Why This Professional Photographer Loves the Nikon Z50

Why This Professional Photographer Loves the Nikon Z50

You're a professional photographer using cameras to make a living, and you suddenly end up with no cameras in your possession. What do you do?

For the last 6 years I worked at a Fortune 500 company that owned a generous amount of equipment. The list included a D850, D800, D750, D500, GH5s, as well as a number of accessories and lenses to compliment the camera bodies I used. For a while at the beginning of my tenure there I owned a D700, but quickly sold it realizing my highly loved camera was much worse than the equipment now available to me. That left me in a position where I didn't actually own any cameras for many years (aside from my 500C/M), so when I knew I was making the switch to a new company I quickly figured out which camera I wanted to get for myself to fill the equipment gap I had. 

I was formerly an SLR-holdout being a fan of the real viewfinder and instant-on features however, after using the perks of Nikon Professional Services, I was able to borrow and test the Nikon Z 6 / Z 7 which gave me a real confidence boost in Nikon's mirrorless offering. Both of those cameras are wonderful and only offer a few compromises versus my old D850. After some consideration I ended up buying a lowly Nikon Z50 with the 16-50 kit lens and FTZ adapter for a single Nikon lens I still own. I was able to play with the camera and test ergonomics in the local camera store to make sure the camera fit my hand. The decision to purchase an entry-level, mirrorless, crop-sensor camera may not seem to make sense at first but I have become a proponent of the Z50 in a way that I was not originally thinking I would be. Let me explain!

The Z50 is kind of the ultimate travel camera in my opinion. The 16-50 kit lens condenses down to nearly as short as the right side grip on the camera. This makes travel and packing with at least the body and kit lens super easy. The last camera I used regularly was the wonderful D850 with the battery grip. That camera is a beast next to my Z50 and aside from the megapixel count and a few other features really isn't that much better than the Z50.

The megapixel count being the big difference between my Z50 and the D850 I used isn't always all that relevant. I did a job last year to photograph a museum's collection of motorcycles and I would certainly rent a higher megapixel camera if I were to do that job now, but for a vast majority of things I shoot 20.9 MP is plenty. These days when most things are being viewed on a tiny phone screen, I feel like megapixel count is even less relevant.

Buying the Z50 allows me to do most of the jobs I would normally do and for the small percentage that I need more specialized equipment it makes sense to rent. Considering the cost of the Z50 kit versus a D850 with a body only, we are roughly one third the total cost and roughly one quarter the size. During these unsure times I'm very glad I have waited to invest in a more expensive photo and or video kit. I still have my eye on that D850 body — I love that camera nearly as much as my D3 back in the day. And for video productions the Z50 is lacking a bit in terms of frame rates and resolution. It's good enough for a lot of social media-based projects, but I am also considering trying out a ZCAM E2 kit.

Either way I go in the years to come, the Z50 will stay as part of my kit. Being as this camera is small and light it makes a great secondary camera or as a dedicated travel camera. Who else has made the discovery of how wonderful small cameras can be?

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27 Comments

Gary Pardy's picture

Small, secondary shooters are a great - the ability to take them anywhere without having to baby them like you would your primary kit is a liberating experience! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGTHxbbkh-c

Matt Williams's picture

I looked at the RX0 II as a kind of always-have-it-with-you camera since it's basically the size of a Nikon DSLR battery, which is pretty insane.

Unfortunately it suffers from serious battery drain while off. Which seems to be a common problem with Sonys - not sure about the latest gen mirrorless but the earlier ones had it too. Doesn't help much to always have it in your bag if the battery drains every 4 or 5 days.

Very impressive camera though considering all the technology packed inside and the size of the sensor. Heck, they even found space for a removable battery and flip screen.

Gary Pardy's picture

Wow! I wasn't aware of the battery drain issue - I've only had it a few days so I've been charging pretty regularly after extensive use. Definitely something to consider for a gadget that might collect dust in a bag more often than not. I might swap for an RX100. Like the Z50+kit lens, the convenience of a compact standard zoom is pretty compelling.

Grant Schwingle's picture

Haven't gotten any time with the RX0 but it looks compelling!

Gary Pardy's picture

It definitely has the "new toy" novelty at first, and capable if you were to put in the work required to get the most out of it. At a minimum, a great vlogging camera.

