Nikon Zfc vs Fujifilm X-Trans

Fujifilm X-T30 & Nikon Zfc

I’m a Fujifilm fanboy, but this new Nikon looks quite nice.

Maybe you can relate: I’m a sucker for retro-inspired cameras, and the Nikon Zfc had me drooling the day that it was announced. I love Fujifilm, yet I have nothing against Nikon—I used to shoot with Nikon DSLRs, and a few of my favorite photographs were captured on Nikon cameras. I figured that if I’m interested in the Zfc, maybe some of you are, too, so I purchased one to try. At the very least I could compare it to Fujifilm X-Trans cameras, and explain the similarities and differences.

At first glance the Zfc looks like it’s in the same class as the Fujifilm X-T30. There are certainly some similarities between the two models. The Zfc has a rear screen and knob arrangement that’s more like the X-T4, so I thought it could, perhaps, even fall in-between those two models somewhere, and serve as an upper-mid-tier APS-C mirrorless camera. It’s hard to tell from looking at pictures, but that’s what I was expecting.

When I pulled the Zfc out of the box, a few things surprised me. First, the camera is bigger than I expected. It’s much larger and noticeably heavier than the Fujifilm X-E4 that I frequently shoot with. It’s a little larger and slightly heavier than my X-T30. It’s almost as big as an X-T4, although much lighter. The Fujifilm camera in my collection that’s most similar in size and weight to the Zfc is the Fujifilm X-T1.

The Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 lens (that came with the camera) is massive, too. I thought, perhaps, there’d be some similarities between the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 lens and the Nikkor glass, but other than maximum aperture and similar focal-length, these two lenses are much different. The Fujifilm lens is smaller, lighter, sharper, and superior in pretty much every way. That’s not to say that the Nikkor lens is bad, but it’s definitely not as good as the Fujinon, which happens to be my favorite lens. Nikon didn’t include an aperture ring on the 28mm f/2.8 (or any other Z glass), which I think is a big oversight.

Another surprise is how plasticky the Zfc feels. It doesn’t look plasticky, and its weight suggests that it’s not all that plasticky, but it definitely feels plasticky when you use it. I wouldn’t trust this camera to survive a hard fall. It doesn’t appear to be a cheap camera (and its price tag would confirm this), but when you use it, the feeling is that it’s a budget body, and not mid-range.

After considering where it best compares to Fujifilm models, the one I think the Zfc is most comparable to is the X-T200. If Fujifilm had put markings on the customizable unmarked knobs, the two cameras would be very similar (aside from size and weight). For those who don’t know, the X-T200 was Fujifilm’s budget option, with a price of $700 for the body or $800 bundled with a kit zoom. The X-T200 didn’t last long (both introduced and discontinued in 2020) because it didn’t sell well. Perhaps the Zfc sits a little above the X-T200, but in my opinion that’s the most similar Fujifilm model.

One last surprise is that the shutter and ISO knobs are more for looks than practical use. You see, there’s a PASM switch, and only when you are in the correct PASM position do the knobs actually do anything. If this camera had been designed correctly, PASM would be completely unnecessary, and the knobs would always do something if you turned them. It’s a much different user experience than what most Fujifilm cameras deliver, and maybe more confusing.

I understand that those who don’t have a background in classic film cameras and have only used PASM might be intimidated when trying Fujifilm X cameras for the first time. I think that’s one reason why the X-T200 and X-S10 cameras were designed the way they were: intended to be less intimidating to the uninitiated. So perhaps Nikon had that in mind with the Zfc, but this was certainly an opportunity to break the mold and offer a different experience to their users, and they just couldn’t do it—it really is a missed opportunity.

