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Nikon Z 5 Camera Review

Tested using Methodology v0.11
Updated Nov 07, 2022 at 09:26 am
Nikon Z 5 Picture
7.5
Travel Photography
8.3
Landscape Photography
7.3
Sport & Wildlife Photography
6.1
Vlogging
8.0
Studio Video
4.1
Action Video

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.

Our Verdict

7.5 Travel Photography

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.

Pros
  • Excellent image quality.
  • Sturdy and weather-sealed.
  • Amazing ergonomics.
  • Fantastic battery life.
Cons
  • Not especially portable.
8.3 Landscape Photography

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.

Pros
  • Excellent image quality.
  • Sturdy and weather-sealed.
  • Amazing ergonomics.
  • Fantastic battery life.
Cons
  • Not especially portable.
7.3 Sport & Wildlife Photography

The Nikon Z5 is decent for sports and wildlife photography. On the upside, it has a solid autofocus system with excellent tracking capability, 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.

Pros
  • Excellent image quality.
  • Effective AF tracking.
  • Sturdy and weather-sealed.
  • Amazing ergonomics.
Cons
  • Not especially portable.
  • Slow max burst rate.
  • Limited buffer depth.
6.1 Vlogging

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.

Pros
  • Sturdy and weather-sealed.
  • In-body image stabilization.
  • Good overall face-tracking performance.
Cons
  • Not especially portable.
  • Screen only tilts and doesn't rotate.
  • Severe crop while recording in 4k.
8.0 Studio Video

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.

Pros
  • Plenty of inputs and outputs for video peripherals.
  • Fantastic battery life.
  • Good low-light performance.
Cons
  • Severe crop while recording in 4k.
  • No Log profiles.
  • 30-minute recording time limit.
4.1 Action Video

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.

Pros
  • Sturdy and weather-sealed.
  • In-body image stabilization.
Cons
  • Severe crop while recording in 4k.
  • Absence of high-speed frame rate options.
  • Not meant to be mounted to helmets or action rigs.
  • 7.5 Travel Photography
  • 8.3 Landscape Photography
  • 7.3 Sport & Wildlife Photography
  • 6.1 Vlogging
  • 8.0 Studio Video
  • 4.1 Action Video
  1. Updated Jan 24, 2023: Added text to 'Photo AF-C Tracking' and 'Photo AF-C Center Point' boxes, with minor touch-ups throughout the review for clarity.
  2. Updated Jan 23, 2023: Converted to Test Bench 0.11.
  3. Updated Nov 10, 2022: Because of the yellow tint present on the original 'Video Quality' test scene extracts, we re-tested the camera to ensure proper settings were used. The 'Test Scene Extract in 4k' and 'Test Scene Extract in FHD' have both been reshot and re-uploaded, and the scores have increased. We also re-evaluated the 'Low Light Capability in 4k' score, which has now decreased and is more in line with expectations.
  4. Updated Nov 07, 2022: Rewrote existing text for clarity and accuracy and added missing text.
  5. Updated Oct 03, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.10.
  6. Updated Aug 05, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.9.
  7. Updated Apr 22, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.8.
  8. Updated Feb 12, 2021: Input errors in the 'Depth' field in the 'Portability' box and 'Guide Mode' field in the 'Menu System' box have been corrected. An error in the name of the tested lens has also been rectified.
  9. Updated Feb 08, 2021: Corrected input errors in the 'Sample Gallery' section.
  10. Updated Feb 08, 2021: Review published.
  11. Updated Feb 08, 2021: Early access published.

Check Price

Black (Body Only)
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Black W/ NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 Lens
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Differences Between Sizes And Variants

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.

Compared To Other Cameras

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.

Nikon Z 6

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.

Nikon Z 50

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.

Canon EOS RP

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.

Sony α7C

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.

Nikon D780

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.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
3.5
Design
Portability
Height
4.0" (10.2 cm)
Width
5.6" (14.1 cm)
Depth
3.5" (9.0 cm)
Volume
79.0 in³ (1,294.4 cm³)
Weight
1.52 lbs (0.69 kg)

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.

8.5
Design
Build Quality

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.

