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Nikon Z 5 take a look at: full display, however too gradual

“The Nikon Z 5 would be a great entry-level full-frame camera without its unreliable low-light auto focus and slow burst speed.”

Good picture quality

Compact

Affordable

Dual SD slots

Slow autofocus in low light

Inconsistent autofocus in mixed / low light

Slow burst mode at 4.5 fps

While the race for mirrorless full images develops from sprinting speed to marathon, camera setups are becoming more and more diverse – and cheaper. The Nikon Z 5 is currently the company’s cheapest full-frame camera on the market and less expensive than the aging DSLR D610. The Nikon Z 5 with a kit lens costs $ 1,400 or $ 1,700 and combines size, ergonomics, stabilization, and even most of the image quality of the company’s more expensive Z 6. In fact, the Z 5 even offers an upgrade that the Z 6 and Z 7 don’t offer – two SD card slots.

However, the entry-level designation introduces some important cutting features of the more expensive models. The speed is reduced significantly, 4K videos can only be recorded with one trim and the design is not quite as robust. The question is, does the Nikon Z 5 offer enough to save $ 1,400? Called a camera for “more than just photographers”, who is the Z 5 best suited for?

I spent almost two weeks trying the Z 5 to see where the entry-level full screen mode stands. During this time, the Nikon Z 5 has proven to be a good entry-level full-frame camera in my opinion, which unfortunately is held back by below-average autofocus in poor lighting conditions and slow burst speeds.

Simple design

While the design of the Z 6 is almost the same as the Z 7, the Z 5 deviates a little more from this family line in good and bad ways. On the positive side, the Z 5 offers two UHS-II SD card slots. This is ideal for either creating backups in the camera so that a card failure doesn’t mean a catastrophe, or to create an overflow for fewer card swaps. The Z 5 doesn’t use XQD cards either, a good move for an entry-level camera considering the card type is available in three digits at retail outlets, much compared to the Affordability SD which was a lot of high capacity cards for only $ 20.

Despite the addition of an additional card slot, the Z5 is only an inch wider than the Z 6 and Z 7 and doesn’t add any weight. At less than a pound and a half, the camera is light enough for all-day shooting. (I can’t say that for the rough texture of the included neck strap, though.) Combined with the kit lens, the Z 5 didn’t cause any major pain during a two mile hike.

Hillary K. Grigonis / Digital Trends

The Z 5 uses a magnesium alloy frame, but combines it with a plastic housing that feels like an entry-level Nikon DSLR. The body is weatherproof, but not as sturdy as the Z 6 and Z 7. So I would still have an inexpensive rain poncho in my pocket for more than a drizzle.

The camera’s control scheme is a nice mix of access to controls and not overwhelming novice users. There is no additional LCD screen on top of the camera. I would argue that an upward-facing LCD isn’t particularly uncommon for mirrorless displays, but its absence here departs from Nikon’s design choices in its entry-level full-screen DSLR, the D610, which kept the screen intact.

The camera’s control scheme is a nice mix of access to controls and not overwhelming novice users.

Instead, the mode dial at the top is within easy reach of the shutter release, dual control dials, and keyboard shortcuts for recording videos, adjusting ISO, and optimizing exposure compensation. With practice, all of these controls can be accessed without pulling the camera away from your face, though unlike the easily recognizable raised record button, it’s difficult to blindly distinguish between the ISO and exposure compensation buttons.

Although the Z 5 is an entry point into the full screen category, it still retains my favorite camera control: the joystick. This is a quick and ergonomic way to adjust the autofocus point. However, toggling between autofocus modes, as well as a number of other controls that Nikon DSLRs leave plenty of room for, requires switching to the quick menu or assigning them to the two custom buttons on the front. Most beginners don’t mind, however, as controlling the camera is less daunting. Shortcuts for customizing burst mode and a focus option for the back button, as well as playback, menu, and display options take up a remainder of the camera’s rear controls.

Even for the low price, the connections were not removed – in contrast to the two SD card slots, the Z 5 still has connections for microphone, headphones, HDMI, USB and a cable release. As with many full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z 5 lacks a pop-up flash.

The lower price tag doesn’t fare terribly on the Z 5’s viewfinder either. The electronic viewfinder shows enough details with 3.69 million points and is denser than the new Panasonic Lumix S5. What’s important is that the Z 5 shows a fairly accurate representation of your shot, unlike some of the budget cameras I’ve tested that don’t accurately preview the exposure or color balance. The 3.2-inch touchscreen is tilted for wide-angle shots, but doesn’t fold forward for vlogging or selfies.

