The Nikon Z fc is a DX camera from Nikon. It is no coincidence that the Z fc bears a striking resemblance to the Nikon FE and FM, Nikon’s successful models from the 1980s. Under the skin, the camera is completely up to date, and in some respects it even offers more than the Nikon Z50, the other DX camera in the Z series.
TEST RESULTS Nikon Z fc:
The Nikon Z fc is completely modern and yet classic.
IntroductiON: Nikon Z fc
Nikon has released a unique camera in the Z series. It’s the Nikon Z fc. Inside, this is largely the same camera as the Nikon Z50, a camera with a DX or APS-C format sensor. From the outside, they can hardly be more different. The Z50 is a fairly standard camera: black, good grip, viewfinder housing and wheels. The Z fc, on the other hand, is no dime-a-dozen camera. For the design, Nikon has made full use of the Nikon FE and FM models from 40 years ago. The grip-free body with leather finish, the shape of the viewfinder’s housing, the styling of the Nikon logo and the dials with engraved markings all seem to have come from the 80s. The Nikon Z fc is not entirely unique in this respect. Fujifilm has been working hard for years with its almost equally classic X-T models, and Olympus is also reverting to the classics of the last century with the design of its OM-D and PEN-F models. Nikon has tried this before with the Nikon Df. However, that camera was not a real success. Partly because the classic controls and the modern interface did not connect perfectly and partly because that camera lacked quite a few capabilities that were included on the regular digital SLRs.
With the Nikon Z fc, Nikon took its time. The design is very well adopted from the old cameras, but where necessary, functions have been added that ensure good usability. This applies, for example, to the PSAM switch around the ISO button and the exposure correction button on the top cover. Another nice detail is the small LCD on the top cover on which the aperture value can be read. On the classic cameras, you simply read that off the aperture ring of the lens. This is the alternative to that. One thing is missing on the Z fc compared to the Z50 and that is the built-in flash. Apparently, this could not be combined with the classic look of the viewfinder housing. On the other hand, the Z fc has been given a turning and tilting screen, and you can now also use facial and eye recognition when filming. The Z fc is therefore more suitable for vlogging than the Z50, for example, and is funny enough a more modern camera from that point of view.
BUILD AND OPERATION
The design of the Nikon Z fc is inspired by the iconic Nikon FE and FM models, and especially by the FM2 that was released in 1982. As a result, the Z fc has a rectangular shape, without a protruding grip at the front. The Nikon Z fc is slightly longer, just as high and a lot less thick than the Nikon Z50. It’s a little lighter, too. Of course, what stands out about the camera is the retro styling, complete with classic font for the Nikon logo and the upholstery of the camera and the viewfinder housing with the same imitation leather that was also used on the FE and FM models. The color scheme is classic black and silver, although you can also order the fc in other colors on nikon.nl, such as coral pink and mint green. A nice retro touch is that the eyecup around the viewfinder is round again, as on old Nikons, and not rectangular. In addition to the design, the operation immediately attracts attention. Photographers who have worked with a Nikon FE(2) or FM(2) will immediately feel at home. The small shutter release button and the shutter speed button are directly derived from those cameras. The old rewinding lever with adjustment ring for film sensitivity and exposure correction has now become an ISO button with PSAM switch. The exposure correction button has moved to the right side of the top cover. A nice find is the small LCD on the top cover on which the aperture value can be read. If you prefer not to set the shutter speed in whole stops, you can set the shutter speed button to “1/3 step.” Then you can use the two control wheels on the front and back for setting the shutter speed and aperture. The back is also not so classic, unless you close the faux leather upholstered screen. The Z fc does not have a joystick, but it does have a four-way button that you can use to select the autofocus point. The Z fc has a USB-C connection with which the camera can be both charged and powered.
Screen and viewfinder
The screen is turns and tilts, which is a first for the Z series and an improvement over the Nikon Z50, which only has a tilting screen. The screen of the Z fc has a little more than 1 million pixels and is touch-sensitive. Because the screen turns, you can also close it with the glass against the camera body, so that it is protected against scratches. The back of the screen is covered in black synthetic leather. You can also use it to set the menu. The viewfinder is a fairly common specimen with 2.36 million pixels. Due to the changed design of the Zfc compared to the Z50, the built-in flash has been eliminated.
No confusion is possible about the image quality of the Nikon Z fc: it is very good. It has the same sensor and the same Expeed 6 processor as the Z 50, and in terms of image quality, we don’t see any differences between the two. This means that recordings up to ISO 3200 can be used without reservation. According to the CIPA standard, the battery of the Z fc is good for 400 shots, but this is often underestimated. You can also power your Z fc via the USB-C port while the camera is on.
