Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon Z6 II
Resolution: 24.50 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(35.9mm x 23.9mm)
Kit Lens: 2.92x zoom
24-70mm
(24-70mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 51,200
Extended ISO: 50 - 204,800
Shutter: 1/8000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 4.0 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7 in.
(134 x 101 x 70 mm)
Weight: 24.9 oz (705 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 11/2020
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon Z6 II specifications
24.50
Megapixels
Nikon Z 35mm
size sensor
image of Nikon Z6 II
Front side of Nikon Z6 II digital camera        

Nikon Z6 II Preview -- Now Shooting!

by William Brawley and Jeremy Gray
Preview posted: 10/14/2020

Updates:
11/19/2020: First Shots added
01/08/2021: Field Test and Gallery added

Click here to jump to our in-depth Nikon Z6 II Product Overview.

 

Nikon Z6 II Field Test

A marked improvement to an already very good full-frame mirrorless camera

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 01/08/2021

Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 24mm, f/10, 4s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Alongside the Z7, the Z6 kicked off Nikon's full-frame mirrorless Z system in 2018 and ushered in a new era for the iconic Japanese company. The Z6 offers photographers great versatility, flexibility and high-end performance. The follow-up act, the Z6 II, is here, and it addresses some of Z6's few shortcomings while improving upon what already made the Z6 great. The core formula remains unchanged, but the Z6 II is nonetheless a meaningful update, albeit not a revolutionary one.

Nikon Z6 II Key Features and Specs

  • Full-frame enthusiast and pro-level mirrorless camera
  • 24.5-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor
  • Native ISO range of 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-204,800)
  • Includes dual card slots (XQD/CFexpress and UHS-II SD)
  • 273-point phase-detect autofocus system
  • Up to 14 frames per second continuous shooting speeds thanks to dual EXPEED 6 image processors
  • 3.5x larger buffer capacity compared to the Z6
  • 4K/30p video at launch with 4K/60p coming via free update early this year
  • Records HDR HLG video
  • 3.69M dot EVF
  • 3.2" tilting touchscreen
  • Compatible with Nikon's new vertical battery grip
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Can be powered via USB-C
  • $2,000 body only
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens at 35mm, f/8, 3s, ISO 100.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Z6 II body and handling: Dual memory card slots highlight few changes to an already very good design

At first glance, the Z6 II appears identical to the Z6. However, there are important differences. Before discussing these, I want to do a brief overview of the Z6 II's magnesium alloy body and its overall design.

Shown with the MB-N11 grip and Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens, the Z6 II looks very similar to the Z6.

The Z6 II employs a relatively compact size and shape, but it doesn't sacrifice a good front grip design. The front grip is deep enough, making the Z6 II easy to hold. Button placement is also good. The shutter release is in a comfortable location, and the important controls such as ISO and exposure compensation are conveniently located near the shutter release.

You can also customize many of the controls on the Z6 II, both on the body itself and on an attached lens with L.Fn buttons. This process is easily accomplished via the camera's menus. New to the Z6 II is the ability to change how the focus ring works on Z lenses (all of them aside from the Noct lens, which is not focus-by-wire). For users used to different rotation for focusing, this is a great feature.

The back of the Z6 II is well-organized. There are fewer buttons than on Nikon's top-end DSLR cameras, but the Z6 II is designed well and is easy to customize for your own needs.

On the back of the camera, the sub-selector joystick is conveniently located easily within reach and very useful when shooting. It is near where your thumb naturally rests and is used to move the AF point/zone around the frame. Unfortunately, if you try to use the joystick to navigate menus, you get bumped from the menu system altogether and lose what you were doing in the menus. You must instead use the directional pad or touchscreen to navigate the menus. These input methods work fine, but the joystick should also be usable for navigating the menu and making selections.

The back of the camera is primarily dominated by the 3.2" tilting touchscreen, which is the same 2.1M-dot display as is found on the original Z6. The screen is sharp, delivers good colors and works well in bright light, too. While the mechanism itself is constructed well, I would prefer an articulated tilt/swivel display, especially when working on a tripod. On the plus side, when you are tilting the Z6 II's display, the eye sensor for the EVF is disabled, meaning you won't accidentally switch from the LCD to the EVF when you move your hand over the touchscreen when it's tilted. This is a great feature.

