A Camera Disappointment

This post is about a camera, and some technical photography stuff. If you have no interest in such things, please skip it.

In September 2020, I was offered a new camera and lens, free of charge. This is because I am on the Amazon testing panel, and they wanted me to review it. It was the Nikon Z5, with a basic 24-50mm zoom lens, and at the time the retail price for the kit was £1,699.
(It can now be bought for around £1,200 new)

This is a full-frame camera, with a 24.3 mp sensor that produces very large files. Despite the light weight of the lens, and the limited maximum apertures of f/4-f/6.3, photos taken with it can be clear and sharp.

Like most modern digital cameras, it has a host of features, including electronic and mechanical shutters, a comprehensive viewfinder and rear screen, and a selection of customisable buttons. Add a double card slot and in-camera image stabilisation, and you get quite a lot for your money.

So it would seem.

After owning it for a year, I finally took it on holiday, deliberately leaving all my other cameras behind so I had no alternative but to use it. If you have seen any of my recent posts including photos from our holiday in Lincolnshire, they were all taken using this camera.

So why is this post titled ‘Camera Disappointment’? (I hear you cry.)

Getting such a well-specified camera for nothing, you would think I might be grateful and excited. And to a large extent I was, and still am.

However, it was sent to me to test and review, so it is only fair to list the many things that I don’t like about this camera.

1) The user manual.
This is as good as useless. Other than telling you how to attach the lens, charge the battery, and insert the SD cards, it doesn’t go into enough detail about the huge number of menus and functions. Yes, you can access extensive Nikon help online, and probably download pages of user instructions too. But that’s not much use when you are nowhere near a computer, or there is little or no wi-fi signal. I want what I need to know to be in the book please, Nikon.

2) Not enough dials and knobs.
Other than one large mode dial, the camera offers most settings and adjustments through the electronic menu system. This means me having to make sure to carry reading glasses (which I do not need to see through the viewfinder) and reading small menu instructions from the rear screen that can be hard to see in bright light. (As when on a summer holiday in good weather.) Exposure compensation is not offered as a stand-alone dial, and exposure lock has to be assigned to a button by using the in-camera menu. Using Aperture Priority, it is necessary to assign the aperture option to the small control ring behind the zoom ring of the lens, instead of just having a conventional aperture ring marked accordingly. I would like all of those functions to have their own buttons or dials please, Nikon.

3) Build quality.
Making a camera lightweight is not a bad thing. Easier to carry around all day in a bag, and to use one-handed if you like to do that. But you still have to ensure that a camera of this price is relatively solid and durable. For example, inserting the charged battery, I knocked the camera against my desk. It was a very slight knock, but enough to fully detach the flimsy door to the battery compartment, which fell onto the floor. That meant a long time fiddling about trying to secure the door back on, which now only works properly when fully locked. Open the door to charge the battery again, and it falls off. I have visions of the battery just falling out one day, as I am taking a photo.

4) Sensor.
The sensor in this camera is far from being great. As you can see from the photos I took, it renders them rather dark. This can be cured by fiddling with the exposure compensation of course, but refer back to 2) and you will know this is a frustratingly fiddly operation involving assigning a button and remembering which one that is.

I just didn’t enjoy using the camera enough to be bothered to constantly mess around with its functions.

Compare this to my old Fuji X30 compact. Exposure compensation dial, aperture ring on the lens, intuitive menu system, and a tiny 2/3 sensor that renders lovely rich colours with file sizes large enough for most users. And it cost about the same when I bought it as the lens alone on this Nikon.

In conclusion, I would suggest you buy a different camera. The full-frame offered on this one doesn’t make up for its shortcomings.

