Nikon Z5 – Best Camera to Buy in 2021

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Introduction

The mirrorless world is evolving and it is certainly a pleasure to watch. New technologies and developments allow us to bring more creative and commercial ideas to life than ever before. Nikon is in no hurry to make loud announcements and release unfinished cameras. Our today’s reviewer has become only the manufacturer’s fourth mirrorless camera. Yes, we can remember the Nikon 1 series – it was, so to speak, a failed experiment, but which served as the basis for what we are seeing now. Without trial and error, the Nikon Z series immediately burst into the world of full-frame mirrorless cameras and won the trust of users. And now, less than two years later, the world saw a new full-frame mirrorless camera, which we will test in detail in this article. So, welcome – Nikon Z5.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

The Nikon Z5 mirrorless camera is a budget full frame camera. Up to this point, there was a gap between the Nikon Z6 and the entry-level Z50 APS-C camera. While other manufacturers develop their range of cameras in a higher price range, Nikon is banking on budget. But will this “budget” be a verdict for the Z5? After all, a cut in camera performance is inevitably behind the price cut. Let’s figure it out.

Nikon Z5 Appearance

Nikon Z5 is almost complete twin of Z6/Z7. And this is absolutely not a minus. Nikon’s first full-frame cameras received a very high-quality and well-thought-out body. The layout of all controls is logical and in place. The grip is great.

My subjective opinion is that this is the best grip among the existing mirrorless cameras. And the fact that Nikon engineers almost completely retained the body characteristics in a budget camera is actually a big plus! However, there are still some differences.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

The top panel of the camera is, perhaps, everything that gives out a novelty from its older brothers. There is no additional display here. Is it that important? Do you use it? Write in the comments. For us, its absence did not bring any inconvenience in practice.

Due to the lack of a display, the operating mode dial “moved” to the right side. After almost two years of using the Nikon Z6, I felt a little strange, but the mode switching does not happen so often, so this moment is irrelevant. But now the camera can be used in general with one hand – all controls are located under the right hand, except for the two buttons for viewing and deleting a picture.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

The mode dial did not receive a lock, as was the case with the Z6/Z7, so accidental switching is possible if handled carelessly. The list of modes is the same as in Z6: Auto, PSAM and 3 user modes. And one more thing, the disc is now plastic, which in no way affects the work.

Otherwise, there are no changes on the top panel. All the same two control discs front and back. Naturally, the shutter button, and for days a switch. And also three additional buttons – video, ISO and exposure compensation.

The back of the camera is completely identical. On the left we have two buttons – view and delete pictures.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

On the right is the Disp button and below it is a photo/video switch. AF-ON button activating autofocus operation. Convenient 8-way joystick to move the focus point. “I” button to access the quick menu. Navipad with the “OK” button for working with the menu and for moving the focus point (duplicates the joystick). Under the navipad there are two buttons for increasing and decreasing, the button is available in the menu and continuous shooting.

The principle of exposure control, menu access, and setting changes work well with the Z6/Z7. Although the screen of the cameras is sensory, I never use the ability to control the display, everything is already quite convenient and efficient.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

The same connectors are located on the left side of the camera under the caps. Under one plug is the headphone output and the microphone input. Under the second plug – USB Type-C, Mini HDMI and a socket for a remote control. Due to the fact that the camera supports power during operation, I think the location of USB Type-C is illogical, because in order to use it, you need to open all the connectors. In my opinion, the connector should be located either in the place of the socket for the control panel, or completely under a separate plug.

On the right side there is a memory card compartment cover. And hurray! Now there are two SD slots and both support UHS-II! This is a logical step as the Nikon Z5 is one of the entry-level full-frame cameras.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

There are still a few minor and imperceptible at first glance changes in the case. Firstly, a notch appeared under the display for more convenient folding of the display. Secondly, this is the absence of a rubberized coating to the right of the lens, as well as under the cover of the memory card compartment.

If to the right of the lens we see just plastic, then under the compartment there is also plastic, but with an imitation of skin texture. The decision to remove the cover was dictated by user experience – here it was quite often damaged, although its practical value in these places is zero.

Nikon Z5 Specifications

I won’t go into lengthy specs on the Nikon Z5. Instead, I will give only a table with the main parameters and will be dealt with in more detail in the following sections.

