Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon D6
Resolution: 20.80 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(35.9mm x 23.9mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 102,400
Extended ISO: 50 - 327,680
Shutter: 1/8000 - 900 sec
Dimensions: 6.3 x 6.4 x 3.6 in.
(160 x 163 x 92 mm)
Weight: 44.8 oz (1,270 g)
MSRP: $6,500
Availability: 05/2020
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon D6 specifications

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Nikon D6 Preview -- First Impressions

by Dave Pardue
Posted: 02/11/2020

Every four years we see a new professional flagship camera from Nikon, and these releases just "happen" to coincide with the years in which there will be an Olympics Summer Games. And you certainly can't fault them on the timing... releasing a top tier camera to support the elite photographers at the world's premiere sporting event. Well, here we are in 2020, so let the games begin and let's usher in Nikon's latest flagship camera: the D6!

As is usually the case for professional-grade sports cameras, manufacturers are careful not to change *too* much along the way, as their faithful professionals are accustomed to "where things are" and "what things do" and as such Nikon has wisely left the physical design more or less the same as with the previous D5 model, with one small physical tweak that we'll discuss below. Familiar designs tend to bring the pros back for more.

But of course four years is a fairly long time in techological terms, and so we always assume there will be some key technological advances under the hood, so to speak, and the D6 certainly comes packed with an arsenal of upgrades to tell you about. So let's get right to what separates this camera from the D5, our Best High End Camera of 2016.

The flagship Nikon D6 professional camera

What's new with the D6?

This latest model is actually slightly taller than the D5, and just a bit less wide as well. The additional height we're told is to accomodate a new on-board GPS system, which is a first for the line and makes sense for adventurous pros needing accurate global positioning data. We don't yet have a spec sheet from Nikon so we're not sure if the weight is the same as the D5, but will report back on that soon once they provide us with one.

The sensor is the same resolution as the D5 at 20.8mp (the D4 was 16.2mp), which makes sense for pros on-the-go not wanting the data management to become overbearingly big. But of course there's a new processor to handle the data in the form of the EXPEED 6, also found in the recent enthusiast D780 DSLR, which is stated to improve a number of key performance functions. The top shooting speed for the mechanical shutter is up to 14fps from 12fps on the D5, and there's a host of improvements to Live View shooting speeds that we'll take a closer look at down below as well. In addition, the buffer capacity is said to range "beyond 200 jpegs" continuous shooting before the camera slows down.

The ISO sensitivity has been increased both natively and for the extended-ISO settings. While the D5 ranged from ISO 100-51,200 natively, the D6 now goes from 100-102,400. And while the D5's extended settings topped out at 204,800, the D6 will take you almost into pitch black territory at ISO 3,280,000. This setting will surely cost you in terms of noise, but will certainly come in extremely handy in very dark surveillance situations.

Total AF points are actually reduced to 105 from 155 in the D5, but this we're told was in order to make all 105 points cross-type, which are more effective overall, and these are also now all selectable points. (The D5 had 99 cross-type, with only 55 selectable.) The D6 also sports slightly better overall AF point frame coverage compared to the D5, and the points themselves are said to overlap more, adding to increased efficiency overall. Continuing with AF, Nikon has introduced 17 new custom group AF modes, which are more or less custom shapes that can be configured for specific sports or wildlife scenarios, even off-the-beaten-path ones.

The top shutter speed of 1/8000s remains the same, but the low end has been greatly enhanced from 30s on the D5 to 900s on the D6. (That's a full 15 minutes of continuous shutter speed, to save you from having to do the math!) The camera now sports both Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, and will also still accept the WT6 adapter, reported to now be more efficient with the D6 than with the predecessor, as wired LAN connectivity will now be approximately 15 percent faster. With the D6, it seems, you will be "well-connected" indeed.

For card slots, the D6 offers dual XQD/CF Express slots. It also offers built-in compatibility with Kensington locks for anti-theft protection while in the field, which is a nice touch. The D6 sports the same battery as the D5 which will assist users who are upgrading, and it's now rated for appr. 3800 shots on a charge. The D6 has USB-C connectivity, though we're not yet sure if this port supports in-camera power or charging.

As expected, the camera is reported to be exceptionally robust, with a fully weather-sealed magnesium-alloy frame. And if it's in-line with its predecessors we very much believe it, as the line has historically proven itself with pros in the field and under our own rigorous weather tests. We wouldn't expect anything less from this line of course, though will certainly run it through our newer state-of-the-art weather testing machine once we receive a sample in-house.

