Nikon Z FC Review: Buy This When Look and Performance Really Matters

Nikon Z FC Review

In this Nikon Z FC Review, I will try to review all the aspects and features of the beautiful Nikon Z FC Mirrorless Camera. Do you remember the days when the camera was the thing that made you stand out from the crowd? When the shutter was cocked with a sinking heart to capture a precious shot; when the filming process itself was akin to alchemy, and the sky was blue when the trees were tall.

You may be from a completely different generation, but the aesthetics of past cameras leaves few people indifferent. Not out of the blue, interest in film photography has revived. Digital evolution at some point made cameras too perfect, too automatic, too faceless, and even dull.

Manufacturers are well aware of this trend; therefore, along with professional cameras, models “for the soul” appear more and more often, which, in addition to impressive characteristics, also have their charm. Today I am testing and reviewing Nikon Z FC – a modern mirrorless camera made in the style of film cameras from the Nikon FM family. Let’s check if it will give those feelings and the result of the shooting.

Design of Nikon Z FC

Front and Back View of Nikon Z FC
Nikon Z FC Review: Front and Back View of Nikon Z FC

Magnesium, Old Fonts, and A Rotating Screen

I start my review of the camera with its characteristics, but today we will make an exception. Let’s take a look at the Nikon Z FC first.

Nikon Z FC
Nikon Z FC

An inexperienced photographer will hardly distinguish it from a film DSLR, so precisely, the creators of the Z FC reproduced key design elements. The top panel is natural metal. It is made of magnesium alloy. A perfectly accurate imitation of the elevation of the pentaprism is pasted over with leatherette, and the font of the Nikon logo sends us back thirty years.

It is made of Magnesium Alloy
Nikon Z FC Review – It is made of Magnesium Alloy.

The imaging drums on the top panel are made of aluminum. The numbers are engraved on them, not painted.

Top View of Nikon Z FC
Top View of Nikon Z FC

As if from the past, a minimalistic aperture value indicator in the form of a tiny LCD with no backlight.

It is convenient to control all shooting parameters with one glance at the camera’s top panel: ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation are set by separate drums, and the aperture value is displayed on this tiny screen.

Left and Right View of Nikon Z FC
Left and Right View of Nikon Z FC

The DX Z 16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR whale lens for this model is available in silver and further enhances the retro effect. Also, you can buy the camera with the new silver NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 SE.

Nikon Z FC Camera
Nikon Z FC Camera

The Nikon Z FC even has an old-school viewfinder with a round eyepiece. Unlike DSLRs of the past, where a round eyepiece was used to mount diopter lenses, there is no internal thread here. The rounded shape is just a stylization, and diopter adjustment is possible within small limits using the wheel to the viewfinder’s right.

Display LCD - Nikon Z FC
Display LCD – Nikon Z FC

The viewfinder here is, of course, digital. You have 2.36 million pixels at your disposal – enough so that the picture does not crumble into dots and is perceived as alive.

But glance at the rear panel just below, and everything falls into place. Before us is a modern digital camera. A fully rotatable touchscreen display indicates that it is also intended for selfies video.

Nikon Z FC Review - Shooting Selfie Video
Nikon Z FC Review – Shooting Selfie Video

Don’t want to destroy the illusion? Turn the screen upside down: the plastic surface imitates the leatherette texture, and only the control buttons will give out the modern digital essence. But you can do without them, working only with the controls on the top panel.

Perhaps this is the strength of Nikon Z FC: in a modern digital camera, the developers have recreated a fully functional fragment of the digital age in every detail.

Nikon Z FC - Color Varients
Nikon Z FC – Color Varients

What for? Everyone will answer this question himself. For me, this is, first of all, increasing the value of the shooting process: you think over and pass each frame through yourself, choose the appropriate parameters, forget about perfectly accurate but soulless automation.

Possibilities & My Shooting Experience with Nikon Z FC

My Shooting Experience with Nikon Z FC
Nikon Z FC Review

What is Inside?

The Nikon Z FC’s retro look hides very modern electronics. Let’s say right away that in terms of characteristics, the camera is as close as possible to the Nikon Z 50.

The same 20-megapixel DX (APS-C) CMOS sensor, the same EXPEED 6 processor, the same very immodest 11 frames/s with autofocus.

