The Nikon Z 5 is the entry-level full-frame option in Nikon's mirrorless lineup, sitting below the Nikon Z 6 / Nikon Z 6II. It's a great option for those looking for their first full-frame camera or those who want full-frame image quality without spending a fortune. While it might lag in some areas—burst shooting and 4k video, most notably—it's still a great camera for still photography, with excellent ergonomics, an intuitive user interface, and a solid AF system.
The Nikon Z5 is a solid option for travel photography. It isn't the most portable camera, but it's still smaller than a lot of full-frame models. Image quality is great, and it performs well in low light. Battery life is also very good for a mirrorless camera, so depending on your usage habits, you can get a fair amount of shots out of it while you're out and about.
The Nikon Z5 is very good for landscape photography. It takes clean, detailed photos and performs well even at high ISO settings in low light. There are also some very high-quality wide-angle lenses available for Nikon's Z mount that are perfect for landscape photography. The camera's also well-built and weather-sealed, though it isn't the most portable option.
The Nikon Z5 is decent for sports and wildlife photography. On the upside, it has a solid autofocus system with a fairly reliable tracking feature, a great battery life, and dual SD card slots. That said, it's capped at a 5 fps max burst rate, making it a lot harder to capture the perfect action shot.
The Nikon Z5 isn't really meant for vlogging. For one thing, it doesn't have a fully articulated screen, so you can't flip it around to face you. It's also on the heavier, bulkier side and can only shoot 4k video with a severe crop, which impacts its stabilization and video quality.
The Nikon Z5 is good for studio video, but it falls short of higher-end or video-oriented models. The biggest downside here is severely cropped 4k recording, which impacts quality, AF performance, and stabilization. It's also capped to 30-minute recording sessions and doesn't offer any Log profiles to take get a wider usable dynamic range. On the upside, it has a decent amount of frame rate options and a fantastic battery life for video, with no overheating issues.
The Nikon Z5 isn't designed for action video. It's too big to be mounted on a helmet rig and can't record at high frame rates for slow-motion video.
The Nikon Z 5 is only available in one color variant: 'Black', and you can see its label here. We purchased our unit bundled with the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens, but, depending on the retailer, you can also buy it in a bundle with a different lens, including the Nikkor Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR lens, or without a lens at all.
If you come across a different variant of this camera, let us know in the discussions, and we'll update our review.
The Nikon Z 5 is an excellent entry-level full-frame camera. Though it has some shortcomings, especially when it comes to shooting speed, processing power, and 4k video capability, it's an excellent-value camera for the price and a great entryway into full-frame photography for those looking to upgrade.
For more options, you can also check out our recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras, the best cameras for wildlife photography, or the best 4k video cameras.
The Nikon Z 6 is a bit better overall than the Nikon Z 5, but the Z 5 still offers a lot of value for those just getting into full-frame photography. The Z 5 is Nikon's entry-level full-frame camera, while the Z 6 is a higher-end enthusiast model. Because of that, the Z 6 has a faster continuous shooting speed, can shoot 4k video without a crop and more frame rate options, and has a CFexpress card slot. However, it does have a shorter battery life than the Z 5.
The Nikon Z 5 and the Nikon Z 50 are both entry-level options in Nikon's mirrorless lineup, but they have different-sized sensors. The Z 5 has an advantage in noise and low-light performance thanks to its full-frame sensor, along with advanced features like in-body image stabilization and dual memory card slots. However, the Z 50's APS-C sensor gives it a more portable body. The Z 50 also has faster burst shooting and is a bit better-suited to video and vlogging, with more frame rate options and less of a crop on 4k video.
The Nikon Z 5 is better than the Canon EOS RP. Both are entry-level full-frame cameras, but the Nikon feels better built, has a higher-resolution EVF, includes in-body image stabilization and dual SD card slots, and has significantly better battery life. That said, the Canon does offer a couple of advantages—notably, a more portable body and a better overall autofocus system.
The Sony α7C is a bit better overall than the Nikon Z 5, especially for hybrid and video shooters or those who want a more portable camera. The a7C offers better video specs, with a much smaller crop on 4k video. It also has a more reliable and effective autofocus system and faster burst shooting. That said, both are full-frame cameras with roughly on-par image quality, though the Nikon does have some advantages, including better ergonomics, a much larger, higher-resolution viewfinder, and dual SD card slots.
The Canon EOS R7 is a bit better than the Nikon Z 5, but it uses a smaller APS-C sensor. Unless you need full-frame image quality and low-light performance, the Canon has more to offer. It has a much faster burst rate for action photography and a more effective autofocus system. It's also more capable for advanced video work and has better battery life. That said, the Nikon is a great deal if you need a full-frame camera that's relatively affordable.
The Nikon D780 is better overall than the Nikon Z 5, though they use different camera technologies. Though both are full-frame cameras, the D780 is an enthusiast-level DSLR, so it has an optical viewfinder, while the Z 5 is an entry-level mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder. Both feel well-built and comfortable to shoot with, but the Z 5 is significantly lighter and more portable. The D780 has a longer battery life and a more versatile autofocus system since it uses both contrast- and phase-detection AF depending on whether you shoot through the viewfinder or Live View on the screen. The Z 5 can only shoot 4k video with a severe crop, but on the upside, it has in-body image stabilization, meaning you can use non-optically stabilized lenses.
