Nikon Z6 II Review
|Full model name:||Nikon Z6 II|
(35.9mm x 23.9mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 51,200|
|Extended ISO:||50 - 204,800|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 sec|
|Max Aperture:||4.0 (kit lens)|
5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7 in.
(134 x 101 x 70 mm)
|Full specs:||Nikon Z6 II specifications|
Nikon Z6 II Preview -- First Impressions
by William Brawley
Preview posted: 10/14/2020
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.
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).
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.
Buy the Nikon Z6 II
$2298.00 (100% more)
42.4 MP (42% more)
Also has viewfinder
$3498.00 (100% more)
12.1 MP (102% less)
Also has viewfinder
$1099.00 (100% more)
Also has viewfinder
$3999.00 (100% more)
Also has viewfinder