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Nikon Z30 review

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The Nikon Z30 is a 20.2MP APS-C mirrorless camera designed for visual content creators wanting to take the leap from shooting with their smartphone or compact camera. It includes many familiar elements from Nikon’s existing ‘DX’ models but with more focus on vlogging than stills.

Key specifications

  • 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 4K video at up to 30p
  • 1080 video at up to 120fps (as slow-mo)
  • Around 2 hours of video with USB power
  • Fully articulating 3.0″, 1.04M dot touchscreen
  • Tally lamp
  • Re-arranged buttons with a more prominent REC button
  • Single UHS-I SD card slot

The Z30 is available body-only for $709.95 or with the collapsible 16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR lens for $849.95. A two-lens kit that adds the 50-250mm F4.5-6.3 VR costs $1149.95. A ‘Creators Accessory Kit’ comprising a Røde Videomicro shotgun mic, ML-L7 Bluetooth remote control unit, and Smallrig mini tripod/selfie grip is $149.



What is the Z30?

The Z30 is Nikon’s third APS-C mirrorless camera to use the company’s Z-mount. These smaller sensor models, called ‘DX’ by Nikon, have all been aimed at young content creators, but the Z30 shows the most commitment to that cause with an emphasis on vlogging and video streaming.

Conceptually, it’s very similar to Sony’s ZV-E10. Both are built around APS-C sensors and have articulated screens to allow the operator to appear in the stills and video they’re shooting. Both also have stereo microphones built into their top plates with the option to fit ‘dead cat’ windscreens (included with the Sony, a $10 accessory for the Nikon).

They differ in three key ways, though. First, the Z30 can shoot 4K video at up to 30fps without a crop, whereas the Sony ZV-E10 can only shoot at up to 24fps before it has to crop in, making it harder to achieve the wide-angle view ideal for vlogging. Second, the Z30 lacks a headphone port, meaning audio will need to be monitored using on-screen levels.

Last, whereas the ZV-E10 includes a wide range of video-focused color options, including multiple Log profiles for post-shoot editing, the Z30 has a simpler ‘Flat’ profile. In practice, this is less sophisticated, but it also means the video is easier to work with when editing.

The Nikon Z50 (left) and Nikon Z30 (right).

Unlike Nikon’s Z50 and Z fc, which use the same 20MP APS-C CMOS sensor, there’s no 30-minute recording limit on the Z30. Nikon says it will record around 125 minutes of 1080 footage if you provide power over the camera’s USB-C port. 4K will likely stop after approximately 35 minutes at 25°C (77°F).

Nikon Z30Sony ZV-E10Apple iPhone 14 ProGoogle Pixel 7 Pro
MSRP
(With kit zoom)
$710 (body), $850 (w/16-50mm lens), $1050 (w/16-50 & 50-250mm lenses)$700 (body only), $800 (w/16-50 lens)$999 (128GB)$899 (128GB)
Image stabilizationLens only
(+ digital in video)
Lens only
(+ digital in video)
Sensor-shift (rear cameras)Sensor-shift (rear cameras)
Autofocus TypeHybrid AF (phase-detection and contrast-detection)Hybrid AF (phase-detection and contrast-detection)Phase-detection and LIDAR AFPhase-detection and LIDAR AF
Display (Touchscreen)3″ 1.04M-dot fully-articulated LCD3″ 920K-dot fully-articulated LCDFixed 6.1″ (2556x1179px OLED)Fixed 6.7″ (3120x1440px OLED)
USB ChargingYesYesSort of (Lightning)Yes
Video specsUp to 4K/30pUp to 4K/30p (with 1.2x crop), 4K/24p full-widthUp to 4K/60p (Dolby Vision HDR)Up to 4K/60p (10-bit HDR)
Media FormatSD (UHS-I)SD (UHS-I)Internal/CloudInternal/Cloud
Mic SocketYesYesNo (possible with adapter)No (possible with adapter)
Headphone socketNoYesNo (possible with adapter)No (possible with adapter)
Weight405g (14.3oz)343g (12.1oz)206g (7.3oz)212g (7.5oz)

Who is it for?

