Nanostructured zinc oxide sensing film was deposited on the Si/SiO2/Pt substrate by the RF magnetron sputtering process. The film was characterized by FESEM (field-emission scanning electron microscope) and XRD (X-ray diffraction) for their morphology and structural analysis. The FESEM results show that the film morphology is in nanophase with an average nanostructure size of ~ 50 nm. XRD results show that the film is polycrystalline. The AFM (atomic force microscopy) and Raman spectroscopy were done to analyze the surface roughness and the structural properties of the film, respectively. FTIR (Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy) was used to analyze the presence of ZnO. Further, the ZnO nanostructure film has been explored for pH sensing for pH (4–12). The sensitivity of the film was found to be 31.81 mV/pH. The drift characteristics of the film were also done to find out the stability of the film. © 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.