Mirrorless cameras have gained popularity the past two years. In a nutshell: Instead of having a reflex mirror inside them like DSLR cameras — which bounces light into the optical viewfinder — light in a mirrorless camera veers directly to the image sensor. Lacking that internal mirror, mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller and lighter weight. So they’re easier to carry than their larger DSLR counterparts.
One of the newest choices in the category? Nikon’s Z 5, which is described as an entry-level, full-frame mirrorless FX-format camera for emerging creators. Among its many great features: a 24.3-megapixel CMOS sensor; EXPEED 6 image processor (you’ll get solid low-light images); lightweight magnesium alloy shell; 273 on-sensor Auto Focus (AF) points to quickly and accurately track subjects, plus Eye-Detection AF to help capture human and animal eyes more precisely; 4K UHD/30p and 1080/60p video modes; 3.2-inch LCD monitor; two UHS-II SD card slots; and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for easy sharing to Nikon’s SnapBridge app.
I’ve been playing with a review unit for about two weeks, and it’s mesmerizing for a few reasons. First of all, the lens and autofocus are incredibly fast. I love sports photography and could have a field day with this camera at the local hockey rink. Secondly, the LCD touch-screen monitor can be tilted as you might expect, but the camera has a battery-saving feature that if you look through the viewfinder instead then the LCD turns off. Very clever. Thirdly, the photo quality is sensational. I printed off some photos I took and was impressed. Also, it offers users plenty of picture control over photos, too — I’m a fan of boosting saturation and have that option here. And lastly, the animal eye detection is awesome — as touted. I love taking photos of my dog, especially because his eyes are so expressive. The Z 5 seems to visually lock onto his eyes and won’t let go. The results are stunning. I think I’ve come up with more frame-able photos of him in this test period than in the previous 10 years combined.
Much of what I tried was in auto mode. I tested the various manual modes, too, but auto worked so well that I saw no need to flirt with the others in my short review period. I also tested the continuous, high-speed burst shooting at 4.5 frames per second — this is what I’d use in sports photography. While it’s not at faster speeds like some of Nikon’s other models, I find it pretty satisfying. And the video came out almost cinematic looking. It even offers a time-lapse setting.
By the way, lenses obviously have plenty to do with photo quality. I was using the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 and 24-70mm/2.8 S lenses. Put together, the camera feels substantial yet at home in my grip — just the way I like DSLR models.
The Z 5 is available for $1,400 (body only), $1,700 (one-lens kit with the NIKKOR Z 24-50mm lens) and $2,200 (one-lens kit with the NIKKOR Z 24-200mm lens). I’ve used Canon cameras for most of my adult life. But my short-lived experience with this Nikon may well make me a convert when the time comes for an upgrade.