The Nikon Z5 is a great little camera that is fun to use and can take excellent photos.
Users of Nikon’s DSLR cameras will find the small and lightweight Z5 has a familiar control layout and its menu is similarly structured. The bright, high-res EVF and touch-screen monitor will also make transitioning to mirrorless easy.
Although Nikon DSLR upgraders will need to add a Nikon FTZ Lens Adapter (RRP AU$500) to make their F-mount lenses usable on Z-mount cameras, there are plenty of features that make the Z5 attractive to a wider audience.
If you shoot a lot of video, the Z6 will be better choice because of its full-pixel readout using the full sensor width for 4K video recording. It also offers a much higher (12 fps) frame rate for continuous recording.
Announced on 21 July, the Z5 slots in below the Z6 as Nikon’s new entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera and features a slightly different 24.3-megapixel CMOS image sensor from the Z6 but the same EXPEED 6 image processor as other Nikon Z-mount cameras. The Z5 is the first dual slot Z-mount camera and the first to permit USB powering as well as battery charging. Otherwise, it shares many features with the Z6, including 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) with up to 5 stops of shake correction plus the same 273-point hybrid AF system and EVF.
Angled view of the Nikon Z5 fitted with the Nikkor Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR kit lens. (Source: Nikon.)
In Australia, the Z5 is offered as a body alone as well as with the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 and 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR kit lenses. We received the 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR, which is reviewed separately for this review.
The camera is supplied with a 170-page printed User’s Manual. A copy of this guide as well as a more detailed, 778-page Reference Manual, both in PDF format, are available for downloading at the Nikon Download Centre.
Who’s it For?
As well as setting out to attract budget-conscious camera buyers looking to buy into a mirrorless system, with the Z5 Nikon is targeting its existing DSLR camera owners who want to move to a mirrorless model, while retaining their current lenses. The lure of a full frame sensor could also justify a move by APS-C DSLR users to the larger sensor format.
Fortunately, users of Nikon’s DSLR cameras will find the small and lightweight Z5 has a familiar control layout and its menu is similarly structured. The bright, high-res EVF and touch-screen monitor will also make transitioning to mirrorless easy.
Although Nikon DSLR upgraders will need to add a Nikon FTZ Lens Adapter (RRP ~AU$500) to make their F-mount lenses usable on Z-mount cameras, there are plenty of features that make the Z5 attractive to a wider audience and, while its price tag is relatively high compared with an entry-level DSLR, it’s considerably lower than the similarly-featured Z6.
Having to swap to a new lens mount will also raise the issue of possible alternatives among competing brands. Click here to see a table comparing key features of the entry-level ‘full frame’ cameras from Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony.
Z5 vs Z6 Differences
Ergonomically, the bodies of the Z5 and Z6 are very similar, although the Z5 is deeper by two millimetres and five grams heavier. This may be because the Z5’s body has two card slots, instead of one and both slots use the cheaper, more readily available SD format cards, where the Z6 has a single slot that uses faster and more expensive XQD cards.
The most visible differences are on the top panel, where a mode dial sits in the position occupied by the data LCD on the Z6 and Z7, where the mode dial is on the opposite side of the EVF housing. Both camera bodies claim the same degree of weather sealing and have the same 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system.
The Z5 has a newer EN-EL15c battery, which is CIPA rated at 390 shots or 115 mins of video per charge when the EVF is used, or 470 shots or 120 mins of video per charge with the LCD monitor. The Z5’s battery is backwards-compatible with the older EN-EL15b battery but, unlike it, supports USB charging.
The Z5 has almost the same effective resolution as the Z6 but its CMOS sensor is front-illuminated, rather than backside-illuminated as it is in the Z6. The difference has some significance as BSI sensors are more effective light collectors and, hence, can deliver better low-light performance. They also provide a wider angular response and may offer faster readout times.
The native ISO range in the Z5 is limited to ISO100-25600, while the Z6 extends the range to ISO 51200 and will deliver better performance in low light levels, especially at high ISO settings. The Z6 also has far better continuous shooting capabilities, with a maximum frame rate of 12 fps, compared with 4.5 fps for the Z5.
Both cameras share the same 273-point Hybrid AF system with sensors covering 90% of the frame horizontally and vertically. Selectable AF modes are similar in both cameras and both support face and eye detection for human subjects. The Z5 adds Animal-Detection AF that can track the faces and eyes of dogs, and cats to its menu but only as an alternative setting to human face/eye detection. However, animal eye detection won’t work in movie mode.
