Over the weekend I channeled my inner influencer to practice vlogging with the Nikon Z30 Mirrorless Camera. As the lightest and least costly camera of the Nikon Z-series, the Z30 is a great introduction to Nikon’s fleet if you are a vlogger looking to up your game. Weighing a comfy 350 grams, the Z30’s uniquely light body still feels sturdy and capable of withstanding rugged use. With an ergonomic design and featherweight feel, this camera is gentle on the wrists and fingers during extended use and elevates the vlogging experience from a tactile perspective.
Without turning the camera on, it is immediately apparent how much of this camera has borrowed design elements from its Z-series predecessors and other close Nikon relatives. The handgrip on this camera is noticeably deeper, much like the grips you would find on the Z6 or Z7. The size makes shooting stills more comfortable and the handling less awkward when you point the camera at yourself. Likewise, the controls have been reconfigured to be accessible from several orientations easily (like the Z50), and the record button is within fingers’ reach. The mode and two command dials are also large and easily toggleable, which is a nice touch for those who intend to shoot manual.
What surprised me was the lack of a viewfinder, although this is a sensible exclusion for a camera intended for vlogging. Instead, a 3-inch fully articulating screen is used for shot composition, a feature that more closely resembles the vlogging experience of a native smartphone user. It is also worth noting that Nikon has addressed construction problems that afflicted the Z50’s 3.2-inch LCD, so the Z30’s vari-angle display does not impede tripod use in certain positions.
Onto the input panel, where I find the usual HDMI, USB-C, and mic inputs. The USB-C can charge your camera while it is in use, which is a great feature for those who want to use the Z30 as a streaming device. But I was surprised once again to find a missing component: the headphone jack, which immediately struck me as an issue for vloggers and content creators. Audio monitoring is paramount for good content since poor audio can render hours of footage useless, so providing the mic input without the headphone jack feels like a strange choice, to me. With this in mind, the Z30 does have a built-in stereo mic system by the cold shoe that I found to be a considerable leg up over standard in-camera mics. While wind-reduction technology working alongside an outdoor wind muff makes for efficacious sound quality, I would still recommend using an external mic, and testing it prior to a shoot, for the best result.
Upon turning on the camera, the screen includes a full panel of touch functions that switch to “selfie controls” such as a timer and exposure settings when flipped frontward. Controls on the screen are easy to navigate while the screen itself indicates when features are in use. Indicators such as a red border to alert when a user is in video mode, or the yellow tracking box to show where the camera’s hybrid autofocus system is tracking, are Z30-specific and great features for vloggers in action. The autofocus itself is fast and works on people, animals, and products to eliminate the awkwardness vloggers often face when trying to achieve the perfect shot. And in classic Nikon fashion, the Z30 includes the helpful user guide button that will undoubtedly make this camera less intimidating to new users.
As far as shooting quality goes, the Z30 inherits many of the positive qualities seen in its predecessors: a 20.9MP APS-C sensor that can produce 4K UHD footage at 30 fps with full width and zero cropping, or at Full HD in 120 fps for slow-motion work. I was pleased to find that it yields beautifully vibrant and color-accurate footage in bright and low light and offers a selection of artistic filters for adding a bit of panache to any shoot. I also love that the autofocus creates a soft yet precise background blur that looks very professional.
Like most vlog-specific cameras, the Z30 has no IBIS, which likely contributes to its compact size and low price. Nikon redresses this with built-in E-VR for video but at the cost of a 1.3x crop, thereby negating the touted wide-angle capabilities. The 16-50mm kit lens features vibration-reduction technology as a viable solution, as well, but I would recommend purchasing a gimbal to offset this shortcoming if you want to ensure smooth footage.
All told, a lot of thought went into creating a camera desirable enough to coax a predominantly smartphone-using demographic to make the big leap into the professional camera space. With a straightforward user interface and powerful automatic features, the Z30 can produce high-quality, YouTube-ready footage regardless of skill level―an experience that is worlds apart from smartphone vlogging. Using this camera feels easy, natural, and comfortable while maintaining a sense of professionalism. If you can stomach the design compromises that lower the cost of this camera, it is a great little piece for creating content.
What do you think of vlog-specific cameras like the Z30? Have you ever tried vlogging? If yes, does vlogging in public ever make you feel self-conscious? We would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section, below.