Nikon Z6 Review
|Full model name:||Nikon Z6|
(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 68 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Nikon Z6 specifications|
Nikon Z6 Review -- Now Shooting!
08/29/2018: Updated to state that the Z6 does have an optical low-pass filter. Also added some details regarding low-light AF mode.
11/02/2018: First Shots posted!
11/05/2018: First Shots retaken with native Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 lens
11/09/2018: Gallery Images added!
11/15/2018: Video Quality First Impressions added
11/26/2018: Field Test Part I added
12/04/2018: Performance test results posted
Nikon Z6 Field Test Part I
Hard to find fault with this $2,000 full-frame mirrorless camera
by William Brawley | Posted 11/26/2018
Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF + FTZ Adapter: 500mm, f/5.6, 1/2000s, ISO 450
Note: This image has been modified. Click for the original full-size image.
Ah, behold the sportier, more affordable brother to the Z7! The new Nikon Z6 is practically identical to the Z7, particularly from the outside. The body design is the same, the weight is the same, the buttons and the controls are all identical between both cameras, too. It's on the inside where the big differences lie...
Instead of the Z7's impressively high-res 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor, the Z6, rather, offers a more reasonable 24 megapixels of resolving power. For me, 24MP is more than enough resolution for detail-rich images and a decent amount of cropping potential. Unless you need to create massive photo print installations or produce images that require tons of super-fine detail, 24MP is plenty for most photographers. Plus, I enjoy the much more manageable, space-saving 24MP files compared to the 45+ MP images of higher-res cameras. I tend to shoot a lot of images, and with RAW enabled, all those files add up quickly! Furthermore, the Z6's 24MP sensor gives this camera a little performance boost when it comes to continuous shooting. Videographers will also enjoy the addition of full-pixel readout using the full sensor width for 4K video shooting (in other words, no pixel binning or line skipping, and no 4K crop!).
Having shot with the Z6 for only about a week now at this point, this first Field Test will cover more of my general shooting experience, including handling and usability, image quality and some initial impressions on performance and AF speed (having used both native and F-mount lenses).
Additional Field Tests are in the works, both for more in-depth performance testing, as well as a full video-centric Field Test from IR's resident video expert, Jaron Schneider.
OK, let's get started...
Handling & Ergonomics
As I mentioned, the design and hand-feel of the Z6 are the same as the Z7. If you're familiar with the Z7, or if you've already read Jeremy Gray's in-depth Z7 Field Test Part I, then you're all set to grab and use the Z6. From a usability standpoint, the two cameras should basically operate exactly the same.
Given the detailed nature of Jeremy's first Field Test on the Z7 with regard to handling, button layout and overall operability, I won't go into as much detail about using the Z6, as it's all extremely similar. However, I do want to talk about my experience shooting with this camera and how it compares to other cameras I've used and owned.
Right off the bat, I'm surprised and pleased by how small and compact the Z6 (and Z7) is, especially since it's a full-frame camera. Side-by-side, the Z6 is very similar in size to my Olympus E-M1 II, yet it obviously manages to have a significantly larger sensor in there. I'm rather impressed with how Nikon managed to create such a small camera with such a big sensor!
In the hand, the Z6 feels solid and very well built. Nothing is flimsy or plastic-y. It feels just as sturdy as a high-end Nikon DSLR. The large, contoured handgrip offers nice comfort and a very secure hold. The grip obviously isn't as large as the one on the D850, for example, but it's still deep and big enough for a full, comfortable grip. The Z6 is similar in size to the rival Sony A7 III, and the grip on the Z6 is slightly larger than the A7 III's and, to me, feels more comfortable. My pinky finger is less likely to wrap under the Z6's body like it does when holding the Sony, for instance.
For those familiar with Nikon's DSLRs, the layout of the controls on the Z6 is very similar, and there shouldn't be much of a learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to operate and how to customize the controls to your liking. Even as someone who's not super-accustomed to shooting Nikon cameras, I found the Z6 to be a pleasure to use and easy to operate. Controls and buttons are plentiful, easy to press and manipulate, and offer good tactile feedback. And despite the compact size of the body, the physical controls don't feel significantly miniaturized or cramped compared to larger DSLR counterparts. I especially love the easy-to-reach On/Off switch around the shutter release button (a classic Nikon control design), making it really fast to power the camera off and on as needed.
The joystick control is another one of my favorite controls on a camera. I love having immediate access to maneuvering the AF point. The lack of such a control, such as on the new Canon EOS R, is really frustrating for me. Thankfully, most higher-end cameras now offer a joystick control. And while the Z6 has a lot of individual AF points, there aren't that many, which makes the joystick control feel responsive, and it's really fast to move an AF point anywhere around the frame.
The Z6 also has a tilting, touchscreen rear display. Like the Z7, the Z6's rear display uses an up/down tilting design, rather a flip-out, vari-angle style. From a photographer's standpoint, I really prefer the simpler tilting design of the Z6's display. It's much easier, I find, to quickly adjust for shooting from low or high angles, and I can keep the camera profile smaller, without having a screen jutting out to the side. For video work, on the other hand, I can certainly see the appeal to a vari-angle, articulated screen, and especially one that flips completely forward. Given the Z6's video chops, I'm a bit surprised that Nikon opted for the tilting display on this camera (as well as on Z7, to be honest). However, as a fan of the tilting display style, I'm not complaining!