This isn’t the most compact option, but it’s relatively portable for a full-frame camera. It's much less bulky than a DSLR camera like the Nikon D780, but it isn't as lightweight as comparable mirrorless models like the Canon EOS RP or most crop-sensor cameras.
The camera feels very well-built. Though it's mostly made of plastic, it does have a magnesium alloy frame inside, and it's a lot sturdier-feeling than comparable entry-level full-frames like the Canon EOS RP. It's even weather-sealed against dust and moisture, giving you a bit more peace of mind when taking your camera out on rainy days.
The Nikon Z 5 has excellent ergonomics, with plenty of space between the grip and the lens, though this can vary depending on how big your lens is. It handles very much like other Nikon mirrorless cameras, with a nearly identical body and handgrip to the Nikon Z 6. The controls are intuitive and well-placed. Overall, it feels great in the hand and will be suitable for users of all hand sizes.
The electronic viewfinder has a high resolution. Though 3.69 million-dot resolutions have become more common in mirrorless EVFs, it's still nice to see on an entry-level model like this, and it means you'll get a clear, sharp view of your subjects through the viewfinder.
The camera has a tilting screen with full touch capability. You can select focus points with it, use it as a touch shutter, or navigate the menu and quick menu. It doesn't get overly bright, making it a bit harder to see what's on the screen on really sunny days.
Nikon's user interface is super intuitive and well-organized. You can navigate the Nikon Z5's menu using either the physical controls or the touchscreen. There's a handy quick menu to access commonly used settings, and you can customize it to show your preferred settings. The menu also has a help function that gives you more information about certain settings, which you can access by tapping the '?' symbol in the bottom left corner of the screen or pressing the zoom-out button. However, it's only available for some settings.
Battery performance is excellent. It's CIPA-rated for 390 shots when shooting through the viewfinder and 470 shots when shooting through the screen. Of course, in the real world, that number will vary depending on how you use your camera, how long you keep it powered on, what kind of shooting you're doing, and more. But the CIPA rating is a good indicator of how it performs relative to other cameras, and the Z 5 definitely stands out among mirrorless options, outperforming the more powerful Nikon Z 6II. It's especially impressive for video recording, outlasting most mirrorless cameras we've tested.
Shooting speed is one of the areas in which the Nikon Z 5 falls short of pricier models, but this isn't surprising given its relatively affordable price point.
The buffer depth isn't too bad, though it falls short of a lot of higher-end cameras that can virtually shoot to infinity. However, considering you get up to 100 shots in both RAW and JPEG, it could be worse. And thankfully, if you do manage to fill it, there's a very short delay while it empties the buffer. Where the camera falls apart is its burst rate, which maxes out at a measly 5 fps. That's fine if you're just shooting your dog or your kids, but it's probably not going to cut it for birds in flight or fast-moving sports photography.
The Nikon Z 5 uses the same basic autofocus system as the Nikon Z 6, with on-sensor phase detection technology. It's pretty good overall. It has a few different subject detection modes, including animal detection, as well as face and eye detection. Its tracking feature isn't as consistent as newer, higher-end Nikons like the Nikon Z 6II, but it still performs reasonably well overall for those who prefer a more hands-off approach to autofocus. With the latest firmware, the eye tracking is a bit more reliable, but it still falls considerably short of competitors like the Sony a7 III and the Canon EOS R6, though these both sit at higher price points. Its area mode options are also more limited.
It performs worse when using the general subject tracking feature, which tends to be a bit sluggish and sometimes loses its target.
If you don't use the tracking mode, on the other hand, the camera's AF proves to be quite good. It focuses quickly and smoothly when using the center focus point, with little trouble keeping up with moving subjects. That's great for scenarios with more predictable subjects.
Unlike the Canon EOS RP, the Nikon Z 5 includes built-in image stabilization, which works in tandem with NIKKOR Z lenses. It's not the best stabilization, however. You can get clear shots at reasonably slow shutter speeds, but it's not as effective as the Nikon Z 6II.
Dynamic range is excellent, especially at its base ISO. It does drop off more quickly in low light, when you typically have to bump up the ISO, compared to the Nikon Z 6II, but overall, it performs very well.
The sensor has excellent noise handling. It isn't the best for low light, but you can still get relatively clean RAW files even when you have to boost the ISO in harsh lighting conditions.
Unfortunately, this camera can only record 4k video with a severe 1.58x crop, significantly reducing your field of view.
The autofocus system is okay for 4k video. It only supports face detection in video mode; however, it does a great job of tracking moving subjects. It's a little more sluggish when you use the general subject tracking—that is, when you select the subject manually rather than letting the AI detect a face on its own. You can adjust AF speed and sensitivity as well, which is great.
4k video quality is good overall. It's mostly limited by the heavy crop, but videos are still reasonably sharp and detailed, even in low light. It has a bit of an edge over the competing Canon EOS RP in terms of sharpness and noise handling—just don't expect the same level of quality as cameras like the Nikon Z 6II that can shoot uncropped 4k.
Rolling shutter effect is really bad. There's heavy distortion in 4k, which can be especially distracting when panning the camera.
In 1080p, autofocus works quite well. The tracking feature does a great job of keeping moving human subjects in focus. The general subject tracking is also a lot better in this resolution.
1080p video quality is pretty good. Details are a little more muddled than on the Nikon Z 6, but it's a bit better than the Canon EOS RP and isn't bad overall. It even performs decently well in low light without overly noisy footage.
Thankfully, there's much less noticeable rolling shutter effect in 1080p, though there's still a bit of distortion when panning.