Nikon Zf Camera Review. The (almost) Perfect Camera.

Nikon Zf Camera Review. The (almost) Perfect Camera.

By Steve Huff

Here we are in a new year and to start out this year of 2024 I already have my 2nd camera review here on these pages! One for the Nikon Zf (this review) and one for the Hasselblad 907x 100C that I just recently reviewed. I think in all of 2023 I did maybe 3 camera reviews so it appears that 2024 may see a return to me doing more with cameras as well as continuing my audio reviews.

Over a decade ago I reviewed the Nikon Df which was the DSLR counterpart to this Zf. With the Df I was drawn to the retro vintage design that took me back to Nikons film days. Back in the day (70’s + 80’s) Nikon made some pretty cool film cameras and they always looked the part as well. The Nikon Zf is the mirrorless Z mount version of the Df but of course it’s much better. Much better.

It has been over a decade since the Df and digital camera tech has moved along since then.

The Nikon FM2 from 1982, The new Zf seems like the modern day digital counterpart. See the Zf below the FM2 for the similarities.


Of course the similarities here are purely cosmetic as the Zf is loaded with a modern day 24mp digital sensor, no film required.

The Nikon ZF specs:

  • The Zf houses a full frame 35mm format 24 MP BSI CMOS sensor.
  • Magnesium Alloy Chassis
  • Dual memory card slots. One for SD and one micro SD.
  • Dust and Weather “Resistant”
  • 30 fps burst rate with silent shutter and 14 fps with mechanical.
  • Oversampled from 6K, UHD 4K video recording is possible with full pixel readout up to 30p, and Full HD 1080p video recording is also supported up to 120p for slow motion playback.
  • AF that detects faces and eyes. Yes, the AF here is fantastic for photo OR video.
  • High res 3,690,000 Dot EVF with 100% coverage.

All of this power resides in a somewhat compact retro inspired body. We have manual controls for everything, just like the Nikons of the past.

This was shot with the Voigtlander 35 f/1.2 in M mount (via adapter). The large and clear EVF makes manual focus easy as it gets. The 35 f/1.2 is also available in Z mount. 

The Experience 

This is what it is all about for me. If I am going to WANT to use a camera it must be one I enjoy using. It has to offer nice handling, have simple menus and a way to control it all without moving the viewfinder from my eye.

One of my fave cameras has always been the Leica SL and Leica SL2-S. I loved them for the 24 MP sensor, the feel of the body, the simple menus and the huge EVF. That camera gives a stunning experience, especially with older manual focus lenses. In some ways, at least for me, the Nikon Zf is a much lower cost competitor to the Leica SL2-S camera.

They are more similar than different, but the Nikon has much much better auto focus for photo and video. The SL2S is useless for Af with video as it still uses the old contrast detect method of attaining auto focus. The Nikon uses all of the latest and greatest Nikon modes and is similar to my Z9 in this regard. It’s pretty quick.

The out of camera color saturation and sharpness is nice. Nikon Z 20 f/1.8

Retro Vibes

When I first saw that the Nikon Zf was launched I was intrigued with it but it took me a while to get a hold of the camera. When it arrived from B&H Photo I was immediately struck by how small and light the Nikon Zf actually is. It doesn’t feel tank like but it feels solid. It is no where near as heavy feeling as the Leica SL2S so it does feel less substantial in that regard. This could be a pro for some of you who feel the Leica is just too large and heavy.

So first impression out of the box was “It’s gorgeous but it’s also pretty small”. 

When unboxing the camera I was disappointed to see there is no charger included, just a USB cable. This means you must charge the battery in the camera, which is fine but for those who will pick up multiple battery packs you will want to also purchase an external charger. Not in any way a deal breaker of course, it is what it is but I remember a day when cameras came with a nice physical charger. Doesn’t seem to be asking too much.