Like most modern mirrorless cameras, the rear display's touchscreen lets you easily tap to move the AF point. While I mostly shot using the viewfinder and thus the joystick to move to the AF points, I find it very handy to also have a touchscreen to adjust AF as needed. Tap-to-focus is pretty responsive, I found, but I wish there was a way to simply tap-to-move the AF point and not just tap-to-refocus, as I sometimes had to wait (just a brief moment, mind you) while the camera refocused where I tapped. Sometimes I just want to move the AF point, that's all.
The Z6, just like the Z7, is also fully touch-capable. In other words, in addition to tap-to-focus (and a touch shutter mode, which I never used) you can also interact with all on-screen menu items from the "i" menu, as well as fully navigate the menu system by tapping and swiping to scroll. The menus on the Z6 look just like they do on Nikon DSLRs -- they haven't been redesigned to be particularly touch-friendly. However, navigating by touch still works well in my experience. You can even swipe through images in Playback mode as well as pinch-to-zoom, just like on an iPhone. To me, full touch functionality, such as navigating menus, feels superfluous, as I instinctively use the physical directional control and OK button to navigate the camera's menus. But, for those who want touch controls, it's nice that the Z6 offers this functionality. For those who hate touch controls, however, you can disable it completely in the menus.
If I had to nit-pick and give a criticism to any of the buttons on the Z6, it would be to the two front-facing Fn1 and Fn2 buttons. Placed between the grip and lens mount, these thin buttons can be easy to press by accident by those with larger hands as there isn't a lot of space between the lens and grip. I didn't mis-press the buttons very often; however, I did simply forget they were there in the first place on many occasions (out of sight, out of mind). However, this is something you'd easily get used to as you use the camera more and more.
Lastly, I wanted to mention the EVF. Like many photographers, I enjoy a good viewfinder. Heck, I'll take any viewfinder over the lack of one any day. Thankfully, the electronic viewfinder on the Z6 is a gorgeous one. The OLED viewfinder is huge, offering a really bright, crisp and full view of your scene. Images appear vibrant, info text is sharp and there are no artifacts or tearing that can be seen on some lower-quality LCD-type EVFs. The refresh rate is also excellent, and I never experienced any lag or problems trying to track moving subjects. It's really a fantastic electronic viewfinder.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S: 24mm, f/4, 1/25s, ISO 500
Despite the full-frame format, the Nikon Z-mount lenses released so far (a 24-70mm f/4, 35mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8) are surprisingly compact and very lightweight. They balance perfectly with the Z6; the 24-70mm and Z6 make an excellent single-lens travel combo that's versatile and won't weigh you down. Of course, being a full-frame camera, I expect larger, heavier Z-mount lenses in the future, such as f/2.8 zoom lenses. So while I couldn't try heavy, native Z-mount lenses, I had no issues shooting with bigger, heavier F-mount lenses using the FTZ adapter. For example, the Z6 mounted with the 105mm f/1.4E lens or the 70-200mm f/2.8E VR zoom worked beautifully. Yes, they are front-heavy, but not excessively so. Both of these lenses are hefty enough that I use them exclusively with two hands, so most of the lenses' weight is supported by my left hand and the overall balance is really nice. In the end, the Z6 body is smaller than, say, the D850, so naturally, big, heavy lenses are going to feel more unbalanced and more difficult to hold in one hand, but overall, the Z6 handled heavier adapted lenses quite well.
Nikon 300mm f/4E PF + FTZ Adapter: 300mm, f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 400
Note: This image has been modified. Click for the original full-size image.
With a more reasonable 24-megapixel sensor, the Nikon Z6 isn't for the super pixel-peepers out there. However, based on the images I've shot so far, the Z6 is more than capable of capturing images with excellent fine detail. The overall image quality from this camera is fantastic, especially at lower ISOs. As I mentioned earlier, to me, the Z6 is all about balance. Twenty-four megapixels strikes an excellent balance of resolving power and manageable file sizes. I'm perfectly happy with the level of fine detail I was able to capture with this camera, and I was able to shoot all day without filling up a single XQD card.
Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S: 50mm f/1.8, 1/800s, ISO 100, +0.3EV
At this point, most of the shooting scenarios I've been in with the Z6 haven't required high ISOs: sunrise/morning wildlife shooting, daytime/outdoor portrait shooting with fast-aperture lenses, and general daytime photography. So far, I'm extremely impressed with the image quality from the Z6. In addition to excellent sharpness, I find the color reproduction from untouched JPEG images (at the default picture style) to be really nice and accurate, yet with a pleasing vibrancy that doesn't feel overly saturated.
Dynamic range performance, too, is quite nice, although I wasn't expecting anything less given Nikon's history of cameras with fantastic dynamic range. Even with high-contrast scenes, I found shadow tones to be deep and contrast-y without feeling overly "crushed" while at the same time, images retain lots of highlight detail. Even with straight-from-camera JPEGs, the Z6 often produced photos that I felt needed little or no editing to display excellent highlight and shadow detail.
Nikon 105mm f/1.4E + FTZ Adapter: 105mm, f/1.6, 1/8000s, ISO 125
For example, take a look at this image above. In this scene, the aircraft is entirely indoors, and while the image is pretty high contrast, there's still visible shadow detail if you look closely. The most striking thing, however, is the excellent detail in the sky. Instead of just over-exposing the sky to expose for the darker foreground properly, the Z6 managed to retain a ton of detail in the bright sky.
