win. I guess Fro didn’t like the grip on the retro-inspired body while he was using his 1200mm lens. At least it’s good to see him hitting the gym again. I actually like Fro by the way, even though my mom says he’s obnoxious. Just want to make that clear. Sony too. It’s just Sony never bought me off with trips to Hawaii and never will, so I get to be critical of their cameras. – I really think we should just boycott products from brands that do that.
What Everyone Keeps Missing
Now on to what I keep seeing everyone miss and not mentioning –
It’s a $2,000 full-frame camera with a Z8 processor, a premium screen, and H.265 video codecs. It smokes the A7c II, it’s an absolutely amazing deal and the only thing that it compares to is the uninspiring Canon R6, also an amazing camera that doesn’t really get enough attention, even though I just said it’s uninspiring.
To be fair I should also say that usually, Sony’s video features like their S-Log3 and ability to fine-tune the looks are pretty good compared to what Nikon can do so far. N-Log is still not very well received, so you’ll need to find other profiles to install if you’re super serious about video. Usually, this area is a win for Sony, and anything they do with digital audio & mics is usually pretty good. That is Sony’s pedigree after all.
For a street and casual shooter, Nikon has really delivered with their compact lenses. The 28mm f2.8 is a ton of fun with its classic rendering, the 26mm f2.8 is absolutely amazing for those looking to get a little more out of image quality in a compact at the cost of focus speed, and the 40mm f2 was an instant classic.
So the system overall, although imperfect by design is absolutely beautiful. Pretty much the perfect full-frame street camera and again, a $2,000 full-frame camera, magnesium body, brass dials, 3.2″ 2m-dot screen.
Imagine when it goes on sale.
Does it look like a Z6 sensor? It’s good to see Nikon recycling. Now we know what they did with all those cameras from their trade-in deals. 🙂
I’ve been shooting on the Z6 since 2018, and that sensor is pretty amazing. If Nikon can also bring over the color science of the Z8, then people will be really happy. It’s looking like they did based on some of the other reviewers I’m seeing on YouTube. Of course, AWB and Color balance isn’t written as a quantifiable number on a spec sheet, so it’s mostly ignored by content creators. I’ll call them content creators now instead of reviewers because nobody actually reviews cameras anymore. They just blurb out specs and do dumb AF tests.
Pretty much my only complaint about the Z6 was the unrefined AWB, color balancing and I guess lack of H.265. All that has been fixed with the Zf. That’s exactly what I wanted.
It would have been nice if they were able to get a little more speed out of that Z6 sensor to at least give us 4k60 full frame, but oh well – it’s a $2000 camera. You do have to just let brands segment their bodies a little.
Also, in terms of sensor image quality, we really haven’t seen any improvements in image quality since around 2016 from any brand. The image processors have gotten better yielding better images, but the Sensors have mostly stuck to the same tech and performance, except with the stacked sensors.
Why The Flippy Screen Makes Sense On The Nikon Zf
An interesting thought I’ve had – A lot of people are thinking, “Oh dials and buttons, it’s so retro, video guys don’t need that, it’s obviously a photo-first camera.” First off, they are not “retro dials,” they are ‘heritage dials.” 🙂
But actually, if you’re filming yourself, having all the controls on top of the camera, instead of a menu that you can only access via the back of the camera, makes a ton of sense.
While filming yourself, if you don’t like the ISO, look up at the top of the camera, and turn the little dial – done. You can’t really do that with the other form factors as easily, unless they have a dedicated ISO button, like Nikon’s other cameras. But that would still probably take two hands to operate.
As a Z8 shooter, I can say the autofocus is pretty nice. How good of an autofocus system you need sort of depends on how you shoot. I still get in situations with the Z8 where I can get the AF to struggle a bit. Usually when I’m shooting with Soft Mist filters in the rain, the camera can get a little confused. Also, sometimes I’ll get the back focus issue, but 98% of the time it’s great. – Unfortunately, I always shoot with soft mist filters in the rain.
I think Canon still has a more constant focus system, but we’re kind of splitting hairs here at this point in 2023 comparing autofocus.
Also, what’s often ignored is the number of phase-detection points. Canon R6 uses 1053 Phase Detection points, the Zf uses 273. This is why you don’t quite get the focus resolution and accuracy as Canon, but, you’re punching fewer holes in your sensor as a byproduct which should give the Nikon sensors superior image quality and you won’t have as bad of issues with “star eating” or “detail eating” as you do with the Sony and Canon cameras.
You almost certainly will not get as good AF with the Zf compared to the Z8 because the sensor readout speed is slower. The Z8 has a 4ms sensor. I imagine the Zf is probably in the 15ms range. Also, I will remind you that different lenses perform better than others when dealing with Autofocus.
Why I Call It The Fujifilm Killer
I think Nikon did retro here better than Fujifilm has ever done. The new X-T4 and X-T5 cameras don’t feel as premium as the X-T3, I wanted to buy an X-T5 but after renting one, I just didn’t love it. Fujifilm has shifted all the premium builds and accessories over to the X-H2 line. And even the X-T5 only looks modern, just with dials.
Honestly, I think the Nikon Zf in terms of having a classic “heritage” look, is much better compared to anything Fujifilm has. However, I have to say for modern cameras, I don’t think anything looks better than the GFX100 II right now. One of the prettiest cameras I’ve ever seen.
So for the APS-C line, this puts Fujifilm in a tough spot. The Nikon Zf is full frame, yes a Fujifilm X-T5 is cheaper and does have some better specs, but a lot of Fujifilm shooters aren’t chasing specs. Also, comparable Fujifilm lenses are often more expensive, and sometimes less expensive than what you can get for Nikon. So you potentially might not really be saving that much money with APS-C if at all depending on what lens kit you decide to build out.
I say all that as a Fuji shooter. Even though I sold half my Fujifilm cameras, I still own three. I just find myself grabbing my Nikon gear, more and more compared to my Fujifilm gear. Unless it’s the X100V or X-Pro2 since I love that form factor.
It’s just starting to feel like Nikon did Fujifilm better than Fujifilm. Except for film simulators, but I got you covered there with my LR presets.
Nikon Zf Final Thoughts
I could see myself buying the Nikon Zf eventually if I ever find a good deal on a used one or if there is a sale. But I have a Z8 and a Z6, so I don’t really need this body, but man it looks cool.
The Z6 was one of my all-time favorite cameras with my all-time favorite renderings. Anyone who buys the Zf will likely be blown away by the colors and just the tonality of the images.
If Nikon throws the Z7 sensor in this body, I would buy it immediately. I really hope they do. I bet I’m not the only one thinking that as well. This would make such a great Landscape camera.
All in all, Nikon has really impressed me with the Zf. It exceeded my expectations, especially with its range of color options, stylish design, and modern video codecs. While I would have preferred a standard screen, the functionality of the top dials and the slimmer design make the flip-out screen kind of work better here than any other cameras in their lineup.
Let’s just hope Nikon’s marketing team can shift the opinions of all the 20-year-old bros. They tend to always use college-looking kids that are a little too preppy and sophisticated in their marketing materials and a lot of their ambassadors are just goobers, or old white dudes, and anything that’s not that just feels forced – I hate to say this, but they need a guy like Peter McKinnon or someone of the clan McKinnon. So they still have a lot of work to do in reshaping their brand image from goober old guy to ‘tattoo bros.’
And can we just stop doing the ‘hired model pretending to look at the camera while sitting on his couch?’ I don’t know why the camera companies always do this along with their terrible stock photos. It’s so unnatural and so uninspiring and just lazy.
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