Can you use a Nikon Z30 for Bird Photography?

I recently replaced my main vlogging camera (the Sony ZV-1) with the Nikon Z30. The ZV-1 was having issues and I would be able to use all of my Nikon lenses with the Z30. So from now on, it will be the primary video camera for the channel, but before fully transitioning to it, I decided to test its performance as a stills camera with a fun challenge: bird photography. This certainly isn’t the first camera you’d think of for doing bird photography, but I really wanted to see what it was capable of. I paired it with the Nikon 300mm F4 PF lens, along with a 1.4x teleconverter and the FTZ adapter for the Z30 body. My plan was to head out to a local area and see what bird shots I could capture.

The First Hurdle and Initial Impressions

Firstly, don’t make my mistake: check your firmware before heading out. I reached my location only to find out that the FTZ adapter’s firmware needed updating in order to use the 300mm with the Z30 body. This required a trip back home, downloading the update, and then returning to the spot. I visited a local reservoir during late morning light, which was quite bright. This meant no concerns about ISO, though there was the potential for harsh shadows. Starting with ducks and geese was a good warm-up since they are easy to photograph and accustomed to people.

In the Field

After spotting a heron the distance, I realised that the 300mm lens wasn’t going to have quite enough reach, even with the Z30’s crop size sensor, so I added the 1.4x teleconverter, giving me around 420mm (equivalent field of view to 630mm when using a full frame sensor). I was shooting mostly wide open at f/4, (f/5.6 with the teleconverter) and I used aperture priority mode, adjusting the ISO to produce my desired shutter speeds. Manual adjustments is my preference over auto ISO. I spotted a few robins early on, which are also really easy subjects due to how tame they are, and they often pose nicely. These type of subject always provide good practice and confidence when getting started on a shoot.

Focussing on the Challenges

I managed to get a shot of a buzzard flying overhead which was a challenging but came out surprisingly well. The autofocus performed excellently, latching onto the bird and staying in focus for most of the shots in my burst. I was using continuous autofocus and dynamic area autofocus, This meant moving a focus point with the left-right-up-down pad (no joystick on the Z30), but around the focus point are a number of additional ones that will also attempt to focus n the subject, should it leave the centre. I also bagged a shot of a little tree creeper with the combination of lens and body pulling out some great detail in the feathers.


Overall, the Z30 is not my top recommendation for bird photography. Its lightweight and portability are great, but the absence of a viewfinder and reliance on the back screen in bright light posed challenges. The autofocus and burst rate can’t keep up with higher-end models, resulting in missed shots.
However, the Z30 does have excellent image quality. Although definitely helped by the fantastic Nikon 300mm F4 PF lens, the sensor in the Z30 does also produce brilliant results. When it comes to stills, the camera may be more suitable for landscape or portrait photography (when paired with a good lens), rather than action. It is definitely more suited to videography, as its marketing would suggest.
So, to sum up – it’s not that you can’t get good still images with the Z30, it will just be harder and less consistent than other cameras,

You can see the camera in action in the video below.

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