Review of the Nikon Z fc – Retro Style & substance

Akin to the Nikon Df when it was released in 2013, Nikon has again succeeded in exciting the photography fratenity with the Z mount Nikon Z fc camera and Z 28mm f2.8 S.E lens, a design inspired by the extremely handsome Nikon FM2 film camera.

the Nikon Z fc with the Z28mm f2.8 S.E

Disclaimer:

  1. In my reviews, I only use (as far as possible) product photos and sample images photographed by me. All sample images here were shot with the Nikon Z fc and edited in LR Classic to my preferences.
  2. The Nikon Z fc and Z28mm f2.8 S.E was loaned from Nikon Singapore for the purpose of review and will be returned.
  3. I will only write about photography equipment I have personally handled, and do not trust sites that makes conclusions based on stock photos. Opinions shared are mine if there are mistakes, pls kindly drop me a message and I will gladly made the amendments.

A bit of background on the Nikon Df , Z50 & Z fc

Nikon’s 1st dive into retro-inspired cameras was the 2013 Nikon Df, (my review of the Nikon Df here) tag-lined ‘Pure Photography’ in their marketing material. The Df was a full frame DSLR camera using Nikon’s f-mount. Even with it’s 16 megapixels sensor, the Df delivered extraordinary imaging quality with its D4 sensor. The Df may have divided users with its high price tag and zero video capabilities but it is a fact that it does have a cult-following even now, close to 10 years after its release.

the Df and Nikon 58mm f1.4g (see the resemblance in the top plate dials?)

the elephant in the room is the Z fc’s APSC sized sensor, but this can be seen as an advantage instead of a failure in understanding the market.

more on this in the conclusions section

The 2021 Nikon Z fc is an APS-C mirrorless camera utilising the Z-mount. Critics might say the Nikon Z fc is a repackaged Z50 but what is more accurate to say is the Z fc is a boosted version of the Z50, with the addition of the AF modes available in the Z6 II and Z7 II series, significantly improved eye-AF, and slightly boosted low-light performance.

Nikon Z fc, Z 35mm f1.8

Specifications (summary)

I will only share key points here, and if one needs the full list of specifications, pls drop by Nikon’s official site here

The Z fc comes equipped with a 20.9 MP APSC sized sensor and EXPEED 6 image processor equipped with 209 autofocus points. A ISO range of 100-51200 (expandable to 204,800) keeps the base specifications in line with the Nikon Z50.

Z6 II vs Z fc

The Nikon Z fc does not have in-camera stabilisation but it does provide electronic vibration reduction in videos, with the ability to record up to 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) at 30p using the full width of the sensor. As expected of a consumer model, one gets a UHS-1 SD-card with a 0.39 in, 2.36 million dots OLED EVF and a vary-angle touchscreen. 

The Z fc supports a decent 11fps max continuous shooting speed, well enough for the market that the Z fc was intended to attract. Remember, having more fps does not matter as much as having them all focused.

A key strength of the Z fc is its compact size of 134.5 x 93.5 x 43.5mm coming in at 390 grams (445g with battery and SD card) and with the bundled Z28mm f2.8 S.E lens, what we have is a very compact and competent setup.

I am pretty confident the Z28mm f2.8 will be a popular lens choice for Z mount users

Handling

The Nikon Z fc’s weather resistant build comes across as robust with an attention to quality. What caught my eye first was that the Z fc uses solid aluminum dials with the numbers etched into the metal, rather than being printed on the surface.

The ISO and shutter speed dials both have press-on locks on them, to prevent accidental operation. And on the left dial, a physical switch enables switching between PASM & Auto modes. Note that the ISO dial for Nikon Z fc (and Df) works a bit differently. Firstly, auto-ISO has to be set through the menu, and once set, setting the dial to 100 actually means the lowest ISO under Auto-ISO mode will be 100. I personally feel Nikon could have improved on this by adding an ‘Auto’ option for the ISO dial.