While both cameras are capable of recording 4K video at up to 30 fps (25 fps for PAL users), the Z5 imposes a 1.7x crop on 4K footage, resulting in lower resolution then the Z6, which records the full width of the frame. The Z6 also records oversampled 6K footage, which is downsampled to 4K and produces much more detailed recordings. It also offers N-Log recording, which is not supported in the Z5.
With Full HD video, both cameras record without cropping the frame but the Z6 is the only one that can record at up to 120 fps (100 fps for PAL format) for 4x slow-motion playback. The Z5 has an upper limit of 60 fps (50 fps for PAL format).
Build and Ergonomics
Although containing more plastic than the Z6, the Z5’s body is said to have a similar level of dust-and moisture-sealing its siblings and its textured cladding feels equally comfortable in the hands. But the Z6 has the upper hand in its monitor resolution (2,100,000 dots vs 1,040,000 dots in the Z5) although both have the same 0.5-inch, 3.69 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, with 100% horizontal and vertical coverage and 0.8x magnification plus the same 21 mm eyepoint.
The Z5’s top panel is different, with nothing on the left side. The mode dial has been shifted to the right hand side of the EVF housing but otherwise the controls on the grip moulding (covering ISO, exposure compensation and movie start/stop) are identical on both cameras.
The top panel of the Z5 with no lens fitted showing the re-design that puts the mode dial on the user’s right hand side, rather than the left. (Source: Nikon.)
While the mode dial on the Z5 carries the same settings as the Z6’s, it lacks a lock and can be dislodged inadvertently. However, the new position makes it more accessible while the camera is in use.
Front view of the Z5 with no lens fitted. (Source: Nikon.)
Also identical on both cameras is the large rear command dial, which is semi-embedded in the rear right hand side corner of the top panel. The monitor on the Z5 has the same tilt angle as the Z6’s monitor and is usable for both shooting adjustments (including focus point selection) and for browsing images in playback mode.
The rear panel of the Z5 with the monitor flat on the camera back. (Source: Nikon.)
Like other Z-series models, the Z5 is supplied with the BF-N1 body cap, and DK-29 rubber eyecup (attached). It also comes with the EN-EL15c rechargeable Li-ion battery with terminal cover, MH-25a battery charger plus mains power cable, AN-DC19 strap, UC-E24 USB cable and BS-1 accessory shoe cover.
Sensor and Image Processing
The CMOS sensor in the Z5 sits behind a low-pass filter, which slightly reduces its resolution potential. The highest resolution stills it produces are 6016 x 4016 pixels in size, compared with 6048 x 4024 pixels in the Z6 which, combined with its BSI design, should yield slightly superior image quality.
The hybrid phase- and contrast-detection AF system is identical to the one in the Z6. With an array of 273 AF points covering most of the image sensor’s surface, the AF system also benefits from sophisticated AF algorithms that provide subject tracking, eye-detection and animal-detection AF. Autofocusing is possible at light levels down to -3.5EV or -6EV with low-light AF enabled.
Like other Nikon cameras, the Z5 can record NEF.RAW files with 12 or 14 bit depth, either compressed or with lossless compression. Uncompressed recording is not available. RAW+JPEG pairs can be recorded with fine, normal or basic compression. Raw files are slightly smaller than their equivalents in the Z6 but JPEGs are slightly larger.
Six sequential frames from a burst of shots recorded at 4.5 fps with focus tracking; 200mm focal length, ISO 200, first frame in sequence at 1/1250 second at f/6.3.
The Z5’s maximum continuous shooting rate is only 4.5 frames/second but the camera performs well at this setting, as shown in the illustration above. It also provides a Continuous Low mode that enables users to choose rates between one and four frames/second. The buffer memory can accommodate up to 100 frames, regardless of the file size or format.
|Image quality setting||Image size||File size||No. of images on a 32GB SD card|
|NEF.RAW, lossless compressed, 12-bit||Large||21.9MB||757|
|NEF.RAW, lossless compressed, 14-bit||27.8MB||662|
|NEF.RAW, compressed, 12-bit||19.5MB||1000|
|NEF.RAW, compressed, 14-bit||24.0MB||856|
The EXPEED 6 image processing engine enables the camera to support a native sensitivity range extending from ISO 100 to ISO 51200. Lo and Hi extensions expand the range to ISO 50 and ISO102400. Adjustments throughout the entire range can be made in 0.3EV steps.
Like most cameras released this year, the Z5 can record 4K video at 25 fps (PAL format) with a maximum bit rate of 144Mbps. It also supports Full HD recording at 50 fps with a bit rate of 56Mbps or 28Mbps as well as at 25 fps with 28/14Mbps option.