When I first held the Nikon Zf camera it felt a bit odd as my little finger just hung below the body, much like Sony’s bodies do. The Sony camera bodies for me just feel too small and as the Sony lenses get larger and larger, the whole promise of mirrorless has been thrown out the window. I always felt the Sony bodies felt too small, too cramped. When I hold a camera I prefer not to have a body so short that my pinky finger hangs down below. It’s not comfy or natural in feel, at least in my hands (and I have small hands).

I feel the Zf needs some kind of grip to really feel comfortable but even without it is fun to use. I am being picky here and I am sure there are a multitude of grips available for the Zf. 

The Nikon Zf looks stunning in the flesh. In fact, it looks much nicer in the flesh than in photos I have seen.

On the bottom of the camera we get the battery compartment and also the SD card slots. This is another small con for me as you have to open the battery compartment on the bottom to get access to your memory card. I would have much preferred it on the side but that is just me being picky once again.

A Shot of the Union Light and Power Co. In St Louis, an old Steam Plant. Nikon Zf and Nikon 20 f/1.8

After a couple of days with the camera I started to get used to the feel and I appreciated the response of the Zf as it was excellent. The auto focus is very responsive and while not as instant as my Z9, the Zf could easily do all I need it to do. The Z9 for me is truly a bit overkill but I love it and use it several times per week for video only. I do not take the Z9 out much for photos and while I had the Zf here it was always the body I picked up to take out with me (for photos) due to the smaller form factor.

As I traveled around looking for photos the Zf was just such a pleasant camera to use. Each day that went by I felt attached to the camera more and more. When I placed a little manual Leica M mount lens on the Zf (via adapter) it turned into something I really could see myself getting into. I used to shoot the Leica SL2S with only manual M lenses and the Nikon Zf is right at home shooting in this way as well. I love using a body like this, with the manual dials and controls with a manual lens. Since the Zf has a huge EVF it makes manual focus a breeze.

If you were ever thinking of a body to shoot small jewel like manual lenses, this Zf is THE ONE.

I shot with the Voigtlander 35 f/1.2 in M mount and used a Leica M to Z adapter. I much preferred using this body with this small manual focus lens not only for the small size and jewel like build, but the images have that classic vibe as well, especially when shot at f/1.2.

The photo cameras I have here now are the flagship Nikon, the Z9 as well as a medium format body from Hasselblad, the 907x 100c (that review is here). I really do not have a smaller 35mm full frame body that I can take with me anywhere (besides my phone) so the little Zf really spoke to me while it was here. I will miss seeing it on my shelf, and using it, when it is gone. My phone doesn’t even get close to what a real camera can do. Not yet anyway.

Quick snap with the Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 of Debby as we drove around St. Louis. 

Nikon vs Fuji vs Leica – Retro Vintage Appeal

So all three of these brands offer up bodies that take our brains back to the older days of photography. Nikon has the Zf, Fuji has their Xt5 and X100 series and Leica of course has the iconic M camera.

I have used all of these cameras mentioned. I rented the Fuji XT5 and Leica M11 as I passed on reviewing them when they were launched. For me the Leica M feels the best in the hand of the three, then the Fuji and then the Nikon but it’s not all about feel of course. The Fuji houses a smaller APS-C sensor, which for me is a non starter. The Leica will set one back around $13k with a decent M lens and it is the most limited and flawed of the three. The Nikon here, at $1995, is the absolute best buy going. Add the little 35 f/1.2 and you are UNDER $3k for a combo that can produce gorgeous images that your phone can not. 

The Nikon Zf with THIS little Manual Lens. 

So, I would suggest the Nikon Zf is one of the best deals going in the camera world today, especially when you compare it to the others in a simulator price bracket.

The Nikon is a killer body with a full frame sensor and a super fast and complete auto focus system. The Nikon Z line has some pretty stellar lenses as well and at this price point I feel that the Zf is one of the finest cameras you can buy today, for most people.

