Nikon Z 30 Review | PCMag

2022-10-15 00:15:04 By : Ms. Yanping Ren

A mirrorless camera made for videos and vlogs

Images, and the devices that capture them, are my focus. I've covered cameras at PCMag for the past 10 years, which has given me a front row seat for the DSLR to mirrorless transition, the smartphone camera revolution, and the mainstream adoption of drones for aerial imaging. You can find me on Instagram @jamespfisher.

The Nikon Z 30 puts video features at the forefront, so vloggers working without a support crew can bring the bokeh look to videos as well as change lenses. We especially like its audio quality, but wish it had a stabilized sensor.

The Z 30 ($709.95, body only) is Nikon's take on a video-first mirrorless camera for content creators, vloggers, and YouTubers. It competes directly with the Sony ZV-E10, as both include quality built-in mics, articulating displays, and support swappable lenses. Nikon's take works with its Z mount lens system, records video at up to 4K30, and doubles as a capable photo camera, but it doesn't have as many sensible lens options as you get with Sony E-mount. In the end, it's a capable vlog camera, with some of the same limitations as others in its class.

The Z 30's EVF-free body harkens back to the early days of mirrorless, before built-in viewfinders were entry-level standard. The camera measures 2.9 by 5.0 by 2.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 12.3 ounces without a lens. In recent years this form factor has become the de facto standard for ILCs marketed at vloggers—the Sony ZV-E10 is smaller (2.5 by 4.5 by 1.8 inches, 12.0 ounces), but otherwise remarkably similar.

Without a viewfinder, the camera sports a flat top, one that houses a stereo mic for much clearer audio, as well as a hot shoe to mount an external mic if you want, or attach a flash. The Z 30 does not include an onboard flash.

Nikon sells the camera as a body only for $709.95 and offers a few different kits. The camera and Z DX 16-50mm zoom are available for $849.95. A two-lens kit, with the 16-50mm and DX 50-250mm is also an option for $1,199.95.

There's also a Creator's Kit, aimed squarely at video makers, for $949.00. It includes the 16-50mm zoom, a SmallRig tripod grip, a Bluetooth remote, and a Rode shotgun mic for $949.00.

The Z 30 uses the same lenses as full-frame Nikon Z models, even though it has a smaller APS-C (DX) format image sensor. Nikon makes a handful of lenses for the DX format, including the aforementioned 16-50mm and 50-250mm.

There is also a Nikkor DX 18-140mm zoom available now, and a DX 12-28mm power zoom on the company's lens roadmap. The latter is of special interest to video creators working without a film crew, especially those who record in a present-to-camera style. We don't know when the 12-28mm will come out, or how much it will cost. Sony prices its similar wide zoom, the E PZ 10-20mm F4 G, at $749.99.

If you're not set on a changeable lens camera, there are some alternatives to consider. The Sony ZV-1 comes in a pocket form factor with a built-in 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 zoom, or you could opt for the $500 ZV-1F if you prefer a wide prime lens to a zoom. We'll also point to the GoPro Hero10 and Hero11 Black as good vlogging options—they can swap from an ultra-wide to a more moderate angle and include stabilization that does as good a job as a gimbal.

The Z 30 is a little bit bigger than its closest competitor, the ZV-E10, but that's not a bad thing. Nikon puts a deeper handgrip in its camera, and a slightly wider body leaves more room for your fingers. The Z 30 is just a little bit more comfortable to handhold than the ZV-E10. How much it matters to you depends on your creative style—both are equally adroit in the hand when paired with a tripod-grip, and we expect many creators to use the Z 30 with a tripod or gimbal.

Nikon puts a couple of programmable function buttons on the grip side of the lens mount, so they are under finger when you handhold the camera. The front also includes a bright red tally lamp, a visual indicator that the camera is rolling. The Mode dial, front and rear command dials, Record, and shutter release are on the top plate.

Control buttons border the rear, including Drive, Delete, AE-L/AF-L, and a photo/video toggle switch. A four-way directional pad, playback and menu buttons, and the on-screen i menu button account for the remainder of controls.