Effective Pixels24.3 megapixels
Low pass filterthere is
Image size6016 x 4016
StabilizationSensor shift based, 5-axis.
Memory cardsTwo slots. SD, SDHC and SDXC (UHS-II compatible)
ViewfinderElectronic, 3,689,400 pixels
Excerpt1/8000 to 30 seconds
Shooting speedup to 4.5 frames per second
ISO sensitivityStandard ISO100 to ISO51200. Expandable from ISO50 to ISO 102 400
AutofocusHybrid AF, 273 points, detection of faces, eyes and muzzles of animals.
Video3840 x 2160 (4K UHD): 30p, 25p, 24p; 1920 x 1080: 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p
Monitor8cm TFT LCD Tiltable Touchscreen Monitor 1040K-dot (XGA)
ConnectorsUSB Type-C, HDMI Type-C, Audio in 3.5mm, Audio out 3.5mm
Wireless connectionWi-Fi, Bluetooth
BatteryEN-EL15c. 470 frames by CIPA
Dimensions and weight134 x 100.5 x 69.5 mm, 675 g with battery and SD memory card

Nikon Z5 Video Capabilities

Since the Z5 is a budget camera, many expected the video recording capabilities to be severely curtailed here. The Nikon Z6 certainly offers more advanced features. The Z5 does not have a signal output to an external recorder, so the camera cannot write 10bit, 4.2.2, N-Log, and even more so ProResRAW.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

Nevertheless, the camera can write a fairly high quality video with a resolution of 4K 8bit 4.2.0 with a good bitrate up to 133 Mbps. There is a flat profile Flat, which is recommended for subsequent color grading in the video editor. Unfortunately, 4K video is not recorded from a full sensor, but with a crop of 1.7. But when installing DX lenses for APS-C cameras, the picture will not be cropped. Thus, for shooting you can buy some inexpensive wide-angle lens like the Tokina 11-20/2.8, which I reviewed recently.

The camera records video in Full-HD resolution from a full frame. A maximum speed of 60 frames per second is available. Let me remind you that the Z6 has a maximum speed of 120 frames per second.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

In the video mode, I liked the implementation of the choice of the map to which the saving is going. When selected, it shows how much time is available for recording on each of the memory cards. Autofocus and stabilizer work in the video. An electronic stabilizer is additionally available, which gives a small crop, but it is better to use it only in static scenes.

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Finally, we got the ability to power the camera externally during operation. This is primarily important for videographers, as the battery drains very quickly during video shooting. The Nikon Z5 has an EN-EL15c battery, the same as the new Z6II / Z7II. Old EN-EL15 and EN-EL15b batteries can also be installed here, but power will only work with the EN-EL15c during operation.

I shot with a Nikon Z5 on a Zhiyun Crane 2s gimbal, which can supply power to external devices. Thus, I was able to connect the camera to the gimbal, at the same time I had control of exposure parameters on the stabilizer handle, and the camera was powered on and the camera battery did not drain at all. It is really very convenient!

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

By the way, if shooting is carried out at high ISO, approximately above ISO1600, then you should definitely turn off the in-camera noise reduction, since its work gives a rather noticeable loss in detail. In the tests above, the noise canceling feature was disabled.

Conclusion

Nikon has managed to create a relatively budget camera while retaining many of the advantages of the first version of the Z6. Autofocus, stabilization, viewfinder, comfortable and well-thought-out body – these are some of the most important characteristics for professional work, which the company did not save on in an entry-level camera.

At the same time, in a sense, Nikon Z5 even has advantages over Z6. This is a more powerful battery (470 frames versus 330) with the ability to power during operation and, of course, an SD memory card. And one more important feature is the lower cost.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

Probably one of the weak points may be the continuous shooting speed of 4.5 frames per second, but not everyone needs continuous shooting in principle. Reducing the screen resolution by half turned out to be not so critical in practice, it is more important that a high-quality viewfinder was retained. The lack of backlighting on the sensor did not lead to any serious deterioration in relation to quality at high ISO. Moreover, if you are working in a flashlight studio, you will absolutely not see the difference between the Z6 and Z5. And the dynamic range, as shown by our tests, is at a very decent level, not inferior to the Z6.

A 1.7 crop in 4K is definitely a big drawback, but 4K is still there. But a significant disadvantage for whom? For those who want to shoot professional video. But if you want to shoot high-quality video, then you won’t be able to save money. Buy a movie camera or, in the end, the same Z6. And the Nikon Z5 camera is still for those who have the priority of photography and only for entertainment, shooting video.

The Nikon Z5 is a cool, well thought out camera. There is an optimal combination of price and quality. And if you want to go full frame and at the same time to a modern mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z5, in our opinion, is the best choice at the moment. And then, time will tell.

Get Nikon Z5 on Amazon – Price $1199