Nikon Officially Announces the Full Frame Nikon Zf: We Go Hands On With the New Camera

Nikon Officially Announces the Full Frame Nikon Zf: We Go Hands On With the New Camera

Nikon may have just announced my dream camera for street and travel photography.

I am a career long Nikonian as I have mentioned several times in this column. I’ve been using Nikon cameras professionally for almost 20 years and rarely reach for anything else when a big job is on the line. 

Of course, as in real life, there are always exceptions. Up until a couple years ago, that exception to me came in the realm of street and travel photography. As much as I love my D850, Z8, and Z9 bodies, they do stand out when simply wandering around the streets of a new city (or rediscovering your own). They can totally be used for street and travel photography. But there’s a benefit in using a camera with a lighter footprint when wanting to be more discreet. And, up until recently, Nikon didn’t really have an option that flipped that switch for me.

Then, about two years ago, they released the Nikon Zfc, a small and light mirrorless camera with a retro style that scratched all my itches. It was small and pocketable. It was stylish. That may not sound important, but when we are talking about an “everyday camera” that you want to have with you at all times, having a camera that adds to your outfit rather than distracting from it is a legitimate plus. And, because I was already in the Nikon family, it meant that I didn’t have to buy an entirely different set of lenses to use it.

The one thing the Zfc didn’t have was a full frame sensor. Now, having a crop sensor versus a full frame sensor isn’t the biggest thing in the world. In some situations, a crop sensor is actually preferable. Yet, as I’ve been shooting on full frame sensors from Nikon for so long, it did take a bit of getting used to.  

The other thing I always hoped for in my Zfc, and in all Nikon cameras prior to the release of the Z9, was internal log video recording. This might mean nothing to many of you reading this article, especially when considering a street camera that will primarily be used for stills. But, I am a director and cinematographer as well as a still photographer. So, I use my cameras, even my street and travel cameras, as much for video as I do for photography. And since, professionally, I virtually never shoot in anything that isn’t in log, it is simply cleaner if my own personal footage be in log as well. You never know when I might want to grab a clip I shot on vacation and use it in the background or as a plate for another project. Having that casual footage be in log just makes it easier to match the color grade after the fact.

So, why am I going on and on about my minor gripes with the Zfc? Because Nikon just decided to give me everything I was asking for in the brand new Nikon Zf.

The Zf is a compact full frame mirrorless camera aimed at street, travel, and personal photography. The same buyers, like myself, who loved the Zfc should fall absolutely in love with this. And those who were hoping for a Zfc style body, but with a full frame sensor, should be very happy. I haven’t had it long enough yet to write a full review, but I was able to get my hands on a pre-production model. And, while I won’t give you a full hands-on review until I get an extended period with a production model, I will say that this camera is likely exactly what you were hoping it would be.

It’s slightly larger than the Zfc. Although, that’s actually a plus for someone with larger hands like me. It’s still comfortably smaller than the other Z models. Still very much (coat) pocketable. The sensor is a newly designed 24.5-megapixel sensor. I’ll do more in-depth analysis of the files during my full review of a production model of the camera. But, Nikon has given me no reason to doubt image quality over the years. I only had limited access to the camera, so I didn’t get a chance to really stretch what it could do. But the sample JPGs straight out of camera I took looked promising. And 24.5 megapixels is a great size file for my walkabout needs.

At launch, the camera will come in a handful of different color combinations. Again, this may only matter to the sartorialists among you, but I am personally excited about the all-black version. I’m usually partial to the silver and black cameras. But, for some reason, the all black is speaking to me this time around.

Ergonomics are similar to the Zfc. Although, I did find in my brief testing that it was an easier hold than its predecessor. Not quite the full grip of a bigger body. But enough that it can be gripped for extended periods of time without you feeling like you’re going to drop it. One little thing that I did like was the dedicated B&W switch. True, you could always shoot RAW and make it black and white after the fact. But, as someone who rarely shoots black and white professionally, I love shooting black and white for street photography which is where this camera excels. During my brief time with it, I think I stayed in B&W mode for at least 65% of the time.

As requested, because of course they did this just for me, wink wink, the camera can shoot internal N-log video up to 4K. It can also shoot HDR (HLG) video. The 4K is oversampled from the 6K sensor which should provide for sharp imagery. Aside from being part of the EXPEED 7 image processing family like the Z8 and Z9, the camera brings a couple more features over from its big brothers. This includes Nikon’s new autofocus systems. The camera can do 3-D Tracking plus subject detection aided by deep learning technology that can detect up to nine different types of subjects. Nikon claims that the camera can detect a face as small as approximately 3% of the frame's longest side.

