Nikon Z5 versus Z6 – Sibling rivalry much?

After my last review of the Nikon Z6 and its performance with the Nikkor 28mm f1.4E and Nikkor 58mm f1.4G lenses here , we now come to the newest Z-sibling, the entry level Z5 and today’s review will focus on how this Z-sibling together with the kit Nikkor Z 24-50mm f 4-6.3 stacks up.

*A shout-out to Nikon Singapore for the generosity in arranging the loan.

For easier reading, this article will comprise of 4 sections:

  1. A quick introduction and comparison of the Nikon Z5 and Z6.
  2. The Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3
  3. Handling and BSI vs CMOS sensors
  4. Video sample and a treat of what’s to come next.

A quick introduction and the Z5 versus the Z6.

The Nikon Z5 is designed to be Nikon’s entry point for full-frame mirrorless enthusiasts. Similar to the Z6, the Z5 sports a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor (though not the same BSI sensor in the Z6) sharing the same 273-point hybrid AF system, Expeed 6 processor and 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder. In simple english, this means coming to AF speed, tracking performance wise, the Z5 is frankly going to perform as well as the Z6. And yes, the Z5 comes equipped with 5-axis in body stabilisation.

*There are already many reviews dedicated to pinpointing the differences between the Z5 and Z6 down to the last screw hence I will not delve too much into this.

In the Z5, certain deemed to be ‘luxuries’ like the top plate LCD display present in the Z7 and Z6 is absent, and the PASM dial is now shifted to the right side and missing the dial locking mechanism. Otherwise handling and buttons-wise, the Z5 is identical to the other siblings.

And in Nikon’s fashion of ensuring that the Z5 stays a tier below the Z6, the Z5’s max burst rate and video capabilities are considerably less than that of the Z6: 4.5 fps vs. 12 fps and heavily cropped 4K vs. un-cropped, oversampled 4K. The touchscreen LCD is of a lower resolution, but most users won’t even notice this anyway.

However, as pointed out by many, Nikon has somehow whether by accident or not given the Z5 an edge in 2 key aspects that will matter to some photographers. The Z5 is the only Z-body to provide dual UHS-II SD slots also with the capability to operate while being charged (yes, this can be useful, for example shooting timelapses)

Interestingly, even with these differences, the Z5 comes in at the exact same dimensions down to weight versus the Z6. In my time with both cameras, frankly both really felt to be very much the same, and I barely bothered with the differences such as the lack of the top panel LCD on the Z5.

The Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3

Disclaimer: all the image samples in this section was shot with the Z5 and Nikkor Z 24-50mm and edited in LR CC Classic.

Many words from both sides of the spectrum have been used to describe the Z5’s kit zoom lens. Some positive, some downright rude.

Instead, I am glad Nikon made the Z 24-50mm lens.

Yes, it is all plastic in build and will feel to be inferior to some of Nikon’s top lenses but my take is a lens is a means to create, not a piece of ‘thing’ to be grasped in the palm in the hope of feeling soothed by the feel of it.

1/100S, f4.0, ISO5000

The Nikkor Z 24-50mm’s largest aperture is at f4 and quickly goes to f6.3 which will make this lens a good performer in good light but it is a lens I do hesitate to use in poorly lit environments without a flash. Even so, when this lens performs, it is sharp, and I mean sharp across. At its SRP of USD400, it is decent value for money and an excellent lens for compact street / travel photography.

Lovers of higher quality optics have the Z 24-70mm f4S and Z 24-70mm f2.8S (USD999.95 and USD2295.95) to soothe their needs, and Nikon has actually filled in a gap/need here for a budget compact decent zoom offering.

Yes, if you want no compromises, don’t whine about the Z 24-50, you can simply get the Z 24-70 f2.8S

The question of BSI vs CMOS.

There are some who propose the CMOS sensor in the Z5 makes it a poorer performer vs the BSI sensor in the Z6 at high ISO. To kill both birds with one stone, the portrait shot above was done at ISO5000, and in my opinion turned out pretty well and acceptable.

Marketing says BSI is better than CMOS, I have to agree, but it is important to also know how does this translate to real life use. A back-illuminated sensor (BSI) simply is a type of digital image sensor that uses a novel arrangement of the imaging elements to increase the amount of light captured and thereby improve low-light performance aka, one is supposed to get better high ISO performance in a BSI vs CMOS sensor (and this is if you do shoot HIGH ISO to start with).

another shot of Lynn, this time at ISO5600

Fact is, there are differences, but the reality is most users, basically the market segment the Z5 seeks to attract will not notice them much unless your middle name is ‘pixel peeper’. Also, if I am shooting above ISO6400, I will already be using a flash.

1/100S, F4, ISO560
All 3 shots at 1/100S, F5 ISO1600 to 4000

Video and the a preview of the next write-up.

If you have been reading my review blog, you will know I am the most novice at video, but the Z5 actually made me want to try my hand at it. And versus most of you all more capable than me videographers than me out there, pls don’t spit at my attempt.

Video shot in P mode, transferred to iPhone and edited.

Setting wise, all I did was to set the autofocus system to Auto-Area AF to activate eye-AF, set it to Movie mode and simply ran the recording. To ensure I did the most enthusiast thing possible, I used the Nikon App on the iPhone to then transfer the whole video over and edited it on the iPhone before uploading it, pretty much what the enthusiast is expected to do and I guess, even with room for improvement, I do find this pretty decent.

Really pretty neat, and what impressed most of all? The work flow simply works and that is lovely. Imagine if Nikon added some basic functionality to their apps for video editing and users will be really looking at one substantial plus to their workflows.

The Z5 maybe themed as the entry level model in the Z-series, however it is no slouch. What Nikon has done well here with the Z5 and Z 24-50mm is artfully fill in a gap in their product gap and I look forward to spending more time with the Z-mount system and their accompanying lenses.

What’s next – A portrait session with Z-mount

Thank you for making it so far with me 🙂 Upcoming next do forward to a sharing on portraiture.

Thank you for reading.

Keith Wee

Photography Reviewer and Mathematics Educator. Writes for Fujifilm Asia Pacific, Fujilove and FujiXPassion and loves to share life as it is, with its sweet and bitter moments.

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