Nikon Zf is (also) lying
Nikon Zf is (also) lying

Nikon Zf is (also) lying

A new nostalgia-styled Nikon Z mount camera – the Zf – arrived, this time with a much anticipated full-frame sensor. It is drop-dead gorgeous, but to nobody’s surprise, issues found on their previous nostalgic camera are still there.

Now, you can say I’m ranting again, and you could even say I’m a Nikon hater, but the fact is, it’s not me, it’s not my fault. It’s Nikon’s fault, it’s their own doing! 😁

Check out my rant on how Nikon Zfc is lying, back in the summer of 2021.

What is it

The Nikon Zf is a nostalgia-inducing full-frame camera inspired by the iconic Nikon FE and FM from the early 1980s. Electronically, it is a 24-megapixel Z6 II with autofocus improvements from the Z8. The current Expeed image processor also brings some other, less dramatic improvements, like faster image processing, better image stabilization, better image compression, more advanced noise reduction, and the like. More than just a digital camera, this is supposed to be the ultimate camera for those wanting an old-school film camera, just with all the benefits of a modern digital system.

Key points

Nikon Zf is the first and the only Nikon camera that can use its touchscreen as a giant touchpad for moving AF points while the EVF is in use – while the back screen is turned off, the touch panel isn’t, so a thumb can be used for moving the AF point around. That feature many other manufacturers introduced approximately a decade ago. Unfortunately, while the feature is extremely practical, it is next to useless for left-eyed people, their noses get in the way and touch the screen.

The camera features a flip-out, fully articulated LCD screen, the first one in a Nikon full-frame camera. As expected on a fully articulated flip-out screen, it can be fully rotated and hidden; the back side of the screen frame has the same leatherette as the rest of the camera and once flipped, it makes the Zf look more like its analogue predecessor. That’s nice!

There are two memory card slots, one is for standard SD cards and supports UHS-II standard, while the other accepts MicroSD cards, but isn’t UHS-II compatible. Both card slots are located on the bottom, next to the battery, under the same cover – a standard for smaller microFourThirds cameras, but a new feature on the full-frame cameras.

Curiously, there’s a standard threaded cable release, just like on the Nikon FE/FM. Cool retro feature, but I’m fairly certain not many people are going to use it – cable releases fell out of use a few decades ago, no digital photographers own one, and it’s easier and more convenient to use a smartphone as a remote.


While the camera is a fairly typical mirrorless digital camera, it has a fair share of problems.

The biggest issue with the nostalgic, retro-inspired camera is that it tries to duplicate the old-style single-responsibility, dials obviously visible values and rings for controlling the exposure in a system where nothing is neither single-responsibility nor obvious at first glance. While the control of the aperture can be assigned to a focus ring, it is a freely rotating, step-less ring with no visible values. The other two exposure components do have single-responsibility rings with clearly shown selected values, but for some befuddling reason, camera designers chose to keep the standard PASM mode lever, negating all the benefits.

Dedicated shutter speed and ISO dials implore certainty, those two dials turned on a value define how the camera will take the next exposure. But, that is true only if the mode lever is in Manual mode (M)! Move the mode lever to Program (P), and suddenly those two importantly-looking dials have no function AND they’re lying to you. In Shutter priority (S) mode, at least one dial is showing the truth, while in the Aperture priority mode (A), you have to check the value of a lens aperture on a tiny screen on the camera top. To change the aperture value, you’d either have to use a wheel on the camera or a focus ring on the lens – if you reconfigured it that way. That sounds convoluted and simply unfinished – not something I would expect from a camera company trying to be number one. On the other hand, Nikon has always been a lens company, and it shows.


