Don’t Trade in Your Sony A7III Just Yet, the Nikon Z5 Looks Pretty Gimped

The newly announced Z5 is Nikon’s take on the “basic camera,” but have they stripped it of too many features to make it affordable?

Today, Nikon is officially announcing the Nikon Z5. Part of the company’s Z-mount Full Frame mirrorless camera line, the Nikon Z5 is the company’s take on the “basic camera.” With that said, it’s competing in some ways with the Sony A7 III. Between its attractive $2,000 price point and its advanced feature set, the A7 III was very well regarded and sold like hotcakes. Nikon is going after the same crown with the Nikon Z5.

The Nikon Z5 is a full frame camera shares a lot of the same DNA as the more premium Z6 and Z7. Like its older siblings, the Nikon Z5 is also dust and moisture resistant. It’s got the same magnesium alloy skeleton and materials found in the Z6 and Z7, resulting in a nearly identical form factor. They made a few big changes to get it down to $1,399.95 for the body only though.

How Nikon Made the Z5

Externally, the Nikon Z5 trades the top LCD display found on the Z6 and Z7 for a mode dial with three user-customizable mode settings. Manual mode is available along with a fully automatic mode. The 3.2″ tilting touchscreen on the Z5 has a resolution of just 1,040k dots instead of the 2,100k dots display on the Z6 and Z7, Thankfully, the Z5 retains the excellent 3.6M dot Quad VGA Electronic Viewfinder of its older brethren.

“In a world where the Sony A7III exists, is there a need for a camera like the Nikon Z5?”

Paul Ip – Reviews Editor

The mixed bag treatment continues with the Nikon Z5’s internals. The same EXPEED 6 Image Processing System and 5-axis in-body VR image stabilization found in the Z6 and Z7 are also present in the Nikon Z5. Like the Z6, the Nikon Z5 is equipped with the same autofocus system (capable of Human and Animal Eye-AF) with 273 on-sensor AF points which cover roughly 90% of the frame. Both the Z5 and Z5 are also 24 MP Full Frame cameras, although their sensors are fundamentally different. While the Z6’s 24.5 MP CMOS sensor is Backside Illuminated, the Z5’s 24.3 MP CMOS sensor is not. The Z5’s 4.5 frames per second also pales in comparison to the Z6’s 12: understandable given the Z5’s entry-level status. While our focus here at The Phoblographer has always been on the stills side of things, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the Z5’s video capabilities. The Nikon Z5 is capable of recording up to 4K UHD/30 (1.7x crop) and 1080p/60 (Full Frame). The Z6, by comparison, is a more video-centric camera capable of recording 4K UHD (Full Frame) and 1080p 120p, with support for 10-Bit recording via HDMI, 12-Bit ProRes Raw, Slow Motion, as well as N-Log.

Photographers who lamented Nikon’s decision to give the Z6 and Z7 just a single CFexpress/XQD card slot will be glad to know that the Nikon Z5 actually sports a pair of UHS-II SD card slots. Although SD cards aren’t as fast as CFexpress/XQD cards, this move makes sense given the entry-level status of the Nikon Z5 and the more affordable price points of SD media. To accompany the Z5, Nikon is introducing a new compact kit zoom in the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3. In addition, Nikon is also introducing a new variant of their EN-3L15 battery. The new EN-EL15c battery enables the Nikon Z5 to be charged and powered via USB C. At full charge, this new battery will allow up to 390 shots using just the EVF, or up to 470 shots using just the rear screen. By comparison, the older EN-EL15b that came with the Z6 and Z7 was only rated for up to 310 shots.

“In creating the Z5, Nikon essentially borrowed Sony’s playbook when creating the A7III.”

