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In November 2019, the Nikon Z50 debuted as an entry-level mirrorless camera for beginners. It is the first crop-sensor (DX) camera of the Z-series line, and it is much smaller and cheaper than the Nikon Z6 and Z7. This Nikon Z50 review will go over some key features of this camera and ultimately answer the question, “should you buy this camera?”
I tested this camera through the Nikon Yellow Program that allows you to try out the Nikon Z50 for 30 days, or return it for a full refund. This is a temporary pilot program that only lasts through March 2020, but I hope Nikon lets it run longer. The mirrorless camera market is a crowded one, and the only way for potential customers to truly know if a camera is suitable for them is to test it out for themselves.
The Nikon Z50 features are competitive with many modern APS-C mirrorless cameras such as the Sony a6400, Canon EOS M6 Mark II, and Fujifilm X-T30. Compared to the rest of these cameras, the Z50 is the largest and heaviest, but it offers some features that the competition does not.
Along with the Z50 camera body, Nikon also released two DX Z lenses to use with it. The Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR kit lens is super compact and basically a pancake lens. It’s a great size to keep your camera kit very small.
Meanwhile, the Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR is a telephoto lens with a great zoom range.
Both lenses are very plastic but lightweight and affordable as a result. If you want the maximum flexibility with the Nikon Z50, and don’t have any F-mount lenses to use, get both of these lenses.
One little quirk about both lenses: you have to rotate the zoom ring to extend the lenses before shooting with them. It only takes a few extra seconds, but it’s a strange thing to get used to.
The Nikon Z50 has a pretty straightforward layout.
All of the buttons and controls are on the right-hand side of the camera, making it easy to use one-handed. The biggest dial on top of the camera lets you select camera modes. There is Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual to appeal to the experienced photographer.
But the Z50 shows its colors as a beginner-friendly camera with the addition of several auto functions on the dial.
In addition to “P” and “Auto” modes, the Z50 has SCN or “Scene Mode” to automatically adjust the camera settings for a variety of situations, including Portrait, Landscape, Food, Night Portrait, Snow, Close up, and more.
There is also a dial selection “EFCT” for shooting in “Special Effect Mode,” where you can automatically see effects such as Night Vision, Super Vivid, and Pop applied to the scene before you snap a photo.
Many cameras have a similar scene and special effect modes in their settings, but they are usually buried deep in the menus and hard to find. On the Nikon Z50, these modes are literally at your fingertips, making them very accessible.
While you can use the physical buttons and dials on the camera to control settings, you don’t have to. The Nikon Z50 LCD touchscreen is very responsive and lets you select settings, set autofocus points, and swipe and pinch to zoom when previewing images.
The LCD screen also can flip down so you can see yourself when taking a selfie or filming a vlog. This is a feature that seems great at first – until you realize you can’t see the LCD screen if the camera is attached to a tripod. Ideally, the LCD screen would flip out to the side as it does on most Canon and Panasonic mirrorless cameras.
Speaking of selfies, I used the Z50 to snap a few family group portraits where I had to set the camera on a timer and run to be a part of them. A useful feature was the self-timer setting that included the option to take up to 9 photos in a row. This is so helpful in group settings when you will inevitably have closed eyes or goofy faces in some shots.
The Nikon Z50 comes with hybrid (phase and contrast detection) autofocus (AF) with 209 AF points. It also includes Eye AF and Subject Tracking. When paired with its 11 frames-per-second continuous shooting mode, this makes for a decent portrait and sports photography camera, in theory.
In practice, the autofocus performed decently, but still pales in comparison to other cameras, namely Sony, which is still king of autofocus. However, this is only a negative point for shooting fast-moving subjects. When working with still or slow subjects, the Z50’s autofocus is generally good.
I found the camera performed the best when left in single-point autofocus, where I could select the focus point myself. Word of caution – there is not a joystick for autofocus point selection. Instead, use the wheel or touchscreen.
With the inclusion of extra auto modes and a flip screen, this is a camera geared toward influencers and those wanting to post photos and videos to social media.
Luckily, the Nikon Z50 is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, making it easy to transfer media to your phone. All you need to do is download the SnapBridge app to your phone and enable the Wi-Fi connection on the camera.
When using a Samsung Galaxy S10, photo transfer was very fast and intuitive; video transfer took a bit longer, which is understandable considering the larger size of video files.
Another cool feature is the ability to use your smartphone as a remote monitor to control the Z50. This function also worked very seamlessly.
When it comes to colors and image sharpness, the Nikon Z50 does not disappoint. For those who gripe about Sony color science, you won’t be disappointed with Nikon’s. Photos are great as JPGs straight out the camera, but you can also shoot in RAW format for more flexibility when editing photos in post-production.
As an APS-C camera, the Z50 does not have the best low light performance when compared to a full-frame camera. However, images captured at ISO 6400 are acceptable with just mild color speckles and image grain.
For those interested in filming, here is a quick Nikon Z50 review of the video features. Just like its big brothers, the Z7 and Z6, the Z50 can film in up to 4K30p resolution, plus 120fps slow motion at 1080p.
However, this can be slightly alleviated if shooting with a lens that has VR (vibration reduction). Note that VR on lenses must be enabled via the Optical VR setting in the camera as the lenses do not have a VR switch.
The Z50 comes with both an Interval Timer Shooting Mode and a Timelapse Movie Mode. Both of these settings result in a timelapse, but the former will produce individual images that you must edit and stitch together in post-production.
Meanwhile, Timelapse Movie Mode automatically creates a timelapse video in-camera, and it is a wonderful feature that is very easy to use.
While the Z50 has a mic jack for attaching an external microphone, it lacks a headphone jack for simultaneously monitoring audio.
In terms of ports, the Z50 has only two: a micro HDMI port for adding an external monitor or viewing media on a TV, and a micro USB port for charging. It’s puzzling why a micro USB port was added instead of a USB-C port, but very helpful in that you can charge the camera via a wall plug or external battery.
If you are on the market for a beginner-friendly mirrorless camera, you have a LOT of options out there. As of January 2020, the Nikon Z50 is the newest of them all, and it offers many of the same features you’ll find on other similar cameras.
While it is not the best camera when it comes to features like autofocus, it is still a very capable camera that will give you high-quality stills and video in a small form factor. Its usability is also very intuitive, and its extra auto settings will get you up and shooting fairly quickly, even if you are a photography novice.
If you have any Nikon F-mount lenses, the Z50 is a great option, since you can use those lenses with the FTZ adapter. Even if you don’t have any lenses, the two optional DX kit lenses are a great deal and result in an ultra-lightweight kit with a flexible zoom range.
I hope you enjoyed this Nikon Z50 review. Please leave any thoughts or questions in the comments below!
Bonus video: The Nikon Z50 review.