At least old Nikkor lenses work great, right? Yes, if you consider AF-S Nikkors “old”. Nikon FTZ adapter for F-mount lenses works perfectly fine, as long as lenses have their focus motors. Since there’s no slotted screw-drive motor in the FTZ adapter, usually autofocusing AF and AF-D lenses are strictly manual focus here. Unfortunately, manual focus experience with AF and AF-D lenses was never the most enjoyable due to narrow focus rings and short travel, but at least focus peaking makes life easier. The best part – the FTZ adapter differentiates between AF-D and AF lenses, with less support for older, AF lenses – except for focus peaking, there are no manual focus assist features, as available with AF-D lenses.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s even worse with manual focus lenses! For some reason, probably cost-cutting, Nikon omitted the aperture ring feeler from the FTZ adapter, so there’s no way the camera can sense the position of the aperture ring – that’s a feature every previous Nikon full-frame DSLR had. As expected, there’s no control over that aperture, as well. Focus peaking works, but just like AF lenses, other manual focus assist features aren’t available.

Although retro-styled, it looks like this camera isn’t made for old lenses. Hopefully, there’s a range of retro-styled modern lenses, then! If two lenses could be considered “a range”, then yes, there’s a range of exactly two retro-styled lenses, with both lenses borrowing styling cues from the Nikkor AI-S 50mm lenses that came with Nikon FE/FM cameras. Both are visually restyled versions of the existing, “standard” versions.

While both Nikkor Z 28mm F2.8SE and Z 40mm F2 SE are reasonably small and light, and optically they’re not that bad, their build quality is nowhere near as solid as AI-S Nikkors – both have a fully plastic build down to a plastic mount. Retro-styled SE versions have kept the same, fully plastic build quality.

Z mount system has been pushing the boundaries of what Nikon can do, with almost every new lens being superior to its F mount predecessor. While optically amazing, new lenses are also significantly bigger and more expensive, and on a relatively big camera with no grip, that could be less than ideal. The system has only a few compact lenses, with just five lenses that are truly compact, and, depending on your tolerances, an additional three to four lenses could be considered reasonably sized for a grip-less, supposed-carry-everywhere camera.

And there’s a question of the style. Nikkor Z lenses are all styled in a very modern fashion – they’re sleek, clean, almost minimalistic, with a smooth, slightly textured surface and the same longitudinal pattern used on all control rings. The look is nothing close to the nostalgia of SE lenses, not even remotely similar to 1990s lenses, and standard Nikkor Z lenses aren’t in the same stylish ballpark as the Nikon Zf and even the smallest Nikkor S-line lenses are all around half a kilo and almost 10cm long, making them positively not-compact.

On the other hand, Zf is not a small camera, despite the deceiving looks, so big lenses don’t look that out of place with that camera, so it probably boils down to personal familiarity and willingness to handle a big camera with almost no grip.


Nikon Zf indeed is one of the best-looking full-frame mirrorless cameras out there, if not the best-looking mirrorless full-frame camera.

If you want a good-looking and very competent camera that can be used as a fashion statement, look no further. With SE-series lenses, it is as close to a digitalized Nikon FE as possible. If you can ignore the command dials and just use it on one of the program modes, you’ll be perfectly fine, as well. It is a flawed camera cursed by the not-really-thought-out user interface, I see it as an attempt at nostalgia that tries to awe its potential buyers with its looks – and looks only. More importantly, it looks like it fundamentally misunderstands the design language of film cameras and applies that incorrect mental model to a modern camera without much thought – all while the very good modern iteration of that control interface exists in the guise of Fujifilm’s X-T series cameras (and Panasonic L1 DSLR from the yesteryears).

If the sale numbers are good, this unfinished (more like half-baked) camera could lead other companies, hinting at Canon, to create their versions of the retro-inspired cameras, hopefully with more time invested in refining the user interface.

To soften the edge of this rant, I actually like the camera, I’m just not a fan of how it turned out to be half-baked, with just a few details missing – but the devil is in the details. This way, it has a feeling of a cash-grab attempt at worst and incompetence and carelessness at best.


It looks like I’m not alone in these thoughts. Judging by the review on the DPReview, it appears Richard Butler has had the same conclusions while using the actual camera – check out the Operation and handling and Conclusion in their review.