Higher ISOs - an initial look
As I mentioned, most of my shooting with the Z6 so far has been during the day, so I haven't needed higher ISOs all that much up to this point. I often enabled Auto ISO, setting other exposure parameters manually, and then letting the camera's ISO float as required. Shooting some early morning wildlife and birds-in-flight with the adapted 500mm f/5.6E PF and 300mm f/4E PF lenses, the camera still rarely climbed above ISO 1600.
Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF + FTZ Adapter: 500mm, f/5.6, 1/2000s, ISO 1400
Nevertheless, I wanted to briefly mention some initial impressions on the Z6's high ISO performance. Nikon full-frame cameras (and even APS-C models), especially in recent years, have consistently displayed excellent quality when it comes to high ISO images. Based on some mid-range higher ISO images that I've shot so far, the image quality is, unsurprisingly, really nice from the Z6. Visible noise is barely noticeable in JPEG images with default noise reduction, and the little noise that I do see is very finely grained. The camera's processing does a great job of preserving fine detail while removing or reducing unsightly noise.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S: 70mm, f/4, 1/50s, ISO 51200, -0.3EV
Performance so far
Lastly, I want to touch on my initial impressions of the performance of the Nikon Z6. Most of the photo ops arranged during the Nikon press event in Florida revolved around portraiture and other static subjects, which weren't all that taxing on the Z6 in terms of AF or continuous burst shooting. However, thankfully, we did have a chance to try the Z6 at some wildlife photography -- one of my favorite photographic subjects. We had an early morning air-boat ride across classic Florida swampland, giving us an opportunity to photograph wading birds, raptors, alligators and birds-in-flight. Although this wasn't the most high-intensity stress test for the Z6's performance, it was still a fairly challenging shooting situation, with fast-moving, unpredictable subjects, and difficult autofocus scenarios in which birds and other animals were often partially obscured with foliage and tall, wetland grasses. Plus, given the lack of native Z-mount telephoto lenses, it was a great opportunity to test out C-AF performance with the FTZ adapter.
Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF + FTZ Adapter: 500mm, f/5.6, 1/2000s, ISO 1000
Note: This image has been modified. Click for the original full-size image.
As a supertelephoto fan, and someone who often finds himself needing a longer focal length than initially anticipated, I went "big" from the get-go, or at least long. I grabbed the FTZ adapter and mounted the new 500mm f/5.6E Phase Fresnel F-mount lens. I put "big" in quotes because this 500mm lens is exactly the opposite. Despite the focal length, this lens is amazingly compact and perfectly usable on the Z6 and operated handheld. The PF lens design (and not-that-bright f/5.6 aperture, too) does wonders to make this a super-compact super-telephoto lens! (Side note: my colleague Jeremy Gray is in the process of Field Testing this 500mm f/5.6E lens right now, so keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks!)
Nikon 300mm f/4E PF + FTZ Adapter: 300mm, f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 100
Note: This image has been modified. Click for the original full-size image.
OK, back the Z6... Photographing wildlife with the Nikon Z6 and the 500mm f/5.6 lens was extremely enjoyable. Not only was the lens and camera combo both lightweight and comfortable to hold while zooming across the swamp in a boat, but the camera performed extremely well, with fast autofocus and accurate subject tracking performance. Most of the time, I set the Z6 to the "Dynamic-Area AF" point option, which gave me a user-selectable/movable single AF point that's then surrounded on all sides by helper AF points in case my subject moved out from under my primary AF point. Although I didn't necessarily track my "keeper rate," my sense is that the Z6 did very well at tracking moving subjects. Most of my images were in-focus unless I, myself, did a poor job at tracking my subject. I do plan to test the Z6's subject tracking further with different AF point modes and subjects, but from my experience so far, unless I messed up, the Z6 performed admirably. No complaints or frustrations from me in the field.
Nikon 300mm f/4E PF + FTZ Adapter: 300mm, f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 250
Note: This image has been modified. Click for the original full-size image.
In terms of AF speed, adapted F-mount lenses work extremely well. I never experienced any issues with focus accuracy or speed. Traditionally, adapting DSLR lenses onto mirrorless cameras comes with a noticeable drop in AF speed and performance, but with the Z6, this is definitely not the case, at least in my experience so far. With the 500mm lens, and any other F-mount lenses I grabbed, the Z6's AF speed felt fast and "DSLR-like" -- snappy, decisive and quick, without any visible hunting or wobbling. During the trip, I didn't have a Nikon DSLR along with me to compare AF speed, but back home, I did a quick comparison with the Z6 and the D850 and the 24-70mm f/2.8E VR lens. Doing a quick focus acquisition test, autofocusing between a close object and a distance one, I was hard-pressed to see any noticeable difference between AF speed of the Z6 and the D850.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S: 24mm, f/4, 1/25s, ISO 200
Overall, the Nikon Z6 is shaping up to be a very nice, all-around, enthusiast-grade mirrorless camera. Based on my experience thus far, I'm having a hard time finding any sizable criticism for the Z6. The image quality is fantastic, as is characteristic of modern Nikon cameras, and the build quality is superb. The camera feels great in the hand, offering lots of physical controls despite the smaller body design. For long-time Nikon shooters, the Z6's controls will feel familiar, which is by design. However, as someone who's not a "Nikonian," I still found the Z6 was easy to pick up and operate without much, if any, confusion.