This one shot with a Voigtlander 35 f/1.2 M mount lens via a Leica M to Nikon Z adapter. I love the rendering of many of the Voigtlander lenses as they are much less clinical than most modern data mirrorless lenses. The images made with a lens like this just look good, no matter the subject. This is straight from camera. 

Leica vs Nikon?

Yes, the Nikon Zf at $2k is a killer camera at a great price. I would choose it today over the Fuji and Leica I mentioned if I were looking for a classic body style and wonderful experience. Some may say that the Leica offers the best shooting experience but I disagree today in 2024. The fact that the Leica is limited in close focus and telephoto, the fact that it uses an ancient rangefinder system that can be full of flaws and issues. That RF system will need to be sent in for adjustment periodically, again, it is what it is.

The only camera of these three that offers everything…great build, stunning auto focus, full frame sensor, retro design, large EVF, flip out LCD and even the best low light performance of the group is the Nikon. It comes in at $300 more than the Fuji and thousands less than the Leica.

In fact, the more I shot with the Zf the more I kept telling myself…“This is what Leica needs to do with the next M”. What I mean by this is that the Leica M would be better today in this day and age with a superb high res and large EVF vs that old mechanical RF. I used to shoot the Leica M8, M9 and M10 but that old antiquated RF always gave me issues and had to be calibrated.

Of course, these are my opinions. Over the last 16 years I have loved and owned cameras from nearly every brand, but today I am much more picky about what I would buy. The Nikon Zf is one of the cameras I would buy and own myself. It’s one of just 2-3 that I would buy. 

The 20 f/1.8 lens is sharp and contrasty and offers up a wide angle so you can soak it all in

My Journey Back to Nikon in 2023

As I wrote about last year in my Z8 and Z9 reviews, it was the Nikon Z8 that led me back to Nikon after a decade. I loved the Z8 so much that I bought the Z9 just so I could have the pro level body for shooting my YouTube videos. My plan was to keep the Z9 as my main video camera for the next several years and so far it has exceeded almost all expectations (audio preamps are worse in the Z9 vs the Zf for some reason).

The Z9 is about as close to perfect that I have seen in any digital camera, ever. Its only weakness is super low light as the sensor can get noisy in darker enviornemts.

So I have been back to Nikon, at least for video, full time. The Z9 stays indoors these days and is always attached to a tripod and I admit there have been days that I missed having a smaller body around for those days when I just want to head out and find some photographs.

The Nikon Zf did this for me while it was here. I was using it with a Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens as well as that Voigtlander lens. I wished I had a 50 but didn’t get sent one to try out. If I do end up buying a Zf I will most likely pick up the 40mm lens Nikon has made just for the camera. It looks like a retro Nikon and fits well on the Zf itself. For those who want a real retro experience, try mounting a Noct Nikkor to the Zf using the F mount adapter. ; )

This would be a dream setup for me and may be where I head if I buy one of the special colored bodies.

I mostly used the wide angle 20 f/1.8 Z lens during my two weeks with the Zf. It’s crisp, contrasty and sharp. 

Feel Good

The Nikon Zf is a “feel good” kind of a body and one I would use with mostly with retro MF lenses like that Noct Nikkor or even a Leica or Voigtlander lens. Now that Voigtlander is making Z mount lenses, it’s almost a no brainer to pick up at least one to enjoy that old school experience. If I were buying the camera body right now and wanted a beautiful and solid manual focus lens to mount, it would be THIS ONE right here.

I’ve always loved the Voigtlander 35 f/1.2 lens in the M mount as it provides such a rich, classic glowy type of rendering.

That is the thing with the Zf. When you use it, you feel good and specs do not matter because you know it will do what you want it to do. Having it strapped around you is also nice as it looks good, feels light and is fast and responsive in use. There is absolutely nothing NOT to like about the Zf.

The day it hit -3 with a windchill of -20. The Zf powered up and worked as normal. Debby doesn’t look to happy to be looking into the camera but I just wanted to see if the camera would operate as normal in these cold conditions. Below that, another shot showcasing an out of camera file. 