Design
Body
Body Type
SLR-Style
Water Resistance
Weather-Sealed
Mirrorless
Yes
Rugged
No
Hot Shoe
Yes
Customizable Button
Yes
Command Dial
2
Tripod Mount
Yes
Lens Mount
Z Mount
Built-In Flash
No
Design
In The Box

  • Nikon Z 5 mirrorless camera body
  • Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens
  • Lens cap
  • Sensor cap
  • 1x Nikon EN-EL15C battery
  • Shoulder strap
  • Battery charger
  • USB-C cable
  • User manual

9.0
Design
Ergonomics & Comfort
Hand Grip: Small Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Medium Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Large Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Extra-Large Hand
Yes

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.

Design
Viewfinder
Viewfinder Type
Electronic
Advertised Coverage
100%
Advertised Resolution
3.69 million dots
Advertised Magnification
0.8

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.

7.1
Design
Screen
Screen Articulation Type
Tilting
Screen Max Brightness
524 cd/m²
Advertised Resolution
1.04 million dots
Size
3.2" (8.1 cm)
Touchscreen
Yes

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.

9.0
Design
Menu System
Guide Mode
Yes
App Name
Nikon SnapBridge

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.

not tested
Design
Built-In Lens
Maximum Aperture
No built-in lens
Max Aperture (Full-Frame Equivalent)
N/A
Minimum Focal Length
N/A
Maximum Focal Length
N/A
Max Focal Length (Full-Frame Equivalent)
N/A
Optical Image Stabilization
No
Luminance
N/A
Light Falloff
N/A
Design
Sensor
Sensor Type
CMOS
Advertised Effective Pixels
24.3 MP
Sensor Size
Full Frame
Processor
EXPEED 6
Extended ISO Minimum
50
Native ISO Minimum (Base ISO)
100
Native ISO Maximum
51,200
Tested Firmware
1.20
9.3
Design
Battery
Battery Type
Nikon EN-EL15C
USB Charging
Yes
Use When Charging
Yes
Advertised Battery Life In Photo
470 photos
Tested Battery Life In Video
154 min

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.

Photo General
Photo General
Photo Features
JPEG File Format
Yes
Raw File Format
NEF
Shutter
Electronic and Mechanical
Slowest Shutter Speed
30 s
Fastest Shutter Speed
1/8,000 s
Silent Shooting
Yes
HDR
Yes
Time Lapse
Yes
5.7
Photo General
Photo Shooting Speed
Low Speed Continuous
1 fps
High Speed Continuous
5 fps
Silent Shooting Continuous
3 fps
Raw Buffer Size
100 Photos
JPEG Buffer Size
100 Photos
Buffer Empty Time
1 s

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.

6.3
Photo General
Photo AF-C Tracking
Autofocus Tracking Shots
Perfect Focus Hit Rate
50%
Usable Focus Hit Rate
62%

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 both face and eye detection, as well as animal detection, to detect different kinds of subjects. 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. The AF tracking 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.

9.7
Photo General
Photo AF-C Center Point
Autofocus Center Point Shots
Perfect Focus Hit Rate
96%
Usable Focus Hit Rate
100%

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.

6.6
Photo General
Photo Image Stabilization
Minimum Shutter Speed Achieved
1/30 s
In-Body Image Stabilization
Yes

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.

Photo Image Quality
8.9
Photo Image Quality
Photo RAW Dynamic Range
Dynamic Range At Base ISO
11.3 f-stops
Dynamic Range At 1/500s Exposure Time
9.8 f-stops
Dynamic Range At 1/2000s Exposure Time
7.5 f-stops
Dynamic Range At 1/4000s Exposure Time
6.9 f-stops

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.

8.4
Photo Image Quality
Photo RAW Sharpness
Vertical Edge MTF50 At Base ISO
2,287 LW/PH
Horizontal Edge MTF50 At Base ISO
1,788 LW/PH

The Nikon Z5 has a high-resolution sensor that resolves fine details very well. That means you have more leeway to crop in without losing detail than you would with a smaller sensor or lower-resolution camera.

8.6
Photo Image Quality
Photo RAW Noise
RAW SNR 18% At Base ISO
40.63 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 200
39.61 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 400
38.03 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 800
35.78 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 1600
33.33 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 3200
30.63 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 6400
27.78 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 12800
24.92 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 25600
23.43 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 51200
18.98 dB

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.

8.5
Photo Image Quality
Photo JPEG Noise
SNR 18% At Base ISO
37.90 dB
SNR 18% At ISO 800
37.67 dB
SNR 18% At ISO 3200
37.44 dB

The camera does an excellent job of reducing noise in JPEG photos taken straight out of the camera. That's great news for the casual shooter who wants clean low-light shots or those who don't want to bother processing their own RAW files.

