Finally... I bring you my review of the Nikon Zf

Nikon Zf
  • Battery Life - 8.9/10
    8.9/10
  • Value - 10/10
    10/10
  • Build Quality - 7.7/10
    7.7/10
  • Sensor Quality - 9.3/10
    9.3/10
  • Auto Focus - 9.4/10
    9.4/10
9.1/10

Quick Summary

This is in my top 3 list of favorite camera bodies ever made

Pros

Absolutely my favorite camera Nikon has ever made aside form the Nikon D850

Cons

Articulating screen could use a newer Sony style articulation.

It’s been quite the year for me and Nikon as I’ve considered switching to the Nikon Z9, the Z8, and finally the Zf.

It all began at WPPI ’23 where I randomly decided to pick up a Z9 on the trade show floor. Within seconds of configuring it the way I normally prefer I could tell that Nikon completely overhauled their auto focus system from their initial mirrorless releases. It was absolutely where it needed to be, if not better than what I was used to with Canon and Sony systems.

So, I picked up a few Nikon lenses (the gigantic 50 1.2, and a few others) and began my journey.

My review of the Nikon Z9 is here, and I did end up returning it right around the time that Nikon released the, seemingly more flexible and equivalent,  Z8. Most of the details in my initial Z9 review can also apply to the Z8. No mechanical shutter, excellent battery life, etc. I will say even though Nikon says it’s the same sensor in the Z8 vs Z9… I did seem to enjoy the colors more on the Z9. Maybe this has something to do with how DVLOP, or Adobe created their base profiles for the Z9? Perhaps they captured or anaylesd something slightly differently from one to the next, but it certainly felt like I was having an easier time with the Z9 files. Sadly, I didn’t ever have both cameras at the same time to do a direct comparison.

The Nikon Z8 was a fine camera. Perfectly suited for nearly any shooting environment, but there were a few things I just couldn’t get past.

1) The silent shutter/shutter sound effect.

2) My go to lens would have to be the 50 1.2, which is just too big. Wonderful performer, but too big.

3) The articulating screen wasn’t as natural and smooth as I was used to with Canon’s.

4) I couldn’t never get the colors to *sing* the way I could with the Z9.

Enter… the Nikon Zf.

THE BUILD

You're going to want a 3rd party grip

That image is from my first shoot with the Zf, which I posted about here, and the 40 f/2.0 lens that it launched with. I absolutely loved my experience with the camera, and was initially won over by the fact that the screen articulated just like Canon’s. I truly believe this is the ideal way to shoot these days:

Nikon’s previous screen articulations certainly felt more solid and rugged, but were always unnatural and slow.

As I continued to work with the camera I mentally prepared my self for the “gotcha” feature that this camera would have, and ultimately lead me to return. Nikon had a beautiful camera in the DSLR equivalent of the Df many years ago, and on paper it looked incredible, but in use they artificially did things like only allow you to see a DOF preview while *holding* a button down.. no toggle, and no permanent view.

Aside from needing an additional grip extender… that “gotcha” never came with the Zf.

AF Adapters

In fact, I only continued to discover new and exciting things like these focus mount adapters for the entire Z mount system:

The Techart TZM-2 is a marvel of an adapter. It contains its own focus motor, which means that any lens that’s mounted to it can have full auto focus functionality. It’s an M mount adapter, but literally any other lens that can be adapted to an M mount can be stacked to enable auto focus. The photo above is my Nikon 58 f/1.2 F/G mount to M mount adapter… adapted… to the Techart M to Z AF mount.

Techart has actually been developing these adapters for 7+ years for the Sony e mount, but they were always a bit of a gimmick.

Not anymore.

Strangely, the most recent release of this adapter for Sony e mount is still not quite as good as the Z mount version. It hunts for focus a little bit more often, and it restricts you to an AF-S focus mode so you don’t get full tracking. With the Nikon version… you don’t have any limitations w/ AF settings at all.

I tested both in extreme low light in Warsaw a few weeks ago with a Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux. These are all with the Z mount adapter and Nikon Zf:

AF Performance

It’s worth noting that some AF performance does seem to depend on the weight of the lens that’s adapted. I’ve got my large 50mm f/0.95 noctilux, which is very heavy, and it does AF very well, but not as snappy as the featherweight Voitglander 35 1.4.

(above) 50 mm_1-800 sec at f – 1.4_ISO 200

The other adapter I’ve been enjoying is the TECHART Canon EF – Nikon Z. This one doesn’t have an AF motor built in (that I can tell) but it perfectly translates the AF functionality for EF mount lenses that already have it.

When I say perfectly… it actually feels perfect. The performance of an old EF mount lens through this adapter is as good, if not better, than using it on EF-RF mounts on canon mirrorless cameras.

(above) 24 mm_1-200 sec at f – 1.4_ISO 200

Yes, performance using an adapter to mount a Canon EF lens to a Nikon body is as good, or better, than mounting an EF lens to a canon RF body.

So nice, I bought it twice

Now, you might be wondering why I’m so excited about all these mount adapter possibilities when they are also possible on the Nikon Z9, and Z8. Well, it’s all about the sensor and shutter. I could never really get comfortable with the totally silent shooting of the Z9/8, and I hated the sound effect. Having never used the z6ii, which is the sensor that that Zf is using, I thought for sure it would be the “gotcha” that would make this Zf an under performer. It’s not.

I’ll let you wade through the details of the video, but to my eye the high iso is cleaner, the colors are better, and the dynamic range of the Zf is equivalent vs the sensor in the Z9 and Z8.

I’ll leave this article portion of my review there, and let you watch the full video to fill in more details. I know everyone is very excited about the Sony a9iii’s global shutter etc, but for me the Nikon Zf is an absolute home run. I get an inspiring camera to handle and look at, the AF performance of the Z9/Z8, the mount flexibility to shoot F, EF, M, OM, PK, FD,  LR, L39, etc, and a lovely sounding mechanical shutter (with an option silent mode).

The only thing missing is RAW file double exposures, which every camera released since the Canon R6ii seems to have killed off.

Still, it’s a camera so nice, I bought it twice.

Youtube Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background

01:34 Reviewing Mount Adapters

03:01 Autofocus Demonstration with Adapters

03:31 Discussion on Camera Grip and Design

04:48 Customization and Button Layout

05:14 Conclusion and Comparison to Canon R3

06:08 Autofocus Demonstration with Various Lenses

08:55 Testing Autofocus with Manual Focus Lenses

10:51 Concerns about Motor Failure with Adapter

12:42 Testing Autofocus with Unique Lenses

13:41 Camera Ergonomics and Design

14:56 Battery Life and Flip-Out Screen

15:54 Build Quality and Button Layout

16:44 Comparison of High ISO Performance

21:56 Dynamic Range Comparison

23:23 Overall Shooting Experience

25:12 Concerns about Camera Balance

25:39 Dual Card Slots and Ejecting SD Cards

26:34 Conclusion and Recommendation

Sam Hurd

Sam Hurd

Photographer
DC/NYC/Anywhere

Starting as a political news and celebrity portrait photographer in DC, Sam was instantly drawn to wedding photography as a space to promote more inventive ideas. Sam’s focus is on photographic techniques that are deceptively simple but have the potential to transform difficult or uninspiring shooting environments into one-of-a-kind opportunities for every photo made.

Most reviews, technical write-ups, and other photo nerd content is posted first, and exclusively, over on his patreon.