Nikon Z6 Review: A Great Camera for the Enthusiast
The Nikon Z6 is a 24.5 mp resolution full-frame mirrorless camera. It was first released in August 2018. This camera is comparable in terms of resolution and image quality to the Nikon D750 DSLR.
The Nikon Z6 has the same amazing dynamic range and superb low-light performance that millions of hard-core Nikon devotees love.
Nikon cameras are known for their amazing dynamic range & low-light performance, and the Z6 is no exception. This camera produces beautiful images, but without the crazy high 45.7mp resolution of its big brother, the Nikon D7.
Who is the Nikon Z6 For?
The Z6 is a superb choice for Nikon crop sensor users looking for an affordable upgrade to a full-frame camera. If you’re a current Nikon user wanting to move into mirrorless, the Z6 is a fantastic choice for you.
The Nikon Z6 - What I Loved and What I Didn't
The Z6 has a tilting 3.2″, 2.1M-dot touchscreen LCD. It’s very responsive and does not lag. Some users may complain that the touchscreen doesn’t tilt to a full 90°, but it’s not a serious limitation for most users.
If you’re a Canon or Sony user, you’ll feel frustrated by the Z6 because you can’t drag your focus points around on the touchscreen. To change your focus points, you must use the joystick on the back of the Z6.
The Z6 boasts one of the best electronic viewfinders on the market, with 3.68M-dot resolution and 80x magnification. The LCD display on the back of the camera is no slouch either – it’s bright display and true-to-life colors won’t steer you wrong whether you’re shooting stills or video.
This Nikon mirrorless also features an OLED panel on the top of the camera that displays your current shooting settings. When I tested the camera, I really didn't look at this at all. For me, it was a waste of real estate.
You can shoot at a fast 12 fps in extended mode with the Z6, but beware. Shooting at this speed can produce ugly banding.
A recent addition to the Z6 is Animal Detection AF to the Z6. Not only will the Z6 lock on your furry friend’s eye when shooting stills, it detects dog and cat faces in video, too. Wildlife photographers will love this feature.
Notable Features of the Z6
ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 51200 native, extended range from 50 to 204800
Shutter speed: 1/8000 to 30 seconds, and BULB mode
Metering: center-weighted, highlight-weighted, matrix, spot
Exposure compensation -5/+5 EV (⅓, ½ steps)
WB – auto, cloudy, color temperature, direct sunlight, flash, fluorescent, incandescent, preset manual, shade
Supports USB-C charging with Z6’s native EN-EL15b batteries. (You can use your old EN-EL15 batteries in the Z6; however, you must charge them in a wall charger rather than by USB.)
More Pluses of the Nikon Z6
The camera features a 273 point on-sensor PDAF (phase detection autofocus) that covers 90% of the frame.
The Z6 just plain feels good in your hand, with a deep grip and balanced design. If you’re used to the weight of a big full-frame like the Nikon D850, you’re in for a treat with the Z6. It weighs in at a mere 675g with battery (1.49 lbs.) This is even lighter than Nikon’s top-of-the-line crop sensor DLSR, the D7500.
If you shoot Nikon, you’ll find the buttons and dials in the same familiar places on the Z6. One exception is the FN button on the Z6 can be hard to reach for those with smaller hands.
The magnesium alloy body of the Z6 is weather sealed against moisture and dust. You can feel confident you can take this bad-boy into extreme conditions and it will hold up just fine.
A nice feature of the Z6 is the 5-axis in-body image stabilization. If you use the Z6 with F-mount lenses, you’ll get 3-axis image stabilization (or in Nikon speak, vibration reduction.)
Nikon’s free Snapbridge app allows for automatic image transfer from your Z6 camera to a compatible smart device. The app also lets you use your smart device as a remote trigger. The Z6 features both built-in WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy for smooth image transfer to your devices.
Mirrorless cameras are hard on batteries because of their electronic viewfinders. By adding the 2 slot Nikon MB-N10 Multi-Battery Power Pack ($197), you increase battery life by 180%, and get an added grip to boot.
