Report: Nikon Z fc

Richard Haw (Facebook | Twitter) published a very nice and detailed report on the new Nikon Z fc camera:

Hello, everybody! Do you remember the movie “Misery“? It’s Kathy Bate’s best performance in my opinion, a masterful portrayal of a psycho. Her ability to change her acting at-will is disturbing to watch because you don’t know which side of the character to expect in the next cut. It’s not an easy job, the only other actor I know of who could do this without any effort is Anthony Wong (黃秋生) in his several roles as a psycho. Today, I’ll show you something that’s able to shift its character at-will, is it a modern, high-performance camera or is it a hobby-camera for those who wants to shoot at their own pace? It’s both and it does either really well.

Introduction:

The Nikon Z fc was recently announced and the response was overwhelming in the sense that it’s mostly positive. Many people are expecting a replacement for the well-loved Nikon Df but we got something else instead, not quite like it but it’s close enough. It’s tiny since it’s based on the Nikon Z50 which is a tiny DXcamera, the decision to go with DX is not something many people expected nor embraced but I guess there’s a reason for this. Its performance and looks turned most of its critics around and it looks like Nikon has another hit. In this article I will give you my impressions about this exciting camera and I will mostly focus on the context of shooting with it using manual lenses because this site centers around enjoying older equipment. This is not a review at all despite what the title says so don’t take all of my opinions as truth.

I like how this camera handles, the design-language is familiar to all who have used a Nikon so you it won’t take time before your fingers get familiar with its controls. I held it and I immediately got myself going, taking photos in no time at all. A Nikkor 24mm f/2 Ai-S is a nice partner for it as it offers you a field-of-view that’s similar to 36mm. Since it’s DX it works more like an f/3 lens with it.

Since it’s based from the Nikon Z50 most of they’re specs are identical apart from a few things. If you’re curious about the specs just read the complete specs in this link. It appears that Nikon is pushing for this, there are several new lenses that were announced along with it and most of them are small and we’re finally seeing some new DX lenses, too. It was also announced with the new NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 which has a special-edition version wherein it comes with a barrel that makes it look like an Ai-S Nikkor.

The main LCD flips to the side, enabling you to see yourself while you use it. This is great for content creators, they will be able to take selfies or see what they(re actually recording when making cooking videos or whatever. The screen also flips, allowing you to display a bare-back that’s covered in leatherette. This helps protect the LCD and it also helps you get immersed into the whole “film” experience despite not actually shooting with a film camera. Another nice touch is the round eyepiece which has an adjustable diopter, without it this camera wouldn’t look as sexy.

When shooting with an F-mount lens you will need an adapter, making the setup rather long. This is a “dumb” adapter which means that there’s no electronics, a Nikon FTZ will allow some communication with your electronic F-mount lens but it won’t do anything for a manual one except record the focal-length and maximum-aperture, that’s all. It’s better than having nothing at all as in the case of a “dumb” adapter.

Despite added length it’s still a compact setup, a native Z-mount is best as you could get the most out of it. The newer tiny lenses that were announced along with it should give you a small, light setup for travel or work.

Let’s see some of the mockups leading to the final form. Like all Nikons it underwent a series of refinements, small-or-big, all details were accounted-for such as position, shape and tilt of the buttons. For this one another consideration is its covering because it’s meant to connect to Nikon’s rich heritage.

Here are a few mockups. The ability to use a 3D printer speeds the whole process of fabricating dummies. I used to be a scale modeler and I can tell you that it takes a lot of time in order to create something precise and consistent. This is a great technology that everyone in manufacturing embraced in order to be more efficient.

If you have a keen-eye you’ll notice that some of the details are different between these mockups. Small details like the shapes and sizes of the record button, hot-shoe mount and the shape of the apron appears to be different. This is how meticulous Nikon is when it comes to these small-things. The reason why these are black and white is to simulate how things look like in all-black or silver I assume.

Here’s the rear-view. It appears that the white mockup is earlier, there are pencil-marks indicating revisions, these were addressed in the black one, you can see that the subtle changes made in the beveling and the shapes or depth of the buttons are different, too. Special attention were made as to the shapes of the levers, even the movie-record button is different between them. If there’s one thing I like about this I’d say it’s how consistent the design is. The other brands’ offerings look “retro” at some parts but then transitions into a weird, rounded shape reminiscent of newer designs. It’s ugly and breaks the silhouette of the camera, it’s neither angular-nor-rounded. If you want to make a wannabe-design that looks “retro” just go all-out instead of doing it halfway.

Since this camera has to look good as a primary directive the choice of materials is important, how it feels when held is a way of communicating the designer’s intent and there were many decisions that were considered in order to give us a premium-feel.

