The Nikon Z6 is one of two mirrorless full-frame cameras that Nikon launched in August 2018. Z6 is very similar to its big brother, the Z7, with the main differences being the sensor (24MP vs 46MP) and the resulting decrease in resolution. Due to the lower-resolution sensor, the Nikon Z6 also has fewer autofocus points for phase detection (273 vs 493). But, you will get the same rough body, mostly familiar controls, and access to a small collection of Z-mount lenses that will soon grow.
Aside from the specs, the Z6 is very different from the Z7 for an audience. The latter is for those seeking ultra-high resolution and cameras such as the Sony a7R III and Nikon D850 would also be considered. On the other hand, the Z6 is intended to be more attractive for those seeking to upgrade from crop-sensor cameras or full-frame DSLRs of the previous generation.
Ultimately, the Z6 will be compared with its DSLR sibling, the D750. Although the two cameras have different designs, they operate similarly, with the most significant differences being autofocus modes and video.
- 24.5MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor
- Hybrid autofocus system w/273 phase-detect points
- Up to 12 fps burst shooting (Raw + JPEG)
- 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder
- 2.1M-dot tilting touch LCD
- OLED top plate display
- Single XQD card slot
- UHD 4K capture up to 30p
- 10-bit 4:2:2 N-Log output over HDMI
- Up to 100Mbps H.264 8-bit internal video capture
- SnapBridge Wi-Fi system with Bluetooth
The Nikon Z6 is well-designed and has a modern style, which is not too distant from its DSLR roots. It’s about the same size as the Canon EOS R and Sony a7 III and smaller and lighter than the Nikon D750. The build quality of the Nikon Z6 is of the highest quality, and it is durable, the weather-sealed body remains surprisingly light in the hand.
The Nikon Z6 has a very nice grip that places the most controls in each finger’s reach, although the customizable buttons that lie against the lens mount are a little bit extended. It is quite easy to rest your thumb on the AF point joystick, which is great if you want to adjust the AF but not so great when you bump it accidentally and stop the playback mode. Another thing that could bother people with big hands is that your pinky finger is not supported properly. There is a battery grip that extends grip but is not yet available.
The mode dial and OLED info display are two things to note on the top plate. The dial has a lock, but you can’t turn it on and off: you have to push it down to rotate the dial. In all lighting conditions, the OLED display shows the information that you expected and are visible. The two-button shorts used in most Nikon DSLRs to format the memory card or reset the camera are missing from Z6.
The back controls are generally well-developed, but the zoom in/out buttons would be nice if they were higher. It’s a small joystick and can be bumped accidentally because of the proximity to the thumb rest. The switch around the display button allows you to easily switch between stills and video shooting. One of the nice things with the Nikon Z6 is the exclusive exposure and custom options for each mode, so you can jump from still into video without adjusting anything. Nothing can record videos in silent mode despite the red button on the top plate: it is necessary to turn the switch on.
LCD and Electronic Viewfinder
The Nikon Z6 has one of a mirrorless camera’s sharpest and largest viewfinder. It has a magnification of 3,69 million dots and 0,80x. The viewfinder is unbelievably clear, but the view is lagging.
As you would expect, there is the optical sensor to switch between the viewfinder and the LCD, with four settings available: automatic, viewfinder only, monitoring only and focusing viewfinder. Sadly, flipping the LCD does not disable the eye sensor so when shooting from the hip, you may find yourself tripping it accidentally.
With 2.1 million dots, the LCD is also high resolution. It can tilt up a little over 90 degrees and down by 45 degrees. It is not a fully articulated display that some videophiles may be disappointing.
On its left side, you will find all the Nikon Z6’s I/O ports. They include headphones and outside micro sockets plus USB-C, HDMI and cable remoteness. Both the rubber flaps protecting the ports are’ shaking up’ so you don’t have to reveal what is unnecessary. Both of these can be rotated, as shown.
Memory cards and battery
Like Z7, a single XQD slot is available on the Nikon Z6. With the help of the firmware upgrade in the immediate future, Nikon promises support for faster CFExpress cards (which share the same form factor as XQD).
The Nikon Z6 uses one lithium-ion EN-EL15b battery which is compatible with the DSLR series of Nikon D750 and D800 and can be charged via USB in the Z6. Grey EN-EL15a batteries can also be used in the Z6, less for charge support, from the early generation DSLRs. Even the original EN-EL15 battery can be used, but older battery life is lower due to a lack of Li-ion20. It takes just over 2.5 hours for an external charger to fill the EN-EL15b with USB charge taking about the same amount of time.
By CIPA, the Z6 can take up to 380 shots with an LCD and 310 with a viewfinder, but most users will probably get a lot more than in reality these numbers depend on how you shoot and if you use Wi-Fi often.
Nikon says battery grip is under development, but since there are no electronic connectors in the camera’s base plate or battery compartment, portrait orientation controls can’t be provided.
Sensor and Image Quality
The primary difference between the Nikon Z6 and the Nikon Z7 is the image sensor with approximately 21 million pixels leaving the scene. Nevertheless, the 24 MP resolution of this camera, consisting of data collected from relatively large photosites, is excellent.
