Camera Buying Guides, Camera Reviews

Nikon Z f Review – A Modern Classic


Nikon’s brand new Z f mirrorless camera hits a sweet spot between retro charm and contemporary functionality. As a long-time Nikon shooter, I was eager to get my hands on the Z f to see how it performs in real-world use. Read on for my detailed review after extensively field testing this exciting new full-frame model.

Design and Handling

The Z f’s design pays homage to Nikon’s iconic film SLRs like the FM2 with its vintage looks and tactile physical controls. Yet it packages these retro aesthetics in a lightweight but solid mirrorless body with a comfortable medium-sized grip. Weighing just 1.5 lbs, the Z f provides the classic Nikon shooting experience without the bulk and heft of a DSLR.

The all-metal construction oozes quality with precise dials and buttons offering that satisfying mechanical feel. The top plate houses physical controls for ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation, as well as a LCD panel for quick settings reference. There’s even a threaded cable release socket recalling manual film cameras.

On the rear, the bright 3.2” vari-angle touchscreen blends seamlessly into the classic styling and is easy to navigate thanks to the well-laid out menu system. The high resolution 3.7M-dot viewfinder also provides a clear and natural viewing experience with 100% frame coverage.

Overall the Z f handles superbly with great ergonomics. Key settings are easily adjustable via dedicated dials. You can concentrate on composing while changing parameters intuitively without taking your eye off the viewfinder. Any photographer who enjoys the traditional tactile experience will love using the Z f.

Image Quality

At the heart of the Z f lies a 24.5MP backside-illuminated full-frame sensor. Having shot extensively with the Z f, I’m impressed by the fine detail, dynamic range and low noise of the images. The native ISO range of 64-25,600 covers most lighting scenarios. In a pinch you can push it to ISO 102,400 to shoot in extremely dark conditions.

The sensor has a wide 14.5 stops of dynamic range. This allows recovering more highlight and shadow detail in high contrast scenes. Colors are rendered beautifully straight out of camera thanks to the refined Nikon color science.

Nikon’s new EXPEED 7 processor delivers excellent high ISO performance with well-controlled noise and artifact reduction. It’s particularly good for night photography where shadows and colors are rendered naturally without excessive noise or loss of detail.

Autofocus and Continuous Shooting

The Z f’s hybrid 273-point AF system locks focus quickly and accurately for both stills and video. It utilizes phase detection points for speed and contrast detection for precision. Shooting fast moving subjects like birds in flight, I found it reliably sharp with a high percentage of keepers even at 9 frames per second.

Low light focusing is equally impressive. The -10 EV detection range allows autofocus even in extremely dark environments. This enables shooting in conditions that would easily cause most other cameras to hunt unsuccessfully.

30fps high-speed bursts with pre-capture is a game changer for action. You can nail moments an instant before fully pressing the shutter, a boon for unpredictable subjects. The buffer allows over 35 full-resolution RAW captures in a sequence – more than enough for most fast paced scenarios.

Video Capabilities

The Z f packs an impressive array of tools for both professional and amateur videography needs. It can capture oversampled 4K video from a 6K sensor area for maximum quality and sharpness. 10-bit N-Log output takes advantage of the sensor’s high dynamic range for extensive grading possibilities.

You can record buttery smooth slow motion at 120 fps in Full HD resolution. This allowed me to easily create gorgeous slo-mo clips of splashing water and fast-moving wildlife. Zebra stripes help gauge exposure while focusing aids like focus peaking make manual focus a breeze when needed.

Thanks to the 5-axis stabilization, handheld video footage looks almost like it’s captured on a gimbal. This steady stabilization opens up creative possibilities and makes run-and-gun shooting effortless.Nikon’s excellent microphone and headphone inputs also provide high quality audio capture options.

Image Stabilization

The 5-axis in-body stabilization is extremely effective, giving up to 5 stops of shake reduction with VR lenses. Since it’s integrated into the body, you enjoy stabilized shooting even with older F-mount glass. I was able to take sharp images at speeds down to 1/15s which is hugely beneficial in low light.

Another plus is the minimal crop when shooting 4K video with stabilization enabled. Paired with suitable lenses like the 24-70mm f/4, handheld 4K video is eminently usable without excessive cropping. This sets it apart from cameras that crop more aggressively in stabilized video shooting.