Photo Image Quality
Test Scene Pictures Download
JPEG Picture At Base ISO Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 400 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 800 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 1600 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 3200 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 6400 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 12800 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 25600 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 51200 Download
RAW Picture At Base ISO Download
RAW Picture At ISO 400 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 800 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 1600 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 3200 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 6400 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 12800 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 25600 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 51200 Download
Pictures Sample Gallery
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Skate Park Picture
JPEG Skate Park Picture Download
RAW Skate Park Picture Download
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Polish Church Picture
JPEG Polish Church Picture Download
RAW Polish Church Picture Download
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Studio Picture
JPEG Studio Picture Download
RAW Studio Picture Download
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Stairway Picture
JPEG Stairway Picture Download
RAW Stairway Picture Download
Video General
Video General
Video Features
Full HD Video
Yes
4k Video
Yes
6k Video
No
Clean HDMI Output
Yes
Advertised Max Chroma Sampling Over HDMI
Not Advertised
Advertised Max Bit Depth Over HDMI
N/A
Log Picture Profile
No
Recording Light
No
Video General
Audio
Audio Test Sample
Audio Recording
Stereo
Microphone Level Display
Yes
Video General
Video File Format And Compression
MP4 H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
Yes
MP4 H.265 / HEVC
No
MOV H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
Yes
MOV H.265 / HEVC
No
AVCHD H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
No
All-I Compression
No
4k Video
5.8
4k Video
4k Video Frame Rate
240 fps In 4k
No
120 fps In 4k
No
60 fps In 4k
No
30 fps In 4k
Yes, with a Crop
24 fps In 4k
Yes, with a Crop
4k Crop At Max Available fps
1.58 x

Unfortunately, this camera can only record 4k video with a severe 1.58x crop, significantly reducing your field of view.

7.8
4k Video
4k Video Internal Recording
Bitrate Maximum In 4k
129 Mbps
Bitrate Minimum In 4k
128 Mbps
Chroma Sampling In 4k
4:2:0
Bit Depth In 4k
8 Bit
Record Time Limit In 4k
30 min
Overheat Recording Interruptions in 4k
0
6.7
4k Video
4k Video Autofocus Performance
Object Tracking In 4k
5.3
Face Tracking In 4k
8.7
Face Detection In 4k
Yes
Eye Detection In 4k
No

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.

7.8
4k Video
4k Video Quality
Low Light Capability In 4k
7.0
Test Scene Extract In 4k
8.5

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.

3.8
4k Video
4k Video Rolling Shutter Effect
4k Rolling Shutter
10.0°

Rolling shutter effect is really bad. There's heavy distortion in 4k, which can be especially distracting when panning the camera.

Full HD Video
8.5
Full HD Video
FHD Video Frame Rate
240 fps In FHD
No
120 fps In FHD
No
60 fps In FHD
Yes
30 fps In FHD
Yes
24 fps In FHD
Yes
FHD Crop At Max Available fps
1 x
7.6
Full HD Video
FHD Video Internal Recording
Bitrate Maximum In FHD
56 Mbps
Bitrate Minimum In FHD
29 Mbps
Chroma Sampling In FHD
4:2:0
Bit Depth In FHD
8 Bit
Record Time Limit in FHD
30 min
7.7
Full HD Video
FHD Video Autofocus Performance
Object Tracking In FHD
8.3
Face Tracking In FHD
8.1
Face Detection In FHD
Yes
Eye Detection In FHD

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.

7.3
Full HD Video
FHD Video Quality
Low Light Capability In FHD
7.0
Test Scene Extract In FHD
7.5

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.

7.0
Full HD Video
FHD Video Rolling Shutter Effect
FHD Rolling Shutter
4.0°

Thankfully, there's much less noticeable rolling shutter effect in 1080p, though there's still a bit of distortion when panning.

Storage And Connectivity
Storage And Connectivity
Storage
Card 1 Slot
SD Card UHS-II
Card 2 Slot
SD Card UHS-II

The SD card slots are conveniently placed on the side of the camera, making it easy to switch out cards even when the camera's on a tripod. The dual slots are great for those who want a backup.

9.5
Storage And Connectivity
Inputs / Outputs
USB
USB-C
HDMI
Mini (Type C)
Headphones
Yes
Microphone
Stereo
Wi-Fi
Yes
Bluetooth
Yes

Discussions