We tried Nikon’s new lightweight mirrorless model

    (Ian Evenden/Nikon)

(Ian Evenden/Nikon)

How much do you need an applicant?

The newest and smallest addition to the Nikon Z family of MILCs (that’s mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses), the Z30 does away with the viewfinder – and IBIS – to create a video-centric vlogging camera that offers superb image quality. It also represents the cheapest route into the Z system and its excellent, if conspicuously expensive, lenses.

With a 20.9-megapixel APS-C sensor, a maximum burst rate of 11FPS, and Nikon’s 209-point hybrid AF system (with eye detection and subject tracking), the Z30 is well equipped for stills as well as video.

It’s a remarkably small and light camera, especially when combined with the Nikkor 16-50mm DX lens, a folding pancake zoom that gives a useful 24-75mm full-frame equivalent focal length.

It’s a sharp little thing, and while it has VR, its maximum aperture is slow, shifting from f/3.5 at the wide end to f/6.3 at the other. Other lens kits are also available, including a double zoom kit for those wanting telephoto reach.

    (Nikon)

(Nikon)

Specifications at a glance

  • Sensor: 20.9 MP APS-C CMOS

  • Processor: EXPEED 6

  • AF system: 209-point hybrid AF

  • ISO range: 100–51,200 (expandable to ISO 204,800)

  • Video: 4K up to 30p, 1080p up to 120p

  • Max Burst: 11 fps

  • Size: 128 x 73.5 x 59.5 mm

  • Weight: Only 350 g body

Video features

Video-centric features include a large internal microphone on top of the body, a touchscreen that can be flipped all the way around so it can be viewed from the front of the camera, and a red light that tells you when it’s recording.

A microphone input sits behind a cover on the left-hand side, nicely placed for connecting to a microphone located in the camera’s hot shoe, but there’s no headphone jack for monitoring audio, unfortunately. Full in-body image stabilization is lacking, relying on the lens’ VR and an electronic system that stabilizes video at the price of a 1.3x crop.

Movie mode is activated with the flick of a thumb switch rather than as an option on the PASM dial, a rare clunky feature that has the benefit of making it very clear which mode you want, and also allows for full video recording. manual mode, or aperture priority to control depth of field. There are also three user-defined modes on the mode dial to save your favorite settings. A new autofocus mode, AF-F, continuously updates the AF lock to track the movements of your subjects as you film them, and Active D-Lighting automatically balances your exposures if speed is of the essence.

    (Ian Evenden)

(Ian Evenden)

See and feel

In the hand, the Z30 is wonderfully compact. It can take a moment to set up, unfold the screen, turn it on and extend the pancake zoom lens, if fitted, before you can take a photo, but once it was up and running we found it to be responsive.

Tap-to-focus on the touchscreen is particularly good, taking a frame when it achieves focus. And while there are fewer buttons and dials on the body than other mirrorless cameras, the large mode dial and rear thumb dial proved to be all it needs. The video recording button is perhaps tucked a little too deep into a recess on the top of the camera, far back from the shutter button which sits more naturally under the index finger, but at least this prevents it from being accidentally pressed.

    (Nikon)

(Nikon)

Connection

Elsewhere, you’ll find HDMI and USB-C ports under rubber covers. The USB port is the only way to charge the camera battery – there’s no charger in the box – but it’s a common enough connection that you can use a phone or laptop charger.

Lentils

Lenses may be the Z30’s weak point, for now at least. Getting into the shot with a background means wide angles, and going wider than 16mm will cost you a lot of money in the form of Nikon’s full-frame FX Z lenses, which only give you a few mm, or by using lenses with manual focus such as those from Samyang or Laowa. Something like Sony’s recent 11mm APS-C G lens would be a nice addition.

Fortunately, the Z30’s video mode uses all of the sensor’s full width (unless you’re using stabilization), so there’s no more cropping involved.

Where to buy – stockists

Verdict

The Z30 is everything you want in a vlogging camera, as long as what you want doesn’t include a viewfinder or headphone jack. However, anyone used to composing photos on their smartphone screen will be right at home, and it also works well as a stills camera.

For the most part, though, the camera is an affordable entry into the world of mirrorless cameras, producing better stills and video than a smartphone ever could, and allowing vloggers and other content creators to operate easily and quickly.

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