Users can choose between the MOV and MP4 (with the H.264/MPEG-4 codec) but the same resolutions and frame rates are available for both. Although it’s not specified, it’s safe to assume IPB compression is applied.
Unlike its siblings, the Z5’s sensor area is cropped by a factor of 1.7x for video recording. Part of this cropping is due to the change in aspect ratio from 3:2 to 16:9 but the rest applies the usual crop factor extension to the overall effective focal length of the lens. The illustration below simulates the degree of frame cropping in the various movie modes.
The camera also provides a DX-based movie format which crops the long axis of the frame to fit into the 1.5x crop applied when the camera is recording stills in DX mode. No further cropping is applied in this recording mode and FHD 1080/50p recording is also uncropped.
The Z5 is limited to basic 4K recording functions which means it can’t deliver 10-bit 4:2:2 HDMI output and doesn’t offer 12-bit ProRes Raw recording or the Log and slow-motion modes provided by the Z6. Electronic stabilisation is available but it applies additional frame cropping and up to 231 phase-detection AF points can be selected.
Microphone and headphone connections are provided, along with attenuator and wind noise filters. Peaking and zebra displays are available for monitoring focus and exposure levels. Still images can be recorded silently while you’re recording a video clip and the Creative Picture Controls can be applied to movie footage.
The interval timer is quite sophisticated and, unlike most cameras, the Z5 can be used to record a sequence of still shots at pre-set intervals or create time-lapse movies with a 16:9 aspect ratio the camera will save both still frames and the movie simultaneously. The start time and number of shots can be selected, along with the number of shots per interval.
Exposure smoothing and silent capture are also available. This mode can be used for AE bracketing as well as shooting 1:1 movies. The camera defaults to the sRGB colour space for all recordings in this mode.
Playback and Software
The Z5 offers the same basic playback settings as other Nikon cameras and, like most modern camera is not supplied with a software disk. The printed user’s manual provides URLs for linking to Nikon’s download centre, where you can find copies of the basic and detailed manuals as well as the recommended programs: ViewNX-i and Capture NX-D as well as the Wireless Transmitter Utility for connecting the camera to a network.
Performance-wise we found the Z5 was a lot like the Z6, both in the appearance of image files and performance in our Imatest tests. This isn’t surprising since they share so many features.
JPEG files were able to match expectations for the sensor’s resolution near the centre of the frame and fell only a little short towards the edges. NEF.RAW frames were converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw (our preferred raw file converter) and produced slightly higher resolution, similar to the Z6.
Resolution for both file types peaked at the ‘native’ ISO 100 setting and remained high through to ISO 12800 (one stop higher than in the Z6) before declining gradually thereafter, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results above. As in the Z6, two highest settings delivered higher resolution than expected for both JPEG and NEF.RAW files.
Imatest showed colour accuracy to be very good and the differences between JPEG and NEF.RAW files were small, although saturation levels were slightly lower in raw files, as expected. Colour shifts were slightly greater in JPEGs but, again, the differences were minimal.
Long exposures at night contained plenty of detail. Images captured between ISO 100 and ISO 25600 were generally sharp with natural colour levels, although noise had become evident by ISO 12800. By ISO 51200, noise was obvious and by ISO 12800 shadowed areas were blocking up and the dynamic range in shots was visibly reduced.
Without a flash, we could only test the review camera with tungsten, fluorescent and warm-toned LED lights. In common with other Z-series cameras, the auto setting provides three options: the default A1, which retains the ‘overall atmosphere’ and is recommended for most situations plus two additional settings.
One (#2) retains warm tones, while the other (#0) is supposed to bias colours in favour of white. Although setting 0 slightly reduced the warm bias of the tungsten and LED lighting, we couldn’t see much difference between the other settings in our test shots.
As expected, the A1 auto setting was able to deliver neutral colour rendition under fluorescent lighting. There’s no white balance pre-set for LED lighting and the presets for tungsten and fluorescent lighting tended to over-correct but there are the usual in-camera adjustments for tweaking colours on-the-fly, which are straightforward to use.
Autofocusing was generally quick and accurate for both stills shooting and in movie mode in normal light levels and lighting conditions. It was also quite fast for the long exposures we took at night and there were few instances of hunting when the lens was near its close-focusing limit.
Subject tracking was not quite as efficient, most commonly when moving from wide angle to telephoto with the 24-200mm lens supplied for our review. Using the continuous AF mode was faster and more accurate than single-shot AF when shooting moving subjects and touch AF made it quick and easy to focus on precise areas of the frame.
We recorded our movie tests with the auto shooting mode and sensitivity on the auto setting plus autofocusing continuous autofocusing. Most clips were recorded with the high-quality setting, although we also shot a couple of comparison clips at the normal quality.