57 thoughts on “A Camera Disappointment

  1. Thanks for the honest review, Pete! All electronic devices have similar problems. Nikon actually has good products. But I already know about the battery compartment, from the simple Nikon cameras. They were damaged after two years at the latest. They have to sell always the newest ones.;-) xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is called the Vine Programme. You have to have reviewed over 500 items (in my case they were mostly DVD films in the early days) and get a lot of positive feedback on the reviews. When you get into the top 5,000 Amazon reviewers (I am currently number 2735) you get asked to become a reviewer, and get given free stuff to keep.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Some people have done 20,000. I am currently close to 1,800 reviews. With the free stuff, you have to review the item within 30 days, to stay on the programme. I didn’t know anything about it when I was reviewing films, I just reviewed them because I enjoyed it. Then they emailed me out of the blue, and offered me free stuff! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Pete, for this highly interesting review. Now I’m happy that I never got one of these. The decision for me was that it has a full-size sensor, which would have rendered all my lenses practically useless. I’m very happy with my D500, which came with a more than 500 pages printed manual, btw. But I still downloaded it to both my laptop and to my cell phone, for easier checking. I don’t need the camera menu in day-to-day use because it has three dials. But that presents another “problem”” you really need to use the camera and all its different functions/modes/setting very frequently to find what you need with the camera at your eye and not by looking at it. But still I like it a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been an ‘Amazon Vine’ tester for many years now, Teagan. I get all kinds of free stuff, but this was one of the most expensive items I had ever been offrered.
      Winged hugs back to you across the ocean!
      Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your comment of a user manual that was, to coin a phrase, inadequate, reminds me that the Nikon P1000 comes only with a downable user manual. They assert it is to save trees. What they don’t say is it saves them money they transfer the costs to you and then the manual is completely unusable in a printed form and inaccessible in the field, Nikon seems to have an issue with making things useful.
    Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pete, you make some terrific observations, notably the move by so many companies to having all of their instruction material online only…as you point out, that assumes you are in a place with a goo Internet connection….as for the electronic displays on the camera itself, I had the same issue with my camera used for filming TV material…such small prompts on the playback screen…messy and annoying to the extreme! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When we took cameras to the Lake District, Antony had a specilaist padded camera rucksack, and I kept mine in a shoulder bag unless taking photos. Hiking at your heights would potentially be disastrous for a camera that might get dropped or banged against rocks.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have an early Nikon digital camera which I loved. Of course, with the low image quality it does not stand up to even my iPhone these days. One of my big gripes about the Nikon body is the plastic becomes sticky and tacky after a while. It is horrible to hold in your hands. Did you notice this? Yours may not be old enough yet.

    I have read reviews on newer Nikon cameras and can never fine one that I feel is worth the expenditure. After reading this review, I won’t be choosing this model. I wanted to stick with Nikon because of the lenses I own, but many of them have been made obsolete by technology changes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You would not be able to use the old lenses on this model without an adapter, as it has the new Z mount. I would suggest you might be better off buying a good used Nikon model that accepts your lenses, something like the D750. (That’s what is is called here).
      I have not noticed any of the stickiness that you mention, but that might come in time.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It may just be so hot here in comparison that it degrades the plastic, Pete.

        I will look for a used D750. I would love to afford a digital back for one of my Hasselblads, by that is WAY out of my price range.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t post such a comprehensive criticism, as I hadn’t used it that much before the review deadline. I did mention I wasn’t that impressed with the lens though. The build quality issues were not apparent immediately, and they have since rung alarm bells for me, Frank. I have a much older Nikon DSLR that is as solid as a tank, but that makes it heavier of course. For me, the reliability is worth the extra weight to carry.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. They make great cameras, chuq. But this one isn’t one of them. However, your daughter is young, and all the electronic stuff is unlikely to bother her. She will work it out much faster than me, I’m sure. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a Nikon Coolpix which I got based on how pleased I had been with a much smaller version that I carry in my handbag. On the whole I am happy with it, but I agree with you about having to fiddle about reading instructions on screen. I also have a Lumix with a Leica lens which I like a lot but it doesn’t have such a powerful telephoto. I tend to use one pr the other because it gets confusing switching back and forth. I also have a macro lens for the Coolpix which I enjoy. My dad was a photographer. He would have gone mad with digital!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I haven’t made the leap to a digital camera as of yet. My wife accidently sold my Minolta 35 mm in a rummage sale and I am still in mourning. I deplore using my phone as a camera, but for now it will have to do. Thanks for the review because I was considering a Nikon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there are better Nikon cameras than this one, Phil. I would suggest buyng a used camera from a reputable dealer. This American dealer has a good reputation. https://www.adorama.com/Used
      And this American photographer has great recommendations and reviews.
      I have used my phone for videoing my dog, but I rarely if ever use it for stills. I prefer to have a proper viewfinder.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  8. Ah, welcome to the 21st century, Pete! I miss aperture rings, but you usually only get them on pricier lenses. And menus are the thing now, not knobs, dials and buttons!! I stay away from Canon because I personally HATE their menus, Nikon OK, Olympus OK…dunno about Fuji

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did assign the ‘spare ring’ to aperture control, but became tired of constantly diving in and out of the menu for other settings. At that price, I think it should be better designed, and sturdier too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was frustrated with it last year, because of the fiddly menu and lack of information in the user manual. I finally got it set up for this year’s holiday, and it’s useful to have. Just not worth what they charge for it. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree with your comment about manuals, Pete: it seems to be a general trend to put the minimum in the printed manual [and that’s to say nothing of the accuracy of the translation] and the maximum online, which can be very frustrating, as you say.

    Pardon my ignorance, because I did get into photography to some extent at college, in the old film days [including B&W developing/printing], but how do you define full frame?

    Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

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