Monochrome and Effects

Black and white photographers will love the Z f’s dedicated monochrome shooting menus. The new Flat and Deep monochrome picture profiles provide exquisite tonal rendering in black and white. Nikon also throws in some fun in-camera effects like Miniature, Toy Camera, Pop, and Dream for creative shoots.

The multiple exposure and pixel shift multi-shot modes work brilliantly too. Stacking 4 or 16 exposures leads to huge 200MP images with incredible per pixel detail and dynamic range, perfect for landscapes or product shots.

Battery Life and Memory Cards

Battery life is decent but not outstanding. The EN-15c battery delivers about 300 shots when using the rear LCD. Serious shooters may want to invest in a couple of spares to get through full day outings. The camera can be charged via USB-C PD which is convenient when traveling light.

Having both SD and microSD card slots is a nice touch. You can double up for extra storage or use them separately for stills/video, JPEGs/RAWs etc. I recommend springing for fast UHS-II cards to take full advantage of the blazing write speeds and buffer capacities.

Final Verdict

The classic styling blended with Nikon’s latest tech makes the Z f a hugely capable and addictive camera to shoot with. From soulful black and white portraiture to fast paced sports, it handles virtually any subject you point it at with aplomb. Nikon has once again hit a home run, perfectly merging their decades of optical mastery with contemporary mirrorless capabilities.

For the photographer seeking a tactile, hands-on experience reminiscent of Nikon’s glory days but wanting the advantages of a modern mirrorless system, the Z f is the new choice to beat. While not cheap, it’s a professional grade instrument that will faithfully create amazing images and videos across a wide range of genres. Overall the Z f gets my highest recommendation for photographers invested in the Nikon ecosystem looking to upgrade to an FX mirrorless body.

Nikon Z f vs Z fc

How does the retro-flavored Z f compare to Nikon’s first full-frame Z series camera, the Z fc? The most obvious difference is the external design and controls. The Z fc has a more contemporary look and feel with a bigger grip and enlarged top LCD panel.

Inside, both share the same stellar hybrid autofocus system and EXPEED 7 processor. So performance including AF speed, tracking and high ISO quality are virtually on par. The Z f gains a higher-resolution sensor (25MP vs 24MP) and faster mechanical shutter (1/8000s vs 1/2000s).

For features, the Z f brings welcome upgrades like the vari-angle touchscreen, pre-capture buffering, 3D Tracking focus and deeper RAW video output. It also bests the Z fc with 5-axis stabilization (vs 3-axis), deeper buffer for continuous shooting and USB-C charging.

Currently priced $500 higher than the Z fc, the Z f is positioned as a more premium offering. The retro aesthetic and tactile charm will strongly appeal to photographers drawn towards a traditional Nikon film camera experience. Meanwhile, the Z fc slants towards streamlined operation for those simply seeking Nikon’s best mirrorless technology in a contemporary package. Either is a stellar choice bound to satisfy Nikon loyalists.


  • Classic retro design with physical dials
  • Lightweight yet durable full-frame body
  • Excellent image quality with high dynamic range
  • Effective 5-axis in-body stabilization
  • Fast, accurate autofocus even in low light
  • Pre-capture buffer ensures you get the shot
  • Impressive 4K video with N-Log and slo-mo modes
  • Monochrome modes offer outstanding black and white


  • Battery life could be better
  • No built-in flash
  • Continuous shooting buffer could be deeper
  • No lossless compressed RAW option
  • 4K video somewhat cropped at 60fps

So in summary, the Z f hits the sweet spot for full-frame mirrorless shooters wanting a perfect blend of Nikon’s optical pedigree, contemporary camera tech and old-school tactile handling. It’s a superb all-rounder for photographers and videographers alike. Despite a few minor quibbles, the Z f is an outstanding choice both for longtime Nikon loyalists and those simply seeking a top-notch full-frame mirrorless.

Buy The Nikon Zf


About Owen Howell

Is the third generation and the current owner who was born into the business, learning all about the new and used camera trade from his father Barry and grandfather Tom. He now has a highly qualified team who themselves are practising photographers with a combined experience of over 100 years. You can catch Owen and his team using either the live chat on the website or by emailing [email protected] or telephone 01223 368087.

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