The electronic viewfinder is also very good, though it's still the same EVF as in the original model. The luster of its 2018 introduction has worn off a bit, but the 3.69M-dot OLED EVF is still a very good EVF. The 60fps refresh rate is a little slow, but the display is big, bright and sharp with its excellent resolution and 0.8x magnification.

A major change to the Z6 II design is the inclusion of a second card slot. The Z6 has a single XQD/CFexpress card slot, whereas the Z6 II adds a UHS-II SD card slot. The single card slot in the Z6 was a major sticking point for many photographers, so dual card slots by itself may prove huge for a subset of Nikon photographers and may even motivate some upgrades by itself.

The Z6 II is also compatible with Nikon's new MB-N11 Multi Battery Power Pack. The vertical grip/battery grip costs just under $400 USD and holds an additional an EN-EL15 series batteries, increasing the overall battery life by up to 1.9x. The grip includes a built-in USB-C port for constant power, as well.

The new battery grip inserts into the Z6 II's battery slot while including a slot for a second battery. The grip is comfortable and makes the Z6 II a more enjoyable camera to use, especially when using larger lenses or when shooting for extended periods.

The grip is very comfortable and adds a good bit of heft to the camera and a bit of weight, but the additional area to grip when holding in landscape orientation, and the ability to hold the camera in portrait orientation makes it a worthwhile tradeoff. The extra battery life is certainly useful, too. I think it's nearly a must-have accessory for Z6 II/Z7 II users.

Overall, the Z6 II is a well-designed camera, further improved by the addition of the new optional vertical grip. The weather-sealed camera is robust as well. An EVF with a faster refresh rate would be a welcome improvement down the line, but Nikon constructed a great formula with the original Z6 and continues with the Z6 II. The camera looks and feels like a Nikon, and that's a great thing.

Image quality: Z6 II's versatility shines with very good imaging performance

The Z6 II includes the same 24.5-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor as its predecessor. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, as the Z6 produces excellent image quality across a wide range of situations.

Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 24mm, f/6.3, 13s, ISO 2500.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

To my eyes, image quality seems to be nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor. With that said, the Z6 II has very slightly better dynamic range at base ISO. The trusted source that is Photons to Photos shows that the Z6 II is a little bit better than its predecessor in terms of dynamic range at ISO 100.

Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 17mm, f/8, 1/13s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 17mm, f/8, 1/13s, ISO 100.
Unedited JPEG image. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

At low ISO settings, the Z6 II captures images with good detail. While images are not as sharp or detailed as those captured with the Z7 (II), images offer plenty of sharpness and resolution for many applications. You can easily make a nice, large print with 24-megapixel images, but you don't have the same cropping flexibility as you would have with the Z7 series.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens at 150mm, f/8, 1/4s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

A tradeoff here is that by sacrificing resolving power, the Z6 II can deliver particularly good high ISO image quality. The Z6 II's native ISO range is 100-51,200, and the camera can capture good images across a sizable portion of the ISO range. Even shooting at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 can produce acceptable image quality to my eyes.

Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 24mm, f/2.8, 15s, ISO 3200.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. I have increased the exposure by 1.0EV in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 24mm, f/2.8, 15s, ISO 3200.
100 percent crop of the above image. This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. I have increased the exposure by 1.0EV in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

In terms of color rendering, the Z6 II does a great job overall. For nature scenes, its ability to produce saturated – and quite accurate – greens and blues is excellent. For portraiture, the Z6 II produces nice skin tones, as well. In my opinion, Nikon's color science doesn't get the credit it deserves. Admittedly, some colors can lean a bit too heavily toward yellow, but overall color rendition is pleasing.

Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 19.5mm, f/8, 13s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens at 48mm, f/8, 0.4s, ISO 100.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Autofocus and performance: Good autofocus and improved performance

Autofocus

On paper, the Z6 II's autofocus system is very similar to the original Z6. However, with the dual processor design and general advancements, there are gains in key areas. The result is improved and good autofocus performance.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens with 2x teleconverter at 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 1100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

To recap the basic autofocus features, the Z6 II's autofocus system includes 273 on-sensor phase-detect autofocus pixels, and the autofocus pixels cover approximately 90% of the image area in horizontal and vertical directions. AF point coverage is excellent and proves very useful in many situations, especially when trying to focus on a subject near the edge of the frame and when tracking a subject throughout the overall image area.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens at 200mm, f/2.8, 1/500s, ISO 1100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The increased processing power in the Z6 II results in improved low-light AF. The Z6 was rated to focus in light as dim as -3.5 EV, whereas the Z6 II can now focus down to -4.5 EV. It's a welcome improvement, and it is noticeable.