The shutter speed dial has whole-stop markings from 4 seconds to 1/4000sec complemented by a 1/3-step setting, that switches to using a command dial to set the shutter speed in 1/3EV steps. In addition, there are markings to set the camera to the flash sync speed (X), time mode (T) and Bulb (B) mode making this a pretty complete setup.

Etched, not painted on details making this similar to the high quality build of the Df

Lastly, the menu system is very similar (if not the same) as the other Z camera siblings, making the switch over a breeze for the user.

Performance and Sample images

Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8

*At the time of the review, there was no RAW support for the Z fc’s files in LR Classic CC, hence all samples are edited from the JPEG files.

The images from the Z fc keep up to Nikon’s good reputation. For the review, I used two lenses, the Z 28mm f2.8 S.E and the Z 35mm f1.8 and as expected, both performed to my expectations producing sharp and contrasty images straight out of the camera. The Z fc’s matrix metering does a great job too.

Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8

“Reliable” is a word seldom used for items designed mostly to attract but the Z fc indeed performs most reliably.

One of the first things I noticed is that the Z fc’s focus modes includes the Wide Area AF-People and Wide Area AF-animal options which of course the Nikon Z-mount siblings Z50, Z6 and Z7 do not have. This alone show’s Nikon’s keeness to somehow differentiate the Z fc and Z50, even if both are clearly using the same sensor and imaging processor combo. The eye-detection is very responsive, and pretty ‘sticky’, a significant jump from the Z6 I used to own (I currently use the Z6 II).

I am sure there will be users complaining about the Z fc not being a full frame camera. In all honestly, I would love the Z fc to be a full-frame camera too however one thing to note is that if one wishes to photograph images with thin depth-of-field, the whole Z mount of lenses included the Z50mm f1.2 S (my review here) is also available.

Z fc, Z 35mm f1.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8

Using the Z fc and Z28mm combo on the street was a breeze, with the compactness and (if your wish to), ‘silent’ mode helping to ensure discreetness. Coming from Fujifilm X-mount also helped in that it made me pretty accustomed to setting changes on the fly.

Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8
Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8

Conclusions

The ‘c’ in the Nikon Z fc’s name stands for ‘casual’ and in this sense, Nikon has really done an excellent job with this release. In fact, this is also why I believe the Z fc is APSC instead of a full-frame camera, as making it full-frame so would have obviously added to the price and size of the camera, pushing it away from the very market it wishes to attract – the hobbyist market willing to pay say USD1000 for a full fledged camera with a most ‘instagrammable’ retro-design.

Of course, this is not to say it is all beautiful, and I still have concerns about Nikon’s level of support for the APSC (DX) end of the Z-mount. In fact, it doesn’t seem that Nikon has plans to release more DX lenses for the Z mount at this moment. but the release of the Z 28mm f2.8 and having a healthy variety of already available Z-mount lenses helps of course.

some of the Z family lenses that the Z fc uses.

Not forgetting that the FTZ adapter also works for this camera, I am sure we will see people picking up more compact f-mount lenses and using them on the Z fc. (That on top is a 50mm f1.2 by the way)

I do see many picking the Z fc up as a casual companion body next to their Z7 or Z6 cameras or even later, the Z9. Remember, they all use the same family of lenses, making the proposition of getting a Z fc as a backup body even more feasible, especially when the price of the Z fc body is only around USD956 (SRP).

Nikon Z fc, Z 28mm f2.8

Will you be getting one? I plan to, and I am actually am more keen for the Z 28mm f2.8 over the body though.

Thank you for reading.

6 Replies to “Review of the Nikon Z fc – Retro Style & substance”

  1. Well written! Great to stumble onto this review site of yours Keith.

    Like

  2. Excellent review as always. You have convinced me to get the Zfc.

    Like

  3. Hi Keith. Thanks for making another informed , independent and unbiased review. I’m guessing with the Fujifilm announcement around the corner, you will be busy with more reviews down the line. Looking forward to those. Take care and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi ! Thank u for the kind words. I’m looking forward to be able to test Fujifilm will announce too , even with most of the items being ‘leaked’ already haha. Take care and stay safe too.

      Like

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