Nikon may have just announced my dream camera for street and travel photography.
I am a career long Nikonian as I have mentioned several times in this column. I’ve been using Nikon cameras professionally for almost 20 years and rarely reach for anything else when a big job is on the line.
Of course, as in real life, there are always exceptions. Up until a couple years ago, that exception to me came in the realm of street and travel photography. As much as I love my D850, Z8, and Z9 bodies, they do stand out when simply wandering around the streets of a new city (or rediscovering your own). They can totally be used for street and travel photography. But there’s a benefit in using a camera with a lighter footprint when wanting to be more discreet. And, up until recently, Nikon didn’t really have an option that flipped that switch for me.
Then, about two years ago, they released the Nikon Zfc, a small and light mirrorless camera with a retro style that scratched all my itches. It was small and pocketable. It was stylish. That may not sound important, but when we are talking about an “everyday camera” that you want to have with you at all times, having a camera that adds to your outfit rather than distracting from it is a legitimate plus. And, because I was already in the Nikon family, it meant that I didn’t have to buy an entirely different set of lenses to use it.
The one thing the Zfc didn’t have was a full frame sensor. Now, having a crop sensor versus a full frame sensor isn’t the biggest thing in the world. In some situations, a crop sensor is actually preferable. Yet, as I’ve been shooting on full frame sensors from Nikon for so long, it did take a bit of getting used to.
The other thing I always hoped for in my Zfc, and in all Nikon cameras prior to the release of the Z9, was internal log video recording. This might mean nothing to many of you reading this article, especially when considering a street camera that will primarily be used for stills. But, I am a director and cinematographer as well as a still photographer. So, I use my cameras, even my street and travel cameras, as much for video as I do for photography. And since, professionally, I virtually never shoot in anything that isn’t in log, it is simply cleaner if my own personal footage be in log as well. You never know when I might want to grab a clip I shot on vacation and use it in the background or as a plate for another project. Having that casual footage be in log just makes it easier to match the color grade after the fact.
So, why am I going on and on about my minor gripes with the Zfc? Because Nikon just decided to give me everything I was asking for in the brand new Nikon Zf.
The Zf is a compact full frame mirrorless camera aimed at street, travel, and personal photography. The same buyers, like myself, who loved the Zfc should fall absolutely in love with this. And those who were hoping for a Zfc style body, but with a full frame sensor, should be very happy. I haven’t had it long enough yet to write a full review, but I was able to get my hands on a pre-production model. And, while I won’t give you a full hands-on review until I get an extended period with a production model, I will say that this camera is likely exactly what you were hoping it would be.
It’s slightly larger than the Zfc. Although, that’s actually a plus for someone with larger hands like me. It’s still comfortably smaller than the other Z models. Still very much (coat) pocketable. The sensor is a newly designed 24.5-megapixel sensor. I’ll do more in-depth analysis of the files during my full review of a production model of the camera. But, Nikon has given me no reason to doubt image quality over the years. I only had limited access to the camera, so I didn’t get a chance to really stretch what it could do. But the sample JPGs straight out of camera I took looked promising. And 24.5 megapixels is a great size file for my walkabout needs.
At launch, the camera will come in a handful of different color combinations. Again, this may only matter to the sartorialists among you, but I am personally excited about the all-black version. I’m usually partial to the silver and black cameras. But, for some reason, the all black is speaking to me this time around.
Ergonomics are similar to the Zfc. Although, I did find in my brief testing that it was an easier hold than its predecessor. Not quite the full grip of a bigger body. But enough that it can be gripped for extended periods of time without you feeling like you’re going to drop it. One little thing that I did like was the dedicated B&W switch. True, you could always shoot RAW and make it black and white after the fact. But, as someone who rarely shoots black and white professionally, I love shooting black and white for street photography which is where this camera excels. During my brief time with it, I think I stayed in B&W mode for at least 65% of the time.
As requested, because of course they did this just for me, wink wink, the camera can shoot internal N-log video up to 4K. It can also shoot HDR (HLG) video. The 4K is oversampled from the 6K sensor which should provide for sharp imagery. Aside from being part of the EXPEED 7 image processing family like the Z8 and Z9, the camera brings a couple more features over from its big brothers. This includes Nikon’s new autofocus systems. The camera can do 3-D Tracking plus subject detection aided by deep learning technology that can detect up to nine different types of subjects. Nikon claims that the camera can detect a face as small as approximately 3% of the frame’s longest side.
The camera offers in-body 5-axis vibration reduction with the equivalent of up to 8 stops. It can shoot 14 frames per second stills or up to 30 fps JPEGs in High Speed Frame Capture+ mode. The ISO ranges from 100 to 64,000, which could be essential for street photographers who might want to use this camera all hours of the day.
No internal N-RAW video. But, c’mon, this isn’t the camera designed for that kind of use. This is a camera that you would want to have with you everyday, take on a trip, or just have with you around the house. Content creators and vloggers will be happy to hear that the Zf does feature a fully articulating touchscreen monitor. This is essential for those who spend a great deal of time turning the camera on themselves.
This is Nikon’s entry into the fun sector of the market that just so happens to also have some tools very useful to those of us who make our living using these tools of the trade. A terrific fun camera for a professional. Or a great travel and every day camera for the hobbyist.
The camera is set to be available mid-October for a MSRP of $1999.95 for the body only. It can also be purchased in a kit with a retro styled 40mm f/2.0 SE for $2239.95 or with the 24-70mm f/4 S for $2599.95.
S,o what do you think? Will you be adding the new Zf to your shopping list?