The Z30 shines when used with the kit lens as a run-and-gun camera for vloggers and video creators who want solid 4K/30p and a reasonable focal length range in a compact form factor. Its video quality isn’t going to be all that much better than what the current flagship smartphones (such as Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro) offer in most situations. But the Z30 will be a quality-of-life improvement with its flip-around screen, customizable buttons and controls for added versatility and the ability to quickly pop on an external microphone without needing a dedicated rig.

Nikon also positions this as a solution for streamers who want better video quality on their gaming and live streams, but I don’t see it happening. Suppose you’re looking for a webcam replacement that will stay in a mostly fixed position on a regular basis. In that case, you’re better off going with a used Sony a6XXX series camera or a Canon EOS-M model. Both can be mounted on a tripod with an affordable lens and offer similar image quality for much less than the Z30’s retail price.

Body, handling & behavior

The Z30 might look like a Z50 with its EVF chopped off, but Nikon has added a few key details to make it a much more user-friendly camera for vlogging. The most notable additions are the fully-articulating display, a larger record button and the tally lamp on the front of the camera. Together, these make the camera more intuitive for shooting selfie-style video by taking the guesswork out of framing and knowing whether or not you’re recording.

The Z30 is enjoyable to shoot with, both when behind the camera capturing the world around you and when you have the camera turned on yourself. This isn’t easy to achieve, but Nikon has balanced the buttons, dials and interface well on both the front and rear of the camera to make it equally comfortable to use whether you’re behind or in front of it.

The button selection Nikon includes is enough to offer all the customization you could want in a camera this size, and the menu is easy to navigate without getting lost. I particularly liked the placement of the two customizable dials: one on the front of the grip beneath the shutter release and a shoulder dial on the rear of the camera near your thumb. They’re right where I need them when shooting, and I don’t have to fumble around while holding the camera with a single hand.

Media is stored on a UHS-I SD card next to the battery on the bottom of the camera. This isn’t as easy to access as a side-mounted card slot, but it’s far enough off the tripod mount that you should be able to remove the battery and memory card even with a tripod or plate attached.

What is it like to use for vlogging?

Nikon Z30 with a Røde Videomicro shotgun mic attached.

Over the past few years, manufacturers have released camera models made specifically for hybrid content creators. While Nikon counted its Z50 and Z fc APS-C cameras amongst those models, the Z30 is the company’s most video-oriented model yet.

The included kit lens offers a respectable focal length range, but it would’ve been nice to see it go a little wider. At its widest, the lens provides a 24mm equiv. focal length. While wide enough for most use cases, it would’ve been nice to see the wider end start at a 20mm equiv. focal length, as you’ll find in Sony’s recently-released fixed-lens ZV-1F. The Z30 does shoot using the entire width of the sensor, but if you use the electronic image stabilization (1.23x crop), that 24mm effectively becomes 30mm, which is a bit tight for a selfie-style video.

Autofocus had no problem keeping up with vlog-style content. Face/Eye AF worked well in bright and dark situations, quickly locking onto my eye even when I would look away from the camera for a bit.

AF performed well when filming other moving subjects as long as a subject took up at least 10% of the frame. Any smaller than that, though, and tracking would sometimes lose the subject if it was quickly running through the frame. This was more pronounced at the wider focal lengths, but it didn’t prove to be much of an issue as you have more in focus at wider focal lengths, so slight hiccups in AF weren’t as noticeable.

Face/Eye AF worked well in both bright and dark situations, quickly locking onto my eye even when I would look away from the camera for a bit.

Battery life proved solid and right on target with what Nikon estimates. According to Nikon, the EN-EL25 battery will capture approximately 75 minutes of video. I averaged around 65 minutes of battery life when shooting 4K/30p video, and that was in relatively colder weather, which can inhibit performance.

The Z30 has USB-C charging and while it isn’t a new concept, having the option to quickly top off the battery while vlogging is that much more beneficial than with stills shooting, considering how quickly video burns through a battery. It was easy to connect my USB battery pack to the Z30 in my bag between shooting and have it topped off and ready to go the next time I needed to use it.

I would’ve liked to see faster charging times (my benchmarking topped out at 6.35W), but higher wattage throughput means more heat, which could affect camera performance when you need to shoot with it.