There are many similarities between Canon and Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras, yet the resolution is a sphere of divergence. While Canon (initially) provided one model, EOS R with a mid-level 30.3 MP resolution, Nikon chose to use two models, hitting both high and low-resolution standards, essentially reflecting the Sony a7R III and Sony a7 III resolution levels.
The Nikon Z7 can be the highest detail camera, but the Nikon Z6 is the low light camera. Fewer megapixels on the sensor mean larger pixels that help to obtain greater light and less noise at high ISOs. The Z6 has some of Nikon’s best high ISO pictures we’ve seen. Fireworks and nightlife images display strong contrasts and limited noise.
The Nikon Z6 has a higher native ISO range than the Z7, rising to 51,200 (the native range of the Z7 is 25,600 higher). On the JPEGs, it’s hard to detect noise at ISO 800, even at a 100 percent crop. At ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200 and 6,400, noise is very slight. The RAW files have a bit more noise without processing from the camera, but the grain can be handled easily in the post, still achieving excellent results at ISO 6,400. While ISO 12,800 certainly has some noise, without creating a horribly muted look, we were able to push the RAW file back to an acceptable level with image editing software. Lower ISO images may have been better, but ISO 12,800 of the Z6 is one of the best we’ve seen.
The Nikon Z6 also provides impressive colors with great skin tones that feel true to the scene. JPEGs even use the default color profile to display excellent color. RAW files offer the versatility that a full – frame camera would expect.
Nikon Z6 Sample Images
Nikon says the new Z-mount’s shorter flange distance makes designing sharper lenses easier, and we haven’t seen anything the opposite. The Z6 does not have the same level of detail offered by the cheaper Z7, but pictures are still excellent, taking into account the price point and specifications. Most people and most subjects have 24 megapixels. The native Z-mount lenses seem to offer a boost in sharpness, while DSLR lenses mounted using an adapter do not seem to suffer any quality loss and occasionally get a nice boost due to in-body stabilization.
One of the most surprising introductions on the Z-series is the enhanced video mode, which is more capable than we’ve seen on any Nikon DSLR. Nikon included a logarithmic tone curve (correctly called N-Log to set it apart from Canon’s C-Log and Sony’s S-Log) and 10-bit video for the first time. The caveat is that these high-end features are only available when externally recording via the HDMI output; internally, the camera is limited to 8-bit video and regular color profile assortment.
The Sony A7 III (the closest competitor to the Nikon Z6) is also limited to 8-bit for internal recording but offers S-Log and Hybrid Log Gamma and a host of other customizable options. The Nikon actually produces better results with an external recorder, however, as the Sony can’t do 10-bit video, externally or otherwise. We are quite impressed with the fact that Nikon took video with his mirrorless cameras so seriously, especially with a model of the first generation. Yes, Nikon is now making a camera that should be quite happy with even serious videographers.
While the flagship Z7 has attracted the most attention, because of its lower price, Nikon’s Z6 is the more accessible of the two models, and it is also the better of the two models for those interested in video capture and low light AF performance. The Nikon Z6 faces some tough competition, particularly from Sony’s a7 III, but it holds up quite well, especially considering it’s the FX-format mirrorless camera of the first generation.
With top-notch resolution and high ISO performance, still image quality is excellent. JPEG noise reduction is slightly stronger than we would like, although turning the setting to low or off will slightly improve things. And, if you’re trying to use the full dynamic range of the camera, you might see banding. The build quality of the Z6 is exceptional and in most respects, Nikon DSLR owners will be familiar with its controls and menus. The electronic viewfinder of the camera is very high resolution, although its refresh rate of 60Hz is lower than the competition and when shooting bursts, there is a noticeable blackout between shots that can make it hard to follow the action. The touchscreen is also nice, although it is puzzling that there is no touchpad AF feature.
Low Light Performance
The Z6 focuses on autofocus and does a very good job of tracking subjects at 9 fps (no live view) and 5.5 fps (with live view) in most situations. While exposure is locked, a faster burst rate of up to 12 fps is available. Low light AF is good, with the Z6 in most situations keeping up with the Sony a7 III, although the low light king is still Canon EOS R. Frustratingly, the Z6 would sometimes fail to refocus on a new topic in Auto Area mode (with continuous AF), even if you let go of the shutter release button and recompose it.
The video is a bright spot elsewhere. The over-sampled 4 K footage of the Z6 is amazing, and the camera offers a solid control collection as well as 10-bit log output and Raw’s promise to an external recorder. The 5-axis image stabilizer of the camera works very well, as with stills. The two main downsides with video include some rolling shutter when panning, missing linear manual focus control and hiss when using an external microphone.
When Nikon developed his first two full-frame mirrorless cameras, he did his homework. While the Z6 in this class does not overthrow the #1 camera the Sony a7 III it comes pretty close. Overall, the Z6 is a sufficiently compelling product that we trust will keep users of Nikon DSLR from jumping ships to other brands.
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