Nikon Z 30

Nikon has tapped into the vlogging and content creation market with its new Nikon Z 30 mirrorless camera. It joins their lineup of Z-series cameras, most of which have full-frame FX-format sensors. The Z 30 is only the third camera in this lineup with an APS-C DX-format sensor and shares many similarities with fellow APS-C cameras, the Nikon Z 50 and Nikon Z fc. However, some of its key features and quirks set it apart as the most budget-friendly and “creator-ready” option in the Z-series lineup.

If you’re like most content creators, you probably use your smartphone to record your content. With the quality of smartphones nowadays, they provide “good enough” quality to make vlogs and other online content.

However, if you want to stand out from the crowd and have higher-quality footage while also staying relatively affordable, the Nikon Z 30 is a good investment. We’ll tell you why in the rest of the article.

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Specs

Nikon Z 30 back

The Z 30 houses a 20.9-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, a major selling point for this creator-focused camera. When compared to a standard smartphone sensor, that’s 14 times bigger. This allows the camera to capture much more light, better color and more details in each shot compared to what you would get with most smartphones on the market.

Unfortunately, like the Z 50, the Z 30 doesn’t have a headphone jack for monitoring audio. Also, similar to Sony’s mirrorless vlogging camera, the Sony ZV-E10, the Z 30 also lacks an electronic viewfinder. Both are bummers. However, it has a 3.5 mm line mic jack, a micro HDMI port and a USB-C port with charging capabilities.

Similarities to the Z 50

While there are some major differences between Nikon’s Z 50 and the Z 30, we thought it would be worth mentioning their similarities first. First of all, they share the same 20.9-megapixel APS-C sensor. They are also very close in price; the Z 50 costs roughly $150 more than the Z 30. Additionally, they both share the same ISO range and light sensitivity settings and offer the same maximum frame rate when shooting in HD. The two also share the same 209-point hybrid autofocus system and lack in–body image stabilization, or IBIS.

Now that we’ve covered the key similarities between the Z 50 and Z 30, let’s dive into what makes the Z 30 a unique camera for content creators.

What makes the Z 30 unique?

No electronic viewfinder

The first thing we noticed when examining the Nikon Z 30’s body is its lack of an electronic viewfinder or EVF. Considering this camera’s design for vloggers and content creators, this isn’t necessarily a big deal. Viewfinders are usually unnecessary for users who spend most of their time in front of the camera. However, if the creator plans to shoot behind the camera, like for B-roll, for instance, or they have a dedicated camera operator, the lack of an EVF could be pretty troublesome. Without an EVF, this camera isn’t ideal for hybrid shooters. If you’re looking for a camera that can also shoot stills, you would want to look elsewhere.

Budget-friendly

Usually, with budget cameras, manufacturers find ways to cut back on features to drop the price. We suspect that the Z 30’s budget-friendly price is made possible because it doesn’t include an EVF. For the body only, the Z 30 costs only $710. There are also “Creator’s Accessory Kit” packages, which come with one or two Nikkor Z lenses, depending on which one you pick.

The Creator’s Accessory Kit includes the camera body, a Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens, a SmallRig tripod grip with a Bluetooth remote control and a RØDE VideoMicro microphone. This kit has just about everything a content creator would need to shoot a great quality video — for just a couple of hundred dollars more. This is a great deal for vloggers and content creators.

LCD

Nikon Z 30 LCD screen

Now, let’s talk about the camera’s LCD screen. The Nikon Z 30 has a 3-inch 1.04m-Dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD. This is a great screen if you’re a content creator who spends time in front of the camera while creating content. Why is that? The monitor can flip around 180 degrees to face the front of the camera. This is a must-have feature for any vlogging or content creation camera. Ultimately, this feature makes it simpler to view what your camera’s recording without having to be behind the camera. So, if you’re out vlogging or recording a cooking video, you can ensure you’re always in the frame without having to look behind the camera.

The monitor is hinged on the side of the camera body, which is different from what we saw with the Nikon Z 50. The Z 50 LCD can face whoever is in front of the camera, but it’s hinged on the bottom. This makes it very difficult to view your monitor if your camera is on a tripod. Implementing a vari-angle design to the Z 30’s monitor was a great move on Nikon’s part.

