Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Very good image quality
  • Excellent dynamic range
  • Good video quality
  • Comfortable, well-placed controls
  • Plenty of customization
  • Rapid stills/video switching
  • USB charging
  • Fairly simple Wi-Fi image transfer
  • Many functions have good explanatory text if you press the '?' button
  • AF Tracking will occasionally drift off the intended subject
  • Autofocus features seem poorly integrated and slower to operate
  • Lens availability / reliance on adapted lenses may be limiting
  • Middling battery life
  • No touchpad control of AF point with camera to your eye
  • Lack of in-body stabilization may be limiting, especially for video

Overall conclusion

The Z50 is a really impressive addition to the mid-price camera sector. It brings a lot of Nikon D7500-level capability to a camera priced more like a D5600, immediately making it a credible contender in one of the most hotly-contested parts of the market.

There's a lot to like about the Z50: the ergonomics and user interface are generally very good, making it an engaging and enjoyable camera to shoot with. Its video capability is also very good, with the option to have video settings that match or diverge from your stills settings, depending on how you want to shoot.

Out of camera JPEG
Nikkor Z 24mm F1.8 S | ISO 100 | 1/800 sec | F7.1
Photo: Richard Butler

Battery life is on the low side but USB charging makes it easy to stay topped-up, so it's not too much of an issue. We're still not convinced it's the beginners' camera that Nikon (US) is promoting it as - there's little sign of it being any easier to use than any of its rivals - but for an enthusiast photographer, it's a pleasure to use.

There are two main areas of weakness for the Z50. Autofocus performance is generally good and competitive with all but the best of its peers, but the way the AF system is implemented is clumsy and a little slower to operate than most of its rivals. We've found ourselves stopping to change AF settings to match our subject far more often than we do on its competitors.

The Z50 can shoot beautiful images, if the lenses you need are available
Nikkor Z 24mm F1.8 S | ISO 100 | 1/2000 sec | F3.2
Photo: Richard Butler

Our bigger concern, though, is lens availability. The kit lens and its telephoto counterpart are small, convenient and work well, but keen photographers may find them a little unexciting. It's up to each such user to decide whether they're happy to adapt DSLR lenses or buy expensive full-frame Z-mount optics in anticipation of using them on a different body, one day. There's nothing on Nikon's current roadmap to suggest this situation will change in the near term.

For us, this would be the deciding factor. If the lenses you want are available at a price (financially or in terms of bulk) you're comfortable with, or the kit lens does all you need, the Z50 is right up there with the very best in its class. But as the kind of enthusiast users the camera arguably works best for, we found this to be limiting. And this, as much as the AF quirks, keeps it from receiving our top award.


What we think


Carey Rose
Editor

The Nikon Z50 is, like all Nikon's Z cameras, a masterpiece of ergonomics. It's a great camera to just get out and take pictures with. The autofocus implementation can be improved via firmware, and I'd love to see a Z equivalent of the fantastic F-mount 35mm F1.8 DX lens.


Compared to its peers:

The thing we like most about the Canon EOS M6 II is something it has in common with the Z50: comfortable, straightforward ergonomics and a generally well-sorted user interface. The Canon's AF features are better integrated but there's not much of a performance gap. The Nikon, conversely is the better video camera, with a bit of an edge in both usability and quality. But there are more lenses that match the M6 II, which gives it the edge, for now.

The Fujifilm X-T30 is another serious contender. We find its controls a little cramped, which made the Nikon nicer to shoot with. The Nikon's AF performance is perhaps a touch better but both cameras have some AF operational quirks (we're hoping the X-T30 gains the X-Pro3's improvements). The X-T30 would still be our choice for video, in terms of detail and color, as well as having a headphone option and Log capture. It also has probably the most comprehensive APS-C lens range.

The Sony a6400 has the best AF system in its class, both in terms of performance and operation, so is the best choice if you frequently shoot active subjects. But it's also the weakest in its class in terms of ergonomics and is also saddled with our least-favorite kit lens. The Nikon is the better video camera in most regards. However, while we prefer shooting with the Nikon, Sony's E-mount provides a wider choice of lenses if you're buying a camera today.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 III is more expensive but offers weather sealing and really impressive image stabilization. Its autofocus performance is off the pace, but it's a likable photographers' camera. Finally, Panasonic's Lumix DC-G9 has been reduced in price to a similar level. It's got an impressive spec, really good video and, like the Olympus, access to the widest range of designed-for-mirrorless lenses. It's mainly its size-to-image-quality ratio that looks awkward, when lined up against the smaller Nikon.


Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Nikon Z50
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Z50 is a capable and comfortable camera to use, for a wide range of photography. The autofocus system is a little more awkward than it needs to be, but generally it's a hugely competitive camera. If the lenses you want to use exist, it should be on your list of cameras to consider.
Good for
Travel and everyday photography.
Not so good for
Landscapes and high resolution imagery. Team sports.
85%
Overall score