Nikon Z FC - Image Sensor
Nikon Z FC – Image Sensor

Autofocus on faces and eyes, as well as on the faces of animals, is implemented here for both photos and videos. Thanks to this set of characteristics, the camera out of the box, operating in fully automatic mode, copes with literally any typical scene. Landscapes, portraits, selfies, photo sketches, and short reports are easy.

Need to film dynamic events? Turn on burst shooting and continuous focus. The maximum speed reaches 11 frames/s (I measured), and the buffer is enough for 48 frames in RAW. It is almost 5 seconds of shooting. In JPEG, a continuous burst can last up to 9 seconds.

Nikon Z FC Charging Point and Connectors
Nikon Z FC Charging Point and Connectors

Support for UHS-II cards is not officially announced, but in practice, the camera writes data to a USB flash drive at a very decent speed (if you are using a fast card, of course). The only inconvenience is the card slot hidden in the battery compartment. With the tripod pad screwed on, you won’t be able to get the USB flash drive.

Nikon Z FC - Battery and Card Slot
Nikon Z FC Review – Battery and Card Slot

Like the Nikon Z 50, this new product does not have a built-in image stabilizer. It’s a shame that his performance in Nikon’s older full-frame mirrorless cameras left us with a highly positive experience.

Video

Nikon Z FC video mode is separate from photo mode. You can’t just press the record button and shoot a video. Switching between photo and video is carried out with a lever on the top panel. It was done intentionally to be able to apply different settings for photos and videos. A convenient solution but can take some getting used to.

Source: Nikon Europe Youtube Channel

The maximum video resolution is 4K @ 30 fps. Recording occurs from the entire width of the matrix, that is, virtually without cropping. During recording, the stabilizer in the lens (if there is one) works, but digital stabilization can also be used. There are no questions about autofocus: it does not scour, gets lost, and works stably.

Sound can be recorded from the built-in or an external microphone; there is a 3.5 mm jack. There is no headphone output, which may limit the camera’s capabilities in professional video production.

External Mic with Nikon Z FC
Nikon Z FC Review – Using External Mic with Nikon Z FC

There are no built-in gamma profiles in the Nikon Z FC either. The videographer will only have a “flat” profile of the Flat image, characterized by low contrast and allowing processing and color correction in post-production.

Control and Shooting Experience

The first impression from Nikon Z FC is the ease of operation in auto mode and excellent shooting results even without additional corrections: rich color, low noise under challenging conditions, high picture detail.

Control and Shooting Experience
Nikon Z FC Review

But we want to feel the film camera in our hands! To do this, you need to set the camera to manual mode M.

In this mode, all the drums begin to work as they should – directly setting the shooting parameters. More precisely, almost everything. There is no Auto position on the ISO drum. You can enable or disable auto-ISO only in the camera menu; I did not find another way. After all, there is no separate button for ISO. For example, this function cannot be assigned to flexible buttons.

Setting the Shooting Parameters
Nikon Z FC Review – Setting the Shooting Parameters

In Aperture Priority A or Program P, the shutter speed dial is out of action. Whatever value you set, the shutter speed will be automatically selected.

And only exposure compensation behaves predictably. It is available in all modes except manual with auto-ISO disabled. All these management features must be felt and remembered once; they do not cause questions or inconveniences. But the tight clicks of these “mechanical” controls are an absolute tactile pleasure. Here the creators of the camera did their best.

Image Quality - Nikon Z FC

By the way, it is not at all necessary to use all these “twists,” dear to the photographer’s heart. There is a quick OSD menu, a fully functional touchscreen, and a couple of control dials. The autofocus point can be set by touching the screen or using the navigation pad (direct control of the AF point). Some buttons can be reconfigured to suit your needs and shooting style.

Despite using a relatively small battery with a declared resource of 300 frames in the Nikon Z FC, this is enough for leisurely shooting during the day. In addition, the camera supports USB power and charging.

And Nikon Z FC is also an excellent friend with the old lenses installed through the FTZ adapter. Of course, you need to keep in mind the fact that autofocus will only work with AF-S lenses, but it seems to us that it is for this model that autofocus is the least important. All the necessary assistants for manual focusing are in the viewfinder: magnification of a fragment of the frame, focus-picking, and confirmation of manual focus.