Nikon 85mm f/1.8 + FTZ Adapter: 85mm, f/1.8, 1/160s, ISO 100, -0.3EV
Now, if I had to nit-pick, then yes, the single XQD card slot can be annoying. For one, XQD cards aren't all that common yet and are still fairly expensive. Secondly, I can certainly understand wanting two memory card slots for backup security. For me, personally, my feeling is that if a camera has two slots, then great! But it's not a deal-breaker for me or the type of photography I shoot. Other than this, I'm struggling to find any serious fault with the Nikon Z6. The camera feels great, works great and produces great photographs. I honestly can't ask for much more.
But I'm not done yet! There's still much more to test with the Z6. In an upcoming Field Test, I'll explore its autofocus and performance features in more depth, as well as more closely examine higher ISO image quality. Sound off in the comments below if there's something specific you'd like me to test out on the camera!
• • •
Nikon Z6 Video Quality First Impressions
• • •
Nikon Z6 Overview
by Jeremy Gray
Nikon made a big splash with respect to its centennial celebration from July of 2017 into this year. Making it to 100 years is a huge deal for any company, but it's a particularly impressive accomplishment when you consider a camera company achieving the feat. The photography industry has changed radically over the past 100-plus years and Nikon was able to successfully push evolution and survive the advancements of others. Many cameras in its immense catalog continue to tug on the heartstrings of countless photographers and their DSLRs are in the kits of innumerable enthusiasts and professionals. However, times change, and more and more photographers have eschewed DSLRs in favor of mirrorless cameras.
When digital began to gain a foothold, Nikon was there, changing with the times. When mirrorless stormed onto the scene in the last few years, Nikon continued to develop very capable DSLR cameras and had only a very short-lived entry into consumer-grade mirrorless cameras with their Nikon 1 system.
Now, over 100 years into their existence, Nikon is changing with the times yet again, hoping to deliver photographers something rooted in their illustrious past yet very much a camera not only of the mirrorless present, but also of the mirrorless future. Enter the Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7, Nikon's first cameras in their full-frame mirrorless system.
Hands-on with the Nikon Z7: A video introduction to Nikon's flagship full-frame mirrorless camera (the Z6 looks and operates the same).
Nikon Z6 Key Features and Specs
- Smaller and lighter camera body
- New larger Z mount with shorter flange distance
- 3.6M-dot electronic viewfinder
- 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen display
- 24.5-megapixel full-frame backside-illuminated sensor
- 5-axis in-camera image stabilization
- 12 frames per second continuous shooting
- 273 phase-detect autofocus points on sensor
- Low-light autofocus down to -4 EV
- Native ISO range of 100-51,200 (50-204,800 expanded)
- 4K/30p video with full pixel readout
- Built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Camera Design and Body: Losing a mirror and gaining versatility
The first thing you notice with the new Z6 (or Nikon Z 6 as it is officially named), other than it looking identical to the higher-megapixel Z7 (Nikon Z 7), is that it is considerably smaller and more compact than a full-frame Nikon DSLR. The Z6 is 5.3 inches (134 millimeters) wide, 4 inches (100.5 millimeters) tall and 2.7 inches (67.5 millimeters) thick. With a battery and memory card inserted, the camera body weighs one pound, 7.9 ounces (675 grams).
Nikon has established a style, control layout and overall design language over the years and they are not abandoning it. They have taken advantage of the opportunity of a new system to streamline aspects of the camera's design, but they are not reinventing the wheel when it comes to ergonomics, which this longtime Nikon shooter is very thankful for. The Z6 has been designed to be smaller and lighter and yet at the same time very familiar. If you have shot with enthusiast and professional Nikon DSLRs, the Z6 will offer a similar layout. For example, you will still find the ISO button on the top of the camera near the shutter release, you will find the AF-ON button in a similar location and the Z6 continues to rely on the tried-and-true dual command dial interface.
On the back of the camera, there continues to be familiarity. To the left of the viewfinder are playback and delete buttons. To the right of the viewfinder there is a display button surrounded by a switch for toggling between still and video shooting, and an AF-ON button. There is a rear command dial above the thumb grip, although you'll notice that the dial is exposed at the top, which is different from Nikon's higher-end DSLR cameras, as they often have the rear dial recessed. Beneath the AF-ON button is a subselector joystick for focus point selection, menu navigation and more. Further down, there is an information button, which will bring up a user-customizable menu, from which you can arrange custom functions from a list of over 30. Further down, there is a traditional OK button surrounded by a directional pad. Finally, there are four buttons at the bottom to the right of the large touchscreen display: zoom in, zoom out, menu and drive mode (burst and self-timer functionality is accessed via this button).
The top of the camera features a locking mode dial to the left of the viewfinder, a standard hot shoe on top of the viewfinder, an OLED top status display, shutter release and a trio of buttons: movie record, ISO and exposure compensation. The Z6 utilizes the same layout as the D500/D5/D850 DSLR cameras, which places all exposure-related controls within reach of your right hand. Regarding the camera's mode dial, it offers a relatively sparse, but pro-oriented, modes. P, A, S and M modes are present, there are three user-customized modes and finally an Auto mode. You won't find any scene modes or special modes on the dial.