The camera offers in-body 5-axis vibration reduction with the equivalent of up to 8 stops. It can shoot 14 frames per second stills or up to 30 fps JPEGs in High Speed Frame Capture+ mode. The ISO ranges from 100 to 64,000, which could be essential for street photographers who might want to use this camera all hours of the day.

No internal N-RAW video. But, c’mon, this isn’t the camera designed for that kind of use. This is a camera that you would want to have with you everyday, take on a trip, or just have with you around the house. Content creators and vloggers will be happy to hear that the Zf does feature a fully articulating touchscreen monitor. This is essential for those who spend a great deal of time turning the camera on themselves.  

This is Nikon’s entry into the fun sector of the market that just so happens to also have some tools very useful to those of us who make our living using these tools of the trade. A terrific fun camera for a professional. Or a great travel and every day camera for the hobbyist.

The camera is set to be available mid-October for a MSRP of $1999.95 for the body only. It can also be purchased in a kit with a retro styled 40mm f/2.0 SE for $2239.95 or with the 24-70mm f/4 S for $2599.95.  

S,o what do you think?  Will you be adding the new Zf to your shopping list?

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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Looks nice.
It's a shame that Nikon's z lenses have no aperture ring.

If you could afford them and don't mind manual focus, Voigtlander z mount lenses do have an aperture ring.

I use the wheel or my viltrox lense has a ring. Not an issue, plus i can mount full manual lenses.

It's a shame that some disseminate false information and don't use the lens control ring to adjust aperture.

It's a shame some people don't understand the difference between a marked aperture ring and an unmarked control wheel or "control ring" in Nikon speak.

I'm sure you are already aware it can only be set to manual focus when in manual mode, and aperture is not an option - in the very mode you would want a dedicated marked aperture ring.

An aperture ring allows you to see and set the aperture with the camera switched off. This control ring does not, and neither does the aperture display window.

This seems to be the cry of the detractors of the latest Nikon camera. I remember it was the lack of a second card slot with the original Z6, Z7. Then something about auto-focus. Now, the lenses don't have a dedicated aperture ring (because it's not 1980 anymore) and I have to use the programmable control ring (or, you know, the control on the camera body) - and thus this camera is crap and I will never buy it!

Looks good. If I had £2k to spend on a camera, it would be on my shortlist.

Finally they made it!!! So bad no back butto for AF

The AE-L/AF-L button on the back likely can be programmed to Back Button AF like pretty much every other Nikon camera made in the last 20 plus year.

Lipstick on a pig springs to mind.

Obviously looking to piggy back on the Fujifilm rise in popularity amongst a demographic that may not naturally have looked at Nikon and thought, yeah this gives me that retro cool, classic camera ergonomics and feel good factor.

Well after showing they couldn't be bothered supporting the Zf-c with any lenses worthy of genuine excitement or consideration, they think just dropping a full frame sensor in will gain the trust and enthusiasm it will do the same.

Well, they've got the retro part. Kind of. Classic controls kind of while missing the point. The Fuji cool factor - I guess this one could be for the boomer that thinks he's cool, while Fuji and Olympus just are. It's like Nikon is playing bingo with what marketing tells them the data says they should put into a camera: retro - check, compact - check, classic dials - check, pasm - check, full frame - check, photographer focussed - check (look at the dials!), video focussed - Check (don't look at the dials, look at the flappy screen!).

I mean "look at our classic dials"... "Yes that is a pass dial so you can avoid using them", "no we are hot offering any lenses with aperture rings, who so you think we are, Fuji?", "and no we haven't learned the lessons of the Fuji x-t4 and are offering a 90s camcorder / selfie screen for a camera with a design aimed firmly at photographers".

It just screams split personality disorder. Want video chops and full frame, there's already plenty of choice, big and small. Want PASM and flappy screen - again plenty of options in FF and increasingly APSC. Want classic controls and analogue experience with the right looks and performance... just buy a Fuji!

Nikon needs to nail it's flag to one mast, not try to be all things to all people, while not fully supporting the experience this camera suggests people will get by producing no suitable lenses with aperture rings.

