Nikon Z5 Review – Best Full Frame Mirrorless Camera of The Year by Nikon

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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 a failed experiment, but it served as the basis for what we see now. Without trial and error, the Nikon Z series immediately burst into the world of full-frame mirrorless cameras and won users’ trust. And now, less than two years later, the world saw a new full-frame mirrorless camera, which we will review and test with details in this article. So, let’s 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 Z 50 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 Camera Appearance

Nikon Z5 is an almost complete twin of Z6/Z7, and this is not a disadvantage. 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 excellent.

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

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Camera

Perhaps the camera’s top panel is everything that gives out a novelty from its older brothers. There is no other 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.

Nikon Z5 Review
The Appearance of Nikon Z5 Camera

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 camera controls are located in the right hand, except for the two buttons for viewing and deleting a picture.

The dial mode 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, P, S, A, M, and three user modes. And one more thing, the disc is now plastic, which in no way affects the work.

Nikon Z5 Review
The Appearance of Nikon Z5 Camera

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 entirely identical. On the left, we have two buttons – view and delete pictures.

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 – navigation pad with the OK button for menu and adjust the focus point.

Under the navigation pad, there are two buttons for increasing and decreasing; the button is also 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, there are the headphone output and the microphone input.

And under the second plug – USB Type-C, Mini HDMI, and a socket for remote control. Because the camera supports power charging during operation, I think the USB Type-C location is illogical because 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 entirely 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 invisible at first glance changes in the case. Firstly, a notch appeared under the display for a more convenient folding of the display. Secondly, this is the absence of a rubberized coating to the right of the lens and under cover of the memory card compartment.

If we see just plastic to the right of the lens, 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 pretty often damaged, although its practical value in these places is zero.

Nikon Z5 Technical 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 filterYes
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. 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 ProRes RAW.

Nikon Z5 Review
Nikon Z5 Review

Nevertheless, the camera can write a reasonably 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 implementing 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 also available, giving a small crop, but it is better to use it only in static scenes.

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; simultaneously, 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 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 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 critical characteristics for professional work. The company did not save on 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

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 than a high-quality viewfinder was retained.

The lack of backlighting on the sensor did not severely deteriorate concerning quality at high ISO. Moreover, if you are working in a flashlight studio, you will 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 a big drawback, but 4K is still there. But a significant disadvantage for whom? For those who want to shoot professional videos. But if you’re going to shoot high-quality videos, 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 prioritize photography and only for entertainment, shooting video.

The Nikon Z5 is a fantastic, 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.

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