A difficulty with electronic viewfinders, particularly for photographers moving from a DSLR, has been that it can feel like an unnatural experience. However, our first impression of the new Z6 electronic viewfinder is that it's excellent and certainly one of the best we have used. Nikon has invested extensive engineering and development in their new electronic viewfinder, including high-end Nikkor optics, complete with aspherical lens elements. The result of the engineering is a 0.5-inch 3.69-million dot electronic viewfinder with 100 percent frame coverage, 0.8x magnification, a 37-degree viewing angle and OLED display technology. The EVF also features a 21mm eyepoint, a -4 to +2m-1 diopter adjustment, an eye sensor, and includes color balance and 11-level manual brightness controls.
The rear display on the Z6 is a 3.2-inch tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 2,100K dots and a 170-degree viewing angle. The LCD offers 100 percentage frame coverage, 11-level manual brightness and color balance controls.
Despite the more compact and lightweight design of the Z6, it maintains Nikon's rugged magnesium alloy design and weather sealing. In fact, the Nikon Z6 features the same level of water and dust resistance as the Nikon D850, which you may recall doing incredibly well during our own weather testing.
It will be interesting to see how the Z6 performs during extensive long-term testing in the field, and how it holds up to adverse weather conditions, but all signs point toward Nikon having focused heavily on the ergonomics and control layout of their new mirrorless camera. Based on our time with the Z7 already, we can say that the Z6 is comfortable to hold and feels very well-built.
On the top of the camera, the Z6 includes an OLED status display, showing important shooting settings similar to the LCD display found on their high-end DSLR cameras. You can change the brightness of the top OLED display as well.
New Z lens mount and adapter pave the way for flexibility, versatility and improved optics
One of the biggest (literally) aspects of the new Z mirrorless system is its new lens mount. It's an important part of not only the Z6, but the future of Nikon's new camera system. First, let's alleviate a worry many Nikon shooters are likely to have about a new mirrorless camera. You will be able to use your existing F-mount lenses on the new mirrorless cameras. This will be achieved via an FTZ adapter, which will be available alongside the camera. Every F-mount lens can be adapted for use with the Z6, and the adapter allows for full AF and AE compatibility with over 90 existing Nikkor lenses. Further, for all adapted lenses, the Z6's in-camera image stabilization will allow for image stabilization. VR lenses will be able to utilize their own stabilization and be further aided by the in-camera stabilization of the Z6. Nikon notes that Nikkor F-mount lenses will not offer the same level of stability as native Nikkor Z lenses.
To help appreciate the new mount, consider that the F mount, which is found on Nikon's latest DSLR cameras, was created in 1959. A lot has changed in camera and lens technology since 1959. The new Z mount is noticeably larger, especially when seen on the smaller Z6 camera body. Precisely, the mount has a 55mm diameter, a full 11mm more than the F mount. Further, the flange distance is a very short 16mm. The F mount's flange distance is 46.5mm. Nikon tells us that with the larger opening and shorter flange distance, the Z mount lets in 100 percent more light than the F mount.
The considerable differences in the mount dimensions and design has multiple effects. As we will discuss further later, the Z mount allows lenses as fast as f/0.95 (and even faster), which is notably faster than any Nikkor F-mount lens. Another important result is that Nikon has been able to engineer lenses with optimized central and peripheral luminous flux, which is important to image quality, usability and improving control of chromatic aberrations. You're used to having to stop down lenses to get the best sharpness, right? Nikon assures us -- and showed us examples -- of how this will not be the case with Nikkor S-Line lenses (the new Z mount lenses exist within the newly-dubbed S-Line), they will be at their best wide open! When you consider that Nikkor S-Line lenses can be designed with faster maximum apertures but also will be sharp wide open, that opens up many new possibilities.
First batch of Nikkor S lenses
A camera is only as good as the lens you use. Fortunately for Nikon, some of the initial pressure to create new lenses is relieved by their FT-Z adapter, allowing existing Nikon shooters to fully utilize the lenses they already own (although autofocus is not supported with older screw-drive AF Nikkors). For new shooters or for those wanting the latest and greatest for the Nikon Z6, there are a trio of lenses on the way. The Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S, Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S and Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S, which is the new kit lens. These native lenses are smaller, lighter and will deliver higher overall performance. The S-Line of lenses are designed for both stills and video recording and include compensation for focus breathing, quiet operation, smooth exposure control and a new control ring. The lenses all feature weather sealing as well.
Using the FTZ adapter, you can attach any Nikon F mount lens to the Z6 (Z7 is shown here). Over 90 lenses have full AF/AE capabilities and can utilize the camera's in-body sensor shift image stabilization.
The new kit lens, the 24-70mm f/4 S, features a compact and lightweight design. When not in use, you can retract the lens to make it more compact. A neat aspect of the retractable design is that unlike many retractable lenses, you don't need to press a button to extend it. The weather-sealed lens features 14 elements across 11 groups and includes an aspherical ED element, a trio of aspherical elements and Nikon's Nano Crystal coating. The front lens element also has a fluorine coating. The lens has an impressive close-focus distance of 0.3 meters across the entire focal length range. Stay tuned for more information on the Z6's kit lens, which costs US$999.95 separately.
