Do not want to read? YouTube review here
With the announcement of the Z50 I was excited, as a portrait photographer I have been in love with the Nikon for a while. The love has never faded despite the fads in the market, my goto DSLRs were the D810, D610 all were great and the Nikon J5 was my first Nikon Mirrorless which worked great and was really really small (but its noise handling was also small).
The Z series had launched with the Z6 and Z7, both impressive – but I wanted something smaller, lighter and more portable. The answer was the Z50, coming it at 1.33 lbs with the 16-50mm lens which collapses and locks down when not in use. This new APSC mirror less camera is so small it can fit into my Canadian winter jacket pocket with ease. What did I want from this camera and did it meet the requirements:
- smaller take anywhere body – YES <INCREDIBLY LIGHT>
- street photography camera – YES <small enough to be unnoticeable>
- 4k (or 1080p) capture for video work – YES
- camera I could use for portraiture – YES <see below>
However, as a pragmatic photographer I also did not want to jump to conclusions and decided to put the camera through a series of tests. What started out as tests turned into an actual camera review which I have never written but rather consumed. I had a vacation trip coming up and set myself a goal, to take the Nikon Z50 with me on the trip with only the camera gear I could fit into my sling bag. The tests had to include all the regular use a traveller would have for a camera and also to see if I could use it for a professional portrait shoot.
Before I break down the results of the tests (and spoiler – the Z50 passed with flying colours), I want to quickly let you know was as in my bag, I wanted to be as light as possible in my travels so here is what I had:
- Z50 camera
- Z50 lens 16-50mm (kit lens)
- Nikon FTZ adaptor (for my DSLR Nikon lenses to work on Z mount on Z50)
- one battery for the Z50 (no charger)
- usb cable. usb battery pack 10,000MAH, and usb wall plug (phone charger)
- Nikon 50mm 1.8G, Nikon 85mm 1.8G (portraits)
- Nikon 200mm AIS F4 manual focusing lens (its small but no auto focus)
- SB700 speedlight and SB600 speedlight for portrait lighting
From the above equipment items 1 – 5 were used 90% of the time for my photos in Mexico, with the other lenses I ended up using for portraits only. The flashes were also useful as Nikon Z50 was able to work with my SB700 as a commander flash for remote lighting of a model during a photo shoot by the SB600. All the other time, the Z50 with the 16-50 was my go to for photos and videos.
Power: I did not bring the Nikon Z50 battery charger which comes with the camera but only the wall plug I use for my phone and a micro-usb cable and used that to charge my Z50 during the whole trip. As a backup I had my battery pack which I could use to charge my phone or the Z50 during the day. This way if I was walking around the city the camera could charge while I was in no location in particular. The battery on the Z50 would last about 1.5-2 hours of video and about 300 shots without any issues.
Video: Excellent – 4k looks great. 1080p is fantastic. 1080p slow motion 5x slower (120fps) is very useful, no sound recording during slow motion.
Slow motion video:
Still photos: So how did Nikon Z50 handle still photos. For a non-technical assessment I can say the following: “with ease and quality of Nikon”. If you have used a Nikon before you will get excellent results of sharp and colourful photos with a lot of detail. 20 Megapixels of the camera is more than enough for any prints web or online publications. I feel it is also enough for studio shot portraits (see below).
Using the Z 16-50mm lens or DSLR lenses with the FTZ adaptor the Z50 delivered consistent results in all of my tests and has now earned a place in my bag at all times . (As a matter of fact since I had come back from vacation having the Z50 in my bag had already paid off. I had been at an event of a fire with the Z50 in the bag and shot photos and videos which had been published in local news).
Detailed quality break down:
ISO: Z50 ISO handling which is very impressive. I had done an ISO test starting accidentally at ISO 16000, only to realise it looked pretty good so I left that shot for you to review. At the “fit to internet” size ISO of 16000 down to 6400 produces useful photos. The grain drops to minimal between 3200 and 1600 and at ISO 800 you have very useful images.
ISO tests Close up at 100%
Colors and Dynamic Range: The colour of the photos is great and punchy without being too overwhelming. Full control of images comes from the the Z50 raw shooting capability. Each of the RAW files weighs in at around 25Mb and produces excellent files where you can recover +3 to -3 stops without quality suffering. I was able to bring back detail on shots I’ve taken at the hotel through the window showing recovery both in highlights and shadows.
Focus: The Z50 focus with both the native Z 16-50mm lens and DSLR lenses (50mm,85mm) using the adapter was quick and consistent. Eye detect worked well and face detect worked very well, with a test at a Cabo live music venue where I photographed and recorded video of a band playing live.
The Z50 locked on their faces in realtime even though at some times they were obscured by microphones. Video similarly was also locking on and was consistent throughout the test of the camera.
KIT Lens: The kit 16-50mm lens which comes with the Z50 has VR which helps with long exposure videos where I can hand hold a photo for up to 1 second while being all around sharp. The variable apperture is something the “advanced” photographers often may complain about, but for day to day use its compact size is unbeatable. The 16-50mm was on my Z50 most of the time and remains there currently. Its so small and produces awesome photos.
This was my most important test, how is the quality and detail and auto focus for portrait photography. I am always considering any camera I purchase with the question, will it work as a backup or primary camera for a business shoot. I had a couple of opportunities to shoot portraits, once at a sustainable farm where I photographed the staff and second was a portrait shoot for a local DJ in Cabo san Lucas (https://www.instagram.com/lesssantana).
The 50mm 1.8 G was excellent on the FTZ adapter and produced sharp photos and eye auto focus working. See the details in the images below:
In both cases was I was very impressed with the Z50 snapping to focus on faces and eyes (a bit confusing at first as my DSLRs did not do that). The Z50 with the FTZ adapter made the 50mm and 85mm G lenses feel seamless extensions of the Z camera and I did not feel like these were slowed by using the adapter. Quality out of these lenses was outstanding on the Z50.