Stuttering performance

Budget cameras are known to be slow, and the Z 5 is no exception. Despite the same processor as the 12 fps Z 6, the Z 5 offers less than half this speed. Some might argue that the Z 5 uses SD cards in place of the faster but more expensive XQD cards, but the transfer rates we’re looking at here are well below the SD speed threshold. Curious.

With a maximum burst speed of 4.5 frames per second, I’m not even sure why there is both low and high speed options as even high speed is pretty slow. Fortunately, the shutter speed is still a maximum of 1 / 8,000 (entry-level cameras used to be regularly limited to 1/4000), which is useful for bright situations.

The top speed of the Z 5 of 4.5 fps ensures 21 pictures in RAW + JPEG. The official number of buffers on the back of the camera is 16, but the pace is slow enough for the camera to write some of these shots while it takes the rest. In JPEG mode, it will take a few more shots with the camera recording for more than 20 seconds before stopping.

The autofocus of the Z 5 in limited light is consistently poor.

However, what is a little more difficult to determine from a quick look at the camera’s specs is the auto focus. With a 273-point hybrid system, the Z 5’s system looks almost identical to the Z 6’s until you dig a little deeper into the details. And if you dig far enough, you’ll find the camera’s biggest flaw: an autofocus detection area of ​​only -2 EV, or -3 when using autofocus in low-light camera’s conditions. However, Nikon rated AF with a f / 2 lens in low light, so the kit lens and many other lenses available for the system don’t work as well as what Nikon claims, a claim that is already not great. It’s not outright lying, but it’s misleading.

This is why the Z 5’s autofocus struggled indoors. Even in a room with windows on three walls, the Z 5 was slow to focus. In low light, the camera often took two to five seconds to get involved in the subject and occasionally did not find the subject at all. While this is not a problem for still images, capturing motion in limited light with such a delay becomes problematic. However, the camera automatically activates the autofocus mode in poor lighting conditions – a plus when you consider that the mode must be activated in the menu for the original Z 6 and Z 7. Low-light autofocus is more accurate and allows you to focus in difficult scenarios, but is slow.

Because of the way the autofocus system works, the camera can also find it difficult to focus on dark objects. As with any contrast detection system, however, this should be mitigated by the phase detection points of a hybrid system. The Z 5 made it much easier to focus on subjects with a lot of contrast, such as B. Lights or a bright object on a dark background, but it shouldn’t bother as much as it would on dark objects. It’s a hybrid autofocus system that behaves like a contrast-only system in some cases, and that’s disappointing.

Hillary K. Grigonis / Digital Trends

Low-light autofocus was a complaint on the Z 6 and even the Z 7 with a tendency to get hit or miss, but the Z 5’s autofocus in limited light is consistently poor. In comparison, the Z 6 is rated in such a way that it reaches -6 EV in poor lighting conditions, whereas the Z 5 is only -3.5.

What makes autofocus really disappointing in low light is that the Z 5 would otherwise be an excellent camera in the dark. The five-axis stabilization in the body is solid. If I did everything I could to help the camera stay close to a tripod – holding my breath and propping the camera on my elbows – I was able to shoot at almost half a second with the kit lens at 24mm. This is an excellent system for the price of the camera, but the slow auto focus in low light makes it difficult to take pictures before the camera even has to go that low. Of course, stabilization isn’t just for low light – stabilization comes in handy when you’re working with telephoto lenses.

The focus system recognizes eyes fairly easily and quickly.

Continuous autofocus provides clear, slow-action photos most of the time, although roughly half of the shots where the subject came straight on the camera were soft. It’s not intended for action, but in general use it takes some sharp shots, like taking pictures of children or people moving at walking pace.

The Z 5’s autofocus isn’t bad, however. Eye AF worked well and even outperforms the more expensive Canon EOS R6 when it comes to focusing on the lashes when shooting from a high angle. The focus system recognizes eyes fairly easily and quickly. The system is not fast enough for sports shooting, for example, but as already mentioned, the Z 5 is not an action camera. Pet Eye AF is included but I couldn’t get it to work on my cat. (To be fair, I couldn’t use the Canon version on my cat either.)