Sensor

For its sensor, the Nikon Z 30 has a 20.9 MP DX-Format APS-C CMOS sensor. This is quite a large upgrade when compared to a smartphone sensor, which is typically used to record vlogs by content creators. Having a large sensor allows users to capture more details in each shot. Also, since most social media platforms need to compress videos to make them shareable, capturing the highest quality possible is important. The Nikon Z 30’s larger sensor offers a great way to combat that compression and retain the highest quality possible for online videos. Additionally, the Z 30 can isolate subjects in the frame by blurring the frame’s background. This is something that isn’t easily achievable with a smartphone.

Shooting capabilities

Nikon Z 30 top view

The Nikon Z 30 can shoot UHD 4K footage up to 30 frames per second. This means that if you’re finishing in HD, you can crop that footage up to 200 percent without losing image quality. That opens up a lot of flexibility in post-production. Also, when shooting in HD, the Nikon Z 30 can capture up to 120 frames per second, which means it can achieve beautiful slow-motion playback and create some dramatic or comedic effects in your content. Furthermore, a larger sensor also means that the camera lets in more light and more visual information. So if you ever shoot in low-light conditions, the Nikon Z 30 can pick up more details, light, shadows and colors than a standard smartphone camera. 

Aside from its video-capturing capabilities, the Z 30 also proves to be a pretty decent stills camera. Its sensor makes it capable of capturing high-quality, crisp images — even in low-light conditions. With a light sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200 — up to 25,600 for video — it’s an adequate choice for still photography. However, an EVF would have made it an excellent still camera, as those learning photography can greatly benefit from having one. 

Also, the Z 30 can capture high-quality screen grabs while recording. Those screen grabs can later be used as thumbnails for your videos.

Lenses

As part of Nikon’s Z-series, the Z 30 is compatible with any Nikkor Z mount lens. Currently, most of those lenses are in FX format, meaning they are designed for full-frame Nikon cameras. Any Z mount lens will work on the Z 30 even though the camera has a DX-format or APS-C sensor. Because of this, if you plan on using a full-frame lens with the Z 30, you will have to consider its crop factor of 1.5x. We recommend sticking to Z mount DX-format lenses to keep it simple. DX-format lenses also tend to be lighter in weight than their full-frame counterparts, making them ideal for use on a small camera such as the Z 30.

Image stabilization

As we said before, the Nikon Z 30 lacks IBIS — or in-body image stabilization. Usually, this would be a red flag for a vlogger or anyone who wants to shoot handheld, but Nikon has addressed this with its Z mount lens lineup. Most of these lenses have VR in their name, including the kit lenses (e.g., Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR). The “VR” in the name means “vibration reduction” and is a great alternative to IBIS in many ways. According to Nikon, vibration reduction (VR) works by minimizing any blur that is caused by camera shake. Camera shake can come from the user or can result from other factors such as a windy day.

Nikon suggests that VR stabilizing technology is a better alternative to in-body stabilization because the anti-shake elements are based in the lens. Lenses with different focal lengths require different levels of anti-shake, and with those elements embedded into each lens, each will have VR that’s optimized for that respective lens. Also, when a Nikkor VR lens is attached to the Z 30, pressing the shutter halfway will confirm the stabilization effect, allowing the user to compose their shots more easily.

A content creator or vlogger can certainly benefit from stabilization. Even though the Z 30 lacks IBIS, we feel it makes up for it by offering VR lenses. 

Options for capturing audio

The Z 30 provides options for capturing audio within your videos. It has a built-in stereo microphone that shows improvement over that of Nikon’s Z fc and Z 50 cameras. It provides options when selecting frequencies, including one for vocal range and one for wide range. The vocal range option works great for picking up and prioritizing dialogue, while the wide range option is recommended for recording ambient sound. The Z 30 is also equipped with a 3.5 mm line mic input for more directional audio through a shotgun microphone or other type of mic.

Recording time

The Nikon Z 30 offers up to 125 minutes of continuous recording in HD and is estimated to be able to record up to about 35 minutes in UHD 4K. However, the CIPA rating exceeds these limits. Also, if you are conducting a livestream that’s longer than two hours, the USB Type-C connection will allow for constant power and continuous recording when plugged into a power source.