When the Z7 launches in September -- the Z6 launches two months later in November -- the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S will also launch for US$849.95. This prime lens has been designed to offer sharpness across the frame and deliver consistent, pleasing bokeh. The lens features a new multi-focusing system which includes a pair of autofocus drive units for fast and accurate focusing. The lens has a pair of ED glass elements and three aspherical elements in addition to Nano Crystal Coating.
The first S-Line lenses. From left to right, the new 24-70mm f/4 S kit lens, the 35mm f/1.8 S and the 50mm f/1.8 S. As you can see, the three lenses share the same styling and design and are very similar in overall size.
Finally, in October, the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S will become available. This standard prime lens has been designed for high-resolution imaging and soft bokeh. The lens has a pair of ED elements and two aspherical elements. The lens features a new powerful stepping motor (STM) for quiet and accurate autofocus during still and motion photography. The lens will cost just under US$600 when it releases.
Image sensor: New 24.5-megapixel backside-illuminated full-frame sensor
The Z6's imaging pipeline is centered around a new backside-illuminated 24.5-megapixel CMOS full-frame image sensor. The sensor features built-in focal-plane phase-detection autofocus pixels, and is equipped with an optical low-pass filter (unlike the higher-resolution Z7). The Z6 is designed as an all-purpose FX-format camera compared to the Z7 in part thanks to the Z6's superior high ISO performance and full-frame 4K UHD video recording capabilities. Specifically, the Z6 has a native ISO range of 100 to 51,200 and can be extended to ISO 50 to 204,800. It will be interesting to see how the Z6 compares to the Z7 in terms of its high ISO performance. It will also be interesting to see how the new BSI CMOS sensor compares to other cameras with similar megapixels, such as the Nikon D750.
An image sensor is only one part of the image quality equation. Alongside the new sensor, there's a new EXPEED 6 image processor. Further, Nikon has added a mid-range sharpening option to its Picture Control sharpness parameters in addition to the existing sharpening and clarity settings users can adjust. There are 20 options for Creative Picture Control in total and image quality settings can be adjusted on a scale from 0 to 100.
Autofocus and Performance: 273 on-sensor autofocus points and fast continuous shooting
273-point autofocus system covers much more of the image area than Nikon's full-frame DSLRs
The Nikon Z6's image sensor includes 273 on-chip autofocus points. The hybrid phase-detection/contrast-detection autofocus system covers about 90 percent of the imaging area both horizontally and vertically. The autofocus system has been designed to perform well in low light in particular, as detection is rated down to -4 EV (ISO 100, f/2.0 lens, AF-S mode) in low-light AF mode which prioritizes the use of slower contrast-detect autofocus; the Z6 is rated down to -2 EV without low-light AF mode.
The camera includes AF-S, AF-C and AF-F (this mode is only available during movie recording) autofocus drive modes and includes the following AF-area modes: pinpoint, single-point, dynamic-area AF, wide-area AF (small), wide-area AF (large) and auto-area AF. You can lock focus by either pressing the shutter release halfway or by pressing the center of the subselector joystick. With the conveniently-located AF-ON button you should also be able to use back button autofocus, although that has not been verified. Face detection AF is supported, and touch AF & touch shutter functions (via the touchscreen display) are provided.
To ensure fast and accurate autofocus, the Z6 uses an optimized algorithm for full-frame image sensors to automatically switch between focal-plane phase detect autofocus and contrast-detect autofocus. This system is fully-utilized by the new Nikkor Z lenses. It will be interesting to see how this and Nikon's latest predictive autofocus, face detection and subject tracking technology works when we put the Z6 to the test. Nikon promises fast, quiet and reliable autofocus, which would not only benefit stills shooters, but will hopefully also help make the Z6 a versatile hybrid camera.
High-speed shooting powered by new EXPEED 6 image processor
As we have mentioned, the Nikon Z6 comes with a new processor to help provide it with high-speed imaging performance. The EXPEED 6-driven Z6 can shoot full-resolution images at up to 12 frames per second with full autofocus performance. There is a catch, however, as these speeds do not apply when shooting 14-bit RAW files. When recording 14-bit files, the camera tops out at 9 frames per second. Further, if you want full AF/AE, the camera shoots at 5.5 frames per second. We will need to assess buffer depth and buffer clearing performance in the lab once we get hold of a production unit.
Your online orders help this site!
Based on our hands-on experience with it, the new Nikon Z system should prove to be a
Ordering through the links below will cost you nothing, but will be a
Metering and shooting modes
The Z6 utilizes a TTL metering system using the camera's image sensor. Metering modes include matrix metering, center-weighted metering, spot metering and highlight-weighted metering. Regarding center-weighted metering, this utilizes a 75 percent weighting toward a 12mm circle in the center of the frame, although you can also set the camera to meter based on an average of the entire frame. The spot metering is tied to the selected focus point and relies upon 1.4 percent of the frame. The camera offers plus/minus 5.0 EV of exposure compensation as well.
Mechanical shutter speed range is 30s to 1/8,000s, plus there are bulb and time modes. A Silent Photography mode uses an electronic shutter to eliminate shake and noise caused by shutter release, however the top speed remains 1/8,000s. An electronic front-curtain shutter (EFCS) option is also available.
For increasing the dynamic range of JPEG images, the camera offers Nikon's Active D-Lighting. The available settings include auto, extra high, high, normal, low and off. You can also record HDR images in camera.