The AF system performed particularly well in Dynamic-Area AF mode while recording subjects that moved erratically and when subjects entered or left the frame unexpectedly. Video quality was much as we expected for the Z5’s capabilities and clips looked good when played back on a 4K TV set.
Soundtracks were acceptable and it’s useful to be able to bias the microphone’s frequency range to the human voice when required, instead of having only an ‘average’ bandwidth. Without the attenuator and wind noise filter, recordings were susceptible to wind noise, but both were useful in outdoor recordings, although the wind filter suppressed, rather than eliminated, wind noise. Recordings had little stereo ‘presence’.
For our timing tests we used two 32GB UHS Class II SDHC cards, one made by Lexar Professional and the other a SanDisk Extreme PRO card. Both were rated at 300MB/s and JPEGs and NEF.RAW files were recorded separately. It took just over a second for the camera to power-up ready for shooting.
Capture lag with autofocus was consistent at 0.5 seconds but was eliminated when shots were pre-focused as well as in manual focus mode. On average it took 0.9 seconds to process each JPEG and a fraction less for a 14-bit NEF.RAW file.
Shot-to-shot times in the single-shot mode averaged 0.9 seconds, which is relatively long for a modern camera. This probably occurred because the shutter wouldn’t release while shots were being processed.
The Z5 provides two continuous shooting settings: Continuous High with a frame rate of 4.5 fps and Continuous Low, where users can choose frame rates from one to 4 fps. In the Continuous High mode, we recorded 49 frames in 11.2 seconds, which is very close to the specified frame rate. However, it took 38 seconds to clear the buffer memory, which is very slow.
Swapping to 14-bit raw recording, we recorded 51 frames in 11.3 seconds, which is much the same frame rate. Interestingly, buffer clearing times were roughly the same as for JPEGs. Marginally slower capture and processing times were recorded for RAW+JPEG pairs.
We ran the same timing test with the silent shutter mode and found frame rates were slower on the whole. Thirty-five frames were recorded in 13.4 seconds, which is less than three frames/second. Interestingly, it only took about 10 seconds to process that burst.
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Image sensor: 35.9 x 23.9 mm CMOS sensor with 24.93 million photosites (24.3 megapixels effective)
Image processor: EXPEED 6
A/D processing: 12- or 14-bit (lossless compressed or compressed)
Lens mount: Nikon Z mount
Focal length crop factor: 1x
Image formats: Stills: JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver. 2.31), NEF.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies: MOV, MP4 /H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding, Linear PCM (Stereo) audio for MOV format, AAC for MP4 movies
Image Sizes: Stills – FX: 6016 x 4016, 4512 x 3008, 3008 x 2008; DX: 3936 x 2624, 2944 x 1968, 1968 x 1312; Movies: 4K (3840 x 2160) @ 30p/25p/24p, FHD (1920 x 1080) @ 60p/50p/25p/24p
Aspect ratios: 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
Image Stabilisation: 5-axis image sensor shift VR
Dust removal: Image sensor cleaning, Image Dust Off reference data (Capture NX-D software required)
Shutter (speed range): Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal-plane mechanical shutter; electronic front-curtain shutter; electronic shutter (30 to 1/8000 second plus Bulb and Time; X-sync at 1/200 sec.)
