Nikon Zf - A Mini Review of the Retro Revolution

Here we are

So, here we are… I sold my (for the longest time) EDC, Leica Q2, in order to buy Nikon Zf. Here are my first impressions.

When Nikon announced the Zf, the photography community buzzed with speculation. Could this be the camera that brings together the old-school charm and the modern digital world? I was eager to find out. So, here I am, with the Nikon Zf in my hands, ready to share my first impressions.

Unboxing: A Nostalgic Elegance

Unboxing the Nikon Zf felt like stepping back in time. The camera’s design pays homage to Nikon’s film heritage, especially reminiscent of the iconic F series. It’s a beautiful blend of retro aesthetics and modern ergonomics. Holding it, you feel the weight of history, yet it sits comfortably in the hand, a testament to Nikon’s thoughtful design.

I opted for the grey version. It appears overly bright here, but in person, it’s quite subtle and enhances the camera’s vibe. I’m really glad I chose it!

Nikon Zf Stone Grey

Different Colours to Choose From

The Nikon Zf delights with a palette of hues, each evoking a different flavor of nostalgia and style. From the classic, deep black to the adventurous and earthy tones of green and brown, and the bold statement of red and orange, each color seems to pay homage to the various eras and styles of photography.

Nikon Zf Stone Grey

Among these, I have chosen the best one for me – Stone Grey. Take a moment to admire this beauty; its understated elegance speaks volumes without saying a word.

Nikon Zf Stone Grey

Nikon Zf Stone Grey

Nikon Zf Stone Grey

Nikon Zf Stone Grey

The First Click: More Than Just a Shutter Sound

Powering on the Zf, the first thing I noticed was the shutter sound—a crisp, satisfying click that feels like a proper camera. No strange, noisy, or robotic sounds here. It’s these small details that Nikon has nailed, offering a sensory experience that digital photography often lacks.

Image Quality: A Modern Heart in a Vintage Body

The Zf isn’t just about looks; it’s a powerhouse in terms of image quality. The sensor, borrowed from Z6II, delivers sharp, vibrant images. The dynamic range is impressive, handling challenging lighting conditions with grace. As I took my first shots around the city, the camera’s ability to capture fine details and maintain color accuracy was apparent.

Handling and Operation: A Fusion of Old and New

Using the Zf is a lesson in balance. It merges the tactile dials and manual controls of film cameras with the convenience of digital. The top plate features dedicated dials for shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation, allowing for quick adjustments without diving into menus. For those who appreciate the manual control of film photography but want the immediacy of digital, the Zf strikes a perfect chord.

Nikon Zf Stone Grey

Nikon Zf Stone Grey The best strap for the Nikon Zf!

Autofocus: A Leap Forward

The autofocus system on the Zf is a significant leap forward from Nikon’s older DSLRs. It’s fast, accurate, and reliable, even in low-light conditions. Truth be told it is amazingly good in low light! The eye-detection autofocus is particularly impressive, locking onto subjects with an almost intuitive feel. This camera takes the guesswork out of capturing sharp and focused images.

The Viewfinder Experience: Digital Meets Analog

Looking through the electronic viewfinder (EVF), I found a crisp, bright display that provides all the necessary information without being intrusive. I usually remove all info from the viewfinder, so I can see only the things I want to capture.

Video Capabilities: More Than an Afterthought

Nikon hasn’t overlooked video in the Zf. It offers robust video capabilities, including 4K recording, which is a pleasant surprise in a camera that gives off such a strong still photography vibe. The footage is crisp, with good color rendering and detail. For vloggers or those who dabble in both stills and video, the Zf provides a versatile tool. I am still not too invested in video, but it is super nice to have all these capabilities.

ISO Performance: Pushing the Limits

Now, this is good! The high ISO performance of the Zf is noteworthy. Noise is well-controlled, and images remain usable even at higher ISO settings. This capability, combined with the camera’s solid build, makes it an excellent companion for low-light photography and night-time cityscapes.

Kid laughing ISO performance is awesome. ISO 28800 here!

Young boy playing ISO 16000 here

Battery Life: Meh

Nothing special, but if you are using EVF only, you get a lot of battery. In combinaton with photo and video, using both back screen and EVF, i get around 350 shots (currently, it’s -20 degrees Celsius in Oslo, so that affects it quite a bit, I guess.).

User Interface: Intuitive Yet Comprehensive

Navigating the Zf’s menu system is straightforward. Nikon has done a good job of organizing settings logically. The touchscreen interface is responsive, making it easy to change settings or review images on the fly. I’d say I like it’s interface the best compared to other mirrorless cameras. Leica is the only one who is better at this, by a mile (although with a lot less functionality).

Connectivity: Keeping Up with the Times

With built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, transferring images from the Zf to a smartphone or computer is a breeze. The Nikon SnapBridge app facilitates this process, allowing for quick sharing of images on social media or cloud storage.

A Few Photos Taken With the Nikon Zf

Birds Flying

Gullhaug Torg by Snøhetta at Nydalen, Oslo, Norway

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Raade’s hagekafe in Oslo

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The Verdict: A Camera with Character

The Nikon Zf is more than just a camera; it’s a statement. It combines the charm of Nikon’s film heritage with the prowess of digital technology. This camera can encourage you to slow down, think about your shots, and enjoy the process of making photographs. Emphasis on can, as you can slow down with any camera, to be honest, though it becomes increasingly difficult as a camera has more and more functionality.

While it may not be the best choice for every photographer, for those who appreciate its blend of style and substance, the Zf is a compelling choice. It’s a reminder of the days when photography was more deliberate, more thoughtful. In an age of rapid-fire digital photography, the Zf stands out as a breath of fresh air.

In conclusion, the Nikon Zf is not just a nod to the past; it’s a bridge to the future. It’s a camera that proves you can have your cake and eat it too—a modern digital camera that retains the soul and character of its film ancestors. For those who yearn for the tactile experience of film but live in the digital world, the Zf is your camera.

Stay tuned for the full review! The review of 40mm f2 SE is coming soon.

Nikon Zf Stone Grey

Oh, and one more thing – where’s the silver model, Nikon?