A Video Powerhouse?

The Nikon Zf also has some powerful video specs and honestly it is a camera that would do very well for my YouTube videos. I started to tell myself that the Z9 is overkill for me so I sat down one day and set up the Zf just like my Z9 in regards to video settings. I shoot in 4k at 24 fps and all cameras today that shoot video can do this without issue at all. With that said, not all cameras are the same when it comes to video. Some focus horrible and cause frustrations while others have funky color science and this makes more work. I have found that the Nikon Z9 delivered much better skin tones than my old Sony FX3 and the Zf footage looks almost like the Z9 footage, but a tad less sharp.  As for focus, the Zf is amazing but the Z9 is even quicker. I love the flip out LCD as this is great for self shooting and the Z9 does not have this. Also, not sure if there is something off with my Z9 but the Zf audio mic preamps sound much better than the ones in my Z9. So yea, audio is better when using an external mic with the lower cost Zf. The sound is richer, fuller, deeper and has way less noise on the Zf vs the Z9.

After doing a couple of video test shoots I realized I had to keep the Z9 as it just was rock solid in every way and is set up on a tripod permanently in my home. It’s quicker, more solid, easier to see the controls with the light feature and well, it just does what I need without issue. Sure, the Zf could do it too and if I did not have the Z9 maybe the Zf would have become my video and photo camera. As it stands now, the Zf would be my photo companion and the Z9 my video workhorse. Yes indeed, this duo from Nikon could cover it all.

The Zf does full frame video with ease and the AF stayed locked onto my eyes just as the Z9 does. It has impressive video specs.

Three more from the Nikon Zf and Voigtlander 35 f/1.2. Notice how much more soul these images have vs the sterile Nikon 20 1.8 ; ) The kicker is they are just mundane images of non exciting things but the rendering is very nice, making them look more ethereal than real life. 


There is not a ton to say about the Nikon Zf because it is simply a mirrorless camera that delivers on all fronts. It does what it is designed to do without headache, issue or problems. The 24MP sensor is fantastic and offers up a great mix of beautiful colors, resolution, low light performance and even video. It does these things with the best of them. The body is a touch small for my small hands, and my pinky finger hangs down below the camera. I feel I would need a grip to have perfectly comfy shooting. I am not a fan of having the SD card slot under the camera by the battery but it is what it is, and it works. That is just a personal nitpick.

Here is a link to all kinds of Zf grips. 

That is about it for the cons for me other than the fact that it doesn’t ship with a physical battery charger.

The pros far outweigh those small cons though as this is a beautiful camera through and through. The IBIS works so much better than the Sony bodies, the EVF is big and detailed, there are controls and dials for all you need on the camera body itself, much like a Leica M or one of the vintage inspired Fuji bodies. The Nikon Zf has a full frame sensor which is nice as it brings more of the good like dynamic range (which is very good here), less noise (which is always good) and the ability to have that full frame look, which is a thing.

I have enjoyed the Nikon Zf tremendously and while I only had it here for a couple of weeks, it has started the old brain into thinking I may want one for myself. I can see owning a Zf with say a 24-70 f/4 and 2-3 manual lenses like those from Voigtlander. Having the 15, 35 and a 75 would be awesome. Maybe even the 50 f/1 or finding an old Noct Nikkor again. THIS is where I feel the most joy will come from using the Zf, at least for me. If I wanted to use those large Z lenses I would choose a Z6, Z7, Z8 or Z9 as those bodies are larger and fit those lenses better.

This Zf is meant for those of us who maybe miss the old golden years of photography. The look, the feel, the design and the experience. The Zf brings all of that back without any real compromise and it’s another awesome home run from Nikon.