Nikon Zfc & 28mm — “Pure” Picture Control
Fujifilm X-E4 & 27mm — “Fujicolor Reala 100” recipe

Fujifilm is known for their Film Simulations and JPEG output. I’ve published over 200 Film Simulation Recipes to achieve various looks straight-out-of-camera. I even made an App (available for both Android and Apple) for these JPEG recipes. Fujifilm used their vast experience with film to create profiles that are modeled after film. For many Fujifilm photographers, Film Simulations (and recipes) are an intrinsic element of the user experience and picture aesthetic. For Nikon, their lesser-known equivalent is called Picture Control, with a subset called Creative Picture Control. While Fujifilm’s Film Simulations are inspired by film, Nikon’s Picture Controls are inspired by feelings and mood. It’s a much different take, and not necessarily better or worse—simply a divergent approach that’s worth noting. Fujifilm infuses an analog soul into their digital images, while Nikon infuses emotions that may or may not be analog-esque into their images.

Those who are regular readers of the Fuji X Weekly blog already know this, but for those who don’t, I’m a JPEG shooter. Many years ago I was a RAW guy, but Fujifilm cameras changed that for me. Shooting JPEG saves me time while making the process more enjoyable, as I get the look I want straight-out-of-camera without the need to edit. That’s my perspective.

It’s clear to me that, over the last decade, Fujifilm has invested more R&D dollars and time into their JPEG output than Nikon has. The Zfc is a new camera, but the JPEG quality is closer to X-Trans I—which is 10-years-old now—than X-Trans IV, which is very soon to be replaced by X-Trans V. When viewing on social media or the internet, you can’t tell, but when pixel-peeping, the Fujifilm X-E4 (for example) produces sharper, more detailed images, with more pleasing noise and fewer banding and artifact issues than the Zfc. It’s not a night-and-day difference (and I’m not suggesting that the JPEGs from the Zfc are bad), but it’s definitely noticeable when viewed closely, and I personally prefer the pictures produced by the X-E4; however, it only really matters if you are pixel-peeping, cropping deeply, or printing posters, and otherwise doesn’t matter.

Nikon Zfc & 28mm — “Dream” Picture Control
Fujifilm X-E4 & 27mm — “Kodak Portra 400 Warm” recipe
Crop from Nikon Zfc.
Crop from Fujifilm X-E4.

If you want the full Fujifilm photography experience, there’s no substitute for Fujifilm. The Nikon Zfc looks like it could deliver a similar experience, but it falls short in multiple ways. I would suggest the Fujifilm X-T30 II or X-E4 instead, which are similarly priced (cheaper actually), and are better cameras, in my opinion. The Fujifilm X-T3 WW is another solid option with a similar price point (slightly more expensive). With that said, the Zfc is still a very beautiful camera that’s fun to use and produces quality pictures.

If you already own a Nikon Z camera and lenses but like retro-styling, the Zfc is for you. An advantage of Nikon Z is that Z lenses are compatible with their full-frame mirrorless line. So perhaps you start with the Zfc and 28mm lens, but then you later add a couple lenses to your collection, and even later buy a Z7 II. Or maybe it’s the other way around: your Z7 II is big and heavy, so you add a Zfc for travel and walk-around photography, and the lenses you already own are compatible. This is why you buy a Nikon Zfc, I think.

Obviously, they’re hoping that the Zfc will convince those from other brands to try Nikon. My first thought is that those “moving up” from Micro-4/3 will be tempted by this model, although I’m not sure that this camera is convincing enough. Those dissatisfied by Sony, Canon, and Pentax might consider this model, if based on nothing more than looks, which is most likely what it would be based on because the Zfc lacks innovation that would attract photographers from other brands.

Nikon Zfc & 28mm — “Sunday” Picture Control
Fujifilm X-E4 & 27mm — “Analog Gold” recipe

I don’t think the Zfc will snag very many from Fujifilm. Maybe if you’ve never liked the lack of PASM—maybe. But other than good-looks, which your Fujifilm camera already offers, the Zfc doesn’t give you a good reason to switch brands. I can tell you with certainty that I won’t be switching brands anytime soon.

