Do you take IG stories of your food? Or selfies when you’re out on your weekend adventures? Chances are, you’re already a content creator without realising it. For most of us, a smartphone suffices when it comes to documenting our memories, but for those who want a deeper storytelling aspect to their content creation, this camera right here is a pretty good option.
What I have here is the new Z30, the latest APS-C mirrorless camera from Nikon. Targeted at the new generation of content creators who want a fuss-free gadget for capturing their daily lives, the camera offers an easy user interface, dedicated focus modes, as well as long video recording time.
Even though I’m not much of a vlogger myself, I decided to test the camera out by documenting my busy weekend where I attended a live music event and checked out a busy pasar malam. Here’s my verdict!
See how nicely the camera fits in my palm? The camera body weighs just 390g, which makes it Nikon’s lightest and smallest Z series camera yet. Despite its lightness, the camera’s magnesium-alloy body gives it a solid and expensive feel.
First impressions: The camera body resembles the Z50 model but there are some differences. The Z30 has no viewfinder mainly because the camera’s mainly targeted at videographers who tend to use live view or external monitors instead. The tally lamp is located on the right instead and the leather hand grip is even deeper than its predecessor, allowing for a stable hold when you’re shooting with one hand. Overall, it’s got a very compact feel that I think entry-level users will appreciate.
The camera is designed for enhanced usability but what that means is that the top plate buttons have been re-arranged such that it’s easier for vloggers to use.
The much bigger video record button has been moved forward so that it’s easier to reach it when the camera faces you. What’s interesting is that this record button has a recessed dimple that makes it possible for me to start and stop recording just by feel.
A welcome addition is the dedicated release mode button, as well as a video/stills toggle that’s a lot more prominently positioned on the back. There’s also a DISP button, which toggles information on the rear LCD. This brings up shooting information and live histogram, which is crucial for videography.
Also on the back are the usual controls like Menu, Playback, Zoom In/Out, AE-L/AF-L, Delete buttons, as well as an “i” button that brings up an on-screen customisable menu.
The mode dial is also highly customisable, with the ability to save up to three original settings. The custom buttons can be assigned to frequently used settings—especially great if you’re shooting in a variety of different lighting conditions throughout the day. I found this especially useful when transiting from shooting in the daytime at a pasar malam to the evening in a dark live music bar.
There’s also an external microphone port along with the built-in stereo microphone, but there’s no headphone port.
With the camera being so compact, it’s no surprise that the LCD tilt/swivel screen takes up most of the camera’s back, with the display slightly smaller at 3 inches compared to other Z cameras. At approximately 1,040k dots, the display can be flipped out to the side, rotated up and down, as well as flipped all the way around for selfie mode. The best part? The front tally light lets you know immediately when the camera’s recording so you never miss a moment. Plus, the camera auto switches to self-portrait mode when the monitor faces the front, allowing an approximately 100% view angle even in 4k UHD/30p.
The Z30 is designed for video filming so naturally, its best features are dedicated to it. It’s got a 125-minute shoot time, which I barely maxed out even when I took the camera out with me for a whole weekend, just capturing memorable moments. I particularly liked the various Auto modes, which play out well in different scenarios. The Single Autofocus (AF-S) mode is great if you’re a single person sitting or still in front of the camera speaking or demonstrating an activity like cooking.
The continuous Autofocus (AF-C) mode is perfect for capturing a bustling scene where plenty is going on. As I panned my camera across Jeffos’ bar during a live music performance, it beautifully captured people singing, dancing, and enjoying themselves in the space. Meanwhile, I found the Manual Focus (MF) best for creating cinematic footage where I could choose to blur out the foreground or background as pleased.
If you’ve got pets, you’ll also be pleased to know that the camera has an Animal-Detection AF which detects the eyes of your furry friends for focused framing in both video and stills.
Although I was impressed by the fast autofocus, the camera’s stabilisation is rather poor. This is mainly because *no surprise here* the Z30 doesn’t have any in-body image stabilization. Instead, it depends on lens-based VR and the body’s own electronic VR (vibration reduction). Static shots look fine but if you’re panning while walking, there’s pronounced wobbling on the edges. If you’re hoping to shoot and walk at the same time, you’re better off using a tripod or gimbal, while switching both VR options off.
Even as night falls, the Z30 is a capable worker when it comes to capturing clear moments. The ISO settings go up to 25,600 for videos and 51,200 for still images, which allowed my footage of the neon-lit stalls at the pasar malam to look vibrant and beautiful at night. The tonality and textures of the environment also looked clear and sharp when shooting in low-light conditions like a bar.
Influencers and KOLs who often have to shoot product reviews and makeup tutorials will appreciate the camera’s 4K UHD video capabilities.
This lets them shoot at 100% of view even in a small space, such as in front of a vanity. Plus, there are over 20 filters available in the camera’s Creative Picture Controls, making it easy for one to customise the look and feel of their video. In a nutshell, videos can be shot at up to 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution at up to 30p or Full HD (1920 x 1080) at up to 60p.
Although this camera is made for videography, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a worthy purchase for those who’re mainly into photography. The Z30 uses the same image-processing engine as the popular Z7 and Nikon’s own CMOS sensor. It’s also said to deliver up to approx 11 frames per second in high-speed continuous shooting (extended) or approx. 5 frames per second in regular settings. When paired with the 16-50mm kit lens, the camera produces sharp stills of good quality in bright daylight. Straight from the camera, the colours tend to be on the duller side. When night falls though, the still quality tends to get grainy and blurry.
What’s a vlogging camera for if you can’t quickly edit and post on your social media? The Z30 is compatible with Webcam Utility for gamers who want to live stream their gameplay, as well as NX Studio, which lets one edit videos quickly and easily. I like that it can be linked with the SnapBridge app on my iPhone for remote shooting. This was especially useful when I tried to film myself doing a yoga sequence.
Aside from body-only and kit lens options, the Z30 is also available as a Vlogger Kit, which includes the camera, a 16-50mm kit lens, a Nikon ML-L7 Remote, a SmallRig Tripod and a SmallRig Windmuff. If you’re looking to delve into vlogging and you need all the frills, then this one does it. You get tabletop support and handheld grip with the SmallRig Tripod, great for keeping the camera steady as you shoot. Perfect for travel vloggers, the SmallRig Windmuff slides into the camera’s flash hot shoe to position a pair of wind-baffling muffs atop the stereo microphones, for when you’re shooting outdoors. Plus, the remote enables you to shoot stills and stop/start recording from up to 10 metres away, as well as controlling a whole host of camera functions that simple remote shutter releases can’t.
Overall, this camera’s a good choice for aspiring content creators who want a step up from their smartphones. Not only is it Nikon’s most affordable Z camera at $1309 for the kit, but it also gives you access to Z-mount and F-mount optics. The vari-angle screen makes it easy for you to shoot anything from travel logs to cooking videos.
But there are some cons that should be considered. The camera lacks both a headphone socket and an electronic viewfinder. If you mainly shoot stills rather than videos, I’ll say just give this camera a miss as most of its features are catered towards videography rather than photography.
Seasoned videographers might also want to give this a miss if the lack of in-body stabilisation and 4k 60p bothers you.