The Nikon Z fc is a retro-inspired mirrorless camera that made balding middle-aged men like myself feel all warm and fuzzy inside when it was announced. I mean look at it. It’s beautiful. It reminds me of cameras I used when I was a little snapper. However, the question we need to ask is, is the Z fc more than just a pretty face?
- It looks stunning
- Image quality
- Fully articulating screen
- Good autofocus
- Under $1,000
- Terrible ergonomics
- Below average build quality
- 1/4000 max shutter speed
- Mediocre battery life
- One card slot
- No support for UHS-II
Nikon Z fc — Technical specifications
All technical specifications are from the product listing page at B&H Photo:
- Sensor: APS-C 20.9-megapixel
- ISO: 100 to 51200
- Max shutter: 1/4000 to 30 Second
- Continuous shooting: Up to 11 fps
- Autofocus points: Phase detection 209
- Viewfinder: OLED 2.36m dot w/100% coverage
- LCD: 3 inches,1.04m dot angle tilting touchscreen
- Memory card: Single UHS-I
- Connectivity: USB Type-C, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
- Battery: Approx. 300 Shots
- Dimensions (W x H x D) 5.3 x 3.7 x 1.8″ / 13.5 x 9.4 x 4.6 cm
- Weight 0.85lbs / 390 g (Body Only)
Ergonomics and build quality
First the good. The Nikon Z fc is gorgeous. Team yellow knocked the retro-inspired look out of the park. The top panel is adorned with vintage-styled dials that control your shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation. You’ll also find a video record button, an on/off switch and a tiny LCD that shows your current aperture. The front of the camera houses the aperture dial, a customizable button, and the mount release.
The back is dominated by the fully articulating touchscreen LCD. The screen is flanked on the right by a control pad, a quick menu button, zoom in/out, display and menu buttons. Just above the screen are controls for playback, the EVF/LCD toggle, the A-EL button and a dial that can also control your shutter speed. The left side of the camera is home to the USB-C connecter, a micro-HDMI port and mic input. The SD card slot is in the battery compartment
I let out an audible sigh when I first picked up the Nikon Z fc. I’m not sure what to say other than the camera feels disappointing. There are plasticky feeling cameras and then there’s the Nikon Z fc. It feels beyond cheap.
The plastic feels low in quality. The fake leatherette looks gaudy and offers no resistance, the dials, despite looking like a million dollars, feel like they cost pennies on the dollar. There’s also no weather sealing. I would urge you to use this camera with a strap. I’m not sure it would survive its first drop. I understand this camera is less than $1,000, but the Z fc feels hollow and lifeless. What happened Nikon? Sigh.
Unfortunately, the bad gets worse. While the Nikon Z fc is pure camera porn (look at it — it’s beyond sexy), unfortunately, it handles like a tub of lard. Honestly, the Nikon Z fc feels terrible in the hand. It’s quite possibly the worst camera I have held for many years.
You’re forced to use a death grip because the camera is slick and there’s no grip to wrap your fingers around. There’s not even a thumb rest on the back for support. The camera isn’t very tall, so you have to bend your pinky finger under the camera. You’ll find yourself digging the camera into the palm of your hand so you can get some purchase on it and then you have to contort your fingers to reach the controls.
After 15-20 minutes you’ll start feeling your hand and fingers cramping. It makes using the camera incredibly unpleasant. I’m disappointed that Nikon valued looks over function. I’ve used plenty of cameras that are styled like the Z fc and thoroughly enjoyed them. Nikon missed the mark here.
Nikon Z fc — Ease of use
The Nikon Z fc is an easy enough camera to use if you take out the issues with the ergonomics. The vintage dials allow you to see and change your ISO and shutter speed quickly. If you don’t like using the dials you can set the shutter dial to 1/3 stop and then use the rear control wheel on the camera. You can’t, however, re-assign ISO control. You have to use the ISO dial for that.
Nikon menus are easy to navigate and follow. They are also touch compatible. The Z fc, unfortunately, doesn’t have IBIS so keep this in mind. Both the LCD and the EVF are decent. The 2.36 million dot EVF is sharp and plenty large enough, while the 1.04m dot LCD gets bright and can be seen in direct light. One downside is the shutter’s ability to only go up to 1/4000s.
