Professor, Designer, Husband, Father, Gamer, Bagpiper

Six months ago, I wrote about why I bought a "pocket" camera even though I have a nice iPhone XR.  Around the same time, I upgraded my work PC (on which I spend a lot of time doing video) to use a DLSR as the webcam.

After using them for a while, I've traded both in on a Nikon Z50.  With all the accessories I had for both, I almost got enough trade-in value on the Fuji X100F and Canon SL3 to pay for the Nikon Z50 + kit lens + FTZ lens adapter, so cost wasn't the main concern.

I had bought a Canon SL3 as my webcam, and put an f/1.8 lens on it. The images were good (but not quite as good as the Z-50 image above), but the camera had two huge fatal flaws.  First, unlike it's predecessor, it was impossible to disable the 30 minute shutoff when using live-view unattended.  Having the camera shut off during calls was getting quite annoying.  Second, you couldn't enable auto-focus without having the focus-boxes appear in the video.  The Z-50 has neither of those problems (and, like I imply, the video quality is vastly better).

In a discussion with some colleagues, I pointed out my requirements for a video streaming camera:

  1. Clean HDMI out.  Hard requirement.  You don’t want camera UI in your stream.
  2. Ability to disable power shut-off when idle.
  3. Ability to disable HDMI out (live view) power shut-off when idle.
  4. Doesn’t overhead when on for a long while.
  5. Excellent autofocus. No occasional “searching” stutters (which is common in many cameras).  No jumping to lock on to something behind you, especially when you look down (such as when typing) and it loses much of your face.  Face and/or eye detection a plus, but not absolutely required.
  6. Fast lens.  For “sweet sweet” bokeh and depth of field, f/2 is a good minimum.  f/1.8 is better.  Anything slower than f/5 and you’re not going to get much background blur.
  7. External power so the camera doesn’t run on battery.  Most cameras have 3rd party kits involving dummy batteries that hook up to A/C power, for something like < $30, though.

The Z-50 hits all these (well, it's new, so 7 hasn't happened yet, but it can be plugged directly into an external charger that charges the battery when the camera is off ... I tend to have breaks between calls so it hasn't been a problem, yet.  If I was game streaming for 4 or 5 hours, I'd need this fixed).

I have a D750 with a bunch of great full-frame prime lenses, so I got a FTZ adaptor to let me use one of them instead of the slower kit lens.  If you had to buy a new lens for this setup, the total cost of the camera goes up, but this was a good option for me.  Also, the FTZ + large full-frame Nikon lens is overwhelmingly large and heavy, compared to the kit lens.  So, I probably won't be using this prime when I'm out and about.

In many ways I really liked the Fuji X100F as a carry-around camera. But, I have to admit, at the end of the day, it was still a little too big and a little to heavy to always have in my pocket.  I bought to Z-50 to see how it felt and compare it, and while it's a little bigger and slightly heavier, it's not noticably worse in my jacket pocket.  

I admit the hardest part of getting rid of the X100F is that it looks so lovely, and the numerous dials made it pretty fun to shoot with. But the images aren't as good as the Z-50, and the autofocus on the X100F is dog slow, and pretty dodgy.  With the kit lens, the Z-50 has near-instant autofocus.

That said, I'd really love a small, light prime.  Nikon announced their upcoming Z-series lenses and if they are small, I can see one of the two "Compact lenses" (28mm and 40mm) in my future (it's all turn on the price, and size).

Overall, after half a year of cheating on Nikon with Canon and Fuji, and playing with different setups and devices, I'm happy that the Z-50 came out and hit the sweet spot of what I need.  The only other camera that appears to sit in the same sweet spot is the Sony 6400, but since I already had some good primes, staying with Nikon was a no-brainer.

(Disclosure: The Amazon links above have a tag in them pointing  at this site, so if you buy things using those links, Amazon will pay me  a small amount.)