Nikon Z fc Review | Affordable Retro Z Mount Mirrorless Camera
I’ll admit it’s been quite some time since I’ve used an APS-C Camera body.
In fact, it would be well over the ten year mark now since buying my first ever entry level DSLR the Nikon D90, a camera with which I would ultimately learn the entire Nikon system.
Ever since moving to a full frame DSLR my Nikon D750 then onto my current rig the Nikon D850, there never has seemed any need for me to look back, until now.
Retrospect has never looked more progressive with the addition of the newly released Nikon Z fc to their Z series mirrorless lineup, transporting me back to a time when I first truly fell in love with the craft of image capture.
With its retro good looks, 20.9MP APS-C DX sensor and 4k video capability the Nikon Z fc is a content creator’s dream machine.
More than just a cool looking camera the Nikon Z fc is guaranteed to be your new on-the-go, go-to.
Packing a punch with a lengthy list of native features alongside an enviable analog-style, my time with the Nikon Zfc has confirmed my suspicions that this highly portable and surprisingly powerful camera is set to become a modern classic.
Let me tell you why…
Nikon Z fc Specs
- Iconic Retro Style
- Analog ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials
- Lightweight and highly portable
- Fully articulating rear LCD touchscreen
- 4k video capable
- USB-C socket for on-the-go charging
- No built in flash
- 20.9MP CMOS APS-C format DX sensor
- EXPEED 6 processing engine
- 12-bit or 14-bit RAW capture
- ISO range 100-51,200 (expandable by 2 stops)
- Meter range -4 to +17 EV
- Burst shooting up to 11 fps with full AF (9 fps with 14-bit Raw)
- Oversampled UHD 4K video at up to 30p, using the sensor’s full width
- Fully articulating 1.04M-dot rear touchscreen
- 2.36M-dot OLED viewfinder
- Manual ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials
- WiFi (2.4 GHz)/ Bluetooth
- 209 AF points
- Hybrid AF with -4.5 – +19 EV range
- EN-EL25 battery
- SD cards (plus UHS-I compliant SDHC, SDXC)
Build & Appearance
There is no denying the aesthetic beauty of the Nikon Zfc with its iconic retro style.
In an obvious homage to the Nikon FM/FE2 film camera, the Nikon Z fc boats a leatherette shell (available in six colours and interchangeable, upon redemption after purchase through Nikon) alongside metal alloy analog dials and finishes.
Though I’d never usually find myself drawn to a white camera body (for the sake of practicality) I was surprised to have immediately fallen in love with the simplicity and elegance of the Nikon Z fc when it arrived.
I was also pretty pleased to discover it was very easy to wipe clean after use with a damp cloth.
While it doesn’t feel quite as robust as the original Nikon film cameras of yore, the Z fc wins bonus points for its lightweight handling at just under 450gm making it highly portable and easy to use with little exertion, a definite plus for the DSLR user tired of the heavyweight lifting.
The metal alloy manual dials for adjusting ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation on the top of the camera feel satisfyingly analog with that rather inimitable retro “click” turn to them.
Here’s a quick side-by-side of the Nikon Z fc sitting next to my original Nikon FE2 film camera for comparison
Aesthetics aside, perhaps one of the most exciting features of the Nikon Z fc is the fully articulating rear LCD touchscreen which is an absolute dream to use.
The LCD screen can either be used on-the-go for previewing images or tucked away and folded in to face the back of the camera, protecting itself when not in use.
I could kill for one of these on my D850 for variable angle shooting and fitting into tight spaces, let alone the capability of it actually managing to capture a decent selfie.
The vari-angle LCD screen alone is a phenomenal selling point for content creators and vloggers alike who will find the LCD screen coupled with Nikon’s full time “Eye Autofocus” mode incredibly user-friendly.
The Nikon Z fc arrived to me with the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 in the box. The lens itself is housed in the same metal alloy finish as the body but extends outward when turned as pictured below.
While I liked the versatility of the focal range of the 16-50mm, I would probably opt for the special edition NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) solely for the f/2.8 providing that extra stop of light, particularly as I do a lot of low light photography.
The overall quality of the lens was that expected of a kit lens – it felt quite light and somewhat plastic-y and I’d love to see something a little more robust placed on the body to distribute the weight a little more evenly.
Ergonomics & Handling
As previously mentioned, the lightweight handling of the Nikon Z fc is a hugely beneficial quality for someone who is generally a DSLR user. Anyone having made the switch to mirrorless would attest, that this is one of the significant reasons for the changeover.
Weighing in at around 445gm (battery included) the Nikon Z fc is a truly portable camera that feels comfortably light without feeling flimsy.
I found the handling of the Nikon Z fc body somewhat challenging for a DSLR user used to a heavy body with an additional grip. At times afraid I would drop it, I did find the leatherette finish a little slippery and the lack of grip a bit of a problem.
Unsurprisingly though, once I was used to the Nikon Zfc it became obvious that its accessibility and portability would far outweigh these challenges and those that might also come with taking a DSLR out for some “quick snaps”.
