The Nikon Z f was one of 2023’s most trending cameras. With a backlog now apparently stretching back to July this year, it is no secret that this full-frame manual camera is in high demand. As such, the Nikon Z f drove my interest leading up to InterBEE 2023. At that event, I had the privilege to try out the Nikon Z f at the Nikon booth, and let me just say, I immediately was impressed.
Our video producer Thierry is pretty open about his love for Fujifilm, however, and regularly uses a similar type of camera for his work, the Fujifilm XT-5. I tried out his XT-5 a few times, along with the Nikon Z f‘s APS-C sister camera, the Nikon Z fc. While I also came to like the Z fc and advised my colleagues at work they should acquire them for some of the projects we do, I still was very much stricken with a desire to put the Z f to the test.
This past month, I found myself lucky to have that opportunity. As part of our ongoing product review series, we got our hands on a Nikon Z f, and I spent a couple of weekends testing out the Z f, in a variety of settings and situations. Let’s go over my weekend with this impressive camera…how did it perform with my style of photography?
The First Impressions of the Nikon Z f
The Nikon Z f, compared to the other cameras I use for work, somehow simplifies my workflow. I know that one might be confused by this, given that I would have to manually control every aspect of this camera using the ubiquitous dials on the top of the camera, but that’s exactly it. Having the freedom and versatility of adjusting the settings on the fly, instead of navigating through menus on the screen or setting an easily forgettable customized button, that makes life much easier for me. In Japan, we have a variety of weather, and lighting in a particular location can change with little notice. Changing ISO or shutter speed quickly without losing step simplifies the shooting process.
Indoor shots are also very much simplified. In similar vain, adjusting for loss of natural sunlight, or availability of lighting, as well as adjusting for skin tone, white balance, and other important settings, greatly lifts a weight off my shoulder.
Shooting this camera, versus the Nikon D3200 DSLR I purchased 11 years ago when I moved to Japan, is like night and day in terms of how different it is.
Outdoor shooting in daylight
The Nikon Z f has incredible color science. It retains the same sort of resolution as the Z 8 and Z 9, making it capable of capturing incredible images with ease. One of my favorite subjects of photography is flowers, and as you can see, the photo below showcases how impressively stable the color retention can be.
In addition, the benefit of the Z f having a full-frame sensor helped with this difficult photo of a beautiful heron I found near my apartment.
Nikon’s native RAW image settings, coupled with a low-ISO shot on a full-frame sensor, retained the color and clarity of this difficult photo. It also sure did help that I was photographing in bright January daylight.
Nikon Z f Detective Work – How effective is the AF subject detection?
In addition, the focus settings allow for various subject detection modes. I took the Z f out on the streets by my studio, and to my favorite Japan railfanning location in Kamakura, and took a few shots. How do you think they turned out?
How about animal detection? Sadly, I did not have time to visit my friend and her 2 adorable kittens (let’s save that for another time) to test out the animal detection.
Nevertheless, the Z f had zero issues detecting and focusing on this pigeon I found in Totsuka.
Evening/Lower light testing – How the full-frame sensor on the Nikon Z f shines
Talking to other camera gearheads about the Z f versus similar cameras, one thing clearly stood out about the Z f – the full-frame sensor. At first, some suggested the Z f was a gimmick or some sort of trend camera, but now, the consensus seems to be the Z f fills a clear need. Having a photography camera like this with a full 35mm sensor truly harkens back to Nikon’s Roots (check out our ongoing series!). The following photos were taken in poorly-lit indoor settings. Don’t worry, I have some nighttime photos that I will show you in the next section. One setting test at a time!
The True Test – Night Photos
As stated, the Z f sets itself apart from the XT-5 and its sister, the Z fc by having a full-frame sensor. There’s significant benefits and drawbacks to APS-C versus full-frame, but that’s not this article’s purpose. I personally prefer a full-frame sensor for low-light or night photography. The ability to set the ISO lower and maintain color is very important to me as a creator. Let’s see how my shots at night turned out!
This camera performed decently well. Depending on the outdoor setting, especially with color differences, it was challenging to get a good shot that fully balanced the colors. I also wanted to get some of the dimly-lit clouds in the sky and still have the treeline visible. It was tough, but I think I got the shot pretty well.
Now take a look at Hachiman Shrine from closer up. You can see how I had to contend with the color difference, as the shrine was lit up by LED lights from the ground.
With this photo, I actually tightened the aperture somewhat, in order to sharpen up the Hachiman Shrine colors. I also had the shutter speed at 1/30, meaning I had to really have some control over the camera to get this shot. As you can see, it still came out pretty sharp.
What’s my thinking of the Z f after the honeymoon period passed?
The one thing that I have in my mind after turning the camera back in was how would I use this camera professionally. Clearly, pro photography shoots are a a given with the Z f. How it worked as a video camera, however, my colleague Thierry can comment on that (video to come from him). I am convinced, however, that my feelings about the Z f going in to testing it out have been confirmed. The versatility and controllability set it apart from its other full-frame counterparts at the expense of it shooting 8K footage that the Z8 and Z9 can take, but if you are going to be using the Z f for photography purposes, I think this article shows enough of the capabilities of the Nikon Z f.
Written by Zach Kuhn – profile
Zach is the web editor and gear tester for PRONEWS Global. His work in social media content creation stretches back to the early days of social networking sites. His instagram can be found here.