There are also other new features and improvements. With the Z6, Eye-Detect AF was buried in the camera's menu system, and the feature could only be used in Auto-Area AF mode. The Z6 II not only allows Eye-Detect and Face-Detect AF to be accessed via the 'i' Menu button on the back of the camera, but you can also use Eye-Detect AF in Wide-Area AF modes.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens at 200mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 8000.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

In Wide-Area AF, there is a red box in the image area. Only within this movable box does eye-detect autofocus operate. You can't change the size of the box, unfortunately, an ability I hope is added in a firmware update down the line. A potential use case for this mode is when photographing multiple subjects, such as group portraits or even sports photography (consider a playing field with many athletes inside the frame).

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens at 200mm, f/2.8, 1/4000s, ISO 1800.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

When considering continuous autofocus performance, the Z6 II performs moderately well. I found that continuous AF using eye-detect autofocus for animals struggled a bit when trying to track my border collie. Granted, she's fast and her dark eyes are set against black fur. The camera did a decent job of keeping track of her, but the focus itself lagged behind her movements quite a bit. When photographing less-challenging subjects, such as my young cousin, the camera performed better.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens at 190mm, f/2.8, 1/800s, ISO 400.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Subject tracking autofocus works well, but it can be slightly cumbersome to enable the mode initially. To enable subject tracking, you must already be using AF-C drive mode and have full area autofocus area mode enabled. It would be great if there was a one-touch solution, where you could just select subject tracking in the menu and the camera would automatically switch to the correct settings. It's a minor inconvenience overall, but I think there are too many steps involved.

The Z6 II's autofocus just doesn't feel quite as snappy and responsive as the Canon R6 I used last summer. Don't get me wrong, the Z6 II's continuous autofocus is good, but there is room for improvement.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens at 200mm, f/2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 1000.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Performance

While the additional EXPEED 6 image processor introduces some improvements with respect to autofocus performance, general shooting performance and speed is where the new processing power is felt most acutely.

The Z6 II can now shoot at up to 14 frames per second in Continuous H (extended) mode, which is a 2fps improvement when compared to the Z6. When recording 14-bit RAW files rather than 12-bit, the fastest speed drops a bit to 10fps, which is a 1fps improvement when shooting 14-bit RAW files on the Z6. In terms of buffer performance, Nikon states that there's a 3.5x increase in overall buffer depth, which lines up with my personal experience. This was an area of weakness for the original Z6, which could record only 35 losslessly-compressed 12-bit RAW files at maximum speed.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens with 1.4x teleconverter at 280mm, f/4, 1/500s, ISO 800.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

When shooting, the dual EXPEED 6 image processors have benefits beyond more speed. With the increased processing power, EVF and LCD blackout times have been reduced, making shooting at the new higher burst speeds a better experience. The EVF's 60fps refresh rate remains, however, so it's not quite as smooth of an experience as it realistically could be.

The Z6 II comes equipped with a new EN-EL15c battery. The battery has the same form factor as prior models of the EN-EL15, meaning that the camera is backwards compatible with prior EN-EL15 batteries. However, the new battery in the Z6 II delivers about a 20% improvement in battery life. Specifically, the Z6 II is rated for 410 shots versus 330, although I personally experience better battery life than the rating, as I did with the original Z6. Further, the new battery can be charged on the fly via USB-C.

During real world use, the camera overall just feels snappier and more responsive. The Z6 isn't slow by any stretch of the imagination, but the Z6 II certainly feels quicker, more agile and a faster overall camera.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens at 200mm, f/2.8, 1/4000s, ISO 1800.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Video: An already great video camera is now even better

Before diving into this section, we must first address the 4K/60p-sized elephant in the room. The Z6 II will be able to record 4K/60p video. However, it can't at launch and the free firmware update adding this functionality won't be available until February 2021.

Moving on to what it can do right now, the Z6 II is still a capable video camera with strong performance across the board. The 4K/30p video mode offers FX and DX cropping modes. By the way, when 4K/60p is added, it will utilize a DX crop and not the full width of the sensor.

