Nikon Zf Preview

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Nikon Zf Preview
Nikon has introduced another retro-style camera with a Z-mount, the Nikon Zf, but this time, unlike the Nikon Z fc, it's a full-frame camera instead of an APS-C camera. Nikon has previously demonstrated that its retro-style cameras not only have an appealing design but also deliver excellent performance, as seen with the Nikon Z fc, which offers impressive image quality and autofocus capabilities. In terms of performance, it even surpassed its "non-retro" counterpart, the Z50, in some aspects, leading me to choose the Z fc at that time.
Whether the Nikon Zf could be of interest to nature photographersMore Info, particularly those with an appreciation for good design, will be discussed further. Let's first delve into the technical specifications of the camera.

Specifications of the Nikon Zf

The Nikon Zf is the third digital camera in  Nikon's retro-style lineup, joining the Nikon Z fc and Nikon DF. It features a 24.5 MP C-MOS full-frame sensor with dimensions of 35.9 mm × 23.9 mm (FX-Format), capable of delivering image files up to 6048 × 4032 pixels. While it's uncertain whether there is a low-pass filter in front of the sensor, Nikon typically omits them in newer models, likely including the Zf. The camera includes an in-body image stabilizer (IBIS) providing up to 8 stops of stabilization. The Hybrid AF, combining contrast-detection and phase-detection, works in an ambient light range of −10 LW to +19 LW, making it more light-sensitive than the Z9 or Z8. It offers a selection of 273 focus points in single-point AF mode and features automatic subject recognition for people, animals, birdsPicture Gallery, and their eyes, even in manual focus.
In addition to single-point AF, the Nikon Zf offers Pinpoint AF for precise focusing on small details. Focus points can be grouped into larger areas, including dynamic focus area (S, M, and L), large focus area (S, L, C1, and C2), and automatic focus area control. The camera supports Nikon's familiar 3D tracking.
The Nikon Zf can capture bursts of up to 30 frames per second in high-speed mode (JPEG format at normal quality), while in the fast standard mode (allowing RAW shots), it achieves up to 14 frames per second.
The camera provides a shutter speed range from 30 seconds to 1/8000s, extendable to 900 seconds in manual mode, and it features a Bulb mode for even longer exposures. Unlike the Z8 or Z9, the Zf operates with an electronically controlled focal-plane shutter, and it offers the option of a fully electronic shutter.
ISO sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 64000, expandable to ISO 204800.
The electronic viewfinder covers 100% of the frame at a magnification of 0.8x, with a resolution of 3.69 million dots. The 3.2-inch touchscreen monitor is tiltable and rotatable, boasting a 170-degree viewing angle and a resolution of 2.1 million dots.
For image storage, the camera features two card slots, one for SD cards (UHS-II compatible) and another for microSD cards.
Measuring approximately 103 × 144 × 49 mm, the camera weighs around 710g.

AF Performance of the Nikon Zf

In summary, the autofocus (AF) performance of the Nikon Zf is comparable to that of the Nikon Z8More Info and Nikon Z9. During the brief period I had access to the Nikon Zf, I did not observe any significant differences in AF speed or precision. The focus was nearly perfect for almost all of my shots involving stationary subjects. Additionally, when capturing moving subjects, the Zf exhibited a very high success rate.

Bird The Animal Eye AF of the Nikon Zf is extremely accurate, quickly recognizing and reliably focusing on subjects. There is virtually no misfire with static subjects. The picture of the coal titPicture Gallery was taken with the Zf and a 600mm f4 lens.

The automatic subject recognition is also on par with the Z8 and Z9. BirdsPicture Gallery are reliably detected, and as soon as they appear large enough in the frame, the focus is directly set on the eye. This is a significant advantage for nature photographersMore Info, allowing them to concentrate entirely on the composition of the image. It's worth noting that the automatic subject recognition also operates in manual focus mode, providing supportive assistance in this regard.

Image quality of the Nikon Zf

The Nikon Zf boasts a resolution of 24.5 megapixels. While this might seem modest for a full-frame camera, it proves more than sufficient for most purposes. The lower pixel count on a large sensor surface also translates to minimal noise, and the Zf is no exception. JPEGs from the camera look fantastic up to ISO 3200, with even the finest details perfectly resolved and noise kept to a minimum. The camera's internal noise reduction works precisely in this regard. Additionally, the camera accurately reproduces colors in a very realistic manner. Regarding detail resolution in low ISO ranges, Nikon has once again done an excellent job, likely attributed to the omission of a low-pass filter. This decision allows for the rendering of even the finest structures. As a distinctive feature, the Nikon Zf offers several black-and-white modes, enhancing sharpness in the images. It's possible that these modes involve a different interpretation of sensor data (perhaps extracting only luminance data instead of RGGB), enabling the representation of even finer details.

Fokus bracketing and focus stacking with the Nikon Zf

In the meantime, nearly all newer mirrorless cameras come equipped with a focus bracketing function. The Nikon Zf is no exception in this regard, as, similar to its APS-C counterpart, the Nikon Z fc, it also supports focus bracketing.

Fungus The so-called focus stacking has become indispensable in mushroom photography. This image of the red waxcap was also created using this technique. Thirty individual shots with slightly shifted focus planesPicture Gallery were processed into a single image with extended depth of field using specialized software (Helicon FocusMore Info).

But what is focus bracketing exactly? Focus bracketing involves capturing multiple shots with slightly shifted focal planesPicture Gallery and then combining them either in-camera or later on a computer to create a single image with extended depth of field (a so-called focus stack). Especially in the macrophotography realm, where depth of field decreases as the magnification scale increases, this method allows capturing subjects sharply from front to back. A few years ago, creating such focus series had to be done manually, either using a macro rail where the camera is moved slightly closer to the subject after each shot or by manually turning the focus ring after each shot. Both methods were time-consuming and therefore mostly suitable for static subjects. For many nature photographersMore Info, a focus bracketing function has become indispensable, saving time and enabling the capture of subjects that move sporadically, such as insectsPicture Gallery.

Body and handling of the Nikon Zf

If I were to say that the Nikon Zf fits perfectly in my hand, I would be lying. It doesn't for me. However, this compromise is part of the deal when you want to own a camera with a retro design. On the other hand, the operation is excellent. There are buttons or dials for all essential functions, and everything else can be quickly and easily adjusted via the freely tilting and swiveling touchscreen. The camera feels solid (more so than the Nikon Z fc) and offers performance that comes close to the big cameras like the Z9 or Z8.
Particularly impressive is the sensor-shift image stabilizer, which, with the right lenses, allows for exposures up to 8 stops longer.


The Nikon Zf is a full-frame mirrorless camera with a retro design. It impresses with excellent image quality, albeit at a resolution of only 24MP. The autofocus is extremely fast and accurate, and the automatic subject recognition matches the capabilities of professional cameras like the Z8 and Z9. Although the Zf is notably more expensive than, for example, the Z6 II or Z5 with the same 24.5MP resolution, its AI-supported subject recognition provides a professional-level autofocus. Highly recommended.

Article from 2023-11-17


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