Finally, as a portrait shooter I needed to confirm that the speedlights worked as I follow the speedlight off camera flash practice. The Z50 has a built in flash which you CANNOT use as a commander for the Nikon speedlights in CLS / TTL mode. However, attaching an SB700 to the Z50 I was able to use the SB700 commander features to trigger the SB600 in the softbox for excellent results and control. Quality of the photos speak for themselves.
Things which did not work: Z50 screen flips around (down not to the side) so if you have a selfie stick you may cover up the screen. The camera has only 1 memory card slot(SD). Finally the touch screen was tapping my cheek each time I would use the viewfinder and kept zooming in on the subject, that was annoying to some degree.
Final Thought: The Z50 is now in my bag at all times, never know when I will take an amazing photo or need to record video. This camera is a camera a perfect method of transition from the F to Z mount DSLR to mirrorless which gets your feet wet in the Mirrorless world and shows you its possibilities and features such as live preview and focus peaking without being a replacement for your DSLR. In addition, the video quality is great and any photographer who shoots stills should have a video camera Z50 delivers.
For everyone who is currently using a 3000 5000 or 7000 series Nikon DSLR series camera the Z50 is a considerable upgrade in quality, size and ease of use in my opinion!
PS I realised reviewing cameras is a lot of work…
Shooting on the 50mm 1.2 the night riders!
The night ride is an annual event here in Vancouver British Columbia, orgnaized by the HUB (A bike alliance), City of Vancouver and a west coast sports / travel retail giant Mountain Equipment Coop. This year it took place on September 7th and I had just enough time after a long day at work to grab my equipment and pop out to take some photos.
Other than the brightly lit riders I wanted to see what I could do with a 50mm 1.2 AIS lens, which had just newly arrived. So it was a lens test too. The 1980s vintage Nikon 50mm AIS 1.2 did well as I rushed out the door and did not get a battery for my DSLR. Never fear, I switched bodies to a Sony a6300 which gave me descent focus peaking (Telling me where to focus).
Pushing ISO up to 800 and shooting all manual is a breeze! 🙂 mostly, Hit ratio in low light of the evening with moving riders I was able to get about 100 out of 260 shots in focus and with interesting subjects. For a location I used the overpass of the Burrard Street bridge (in the background) to provide a bit more shelter from the last light of the evening as the sun had just set. A real main light source was the yellow amber glow of a streetlight to the right beyond the darkening sky in the background.
To get an idea of the lighting check out the video below:
#vancouver #ridethenight #50mm12ais
Hello 2016 – it started out with color and with black and white!
After some baileys and coffee and hot chocolate and deep conversations about meaning of life — no mainly just trying to understand the methods of the fairer sex, we had gone out for a walk with my friend Nick through downtown snapping photos of people and sights.
The city was muted, by the time the sun had set the polar bear swimmers (the annual event where people run into the ocean at english bay) were tired and heading home, couples walked in the fog which was starting to seep into the waterfront parts of the city.
Cab drivers were out, not sitting inside their cars, but they were out standing by their vehicles and spoke in quiet tones – almost in awe at the silence which was now enveloping the city.
Here are some of the photos from the first photo walk through the cold and moist streets of Vancouver (no there was no snow this year in the city) .
Perhaps this deserves to have its own gallery.. we will see!
What is the future of retail, with discounters, online stores and mega chains?
The thought around this blog came from visiting an open mall near the massive IKEA in Richmond BC (recently upgraded from a normal sized a 130,000 square feet location) – across Bridgeport road is the other “mall” which contains Staples, Home Depot and the once proud flagship of technology sales Future Shop.
Now the once busy store stands empty, signs on the front doors advising the location is closed until further notice and there are other stores to serve you. There were once large proud red letters spelling FUTURESHOP above the entrance, these have been removed, but almost as a scoff at its demise – behind the letters the paint remains, weathered by years but not faded out and in stark contrast to once red, now in blue spelling FUTURESHOP.
If you are not a Canadian you don’t know, but its not Futureshop which is there now the long going merger of Futureshop and Best Buy (a US electronics retailer) has concluded with Best Buy buying out all of the Futureshop locations, shutting some down, re-branding others.
But lets rewind back to 1982, the year of some amazing events – including the establishment of the first Futureshop, which later grew to be a prominent Canadian electronics retail chain.
By 1990 it had grown to be the largest retailer of electronics, consumer electronics and computers in Canada. With its peak in 2013, Futureshop had 139 stores across all of the great white north.
Although, there were 139 Futureshop stores in 2013 Best Buy was already in the northern realm of Canada – having quietly bought Futureshop in 2001 and at that time started opening its own Best Buy stores – as this was occurring you could see an eventual merger coming. Especially after 2003/04 when Best Buy and Futureshop nearly mirrored prices and stock, as well as the only different in the advertisement flyers were the logo, colors, and fonts.
One would stay, and it was going to be the bigger name. Best Buy.
This indeed happened in March 2015, with all of the Futureshop stores shuttered and closed overnight, some to remain so forever others to be re-opened as re-branded Best Buy Stores.
Is this something to cry or be upset about, its business and Best Buy just like Futureshop has to survive against Amazons and online retailers of the internet.
What is the Future of retail? Sun has set on Futureshop but I hope retail adjusts and survives and shows that somethings are just not worth buying online. People think these days about killer apps, customer service is the killer app of sales and business, I hope that its not something forgotten and lost and replaced with tapping buttons on your phone and then writing angry reviews that what you had bought was too big, too small, wrong material or completely wrong – when you can just go and see and feel it in a real store and ask questions.
But is it that convenient?