The world of photography changed in April 1959 when the Japanese camera manufacturer Nikon released its now-famous Nikon F Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. This device was the result of decades of developments in camera technology and tied design elements from previous models into one complete package.
It’s no surprise the Nikon F soon became a favourite of news and conflict photographers, not to mention astronauts. It was a compact precision instrument that could be used with a variety of lenses. Before long, the Nikon F moved into the general populace and was seen around the necks of amateurs and professionals alike. Now, some 104 years since the company’s founding, Nikon has released a digital camera that recalls the past while simultaneously embracing cutting-edge technology: the new Nikon Z Fc.
Look and Feel
The first thing that hits you when you pick up the Z Fc is the classic styling. Nikon is leaning into its heritage here, the Z Fc reminiscent of the company’s original F series camera (with the added pop of seven body colour options, extending to Mint Green and Coral Pink). While retro design is always en vogue, the Z Fc feels like a nice balance of form and function, and a simpler version of Nikon’s previous foray into “old-school” digital cameras, 2013’s Df.
The controls are familiar and comprehensive. Mechanical dials control ISO (sensitivity to light), exposure compensation and shutter speed, with flick switches to manage shooting modes and power. Naturally, the film advance lever and winder are absent, but you will find buttons for viewing and deleting images, along with additional command dials, various back buttons and a multi-selector button to dive into menus for more features.
The only aspect that feels a little lacking is the build. While the camera has a magnesium alloy frame, seen at the top, the remainder of the body is finished in plastic. It’s not what you’d expect from a camera with a starting price of $1,449 (body only; kit prices start at $1,649; mynikonlife.com.au). That said, once the camera is slung around your neck, the mixed materials make it light enough to wear for hours without strain.
Function and Features
Many manufacturers boast their latest models are easy to use, but only about half of them deliver on that promise. Nikon’s Z Fc is among the latter. Yes, there’s a lens cap to remove, but flicking the power switch and depressing the shutter button is done in a heartbeat. The power of Nikon’s auto focus is the real hero here, enabling you to shoot quickly while moving the camera from hip to eye.
With the selector mode in Auto, the camera will take care of ISO, f-stop and shutter speed. Flick the switch and you have control over these aspects, either individually or completely (once you move onto full manual control). For many seasoned SLR users, this is the heart of creativity, and it’s something Nikon has acknowledged in the camera’s control layout, design and features.
For portraits and selfies, auto eye-detection AF helps ensure your images are sharp and focused on your subject. Swing out the LCD screen and you can master any selfie or shoot vlogs in 4K video. Of interest are the style and connectivity features Nikon has included in the Z Fc. A variety of picture styles lets you shoot stills as if through an Instagram filter, then you can swiftly upload them to any device and share with your masses of fans.
Optics and Images
The Z Fc features a Z-mount for Nikkor lenses, making it compatible with more than 20 lenses (more if you add an FTZ adaptor). As with any manufacturer, the more affordable lenses have their quirks — such as distortion or soft corners — but climb the ladder of expense and the images that this camera can produce are impressive. While the kit lenses that come with the Z Fc might not win any awards, the image quality from both the lens sensor and camera sensor is notable. Of course, the camera’s image processor — using the newest Expeed chip — does a lot of the heavy lifting here. Considering Nikon is known for making camera systems that balance glass, sensor and processor well, it’s to be expected that the results are pretty good.
That said, the 20.9-megapixel sensor performs well up to 1600 ISO; however, jumping to 3200 and beyond, noise and artifacts begin to appear, depending on the level of noise reduction used. Daytime photography will generally see you hovering around 160 to 640 ISO, so this shouldn’t impact most shooters. Night-time and indoor photography may be a different matter.
Despite these few compromises, the Nikon Z Fc is a stylish blend of retro charm — nodding to the many decades of SLR cameras behind it — and state-of-the-art technology. It’s a camera that is sure to appeal to casual photographers