An interesting thing happened right before the Nikon Z 50 camera arrived at my house: all of society shut down due to a global pandemic. Since the plan was to take the Z 50 with me when I traveled, which I typically did a lot before the quarantine, I wound up having to make some adjustments. And I can now state, without hyperbole and from my own personal experience, that the Z 50 is more than enough camera for your everyday, around-the-home needs.
Need to take a photo of the carpet you want to replace in your bathroom? Turn on the Z 50. Gotta send the roofing guy a photo of that leak? The Z 50 will get it done. Is there a hummingbird flitting about that hummingbird feeder you just installed? Grab that Z 50—but do it very quietly.
It’s even perfect for taking pointless and unnecessarily arty photographs of the Boston terrier paint-by-numbers your wife hung on the wall.
Yes, the Z 50 is up to the shutdown challenge. It’s also clearly cut out for quite a bit more, and hopefully one day I’ll get to experience that for myself, once this virus has subsided and society has truly reopened.
Let’s dig into the details. The Z 50 is Nikon’s first mirrorless camera targeted at regular customers—meaning people who aren’t professional photographers, but who are just looking for a great, easy-to-use camera with high quality images for their regular daily lives. Perhaps, like me, you’re looking to maximize your vacation photos. Maybe you’re an influencer hoping to give your Instagram game a jolt, or own your own business and don’t want to pay for pro-quality photographs. Or maybe you’re simply looking for a camera to capture the notable events in your family’s lives.
The Z 50 is full of the basic features you expect from a camera in 2020, but with pro-level specs at an affordable price. Yes, it can handle both still photography and video. Its 20.9 megapixels won’t blow the top performers away, but it’s more than enough for non-professionals. It can record video in 4K UHD up to 30 frames per second, or in Full HD up to 120 fps, and it also has a viewscreen that can flip down into a convenient “selfie” mode; that all makes it ideal for upgrading your YouTube vlog past the smartphone stage. It uses regular SD cards, so you won’t have to hunt down some annoying proprietary storage. It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, making it easy to connect directly to your computer. It works well in low-light situations, and with 11 fps continuous shooting you’ll be able to capture sudden movements and other high-speed situations.
It’s also really light. I was taking photos in my front yard (not the furthest I’ve gone during a pandemic, but definitely more interesting than Kroger or the CVS drive thru) and barely felt the Z 50 dangling around my neck between shots. Its compact form factor makes it not just easy to hold onto but can shave off a little bit of time when you’re hurrying to get a shot—like when those hummingbirds float by your feeder.
If you follow cameras, you’re probably familiar with Nikon’s Z line. Nikon launched its Z lens mount in 2018 with a couple of heavy duty, pro-grade cameras, the Z 6 and Z 7. The Z 50 offers comparable quality but at a much lower price. If you already own a Z 6 or 7, and want something less valuable for day-to-day use, you’ll be happy to hear that the Z-mount makes using the lens you already own a snap. Literally: they can just snap onto the Z 50, without an adapter.
Those are the big points in the Z 50’s favor. It takes high-level images, it’s relatively affordable compared to other cameras of the same quality, and it’s surprisingly flexible. It’s one of the best cameras on the market when it comes to offering pro-level performance at an attainable price. It’s still not cheap, but you can pick up the camera itself for under $900, and find bundles online with different peripherals for a price that’s often lower than the base unit of its closest competitors. It’s a shame I still haven’t been able to take it overseas with me—or even just to a theme park (uh, I like theme parks)—but given its reasonable price and rich suite of features I’ve still gotten my use out of the thing. And one day, when the time is right, it’ll help me capture my voyages in gorgeous fidelity.
Until then, here are some photos from around my house. And apologies in advance: I am merely a hobbyist, with no professional photography training, experience or aspirations.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.