What you need to know about the new Nikon Z5

The Nikon Z5 is an entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera that looks a lot like the Z6, handles a lot like the Z6, and offers a lot of the same features. So what makes it different, and why is it cheaper? Read on to find out more.

All images provided by Nikon USA and used with permission.

24MP CMOS sensor (not BSI)

The Nikon Z5 uses a 24MP CMOS sensor, paired with an Expeed 6 processor, but it is not the same BSI-CMOS chip that we’ve seen in the Z6 (and likely also the Sony a7 III). The Z5’s sensor is probably closely related to the last-generation sensors in the likes of the Nikon D750. For practical purposes, this means that image quality in a normal ISO sensitivity span is likely to be excellent, but the Z6 will probably have the edge at very high ISOs.

1/8000sec min shutter and ‘silent’ shooting

Despite its entry-level positioning, the Z5 offers a minimum exposure time of 1/8000sec, which enables wide-aperture shooting in bright conditions. As well as mechanical and electronic first-curtain modes, a ‘silent’ shooting mode is also available. In ‘silent’ mode the shutter is fully electronic and – literally – silent.

Because there is no mechanical action associated with fully-electronic exposures, this is potentially also a good option for highly critical macro and extreme telephoto work, where you need to minimize vibrations. The downside is an increased likelihood of distortion when shooting moving subjects.

273-point PDAF and 4.5fps continuous shooting

The Z5’s autofocus system appears at least very similar if not exactly the same as that found in the Z6 and Z7, and benefits from the feature additions that Nikon has made to those models via firmware. As such, you get human and animal eye-detection, and a tracking mode which operates a little more like 3D AF Tracking in Nikon’s DSLRs. Coverage from the Z5’s 273 autofocus points is 90% vertically and horizontally.

The Z5’s maximum continuous shooting rate of 4.5fps is OK for this class, but probably not fast enough for serious sports or action photography.

5-axis in-body stabilization

Unlike Nikon’s entry-level (and currently sole) DX-format Z-series model the Z50, the Z5 offers 5-axis in-body stabilization. This system is rated for up to five stops of correction, which (again) is comparable to the Z6 and Z7.

5-axis in-body stabilization

With a VR-enabled F-mount lens mounted via the FTZ adapter, or a Z-series lens like the forthcoming Z 70-200mm F2.8 S, the system becomes 3-axis, handing off pitch and yaw correction to the lens, with the body dealing with roll. The stabilization rating with a VR lens increases slightly, to 5.5EV (per CIPA) but as always with such things, you might get greater or less benefit depending on the situation (and focal length).

Same size and weight, similar ergonomics to Z6

The Z5 is an unusual entry-level model in being exactly the same size and weight as the model above it in the lineup. We’re told that this was a deliberate decision to make manufacturing more economical. The only major ergonomic change to the Z5, compared to the Z6, is the migration of an exposure mode dial to the right of the viewfinder, in place of the small status LCD which sits on top of the higher-end model.

Same size and weight, similar ergonomics to Z6

The 3.2″, 1.04M-dot LCD on the rear of the Z5 is the same size as that found in the Z6 and Z7 (but lower-resolution), and like those models it is also touch-sensitive and can be tilted for waist-level shooting and video work.

Whereas the Z6 and Z7 use an almost all magnesium-alloy body chassis, the Z5 economizes slightly with plastic on the back and the base of the camera. We’re told that despite the different construction, the Z5 is sealed to the same extent as the Z6/7 against dust and moisture. From what we know about the build quality of those models, this is really good news.

3.6M-dot Quad VGA EVF

Also good news is that the Z5 shares the same electronic viewfinder as the Z6/7. While we’ve seen the 3.6M-dot Quad VGA EVF out-resolved recently, it remains one of our favorite finders, offering fine, crisp detail and excellent contrast, without offering the 100fps+ feed of some competitive models. The EVF assembly features an automatic switch, to de/activate the viewfinder when your eye modes between finder and rear screen.

The image above shows an EVF module from the Z6/7 being inspected at Nikon’s factory in Sendai. Read the full factory tour here.

Dual UHS-II SD cards

Before the Z6 and Z7 were announced, whoever would have thought that card slots could cause such controversy? The Z5 splits from its higher-end stablemates by offering two card slots, both of which support the cheaper and more readily available SD format, up to UHS-II.

Video

When the Z5 is compared against the Z6 on specs, the main area of differentiation is in video. Nikon has moulded the Z6 into its current top-end video camera, but the Z5’s video feature set is much more pared-down. Although you can shoot 4K footage at up to 30p, there’s a 1.7X crop.

Overall the Z5 offers a solid feature set for its price, without being class-leading. Full HD video can be recorded without a crop (at up to 60p) but you won’t find a lot of the Z6’s more pro-oriented features, such as N-Log recording and output that can be encoded as Pro-Res Raw. The Z5 does offer focus peaking though, and zebra stripes. It also has sockets for a microphone and headphones.

New EN-EL15C battery

The Z5 ships with a new ‘c’ variant of the venerable EN-EL15 battery, but it remains compatible with previous versions, provided you don’t need in-camera charging (only offered by ‘b’ and ‘c’ variants). The new ‘c’ type battery offers a modest increase in capacity, giving an overall rating (per CIPA) of 470 shots using the rear monitor, and 390 shots using the EVF. It also supports USB power, via the optional optional UC-E25 cable.

New 24-50mm F4-6.3 kit lens

The Z5 might have basically the same body as the Z6 and Z7, but you can keep its overall size and weight down with the new 24-50mm kit zoom. The 24-50mm measures just 51mm (2″) long when retracted and weighs only 195g (0.43lb). The tradeoffs for such a small, lightweight lens are its relatively limited focal length range, and slow maximum aperture, but if it’s as sharp as previous Z-series zooms, this might be a worthwhile compromise for casual everyday photography.

New 24-50mm F4-6.3 kit lens

Nikon describes the lens as ‘dust and drip resistant,’ though not fully weather-sealed. The 24-50mm F4-6.3 will be available in a kit with the Z5 for $1699, or on its own for $399.

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