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The closer it got to the release date, the more apparent it became that the Nikon Zfc would be a crop sensor body. This was a feature that I was desperately hoping against, having made the decisive and firm jump to Full-Frame sensors nearly a decade ago. If the similarly styled Nikon Df could have been released with a Full-Frame sensor, why did the Zfc have to fall short in this department? With a crop sensor in an 80s-looking body, can the company bring back some much-needed camera sales in 2021 and beyond?
The more I look at this new model, the more apparent its target audience becomes. It’s for fashionable, everyday, casual photographers who don’t want to just capture good images: they also want to enjoy the tactile experience of photography that film cameras used to provide. With a hark back to the classic styling of its FM2, the Nikon Zfc comes at an attractive starting price point. One might argue that it’s basically a Z50 in a retro body, but Nikon has also added some attractive features (at the expense of a popup flash). Zfc buyers are sure to find the addition of Nikon’s Eye AF in video mode (also Wide AF mode for stills) and a fully articulating LCD worthy of the $100 USD increase (against the Z50). I am looking forward to getting a review unit to test out the experience of using it more than anything else, as the sensor performance is bound to be stellar.
Expectation vs Reality of the Nikon Zfc
The specs that I hoped for are listed below on the left; what Nikon delivered in the Zfc is on the right. For a full look into what I was wanted the Zfc to have, check out my opinion piece from a few weeks ago. In addition to keeping the price point low, a lot of the expected features seem to have been left out to keep the weight down. At just under 1lb (450 grams) battery included, the Nikon Zfc is an ultra-light camera to use.
|Expected Features of the Nikon ZFC||What We Got|
|Full frame sensor||DX / APS-C sensor|
|30 megapixels||20.9 megapixels|
|4K 60 fps full sensor readout||4K 30 fps full sensor readout|
|8 fps for stills||11 fps|
|2 card slots||1 SD card slot|
|Battery grip compatibility||Not announced|
|Handgrip||Available as an option|
|All black / silver-black colour options||Silver-black plus 6 other options|
- I’m truly disappointed that the Nikon Zfc isn’t a Full-Frame sensor camera. Yes, it might have cannibalized some sales of the Z6 or Z6II if it were. However, since there aren’t any competitors in the retro full-frame category, it was a niche where Nikon could shine. Anyhow, a lot of signs point to an upcoming one soon.
- No increase in sensor resolution since it’s the same as the Z50 one. R&D and production of a higher resolution one would have certainly increased costs; this was probably why Nikon opted out of this.
- No 60fps in 4K video mode, but thankfully a full sensor readout
- More frames per second than I expected; perfect for those moments when you need an extra burst of speed (but please don’t spray and pray).
- Only one SD card slot. Again, price and size factors were probably taken into consideration to arrive at this choice
- In body stabilization: This might be a make or break factor for many who enjoy doing videos. Really should have been added
- Initial reports stated that the body would be a slim one. This has turned out to be true, but Nikon is also selling a handgrip that seamlessly blends in with the look and feel of the Zfc
- More colours than I expected. In addition to the classic silver-black option, users can select between white, sand beige, amber brown, natural grey, coral pink and mint green.
- No AF-ON button or focus point joystick. A couple of disappointing exclusions.
- Nikon has also released a vintage-looking prime lens to go with the Zfc. The special edition NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) is a visual throwback to the 28mm f2.8 AI-s lens released in 1981. I wouldn’t mind pairing this one with my Z6ii, seeing how compact it is in size. I’m a huge fan of Nikon’s Ai-s lens styling, and this lens doesn’t disappoint in this regard, at least
- You can also now buy the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR in a silver variant to match your Zfc.
If I was Looking for a New Camera, Would I buy This?
The Nikon Zfc ticks many boxes for amateur and casual photographers who might be in the market for a new camera. Firstly there’s that exceptionally well-styled body. Nikon has over 60 years of experience in making camera bodies that appeal to your heart and soul, and the official release images of the Nikon Zfc more than caught my eye. Yes, I might be partial to this as I own an FM2 on which its design was based, but it’s more than brand loyalty which sways my opinion on new cameras.
Is the retro design functionally useful in addition to being visually appealing? Yes. There are no dials that offer pseudo functionality. Each one of them has been added on the top to provide quick access to change often used settings (ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation). Thankfully the MASP dial which the Nikon Df had isn’t anywhere to be seen on the top plate of the Zfc. Also left out is the Df’s threaded shutter button which makes sense because threaded shutter release cables are ancient. Most people just use wireless shutter release cables these days, or there’s always the Snapbridge app for this. You don’t need to look into the viewfinder to know your aperture setting, as there’s a tiny LCD beside the exposure compensation dial. Nikon also hasn’t done away with the thumb and index finger dials that we have become accustomed to on their models. One Fn button has been placed at the lower right of the camera, which will be customizable like those on existing Z series models. The touch and feel experience of photography is something drastically missing in Nikon since the onset of digital photography, and the Nikon Zfc is the right camera to experience that again.
The inclusion of a fully articulating LCD is a real bonus when you consider that no other Z series bodies have this feature. If you enjoy vlogging on the go or the occasional selfie at events and parties, this is a feature that will be invaluable to you. Two additional features that should tip you in favour of the Zfc (over the Z50) are the slightly improved low light AF capabilities and the extended shutter speed (up to 900 seconds)
The Z50 sensor has arguably the best low light performance of any APS-C camera today. Marrying this sensor with the Zfc made sense for now as it’s a tried and trusted one. Image quality on the Zfc should be more than comparable with equivalent APS-C bodies from other brands, and Nikon has also added 20 ‘Creative Picture Control effects’ to the Zfc for some fun styled images.
From what I heard in an advert on the Nikon USA Youtube page, the shutter sound doesn’t seem like an electronic beep but also doesn’t have that satisfying clack that I’m used to on the FM2. It does seem like Nikon tried to make it sound similar to old school, something I’m eagerly hoping to confirm during tests
The choice of colours seen below is not something I honestly expected in the Zfc. I’ve seen various 3rd party leather options available for refurbishing older film cameras. These come in a plethora of colours, but this is the first time I’m seeing some of these outside compact camera models.
The Nikon Zfc has a Lot Going for it
It might be a tough ask to expect Nikon to take on the behemoths of retro-styled Mirrorless cameras (Fuji and Olympus) right away, but it’s a step in the right direction for Nikon. Boasting an eye-catching lightweight body coupled with the technological benefits of their all-new Z mount, and an articulating LCD, the new Nikon Zfc has a lot going for it. Nikon’s marketing strategies and target audiences across continents might vary, but the end goal of wanting to make a mark in the APS-C segment remains the same. If I were looking for a crop sensor mirrorless camera today, I’d skip the Z50 and pick the Nikon Zfc paired with the special edition 28mm lens instead. It’s not just a well-specced camera, it’s more than pleasing to look at. I strongly believe it’ll make you slow down and make you enjoy the experience of photography more thoroughly. This does look like Nikon’s best step, for now, to win back a sizeable segment of the amateur photography market