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Nikon Z5 review

The Nikon Z5 is the company’s new entry-level mirrorless camera, which looks almost identical to the Nikon Z6, which is in the company’s mirrorless range. It may be more expensive than competitors like the Canon EOS RP and Sony Alpha A7 II. Still, the Nikon Z5 is currently the best entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera there is. This is our Nikon Z5 review.

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Last updated on September 26, 2020 3:52 am

Depending on where you live, the Nikon Z5 is now available at Nikon and major retailers or will be soon. Although the Nikon Z5 is only available for the body, most will want to invest in the kit with Nikon’s new 24-50mm f/4-6.3 standard zoom lens. The price of this kit is $1,699 / £1,719 / AU$3,099, which makes the Z5 Nikon’s most affordable full-frame mirrorless camera, and it is about $750 / £480 / AU$700 more than the Nikon Z6.

If you are in the UK, you can also buy the Z5 with that new kit lens and an FTZ adapter for £1,859, while in the US, there is also a bundle with the Nikkor 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR lens for $2,199.

The Nikon Z5 will be available in India from August 27th at a retail price of Rs. 1,13,995 for the body only. Nikon has also announced a new NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 kit lens, which it says is the most compact Z-mount lens it has made so far. With this lens, the Nikon Z5 will be available for a bundled price of Rs. 1,36,995.

Specifications

Nikon Z5
Price:$1399
Camera type:Full-frame (FX) mirrorless
Lens mount:Nikon Z
Sensor:24.3Mp full-frame CMOS
Autofocus system:273-point Hybrid (combines phase and contrast detection) with Eye AF for humans and animals
Stabilisation:5-axis in body
Viewfinder:Electronic 0.39-inch 3,690,000-dot OLED
Screen:3.2-inch 1,040,000-dot tilting touch-screen
Maximum video resolution:4K (with 1.7x crop)
Maximum continuous shooting rate:4.5fps
Connectivity:Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, SnapBridge
Dimensions: 134 x 100.5 x 69.5mm (5.3 x 4.0 x 2.8inches)
Weight: 590g/ 1 lb. 4.9 oz body only, 675g / 1 lb. 7.9 oz with battery

Nikon Z5 review: Design

Usually, you would expect an entry-level camera to be smaller and lighter than the more expensive models in the assortment, but the Nikon Z5 has the same size and weight as the Z6. It weighs 675g body, including the battery, but there are some changes in both the construction and ergonomics of the Nikon Z5 compared to the Z6.

Nikon Z5 review

From the construction, there are some differences. Both of them use magnesium alloy panels for the top and front; however, the Z6 has the top hand around the back, with a different magnesium alloy panel. The Z5 uses a plastic panel on the back instead, but it is still good to see a decent amount of magnesium alloy on what is an entry-level camera. The Nikon Z5 is also weatherproof, just like the Z6, while having the same large and comfortable handgrip.

The main ergonomic difference between the Nikon Z5 and the Z6 is the absence of a top-plate LCD on the former. This can be useful for checking and adjusting the exposure settings, but it is not an essential item, and it is not something that most mirrorless cameras have. Because there is no top view, Nikon changed the mode dial position and moved it here from the left side of the viewfinder on the Z6 to the right side. For the rest, the control layout is almost identical to that of the Z6, which is a good thing.

Clearly labeled controls are located on the top and back of the camera, while the joystick and sub-selector D-pad allow easy control of AF area selection and menu navigation. You can also control many of the Nikon Z5’s settings via the 3.0-inch LCD touchscreen if you want, while Nikon’s menu system is one of the better interfaces to deal with. It is no surprise to see that the Z5 uses the same tilt angle mechanism as the Z6.

Videographers and vloggers might be disappointed that they do not see a vari angle display that is fully articulated. Still, for photographers that take photos, this should be a useful tool to help them take low or high angle photos. One thing to know, however, is that Nikon has chosen a display with a lower resolution on the Z5 than on the Z6, causing the resolution to drop from 2.1 million points to 1.1 million points. Such a cost-saving is to be expected, and competing cameras such as the Canon EOS RP have a similar resolution.

The Z6 (and the Z7 by the way) were divided when they both arrived with a few XQD card slots, but for the Z5, Nikon seems to have played it safer, and they chose two UHS-II SD slots. Users will appreciate the extra flexibility that double card slots can offer, and it is something that both the EOS RP and EOS R lack.

Nikon Z5 review: Features and specs

Since the Z5 and Z6 have the same 24MP resolution, you might think that Nikon has chosen to use the same sensor in the Z5 as in the Z6. However, this is not the case, since the Z5 does not have the more expensive backlighting technology found in the Z6, which probably means that the sensor here is one of the latest generations of sensors found in the Nikon D750. However, do not let this scare you too much, because you probably only see differences in performance at higher ISO’s, where the Z6 should deliver cleaner images.

Nikon may have cut back on the sensor. Still, it is excellent to see that it was decided to use the same 3.69 million-point electronic viewfinder (EVF) as the Nikon Z6, which is impressive for an entry-level camera. The Z5 also gets the same 5-stops in-body image stabilization system (IBIS) as the Z6, as well as the same 273-point hybrid AF system. The coverage is still 90% vertical and horizontal, but the system has been adjusted since we first saw it on the Z6. This gives the AF system both eye detection for humans and animals, while there is also a more advanced tracking mode.

