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Nikon Z fc vs Nikon Z50: is the Nikon Z fc just a ‘retro’ Z50 with a fancy facelift?

Nikon Z fc vs Nikon Z50
(Image credit: Future/Nikon)

Anyone who remembers the Nikon Df full frame DSLR will spot the resemblance straight away. Nikon has used the same styling cues on the new Nikon Z fc, taking the iconic and achingly handsome looks of the Nikon FM series of 35mm SLRs and melding them with its latest APS-C mirrorless camera technologies.

The result is a camera that looks a million miles from the functional but somewhat plain Nikon Z50, Nikon’s only other APS-C format mirrorless camera to date. They do say, however, that looks are only skin deep, and on closer inspection what’s under the skin of the Z fc looks identical to the Z50’s innards.

So is it the same camera with a different skin, are there any advantages to the Nikon Z fc at all, and where does this leave the plain-looking Z50 now that it has an infinitely more glamorous sibling?

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the Nikon Z fc and the Nikon Z50 to find out.

Nikon Z fc vs Nikon Z50: what’s actually new

Look at the Nikon Z fc! How different could it be? (Image credit: Nikon)

It’s all on the outside. If we were to call out every single dial, button and styling cue, this would take all day, so we’ll sum it all up under one word: design.

01 Design

• Nikon Z fc: classic external dials, black and silver finish, retro look
• Nikon Z50: regular mirrorless ‘mini-DSLR’ style with mode dial

The design of the Nikon Z fc echoes that of Nikon’s 35mm film SLRs of the 1980s, a golden age of camera design enshrined in a silver and black leatherette finish that will bring a tear to the eye of any photographer of a certain age. 

Most modern cameras are controlled with a mode dial, and shutter speed and ISO settings set via a digital interface. The Z fc relegates the mode dial options to a small lever under a big external ISO dial on the top plate. On the other side of the pentaprism/viewfinder is an equally big shutter speed dial. The only external control you don’t get is an aperture ring, so in truth the Z fc is only two-thirds of the way to a full set of external exposure controls.

The Z50 is purely functional. It’s appealing enough in its own way, and the grip makes it practical tool, but this is one beauty contest it’s never going to win.

The Nikon Z fc's top plate belongs in an art gallery [sigh]. (Image credit: Nikon)

02 Rear screen

• Nikon Z fc: 3-in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04m dots
• Nikon Z50: 3.2-in tilting screen, 1.04m dots

The Z fc is not all show and no go. Round the back it has a fully-articulating touchscreen display, that’s a tad smaller than the screen on the Z50 (3-in vs 3.2-in) but massively more practical, especially for selfies and vlogging.

It’s the first time Nikon has put a vari-angle screen on one of its Nikon Z mirrorless cameras, and you have to wonder why it’s taken so long. 

The tilting screen on the Z50 is fine for most purposes, but if you’re looking for a practical advantage to the Z fc rather than a purely cosmetic one, this is it.

That flip-out rear screen is genuinely a leap forward. If only the Z50 (and all the other Z models) had this! (Image credit: Nikon)

03 Flash

• Nikon Z fc: It doesn’t have one
• Nikon Z50: Built in, GN7 at ISO 100

As ever, though, it’s swings and roundabouts. The Z fc has a hotshoe for attaching an external flash, but doesn’t have one built in. The Nikon Z50 does, even if it’s a fairly weedy little unit with a Guide Number of just 7 at ISO 100.

04 Dimensions

• Nikon Z fc: 134.5 x 93.5 x 43.5mm, 390g body only
• Nikon Z50: 126.5 x 93.5 x 60 mm, 450g

Interestingly, the Z fc is a fraction lighter than the Z50, though both are pretty light cameras and you’re unlikely to notice  the difference. It’s slightly wider than the Nikon Z50, the same height and a lot slimmer in the body, through not having a grip on the front.

Nikon Z fc vs Nikon Z50: what’s exactly the same

Is the above enough to make you choose the Nikon Z fc over the Nikon Z50? It will have to be, because everything else is exactly the same. Let’s examine the tech specs in more detail, and see also how they compare with rival cameras and brands.

The sensor is the same as the Z50's, as is just about everything else inside this camera. (Image credit: Nikon)

05 Sensor

• Nikon Z fc: 20.9MP APS-C CMOS with low pass filter, EXPEED 6
• Nikon Z50: 20.9MP APS-C CMOS with low pass filter, EXPEED 6

Nikon has been very brave in swapping to a lower-resolution sensor than its rivals. The 20.9MP APS-C sensor now used by Nikon across much of its APS-C camera range is 3MP less than its previous 24MP cameras and most APS-C rivals. Fujifilm has a mix of 24MP and 26MP cameras and Canon tops the leaderboard with the 32.5MP EOS M6 Mark II.

Is 20.9MP enough in this day and age? It probably is, unless you plan super-huge enlargements. This lower resolution also improves – in theory – the camera’s low light performance and dynamic range.