I think you are being quite harsh here although I agree about the articulating screen - I guess people could simply reverse the screen for the true vintage vibe. This camera is simply meant to offer more of a tactile feel to it with the retro dials as well as the look of an old FM camera. I could see plenty of street photographers going for this camera, more of a film camera-like feel to it in this digital age of buttons, menus and touchscreens. Nikon may not have truly suitable lenses but Voigtlander have a few manual lenses with an aperture ring for that vintage manual vibe if people so wish.

It's clearly not a camera for you and you point out the obvious that there are plenty of other cameras available if people don't want this one and have different needs. This camera is not trying to be a jack of all trades like you seem to think it is and certainly isn't meant to appeal to everyone either. Many photographers have been asking for a FF retro style slr camera for years now and we now have one plus it doesn't cost Leica money to own it. The only person missing the point is you.

Oh I get it alright. Nikon wants piece of the retro action but is playing it safe by not fully committing. It's a Z6 for someone who wants the hipster/retro look, but without leaning full into it. And Nikon hopes users will just use third party lenses or vintage lenses with aperture dials because they sure as hell won't be developing any.

Plastic retro.

If you are comparing this to Leica, you really are lost. A Z6III in a 1980s dress doesn't make it a Leica. Lipstick on a pig.

Very much a camera for me if done right. If Nikon commits any lenses specifically to the vanity project. If the answer is vintage glass, there's a lot of AF tech going to waste.

Would you have been happy if this camera did away with all the modern features and literally behaved like a retro manual film slr with optical viewfinder and cost $6000+ like a Leica, only to be sold in small numbers to a niche market?

At least this camera is relatively affordable and so what if it has modern features. Who says a retro style camera in 2023 has to be an authentic replica of an old manual film camera anyway?

Why you feel the need to be so vocal about your hatred for the Zf, I nor anyone else will know. Use whatever camera you prefer and let others buy and enjoy this camera if they want.

No opinions differing from your own allowed, then?

How am I or anyone with an open mind stopping others from buying and enjoying this camera? I must have some psychic powers I wasn't aware of.

So a Fujifilm with retro dials and modern features is fine but this camera isn't? Odd attitude to have. Fujifilm don't make a fullframe 'retro' camera anyway.

Show me a Fuji in production with retro dials as well as a PASM switch as well as a fully articulating screen, yet with no native lenses and very few third party lenses with a marked aperture ring on the lenses.

True that Fuji doesn't have a FF camera and with their limited resources and MF, don't think it makes sense for them to either. But it's a shame Nikon didn't learn Fuji's own lesson of the X-t4 which tried to swing both ways and production stopped after less than two years. But at least it did offer a broad range of lensed well suited to the ergonomics and tactility of the camera.

Not having autofocus lenses with an aperture ring is a big deal for a camera promising classic handling and shooting experience. You can always set that aperture ring to A for your other cameras. The other way around doesn't work.

People are pushing back because it's a poor critique. If the camera was genuinely bad or compromised in it's photographic abilities then the idea of "lipstick on a pig" would be an accurate critique. Fortunately, it's a great camera. It simply doesn't have some of the features that you would like and included some feature that you don't. It sounds like you would be better suited by a Fujifilm, why don't you buy one of those?

Jared Polin's hands on review was far from complementary and he's no Fuji fan. Quite rare for Post-Embargo videos which tend to be suspiciously gushing regardless of brand.

I have Fuji among others and like many have wished for a FF version. And whoever does it right will do very well from those users. But just as with certain third party lenses on Fuji, the lack of an aperture ring really ruins the whole experience of shooting with such models...and that's what this camera is all about retro style and a tactile user experience first and foremost.

I appreciate some Nikon fanboys may not appreciate critique of the new toy, but they'd do well to listen to Fuji uses that know a fair bit about what really makes or breaks the retro user experience. Fuji has re-released lenses essentially only adding marked aperture rings, such was the kickback. It's not just a little thing - it makes or breaks the whole retro experience/illusion. And if the answer is to use vintage lenses, then why pay for the latest sensors and AF... could just pick up a 10 year old Fuji for €300. But if after all the whole point is to look cool (and hence the many colour options) ... then it's lipstick on a pig time.

Buying a Fuji makes sense for you as the tactile experience is what Fuji focusses on you can see this simply by looking at the XT5 product page. You're bound to be disappointed by Nikon as your priorities are not theirs. Look at the Zf product page there is little to no copy dedicated to the dials or film simulations. The retro experience takes a second seat to the actual performance of the camera.