The LCD is your viewfinder—as mentioned, Nikon didn't build one into the camera, nor does it offer an accessory option. Thankfully it's a quality display, with a 3-inch frame, 1.04-million dot count, strong viewing angles, and adjustable brightness. The screen swings out away from the body for articulation and can face forward so you can monitor selfie vlog footage when working without a crew.

We definitely miss an EVF for photo work, but the LCD is usable for video. If you're looking for a Nikon DX mirrorless camera with an EVF, the Z 50 and Z fc both fit the bill. The Z 50's flip-under screen is less useful for video work, but the Z fc has the same type of vari-angle LCD as the Z 30.

The Z 30 is powered by Nikon's EN-EL25 battery, the same one used by the Z fc and Z 50. If you're building a system with different types of camera bodies, the shared battery style is certainly a boon. The battery manages about an hour of continuous record time (4K24) in our tests and is rated by CIPA for 330 photos per charge.

You can charge the camera on the go via USB-C, and with a quality AC adapter you have the option of running the camera from a wall outlet, a plus if you are looking for an in-studio option for video, or if you'd like to use the Z 30 as a webcam. You get a 3.5mm microphone jack, as well as a micro HDMI port to connect to a recorder or streaming adapter like the Atomos Connect. The micro-sized port is notorious for breaking, however, so keep that in mind if you plan on using the feature.

There's no headphone jack at all, though, so you'll have to rely on on-screen audio monitors and the camera's tinny built-in speaker for monitoring. That's a big swing and a miss for a camera that's ostensibly built for vlogging, a medium where audio quality is as important as video.

The Z 30 has a single UHS-I memory card slot to save pictures and movies. You'll want to get a big card for video; budget about 1GB per minute. Wireless transfer is available via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (the Z 30 works with the Nikon SnapBridge smartphone app, which is available for Android and iOS). You can use your phone as a remote (with live view), or go the push-button route and add the ML-L7 Bluetooth Remote (included in the Creator's Kit).

The Z 30 sports the same autofocus system as the Z 50 and Z fc. As a mirrorless camera it's able to use its image sensor to set focus, and does so with speedy phase detect pixels, with coverage nearly to the edges of the frame. Focus is generally fast, and accuracy is strong. The camera includes face and eye detection for people, as well as eye detection for cats and dogs, for both stills and video.

Autofocus is capable in general and does a good job when left to a wide area. You do need to do some handholding—there are different modes for people and animals, for example. If you prefer taking command of the autofocus point you can tap on the rear display to set it, or use the four-way directional pad. The pad is a little clumsy to use, though; it is a little slow to recognize when you're holding it down to move the focus box to a different part of the frame, and doesn't support diagonal input.

We give strong preference to the Z 5 and Z 6 II for Nikon creators who want to photograph action subjects that call for tracking focus, those full-frame bodies offer eight-way focus controls for a more pleasing ergonomic experience. If you're shopping in this price range and put a priority on focus, the Canon EOS R10 is the camera to beat, its autofocus intelligence and accuracy are unmatched by competitors.

Stills capabilities line up with the Z 50 and Z fc, as the three models share the same image processor and sensor. The Z 30 supports 11fps JPG and 9fps Raw capture with continuous focus, with a buffer that can handle around 30 Raw or 100 JPGs before slowing down.

Image quality lines up with the other DX Nikons. The 20.9MP sensor supports 14-bit Raw or 8-bit JPG photos and delivers good-looking images through much of its ISO range. At lower sensitivity, photos show strong detail and little visible noise; image quality is excellent through ISO 1600 and very good through ISO 12800. For more detail, refer to our Z fc review, we tested it concurrently with the Z 30.

We expect more Z 30 customers to be concerned about video quality. It supports 4K30 and 1080p60, with slower frame rates available if you prefer. For our sample reel we stuck with 4K24, a frame rate that adds a slightly surreal, cinematic feel to motion. Nikon's default color profile is pleasing, but you can swap to a flat look if you want to apply some creativity in the editing room.

