This page is a brief review of the Nikon Z 50 camera when used in combination with the Nikon Z 50mm prime (fixed focal length) lens. I have also included below a reproduction of Nikon’s Z 50mm Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) chart with a summary explanation of its interpretation with regard to the Nikon Z 50mm lens. At the bottom of the page, I include my results using the Z 85mm S f/1.8 and Z 14-30mm S f/4 lenses. Ed Ruth teaches digital photography classes in Bakersfield, California: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Nikon Z 50 camera is midsize, and at 13.93 oz., quite lightweight. The Z 50 is a DX or half-frame camera with a sensor of approximately 16mm x 24mm. I often use this camera with the remarkable Z 50mm S lens which is also light at 14.70 oz. and very well built. Together this kit weighs only 1.79 pounds. Of course we must add some weight for any case, strap, or protective filter, but even then, it is a remarkably light assembly for what it has to offer.
The Z 50mm lens is a FX (FX or for a full-frame, 24mm x 36mm sensor) lens but the Z 50mm lens is designed to work very well on either a DX or FX body. The Z 50mm on a DX camera has a field of view (FOV) of a 75mm lens (1.5 x 50 = 75), and there is such a lens available should you wish it! Why use the Z 50mm? The Z 50mm is a very sharp, fast (f/1.8), quick focusing, sturdy, and professionally built lens. I find the 75mm FOV compelling. It is versatile and well-suited to street photography, portraiture, travel, or fine art. The Z 50mm can focus at 1.32 feet and, while it is no substitute for a macro lens, an image taken at that distance can be cropped in quite nicely because of the sharpness of the lens and excellence of the Z 50’s sensor. That sensor has 20.9 megapixels. The image size is 5568 x 3712 pixels or about 59.1 megabytes. If I enlarge the image in Photoshop using Adobe’s “Enhance” function, I obtain an image of 11136 x 7424 pixels at 236.5 megabytes with no discernible loss of resolution. That will print a splendid poster at 24 x 36 inches (300 DPI). So you see, there is a real powerhouse in a small, light package in this camera & lens combination.
It can be seen from the Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) chart below that the Z 50mm lens has superb contrast and sharpness with just a smidgen of reduced performance at the edge of the lens. Of course, Nikon tests its lenses opened to maximum aperture. Even better performance is obtained stopped down and the Z 50mm’s “sweet spot” is f/2.8. I have found the lens to be so remarkably sharp that I hesitate to use anything else in my kit!
DXO labs, creators of the exceptional PhotoLab post-production software, rates the Z 50mm’s sharpness at 37 and overall performance at 44. This puts the Z 50mm in the same league as lenses costing three times as much. All of the photographs below were taken with the Nikon Z50 using the Z 50mm lens.
I encourage you to “right-click” on the images and select “Open image in new tab” (Opera & Microsoft Edge) or “View image” (Firefox) to see the image in a larger size and better judge image quality. These images are about one-half to one megabyte in size.
The images here are unlike those found in many reviews, as I use Capture One, Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop, and DXO’s NIK plugin unabashedly to apply post-production adjustments to every image. So, my effort is to demonstrate the best I can achieve using the lens and software rather than an untouched image. This may seem presumptuous, but I provide instruction in Photoshop, so if you lack post-production skills, email me and we will get you started. Contact me at: email@example.com
Nikon Z 50 & Z 50mm, 1/400s, f/8, ISO 200 – ageing Zinnia in my garden.
For real insight into professional photography, see my Kindle books here: These include my new Kindle books about Photography and the Nikon Z50 camera.
Nikon Z 50 & Z 50mm, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO 200 – harsh dark spaces and lines combined with sharp detail reveal the creative potential of the camera and lens.
Nikon Z 50 & Z 50mm lens, 1/4000s, f/2.5, ISO 100 – A sunny day and 1/4000s is the Z 50’s top shutter speed! Micro-contrast and color altered in DXO FilmPack 6.
Nikon Z50 & Z 50mm, 1/3200s, f/2.5, ISO 100 – well I didn’t win a prize for my “fine art” photo but, after all, this is a journey not a destination! I use an aftermarket silicone cup for an eyepiece that I enjoy quite a lot. The Z combo is a lot of fun.