If that were the case, most people would be better off waiting and seeing if the Z6III is indeed the same as this camera in a less on trend body, or if in fact this is the new base model to use up Z6II sensors and the Z6III will get other performance upticks.

Fuji also doesn't go on about the controls other than to mention they are there. Just like Nikon it lets the images add to the mystique - which are all about the retro. Go to the Nikon Germany site and you have to scroll through lots of text waxing lyrical about the retro aesthetic and connection with the FM2 with precise controls (zoom in to the dials). Germans don't read well between the lines and need things spelling out. If you want to know what Nikon is aiming at, go to the German Nikon pages.

The different colour options are very important to Nikon though. First picture they show. So yes you are right, Nikon's priority may well be to target the tiktok generation that are more interested in posing with the camera than a genuine retro experience. Doesn't mean it has to be plastic retro, though. Fuji may be the epicentre of retro and have the kudos of having organically grown as a brand that offers substance and looks, but no reason Nikon couldn't have gone for looks AND substance too, given the history it can call on, that Fuji simply doesn't have.

But the x-t5 isn't even the closest Fuji rival here. Rather the x-txx line. I'm hesitant to say x-t30 as an older camera, but imagine the X-t40 with the latest processors a retro incarnation of the X-s20). Also a camera with dials and beginner friendly features like an auto mode (compare to the ZF's PASM). Also has the round eyepiece and soft shutter options that Nikon makes a big deal about. Both are targeting users looking for a travel friendly option, and looking to attract newbies. Both have similar sensor resolutions. The X-txx series actually has a small grip, but similar to the ZF not a camera for bigger lenses. Both only accept one dull size SD card, although I like the ZF solution, even if I would have gone for on board storage as the back up rather than micro SD. The x-t5 is none of those things.

For posing and travel the ZFC seems the better option, but once you starting paying FF prices, and accept the extra bulk and expensive lenses too, you want more than just the plastic (as in fake, superficial) fantastic but the real deal.

Fuji users are not happy that of the last 5 releases only one has had retro dials. That both X-h2 models were PASM, and that the x-t5 moved down to mid-tier did not go down well in some circles. So if Fuji is less committed to retro cameras than before that leaves a big hole for someone else to fill. But the lack of native lenses with an aperture ring is an absolute deal breaker for those same users, the screen too for many.

I disagree, i bought the zfc because i have always liked Nikon products and i prefer the dials over the menu. I am very pleased with the zfc. As someone who is getting back into photography the zfc and zf are excellent tools to help me get better. I am still going to buy a Z7 but may trade my zfc for this. Lenses were never an issue for me because i bought all full frame lenses for my zfc. I never even considered a fuji when i decided to jump back into photography. The rotating screen is not flappy and is great for astro shots. I feel they made the right choice and will make boat loads of money on it this year.

I'm sure some will buy into the illusion.

Call it a flappy screen or a FART (Fully-ARTiculating) if you prefer, same out of place screen. You are confusing your flaps with your flips.

Bit like buying a classic car and sticking a whale tale on it.

My 1968 Nikkormat didn't have an LCD screen, so why should this one. And where's the film advance lever, I mean c'mon. Sounds like you just want to not like it. Go buy a Leica or Fuji or go to an antique store and buy some ancient film camera if you want to look hip.

How to show you miss the point. This camera is all about looking hip. No shame in jumping on the bandwagon and offering the PASM lever as training wheels for those that are less familiar with how you achieve that with the dials alone , but your whataboutism isn't going to magic any lenses with aperture rings out of thin air is it?

Wrong, you've missed the point of the camera. If there's any confusion as to Nikon's priorities look at the product page, less than 1% of the copy is about looks or interface. It's a great camera that happens to look good.

First photo on any Nikon site is dedicated to all the different colour options you can have with this camera. Like the lower end Pentax DSLRs used to. No silver though, oddly.

Advertising is about pictures, not text. Or do you need McDonalds to explain to you in text what a Big Mac is? The exception is the German market where things need to be spelled out. There on the Nikon German pages you have to do a lot of scrolling to get past the gushing about retro this that and the other, the FM2, that this looks like a legend on your shoulder.

This is being sold primarily on its looks and connection to the past. With the message that beauty is more then skin deep.