The Z6 includes a new 16:9 crop for recording still images, which Nikon states will make it easier to drop still images into a video workflow. In addition to the new 16:9 and standard 3:2 aspect ratios, the camera also offers a 1:1 aspect ratio and a DX crop mode which produces up to a 10.3-megapixel image file, though oddly it doesn't support the Z7's 5:4 mode. The Z6 records .NEF raw files in 12 or 14-bit color depth and can record large (24.3MP), medium (13.7MP) and small (6.1MP) .NEF files.
Regarding flash, the Z6 includes a standard ISO 518 hot-shoe with sync and data contacts and the camera offers a 1/200s flash sync speed. The camera can utilize Nikon's Advanced Wireless Lighting technology and take advantage of the wireless tech in the company's latest speedlights. The camera offers TTL and i-TTL flash control and -3 to +1 EV flash compensation.
The Nikon Z6 is compatible with Nikon's latest wireless lighting products. The Z6 is shown here with the SB-5000 Speedlight and WR-1 wireless communicator.
Built-in image stabilization delivers up to five stops of correction
The Nikon Z6 features built-in sensor shift image stabilization which can deliver up to five stops of stabilization. The system relies on a dedicated VR microcomputer and operates via a movable magnesium frame. The camera has detection for pitch, yaw, rotational and translation shake. It is a closed-loop system and has a trio of Hall-effect sensors which provide positional feedback.
Video: A powerful multimedia camera with 4K/30p video
Video has not always been a strong suit for Nikon DSLR cameras. For a while, features and specifications lagged behind the competition. Autofocus performance has long been a weak area as well because of the lack of phase-detect AF during video recording and video-optimized lenses, as we have noted in our numerous Nikon DSLR Field Tests. Nikon hopes to buck the trend with their new mirrorless system.
The Z6 records 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) video at up to 30 frames per second (progressive) and can also record at 25p and 24p frame rates. 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) video can be recorded at 120p, 100p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p frame rates. There is also a Full HD slow-motion video recording feature, which allows for 4x slow-motion video at 25p and 30p and 5x slow-motion video played back at 24p. The camera records in MOV and MP4 formats and utilizes H.264/MPEG-4 video coding. Maximum clip length is 29 minutes and 59 seconds.
For serious videographers, the camera offers audio input and output jacks, timecode functionality, 10-bit N-Log recording and more. Regarding 10-bit N-Log, you can record 4:2:2 video to an HDMI recorder and view the footage with a normal look while recording, instead of the flat look typical of log video. The N-Log format features a 12-stop dynamic range according to Nikon. In addition to recording 10-bit video externally, you can also simultaneously record 8-bit video to the camera's memory card.
Via its audio input and hot shoe, the Z6 can use microphones, such as the Nikon ME-1 shown here.
The camera offers numerous usability improvements over previous Nikon cameras as well, including focus peaking during 4K video recording, organic exposure levels through the electronic viewfinder and quiet adjustments using the Nikkor S-Line lenses' new control ring. You can also adjust the autofocus tracking speeds across five different levels. Further, autofocus can be controlled via the subselector joystick while recording. During video recording, the Z6 has 231 PDAF points available because of the shorter 16:9 aspect ratio, and 91 in DX crop mode.
Unlike the Z7, the Nikon Z6 performs full-pixel readout for full sensor width 4K UHD video recording and thus does not perform pixel binning or cropping. It reads 6K video and then resamples to 4K output, like some Sony cameras do, which should yield very high image quality.
Additional features include Active D-lighting during video recording and the ability to capture in-camera timelapse videos. All in all, the Nikon Z6 is poised to be a better video camera than Nikon's recent DSLRs. It will be very interesting to see how the camera's autofocus performs compared to Nikon's DSLRs and also the current mirrorless competition.
Storage, power and connectivity
The Nikon Z6 writes files to a single XQD card slot. While it's disappointing that there's not a second card slot, Nikon tells us that the camera will be able to use faster CFexpress cards via a future firmware update. It's certainly utilizing very fast storage even if there's not a second slot.
With respect to power, the camera uses a new EN-EL15b battery. Interestingly, the camera is compatible with the EN-EL15a battery used in the recent Nikon D850 camera and even older EN-EL15 batteries, which will be appreciated by Nikon DSLR shooters that have them. The EN-EL15b version of the battery features new components which allow the Z6 to be charged via USB with the battery in the camera. You cannot charge the older ones in-camera.
As we touched on earlier, battery life is often a disadvantage of a mirrorless camera compared to a DSLR and that remains the case here. The CIPA standard battery life rating for the Z6 is only about 310 shots per charge when using the EVF (no word yet on an LCD monitor figure), but Nikon noted that early hands-on reports from pros using pre-release cameras out in the field indicate real-world battery life far exceeds the CIPA figure. To help maintain good battery life out in the field, you can press a button on the side of the viewfinder which kills all LCD functions and the EVF will only turn on when you bring it up to your eye. The LCD will light up when you press buttons but will otherwise remain off. It's a neat power-saving feature and we are curious to see how it works in the field and how it affects battery life. A further note, the Z7 comes with a charging AC adapter but the Z6 does not, it will need to be purchased separately if you would like this accessory.
Note the guide pin sockets for the optional MB-N10 Multi-Power Battery Pack currently in development.