When recording in-camera, video is 8-bit. You can utilize Picture Controls, including a Flat profile. If you want 10-bit 4:2:2 video, including with N-Log, you must record to an external recorder via HDMI. When recording externally, you can also record HDR (HLG) video.

Nikon Z6 II 4K video #1
3840 x 2160 at 30 frames per second. Compiled in Adobe Premiere Pro with no edits to image quality or color. Audio reduced by 5db per clip.
Download edited video (180 MB .MP4 File)

Although not an included feature at the time of purchase, the Z6 II can record 12-bit RAW video. This requires a $200 paid firmware upgrade, and you must send your camera to an authorized Nikon service center for the feature to be enabled. This firmware enables support for ProRes RAW recording and using Atomos external HDMI recorders. An update, which will be free for existing paid upgraders, will add Blackmagic RAW support.

Considering internal recording, the 4K/30p video quality is quite good. Video is sharp and detailed while delivering nice colors and tones. In terms of autofocus performance, the Z6 II performs well, particularly in good light. In lower light, focus can sometimes hunt. You can use Face and Eye AF in video recording, which is great. If you want to manually focus, the camera includes focus peaking in video and, as mentioned earlier, you can now reverse the focus ring direction for all but one native Z lens.

Nikon Z6 II 4K video #2
3840 x 2160 at 30 frames per second. Handheld with subject tracking AF.
Download Original video (200.7 MB .MOV File)

At higher ISO settings, the Z6 II's video quality remains good. If the Z7 II's performance is similar to the Z7's, the Z6 II will prove to be the more versatile video camera with respect to performance in challenging scenarios and in low light. I'll be checking out the Z7 II shortly, but that's my expectation.

Nikon Z6 II 4K video #3
3840 x 2160 at 30 frames per second. ISO 12,800.
Download Original video (260.5 MB .MOV File)

The Z6 II has 1080p video recording as well, of course, including a great 1080/120p high-speed video mode. You can view the slow motion video in the camera, or take the 120fps original file into your editing software of choice for a customized slow-motion video, which is what I did for the 5x slow-motion video below. I also eliminated the audio tracks, as they don't sound good slowed down in this case, but the camera does record those as well at 120fps.

Nikon Z6 II 1080/120p video
1920 x 1080 video recorded at 120 frames per second and slowed down 5x in Adobe Premiere Pro. Audio removed manually.
Download edited video (161.4 MB .MP4 File)

Overall, the Z6 II is a good video camera. It has a lot of features aimed at enthusiasts and pros alike, and the performance is good across the board. The Z6 II may not have the highlight-worthy features of the recent Canon R5, such as 8K video, but the Z6 II is very capable.

Shooting experience

Modes and special features

The Z6 II is an enjoyable camera to use in many ways. It also includes some interesting shooting modes and functions. The Z6 II has a longer shutter speed limit of 900 seconds (15 minutes), which was first introduced in Nikon's D810A DSLR and wasn't available in the Z6. It's a nice inclusion for those wanting more long exposure functionality.

With 20 Creative Picture controls, the Z6 II allows you to fine-tune the look of your JPEG images. While I prefer to process RAW image files, it's great to give people more options for how their JPEG files look. There's also a wide array of adjustments you can make to RAW files via in-camera RAW processing, which is useful when you don't have access to a computer.

Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens at 29.5mm, f/8, 0.4s, ISO 100.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The Z6 II has Multiple Exposure and Focus Shift shooting modes as well, which are nice inclusions. Focus Shift is particularly useful for photographers looking to add more depth of field to their images, especially macro images. You have control over multiple options for the Focus Shift mode, including the number of shots, focus step width, interval, exposure lock at the first frame, silent mode and where images are stored.

The Z6 II also includes a time-lapse movie mode, which allows for time-lapse videos up to 4K/30p as of now. You can control interval, shooting time, exposure smoothing, silent mode, image area, resolution/frame rate, if focus is acquired for every frame, and which memory card you store the accompanying files on.