Nikon Z FC Autofocus

Wireless capabilities are represented by Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b / g / n) and Bluetooth 4.2 interfaces. Supports the latest SnapBridge functionality with the ability to update camera software via smartphone over the air. Naturally, the phone has wireless control and the ability to transfer images to other devices quickly.

Image Quality and Sharpness

Image Quality
Nikon Z FC Review

Image Quality

The Nikon Z FC sensor is familiar to us from previous models. It is impossible to call it outdated, although the Nikon Z FC is not the first camera with such a sensor. Twenty megapixels provide perfect detail even with whale lenses and are relatively weak at high ISO.

Nikon Z FC - Image Quality
Nikon Z FC Review – Image Quality

At the minimum ISO 100, you can’t find fault with the picture at all:

  • The sharpness is high.
  • The noise is not visible.
  • The colors are accurate and natural.

Increasing the sensitivity to 400 units does not change anything in the character of the picture. Some noticeable deterioration in quality appears only at ISO 800 at 100% magnification: detail in the shadows is slightly reduced, and feeble brightness noise occurs in a monotonous sky.

ISO 1600 slightly reduces the image’s contrast, but it remains workable and suitable even for large format printing. ISO 3200 introduces a bit of color noise. It is not always possible to print such a picture larger than A4. But let’s give the camera its due: detail in contrasting areas does not suffer, color does not degrade, except for deep shadows. The turning point comes after ISO 6400, although this value can still be called working with some reservations. And that’s not bad for APS-C cameras!

Nikon Z FC - Image Quality

ISO 12800 noticeably drops the level of detail, the smoothness of tonal transitions disappears, and the contrast is lost. Such pictures are suitable only for publication on the network and social networks and print in small size. ISO 25600, due to the general soapiness of the image, is best used only as a last resort, and higher values ​​should be abandoned altogether.

Among the Picture Controls, many presets allow you to get exciting effects right during shooting or after it if you worked with RAW. These are not fully film-like effects, but they do a great job of expanding the camera’s creativity and maintaining the overall mood of the shoot.

Conclusions

Nikon Z FC is, first of all, a bright appearance and an opportunity to feel a little nostalgic for the bygone film era. The camera is made with soul and love. The tactile sensations from working with the mechanical controls are beyond praise. Some minor interface flaws may not be noticed (for example, the ability to enable/disable auto-ISO only in the menu).

Nikon Z FC Review
Nikon Z FC Review

In terms of its capabilities, the camera does not differ so much from the previously released and, therefore, cheaper Nikon Z 50, surpassing its predecessor in only a few points. Shooting at high ISO, the highest rate of fire (up to 11 frames/s with autofocus!), A large buffer, confident autofocus, and precise automation make it suitable for work in almost any field. No problem with video either: 4K @ 30p across the entire width of the matrix, a rotatable touchscreen with a selfie position, the ability to work with an external microphone – everything for video blogging that is so fashionable today.

It’s a pity that Nikon’s crop-segment mirrorless cameras have not yet had a built-in stabilizer, which is available in a full-frame. He would not be superfluous. However, there is a lot to be forgiven for the unique design with retro-style shoes and an authentic logo from the past of this model! It’s not just a camera; it’s the mood of the shoot.

Pros:

  • unique design and management;
  • high image quality up to ISO 6400;
  • continuous shooting speed up to 11 frames/s;
  • large buffer;
  • accurate and predictable autofocus, including for faces and eyes;
  • fully rotatable touchscreen with selfie position;
  • the ability to customize controls and on-screen menus;
  • 4K video recording from the full width of the matrix;
  • microphone input;
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth;
  • compatible with optics from DSLRs via FTZ adapter;
  • the ability to charge from USB;

Cons:

  • no quick access to auto-ISO;
  • no support for UHS-II cards;
  • the memory card slot is hidden in the battery compartment.

Where You Can Buy It?

You can check the current price and buy it with Nikkor Z 22mm f/2.8 Lens on Amazon – Product Link.

Editorial Rating 8.4

  • Possibilities – 8
  • Convenience – 9
  • Justification of the Price – 8