Nikon's full-frame mirrorless cameras may grab all the headlines, but its APS-C system has now been neatly rounded off by the arrival of the Nikon Z30. That's now three cameras and three lenses in total, but is three the magic number?
Compared to its siblings, little has changed on the inside. The Nikon Z50 was introduced in 2019 with a 20.9MP APS-C CMOS sensor plus 4K/30p and HD/120p video recording with no crop – all of which have carried into the Nikon Z fc and now the Z30 in 2022.
Processor power and outright build quality is largely similar too, so we also now have three APS-C cameras that have been designer for beginner shooters. So what's really different?
You only need to look at the cameras to see what's truly different – each one has its own take on design. Out of the three, the Z30 is gunning to be one of the best cameras for vlogging, promising better quality and creative flexibility over a smartphone. If video and affordability are your priorities, it's also a contender for the title of best beginner mirrorless camera.
Given we've already covered the performance and image quality of the Z30's siblings in our Nikon Z50 review and Nikon Z fc review, the lion's share of this review will focus on the camera's design. After all, the Z30 isn't just for vlogging in the same way that the Z50 and Zfc are pretty capable vlogging cameras, too. (Plus, those optional vlogging accessories work for all three cameras.)
It must be said that three lenses for three cameras represents a poor ratio, and we need to see more glass for Nikon's system. In fairness, the 16-50mm is an excellent kit lens – and how many beginners actually buy additional lenses? There is also a smattering of well-fitted compact and compatible full-frame lenses like the 40mm f/2 and 28mm f/2.8 (and the F to Z mount adaptor if you're really stretching).
Sensor: 20.9MP APS-C (DX)
AF points: 209-point array
Memory cards: SD UHS-I
LCD: 3-inch vari-angle touch screen, 1.04m dots
Max burst: 11fps extended
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
Weight: 405g (with card and battery)
The lens roadmap rumor mill adds a 12-28mm DX lens to the mix which could well become the best option for vlogging, plus a 24mm DX lens. But as things stand, there isn't a native ultra-wide-angle lens for the Z30 and post-pandemic global supply issues remain should new ones appear.
Nikon's position with the Z30 isn't exactly helped by the fact that the rival Sony ZV-E10 already enjoys a swathe of excellent APS-C lenses, including a recently announced trio of compact, fast aperture prime lenses particularly suited to vlogging.
For most people, this likely gives the ZV-E10 the edge over the Z30. On the other hand, the Z30 has better handling and can shoot 4K/30p without a crop (a benefit over the 1.23x crop you get in the same mode on its Sony rival).
With both cameras having similar price tags, you decision could well be swayed by the discounts on offer during the incoming Black Friday camera deals. Even if Nikon and Sony's vlogging cameras prove to be too new to see major discounts, we often see lenses given price cuts in the Black Friday deals. If Nikon's FTZ mount adapter and primes like the 28mm f/2.8 appear in the sales, the Nikon Z30 could soon offer even better value.
Nikon Z30 release date and price
- $707 / £699 (body only, not available in AU)
- $847 / £839/ AU$1,299 (16-50mm kit)
- $1,197 / £1,069 (twin lens kit, not available in AU)
- $995 / £879 (vlogger kit, TBC in AU)
The Nikon Z30 is available to buy for $707 / £699 body only, or $847 / £839/ AU$1,299 with the Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens, and $1,197 / £1,069 for the twin lens kit that also includes the Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR lens. There is also a Vlogger kit option that costs $995 / £879 and includes the 16-50mm lens, a SmallRig tripod grip and SmallRig Wind Muff. Within the magnetic recess of the grip is the ML-L7 remote (included).
By excluding a viewfinder, Nikon has been able to create its most affordable mirrorless camera yet, with sensible kit options. Given that Nikon cameras were already competitively priced and the decent quality of the 16-50mm kit lens, by all accounts the Z30 is excellent value.
- Value: 4.5/5
Nikon Z30 review: design
- Large and comfortable grip
- Vari-angle 3in touch screen, but no viewfinder
- USB-C charging and connectivity
- In-camera stereo mic and mic input, but no headphone jack
Consider the design of the Z30 as video-centric, the Z50 photo-centric, and the Z fc as, well, nostalgia-centric. In the Z30 we have a camera with a striking resemblance to the Sony ZV-E10. Of the two it's bigger and has a more defined handgrip, yet it still measures up as Nikon's smallest APS-C or full-frame mirrorless camera yet.
More grips should be like this – it gives an excellent hold for shooting stills, but also for turning the camera onto yourself, with easy access to that shiny big red button.