Nikon Z6 II 4K time-lapse video
3840 x 2160 time-lapse video at 24 frames per second. 3s interval for 20 minutes. Exposure smoothing on, focus locked.
Download Original (260.7 MB .MOV File)

To help keep your images sharp, the Z6 II includes 5-axis in-body image stabilization. As was the case with the Z6, the IBIS works well here, too. When you are using a Z lens, you get the full benefit of the IBIS system, which can also work in concert with the VR-equipped Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S lens. If you are shooting with an adapted lens using Nikon's FTZ adapter, you get 3-axis image stabilization, which worked well on the Z6 and although I didn't test the Z6 II using an FTZ adapter, there's no reason to expect anything different with the Z6 II.

The Z6 II has some nice connectivity features. The camera is equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and a feature new to the Z6 II is the ability to update firmware wirelessly using the Nikon SnapBridge mobile app.

How is the experience better than the Z6?

Compared to the Nikon Z6, using the Z6 II is an all-around better experience. To put it simply, the Z6 II is a refined camera when compared to the Z6.

Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens at 70mm, f/8, 1s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The Nikon Z6 II is a great camera. The improved speed, second card slot, better AF features and more robust video features are welcome changes when compared to the original Z6. When considering the value at $2,000 and the excellent Z lenses, the case for the Z6 II is compelling.

Nikon Z6 II Field Test Summary

The Nikon Z6 II is polished and refined

What I like most about the Nikon Z6 II

  • Great build quality and design
  • Second card slot is a welcome addition
  • Additional processing power results in noticeable performance gains
  • Impressive image quality
  • Good video performance
Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 17mm, f/11, 8s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

What I dislike about the Nikon Z6 II

  • Not a lot of huge improvements
  • I'd prefer a tilt/swivel display
  • AF system isn't as fast as some of the competition

The Nikon Z6 II brings a host of improvements and the second EXPEED 6 image processor results in improved overall performance and makes the Z6 II an agile, snappy camera. While the bulk of the Z6 II's features remain unchanged from the Z6, the improvements that are here are notable across the board. I don't think there's enough here to make all existing Z6 owners want to upgrade to the Z6 II, but there's plenty here to make it a choice worth considering and certainly makes the Z6 II a much better choice for new Z camera owners.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens at 70mm, f/8, 1/8s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The Z6 II also benefits from a much more expansive native lens system than when the Z6 first launched. Since the Z6 debut, Nikon has introduced a trio of professional f/2.8 zoom lenses, for example, and numerous fast prime lenses. Every Z lens I've used has been good and some have been fantastic.

Overall, the Nikon Z6 II is a very good camera. Its performance and features set for both still photography and video are very good. It is a worthwhile improvement over the Z6 as well and offers strong value for the money.

Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens at 21.5mm, f/14, 2.5s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

 

• • •

 

Nikon Z6 II Product Overview

by William Brawley

The Nikon Z6 from late 2018 checked so many “yes” boxes for both serious enthusiasts and professional photographers needing a complete photo/video hybrid package at an affordable price, and we at IR very much fell in love with it as well. Here we are in late 2020, and our friends at Nikon have upped the ante with some notable and important upgrades to an already terrific camera, so let’s get right to the details of the all-new Nikon Z6 II.

Nikon Z6 II Key Features

  • Full-frame mirrorless camera
  • 24.5-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor
  • Native low range of ISO of 100-51200, expandable to 50-204800
  • Dual card slots (CFExpress/XQD + UHS-II SD)
  • Dual EXPEED 6 image processors
  • Up to 14 frames per second continuous shooting speeds
  • 3.5x the buffer capacity of the Z6 (now 100+ frame buffer capacity)
  • 273-point phase-detect autofocus system
  • Eye AF for humans and some non-human animals
  • 4K/30p video (Firmware update coming in Feb 2021 will add 4K 60p recording)
  • HDR HLG video recording
  • 1080/120p video
  • Compatible with new vertical battery grip
  • Can charge via USB-C while shooting
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with wireless firmware upgrades

Design & Usability

At first glance, Nikon's new Z6 II looks extremely similar to the original Z6, and that's because not much has changed design-wise. The new Z6 II keeps a largely unchanged physical design, with a compact yet ruggedly weather-sealed, all-magnesium alloy body with a deep handgrip, front and rear controls dials, tilting LCD and large central EVF. Indeed, most new features and refinements are under the hood, which we'll discuss at length further down.