The Z 5 adds a new option for autofocus bracketing, which automatically adjusts the focal length between shots in a series in order to later create a focus stack on a computer. The new function is easy to use for anyone who has previously worked with Nikon bracketing or time lapse. However, the recordings are activated by pressing Start in the menu. This means that you will see the menu in the viewfinder and not be able to perfect the composition before you hit start. It’s a usability bug that we hope will be improved in later firmware updates.

Excellent pictures and videos

The Z 5 makes fewer sacrifices when it comes to image quality. With a 24.3 megapixel full-frame sensor, the Z 5 only has a slightly lower resolution than the more expensive Z 6. The larger sensor size makes it easier to create bokehs with the kit as well and offers a lot of flexibility in the post. The detail is good, and when perfectly focused, even the kit lens is pretty sharp.

ISO 12800 with noise reduction and harvest Hillary K. Grigonis / Digital Trends

A lower resolution is a good sign of ISO, and under perfect conditions I was able to work out the noise of an ISO 12800 shot with little loss of detail. Photos are best kept under ISO 6400, which has noticeable color noise but can be easily corrected with software.

The color was what I would expect from a Nikon DSLR – broadly accurate, with the occasional tendency to skew the white balance a bit green for my tastes. Skin tones are rendered pretty well.

RAW files are also what I would expect from an entry-level full-screen Nikon DSLR. I was able to restore a good amount of detail and even texture from the shadows until I almost inverted a silhouette. As with almost any camera, it is harder to recreate blown highlights, and photographers should be best wrong on the too dark, not too bright side.

The Nikon Z 5 offers 4K video, but with a 1.7-fold crop and without all the frills of the Z 6 and Z 7, such as. B. N-Log. The 1.7x crop means that both light loss and lenses are not that great, but this is not uncommon for an entry-level option. As with the pictures, colors and sharpness are consistently good, and the Z 5 searches less sharply than a Nikon DSLR while taking the picture.

Our opinion

The Nikon Z 5 is a good full-frame camera for entry-level users – but slow autofocus in low light, inconsistent accuracy in mixed lighting, and a sluggish burst mode prevent the camera from being a great entry-level full-screen option. The Nikon Z 5 is a great option for avid photographers, influencers, and other creatives who regularly take photos in good light.

Image quality and design are both superb, while the slower performance is Nikon’s clear differentiator when it comes to the extra $ 400 for the Z 6. If the Z 5 cost $ 1,000 or even $ 1,200, this would be an easy recommendation. But at just $ 400 less than a significantly more powerful camera, it’s a tough sell.

How long it will take?

Camera bodies typically last a few years, and the Z 5 is likely no exception. The weather seal and materials are not as high quality as the Z 6 and Z 7, but with the right care the camera housing should continue to serve you well in the future.

Is there a better alternative?

If you want a full-screen Nikon and you can’t spend more than $ 1,400, no. Even the aging Nikon D610 only focuses on -1 EV and costs $ 200 more at list price. However, waiting for another $ 400 for the Z 6 is a good idea for any photographer who regularly takes photos indoors or of moving subjects.

However, the full frame mirrorless market is crowded for photographers who have not yet invested in a lens system or are ready to make a switch. The Canon EOS RP has a better autofocus system thanks to the dual pixel technology and is designed for a focus of only -5 EV, but it lacks stabilization in the body. Outside of these two models and older generations, it’s hard to find another camera for $ 1,400. The Sony A7 III is a faster camera but costs $ 600 more. The very new Panasonic Lumix S5 offers better autofocus, advanced video modes, and faster bursts, but again is in the $ 2,000 range, not less than $ 1,500.

Moving to the Crop Sensor category fixes these performance issues, but it sacrifices the larger sensor. Nikon’s own Z 50 is much faster with similar ergonomics and lens compatibility, but autofocus in low light is still not ideal. The Fujifilm X-T30 has a faster burst, more video capabilities and great autofocus, but it is not stabilized. The Sony a6600 offers fast burst and autofocus while maintaining stabilization, but it also has this smaller sensor.

Should you buy it?

Buy the Nikon Z 5 if you want a full-screen Nikon, take pictures outdoors in good light, and can’t spend more than $ 1,400. However, if you’re planning on taking a lot of shots in sub-ideal conditions, including low-light or fast-moving subjects, avoid the Z 5. Wait until you can save another $ 400 on the Z 6, or pull a crop sensor or the unstabilized EOS RP.

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