If you’re a budget-conscious photographer looking to buy a full-frame mirrorless camera in August, you should probably just buy the new Nikon Z 5. For the money, it looks amazing.
Nikon truly hasn’t cut many corners in its efforts to deliver customers an affordable, lightweight stills camera (read the announcement here). At just $1,399, the Z 5 packs a huge amount into an incredibly compact body. Essentially, they’ve taken the best bits of the Z 6 and Z 7, ditched the XQD card slot in place of a pair of UHS-II SD slots, and thereby rectified the lack of redundancy missing from the Z 5’s bigger brothers.
Impressively, weather-sealing hasn’t been compromised either. Being small hasn’t made it delicate, with Nikon intent on making a camera that is ready for the same conditions as its other offerings. Photographers seeking to save money and weight shouldn’t then have to avoid going out in bad weather, something that was taken into consideration for the design of the brand new 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens.
Perhaps the most notable compromise for stills shooters is the drop in frame rate. The Z 6 shoots at 12 frames per second (the Z 7 shoots 9), while the Z 5 drops to a mere 4.5 frames per second — a fairly reasonable offering in an entry-level camera, and comparable to the 5 fps offered by the Canon EOS RP.
In terms of pricing, the RP is still significantly cheaper at just under a grand, and while the Z 5 may drop in price not long after launch, we may see a further reduction in the price of the Canon. The Z 5 offers significant advantages for the budget-conscious full-frame buyer, such as the 5-axis in-body stabilization, and dual card slots.
Furthermore, you could argue that there’s a better choice of affordable glass to draw consumers into the Nikon ecosystem. Nikon’s solid selection of f/1.8 primes might not draw the headlines of Canon’s f/1.2 beasts, but for amateurs and enthusiasts, they're a much better prospect. Admittedly, this has probably shifted slightly given Canon’s introduction of its new 85mm f/2 and pair of bold f/11 super-telephoto primes.
The choice of a sensor that doesn’t have backside illumination is perhaps one of the bigger steps down from the Z 5’s siblings. This may impact low-light performance and combined with the slower processor, perhaps also speed of autofocus.
For some, the 24-50mm f/4-6.3 will be an odd choice, as the aperture range will be too restrictive. However, this is very much a kit lens for consumers and those looking to travel light: at just 6.9 oz (195 g), this is insanely light, and at less than two inches when fully retracted, it’s incredibly compact. It might not be fully weather-sealed, but Nikon guarantees drip- and dust-resistance — not something you usually get in a small, affordable lens. Of course, the 50mm f/1.8 — $200 more expensive and more than twice as heavy — is a better choice for low-light and subject separation, but this is a lens to take with you on a day out when flexibility and weight-saving are priorities.
Of course, Canon is hogging the headlines with its hottest new releases, but as someone who appreciates compact, lightweight full-frame cameras, this seems like an impressive and affordable combo from Nikon, and I genuinely hope that the Japanese manufacturer sells a shedload of them. Let me know your thoughts and whether this is a strong move from Nikon.