Want the proper retro experience and latest camera, well the equivalent Fuji X-t40 hasn't been released yet. But that would be the one to wait for from Fuji to compare with.

One of the biggest complaints about the ZFC was the lack of lenses suited to that camera. Since it's the same deal here (and I'm talking lenses with dials), you may as well get a ZFC for travel and casual use.

Wow dude, you really need to step away from this discussion as you've clearly made your point and don't need to keep responding and trying to justify yourself. Nikon didn't make the camera you'd like. No need to keep getting so wound up about it.

Got it. Don't try to engage in rational debate where the Nikon fanboys are swimming.

Views not conforming to your own blind faith are not welcome so shhhhh!

Shhhhh you can't say you actually like this camera. You might burst this dudes self important bubble. :O

You sound like one of those peoples that can't be pleased by anything. You would dog on this camera even if they gave you everything you wanted.

I'll leave the dogging to you.


There is absolutely no shortage of cameras that cater to the needs of tech obsessed robots who want full automation and a trillion features. Therefore in theory you would have thought that Nikon would cater to the needs of photography purists who learned the craft on manual-focus film SLRs, but no the ZF is yet another camera that doesn't cater to the needs of purists, instead the ZF caters to shallow people who have no respect for retro cameras, they just want retro looks but with auto-focus and a trillion features, which goes against the ethos of retro cameras. Instead the ZF should have been based on the 1980 vintage manual-focus Nikon F3 SLR, with very little in the way of automation, no auto-focus, and 80% less features than a Z7/2; with the top and bottom plates made of Brass, and the mid-section of the body made of Magnesium-Alloy. Therefore the ZF is not a retro camera at all, it just pretends to be retro. 👎

Purists still use the F3, guys like me like the tactile dials and controls and the new features like 3d tracking and 5 axis stability. I dont look at this as a retro camera but a camera that fits my needs.

Oh look. Another self important boomer.

If you reverse the screen, use manual mode, a manual lens with aperture ring and use the top dials, that is purist mode. The fact it comes with modern features is just a bonus for those that want them. I don't think Nikon are claiming the Zf is a purely retro camera but inspired by old film cameras and with modern features for some convenience when needed. You can't do handheld slow shutter photography on a Leica M as there's no IBIS. Besides, Fujifilm prove a mix of retro and modern is very successful. This Nikon is the FF camera people wish Fujifilm had made.

Yeah, they should have made a 1980s camera with a digital sensor? And sold 1 copy to you?

Yeah, and in order to increase the 1980s feeling, they should have included a fake film transport lever that you have to move each time before the shutter release button can be used again. They should have also offered a fake film winder to be attached underneath the camera body so as to increase speed to 2 fps, with a forced pause of 30 seconds after 36 shutter releases for fake film rewinding and changing. That would have created a picture-perfect 1980s feeling, LOL!

Very nice. My next question, though, would be whether they plan to effectively replace the Df by introducing a screw drive capable FTZ with a flip up aperture ring coupler.

Unfortunately I can't see them putting a screw drive on any Z mount cameras. I hope they would someday but it seems nikon wants to put that old tech to rest. I'm fine with manually focusing them though.

I'm not sure if you're allowed to talk about it or not, but do you know anything about the sensors readout speed or if it a global shutter like on the z8/9?

If it does....this might end being a definite purchase for me in the next year.

Absolutely! I hope it at least has a fast readout. I've been hoping for a Nikon camera around this price point that I could purchase to use for BTS Stills on film sets. Right now I'm using a fuji XT2 but I'm using all manual lenses on it. It's silent shutter mode also still suffers from banding with low refresh rate LED lights and the warp from rolling shutter. I can't use my DLSR because it's too loud and sound blimps don't really exist any more that don't cost the same as a new camera. So I'm stuck hoping for an affordable global shutter :(

It looks pretty darn cool. The only thing that's puzzling to me is the UHS-II SD card slot and micro SD card slot combo. Since there isn't a joystick to control AF points, I really hope that Nikon finally gets some touch panel control with the rear screen. I've grown to like that feature on Canon and Sony cameras for moving the AF point around with the camera up to my face.

I have to say I thought that was an industry standard. Been using that feature for years - even where a joystick was also on board. Weird that Nikon hasn't offered it across the range already.

He was referring to touch control when the camera is up against your face. Which imo is weird but i guess useful for some. Nikon supports touch control for when using the rear LCD.

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