Video shooters including vloggers compose via a screen and have little need for a viewfinder (though you may miss one when shooting stills). Omitting a viewfinder has enabled Nikon to not only make its smallest APS-C mirrorless camera yet, but its cheapest. Currently, there is no optional EVF (electronic viewfinder) available.
For its explicit vlogging purpose, the Z30 is designed really well. That 3-inch vari-angle screen works a charm, with the full range of touch functions including focus, playback and menu navigation on hand. A red border indicates video mode, while a tally lamp lets you know that the camera is recording video – handy stuff not found in the Z50 or Z fc.
Nikon's 16-50mm kit lens brings vibration reduction for photos, while in-camera electronic vibration reduction (E-VR) for video gives you that extra bit of stabilization for handheld shooting, though it’s not available for 120p slow motion video. There's a 1.3x crop with E-VR in play which is far from ideal if you need to shoot wide-angle. Serious run-and-gun vloggers might want to invest in a gimbal and keep E-VR switched off.
A stereo mic is on board and provides a reasonable sound quality for the times that you are caught out without an external microphone. It's an improvement over regular in-camera mics, plus there's a wind-reduction function and you can put an optional deadcat over those stereo mics that are positioned on either side of the hotshoe.
Those stereo mics are fine in quiet spaces, but we'd still recommend an external microphone for vlogging to ensure the best possible quality. As the video industry saying goes, bad visuals are forgivable, bad audio is not.
To that degree, it's a real shame that there is no headphone jack in addition to the mic input in order to audibly monitor sound. On-screen audio levels are simply not the same as listening in live or checking a recording on location post-capture, plus we couldn’t find a way to display those audio levels when the Z30 is in selfie mode. The last thing a video creator wants is to return from a shoot only to find unusable audio.
Battery life is average, if a little modest, and there's no dedicated battery charger provided with the camera, just the USB-C cable. However, a big plus to the Z30 is that it can be charged via its USB-C port at home, on the go and even while the camera is in use. Yes, USB-C charging works while live streaming and while recording video. Big win.
- Design score: 4/5
Nikon Z30 review: features and performance
- 4K/30p and HD 120p with no crop
- Sticky subject-tracking AF
- Reliable Nikon Webcam Utility & Nikon Snapbridge apps
- Up to 11fps
Virtually all modern cameras offer 4K video, but the quality of 4K does vary. For instance, 4K in the Z30 (and indeed its HD 120p slow motion setting) is taken from the full width of the sensor, meaning there is no crop. This is a godsend for vlogging in the context of the lack of wide-angle APS-C mirrorless lenses – you can maintain the full field of view of the 16-50mm lens.
There are also unlimited video record times in the Z30, unlike the Z50, Z fc and many others that are limited to 30 minutes. We say unlimited – ultimately it's down to card capacity, and Nikon quotes in the region of 120 minutes.
Arguably one of the most important camera features for vlogging is reliable continuous autofocus and face detection AF. Overall, the Z30's 209-point phase/ contrast detection AF (also found in the Z fc and Z50) doesn't quite live up to the autofocus performance and versatility of the Sony ZV-E10, however it's plenty good enough to track a self-shooter.
With the vari-angle screen front-facing, the camera switches to a selfie mode and recognizes your face and tracking AF reliably sticks to it. For other subjects, especially when the screen is rear-facing, tracking AF is still respectable, though can be a little less reliable. Dedicated AF modes with vlogging in mind would be welcome, too, like Sony's 'Product Showcase' mode.
It's important to share our experience connecting the Z30 to the Nikon SnapBridge app (Android version) for remote control of the camera and image uploads, plus the Nikon Webcam Utility for live streaming. In short, the Z30 provides a largely hassle-free and reliable connection to the SnapBridge – this should not be assumed or undervalued because not every system (ahem, Sony) can say the same.
Photographers can make high-speed sequences up to 11fps in the 'extended' mode, with continuous autofocus and auto exposure. In this mode, we've been able to rattle off 30 raw & JPEG pictures on a high-performance UHS-I SD card before the camera pauses and there's a bit of a wait to regain full-speed operation again.
Continuous high mode is slower at 5fps where you can sustain a burst for longer, again with a bit of wait to shoot at full capacity again. This is the sort of performance we expect of a decent beginner camera, being well suited for quick flashes of action.
- Features and performance score: 4/5
Nikon Z30: image and video quality
All of Nikon's APS-C mirrorless cameras use the same 20.9MP CMOS sensor. And as we've mentioned in our reviews of the Z50 and Z fc, the Z30 will give you clean and vibrant pictures up to ISO 6,400 in a range of shooting scenarios. If possible, it's best to avoid using ISO 12,800 and 25,600 if you want to avoid the adverse impact of noise.
