A curious thing happened while I was testing and reviewing the Nikon Z50 digital camera. Priced well under $1,000, meant for serious amateur photographers, the Z50 is unique in that it supports high-end professional lenses and captures stunningly crisp 20.9-megapixel photos and 4K videos. At 14 ounces for the camera body portion, It’s lighter than most of the DSLR cameras I’ve tested recently, so it’s highly portable.
Attaching the included strap and popping on a 50-200mm zoom lens, I headed out for several trips to take nature photos. And I fell in love… with a woodpecker.
No, seriously -- I managed to position myself on a wooden platform close enough to snap a few photos of a massive bird doing its level best to destroy a pine tree. Known as a Pileated Woodpecker, with a distinctive red crown and about the size of a beaver, this was momentous for me. The colors were vibrant and bold. Angled so that you can only see the bird in focus and a few branches, I took maybe 50 photos all in a row.
At a local park, I then took my kit and camped out again, capturing birds in flight above me. Trumpeter swans squawking like President Trump at a press briefing? Check. A flock of blackbirds darting down below the tree line? No problem. The Z50 is the lowest-priced mirrorless camera from Nikon, but it was more than up to the challenge. Its fast shutter captures at 1/4000 of a second, which is lightning fast. I loved being able to turn off the main LCD screen and use the viewfinder, turn the manual focus, and snap.
Back to the woodpecker. I switched to the movie mode using one obvious switch, adjusted my focus again and filmed a few rat-a-tats in a row. I felt the visceral clunk of beak on wood and felt like a documentary filmmaker. Granted, I’m one who managed to fit in a trip to Domino’s pizza between my “shoots” and have no real plans to do this professionally, but I was wonderfully enraptured by the process and the results.
Will the Nikon Z50 also change your life? Could be. I like the smaller size, the massive zoom lens, the fast shutter, and (to be honest) the low cost. It’s a good fit for my new endeavors, even if National Geographic probably won’t come calling.