Designed for content creators

Nikon Z 30 screen flipped out

For many content creators, the leap from smartphone use to camera use can be a daunting one. However, it can prove to be a worth-wile investment if you want to improve the quality of your content and have more range for what you can accomplish as a creator. Nikon has attempted to make the switch as painless as possible with the new Z 30 camera. It’s compact, and when equipped with a battery, it only weighs about 405 g (0.89 lbs).

It is compatible with any Nikon Z mount lens and has very quick, reliable autofocus capabilities when set to Auto mode. It offers hybrid autofocus with 209 points and face and eye detection to ensure the subject stays in focus. The Z 30’s face and eye detection feature works wonders for vlogging and can even detect the faces of cats and dogs. It also has a tally lamp that will indicate when the camera is recording along with dedicated selfie controls. Aside from these features, we would have liked to see a more vertical-friendly interface. We found that the Z 30 does not automatically detect vertical media and that users have to rotate their content after uploading it to a computer. This is not a huge problem by any means, but it is one extra step to keep in mind when considering the Z 30 for online content-making.

Easy to use

If you’re entirely new to owning a camera, this next feature is for you. The Z 30 has a button that will tell you precisely what each menu function does. It offers in-camera guides for those new to having access to things like flicker reduction, establishing autofocus areas, distortion control and more. This allows for a learn-as-you-go system for those new to various camera functions. Not only that, but the layout of buttons and dials on the camera body is also user-friendly.

It has a four-way directional pad that navigates through menu items with a selector button in the center and dedicated zoom buttons that will crop your shot in or out. It also has a dedicated menu and playback buttons and a button with an “i” symbol that initiates an on-screen menu for adjusting the camera settings that are used the most. This allows the user to change the white balance, recording format, microphone sensitivity and more on the fly, which will save loads of time when out in the field. With any camera, the best way to learn how to use it is by doing. Playing around with different settings will familiarize you with your new camera and teach you what each setting does.

Marketplace

With vlogging at an all-time high, it’s no surprise that more and more manufacturers are releasing their own “content-ready” cameras. Each is unique in its own way, and all cater to those just starting out as camera users. Let’s take a look at the competition and see how Nikon’s Z 30 stacks up.

Mirrorless cameras are lightweight, usually compact and generally easy to use. It’s no wonder why they’ve gained popularity among vloggers and content creators. Although, if you’ve ever considered purchasing a mirrorless camera for any reason, chances are you considered going with a Sony. They have a whole lineup of cameras that work great for vlogging, but for the purposes of this comparison, we will focus on one of them: the Sony ZV-E10.

Sony’s ZV-E10 is probably the most similar camera on the market to the Nikon Z 30. They share the same sensor size (APS-C), have fully articulated vari-angle touchscreen LCDs and lack an electronic viewfinder and IBIS. One advantage that the Sony ZV-E10 has over Nikon’s Z 30 is better battery life when shooting video. It also has a headphone jack, which we would have liked to see on the Z 30. However, Nikon’s Z 30 has front and rear command dials, making it more user-friendly when shooting selfie-style. Nikon also offers lenses with vibration reduction (VR), making up for the lack of in-body image stabilization.

The Sony ZV-E10, when paired with a 16mm-50mm kit lens, retails for around $800, giving it a slight edge over the Nikon Z 30. When paired with a similar Nikon Nikkor lens, the Z 30 retails for about $849. Considering the added features of the Z 30 and that vibration reduction image stabilization is embedded in the kit lens, one can feel confident that it is well worth the extra $49.

Buying options

You have a few options if you’re now considering the Nikon Z 30 as your new camera. The camera body can be purchased by itself, with one or two lenses or packaged with a Creator’s Accessory Kit. For this review, we tested the Creator’s Accessory Kit, which features the Nikon Z 30, one rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a USB-C cord for charging, a strap, a body cap, a Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens, a SmallRig tripod handheld grip, a Nikon ML-L7 Bluetooth remote control and a RODE VideoMicro microphone. 

For $709, you can purchase the camera by itself, a great price for what you get. As a kit with a Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens, it costs $849. If you plan to use the Z 30 for more than just vlogging, Nikon offers a two-lens kit that will add a 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR lens that can have a variety of uses. Although a wider lens such as the 16-50mm is more desirable for selfie-style vlogging, the two-lens kit can be purchased for $1,199 and is currently on sale. 