06 ISO range

• Nikon Z fc: ISO 100-51,200
• Nikon Z50: ISO 100-51,200

There’s no difference in these two cameras’ ISO ranges, either. With a new camera Nikon will often tweak the processing and squeeze out a wider ISO range from the same sensor, but not this time.

This is a pretty good ISO range, too, and demonstrates a quiet revolution in camera performance over the past few years. 

07 Autofocus

• Nikon Z fc: 209-point hybrid AF with eye-detect for humans and animals, down to -4.5EV
• Nikon Z50: 209-point hybrid AF with eye-detect for humans an animals, down to -4EV

The 209-point hybrid AF system used in the Nikon Z50 is unchanged in the new Z fc. Both cameras also offer human and animal eye detection, and the only difference we can find is that the Z50 is quoted as being sensitive down to -4EV, while the Z fc’s AF system goes down to -4.5EV. That’s a small improvement in light levels so dim you’ll rarely encounter them.

08 Continuous shooting

• Nikon Z fc: 11fps
• Nikon Z50: 11fps

The Nikon Z50 offers a very snappy frame rate of 11fps in burst mode, and this carries through to the Nikon Z fc so, again, there’s no change there. Both cameras can shoot at speeds previously associated with pro sports cameras – one of the advantages of mirrorless camera design.

The Z fc's video specs are the same as the Nikon Z50's, but the flip-out screen and optional vlogging grip and remote set it apart. (Image credit: Nikon)

09 Video

• Nikon Z fc: 4K UHD 30p, FHD up to 120p, mic socket
• Nikon Z50: 4K UHD 30p, FHD up to 120p, mic socket

Video capabilities are becoming just as important as stills photography for today’s content creators, family memory keepers, vloggers and influencers, and the Z fc and Z50 share the same decent video specifications. Both can shoot 4K UHD video at up to 30p and full HD at up to 120p, and both have sockets for external microphones.

The Z fc does have a couple of hardware advantages, though. One is the vari-angle screen, which offers much more flexibility while filming, and another is the optional camera grip/mini tripod and remote included in the Z fc vlogging kit.

10 Viewfinder

• Nikon Z fc: 0.39-in XGA OLED, 2.36m dots, 100% coverage, 1.02x magnification
• Nikon Z50: 0.39-in XGA OLED, 2.36m dots, 100% coverage, 1.02x magnification

By today’s standards, the 0.39-in 2.36m dot electronic viewfinders in the Z fc and the Z50 are adequate rather than exceptional, but at this price level it’s unlikely users will find anything to complain about.

The only difference is that the Nikon Z fc does have a round viewfinder eyepiece to echo that classic Nikon 35mm SLR look.

The Nikon Z fc has a single UHS-I card slot, just like the Z50, which is fine. Not so fine is that it's in the base, so swapping cards can be a real drag if you're using a tripod with a camera plate that overhangs the card door. (Image credit: Nikon)

11 Storage

• Nikon Z fc: 1x SD UHS-I card slot
• Nikon Z50: 1x SD UHS-I card slot

Both cameras come with a single SD card slot which is UHS-I compatible but not the faster UHS-II standard. The fact is, though, that you only really need UHS-II cards for high quality 4K video at higher frame rates than these cameras offer, or greater bit depths. UHS-I is fine for the kind of light video/vlogging use these cameras are designed for.

12 Battery

• Nikon Z fc: EN-EL25 battery, USB charging supported
• Nikon Z50: EN-EL25 battery, USB charging supported

Even the batteries are the same. We can’t even find any differences in the charging methods, since both cameras support USB charging.

Which is best, the Nikon Z50 or Z fc?

(Image credit: Future/Nikon)

We’re going to give you the answer in three parts:

1) If you’re concerned solely with practicality, performance and specifications and don’t bother about looks, get the Nikon Z50. Its prices have been falling and look likely to fall further with the arrival of the Nikon Z fc. Effectively, you get the same camera for significantly less money…

2) UNLESS you really want a vari-angle screen (and a slimmer body). These are two very good reasons for paying that little bit more to get the Z fc. There is, of course, a third reason.

3) The Nikon Z fc looks simply fabulous. Even if you think you don’t care what a camera looks like, you will when you see this. You have to be pretty hard-hearted to love objects purely for what they do and not what they look like, and if the Z fc’s retro charm means you love carrying it around with you, your photography is likely to benefit too.

Read more:

Nikon Z50 review
Best Nikon cameras
Best mirrorless cameras
Best vlogging cameras
Best cameras: how to choose

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio. Previously he has been Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. 


Rod's near-encyclopedic knowledge of cameras both old and new makes him an invaluable resource, whether we need to ask a question about transparencies or the latest X-Trans sensor. He owns all manner of cameras, from Nikon DSLRs through Olympus, Sony and Fujifilm bodies, and on any given day you'll see him using kit from just about every manufacturer.