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Nikon Z5 vs Nikon DSLR

Nikon Z5 vs Nikon DSLR

Nikon has launched the Nikon Z5 – a 24-megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera mistakenly identified as an entry-level full-frame camera. In reality, the Nikon Z5 is perhaps the first mirrorless camera good enough to tempt you to ditch your Nikon D750 and F-Mount and cross the neutral zone towards the Z-mount.

To illustrate why the Z5 is a little bit special, here are 5 reasons why the Z5 will do to the DLSLR what the DSLR did to film. Jump to Conclusion

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1. The Nikon Z5 records 4k

DSLRs are not great options for video. But the smaller, cheaper Nikon Z5 is. In fact, it will record your cat’s look of contempt in glorious 4K at 30 frames per second for up to 29 minutes albeit with a large 1.7x crop.

Whilst you might feel indifferent towards video, at least it comes cheap on the Nikon Z5. And you never know, you might just like it.

Nikon Z5 mirrorless camera

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2. The Nikon Z5 has 2 Card slots

Cards do and will fail, it’s only a matter of time.

If you are lucky, you will retire your memory card before it fails. On the other hand, you might lose all your holiday pictures or find yourself explaining to some newlyweds why their wedding photos are gone forever.

Like cars and breath mints, you can live without dual card slots but let’s be thankful we don’t have to.

Furthermore, the Z5 is satisfied with chewing on normal, affordable SD cards. As a result, you get to use the SD cards you’ve already bought for your Digital SLR. Boom.

3. The Nikon Z mount vs F mount

As a Nikon DSLR owner, you live with the inconvenient truth that whatever F mount lens you buy next is going to be superseded by a superior Z mount equivalent. Not not only will your precious F-mount glass be superseded, but its value will depreciate faster than that of an open carton of greek yogurt.

Alternatively, you can spare yourself the pain and leap onto the Z bandwagon.

While it’s hard to come to terms with the inevitable demise of the F-mount, you know the Z mount is better and that optical physics would never, ever, lie to you.

See best lenses full-frame lenses for Nikon F Mount and the best DX lenses for F Mount.

Nikon Z lens Roadmap
Where is the 70-200mm F4?

4. Nikon Z Autofocus Coverage far superior to DSLR

The Nikon Z system’s track record on autofocus has hardly been a home run given the CoolPix inspired ergonomics and unreliable performance.

However, after a series of firmware improvements, the Z cameras are good enough for most applications and will corrupt you with perks such as eye detection and Pet AF.

Above all, you will appreciate the Z5’s AF coverage. With AF points covering 90% of the frame, the Z5 absolutely spanks the best full-frame DSLRs.

Finally, the days of cropping your way to a decent composition are over.

Nikon D750 vs Z5 autofocus coverage
AF Coverage: Nikon Z5 mirrorless camera vs Nikon D750 DSLR

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5. The Nikon Z5 has In-body Image Stabilization (IBIS)

Although Nikon has been building its VR (Vibration reduction system) into its zoom and telephoto lenses for more than a decade, prime lenses have been left to the mercy of the reciprocal rule.

Indeed, if you want a fast, stabilized prime for your Nikon DSLR, you pretty much have to buy a Tamron. Learn how to avoid camera shake with the Reciprocal Rule

For IBIS-deprived DSLR owners, shooting primes in poor light often means a tripod and/or high ISOs. But no longer. So long as you buy the ludicrously overpriced FtZ adapter – all your (modern) F-mount lenses will exploit the Z5’s IBIS system for up to 5-stops worth of stabilization.

This means you will be able to keep your shutter speed fast, your ISO low, and your photo’s image quality high. Great!

Nikon AF-S 105mm F2.8 Macro
Nikon can put VR into high-quality primes such as the AF-S 105 F2.8 VR

6. The Nikon Z5 launch price

It’s amazing that the Nikon Z5, released in 2020, features the same release price as 2014’s Nikon D750. In a market where prices continue to inflate, the Z5 provides some welcome respite. Read Nikon D750 Review

Missed opportunities

Unfortunately, the Nikon Z5 falls short of perfect. Here are three things that aren’t so great.

1. The Nikon Z5 shoots slower versus the Nikon D750

Since the Nikon D750 was marketed as a semi-sports camera, it’s reasonable to assume a portion of Nikon D750 owners bought into the 6.5 fps continuous drive.

However, the Z5 slows to 4.5 fps and for no technically apparent reason. Given the Nikon Z5 can be considered, in spirit, the mirrorless successor to the Nikon D750, it’s a shame it surrenders a measure of superiority to the six-year-old DSLR. Should you buy a Nikon D750.