Nikon is also developing the MB-N10 Multi-Power Battery Pack, which will hold two EN-EL15b batteries, effectively increasing the number of shots possible and/or movie recording time by approximately 1.8 times. It will provide the same level of weather resistance as the Z6/Z7, and will support USB charging using the EH-7P Charging AC Adapter.
The Z6 is a connected camera. It offers built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and SnapBridge 2.5 functionality. Via SnapBridge, you can add location data to image files on the camera. The built-in Wi-Fi supports both 2.4 and 5 GHz wireless. Further, the camera offers a direct PC connection and allows for JPEG and RAW transfer directly to a connected computer. The Z6 is also compatible with the Nikon WT-7, allowing for FTP functionality.
On the left side of the camera, there are an array of ports, which are covered with rubber flaps and sealed against weather. There are 3.5mm stereo headphone and microphone jacks closer to the front of the camera , and USB, HDMI and accessory ports closer to the rear of the camera. The USB 3.0 and HDMI ports are Type C and the accessory terminal can be used with the optional MC-DC2 remote in addition to other accessories.
Price and Availability: Coming this fall at a competitive price
The Nikon Z6 will be available in late November for a suggested retail price of US$1,995.95 in a body-only configuration. The Z6 will also be available at the same time in a kit with the new Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens for US$2,599.95.
While there is a lot to be excited about this fall, including two new Nikon Z cameras, three Nikkor Z lenses and an FZT adapter, Nikon has also announced numerous new products in the works. As previously mentioned, there is a weather-sealed MB-N10 Multi-Power Battery Pack in development which will hold a pair of EN-EL15b batteries. There will also be an EH-7P charging AC adapter available at a later date as well. Stay tuned to Imaging Resource for information on these products as soon as it becomes available.
On the optical side of things, Nikon has announced that they are developing a Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct lens, which harkens back to the very popular 58mm f/1.2 manual focus Noct lens from the 1970s. It will be very interesting to see how Nikon takes advantage of the Z lens mount with new and distinct Nikkor Z lenses such as the new Noct prime.
Nikon also provided us with a lens roadmap. In 2019, users can expect the S-Line additions to include: Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct, 20mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 14-30mm f/4. In 2020, Nikon has another three lenses planned, although of course more could be added to the roadmap later. These three lenses are the 50mm f/1.2 (a lens Nikon F mount users have longed for), 24mm f/1.8 and 14-24mm f/2.8. While product names and specifications have not been finalized, it's a versatile assortment of lenses covering 14mm to 200mm focal lengths.
Nikon Nikkor Z lens roadmap. Roadmap subject to change. Save for the Noct lens, lens names and specifications are not yet finalized. Click for a larger view.
Nikon Z6 versus the Nikon Z7: Trading megapixels for speed
There are many similarities between the Nikon Z6 and the simultaneously-announced Nikon Z7. The cameras share the same body, right down to the EVF, display, buttons and weather sealing. There are a few internal differences.
The Z6 utilizes a 24.5-megapixel full-frame sensor. The Z7, on the other hand, offers a new 45.7-megapixel sensor. This higher-megapixel image sensor has a native ISO range of 64-25,600 compared to the Z6's 100-51,200 native ISO range. It's unclear what the differences in dynamic range will be between the two sensors, but you should expect better resolving power from the Z7 and better high ISO performance from the Z6.
With autofocus points being phase-detect and on-chip, a different sensor unsurprisingly means different autofocus. The Z6 offers 273 autofocus points whereas the Z7 and its higher-megapixel sensor has 493 PDAF points. The Z7 may have more AF points, but its low-light autofocus should be better. (The specs we received say the AF detection range extends down to -2 EV for the Z6 versus -1 EV for the Z7 with an f/2.0 lens at ISO 100, however both are rated down to -4 EV in low-light AF mode.) It remains unclear if there will be differences in subject tracking capabilities or autofocus speeds between the Z6 and Z7.
Both the Nikon Z6 and Z7 are powered by the new EXPEED 6 image processor. With less megapixels and smaller files to write, the Z6 is able to shoot at up to 12 frames per second, which is 3 fps faster than the Z7 with locked exposure and a full 7 fps faster than the Z7 with AE/AF capabilities. In both cases, the cameras slow down when shooting 14-bit .NEF files.
Video features and specifications are identical between the two cameras -- save for ISO speed options and the number of PDAF points available -- but the Z6 does have one neat trick up its sleeve: it can record full sensor width 4K video using full-pixel readout. The Z7 cannot record full width 4K video in this way.
The Z6 costs just under $2,000 USD for the body whereas the Z7, which comes out in September instead of November, costs around $3,400 USD.
Our initial thoughts on the Nikon Z6
Nikon looks toward the future with the new Nikon Z6. Stay tuned to Imaging Resource for more information on the camera as we approach its November release.
There is a lot to be excited about with the Nikon Z6 on paper. We have had our hands on the camera in a general sense as we have spent time with the Z7, which is identical in terms of design and build, but we have yet to shoot with the Z6.
It will be interesting to see how the 24.5-megapixel sensor performs with respect to image quality across its wide native ISO range and how the 273-point PDAF autofocus system performs in terms of focus speed and subject tracking capabilities.
Nikon anticipates that their new Z6 mirrorless camera will prove to be a very popular all-around choice for enthusiasts and professionals alike, and from what we've seen so far, we'd have to agree.
Buy the Nikon Z6
$4499.00 (56% more)
51.4 MP (52% more)
Also has viewfinder