So why does the title say that this is the “Almost Perfect Camera”? What keeps it from perfection? Well, nothing. There is just no such thing as a perfect camera because each of us have different needs and wants. I will say that this may be the perfect camera for most of us. For the hobbyists, enthusiasts and passionate people who want to enjoy photography again. The Zf is one of those bodies that will make you want to use it. This is always good as the experience of finding and taking the shot is a huge part of the process for many of us.

Where to Buy?

I would buy the Nikon Zf from B&H Photo. It’s where I bought my camera gear for decades and never once, NEVER ONCE have I had an issue with them, their service or their speed of delivery.

You can find the Nikon Zf at their page HERE.

The Gold Color TT Artisans 28 f/5.6 I use is HERE. 


  1. Hi Steve thanks for this review. I’m looking to upgrade my fuji xpro2. I haven’t made the switch to full frame, so the as-yet-unannounced x100-next is still on my radar, but so is the nikon zf. I was hoping you’d do a review, as I trust your real-world opinions, compared to all the one-off puff pieces that came out when the camera launched. I shoot a Voigtlander 23mm on my xpro2, which I love, so the sample images here are really helpful and are nudging me towards the nikon.

    • The X100 is still APS-C and honestly, I have no interest in it at this time. Fuji blacklisted me over a decade ago due to telling the truth in a review so I would have to buy any Fuji to review it. I will not be doing that. The Nikon Zf, for me, is far superior to any X100 variant. Similar size, but way more versatile.

      • Ha ha, that is crazy that Fujifilm is upset with you, because it was *your* reviews that convinced me that Fuji was right for me at the time! No they were not the camera for you, but you pointed out what worked and didn’t work, and I decided that the x100s would be right for me…I valued most what you said *did* work.

        Honestly the big factor making me hesitate switching to the Nikon is that I really like Fuji’s film simulations. On the xpro2, with the press of a button and a quick scroll, I essentially pop in a different “roll of film”. But I think the value/cost proposition is better for the Nikon, perhaps with the 40mm full frame Voigtlander Nokton (not the 35mm apsc).

      • I mean, the Zf is 710g without a lens and depending on the (prime) lens you’ll be adding another 200-400g so that’s around 1kg. Not to mention that none of Nikons S primes really fit the whole Zf aesthetic…

        The X100V is 478g with a lens so they’re not at all the same size…,846

        • One could use a tiny small prime from Voigtlander with the Zf such as the 35 f/1.4 and be super light and still offer up a solid feel in the hand, unlike the Fuji which is stuck with one lens. IN fact there are tiny lenses that can be used from 15mm to 75mm on the Zf. I wouldn’t buy Nikon primes for it, rather small manual glass. New or vintage. That’s the beauty here. I see the Fuji X100 in today’s world as a one trick pony. Fine if that is all you need but for those who want more options with lenses, the Zf is a much better “retro” alternative IMO.

  2. Thanks for the review. Yes, the Zf is a great camera and I tried one in the shop. However, I decided to buy a used SL2-s instead, it just felt so good in the hand 😉

    • Without question the SL2-S will feel better in the hand. It’s much better made all the way around. The Zf is like a lighter, slimmer, faster, not as easy to hold as the SL2-S, for a few grand less.

    • I looked at the Zf too because it looks great and reminds me of my old Nikon bodies, however when I picked it up in store I felt the viewfinder and eye relief on my SL2s was so much better in every way. I don’t mind that the Leica is a bit slower at AF, the image results always match pretty much what I see in the viewfinder. Very happy with SL2s and 24-70 Vario Elmarit which Steve also reviewed. I’d get the Nikon if I needed something cheaper and lighter but wouldn’t think of selling the SL2s kit which makes me happy. I’ll just add that Leica’s build quality in the lenses is top notch and consistent throughout the range. If I’m not getting good images with them it’s all down to me not the lenses.