Nikon Z50 & Z 50mm, 0.4/s, f/9, ISO 100 – I confess that I enjoy black and white photography. I will share a secret with you that is worth a fortune! It takes so much brain energy to see color images that when we see a black and white image, our brains go on holiday! So we relax, use less oxygen and sugar. This is why black and white photography is so useful in fine art and advertising.
The Nikon Z50 and Z 50mm lens captures a lot of detail, most likely, all you will ever need for photojournalism, magazines, or newspapers. I keep a 62mm skylight filter (ultraviolet filter “UV”) on my lens to protect it from unfortunate accidents such as may occur with curious but well-fed seagulls. Does this filter reduce resolution? Not that can be noticed. In fact, the lens’ HOYA HD3 62mm UV Filter transmits 99.7% of the light reaching it. Lens coatings these days are almost perfect. And this HOYA’s “NEW 800% harder ultra-smooth nano-coating is scratch resistant and easier to clean and maintain.” Can’t touch that!
Camera manufacturers test lens sharpness and contrast using specialized equipment and “targets” displaying closely spaced black lines. The test begins at the center of the lens (0mm) and proceeds to the outer edge (21.6mm) ending at the top right of the sensor. The center of the lens is also the center of your camera’s sensor. The plotted test results are known as a Modulation Transfer Function chart or MTF chart. The 0mm to 21.6mm test range becomes the X axis (bottom) of the MTF chart.
Once we learn to read MTF charts, we can get a better idea of the optical quality of the lens we are dreaming about. Not infrequently, private reviewers also create MTF charts of popular or eagerly anticipated lenses.
By the way, the image circle of the Z 50mm lens is much larger than Nikon’s DX sensor and a bit larger than the Nikon FX sensor, just a little bit. But that is not part of the test. Only that which the sensor records and what we see in an image is tested.
A Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) chart or, if you prefer, Signal Frequency Response chart, is a representation of a lens’ optical quality based upon a series of tests. Optical quality is a measurement of both resolution, the ability to resolve fine detail, and contrast, the ability to distinctly represent subtle variations in image tone (including micro-contrast). These days, a lens must provide a very sharp image with really good contrast to capture the attention of the pixel-peeping public. I plead guilty here. Illustration by Ed Ruth.
The vertical 1 to 0 scale (Y axis) at the left of the chart is a measure of optical performance from 1 (100%), or perfect, at the top to 0 (0%), or very poor, at the bottom. The 0mm to 21.6mm scale (X axis) beneath the chart is a measure in millimeters (21.6mm = 0.850 inches) of the distance from the center of the FX format (full-frame or 24mm x 36mm) imaging sensor to the upper right edge of the sensor 21.6mm distant.
It is important to understand that this distance also represents the line used for test target measurements. The lens is tested from its center to its edge. Granted, this is only one sample. A lens could be similarly tested at numerous other locations. But there is only so much time in a day you know….
This chart uses the full-frame sensor as the Z 50mm lens is a full-frame FX lens. However, it may also be used on a DX format (half-frame or 16mm x 24mm sensor) Nikon mirrorless camera. Notice how performance in this lens (just about all lenses really) diminishes a bit toward its outer edge as shown at the right of the chart. No wonder this lens’ performance is even more stellar when used with the smaller DX sensor. But, of course, Nikon Z lenses may be used on both DX and FX cameras with confidence. Performance above 0.8 is excellent, between 0.7 and 0.9 is very good, and below 0.5 is not so good.
This Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) chart is very revealing, and it truly pays to study this information and use it when making lens decisions. Nikon and many other manufacturers offer such a chart under “Specifications.” Nikon uses a real lens set at maximum aperture. That’s like taking your weight after the holidays!! It tells a true story. Some other lens manufacturers use a theoretical model to produce a MTF chart. Use your best judgement.
Z50 & Z 85mm S: 1/250s, f/11, ISO 4000.
|Ed Ruth’s Digital Services
Ed Ruth’s Digital Services sole proprietor mission statement: My goal is to provide high-quality photography services, digital camera courses, and post-production courses (Adobe Lightroom CC & Photoshop CC) to groups and individuals. I promise to come prepared, be honest, candid, and not complete any course until you are fully comfortable with the subject matter.This HTML 5 website, the associated CSS, and all images in this website and Kindle books by Ed Ruth, were created by Ed Ruth unless otherwise noted.Copyright 2020 Ed Ruth. Thank you for visiting this site.
|Back to the home page
Back to top of page