Charging the Z30 over USB-C is very handy and easy to do. Charging stats are shown for uber-nerds (you know who you are).

Shooting is only part of the equation when vlogging, though. You also have post-production, and it seems Nikon has also carved out a nice workflow for creatives to latch onto with its new Nikon Flat color profile. This low-contrast, low-saturation preset gives you additional flexibility to color grade your video in post-production without having to deal with more complicated Log profiles and LUTs (look-up tables).

Nikon’s ‘Flat’ Picture Control color profile is also available for stills. This has the added benefit of making it easy to match the aesthetic of your photos to your videos. The same camera you use to shoot Reels and Shorts can also be used to capture thumbnails and still images, and those images will look similar without countless hours of having to color matching Log video footage to your stills.

Image Quality

The Z30 is built around a good sensor, making it a strong choice for both stills and video.

Nikkor 16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR @ 18mm | ISO 100 | 1/250 sec | F5.6
Photo: Richard Butler

The Nikon Z30 uses the same 20.2MP sensor found in the Nikon Z50 and Z fc. And while it’s merely an updated version of the sensor used in Nikon’s D500 DSLR, it holds its own with solid Raw performance and good JPEGs.

In daylight or well-lit scenes, images are sharp with fantastic detail. In low-light scenes, where you may need to bump up the ISO, dynamic range holds up well, and noise is well-controlled, but the latter can sometimes come at the cost of low-contrast details being a bit smeared.

As a whole, though, the Z30 performs as you would expect it to, given it uses the same sensor used inside the Z50. If you’d like to read more details, head over to the Image Quality section of our Z50 review:

Image Quality: Nikon Z50

Conclusion

What we likeWhat we don’t
  • Compact
  • Excellent ergonomics and menu system
  • Clean 4K/30p video
  • Fast AF performance up close
  • Good built-in stereo microphone with 3.5mm port for external mics
  • Versatile kit lens
  • No headphone jack
  • No sensor stabilization
  • Limited lens choices
  • No visual way to monitor audio in selfie-mode

The Nikon Z30 is a compact and capable interchangeable lens camera that excels at what it’s meant for: casual vlogging. It’s unintimidating to get started with, but offers enough customization to ensure it’ll fit in with your content creation workflow.

Its interchangeable lens design is limited at this time, as Nikon’s ‘DX’ Z-mount lens options are scarce for the time being outside of the 16-50mm F3.5-6.3 VR kit lens. Nikon has one 12-28mm equiv. power zoom (PZ) lens and two prime lenses (24mm and 36mm equiv.) in the works, but those are yet to hit the market with no clear timeframe for when they may arrive.

The ZV-E10 offers more in the optics department thanks to Sony’s robust E-mount ecosystem, but it’s less ergonomic and is limited to 4K/24p when shooting unless you want a pesky 1.2x digital crop to shoot 30 fps. And considering the two cameras with their respective kit lenses are nearly identical, the $800 price favors the Z30 unless you’re looking for more lens options or want the Product Showcase feature for hands-on style videos.

As for mobile devices, the Z30 will undoubtedly offer a more pleasant shooting experience than even the best smartphone, thanks to its flip-around screen and a solid selection of customizable buttons and dials. Video quality isn’t necessarily going to be that much better, aside from low-light shooting. Still, the removable media does make it easier to work with larger files when shooting lengthy content. Whether or not that is worth an extra $800 out of your pocket ultimately depends on your personal needs as a content creator.

Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Nikon Z30
Category: Entry Level Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Nikon Z30 is clearly designed with content creators in mind, particularly those intending to film vlogging-style content. It captures 4K/30p video from the full width of the sensor and 1080p video at 120 fps. Lens options are sparse, but it’s paired with a respectable 16-50mm (24-70mm equiv) vibration reduction (VR) kit lens that’s great for casual run-and-gun shooting. It will work for casual still images, but you’re probably better off going with the Z50 for stills photography considering it has an EVF.

Good for
Vlogging, streaming and social media content.

Not so good for
Advanced video production or stills photographers (you’re better off with the Z50, which has an EVF).
85%
Overall score

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