The new Nikon Zfc proves that classic camera brands still have one great superpower that trumps megapixels, image quality or specs: nostalgia.
With a photographic history stretching back to the late 1940s and the golden age of film cameras, Nikon relies on almost limitless heritage reserves – and it has harnessed those archives again with the new Nikon Zfc.
The Zfc is a modern reinvention of the 1982 Nikon FM2 SLR (see below), a popular film camera that fully deserves its classic status. But just as well executed, the retro styling trick has already been achieved by Fujifilm and Olympus – and on paper, the Nikon Zfc still lacks a bit compared to its rivals.
It’s important not to be too obsessed with the specifications of cameras like the Nikon Zfc. After all, this is a mid-range mirrorless camera for beginners or Nikon fans who want a fun companion for street or travel photography.
The Zfc isn’t really underpowered either – it’s actually a Nikon Z50 in different clothes, meaning you get the combination of the same 20.9 MP DX sensor and the same Expeed processor. 6, as well as new tricks like Eye AF both in video and still images.
But the main drawback of the Zfc is its lens options. Despite the arrival of two new lenses with the new camera from Nikon, the number of native options for Z-series cameras with DX sensors (in other words, the Zfc and Z50) is not in full swing. reality than three.
That could improve in the future, but Nikon’s priority remains Z-series full-frame cameras and lenses – and that means the Zfc is unlikely to ever deliver the versatility or affordability of its main rivals.
Nikon would like to point out that the lens options for the Nikon Zfc actually add up to several hundred, when you factor in the ability to adapt older F-mount lenses using the optional FTZ adapter ( $ 249 / Â£ 269 / AU $ 429) or using its full size. Z-mount lens.
And that’s a fair point – if you’ve got older Nikon lenses that you’re looking to use on a retro mirrorless camera, there’s no doubt that the Zfc is a fantastic new option. But for everyone outside of that niche, the biggest draw will be using modern glass with the latest autofocus powers.
This is possible with lenses like the new Nikkor Z 28mm f / 2.8 SE, which has been designed to match the Zfc. It gives you an equivalent focal length of 42mm on the Zfc (thanks to its cropped DX sensor), making it ideal for portraits and video.
But for now, your main options beyond that, like the Nikkor Z 35mm f / 1.8 S, come with full-frame price tags. And wide-angle glass for photographing things like landscapes is non-existent, as it requires native DX lenses.
To be fair, future owners of the Nikon Zfc are unlikely to be looking to amass a huge collection of lenses. And it is possible that some will see the purchase of a full frame lens as an investment for the future, so that they can use the same lenses when they switch to a full frame body like the Nikon Z6 II later.
But for hobby shooters who want a retro mirrorless body as their primary camera – which is surely Nikon’s primary target audience – the Zfc simply can’t compete with the versatility of rivals Fujifilm and Olympus. And this is where Nikon’s late arrival at the fancy dress party becomes important.
Late to the party
The Zfc isn’t the first time that Nikon has made a retro digital camera. In 2013, he released the Nikon Df (below), a full frame DSLR with retro styling. The Nikon 1 J5, from the ill-fated and now discontinued Nikon 1 series, also flirted with retro flourishes in 2015.
But perhaps scorched by those earlier experiences, this is the first time that Nikon has adopted a vintage look on a modern mirrorless camera. And the problem is, its main rivals Fujifilm and Olympus have been partying in this sleek, retro-paneled bar for years.
The Fujifilm X series, which includes cameras like the Fujifilm X-S10 and Fujifilm X-T4 with the same sensor as the Nikon Zfc, has grown steadily in popularity over the past decade. This means that it has a collection of 32 native lenses and a range of stylish camera bodies – all inspired by old Fujica cameras from the 1980s – for different types of photographers.
And even though the Olympus camera division was sold to an investment fund last year, cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV remain affordable and retro options for beginners or anyone. who are looking for a body suitable for travel. Much of that appeal is, again, the lenses – because the Micro Four Thirds system has been built simultaneously by two manufacturers (Panasonic and Olympus) for many years, the lens choices are unmatched.
For Fujifilm and Olympus, that means their Nikon Zfc counterparts mainly have two lens options at each focal length – a compact and affordable and a brighter and larger one for bokeh fans. This is important, because buying a camera is as much about choosing the right lenses as it is about the body itself.
The choice is good
It’s not just about the lenses either. Because Fujifilm doesn’t have a line of full-frame cameras to push photographers towards, it is able to do everything on APS-C models like the Fujifilm X-S10.
The X-S10 ($ 999 / Â£ 949 / AU $ 1,699, body only) is almost the same price as the Nikon Zfc, but comes with the major benefit of In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), a handy feature for both stills and video shooting, and a large grip for balancing longer lenses. The latter means it’s a slightly different proposition from the Zfc, but the X-S10 also offers modern mirrorless shooting power with old-fashioned dials and controls.
None of this makes the Nikon Zfc a case of style rather than substance, and we need to test it fully before giving our final verdict. But the lens situation and the strength of established rivals in this space are certainly hurdles to overcome before attracting non-Nikon fans.
On the flip side, it’s great to see more choices in affordable cameras below the many full frame choices available. Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic have all naturally focused on full-frame cameras in recent years as the enthusiast market has shrunk. And we had been concerned that Nikon would abandon the DX-format part of its Z series, only the Nikon Z50 having arrived in the last two years.
But the Nikon Zfc is a marker of its intention to grow in space. And the Zfc’s design is a classic that will appeal to both those who remember the mechanical simplicity of SLRs like the Nikon FM2, and others who simply admire its distinct personality. We look forward to field testing the Nikon Zfc and seeing more in the wild.