Before I get going I have to admit something. At times I am the type of consumer that keeps marketing and development departments well stocked in antacid supplies.
Ask for something and then not buy it when they take a swipe at it. I have bellyached in past posts on this very website about modern digital camera company’s unwillingness to create either:
- A legit brand new film camera harking back to the design, feel, and controls that is compatible with their vintage lenses (Will likely never happen as long as there are inexpensive film cameras on the used market. I bought SLRs like Bic lighters or Pez candy at one point.) or…
- A digital camera that does not just mimic some aesthetic markers from their prior film greats (Looking at you Olympus PEN F and Nikon Df.) resulting in a modern camera in a vintage costume, but fully commits to the actual control layout, size, and construction of those prior greats (Exhibit A).
I will start off with all of the reasons that this should be a “Shut up and take my money!” camera for me.
- Design. Just look at the thing! It is gorgeous. A far more convincing film homage than the previous DSLR with a vintage veneer Df. (Photos from KEH.com page.). It does not look like a repackaged version of another current digital model. A very appealing and faithful modern take on film Nikon models like my prior Nikon FE and current Nikon FG also pictured below.
- Controls. Another win. Much like the Olympus PEN F the Nikon Df’s controls were too close if not identical to the controls of its traditional digital contemporaries. Any nods to the film originals were cosmetic rather than functional. Not so here. Even the LQD F Stop screen reminds me of the film counters on the originals. And they did a good job of keeping the modern twin dials without them being intrusive.
- Some specs are impressive like 11fps for example. It is clear that this is not meant to be a dumbed down penalty box camera.
- Video. An odd item to include as a plus on a vintage styled camera, but including video capabilities like the digital Olympus PEN F (Something they definitely got right.) makes far more sense than stripping them away like the Nikon Df which had no video capabilities. It is available tech so why not include it? Adds a whole other use case for this camera.
- Fully articulating screen. This was a surprise. I thought I would have seen this added to one of the updated Z6/Z7 version two models. Glad they included this here. Not only does this go well with the video features mentioned above it also adds to the updated vintage camera vibe by allowing one to flip the screen around for a more film camera like experience.
- Price. One of the things that really did in the Nikon Df for me was it’s price. Even today, eight years after it’s release, it is currently listed for well over $2,500 and just shy of $3,000 with a lens. The Z fc has a very reasonable release price of under $1,000 and a little more with a lens kit. It even has a vintage looking full frame lens offered with it out of the gate. Barely more expensive than the comparable Z50 while including some real advantages. This alone almost makes me want to buy this camera.
Nikon marketing and development departments and digital Nikon-ites (of whom I was a member) weapons down please.
So after my previous rantings and all of this glowing praise above why is there a ‘but’? I should have already smashed that pre-order button by now theoretically. Especially since I recently came precariously close to picking up a Z5 before deciding against it when I could not form a coherent use case based on what I already own. But since the Z fc is a vintage play it would occupy a currently vacant niche in my camera gear without conflict.
Some compromises are not showstoppers for me. I can forgive the 1/4000s top shutter speed for instance, especially at this price point. So what is my issue?
- No IBIS. This is a deal breaker for me nowadays. I would love to adapt my vintage Nikon glass (28mm/50mm/100mm) to this camera and also have access to IBIS but that is not an option. One could argue that this would impact size and price, but I would sacrifice a bit on both counts if it were included. IBIS is the main reason I pivoted back from Canon to Sony for my mirrorlesss prime solution when a proper FE fast trio was completed recently. As much as I really liked the non-IBIS Canon RP and STM glass moving to the IBIS having Sony mount was a no-brainer in the end. So for now I will continue adapting these lenses to Sony instead.
- That crop sensor though. I know. I know. Have recently sung the bang for buck praises of MFT. APS-C is great. Had Fujifilm APS-C. Had Pentax APS-C. Had (Well still have but shhh.) the orphan mount (Displeased blog post here.) Samsung APS-C. Until recently I had Sony APS-C. But for me this is a larger issue than the lack of IBIS. Digital full frame has become a personal preference for me. With the price of entry coming down and smaller models on the market it is hard for me to justify an APS-C purchase nowadays. I will gladly trade a few bells and whistles for a full frame sensor at a similar price point. Your mileage may vary. Additionally those film era Nikon lenses mentioned above would now be 42mm/75mm/150mm full frame equivalents. Not necessarily a bad thing depending on what you are looking for. But this is not what I am looking for. Same argument can be made by some as IBIS. This would impact size and price, but once again I would sacrifice a bit on both counts if it were full frame. So for now I will continue adapting these lenses to Sony instead.
What would it take to move the needle for me?
This same camera for a little more spend with IBIS and a full frame sensor.
If the Z fc is a hit maybe Nikon will step up and make a full frame variant. The Series E styled 28mm Z fc kit lens is full frame after all. Come on Nikon. You can do it.
Make it the same price as an A7c and maybe add in an 1/8000s e-shutter like the A7c and I am done. Granted Sony’s unmatched lens and adaptability options currently would make for a difficult complete migration but that combination of features might still make this a “Shut up and take my money!” camera. If not as a primary system solution definitely as a vintage-y add on.
Now that I think about a reskinned A7c would also do the trick actually.
A shame Sony has no SLR legacy to lean on like Nikon. Well they did buy Minolta. The mother of Sony A Mount translucent mirror cameras and lenses. Perhaps a Sony X-700 then?
Not that ridiculous. An A7c spec sheet housed in an updated X-700 body? If priced right I would likely buy it. They would not be the first. Minus the full frame part there was the Konica/Minolta Maxxum 7 and 7D.
Very similar cameras in film and digital flavors. I owned both for a time and they were great fun.
Had a laugh before I sobered up and moved on. Both had great ergonomics but in the end it was a heavy, overly complex SLR and a bit too long in the tooth sensor DSLR so I let them go.
Kudos to Konica because I could not imagine any modern camera company repeating this today. But this is the company that gave us the wonderfully absurd Darth Vader helmet/disco glitter ball with features and ergonomics that must have been conceived under the influence Konica AiBORG (Still have.)…
and bang for buck champ Konica C35 AF2 (Still have.)…
…so I am not really surprised.
So if Nikon ever ups the sensor or if Sony gets on the retro bandwagon I am game. Until then I will soldier on as is. So close. They have my attention. Marking myself safe from this press release… At this moment. Now. Today…
In all honesty if left on my own with persistent internet access for too long I may very well end up with a Z fc. I do like it. But as of this very moment as I type these words I will stick with the analog OG when I want a bit of vintage Nikon.