There's a color profile for most tastes; 'Vivid' makes the colors pop, while 'Flat' is the ideal profile for video shooters that want to make the most of the camera's dynamic range (and who don't mind color grading afterwards). Flat is the closest you get to a Log profile and is easier to grade, which makes a lot of sense for a beginner-level camera like this.
We like how the photo and video color profiles can be kept separate and the camera remembers the setting – for instance, you can have photo set to Vivid and video set to flat, or you can choose a 'Same as photo settings' option.
Nikon has a tried-and-tested color rendition for photos and video. One thing that's worth bearing in mind is how autofocus affects white balance. For example, the Z30 seems to prioritize subject detection for its color rendition. You can shoot the same scene and gain wildly different white balance based on whether or not autofocus has tracked and is locked on to a person.
The 16-50mm kit lens is admirably sharp, while some of the full-frame Z mirrorless lenses like the 40mm f/2 and 28mm f/2.8 are a good physical fit with the Z30 camera and are sharper still.
But at the risk of repetition, there is an obvious lack of APS-C lenses, and not a single prime. We're cautious about camera systems with an unhealthy camera-to-lens ratio – here it's three for three, which is alarming. More APS-C mirrorless lenses please, Nikon. Oh and for vlogging, one that goes a little wider.
- Image and video quality score: 4.5/5
Should I buy the Nikon Z30?
Buy it if...
You are a self-shooter
Custom designed with vlogging and content creation in mind, the Z30 has a vari-angle screen with intuitive touch function, compact and lightweight design, an excellent hand grip, and quietly offers the little touches like a tally lamp.
You need hassle-free connectivity
With the reliable Nikon Snapbridge app and Nikon Webcam Utility via universal USB-C connection, the Z30 is about as easy a camera to remotely control and live stream as you could hope for. You will need a computer for live streaming, though.
You want decent image quality straight out-of-the-box
With Nikon's proven 20.9MP APS-C sensor and 4K video with no crop, sharp 16-50mm kit lens, and the easily graded 'flat' color profile, the Z30 brings excellent images in all kinds of conditions to camera newbies.
Don't buy it if...
You shoot wide-angle
In 2022, wide-angle Z-mount lenses for APS-C cameras are few and far between. The 16-50mm kit lens is the widest of them all and for run-and-gun videos, things get pretty tight with electronic stabilization in play. Full-frame Z-mount lenses are compatible but add a 1.5x focal length magnification, and we simply don't know what's in store for the Z-mount in this 'DX' sensor format. Adapting F-mount APS-C lenses is another option.
You need to monitor sound
It's simple – the Z30 does not have a headphone jack, so there is no easy way to audibly live monitor sound other than with your actual ears. You can visually check levels on the screen for clipping, but not in selfie mode. Ultimately it's guesswork.
You want the best autofocus
Nikon does autofocus very well and detects people with ease, especially in the vlogging context. However, we'd have to give the edge here to the Sony ZV-E10 for performance and versatility in both photography and video.
If our Nikon Z30 review has you wondering about alternatives, here are three rivals to consider...
The Z30's most obvious rival has slightly better autofocus, features a headphone jack, and is part of a more established system, enjoying a range of premium compact wide-angle lenses ideally suited for vlogging. However, 4K video demands a 1.23x crop, while the Z30 is from the full sensor width. Overall, the Z30 has more work to do to take the number one spot.
Read our in-depth Sony ZV-E10 review
The Z30 is more than just a vlogging camera, and at the same time it's not the only Nikon camera that can be used for vlogging. The Z50 offers a very similar feature set in a larger and more expensive package that includes a built-in viewfinder. However, the Z50 lacks some self-shooting features such as vari-angle screen and tally lamp.
Read our in-depth Nikon Z50 review
Another camera designed explicitly for vlogging and content creators, the G100 is a smaller camera with smaller micro-four thirds sensor and enjoys a huge range of excellent lenses. However, it's hampered by modest record time limits and runs into more problems than the Z30 regarding wide-angle shooting, including a 4K crop and stabilisation crop. The Z30 wins here.
Read our in-depth Panasonic G100 review
|Price||Nikon's cheapest mirrorless camera yet||4.5/5|
|Design||Small, comfortable, easy to use||4/5|
|Features/performance||Edged out by the Sony ZV-E10||4/5|
|Image/video quality||Straight out the box, the video and picture quality impresses||4.5/5|