Paul Ip – Reviews Editor

Now that we’ve got the facts and figures out of the way about the Nikon Z5, let’s address the elephant in the room. In a world where the Sony A7III exists, is there really a need for a camera like the Nikon Z5? Hell, does it even make sense for Nikon to release a camera like the Z5 when the Z6 was already vying for the same spot against the A7III (both the Nikon Z6 and Sony A7III are priced identically at just shy of US $2,000, body only)? Obviously, we’re talking about cameras from different manufacturers. Their intended audience, however, is very much the same. In creating the Z5, Nikon essentially borrowed Sony’s playbook when creating the A7III. Take what’s great and innovative about the top of the line camera (the Sony A9 at that point in time), keep the easily mass-producible bits, and replace the expensive ones with more affordable alternatives. Voila! We’ve got ourselves a basic camera for the masses.

The Nikon Z5 undoubtedly has a price point advantage thanks to its more affordable MSRP of US $1,399.95 (body only). To get to this price point, though, Nikon had to leave a lot on the cutting room floor. The Z6 was already playing catch up against the Sony A7III in terms of performance, and honestly, it never came close despite all of the post-launch firmware updates. Creating an even cheaper but less well-equipped camera just feels like a baffling business decision. One that we feel would undercut Nikon’s own sales of the Z6 rather than attract potential A7III buyers over to the Nikon camp. If the price point was truly a limiting factor, there is a wealth of more affordable but equally capable crop (or smaller) sensor mirrorless options on the market. For the Nikon fans out there, the Z50 would be a natural choice. If brand loyalty isn’t a factor, Fujifilm, Olympus, and Sony all have excellent offerings in this segment as well in the X-T200, EM5 Mark III, A6100, respectively.

The Nikon Z5 will be available starting late August of this year. The Nikon Z5 (body only) will retail for US $1,399.95. The Nikon Z5 with the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3 lens kit will retail for US $1,699.95 ($100 kit savings). The Nikon Z5 with Nikkor Z 24-200mm f4-6.3 lens kit will retail for US $2,199.95 ($100 kit savings). The Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3 (Lens Only) will retail for US $399.95. The full specs for the Nikon Z5 and Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3 are as follows:

Nikon Z5

  • 24.3 MP Full Frame CMOS Sensor (Non-BSI)
  • EXPEED 6 Image Processing System (same as Nikon Z6 & Nikon Z7)
  • up to ISO 51,200, expandable to ISO 102,400
  • up to 1/8000 shutter speed
  • dust and moisture resistant
  • 1040k dot 3.2″ tilting LCD touchscreen
  • 3.6M dot Quad VGA EVF
  • in-body 5-axis VR (IBIS) up to 5 stops with Nikkor Z lenses, 3-axis VR up to 3 stops with Nikkor F lenses adapted through FTZ adapter
  • fully automatic (point and shoot) or manual modes available
  • 273 on-sensor AF points, approximately 90% coverage
  • human and animal Eye-AF
  • silent photography in live view
  • dual UHS-II SD card slots
  • fully compatible with Nikon speedlights
  • new EN-EL15c battery
  • can be charged and powered via USB C when using EN-EL15c battery
  • optional MB-N10 hot-swappable battery pack (vertical grip) available
  • Stills
    • 20 Creative Picture Controls can be applied in-camera (JPEG only)
    • multiple exposure mode supporting up to 10 shots
    • focus shift mode (focus stacking) up to 300 JPEGs (3rd party software required for stacking)
    • silent interval timer photography & exposure smoothing
    • no dongle needed for Snapbridge, works with both Bluetooth and WiFi
    • transfer images to PC or Mac via builtin WiFi using the free Wireless Transmitter Utility
  • Video
    • 231 point phase detection AF
    • 4K UHD/30 (1.7x crop)
    • 1080p/60 (Full Frame)
    • IBIS + Electronic VR
    • same Creative Picture Controls available
    • focus peaking
    • stills capture possible during movie recording
    • traditional interval timer still available, but new in-camera timelapse mode added (produces video in-camera and saves JPEG and/or RAW)

 Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3

  • shortest, lightest, and most affordable standard Full Frame Mirrorless zoom from Nikon
  • not internally zooming
  • very compact
  • collapses when not in use
  • 51mm (2.9″)