The 3.2in, 2.3m-dot rear LCD is of course touchscreen as found on the D5, but one very cool addition to the line is a new form of swiping referred to by our Nikon representative as a "flick action," which can be assigned to a number of functions. Basically, by simply "flicking up" on the LCD, you'll engage this feature, which will allow the user to do things like immediately transfer the image on the screen, or engage the new voice memo function, or a number of additional, user-selectable functions such as rating a photo. From the description it sounds to us like a quick and clever new tool for the busy field photographer.

Live view performance is reportedly increased in a number of key ways. For starters, silent shooting in Live View can now be achieved at full resolution at up to 10.5fps, and up to 30fps when the resolution is decreased to 8mp files, and 60fps for 2mp files (similar to a frame grab from a 4K video clip).

The D6 of course has an intervalometer for timelapse photography, and can create timelapse films up to 4K in-camera, similar to the D5. New to the line however is the ability to now instruct the camera to create a film for you from a select group of images already shot. The D6 also comes enhanced with internal focus-stacking features, which is especially useful for macro-type shooting.

We've not yet been told when the camera will be available, nor a price, but will update this Preview once we get that information from Nikon.

[Editor's note 9-2020: We reported initially that the D6 could achieve 10-bit out via the HDMI port, and that it supported N-log. We've now been informed that neither of these are correct. Thanks to reader Richard Hare from New Zealand for reporting the error to us!]


• • •


The Nikon D6: A look to the past can sometimes inform the future

by Jeremy Gray
Originally posted: 09/05/2019

Rather than end our overview of the Nikon D6 here, let's take a look at Nikon's single-digit D series of cameras in general. The series is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019, and Nikon's professional DSLR cameras have come a long way since 1999's D1.

Nikon D1: A 2.7-megapixel CCD sensor that changed the trajectory of digital photography

It's a testament to the Nikon D-series that its dual-gripped design has remained generally unchanged in the last two decades. While styling, build quality and the control layout has certainly evolved, like the D1, the D6 will have a top display, a top button cluster/release mode dial and a large optical viewfinder. When you consider what was inside the D1, the changes over time have been massive. The D1 had a CCD image sensor, rather than a CMOS image sensor, and produced 2.7 megapixel images -- a mere 2,000 x 1,312 pixels. Its ISO range was also just 200-1600, and the dynamic range was certainly much more limited than what even the most affordable Nikon cameras offer today. The D1 utilized a Multi-CAM 1300 autofocus system with only five areas. While these features don't jump off the page now, they did back in 1999!

In 2001, Nikon added a pair of new D1-series models, a trend which continued until the D5, the D1H and D1X. The "H" model was oriented toward action photography, offering the same megapixel count as the original D1 and pushed continuous shooting speeds up to 5 frames per second with a buffer depth of 40 images. The D1X, on the other hand, opted for a higher resolution 5.3-megapixel sensor and slower shooting speeds of 3 fps. Both the D1H and D1X added sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces, a feature missing on the original D1.

Nikon D2H and D2X: Faster and higher-resolution

After the D1H and D1X models focused their strengths in different areas (speed and resolution, respectively), Nikon opted to skip a D2 proper and go straight to the D2H and D2X in 2003. The D2H captured 4.1-megapixel images at up to 8 frames per second and included an improved 11-area autofocus system. The D2X went to a 12.4-megapixel CMOS image sensor, which could shoot at a still pretty quick 5 fps. It could also record 7-megapixel images in a cropped mode at 8 fps. In 2005 and 2006, Nikon released updated models, the D2Hs and D2Xs, respectively. These minor upgrades included improved electronics and features.

Nikon D3: A game-changer for Nikon

In 2007, Nikon released the D3, the company's first full-frame DSLR camera. This camera was not only revolutionary for Nikon but had an important impact on the industry as a whole. The D3 came equipped with a 12-megapixel full-frame CMOS image sensor with a native ISO range of 200-6400. The camera recorded 14-bit raw images to dual CF card slots at up to 9 frames per second (11 fps in a DX crop mode).

The camera, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign firm, proved hugely popular. It was also, along with the Nikon D300, Nikon's first camera to offer Live View shooting. It represented many "firsts" for Nikon, and its impact is still felt today.

