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Nikon Z fc mirrorless camera puts a modern heart in a glorious retro body

Nikon has revealed its newest digital camera, though at first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking the Nikon Z fc mirrorless was something from the company’s film-based archives. Thoroughly retro in its styling, the “heritage-design” model is the first time we’ve seen the Z-series embrace a more traditional aesthetic, though inside you’re not compromising on hardware.

So, you still get 4k UHD video recording – without crop – and full-time autofocus (AF-F) during that. There’s the same Eye-Detection AF and Animal-Detection AF during stills and videos that the Nikon Z 7II and Nikon Z 6II introduced, too.

Wide-area AF-area mode is supported, with up to 87-percent coverage, and there’s an ISO range from 100-51200 (expandable to up to ISO 204800). The sensor is 20.9-megapixels, paired with an EXPEED 6 processor, and can shoot at up to 11 fps.

As well as the OLED viewfinder, there’s a 3-inch vari-angle display – a first on Nikon’s Z series models – with touch support. That automatically switches the Z fc into self-portrait mode when flipped all the way up. You can transfer images over from the camera more easily to a smartphone or tablet via the SnapBridge app, and there’s a webcam utility that allows the camera to be used as a USB webcam. A 3.5mm stereo microphone input provides plug-in power for external audio, while storage is via SD.

It’s all wrapped up in a design which Nikon says was inspired by the FM2 SLR film camera first released back in 1982. The Nikon logo is the same as the company used in the 1970s and 80s, while the FM2 donates most of the control positioning, plus a circular eyepiece and trio of dials on the top body.

Along with the magnesium alloy parts, there’ll be six different exterior color options. That’ll run the gamut from the more traditional black, tan, and white, through pale pastels for those who want something more eye-catching.

There’ll be two matching lenses as well, though of course owners will be able to use any Nikon Z mount system glass they might have. The NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) is a compact prime lens, also with a heritage design, capturing at 42mm angle of view and with a minimum focus distance of 7.5 inches.

There’ll also be NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens in a silver-color variation, Nikon says, again to match the Z fc aesthetic.

Pricing for the Nikon Z fc starts at $959.95 body-only, with preorders opening from today. It’s available in Black, Amber Brown, White, Natural Gray, Sand Beige, Coral Pink, and Mint Green, though Nikon warns that the more unusual colors are limited-availability. The kit with the 28mm prime lens is $1,199.95, or $1,099.95 with the 16-50mm zoom.

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Nikon Z 7II and Z 6II to get a firmware update next week

Once upon a time, cameras were products that you buy with a fixed set of features that never changed, forcing you to buy a new one once you’ve outgrown what your trusty partner offered. These days, however, camera makers have taken a page from smart devices to offer some new or improved features via a simple and free firmware update. Some even make it feel like you’ve bought a newer model. That might not be what Nikon will bring to its Z 7II and Z 6II mirrorless cameras next week but it’s still a substantial firmware upgrade nonetheless.

Launched in October last year, the Nikon Z 7II and Z 6II full-frame mirrorless cameras brought a rather unique setup to the camera market. Both sported not one but two EXPEED 6 image processors to double the cameras’ processing power. That additional muscle definitely comes in handy when adding new features that do require more data crunching ability.

With Firmware version 1.10, the cameras will support RAW video output, though that has to be enabled by a Nikon service representative as well. For those that already bought that upgrade option, the firmware update still has something to offer in the form of support for BlackMagic Design external recorders.

Nikon also says that the firmware will improve the performance of Eye-Detection Autofocus. This will allow the cameras to detect eyes even the subject’s face is too small in the frame. For the Nikon Z 6II alone, the update will enable 4K UHD/60p video recording.

Nikon says that the Firmware 1.10 upgrade for the Nikon Z 7II and Z 6II will be arriving next week, specifically on February 25. The update is promised to also enable video-recording workflows that were based on customer feedback on what pro photographers need these days.

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Nikon 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor boasts 1000 fps shooting

While smartphone makers are still playing the megapixel game, camera makers are looking into other aspects of digital photography that can still be improved. Nikon, for example, just boasted the development of a new stacked CMOS sensor that can shoot high-resolution images, up to 4K in fact, at a rate of 1,000 frames per second. While that alone might already be impressive, it isn’t the only feat that this sensor is capable of.

Most consumers will probably be familiar with high frame rates as the feature that enables slow-motion video recording. Those usually top out at 120 to 240 fps, which makes this 1,000 fps seem overly excessive. That said, the super-fast frame rate has application beyond digital cameras and smartphones, specifically automobiles that need to be always “aware” of its surroundings even when moving at fast speeds.

The sensor’s impressive capability is thanks to its unique structure. While stacked CMOS sensors are nothing new, Nikon’s innovation is that the bottom chip that does the readout can directly control the top chip with the BSI sensors. This greatly reduces the lag in communication between layers, allowing the sensor to record 1,000 frames per second.

The top chip is actually divided into 264×264 blocks, each with 16×16 pixels, giving the sensor its 17.84 megapixel count. The bottom chip can also control the exposure individually for each of these blocks. In practice, this means that it can brighten up only specific dark areas of an image without overexposing the rest, unlike the all or nothing system that most sensors have.

While this 1-inch stacked CMOS is already impressive on its own, the fact that Nikon is developing it makes it even more so. Although known for its cameras, the company hasn’t exactly made headlines when it comes to the research and development of imaging sensors and it is already making a big splash right off the bat.

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