However, the Nikon Z5 is a bit handicapped when it comes to video, something that, together with the lack of a vari-angle display, could deter those who are looking for a hybrid camera that makes video recordings at home when it comes to photos. The good news is that he can shoot in 4K with 30p, but the bad news is that he has to crop the sensor 1.7x to achieve this.

Nikon Z5 review: Performance

While the Nikon Z5 has borrowed many of the functions of the Z6, one area where the new camera noticeably fails is the burst speed. While the Z6 can rattle an impressive 12 fps, Nikon seems to have limited the Z5 to a rather pedestrian 4.5 fps. Although this is comparable to the EOS RP and Sony Alpha A7 II, it is a curious decision by Nikon to limit the Z5 to this recording speed. With the same EXPEED 6 image processor as the Z6, it is not unreasonable to expect that the Z5 should be able to shoot as fast in theory, but as it looks now, the Z5 does become more difficult for those who want to shoot action.

The 273-point AF system used in the Z5 is an excellent performer, which improves the systems found in rivals like the EOS RP and Alpha A7 II. Whether you shoot in single or continuous AF modes, there is quite a selection of focus modes, while we found that focusing was fast and quiet in most cases. Focusing tracking worked well, allowing us to track our subjects quickly and reliably around the frame. It is just a pity that the limited burst speed of the Z5 limits the possibilities for action photography.

If you want to take portrait photographs, the Z5’s eye detection works very well. The Z5 will automatically detect a face before the AF box shrinks to cover the eye and maintain focus while the subject is in the frame. It probably doesn’t have the same level of sophistication as Sony’s more expensive Alpha A7 III, but it is nevertheless excellent. The Z5’s built-in image stabilization is also a consistent performer, making it possible to take sharp shots at low shutter speeds than would otherwise introduce some form of camera shake.

Finally, the Z5 comes with a new battery, the EN-EL15c, which offers an increase in capacity compared to the older variants (although it is interchangeable with older variants). You can expect 470 shots if you only use the rear monitor, or 390 shots if you use the EVF – that’s about 80 shots better than the Z6.

Nikon Z5 review: Video and image quality

As we said before, the Z5 has the same resolution as the Z6 but uses a different full-frame sensor. What does that mean for the image quality, now that the Z5 misses the design of the backlight of the Z6? The short answer is that you have to look very closely at the images of the two cameras to see the difference. At low ISOs, you are rewarded with sharp and clean images that are comparable to those of the Z6, and only when you go to the higher side of the ISO range, you notice a difference when you start zooming in on photos, with a hint that more noise is noticeable.

That said, even here, the Z5 can still handle image noise well. At ISO 6,400, the detail is retained, with only a small amount of chroma noise visible at 100%. As you would expect, the dynamic range and detail levels are reduced in the expansion sensitivity settings, so ISO 102,400 should only be used as a last resort. The measuring system of the Nikon Z5 is very reliable performance. You will notice that there is a bias for the highlights, but this ensures that the details in bright areas are not blown away.

Nikon Z5 review

A little post-processing in which the photos appear a little underexposed will result in a nicely balanced image, while the files can be pushed further if necessary. The 24-50mm kit lens is fine, but you will want to keep your expectations in check. The maximum aperture of f/6.3 at 50mm is a bit limiting, and we certainly recommend you invest in the excellent Z-series 24-70mm f/4 if your budget stretches that far.

4K video is a bit disappointing, though. The 1.7x crop factor can be limiting, while the narrow range of frame sizes will also frustrate those who want to grab more than a few minutes of footage every once in a while.

Nikon Z5 review: Conclusion

There is enough to like the Nikon Z5 review. It is impressively small for a full-frame camera, and especially if you combine it with the new 24-50mm kit lens, you have a great travel or daily purpose camera in the making. It has a decent set of features, with a high-performance sensor, a nicely functioning touch-sensitive tilt screen, and an excellent viewfinder that you might not expect to find on an entry-level camera.

However, there are a few compromises to be made. It has a disappointing frame rate (4.5 fps) while having a cutout applied to 4K, also off-putting to videographers and vloggers. The lower resolution of the rear screen and the slightly inferior sensor are all things to think about.

All in all, however, the Nikon Z5 has a lot to offer and is an excellent package for anyone looking for a first full-frame camera. Nikon has managed to shrink the camera even further, without losing the superb hand position and some of the best specifications of the series.

8 Total Score
Our Verdict

The Nikon Z5 is the best entry-level mirrorless camera you can buy right now. It is not perfect, but thanks to a mix of great image quality, a reliable autofocus performance, easy controls, and weatherproof and robust housing, the Z5 has a lot to offer.

PROS
  • Comfy grip and solid build
  • Nice design
  • High-resolution EVF
  • 5-axis AF system
  • The very capable AF system
CONS
  • Underwhelming burst shooting speed
  • Disappointing video specs including cropped 4K
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