Review: Nikon Zf

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The Nikon Zf is Nikon’s latest full-frame Z-series camera, although you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a film camera due to its retro design, which draws heavily on the iconic Nikon analogue cameras of the 1980s, particularly the renowned FM2.

However, despite the looks, this camera features a modern 24-megapixel sensor and imaging technology to create a unique blend of classic looks and modern innovation.

It's also a camera many Nikon shooters have been hanging out for, and especially so since the equally retro inspired APS-C Nikon Zfc launched back in 2021. So in 2024, we finally have Nikon's full frame retro camera many photographers have dreamed of.

But has the wait been worth it? And how does it compare with other retro-inspired digital cameras like the Fujifilm X100 series? Let's find out. 

For this review, Nikon sent me the Zf in Moss Green colour, and a selection of lenses: the Nikkor Z 35mm f1.8 SE, 40mm 1.2 SE and the Z 24-70mm f/2.8S. The Zf retails for $3,549, body only. 

Image: Nikon
The Zf comes in a variety of different colours. Image: Nikon

The body

The Zf's design takes cues from Nikon's Df DSLR and Zfc mirrorless camera, blending familiar controls with nods to classic FM styling.

Nikon has repurposed components from its various models, borrowing the viewfinder, sensor, and shutter from the Z6 II, alongside imaging technology from the Z8/Z9 series to make the Zf.

Image: Nikon/supplied
Image: Nikon/supplied

However there are plenty of unique Zf-only touches. Notably, the camera's brass-coated dials will, over time, develop a vintage "brassing" aesthetic.

Photographers drawn to the Zf will appreciate this, which offers both tactile satisfaction and precision, and the reward with time being a beautiful patina.

I picked up my Fujifilm X100VI after using the Zf and sadly, the Fujifilm that I’ve loved to death just doesn't feel as solid as the Nikon, and especially the shutter dial. Nikon really has built a beast of a camera. Everything has a nice click and feels solid. 

The ISO and shutter speed dials securely lock at C and 1/3 step plus B/T/X positions, yet easily adjust once unlocked.

Unlike its counterpart, the Zfc, setting the camera to S (shutter priority exposure mode) doesn't disable the shutter speed dial, offering greater flexibility for video shooting. With customisable settings, photographers can also fine-tune shutter speeds during video capture, which is a nice touch.

Image: Nikon/supplied
Image: Nikon/supplied

On the rear of the camera the Zf sadly doesn’t use a joystick multi-controller. In its place, Nikon has gone with a directional pad instead for moving the focus point around.

In an era when almost every camera has one of these it's hard not to see this as a bit of an oversight, but I quickly adapted and had no issues in real-world use.

The Zf's rear LCD adopts the tilt and swivel mechanism seen in models like the Z30 and Zfc.

It’s a nice feature having a screen that can be rotated to hide away if you don’t want to use it, however, I’m not a fan of the selfie LCD design and prefer the tilt screen, as it allows for more inconspicuous shooting, important with street photography.

The Zf screen also feels a little flimsy, but on the upside, it boasts a resolution of 3.69 million pixels and 0.8x magnification and delivers clear, bright, and rapid imaging.

The circular eyepiece, the same as the one on the flagship Z8 and Z9 cameras is comfortable.

Image: Nikon/supplied
Image: Nikon/supplied

One of the more surprising additions by Nikon is the inclusion of a MicroSD card slot for the camera's second card slot.

I was unsure about this at first, but after using the camera I’ve realised that the MicroSD is a sensible decision to help keep the overall size of the Zf to a minimum. I found in use I left it permanently in the camera as an overflow and/or backup memory card. 

Battery life is good, with the Zf housing a full-size EN-EL 15C battery, a much more powerful battery than the smaller EN-EL25 of the Nikon Zfc.

The new bigger battery is rated to 380 shots per charge (LCD) and 360 shots per charge (EVF). These numbers rise to 430 and 410 shots per charge if you turn energy saving mode on.

Really though, the star of the show is the body itself. And with the camera exuding such a nostalgic charm it makes sense to pair it with retro manual focus lenses like the Noct Nikkor (if you can afford it) or those from Leica and Voigtlander.

In fact Voigtlander are now producing native Z-mount lenses, and although I didn't have any of these, I did have access to a selection of manual focus only lenses by Chinese company Thypoch, including their Simera 28mm f/1.4 ASPH lens.

This worked beautifully on the Zf, and the camera's focus peaking mode made focusing easy, even wide open. 

Nikon Zf, Z 40mm f/2 lens. 1/4000s @ f5, ISO 125.
Nikon Zf, Z 40mm f/2 lens. 1/4000s @ f5, ISO 125.


When it comes to camera design, performance hinges on two key components: the processor and the sensor.

Here, Nikon have struck a balance by equipping the camera with the sensor from the Z6/Z6 II and the robust processor from the Z8/Z9 series.

This combination gives reliable autofocus, solid low-light performance, and affordability, especially when compared to the Z8 and Z9.

Nikon Zf, Z 40mm f/2 lens. 1/8000s @ f2, ISO 160.
Nikon Zf, Z 40mm f/2 lens. 1/8000s @ f2, ISO 160.