The Z fc has a switch under the shutter button to quickly switch from shooting to filming. We’re happy to see that. The Nikon Z fc can film in 4K up to 30 frames per second and in Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) up to 120 frames per second. Like the Z50, the Z fc has no image stabilization, so it is wise to use the DX zoom lenses with stabilization for video. The Z fc does have a microphone input, but no headphone input for monitoring the sound. The Z fc also has no log profiles, but a flat profile (Picture Control Flat) that leaves some space for post-processing. The big difference with the Z50 is of course the turning and tilting screen of the Z fc. You can also vlog with the Z50, but then you have to fold the screen all the way down, which is often less convenient in practice. With the Z fc, you can also use Eye-AF during filming, and that is also a big advantage when vlogging. With the free web utility, you can also use the Z fc to livestream. Nikon is also releasing the Z fc in a special vlog kit (€1,299), complete with directional microphone.
The Nikon Z fc uses a phase detection AF system with 209 autofocus points. Selecting an autofocus point can be done with the four-way button on the back of the camera or with the touch-sensitive screen. What’s unfortunate is that touch-AF doesn’t work when you have the camera held to your eye. The Nikon Z fc has facial and eye recognition that also works during filming, and that is an improvement compared to the Z50. Thanks to an upgrade of the autofocus system, the Z fc performs better in less favorable lighting conditions. In addition, the autofocus of the Nikon Z fc supports eye and animal detection with photo and video, just like the Nikon Z 7II and the Nikon Z 6II. We couldn’t make a one-on-one comparison with the Z 50, but the Z fc seems a bit better in terms of autofocus.
The Z fc uses Nikon’s Z lens mount, so all Z lenses (DX and FX) can be used on it. Especially for the Z fc, Nikon is releasing two lenses in retro style. The existing NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR telescopic kit zoom is available in a Silver Edition that fits well with the style of the Z fc. In addition, the NIKKOR Z 28mm F2.8 SE prime from the Z series appears in a design based on the old Nikkor AI lenses. Even the fonts used for the lens name are the same as the original fonts. This 28mm is suitable for full frame and works on an APS-C camera as a 42mm (eq.)
Unlike the Nikon Df, it is of course not possible to use original Nikkor AI or AF lenses directly on the Z fc, because the Z lens mount is much larger. This can be done via the optional FTZ adapter, usually with loss of certain functionality (such as autofocus and electronic aperture control). Just like on the Z 50, the Z fc does not offer image stabilization in the body (ibis); however, the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR lens does have optical image stabilization (VR).
We tested the Z fc with the 16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR. The combination sits well in the hand, despite the lack of a grip on the front. If you want to use long lenses, it seems to us useful to combine the camera with the separately purchased GR-1 extension grip (€129.00).
The physical controls work well but sometimes cause confusion. For example, there is no position for ISO Auto on the ISO wheel. With the Auto shooting mode, the Z fc always uses ISO Auto; and if you set the ISO sensitivity in P/A/S/M to ISO Auto via the camera menu, the numbers on the ISO wheel have no meaning. To a lesser extent, the shutter speed wheel is also misleading. This is only correct for whole stops in manual mode and for shutter priority or manual shooting mode. If you set the camera to aperture priority or program mode, it chooses the shutter speed itself and therefore does not give the shutter speed wheel any relevant information. By providing an A position on both wheels (camera chooses ISO or shutter speed), this could have been avoided.
COMPARED TO THE COMPETITION
A logical alternative to the Nikon Z fc is of course Nikon’s own Z50. The Z50 offers a heftier grip, although an external grip is also available for the Z fc for those who need it. The Z50 also has a built-in flash. The Z fc contrasts this with a – we think – nicer appearance, a turning and tilting screen and slightly more extensive autofocus possibilities in video.
If we look at other brands, then of course you immediately look at the X-T series from Fujifilm. It also has retro styling that is very functional at the same time. The X-T series from Fujifilm has much more choice in lenses that have been specially developed for APS-C and also have much better capabilities for video. The advantage of the Z fc is that the camera is actually also part of the full-frame system from Nikon. The mount is the same, and if you want a bright lens, for example, it will also be a full-frame model.
|Nikon Z fc
|4K/30p and Full HD to 120p
100-51,200 (to 204,800 expanded)
|max. series speed
|SD, SDHC and SDCX, UHS I
|weight (incl. battery)
ConclusiON: REVIEW Nikon Z fc
No confusion is possible about the image quality of the Nikon Z fc: it is very good.
You can consider the Nikon Z fc as a Z 50 II in a retro jacket. The operation of the physical controls could be a bit more logical, but it offers the same high image quality as the Z 50 and has a slightly improved autofocus system, in a housing that will make nostalgic hearts beat faster. To complete the retro look, it would be nice if Nikon released more lenses with the design of the Nikkor Z 28mm F2.8 SE.