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Review Nikon Zf
Reading time: 10 minutes - February 14, 2024 - by Markus Igel

Review of the Nikon Z f retro camera with full-frame sensor

Finally, after its launch in October 2023, we were able to present the Nikon Z f, a vintage sister of the Nikon Z6 II with the more modern autofocus system of the larger Z9/Z8 models. However, the focus here is not on the design, but also on the features of the camera! Manual lenses with electronic contact benefit enormously here.

Design

The Nikon Zf is a camera that immediately catches the eye with its eye-catching retro design. For fans of the legendary analog FM2 from the 80s, this design is an absolute highlight. It is also strongly reminiscent of the popular Zfc, which has been capturing the hearts of vintage enthusiasts for several years now. But while the Zfc is equipped with an APS-C sensor, the Zf finally offers the full-frame version that many have been waiting for.

However, the retro design of the Zf also has its compromises. It is slightly taller and wider than the Zfc and lacks a grip, which may make it a little unwieldy for larger hands. Fortunately, Smallrig offers a matching handle that provides additional grip and comfort.

Looking from the top, the large buttons for shutter speed and ISO settings immediately catch the eye, while Nikon has done away with the top display found on other models such as the Z6 and Z7. There are separate shutter release buttons for photo and video on the right-hand side.

The buttons on the Zf are somewhat more difficult to operate than on other cameras, which may affect the speed of adjustment, but at the same time brings a pleasant sense of deceleration and calm. This special feel blends seamlessly into the retro design and gives the camera that special feeling of quality and craftsmanship.

A special highlight is the Like button for this video, which you can press in combination with the Subscribe button and the bell.

The shutter speed dial allows you to switch between photo and video mode and activate black and white mode, which fits in perfectly with the retro concept of the camera. In black and white mode, you can even add color filters to highlight certain colors in the image. Unfortunately, this mode only works with photos.

But enough about the design - the true beauty of the Zf lies in its performance. The 24 megapixel sensor, which we already know from the Z6 II, paired with the Expeed 7 processor, which can be found in the top models Z8 and Z9, offers impressive performance for outstanding image quality.

Autofocus

The Nikon Zf not only impresses with its retro design and powerful technology, but also with an outstanding focus feature that will delight photographers: automatic scene recognition in manual mode. Thanks to the Expeed 7 processor, which can also be found in the top models Z8 and Z9, the Zf has an autofocus that leaves nothing to be desired: 3D tracking, deep learning AI and precise scene recognition are standard here.

Automatic scene recognition in manual mode

What really sets the Zf apart, however, is the ability to use automatic scene recognition in manual focus mode. This may sound unspectacular at first, but it turns out to be a real game changer for photographers.

But how exactly does it work and why is it so ingenious? It's quite simple: if you use the Z 40mm f/2 lens, for example, and switch to manual mode, you can simply activate scene recognition in the menu. The camera then automatically moves the focus field in the direction of the detected subject. As soon as the subject is in focus, the previously white focus area is highlighted in green. Although this green coloration is only available for Nikon lenses, the subject detection function also helps to precisely adjust the focus with other manual lenses. To do this, simply use the camera's zoom function, which selects the area of the detected object when you press the zoom button.

For photographers who have ever tried to manually focus on the eyes at wide open aperture, this feature is a real time and nerve saver. It's the best feature we've ever seen in any other camera! We hope that Nikon will also integrate this outstanding feature into future camera models.

Shooting with the Nikon ZF focus aid for manual lenses

Nikon Z f housing

  • classic design
  • Full frame camera
  • 24.5 megapixel
  • CMOS sensor
  • tiltable and rotatable TFT LCD touch monitor, 8cm
  • VR for 8.0 f-stops
  • electronic viewfinder
  • double memory card slot, 1 SD memory card and 1 microSD memory card

New and above all better - the IBIS

Another feature of the Nikon Zf is its image stabilization system, the new IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization), which enables exposure times that are stable up to 8 f-stops. That's a whole 3 f-stops more than the Z6 II. But the new focus point VR system is particularly fascinating.

While the conventional 5-axis stabilization system stabilizes the image in the center, the new VR system also allows the active focus point to be prioritized. As a result, the IBIS also delivers significantly better results at the edge of the image or with fast-moving subjects.

The improvement of the IBIS in the Zf is a significant advance over previous models and offers photographers even greater flexibility when selecting the exposure time. The ability to prioritize the active focus area is particularly exciting, as it helps to ensure stable image quality even at the edges of the frame and to achieve precise results with fast-moving subjects.

Overall, the Zf's first-class image stabilization helps photographers capture razor-sharp images even in challenging conditions.

Nikon Zf sample shot in black and white

Video

In addition to its enhanced image stabilization function, the Nikon Zf also offers outstanding video quality that is ready for any situation. The camera supports 10-bit 4K video at 30 frames per second, using 6K oversampling to deliver razor-sharp footage. In addition, 4K video at 60fps is also possible, albeit with a 1.5x crop. For slow-motion recordings in Full HD, you can even film at up to 120fps.

A special innovation is the automatic aperture control for videos, which was introduced for the first time on the Zf. This function enables automatic adjustment of the aperture during video recording in order to keep the exposure constant.

For improved audio quality, the Zf has connections for an external microphone and headphones, allowing you to check the sound quality during recording. In addition to a micro HDMI port, the camera offers two memory card slots: one for SD cards and another for MicroSD cards, which is particularly useful for backups.

The Zf's rotating and tilting touch display is a first for Nikon full-frame cameras. It not only allows you to take pictures from unusual angles, but also makes operation easier. If you turn the display towards you, the camera automatically switches to selfie mode. When switching to portrait format, the menu automatically adjusts to ensure optimum operability.

The introduction of aperture priority for video is another first for Nikon cameras and helps to make the Zf's video function even more user-friendly.

Nikon Z f in street photography at night

Conclusion:

But what can be said about the Nikon Zf at the end of the day?

Of course, design is debatable: Probably not everyone can relate to the retro design. But anyone who thought, especially when looking at the sensor, that the Zf is actually "just" a Z6 II with a vintage look is wrong: the Zf is not just a beautiful camera for the shelf, but also has something to offer. Here, the journey is clearly heading in the direction of the significantly more expensive sister models Z8 and Z9. And that's exactly what makes it interesting not only for retro fans, but also for the street and fashion photographers among you, for example, who like to use manual lenses with an open aperture.
What do you think of the Zf? Let us know in the comments.

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