The Nikon Z fc-GR1 extension grip also underwent a few changes as evident in the shapes of the fingers-rest.

Here’s the rear. Notice how the thumb-rest looks different between the mockups and the real thing. I don’t think I will buy this if ever I do buy the camera.

The color, texture and material used for the leatherette were carefully considered, it looks like “scheiße-brown” did not pass the gauntlet.

Each individual leather panel was cut using a die resulting it sharp, precise shapes. This is different from what we’re all used to these days wherein the panels were molded and were made of rubber. It’s significant as you’ll certainly be able to feel it when you hold the camera.

Of course, the feel of the dials are just as important because these are what the users interface with the most.

These scraps are used to test how the texture of the metal feels in either silver or black. It should evoke memories from the days when film was still the only practical medium for photography.

Nikon offers you a service to reskin your camera for a fee. It requires that you send the camera-in for 2 weeks. All of its leatherette panels will be replaced with the type you like apart from the one covering the rear of the LCD. I don’t know why but it may be because the LCD is such a delicate assembly.

How about the camera in pink? It looks cute and I totally like it! I am not insecure about my masculinity so I am able to embrace anything feminine, too. What’s wrong with middle-aged men liking pink?

Here are more shades. This reminds me a lot of how Apple marketed the original iMac back then in the 1990s, that sure did a lot in helping push sales of the then-struggling brand. I hope you could send your own material for them to cut, I would sure want something that has the same pattern as what the older Nikonshave.

That’s it for my first impressions. I liked the camera but I don’t think I will be buying it because I don’t shoot with DX at all. I don’t know but maybe if I gaze long enough the camera will entice me into buying it just because it’s such a great product. It provided the much-needed fanfare in the camera industry since things were starting to become boring. This revives a lot of interest in this field and I was glad to see a lot of young people who are interested in it, the same crowd who would just shoot with an action camera or a camera phone. I hope that this camera helps give the industry a push by attracting the said crowd back into shooting with a real camera.

Here’s a short overview of what I liked about it and what I didn’t.

What’s nice:

  • Great looks, ergonomics and menu.
  • Nice connectivity options.
  • Very responsive unlike the competition.
  • Nice AF performance, it just sticks and is rather smart.
  • Great viewfinder when shooting with manual lenses.
  • Small but well-made, it doesn’t feel cheap at all.
  • Reasonably-priced, at least when compared to other brands.
  • Nice angular body so it’s easy to make custom accessories.
  • The buttons and dials felt nice and tactile.
  • Reversible LCD with plain-looking back.

What I didn’t like:

  • Exposure-compensation dial has no lock, easily-adjustable by accident.
  • Front-dial should have been like the Nikon Df, this one ruined the lines.
  • The shutter-button should have a screw-in attachment hole for release.
  • It would be nice if the thumb-rest looks like an advance-lever.
  • All-black model should be announced.
  • A split-screen feature should have been considered.
  • Toggle for focus-magnification, for other Nikon Z cameras, too.
  • Pathetic, tiny top-LCD only shows aperture value.
  • Customized skin should be free on-order instead of after-market option.

Looks like most of my negative opinions are just pertaining to its design choices and nothing fundamental about how the camera performs, some of these may be implemented through a firmware upgrade, too.

I highly recommend this camera to everyone, there’s not a lot of faults and the price appears reasonable. There’s not a lot of competition when it comes to handling and looks, the other retro-inspired cameras from the other brands don’t evoke the same emotions and their handling is terrible and the menus are unnavigable. As someone who prides in UX and UI in my job that is unacceptable. The prices of the competition aren’t cheap as well and the build may not be as good as this. The lens lineup is also important, while the others may have a more-mature lineup of small-sensor lenses they are overpriced and autofocus just isn’t there yet. The focus on small-format will also prevent you from moving-up to shooting with full-frame within the same brand because they just don’t have it. At least with Nikkors you will be able to transition to shooting with a larger sensor seamlessly if you choose to do so in the future. I see a very bright future, I think this is a camera that will quickly acquire a cult-status within the year it was announced. Buy one and take pictures with it!

This report was initially published here.

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Z fc pre-orders:
Adorama | B&H | Amazon | Park Cameras | WEX | Calumet | Foto Erhardt | Camera Canada
28mm pre-orders:
Adorama | B&H | Amazon | Park Cameras | WEX | Calumet | Foto Erhardt | Camera Canada
16-50mm pre-orders:
Adorama | B&H | Amazon | Park Cameras | WEX | Calumet | Foto Erhardt | Camera Canada
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