However, a few notable specs and improvements to the physical design are worth pointing out, perhaps the most significant of which is the inclusion of dual memory card slots. The original Z6 and Z7 came with just a single XQD (and later CFexpress Type B-compatible) card slot, which was a frustrating limitation for many users wanting or needing some form of in-camera backup or flexibility in splitting raws and JPEGs between two cards, for example. Thankfully, Nikon has heard the user feedback, adding a UHS-II-compatible SD card slot to the Z6 II in addition to the faster XQD/CFexpress slot.

As mentioned, the Z6 II, like its Z7 II sibling, is a compact full-frame mirrorless camera, but despite its small stature, it is still constructed for rugged durability. Built from a full magnesium-alloy chassis, the Nikon Z6 II is said to be sealed against dust and moisture to a similar degree as Nikon's high-end DSLRs, such as the robust D780 and D850 models.

The Z6 II weighs in at approximately 24.9 oz. (705g) with the battery and memory card inserted. The camera has dimensions (width x height x depth) of 4.3 x 4 x 2.8 in. (134 x 100.5 x 69.5mm).

Additional usability features of the Z6 II include a new "i" Menu arrangement, allowing for quicker access to enabling Eye Detection AF tracking when using Wide-Area AF mode. Previously, you had to dive into the menu to access Eye/Face AF settings for this autofocus mode. Also, Nikon has added a new info display mode to the EVF and rear LCD display that will turn off all information overlays, giving the user a clear, distraction-free view of the scene.

Speaking of the EVF and LCD, these two elements are the same as in the original model. The Z6 II uses the same 3.69M dot OLED electronic viewfinder and a large 3.2-inch 2.1M dot tilting LCD touchscreen as its predecessor. The Z6 II, despite its "photo-video hybrid" feature set, keeps the same two-way tilting rear screen design rather than a vari-angle or articulating LCD with front-facing capabilities.

Image Quality

Under the hood, the Nikon Z6 II is based around the same 24.5-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor as in the original. For the most part, image quality and photo features are largely the same as in the original model. The Z6 II offers a wide native ISO range of 100-51,200, though it can be further expanded down to a low ISO of 50 and up to ISO 204,800 -- one stop higher than the extended high ISO of the high-res Z7 II. Based on our experience with the original, we expect excellent overall image quality, as well as terrific high ISO performance, from the Z6 II -- though, of course, final judgment will have to be reserved until we see a review unit.

In terms of photo-specific shooting modes, the Z6 II offers a more or less similar, standard array as its predecessor; the ability to shoot in RAW (12 or 14 bit -- lossless compressed, compressed, or uncompressed) and JPEG, as well as RAW+JPEG. In terms of new features and improvements, the Z6 II now includes 20 Creative Picture Controls (aka filters), each of which can be fine-tuned to your preference. The Z6 II also includes multiple exposure functionality. Multiple exposures can be done in the Retouch menu and include different selectable layer modes. Further, there's a Focus Shift mode and focus stacking features; however, users still need to post-process the image sequence on a computer for the final stacked composite.

For fans of long exposure photography, the Z6 II now offers selectable in-camera shutter speeds as long as 900 seconds, a feature first seen in the Nikon D810A and then D780 DSLR cameras.

Lastly, as expected, the Nikon Z6 II features 5-axis in-body image stabilization, with up to 5 stops of vibration reduction performance. When using the FTZ adapter with F-mount lenses, the Z6 II's in-body VR provides 3-axis IS performance.

Autofocus & Performance

While the sensor inside the Z6 II might be the same, the horsepower inside this new model gets a noticeable boost, going to dual-processor design. Powered by two EXPEED 6 image processor chips rather than just one like in the original, the new Nikon Z6 II offers performance improvements in multiple areas.

For continuous burst shooting, the Z6 II is now capable of up to 14fps in Continuous H (extended) mode, whereas the original maxed-out at 12fps. When shooting with 14-bit RAWs, the speed does decrease somewhat, dipping down to 10fps -- the original Z6 dropped to 9fps with 14-bit RAWs. Additionally, Nikon claims a 3.5x increase in buffer capacity now thanks to the dual-processor setup. The original Z6 was spec'ed for about 44 frames with JPEGs at 12fps, and when shooting losslessly-compressed 12-bit NEF files, the buffer depth was 35 frames. With a 3.5x increase, we expect to see continuous shooting with buffer depths of over 100 frames (Nikon is claiming around 124 shots, though this likely varies depending on image quality level). Also, EVF and LCD blackout times are said to be improved thanks to the dual processor design, making tracking fast-moving subjects even easier.

