Nikon Z 30 camera review: A photographer’s perspective

 

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Nikon Z 30 camera

$650 at Amazon
Pros
  • Portability is ideal for content creators
  • Flip-out display for better framing
  • Generous functions and settings
Cons
  • Plasticky build quality
  • No viewfinder
  • Image stabilization is not the best

In the last few years, the mirrorless camera market has expanded with a huge range of DSLR-quality builds, entry-level mirrorless devices suitable for travel, and cameras that take a video-first approach.

The Nikon Z 30, a compact mirrorless camera, is one of the newer entries. Touted as being “packed with the features creators, vloggers and streamers want,” the device has been built with live streaming and social media content production in mind — but the question is, does the camera do still photos justice, too?

4K streaming video, constant footage recording, and audio are all key to producing video content and streams. However, still images are necessary for product promotion, social media channels, and marketing. Not to mention that if you invest in a mirrorless device, it should cover all bases. With this in mind, I’ve evaluated the Nikon Z 30 from an image-first perspective, and here’s my verdict.

Specifications

Weight 405 g (0.89 lb)
Dimensions 128 x 74 x 60 mm
Body type Mirrorless
Resolution 5568 x 3712
Sensor size APS-C
Sensor type CMOS
Battery EN-EL25 lithium-ion battery with 330 CIPA
Ports USB (3.2 Gen 1), micro HDMI, microphone port

Build quality

The Nikon Z 30 is a compact, mirrorless camera with dimensions of 5.1 x 2.9 x 2.4 inches (128 x 73.5 x 59.5 mm). While the right-hand grip felt comfortable and secure, as someone (admittedly) more used to heavyweight DSLRs, I found the camera feeling plasticky and fragile in my hands, lacking the comfortable, weighty feel that I personally prefer.

One advantage of the light, roughly 350-gram weight is that I would be happy to take this device rather than a larger DSLR with me on the road. For content creators, reducing the load can be important, so that’s a trade-off worth considering.

For this review, I used a Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens, sold as part of a one-lens Z 30 package by Nikon.

There is no viewfinder on the Z 30, but considering this camera is geared more toward content creation, the function might not be necessary to get work done. Instead, the LCD touchscreen 1040K display, which can be maneuvered to cater to different angles, is intuitive and easy to use.

The camera’s basic mode dial wheel has the typical options of auto function, manual, programmed auto, shutter-priority auto, and aperture-priority auto, and you also have U1, U2, and U3, which are buttons for user-programmed functions. Under manual is a handy function for long exposures — select either bulb or time via the display panel, keep your finger pressing down on the shoot button, and keep it there until you want to end the exposure.

Alongside the wheel, you have an ISO selection button, a self-timer feature, and an exposure compensation feature accessible by turning the large, black dial on the right. I quite enjoyed this feature for making rapid image improvements without having to resort to an editing suite.

I’ll admit, the memory card slot on the bottom of the camera is a great design choice — although it took me a minute to work out where it was. With this mirrorless camera, you can use standard SD cards and it only takes a gentle press to switch out different cards.

Changing lenses is also extremely easy. At the front of the camera you will see a black button alongside the Z lens mount. Press it down to either slot in a new lens or change your existing lens for a new one. To help you with alignment, a white dot guides you on where to swivel your lens to remove it.

There is a video flip option on the Nikon Z 30 for recording at a Full HD 60p or 4K 30p frames per second (fps). Photos can also be taken during video mode. Many of the same settings for both images and videos can be tweaked in the menu, including white balance, frame size and rate, picture controls, metering, and autofocus modes. An option to note is the Auto Area AF Mode, which can automatically sharpen and focus on a subject in a video, such as a close-up object. You can also enable an eye tracker to follow human subjects.

A built-in microphone records audio, but this can be improved by accessories including external microphones.

Ease of use

Overall, the Nikon Z 30 lays out functions for both video and photos with the end user in mind. Many useful functions can be accessed quickly through LCD display shortcuts, and I particularly like a double-tap feature on this screen that automatically shoots images with an object focus, depending on what part of an image you want to emphasize.

You can get away with sticking to auto modes and picture controls to produce high-quality stills and video without too much technical knowledge, so this is a robust, good-quality option for a beginner upward.

Picture quality

To test out the stills quality offered by the camera’s CMOS (20.9MP) sensor, I tried out the NIkon Z 30 in Kent, England. While I wasn’t too impressed with the image stabilization of the camera, I found the camera — together with the Z DX 16-50mm lens — performed better than expected when capturing small details. You can shoot images in RAW or JPG and there is a 1/4,000 shutter speed at 11fps for continuous shooting. The standard ISO is 100 – 51,200, although you can push the camera above this ISO range.

Buy the Nikon Z 30

$656.95 at Crutchfield

 

Bottom line

After much testing, I can see why the Nikon Z 30 would suit vloggers and content creators. The device has been designed with ease of use as a top priority, and portability is also at the forefront. I wouldn’t classify the Nikon Z 30 as a breakthrough camera for existing photographers looking to adopt a mirrorless camera by any means, but the device isn’t marketed in this way. Instead, it works as a jack-of-all-trades camera for both stills and video.

The Nikon Z 30 is priced at roughly $660 and I think the camera is just right for the ask. In addition to social media content creators and travelers, I could see the camera in the hands of beginners who want a versatile device to start with. The auto functions are excellent for building confidence while gaining more technical knowledge. Otherwise, considering that the still image quality is impressive for such a small and light camera, I’d certainly consider this as a good addition to your photography kit — but not as your main device.

Alternatives to consider

Sony ZV-1

$648 at Amazon

 

Canon EOS M200

$449 at Amazon

Sony Alpha ZV-E10

$798 at Amazon
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