Matt Williams's picture

Yeah, I have no idea what is going on with Sony internally that their batteries drain like that. Every Olympus and Nikon (including the Z cameras) I've ever had would maybe lose 5% over two weeks. The RX0 II seemed to lose like 20% a day.

You could always store it with the battery out obviously.

Matt Williams's picture

The Z50 is wonderful, but the star of the current Nikon DX mirrorless gear is that little 16-50 pancake zoom. Easily the best kit lens I've ever used - I'm talking about more basic kit lenses like the Sony 16-50, Fuji 16-50, Sony 28-70, Olympus 14-42, etc. Obviously some cameras come bundled with very nice lenses and I wouldn't really call them kit lenses.

The Nikkor 16-50 has amazing cross frame sharpness and is strong at all focal lengths. It collapses down to nothing, and even extended it's extremely tiny. Plus, it's an actual mechanical zoom, none of this power zoom nonsense. Sure, it has a plastic mount and no weather sealing but I'll take that for the price, size, and image quality any day.

I only got to use one for a week with a Z50, but I'm going to pick one up to go with the Z7 - where it'll give 20MP, same as the Z50. Plus have the benefit of IBIS.

The Nikkor 50-250 is also a stellar performer.

Grant Schwingle's picture

Agreed the step up in z-mount lens quality is apparent.

jim hughes's picture

That little lens is da bomb!

Matt Williams's picture

It really is.

I love what Nikon is doing with these collapsible lenses like this one and the 24-70/4 S and the 50-250 DX. Not to mention, the optical quality they're packing into them. I was pretty blown away by the 16-50 - most kit lenses are terrible, some are very good (the Panasonic 12-32 is excellent) but this one really surprised me. Pound for pound and inch for inch, it may be one of the best mid-range zooms ever made.

jim hughes's picture

I wish they'd get that Z mount macro rolling. Macro gets a nice boost from APS-C.

Matt Williams's picture

I really want the new Z macros too. Especially the 105 - my 60/2.8G is quite good (I'm sure the Z version will be even better) but I don't have an autofocus longer macro right now. I have the 85 PC-E but that's a studio lens. I'd get the Tamron 90 but it hasn't been updated to work with the Zs yet. I had a Nikkor 105/2.8G but it had too much LoCA for me and wasn't very sharp.

Fortunately I use the 60 and 85 the most, but I really want to see their new macros soon.

Spy Black's picture

I thought the kit lenses were stabilized optically?

Matt Williams's picture

They are. I'm not sure if the in-camera stabilizer would work in conjunction with the lens VR or not - like Panasonic and some Olympus lenses. If they were forward thinking they would make it possible for them to use both, as I assume there will be a higher-end DX camera with IBIS. Though it could well be a camera body limitation.

Either way though - great little lens on the Z7 with or without the benefit of IBIS.

Jason Frels's picture

I was about to buy this camera when this crisis hit. My main reason was to have for hiking trips, which mostly got cancelled anyway. If things smooth out a little, I will buy this kit.

Gary Pardy's picture

I always felt that Nikon had a great lineup of APS-C lenses. If that continues, the Z50 should be great value going forward.

Grant Schwingle's picture

Hopefully regs clear up and this gets less intense in the coming months. I think a lot of people cancelled trips

jim hughes's picture

I bought a Z50 for travel early this year and really bonded with it. A small camera with the right ergonomics and a quality feel. Totally happy with the image quality.

Tony Wu's picture

This is kind of a sleeper camera. No specs jump out but does many things nicely. The 2 kit lenses are great values for what they can do.

regan albertson's picture

There's an appeal to going light. With rentals, you can get the big guns when needed and avoid wasting energy packing a big body and big glass.

jim hughes's picture

[SELF PROMOTION]

Some Z50 photos I took in Hawaii in February:
https://gallery.jimhphoto.com/Hawaii/

[/SELF PROMOTION]

Grant Schwingle's picture

Nice dude - those look great!

Boris Grishenko's picture

The Z50 is better than the Z6 and Z7.
It's also better than the D750.

Grant Schwingle's picture

Bold claim. Care to elaborate?

jim hughes's picture

This is why the Z5 introduction just gives me gas. Instead of continuing a high quality APS-C line, they go with "entry level Full Frame" without EVF. It's laughable, but it's going over.

jim hughes's picture

You're right, it's just the top LCD that's gone.