Proving popular, Nikon continued its trend of releasing update models of its flagship DSLR. In 2008, Nikon debuted the 24.5-megapixel D3X, which at the time was Nikon's highest-resolution camera. The D3X also included a wider ISO range of 50-6400 and utilized a new image processing system. For fans of speed, 2009's D3S had a redesigned 12.1-megapixel image sensor that had a higher maximum ISO of 102,400. The camera also included a 720p video recording mode, something brand-new for Nikon full-frame DSLR cameras.

Nikon D4: More megapixels and more speed

Announced in January of 2012, the Nikon D4 came with a new 16.2-megapixel full-frame image sensor and featured improved autofocus and metering performance plus a higher maximum ISO of 204,800. With a target audience of photojournalists and sports photographers, the D4 focused on improved speed and performance, offering 10fps shooting with full AF/AE and a larger buffer. The camera could record up to 100 raw images. While the D3S added 720p video recording, the D4 took video further by adding 1080/24p recording.

Since the D1, Nikon had been releasing higher-resolution cameras later in each model's lifespan. With Nikon having released the venerable D800 camera during the D4's run, this trend stopped. The Nikon D4S released in 2014 offered a new 16.2-megapixel image sensor, a faster processor, better battery, improved ergonomics and an even wider ISO range.

Nikon D5: One of the best DSLR cameras ever made

In 2016, Nikon announced the D5. The camera used a new 20.8-megapixel full-frame image sensor that offered a native ISO range of 100-102,400. The camera's ISO could be extended all the way up to ISO 3,280,000. The camera included a new 153-area autofocus system, 12 fps shooting with AF/AE (up to 14 fps without AF/AE) and 4K/30p video recording. We really enjoyed shooting the Nikon D5 camera with its excellent design, impressive image quality in basically every situation and incredible autofocus performance.

Rather than release a D5s or D5x model, Nikon released the high-resolution D850 full-frame DSLR in 2017 and then launched a brand-new mirrorless camera system in 2018.

Nikon D6: What will Nikon do?

A lot has changed in the industry since the D5 launched in 2016. Although, even at the time, it felt like it might be part of a last "hurrah" for full-frame DSLR cameras. Then, of course, came the fantastic D850. Nonetheless, one can't help but wonder where Nikon goes from here.

Mirrorless offer certain advantages, especially as the technologies featured in mirrorless cameras have continued to improve at a rapid rate. An area where Nikon's Z system falters, however, is with respect to native lenses. While the FTZ adapter works fine, all of Nikon's best sports lenses are F-mount lenses. Many pros are still happy to continue using their reliable (and capable) DSLRs.

The Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera

However, mirrorless cameras such as the Sony A9 and Sony's expanding lineup of native mirrorless lenses, including great sports lenses, are likely giving some Nikon DSLR users pause. What can the Nikon D6 bring to the table that will change the game in a way similar to how the D3 (and to a lesser extent, D5) did when they were released? Is it even possible to continue to revolutionize a DSLR camera?

At this point, all we can do is guess and speculate. Looking back at how Nikon has released their professional DSLR cameras and what types of technology the company has introduced in other camera models, it's a safe bet that the D6 will offer more than 20 megapixels. Further, we can also assume that we will see improved high ISO and dynamic range performance. Considering 2017's Nikon D850 (our 2017 Camera of the Year), we can also assume that the D6 will incorporate the D850's improved video features and performance. Perhaps the D6 will also opt for a back-illuminated CMOS image sensor.

Although it is risky to draw too many conclusions based on early marketing materials, alongside the development announcement for the D6, Nikon released a behind-the-scenes video with sports photographer Joel Marklund.

In the video, Marklund discusses his experience using Nikon cameras in extreme weather and in very challenging, low-light situations. He also discusses the fast workflow of sports photography and how the D5 has allowed him to seamlessly transfer images. The fact that this is the first video Nikon is releasing alongside the D6 announcement suggests that the D6 may very well double down on ruggedness, low light performance and connectivity/workflow features. Marklund also discusses autofocus and subject tracking performance. Additional AF points, faster performance, better tracking and better autofocus frame coverage all sound like safe bets for the D6.

From a business perspective, especially with increasing competition in the sports camera market, it makes some sense for Nikon to tease the D6 if they aren't ready to fully unveil it to the world. However, there is some risk here as well, as people's expectations may run wild, only to eventually be let down by the full reveal. Ultimately, it's nice to know that the D6 is coming, but it's disappointing to have been given basically zero real information. While a stroll down memory lane with the flagship D series cameras has been enjoyable, for Nikon to continue to hold a distinguished place in the photo industry, the company needs to pull out all the stops with the D6.


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