If you like your cameras to have retro-styling, the Nikon Zfc is one of your options. It’s a good camera that’s fun to use, but it’s not as good or as fun as a Fujifilm X-Trans model, like the X-T30 II or X-E4, which are slightly less expensive. My recommendation is to buy the Nikon Zfc only if you are already invested into the Z system, or if you are planning to get into that system for the long-term. Otherwise, there are better options, and if you are looking for those better options, let me point you towards Fujifilm.

This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.

Nikon Zfc Amazon B&H
Nikon Zfc + 28mm f/2.8 Amazon B&H
Nikon Zfc + 16-50mm Amazon B&H
Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 Amazon B&H
Fujifilm X-E4 Black    Amazon   B&H
Fujifilm X-E4 Silver   Amazon   B&H
Fujifilm X-E4 Black + 27mm f/2.8   Amazon   B&H
Fujifilm X-E4 Silver + 27mm f/2.8  Amazon   B&H
Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 Amazon B&H
Fujifilm X-T30 II Amazon  B&H
Fujifilm X-T30 II + 15-45mm  B&H
Fujifilm X-T30 II + 18-55mm B&H
Fujifilm X-T3 WW  Amazon  B&H

Example photographs, captured with Nikon Zfc and Fujifilm X-E4:

Nikon Zfc & 28mm — “Melancholic” Picture Control
Fujifilm X-E4 & 27mm — AgfaChrome RS 100” recipe
Nikon Zfc & 28mm — “Dramatic” Picture Control
Fujifilm X-E4 & 27mm — “Muted Color” recipe
Nikon Zfc & 28mm — “Morning” Picture Control
Fujifilm X-E4 & 27mm — “Pushed CineStill 800T” recipe
Nikon Zfc & 28mm — “Silence” Picture Control
Fujifilm X-E4 & 27mm — “Fujicolor NPS 160 Pulled” recipe

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Nikon Copying Fujifilm?

Photo’s via NikonRumors.com

Nikon is about to announce a new retro-SLR-styled APS-C mirrorless camera: the Zfc. It has some similarities to the Fujifilm X-T30, X-T4, and X-T200 (and also the Olympus OM-D), while not being exactly like any of them. According to NikonRumors, this camera is the Nikon Z50, just in a retro body inspired by the Nikon FM and Df cameras. The Z50 has a 20-megapixel sensor, and, as far as I know, is well regarded yet unexciting. This new body design will certainly create some excitement!

You might notice the Zfc has a shutter knob, exposure compensation knob, and ISO knob on the top of the body (much like the X-T4). There’s also a PASM switch. I can’t help but wonder, if Nikon had included an aperture ring around the lens, would the PASM switch even be necessary? I feel like Nikon went 90% there, but just didn’t push themselves all the way. Of course, they know their audience far better than I do, and they have far more experience in camera design than I.

With this camera, I believe that Nikon is specifically targeting the Fujifilm market. I’m not sure if they’re trying to lure Fujifilm photographers to Nikon, or simply attempting to stop Nikon shooter from leaving for Fujifilm, or maybe both, or perhaps those moving on from Micro 4/3. I have no idea how successful they’ll be at this, but I do think the Zfc will get some attention, something Nikon desperately needs. It seems like they’ve produced a lot of rather ho-hum products as their customers have jumped ship for other brands.

What Nikon doesn’t have that Fujifilm does are Film Simulations and Film Simulation Recipes. That’s not to say that Nikon’s JPEGs are junk (because I’m sure they’re not), but there’s nothing in the photographic world that rivals what Fujifilm and Fujifilm shooters (that’s you and me!) have created. While Nikon’s new exterior camera design is great, if they really want to compete against Fujifilm they need to recommit to the camera-made JPEG and do something just as radical inside as they did with the body. After all, photography is both about the picture and the experience, and I think the Zfc is an attempt to improve the latter (for certain people) while not addressing the former. I like this step that Nikon is taking, and I think it would be great if they continued down that path, but I’d be surprised if they did. We’ll see. Nevertheless, the Nikon Zfc is indeed a lovely looking camera.