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3 or 1/2EV steps available in modes P, S, A, and M (+/-3EV for movies)
Exposure bracketing: 2 frames +/-0..3EV; 3 or 5frames across +/-0,7EV; 7 frames across+/-1.0EV or 9 frames across +/-1.3EV in 1/3EV steps
Other bracketing options: Flash, white balance, Active D-Lighting
Self-timer: 2, 5, 10 or 20 seconds delay, 1-9 exposures at intervals of 0.5, 1.2 or 3 seconds
Interval recording: Yes, for time-lapse photography and movies
Focus system: Hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF with AF assist
AF points & selection: 273 selectable points; Pinpoint (available in photo mode only), single-point, and dynamic-area AF (available in photo mode only); wide-area AF (S); wide-area AF (L); auto-area AF
Focus modes: Single-servo AF (AF-S), Continuous-servo AF (AF-C), full-time AF (AF-F; available only in movie mode) ; predictive focus tracking Manual focus (M)
Exposure metering: TTL metering using camera image sensor with Matrix metering, Centre-weighted average and spot metering patterns
Shooting modes: Auto, P: programmed auto with flexible program, S: shutter-priority auto, A: aperture-priority auto, M: manual U1, U2 and U3: user settings modes
Picture Control modes: Auto, Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, Flat Creative Picture Controls (Dream, Morning, Pop, Sunday, Sombre, Dramatic, Silence, Bleached, Melancholic, Pure, Denim, Toy, Sepia, Blue, Red, Pink, Charcoal, Graphite, Binary, Carbon); selected Picture Control can be modified; storage for custom Picture Controls
In-camera effects: Monochrome, Sepia, Cyanotype, image overlay
Dynamic Range functions: Active D-Lighting with Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, and Off modes; HDR (high dynamic range) photo mode
Colour space options: sRGB and Adobe RGB
ISO range: Auto (ISO 100 to 51200 in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV ) with extension to ISO 50 and ISO 102400 available; adjustable in 1/3 or 1 EV steps
White balance: Auto (3 types), natural light auto, direct sunlight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, fluorescent (7 types), flash, choose colour temperature (2500 K to 10,000 K), preset manual (up to 6 values can be stored), all with fine-tuning except choose colour temperature
Flash: External flashguns only
Flash modes: Front-curtain sync, slow sync, rear-curtain sync, red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction with slow sync, off
Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 3EV in 1/3, 1/2EV steps
Sequence shooting: Max. 4.5 frames/sec. with locked AF
Buffer capacity: Max. 100 frames JPEG or RAW files
Storage Media: Dual slots for SD, SDHC, SDXC cards (UHS-I, II compatible)
Viewfinder: 0.5-inch, 3,690,000-dot OLED EVF with 100% frame coverage, 21mm eyepoint, 0.8x magnification, -4 to +2 dpt adjustment, eye sensor
LCD monitor: 3.2-inch tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 170° viewing angle, 1,040,000 dots
Playback functions: Full-frame and thumbnail (4, 9, or 72 images or calendar) playback with playback zoom, playback zoom cropping, movie playback, photo and/or movie slide shows, histogram display, highlights, photo information, location data display, auto image rotation, and picture rating
Interface terminals: USB Type-C, HDMI (type C), 3.5 mm stereo mini jack (microphone), 3.5 mm stereo mini jack (headphone), accessory terminal for MC-DC2 remote
Wi-Fi function: Built-in (IEEE 802.11b/g/n) 2412 to 2462 MHz (channel 11) 0.7 dBm Open system, WPA2-PSK; Bluetooth Low Energy
Power supply: EN-EL15c rechargeable Li-ion batteries in special base pack; CIPA rated for approx. 390 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. Approx. 134 x 100.5 x 69.5 mm
Weight: Approx. 590 grams (body only); 675 grams with battery and card
Distributor: Nikon Australia,1300 366 499
Based upon JPEG files recorded with the Nikkor Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR lens.
Based upon NEF.RAW files captured simultaneously and converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting, A1 auto setting.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting, A0 (keep white) auto setting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with warm-toned LED lighting, A1 auto setting.
Auto white balance with warm-toned LED lighting, A0 (keep white) auto setting.
30 second exposure at ISO Lo 1 (ISO 50), 39mm focal length, f/5.
25 second exposure at ISO 100, 39mm focal length, f/5.6.
5 second exposure at ISO 800, 39mm focal length, f/8.
2 second exposure at ISO 6400; 39mm focal length, f/13.
1.3 second exposure at ISO 12800; 39mm focal length, f/14.
1 second exposure at ISO 25600; 39mm focal length, f/18.
0.6 second exposure at ISO 51200; 39mm focal length, f/20.
1/4 second exposure at ISO Hi 1 (ISO102400); 39mm focal length, f/18.
Close-up at 200mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/6.3.
Close-up through glass; 140mm focal length, ISO 2000, 1/320 second at f/6.3.
Close-up in low loight levels; 200mm focal length, ISO 12800, 1/200 second at f/6.3.
Close-up in low light levels; 200mm focal length, ISO 8000, 1/200 second at f/6.3.
Backlit subject with spot metering; 200mm focal length, ISO 720, 1/200 second at f/6.3.
39mm focal length; ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/8.
120mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/8.
200mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/200 second at f/9.
200mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/8.
200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1600 second at f/11.
180mm focal length, ISO 1100, 1/200 second at f/6.3.
58mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/8.
200mm focal length, ISO 1400, 1/200 second at f/6.3.
The following video clips were all shot from the same position.
Still frame from 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) video clip recorded at 25p.
Still frame from 1920 x 1080 video clip recorded at 50p.
Still frame from 1920 x 1080 video clip recorded at 25p.
Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Nikkor Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR lens.
RRP: AU$2449; US$1399.95
- Build: 8.8
- Ease of use: 8.8
- Autofocusing: 8.8
- Still image quality JPEG: 8.5
- Still image quality RAW: 9.0
- Video quality: 8.5