The Nikon Z5 gives further ground to the 2014 Nikon D750 by excluding the top screen and lockable mode dial. To be fair, the Nikon D750 remains an outstanding camera even by 2021 standards.

Nikon D750
A modern classic. The Nikon D750.

2. Why does it cost so much to go from FtZ?

Considering the Z5’s potential for baiting Nikon DSLR owners, it would have made sense to bundle in the FtZ adapter free.

On its own, the FtZ is a ludicrously overpriced option and its absence presents on-the-fence F mount customers another reason to stick with their existing gear. Nikon ought to include the adapter with the Z5 or at least sell it separately for a more reasonable price in the interest of removing barriers.

3. The Nikon Z 24-50mm F4-6.3

I actually quite like the Nikon Z 24-50mm F4-6.3, it seems ideal for the days where fidelity can give way to portability. However, including as a kit lens with the Nikon 24-50mm has a few problems.

To illustrate, let us say you don’t care that the F6.3 aperture makes blurring backgrounds difficult. Nor do you mind that such a dim aperture affects focus speed and drives up ISO, therefore, diminishing image quality as a result. Read about ISO.

If this is how you feel, then perhaps a full-frame is not for you and you’d be better off with something smaller, lighter, and cheaper such as the Nikon Zfc. Read about the Nikon Zfc

On the other hand, if you seek full-frame performance, you might be more inspired by the outstanding 24-70mm F4. Yet, the 24-70mm F4 is not a kit option for the Nikon Z5.

Of course, you can always buy a body-only Z5 and get the 24-70mm as a separate package. Yet doing so will cost you the same as buying the Z6 mk1 24-70mm kit.

And this is problematic for two reasons. First, some would-be customers will be opposed to paying Z6 money for a Z5. And second, some customers such as myself would not buy a Z6 at all thanks to the single card slot.

Kit lens for Nikon Z mirrorless Cameras
The Nikon 24-70mm made a massive statement for Z mount providing performance exceeding the more exotic Nikon AF-S 24-70mm F2.8 series.

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Should you buy a Nikon Z5

Though the Nikon Z5 misses out on the top screen, has a lockable mode dial, and suffers a Nikon D90 (2008) grade 4.5 fps shooting speed, the Z5 offers amazing value.

Its positioning as an affordable, entry-level full-frame camera is dubious since full-frame is hardly entry-level or affordable. Those who would be entirely satisfied with the Z5’s kit lens would be wasting full frame’s greatest assets and would likely be equally well served by a smaller, cheaper camera such as the Nikon Zfc. Is full-frame worth it?

In terms of seducing Nikon DSLR owners, the Nikon Z5 has an audience. Unfortunately, the lens that made such a big statement in regards to the potential of the Nikon Z mount is not a kit option.

Perhaps Nikon can put together a transition kit featuring a Z5, the sublime 24-70mm F4, and the FtZ adapter. Although Nikon might lose a little profit, at least they will have someone to sell all those upcoming Z lenses to and be closer to ditching the liability and expense of supporting two lens mounts.

To return to the original question as to whether the Z5 is a true, effective DSLR alternative, the answer is certainly yes. Although the Z series falls shorts in ways that will affect some, its advantages will appeal to many.

If you are thinking about buying a D750, D780, or one of the last D610s, you really ought to think twice. Despite some minor flaws in specifications and packaging, the Z5 is just a nudge away from being the perfect product to drag Nikon’s DSLR faithful over to Z land.

Are you a Nikon DSLR owner interested in the Z mirrorless system? Which camera would you buy?

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Buy a Nikon Z5

2 thoughts on “Nikon Z5 vs Nikon DSLR”

  1. I bought a Z5.
    It has an intermittent fault. I switch on. It overexposes (the EVF is virtually white). I switch it off and back on and it exposes correctly. Nikon of course says there’s nothing wrong even though I sent them the images.
    The animal eye AF is poor. It misses focus on my (white) dog when lying down. My D7500 smokes it. A D500 would keel over laughing.
    It’s a shame. Ergonomically it’s as good as my D7500 and I like only needing 2 landscape lenses (14-30 and 24-200).
    But otherwise I’m underwhelmed. Perhaps I should’ve bought a used Z6?

    1. I’ve never encountered your over-exposure issue and it definitely sounds like a fault. As for autofocus, Nikon seems to have nailed it with the Z9 with the return of DSLR-style 3D tracking. I’m looking forward to the Z6iii and 75ii.

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