      • 100% the Leica Sl2-S has a better EVF, feel, build, and also has different color from the Nikon. It has its own vibe. All depends on what someone needs really. If shooting video, Nikon will win if you need AF. If you need tracking or the AF to keep up with the subject, Nikon Zf wins all day long. If it coms down to just build, feel or luxury the Leica wins all day long. Makes the Zf feel cheap. For someone looking to get into a full frame 24MP body the Zf offers quite a bit more technically for much less. You lose some of the luxuries but not the output or ability to use almost any lens you want, just like the Leica. I suspect the next Leica SL variant will have much improved AF, they will have to do that as the competition is out there! Enjoy the Leica, it’s a wonderful camera.

  3. Nice review, you really make those images sing, beautiful!. I have the Z9 and beat the thing to death on a daily basis in a marine environment and it keeps coming back for more. It’s a beast. Also I have the original Z6 which I mainly use with adapted MF lenses and its a ton of fun. I am drawn to this ZF to replace it. Seems to be the best body for MF adapted lenses from any manufacturer right now.

  4. Hi Steve. it. Nice to see you are on cameras again. The Nikon looks good and I am sure I could enjoy it,
    and yet, I love the old Leica RF. I love the M VF with all its limitations. Leica lenses perform best on Leica cameras. I also love Leica’s Monochrom models. With all that said I think Nikon makes great cameras .My only wish is to see Better prices on Leica cameras in the future
    Take care Danny

    • You know, I did not even think that they would release an APS-C version, yet they did. So yes, the Z mount version is APS-C. I had no idea! So I would get the Leica M version for sure.

  5. So nice to see you doing camera reviews again. The audio stuff doesn’t interest me that much…but the cameras definitely are of interest.

    • Well, for me, the audio reviews do 4X better than photo reviews (when it comes to views, reads, interest, etc). There is much more interest in audio these days, high end audio, than photo. So I can do camera reviews but in the end they noting but passion projects for me. If I adore a camera and can get a hold of it, I will review it. Sadly, I have no interest in most cameras made today. Most are just a constant rehash or one new feature that does nothing for real world photography, marketing gimmicks. I feel cameras peaked many years ago and most these days use their phone. I do really enjoy this Zf though. It’s about perfect for a guy like me. Both in price/performance and versatility.

    • Well, if it had an OVF I am sure it would make it a non starter for 90% of those looking into buying one. OVF’s are a thing of the past unfortunately. Today’s EVF’s are so much better IMO than any OVF. EVF’s of the past were awful, but today they are remarkable. Most though want a good EVF vs OVF which is why we no longer see them. I would never buy a Zf with an OVF but some would, just not enough to make it viable.

      • Even though EVFs seem to be the standard now, I still hate them. I long for An old OVF as well. But the market doesn’t run on my whim. ZF is on my buy list. Already have the baby brother, the ZFC which is a nice little purse camera. A little lighter than my Leica SL2-s

  6. Great to se another camera review on your site! Planning on buying the Zf eventually, but have been holding off. Coming from a Z6 I think of it as an upgrade and want the retro styling, but not decided yet. Also tried the X-T5 but found out that APS-C ang 40MP was not for me.

    • Once you shoot full frame it’s tough to go back to APS-C. I mean, I just couldn’t do it and see no reason to. I have been full frame for a decade with a brief M 4/3 stint.

  7. Hi Steve,

    thanks for your enjoyable work!
    Off topic: Have you heard of Joe Marquez from Hawaii (the smoking camera)? He had some nice articles on your site and has stopped publishing pictures 2019. He just disappeared from the web (or I use the wrong search terms).

    Thanks and have a good time!

  8. Is it possible to adapt Zeiss M lenses ointe Zf?

    Thank you in advance for your return.

  9. Hi Steve, thanks for the great review! It looks like the Zf can truly replace the SL / SL2-S for adapting M mount lenses. I’ve noticed one point you may want to correct and that’s about the 35mm Nokton in Z mount, which is not a full frame lens (unfortunately). At least for the time being, the only option is to adapt the M-mount one, which seems to be leave no compromises in image quality from what I can see. Cheers from Italy

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