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Nikon Zf: Well Done Nikon, Retro is the “Innovation” that Will Boost Your Sales, but…


So, the Nikon Zf is out and originally I did not want to make any article about it.

But since the buzz is big and many headlines compare it to Fujifilm’s retro approach (like our Italian friends at Promirrolress here that gave it the headline: “the Nikon Zf makes Fujifilm tremble“), I thought to launch a dedicated article mainly so that you guys can discuss about it in the comments.

My comment?

In short: I love what Nikon did with the Nikon Zf, even though there are reasons I still consider Fujifilm the better pick.

What Nikon did right

The problem is this:

Pretty much all mid and higher end mirrorless cameras you can buy today are excellent.

At the same time, there is not much innovation anymore in terms of sensors. The last big jump was achieved with the stacked sensor. Since then, we are still waiting for the next big thing (global shutter?), but that “big thing” seems to be still far away.

So the question is: what could motivate people to buy a new camera, if what they have is already so good and the new gear does not really bring groundbreaking new specs to the table?

Is a 20% faster sensor readout or a 10% higher autofocus accuracy really a reason to upgrade gear?

I don’t think so.

But what could work as a much bigger motivation to upgrade than a slightly faster sensor readout is to offer a completely different photographic experience over the mainstream thanks to dedicated dials, retro look and feel, vintage manual controls.

Because even if the camera might be identical in terms of specs to many other cameras, it will still be able to offer something completely different thanks to the retro approach.

Also, in times where camera companies have to find ways to draw younger generations into their systems, the retro style could be paradoxically something that achieves exactly that goal, as we can see from the terrific success of the Fujifilm X100V.

That’s why I believe the Nikon Zf will become a terrific success. It is the one thing that sets it apart from all other Nikon Z cameras (except for the Nikon Zfc of course).

Nikon Zf or Fujifilm?

The Nikon Zf uses the same 24MP sensor of the Nikon Z6II. And we know from Photons to Photos dynamic range measurements data, that it is marginally better in terms of dynamic range over the 40MP Fujifilm X-H2 with X-Trans sensor (Z6II has a PDR of 11.26 vs X-H2 a PDR of 10.75).

But that’s actually not the point.

Other aspects are more relevant. The Nikon Zf has:

  • no joystick
  • no dual UHS-II card slot
  • no awesome film simulations
  • lenses without aperture ring
  • less megapixel than X-T5
  • more than 30% heavier than my X-T5 (plus the bigger full frame lenses, without aperture ring)
  • overall the X-T5 has better specs for stills and video (full specs comparison here)
  • fully articulating screen (I am not a fan of it)
  • more expensive than X-T5

Now these are just a few things that make the Nikon Zf not a temptation for me. But for many others these might not be an issue at all.

I am not bashing on the Nikon Zf. On the contrary, I applaud and welcome it, and it is the first camera from another brand that actually grabs my interest for more than just 5 minutes. ;).

I believe the Nikon Zf will become a terrific success. And I certainly wish it to Nikon. More vintage cameras on the market are always welcome and refreshing over the plethora of PSAM dial cameras out there.

Well done Nikon!