Switch from video to stills with ease with separate ‘i’ menus. The Z6 saves your settings for you (no need to reset from scratch if you switch from one mode to the other.)
And the Not so Great Things About the Z6
The Z6 lacks dual card slots, which was a big deal to me. A card failure when you don’t have a backup leads to disaster.
Another annoying feature is that the Z6 uses XQD cards instead of the typical SD cards. While I can’t dispute the quality and fast frame rate of the XQD cards, the cards are often hard to find, and more expensive than SD cards.
The FTZ lens adaptor for F-mount lenses works seamlessly, but there’s a catch. When you shoot on a tripod, you must attach it to the adaptor, not to the camera body. So if you want to change lenses during your shoot, you’ll need to take your camera off the tripod first.
The Z6 features the same Picture Control option as other Nikon Cameras. This feature lets you customize your images in camera, by use of profiles. Choices include Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape and Flat. Beware that if you use these picture controls,they’ll get exported over to Lightroom with your images…and you may not find them so easy to adjust once you’re there!
There is one exception.The I recommend the flat option for video if you want to adjust highlights, shadows, or saturation after your shoot.
The Z6 features a new hybrid autofocus that automatically switches between focal-plane phase-detect AF and contrast-detect AF to fine-tune focus. (This is Nikon’s answer to Canon’s famed dual-pixel autofocus.)
Auto-area autofocus replaced Nikon’s 3D tracking, but is more cumbersome to use. You must go through three steps to use it: Select the subject, press “OK”, then lock on your focus. A new firmware upgrade (2.0+) brings eye detection AF for shooting stills, improved AF performance in low light, and adds AE tracking in continuous high-speed mode.
The Z6 for Video
The Z6 captures full-frame 16:9 4K UHD/30p video. You’ll get zero crop factor with both Nikkor full-frame F and Z-mount lenses. The Z6 has native 8-Bit internal video recording at both 4k UHD and 1080p HD. Using an external recorder with the Z6 gives you 10-bit capability via HDMI.
An external recorder also gives you access to N-Log, which preserves full detail in highlights and shadows for post-shoot processing.
Uncompressed 8-Bit 4K video can be recorded simultaneously to both a memory card and external recorder.
Choose from four video AF modes: Single point AF, Wide-Area AF (S or L) and Auto-Area AF. The Z6 switches between Phase Detect and Contrast Detect AF, depending on the scene.
To keep your subject sharp in challenging situations, the Z6 features Focus Peaking in both 4K and 1080p recording.
Video autofocus in the Z6 matches its still modes. It’s perfect for filming yourself for YouTube, Instagram, training videos, etc. The Z6 has video face detection, but not eye detection like Sony. All-in-all, the Z6 is a highly capable camera for video, but it still lags behind some of its competitors.
Video Frame Rate Options
- 4k UHD – 3840×2160 30p
- 4k UHD – 3840×2160 25p
- 4k UHD – 3840×2160 24p
- HD – 1920×1080 120p
- HD – 1920×1080 100p
- HD – 1920×1080 60p
- HD – 1920×1080 50p
- HD – 1920×1080 30p
- HD – 1920×1080 25p
- HD – 1920×1080 24p
- Slo-mo HD 1920×1080 30p x4
- Slo-mo HD 1920×1080 25p x4
- Slo-mo HD 1920×1080 24p x5
My Final Verdict on the Nikon Z6
If you already own Nikkor F-mount lenses, then be sure to pick up the FTZ adaptor with your Z6 purchase. While Nikon is slowly but surely adding Z-mount lenses to their line up, you won’t find anything close to the selection available in F mount just yet. And since glass is pricey, why not use what you already have?
For this reason, I recommend that you go with B & H Photos Nikon Z6 kit that includes both the FTZ adaptor, an XQD card and a Z-mount 24-70mm F4 lens. You'll save several hundred dollars with this bundle over purchasing the items separately.