We recommend the Creator kit for anyone who’s planning to use the Z 30 for vlogging, as it’s the best bang for your buck and comes with very helpful tools. The creator kit can be purchased for $999 and is complete with everything you need to get out and start shooting. The only other thing we recommend you pick up is an extra battery which will come in handy if you spend a lot of time filming content on the go.

Is the Nikon Z 30 worth it?

The Nikon Z 30 is a great camera with an even better price tag, but if you are considering buying one, you should also consider budgeting for other add-ons. Being that the Z 30 is an interchangeable lens camera, you may want to consider budgeting for some other lenses. The 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens is a great start, but depending on what you want to accomplish with your new camera, it may be worth trying out some different focal lengths. Also, it’s always smart to budget for extra batteries and media cards. 

If you are coming from using a smartphone to create your content, it’s no question that the Nikon Z 30 is a huge upgrade. The image quality will be a lot nicer and have a wider range of light, shadows and colors thanks to its larger sensor. Shooting in auto mode will produce a nice image easily so you can spend less time adjusting settings and more time creating content. Additionally, the Z 30 offers more control over your final image with in-camera guides to help the user understand what every setting and mode does and how it affects the image.

Summary

Nikon

$710

Strengths

  • User-friendly
  • Price
  • UHD 4K 30 fps video recording

Weaknesses

  • No in-body image stabilization
  • No Electronic viewfinder

Bottom line

The Nikon Z 30 is a very capable camera with a lot of opportunities for growth. Its features — despite the absence of some — make it a nice option for content creators, especially those who are coming from using their smartphones to create their content. We would have liked to see longer battery life, automatic rotation for vertical or portrait-style media and a viewfinder. For the price, this is an excellent choice for an entry-level camera. We feel that content creators will love its user-friendly interface and the add-ons that come with the Creator’s Accessory Kit.

Tech specs

Lens mountNikon Z
Sensor resolutionActual: 21.51 megapixel
Effective: 20.8 megapixel
Sensor type23.5 x 15.7 mm (APS-C) CMOS
Crop factor1.5x
Image stabilizationDigital (video only)
Built-In ND filterNone
Shutter typeElectronic shutter, Mechanical focal plane shutter
Shutter speedMechanical shutter
1/4000 to 30 Seconds
Electronic front curtain shutter
1/4000 to 30 Seconds
Electronic shutter
1/4000 to 30 Seconds
ISO sensitivityPhoto
100 to 51,200
Video
100 to 25,600
Exposure compensation-5 to +5 EV (1/3, 1/2 EV steps)
Metering range-4 to 17 EV
White balance2500 to 10,000K
Presets: Auto, Cloudy, Color Temperature, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Preset Manual, Shade
Continuous shootingUp to 11 fps at 20.8 MP
Interval recordingYes
Self-timer2/10-second delay
Aspect ratio1:1, 3:2, 16:9
Image file formatJPEG, RAW
Bit depth14-bit
Recording modesH.264/MOV/MP4
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98p/25p/29.97p
Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.98p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p
Recording limitUp to 125 minutes
External recording modesHDMI
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) up to 25p/29.97p
Full HD (1920 x 1080) up to 50p/59.94p
IP streamingYes
Media/memory card slotSingle slot: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I)
Monitor size3.0-inch
Monitor resolution1,040,000 dot
Monitor typeArticulating touchscreen LCD
Focus typeAuto and manual focus
Focus modeContinuous-servo AF, manual focus, single-servo AF
Autofocus pointsPhoto, Video
Phase detection: 209
Autofocus sensitivity-4.5 to +19 EV
Battery type1 x EN-EL25 rechargeable lithium-ion, 7.6 VDC, 1120 mAh (Approx. 330 shots)
Tripod mounting thread1 x 1/4″-20 female (bottom)
Accessory mount1 x hot shoe mount on camera body
Dimensions (W x H x D)5 x 2.9 x 2.3″ / 128 x 73.5 x 59.5 mm
Weight12.3 oz / 350 g (body only)

Tony Morales is a cinematographer, film editor and producer from Northern California. He is an Avid Certified Professional who enjoys writing and creating documentary and theatrical films as well as commercial videos.