Like the image sensor itself, the autofocus system is largely unchanged compared to the original Z6 model. The Z6 II uses a 273-point AF system with on-sensor phase-detection pixels covering approximately 90% of the sensor area. However, there have been some performance improvements and added features, such as better low-light AF performance (now rated for -4.5EVs compared to -3.5EVs) and the ability to now use Eye- and Face-Detection AF (for humans and animals) in Wide-Area AF mode (rather than just in Auto-Area AF).

Video

While the Z7 II is certainly quite capable as a video-recording machine, the Nikon Z6 II is much more equipped as the photo-video-hybrid camera of the pair. One of the headlining video features of both the Z6 II and Z7 II is the ability to record 4K UHD video now up to 60fps rather than just up to 30p. Interestingly, the Z7 II will launch with the ability to record 4K 60p video, while the Z6 II will need a free firmware update in order to add 4K 60p. Nikon didn't state why the Z6 II is missing the 60p option at launch, but they say the free update is scheduled for February 2021.

Nonetheless, once updated, the Z6 II will offer 4K UHD video recording with full pixel readout; the camera will provide 4K video using the full-frame image area for framerates up to 30p, while 4K 60p will require a DX (APS-C) crop for full pixel readout, according to Nikon press materials. The Z6 II also offers Full HD recording at up to 120p for excellent slow-motion videos. The Z6 II will allow for in-camera slow-motion creation or let you have an unprocessed 120fps video file for editing elsewhere.

The camera supports 8-bit in-camera video recording with support for Picture Controls, including a Flat picture profile. However, for higher image quality and better post-processing capabilities, the Z6 II supports 10-bit video capture with N-Log and now HDR (HLG) out via the HDMI. Additionally, 12-bit RAW video via HDMI will also be supported, though this is offered with an optional paid firmware upgrade done at a Nikon support facility. This 12-bit RAW video upgrade has already been released for existing Z6/Z7 customers and enables support for ProRes RAW with Atomos External HDMI recorders. Nikon has announced that a future "early 2021" update will add support for Blackmagic RAW. Once released, the optional 12-bit RAW video upgrade will include both ProRes RAW and Blackmagic RAW support. (Note: Existing customers who have for the ProRes RAW upgrade will get Blackmagic RAW support for free once the update is available.)

Additional video recording features include the ability to use Face and Eye AF in video recording, in-camera timelapse video (with the ability to save individual timelapse still images simultaneously), and the ability to reverse the direction of the focusing ring on Nikon Z-mount lenses. The Z6 II also supports focus peaking, zebras and timecode.

Unfortunately, continuous video recording is not unlimited, and all video modes are limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds of continuous recording.

Ports, Battery and Connectivity

The Z6 II has a USB Type-C port, Type-C HDMI port, built-in accessory terminal, stereo mini-pin jack for audio input and an additional port for audio output. The camera includes built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality as well.

In addition to wireless image and video transfers as well as remote control functionality, you can also update the camera's firmware wirelessly using the Nikon SnapBridge app on your smart device. Further, you can connect the Z6 II to a PC or Mac and use a free wireless transfer utility to automatically move images to your computer as you shoot. The Z6 II also works with Nikon's Webcam Utility software, which is currently in beta on Windows and macOS.

The USB C port can be used to power the camera using an external power source while shooting, or charge the camera while powered off. Alongside the Z6 II, Nikon has announced the MB-N11 Power Battery Pack with vertical grip. When using the grip, battery life is extended up to 1.9 times. The vertical grip includes a secondary USB-C port for standalone charging and for simultaneous connection with additional external devices. In other words, you can use the USB C port on the camera and one on the grip at the same time; one for powering the camera and the other for tethered shooting.

One of the other benefits to the dual-processor design is that power efficiency is said to be improved, and combined with a newer EN-EL15c rechargeable Li-ion battery, the Z6 II is CIPA-rated for up to 340 shots per charge in the EVF (400 shots with Power Saving enabled) and 410 shots with the rear LCD (450 with Power Saving).

Pricing & Availability

The Nikon Z6 II is set to go on sale in November 2020 and will be available in two configurations: body-only for an MSRP of $1,999.95 and a one-lens kit with the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 for an MSRP of $2,599.95.

The MB-N11 Battery Pack with vertical grip will be available in November 2020 for an SRP of $399.95.

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