The buffer performance isn’t great, partly because this camera uses UHS-I cards. The camera can shoot at 11 frames per second. I rattled off 33 RAW+JPEG files before the buffer was filled. The buffer then took 20 seconds to clear. Battery life is mediocre at best. I managed to capture just under 400 images and then the battery ran dry. Overall ease of use is severely let down by the ergonomics. I used the Z fc with a small 28mm f/2.8 prime. I shudder to think what it would feel like with a beefier lens.
Nikon Z fc — Autofocus performance
The Nikon Z fc has autofocus performance that will be adequate for most enthusiast photographers. In good light, the Z fc was plenty fast to shift from near to far focus and performed decently when tracking objects. I used it on a photowalk and it was fine for street photography, which is what a camera like this is designed for.
However, when the light got low the autofocus system slowed down and I experienced quite a bit of hunting. I used the Z fc to do some product photography and it struggled to obtain focus a few times on a stationary target. It’s not the worst camera I’ve used when it comes to autofocus, but It’s not the best either. I think for its intended audience the Nikon Z fc should do just fine as long as the light is in your favor.
Nikon Z fc — Image quality
I haven’t used a Nikon Z camera yet that has disappointed me when it comes to image quality. Fortunately, image quality is a highlight of this 20.9-megapixel camera. Not surprisingly I found that the Z fc produces images with colors that lean more toward the blue and green end of the color spectrum, but that images were nicely detailed. Let’s break it down below.
Dynamic range and RAW files
The dynamic range of a 20.9-megapixel APS-C sensor isn’t going to be groundbreaking. Still, having said that, the Nikon Z fc does produce RAW files that have a fair amount of play in them. I overexposed the image above to see how much detail I could recover in the highlights. I was able to salvage a little detail in the sky.
The Nikon Z fc performs better when it comes to bringing back details in the shadows. As you can see, this image was underexposed and I was able to draw quite a bit of detail back. However, be careful when you push these files as noise does come into play fairly early on. Overall, the dynamic range level is good but not great. Try to get it right in-camera with the Z fc and don’t rely on pushing things too hard during processing.
The JPEGs that the Z fc produces are quite nice. Images are detailed, and there’s not much sharpening or noise reduction applied. There are a few image profiles to play with including some unique ones like Toy, Carbon, Binary, Melancholic as well as more standard color profiles. I’d be more than happy to take the JPEGs and share them instantly on social media.
High ISO performance
In short, the Nikon Z fc is one of the best APS-C cameras (along with the Z 50) when it comes to high ISO. You can shoot up to ISO 12,800 and not worry about a thing. After that point, you will start to lose some fine detail and color noise begins.
Still, even up to ISO 25,600 images are more than acceptable. I have included multiple images of the same scene above from ISO 8,000 up to ISO 51,200. Just click the image and the EXIF data will pop up.
Nikon Z fc — Oh, what could’ve been
The Nikon Z fc is a camera that I was genuinely excited about when I first heard about it. I knew that performance wise it would be on par with the Nikon Z 50, which is no bad thing as that camera impressed me when I reviewed it. I knew the images would be great, and that autofocus performance would be good enough. In terms of performance, the Nikon Z fc checks the boxes it needed to check. The problem is that the ergonomics leave a bad taste in your mouth.
If you’re interested in the Nikon Z fc I would urge you to get your hands on one to see if you get along with the ergonomics, or rather, the lack of them. Pick one up and see if you can live with the hollow, cheap-feeling body before you drop just under $1,000 on one.
The Nikon Z fc is a novelty camera that was made as fan service. In going after looks, Nikon seemed to forget about the user experience, and because of this, I wouldn’t recommend the Z fc to anyone who wants a camera that will serve them well.
Nikon Z fc
The Nikon Z fc is a retro-inspired mirrorless camera that features a 20.9-megapixel sensor that can deliver charming images. With a good EVF and a fully articulating LCD, the Z fc is suited to both photographers and videographers who want to turn heads when they’re out and about creating their next masterpiece.