The H.264 video is 8-bit 4:2:0, however, so there's not as much leeway to edit color as you'd enjoy with a camera that supports 10-bit compression. The Canon EOS R10 qualifies in this price range, but like the ZV-E10 and Z 30 it doesn't include a stabilized sensor. Don't count out an older pro model like the Panasonic GH4, it's now available at a steep discount (around $1,000) and while you'll need to add a microphone for crystal clear audio, its video features still hold up.

There are a few marks against the Z 30 as a video camera, aside from the 8-bit format. The 4K frame rate tops out at 30fps, and you need to drop down to a meager 1080p if you chase the smoother 60fps look. The lack of a headphone jack, and Nikon's decision not to allow for USB-C headphone monitoring, is a head-scratcher. Finally, the image sensor isn't stabilized, so your handheld video is going to look a bit shaky. Digital stabilization helps, and only introduces a slight crop, but if you can manage the cost consider a video camera with 5-axis IBIS—Sony's new FX30 ($1,800) fits the bill—or use a gimbal or tripod.

Cameras built for vloggers, video creators who typically work alone or with a partner, rather than with a full-on filming crew, are a relatively new idea. For years made-for-photo mirrorless cameras filled the role, but a desire for better in-camera audio and video-first form factor led Sony to lead the pack and develop the ZV-1 (from mid-2020), a fixed lens model, and later the ZV-E10, which debuted last year.

Nikon was quick to follow with the Z 30, and while it doesn't do much to separate itself from the ZV-E10 in terms of feature set, there are some things it does a bit better than the Sony. We like the Z 30's wider body style, it's a bit more comfortable to hand hold, and we like that its digital stabilization introduces less of a crop, and seems a bit more effective than Sony's in practice.

But the ZV-E10 is a stronger choice for video creators. A headphone jack is a mark in Sony's favor, as is a better selection of lenses. Nikon lags behind there, and while the DX 12-28mm power zoom is promised, there's nothing on the Nikon roadmap that matches up with the Sony E 11mm F1.8 G or the wide range of autofocusing third-party glass available in E-mount.

Both the Z 30 and ZV-E10 have drawbacks, but they're indicative of the concept. Big sensor cameras really require IBIS for steady handheld work, so you'll still want to bring some accessories along—at minimum a tripod or monopod. The trade-off is the ability to change lenses for different perspectives—you can add something like the 40mm F2 and get a defocused background look, or add macro shots to your video projects with a good close-up lens.

For the right creator, a vlog-style camera with changeable lenses fits the bill. We're not sold on either being ready for prime time, especially given how versatile the latest GoPro and DJI action cameras are. Our GoPro Hero11 Black and DJI Osmo Action 3 testing is in progress, but both offer world-class digital stabilization with horizon leveling for steady handheld footage, offer more versatile frame rates (for different motion effects), hyperlapse, and are fully waterproof. They are wide-angle cameras, though, with a bit of useful digital zoom, and are bad for macro work.

The Nikon Z 30 puts video features at the forefront, so vloggers working without a support crew can bring the bokeh look to videos as well as change lenses. We especially like its audio quality, but wish it had a stabilized sensor.

Sign up for Lab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.

Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!

Images, and the devices that capture them, are my focus. I've covered cameras at PCMag for the past 10 years, which has given me a front row seat for the DSLR to mirrorless transition, the smartphone camera revolution, and the mainstream adoption of drones for aerial imaging. You can find me on Instagram @jamespfisher. is a leading authority on technology, delivering lab-based, independent reviews of the latest products and services. Our expert industry analysis and practical solutions help you make better buying decisions and get more from technology.

© 1996-2022 Ziff Davis. PCMag Digital Group

PCMag, and PC Magazine are among the federally registered trademarks of Ziff Davis and may not be used by third parties without explicit permission. The display of third-party trademarks and trade names on this site does not necessarily indicate any affiliation or the endorsement of PCMag. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product or service, we may be paid a fee by that merchant.