Nikon Z fc Review: A Modern Take on an Iconic Classic
What if we told you that you can own a camera that appears like it was built during the film era but has all the technology you need for the digital age? Well, that is now a possibility with Nikon’s new APS-C format mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z fc.
The camera itself is incredibly aesthetically pleasing. Resembling a film camera, the Z fc’s mechanical dials, colour and body give off a vintage feel. The camera has an APS-C CMOS sensor, so if you’re attaching a full-frame lens to the camera, it will have a 1.5x crop.
There are obvious similarities between this and a typical Nikon film camera as the Nikon Z fc was redesigned and remodelled after the Nikon FM2. So users familiar with film cameras would get the hang of the Z fc in no time.
On the top plate of the camera, you get the camera's mechanical dials. This is where you can access the shutter speed and ISO controls as well as the recording and shutter buttons.
So far, our favourite feature is the 3-inch LCD flip touchscreen that's fully articulating, which we think camera owners that take tons of selfies and vlogs would enjoy.
Aside from that, the camera has been built out simply. There aren’t too many menus and the buttons are laid out in a way that is easy to use. So if you are a beginner, the Nikon Z fc could be a great camera for you. If you have experience with other cameras, picking up the Z fc is also really easy.
At the bottom of the camera, you can spot its battery slot and SD card slot. Unfortunately, you can only use one SD card with the camera at a time. The Z fc uses the Z mount, which means Nikon users with previous Z mount lenses can use them with the Z fc.
Even though it's an APS-C mirrorless camera, we noticed that the Nikon Z fc has some specs and features that even a lot of professional cameras out there don't have. It's a 21MP sensor with the ability to shoot in both JPEG and RAW.
Something that we've mentioned before is that it's an APS-C crop sensor, which means there's a 1.5x crop for full-frame lenses. For example, the 28mm f/2.8 lens we used was equivalent to around 42mm.
The camera also has the standard Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority modes and more. For video, the camera can shoot 4K video at 30 frames per second (FPS) with NTSC and 25FPS with PAL. It can also film 1080p clips at 120FPS with NTSC and 100FPS with PAL. There's also an impressive shutter speed of 11FPS when taking still images.
Even our professional cameras can’t match that performance. With these specs, we have no doubt that the Nikon Z fc is a great camera for capturing moments and memories.
What similarly got our attention is the 20 Creative Picture Controls as other models do not have it. Basically, this function lets you put presets on your photos. You no longer need to spend time on post-processing with Lightroom or Photoshop as you can apply colour settings that will be baked into your photos as you take them.
But before you whip out your camera for your next shoot, you should know that the Nikon Z fc has no in-body image stabilisation. So you might want to use it with a tripod or gimbal if you’re filming a video.
On the bright side, the camera works well in low-light situations. You can set the ISO from 100 to an ultra-high 51,200.
Now that we’ve talked about the specs, let’s put this camera to the test. Taking the Animal Eye Autofocus (AF) for a spin, we realised that this is a relatively unique function as not many cameras have this tool.
Trying out the feature on a cat, we observed that the AF was accurate and fast, even in low-light conditions. We saw similar results when we took pictures of people.
As we thought the Creative Picture Controls were quite unique, here's a quick explanation of how to configure them. All you need to do is go to the menu, choose the “set picture control” option and select a colour profile from a variety of presets.
We found this function convenient because it let us overlay colour profiles without the need to spend time post-processing our pictures in external editing software. Another nifty feature the camera has is its ability to wirelessly connect to Nikon’s SnapBridge app for hassle-free photo transferring.
With the Creative Picture Controls and the wireless connection facilitating quick photo transfers to a phone or other device, the Nikon Z fc is great for users who want to instantly share their snaps with others.
You can connect to the SnapBridge app by visiting your phone’s settings, then pairing with the camera under the “connect to smart device” option. After that, the camera will automatically link to your phone.
With just a few clicks, you will be able to download photos straight to your phone and share them on social media.
Emphasising what we mentioned earlier, the camera has amazing low light performance as the photos we took in dark settings were crisp and clean. High ISO settings do come at a cost though, and at higher ISO, there was a lot of noise on the images.
So let's talk about our thoughts on this camera and what we really liked. First up is the SnapBridge app, which we really liked because it let us immediately transfer photos to phones. When it comes to ISO, the camera knocked it out of the park because it has a maximum ISO value of 51200. This is a function that we haven’t seen in a lot of professional or consumer cameras on the market.
The autofocus also performed well with no issues. In low-light settings, it was still quick and accurate. So when we assessed the Nikon Z fc as a recreational photography camera, it was quite hard for us to find fault with it.
Speaking of which, there's plenty of flexibility with the Nikon Z fc. With the camera’s quarter-inch thread at the bottom, you can attach a monopod or tripod that will help you shoot great selfies or vlogs.
Another convenient feature is the USB-C port on the camera’s side, which lets you charge the device. Powered by an EN-EL25 battery, the camera can last up to 300 shots. If you’re gonna record with the Nikon Z fc, then keep in mind that it can only shoot 75 minutes of video before the battery runs out.
If you think that's a bit limiting, you can charge your camera with an external power bank connected to the USB-C port. The best part is that while the camera's charging, you can still operate the camera.
In terms of image quality, the shots produced at 21MP aren't considered super high resolution. But that won’t be a deal-breaker if you just want to take photos for social media. The bokeh from the lens is really creamy and you get a shallow depth of field, although the colour roll-off wasn't that clean. For recreational photographers, this won't be a big deal. On the other hand, Nikon’s colour management impressed us. Applying the standard colour profile, we saw that the images were very true to the eye and rich in colour.
When it comes to shooting videos, you can record on MP4 and H.264 MOV — a capability we haven’t seen a lot in other mirrorless cameras.
Since the camera is remodelled after film cameras, there are mechanical dials at the top and command dials at the back and you can also control stuff through the command dials, for example, the shutter speed.
Interestingly, if you set the mechanical dial to any number at the top, you won’t be able to control the shutter speed on the command dial unless you set it to one-third of the step. So in order to control the shutter speed through your command dial, you have to set it to a one-third step. Otherwise, your mechanical dial will override the settings.
If you want to take home the Nikon Z fc, the body alone will cost you S$1,549. You can choose from two kit lenses: the 16-50mm f3.5-6.3 lens (S$1,779 with the body) or the 28mm f2.8 lens (S$1,929 with the body).
As first-time users of a Nikon camera, we found the Z fc to be really user-friendly. The buttons were easy to reach and the mechanical dials improved our efficiency with shooting.
Aside from that, the flip screen — our favourite feature — let us take street and architecture shots with ease. With the photo presets, the camera allows you to apply colour profiles to your pictures, saving you the trouble of post-processing.
On the other hand, there were some downsides to the camera. For one, there's no headphone jack. Sure, the camera has a speaker but this won’t let you accurately monitor a video’s audio levels.
The Nikon Z fc also lacked an ergonomic grip, which affected the way we handled the camera. Since shooting with one hand is a bit hard, we recommend that you use a camera strap.
Other than that, we were satisfied with the Nikon Z fc. Considering what it has to offer, this camera suits casual users who love taking selfies and vlogs, as well as beginner photographers.
Content by Ryan Mamba