There are a number of different focusing modes to work with on the Nikon Z fc’s in-built 209-point auto-focus system including single point, pinpoint, dynamic-area, wide-area and auto-area.
Getting to know the Z system focusing was a little bit of a challenge without the usual access to a joystick at the rear panel to be able to toggle focus points easily.
Instead, focus points are set using the LCD touchscreen which can prove difficult when shooting with the camera in screen-off mode, like at a live show where I was testing the camera.
Overall, however, the AF modes were very reliable and responsive and the additional features of “Eye Autofocus” and subject tracking allow for a pretty accurate hit every time.
Low Light Performance
Generally speaking, the vast majority of photographic work I do is in the live music and performing arts space so I’m always looking for better ways to serve when it comes to low light image capture that is discreet, which is why I have been hugely interested in potentially making the move to mirrorless.
So it is with a caveat that I took the Nikon Z fc along to a recent live gig: professionally speaking, this is not something I would normally do.
Straight up, it has to be said that the Nikon Z fc is not a pro-camera body. Though it offers a stellar MP count at 20.9, an APS-C format DX sensor simply cannot be compared with an FX full-frame sensor capturing 45.7 MP such as the one I would normally use to shoot a gig like this.
Nor would the kit NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 be able to hold its own in terms of low light capability… or so I thought.
To say I gave the Nikon Z fc a challenge in shooting this gig would be an understatement. Between the mixed and constant strobe lighting conditions and the very dimly lit venue, I hadn’t really expected to walk away with a single usable frame.
Though I didn’t find the burst frame rate as high as I would usually be used to, the responsiveness of the shutter on the Z fc was there at critical moments and I’m very pleased to report that I was pleasantly surprised at the overall outcome, even if they aren’t the “pro-quality” images I’m used to taking at shows.
Even at ISO6400 (shooting RAW) I was happy with the amount of noise produced, and together with the in-built High ISO NR and a little push and pull in the edit, I was able to come away with some nice images, at a perfectly acceptable quality for social and web use.
Something that also has to be mentioned is the discretion of the Nikon Z fc being a hugely beneficial tool at a busy show like this.
With the newly opened venue teeming with eager photographers lined up with cumbersome telephoto lenses and battling for a position, I was able to enjoy the show as a punter and capture some pretty good quality images at the same time from the back of the venue in complete comfort.
Image Quality & Performance
I found the image quality of the Nikon Z fc quite good overall. I usually shoot everything in RAW anyway, so I didn’t really see any significant differences in terms of dynamic range from that which I would normally see.
One thing I did notice was a slight colour shift with the AWB settings from those of my D850 and in a number of images I did notice some moire, both likely attributed to the lack of an anti-aliasing filter.
I didn’t actually capture anything on the Nikon Z fc as Jpeg, as I am always looking for the latitude to post-produce with, but I was happy with the outcome of my edited images once output to Jpeg.
Overall I found the Nikon Z fc to be a really responsive and reliable camera that’s also a lot of fun to use, particularly when a larger camera isn’t appropriate or practical.
With nearly all of the anticipated Nikon menu items, plus some new additions like the “Eye Autofocus” and extended creative picture control options, there really is a lot packed into this compact offering from the Nikon Z series of mirrorless cameras.
Other Useful Features
The Nikon Z fc really has been created for on-the-go use, not only with one of the most compact and portable mains-powered and lead-free battery charging packs I’ve seen from Nikon to date, but with the addition of a USB-C socket on the side which can be used to both power the camera and charge the battery simultaneously.
With Nikon’s SnapBridge for lightning-fast image transfer, remote capturing and camera firmware updates available via smartphone at your fingertips, it’s the small and thoughtful considerations like this that make the Nikon Z fc a very powerful, portable and compact camera.
Value for Money
Priced at around US$1,000 for body only and about $90 more for the 16mm-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens bundle, the Nikon Z fc is considerable value for money when it comes to what this unique Nikon camera can offer the user.
Not simply limited to producing high-quality photographic stills, but offering oversampled UHD 4K video and a range of built-in creative picture controls, the Nikon Z fc provides a reliable and quality outcome effortlessly and for a really accessible, entry-level price.
…and its elegant retro-inspired appearance really is the icing on the cake. Other than the Nikon Df and various Olympus OMD-EM camera models, there really isn’t another camera like it that fuses old world 35mm nostalgia with so much fancy new-school tech.
If you’re after a truly unique, refreshingly affordable compact interchangeable lens camera that’s packed full of modern features, look no further than the Z fc.
Nikon Z fc Review | Conclusion
What I really love about the Nikon Z fc is its inherent ability to take a really quality image, every time… without the need for cumbersome gear.
It’s an incredibly powerful, portable compact camera that pro-users will find a great addition to their kit for on-the-go content and BTS capture, for both video and stills.
I’ve personally really loved having it for documenting family and friends moments that I’d usually reach to my phone for, and feel disappointed later about.
For the everyday user, not only will they find the Nikon Z fc incredibly intuitive and user-friendly but its striking good looks will turn heads and raise questions wherever it is taken.
The Nikon Z fc really is the dream machine for content creators and vloggers with every desirable quality packed into a sleek and compact design at an affordable price.
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