Nikon Z50 APS-C mirrorless takes on Canon EOS M50 and Sony A6400

Nikon joins the fray in one of the few bright spots of a shrinking market.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
3 min read

The Nikon Z50 with the Z 16-50mm lens.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Nikon's not exactly late to the mirrorless party. It was there in the early days with its Nikon 1 series, an odd line based around a 1-inch sensor which eventually fizzled away. But it is the last company to bring an APS-C enthusiast model to a market segment dominated by the Sony A6400 and Canon EOS M50, and to a lesser extent, the cheaper and more entry-focused Olympus Pen E-PL9. Based around Nikon's full-frame Z mount, the new Z50 APS-C is accompanied by two new lenses that are more in line with what photographers at this level need when it comes to price and features. The package should definitely appeal to Nikon fans.

Though smaller than the company's entry-level SLR, the D3500, it's still roughly the same size and weight as the A6400. The M50 is a little smaller and lighter because it's based around Canon's smaller EF-M mount. 

The Z50 doesn't have the same body as its full-frame siblings, the Z6 and Z7, but it does have a similar big comfy grip, magnesium alloy body and a slightly off-center viewfinder.  It supports the same mount adapter for using F-mount lenses, but Nikon doesn't bundle it as it does for the higher-end cameras. The sensor is the same as the one found in the D500.  

It's got all the competitive features, including a flip-down touchscreen display with a selfie-specific mode, 4K video and the ability to record 1080/120p slow-motion video in-camera, time lapse and interval timers, an OLED viewfinder, eye-detection autofocus and so on. 

The one feature that continues to be frustratingly absent from these cameras, in-body image stabilization (IBIS), remains absent here as well. 

Nikon Z50: Nikon's first APS-C mirrorless design doesn't break new ground

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The two new kit lenses, typical slow-ish 16-50mm and 50-250mm models, together cover the most popular general-purpose shooting range and incorporate optical stabilization with roughly 4.5 to 5 stops of compensation, respectively. They're manually collapsible rather than power zooms, which means you get the annoying message telling you to extend the lens (with an extra rotation of the zoom ring) every time you start up. On the Z50, the 16-50mm lens does make an attractively compact package.

A control ring, which you can program for any number of adjustments, has a smooth rather than stepped movement so you don't hear a click when shooting video and designed for minimal focus breathing, the slight but frustrating reframing that occurs when you're focusing video.

The Nikon Z50 will ship in November 2019 in three kits: body-only for $860, a kit with the Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f3.5-6.3 VR for $1,000 and a dual-lens kit with the 16-50mm and Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm f4.5-6.3 VR lenses for $1,350.  


The Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct lens

Joshua Goldman/CNET

At the other extreme, Nikon also debuted its much-anticipated reboot of its ultrafast Noct film lens, the Nikkor Z 58mm f0.95 S Noct, which is optimized for night shooting -- a small LCD displays lens settings for viewing in the dark -- and reproducing point light sources. It's got both of Nikon's top coatings, Arneo and Nano Crystal Coat, and of course fluorine on the front element for protection.

There's a lot of glass in it, so it's pretty heavy. And so's the price: It will be $8,000 when it ships at the end of October. 

Comparative specifications

Canon EOS M50Nikon Z50Sony A6400
Sensor effective resolution 24.1MP Dual Pixel CMOS20.9MP CMOS24.2MP Exmor CMOS 14 bit
Sensor size 22.3x14.9mm23.5x15.7mm23.5x15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x1.5x1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 25600/51200 (exp)ISO 100 - ISO 51200/ISO 204800 (exp)ISO 100 - ISO 32000/ISO 102400 (exp)
Burst shooting 7.4fps 47 JPEG (10fps with fixed focus and exposure; Servo AF not supported with raw)11fps n/a11fps 99 JPEG/46 raw
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) EVF 0.4 in/10mm 2.4m dots n/aOLED EVF 0.4-inch/10mm 2.4 million dots 100% coverage 1.02x/0.68x OLED EVF 0.4 in/10 mm 2.4 million dots 1.07x/0.7x
Hot Shoe YesYesYes
Autofocus 143 points phase-detection AF (with specific Canon lenses); 99 points 209-area Phase detection425-point phase detection, 425-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity -2 - 18 EV-2 - 19 EV-2 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30 - 1/4000 sec.; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 30 - 1/4,000 sec; 1/200 x-sync (also auto FP high-speed sync)30-1/4000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 384 zonesn/a1,200 zones
Metering sensitivity 0 - 20 EV-4 - 17 EV-2 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV 4K UHD/24p at 120Mbps, 1080/60p, 720/120pH.264 QuickTime MOV, MP4 UHD 4K/30p; 1080/120pXAVC S at 100Mbps; UHD 4K/30p; 1080/120p
Audio Stereo; mic inputStereo, mic inputStereo, mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video YesYesYes
Maximum best-quality recording time per clip 4GB/29m59s29:59 minsn/a
Clean HDMI out YesYesYes
IS Dual Sensing IS (Optical with gyro data sent from body)OpticalOptical
Display 3-inch/7.7 cm Articulated touchscren 1.04m dots 3.2 in/8 cm Tilting, flip-down touchscreen 1.04m dots3-inch/7.5cm Tilting, flip-up 921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC1 x SDXC1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi, NFC, BluetoothWi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), BluetoothWi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), NFC, Bluetooth
Flash YesYesYes
Wireless flash n/an/aYes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 235 shots (875-mAh)320 shots (VF), 280 shots (LCD) (850-mAh)360 (VF), 410 (LCD) (1,020-mAh)
Size (WHD) 4.6x3.5x2.3 in 116x88x59 mm5.0x3.7x2.4 in 127x94x60 mm4.8x2.8x2.4 in 120x67x60 mm
Body operating weight 13.8 oz (est.) 390 g (est.)14 oz (est.) 397 g (est.)14.3 oz (est.) 403 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only) $630, £540 (converts to about AU$980)$860$900, £949, AU$1,499
Primary kit $800, £650, AU$949 (with 15-45mm lens)$1,000 (with 16-50mm f3.5-6.3 VR lens)$1,000, £1,000, AU$1,699 (with 16-50mm power zoom lens)
Release date April 2018November 2019January 2019