In use, I found I was happy using single-point focus in AF-S mode for most of what I shot, but the 3D tracking of the Nikon Zf was great when things changed quickly. I’d say that the Zf tracking nails focus 95% of the time.

My closest comparison would be my own Canon R6, which probably delivers a more consistent focusing system, however, it's negligible and likely due to the Canon using a greater number of phase-detection points (1053) vs the 273 in the Nikon Zf.

At the end of the day I’m impressed with how the Nikon Zf performed with focusing.

Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/1000s @ ISO 160.
Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/1000s @ ISO 160.

Image quality

As you'd expect with a camera that shares the same sensor as the Z6 II, image quality is excellent. Fine details are sharp throughout and high ISO noise is handled nicely.

Colours are consistent and I liked the saturation and contrast in both JPEG and RAW. The JPEGs use default sharpening with a large radius which appears sharper and offers a very usable image file for those who do not wish to shoot or edit RAW data.

I will add that it would be great if Nikon was to take a lesson from Fujifilm's book by offering vintage or film simulation JPEG settings in-camera.

Instead, Nikon has added their own picture profiles, however Fujifilm has a more refined offering the market with their organic and film-like film simulations (colour profiles), and I think it’s easier to mimic specific film stocks with the in-camera film simulations offered by Fujifilm.

Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/320s @ ISO 125.
Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/320s @ ISO 125.
Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/2500s @ ISO 160.
Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/2500s @ ISO 160.

Despite the trend of high megapixel counts in modern cameras, 24 megapixels strikes a good balance, offering ample detail without sacrificing low-light performance, storage space, or processing requirements.

This resolution comfortably allows for prints up to A2 size and beyond, aligning well with the practical needs of most photographers. Anything greater than 24 megapixels is likely overkill for most people, myself included.

Noise reduction in-camera at high ISO is clean and smooth, however, be mindful that this process does decrease overall image detail so I would disable this and apply it in post. Dynamic range is impressive.

Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/800s @ ISO 100.
Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/800s @ ISO 100.

Finally, black and white lovers will appreciate that the Zf has a dedicated dial for changing from colour to black and white.

Simply flick the switch under the shutter speed dial to select black and white, and when you’re done flip it back to colour. I wasn’t convinced on paper, but after shooting with the Zf for a couple of weeks I found myself experimenting more in black and white photography thanks to the ease of changing the mode without diving into the menu.

Nikon Zf, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens. 1/1600s @ f8, ISO 800.
Nikon Zf, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens. 1/1600s @ f8, ISO 800.

On the topic of black and white, the Nikon Zf produces pleasing contrast and there are also a few different options to try, from standard monochrome, flat mono, and deep tone mono. Still, these aren’t at the same level as Fujifilm’s profiles, however, it’s still something, and hopefully in time Nikon will add more via firmware update.


I’m not sure many people interested in a retro-inspired digital camera are likely to be buying this to shoot video, however, the Nikon Zf is capable of producing excellent video. Not only because of the rotational rear LCD screen which vloggers would find useful, but the fact it offers 10-bit N-Log video at 4K.

Nikon has catered for videographers by allowing a maximum bitrate of approximately 340 Mbps, opening up the freedom of using cards no faster than a V60-certified SDXC. No longer are you required to purchase expensive CF Express-type cards, a massive bonus.

Nikon Zf, Z 40mm f/2 lens. 1/8000s @ f3.5, ISO 640.
Nikon Zf, Z 40mm f/2 lens. 1/8000s @ f3.5, ISO 640.
Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/8000s @ ISO 100.
Nikon Zf, Thypoch Simera lens. 1/8000s @ ISO 100.

The wrap-up

The Nikon Zf is an excellent mirrorless camera with its 24MP full frame sensor delivering beautiful colours, impressive resolution, strong low-light capabilities, and fantastic video quality. 

If I was to offer one criticism, it would be that the compact body may not be ideal for smaller hands, and it's hard not to see the lack of a rear joystick as a bit of a miss. 

But if you're in the market for a modern, retro camera, the Zf really does offer a lot, and is, in my opinion, a superior 'classic' camera than any I've used by Fujifilm.

Yes, Fujifilm has the edge with its film simulations, but the Nikon Zf does a wonderful job of looking and feeling like an old retro camera while still delivering a modern photography experience. I recommend it highly. 

The results

Handling ★ ★ ★ ★

Excellent. I loved the dedicated top dials, but the lack of a decent grip will frustrate those who use larger lenses. Thankfully you can attach a grip to make it more comfortable to hold.

Features ★ ★ ★ ★

Excellent. The integration of the physical dials into the user experience has been well-thought out.

Autofocus ★ ★ ★ ★

The focus is responsive and accurate but it may not be the best option for wildlife or sports shooters.

Image Quality ★ ★ ★ ★

The Z6 sensor is reliable, even if it is a little old. That said, it offers excellent image quality, and images shot at higher ISOs hold up well.

Value For Money ★ ★ ★ ★

At around $3,499 depending on your chosen trim, the Nikon Zf is fair value for money, and even better when you compare it to other retro-inspired cameras on the market.

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