Image Quality (RAW)8.8/10
Image Quality (JPEG)8.5/10
High ISO Performance8.7/10
- Excellent High ISO Performance
- Built Like a Tank
- Superb EVF
- Lens Support
- Great AF Performance
- 10-Bit Footage to external
- Default JPEG Quality
- Touchscreen cannot be used as Touchpad
- Battery Life
Nikon Z6 Long Term Review
Does it get better with Age?
In August 2018 Nikon forayed into the full-frame mirrorless market with the Nikon Z6 and Z7. For a first-generation camera, both the Z6 and the Z7 are fairly impressive devices. They may not yet be as impressive as the Sony A7R IV or the Panasonic S1H, but they have their fair share of plus points. In this review today we will take a look at the Z6 and how it has evolved since its release.
The Z6 has a 24MP full-frame sensor with 273 phase detect Autofocus points. The new Z mount, with its enormous 55mm inner diameter, is optimized for low light performance and crisp edges. With a plethora of lenses, catering to the most popular focal lengths, Nikon seems to be determined to focus on the new mount with 3 more lenses coming in 2020. The Z6 is well taken care of and a series of firmware upgrades since the launch of the Z series seem to be making them stronger as time passes.
Let us take a look at the specifications for the Nikon Z6.
- 24.5MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor
- Hybrid autofocus system w/273 phase-detect points
- Up to 12 fps burst shooting (Raw + JPEG)
- 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder
- 2.1M-dot tilting touch LCD
- Single XQD card slot ( With support for CFExpress coming soon)
- OLED top plate display
- UHD 4K capture up to 30p
- Support for ProRes RAW output ( Requires Shipping back to Nikon)
- 10-bit 4:2:2 N-Log output over HDMI
- Up to 100Mbps H.264 8-bit internal video capture
- SnapBridge Wi-Fi system with Bluetooth
The Z6 has a higher burst rate (12 fps) as compared to the Z7 (Due to the difference in sensor resolution).
Nikon Z6 Ergonomics
The Z6 is built like a tank, with a deep comfortable grip. Controls are easy to reach, although the customizable buttons are a stretch. It’s smaller and easier to manage as compared to traditional DSLR’s. The high-resolution electronic Viewfinder is simply excellent.
The top plate has an OLED display that shows your standard information. The mode dial on the left of the EVF must be pressed in order to rotate the dial.
The rear-mounted controls are easy to use and well within reach. The AF joystick is easy to use, although due to its proximity to the thumb rest can be inadvertently toggled. There is a toggle switch surrounding the display button which easily allows you to switch from stills to Video mode. Also, the exposure settings for both modes are exclusive so switching between them is easy and without any hassle.
The EVF is simply magnificent. It’s large and has 3.69 million dots. It’s a pleasure to use and incredibly crisp. The LCD is also high resolution, but not fully articulating.
The ports are all on the left-hand side. These include headphones, external Mic, USB-C, HDMI and remote cable release.
The Nikon Z6 has a single XQD card slot. Nikon’s next firmware update is scheduled to add CFExpress card support for most card manufacturers.
The Nikon Z6 uses a single EN-EL15b Li-Ion Battery. This battery supports USB charging.
Going by CIPA standard ratings the Z6 can take up to 310 shots, though most users will likely get a lot more than that in real-world use.
A battery grip is in development, although the release date is still not available.
Nikon Z6 Menu
The Nikon Z6’s menu feels familiar to anyone who has used a Nikon DSLR. There are some differences on the AF front, however. The menu is mostly accessible through the touch screen and easily customizable. One issue however that some users may face is the inability to use the screen as a touchpad while viewing through the EVF. This is however offset by the presence of an AF joystick.
Nikon Z6 Sensor
The new sensor is a 24.5MP BSI-CMOS sensor with 273 PDAF points. This sensor provides excellent low light performance and excellent dynamic range. At base ISO the Nikon Z6’s color discrimination and dynamic range is comparable to the excellent Nikon D750 and the Sony A7III, falling just short of the performance posted by the Nikon D850 or the Sony A7R III.
As the sensor has phase detection pixels, the very nature of this technology suggests their potential for Banding or line pattern issues. Frankly speaking, this is an issue with every sensor supporting phase detection pixels so it is not something to be alarmed about. Basically, when heavily underexposing in particular lighting conditions, or when shooting against very bright sources of light, the camera can exhibit visible lines in some parts of the image.
Is this a deal-breaker? Definitely not. This is not an issue that manifests itself under real-world situations. This is a problem that occurs under extreme shadow recovery and even then it’s perfectly acceptable.
Nikon Z6 Image Quality
The Nikon Z6 and its older brother the Z7 are both very versatile camera systems. They support a variety of photography genres very well thanks to their excellent stills capability and the continuous support Nikon is delivering via firmware updates to enhance and improve the already existing feature set.
|Nikon Z6 Dynamic Range|
|Saturation & Hue Accuracy|
Bright colors with about average mean hue accuracy.
|Exposure and White Balance|
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Vibrant color with good exposure outdoors, but high default contrast.
|Sharpness & Detail|
Very sharp images with excellent detail for the resolution, though with minor sharpening halos and aliasing artifacts. Minimal noise suppression artifacts at base ISO.
|ISO & Noise Performance|
Very good high ISO performance.
|Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests|
High default contrast led to some blown highlights in default JPEGs. RAW files show excellent dynamic range, but banding is sometimes visible in deep shadows. Excellent low-light performance, capable of focusing in near darkness.
The last Firmware update added enhanced Eye AF and it now does an excellent job of tracking the eye, even in profile which is something not seen on other similar systems. It is fast and very accurate. This has considerably improved portrait shots taken by the Z6 and the Z7. Skin tones look really good as well. The new Nikon Z mount prime lenses also have upped the portrait game for Nikon.
Out of the box, image quality is excellent, although noise reduction at higher ISO is very aggressive. Thanks to its weather sealing the Nikon Z6 can make a great landscape camera, although its lack of high resolution can be a markdown. The Z7 is a more appropriate choice here.
The Z6 is also an excellent camera for wedding shoots, thanks to the new firmware, its silent shooting mode, and wide AF. The only issue could be its lack of second card slot and you may need to stock up on batteries to get through a whole day of shooting.
Overall image quality is excellent while low light performance is class-leading. The Z6 features excellent dynamic range and now thanks to the new firmware upgrades and the new Z mount lenses its turning into a really powerful camera system.
Nikon Z6 Video Quality
The Z6 features oversampling for 4k video (Just like the Sony A7III), with no line skipping. Overall output remains excellent and IBIS further helps produce a stable video. You can capture 1080P at 120 FPS for some really cool slow-motion effects. Subject tracking is excellent. Focus peaking is also another great feature while in full manual mode.
The Z6 can output 10-bit log footage to an external recorder and support for ProRes RAW output is also available now, although that involves shipping the camera over to Nikon to allow them to install the necessary firmware. Log gamma attempts to capture as much of the original scene’s dynamic range as possible while retaining enough information to still allow processing and adjustment of the files (essentially trying to make a JPEG that can be edited more like a Raw file). Moving to 10 bits of data means you can retain more tonal information about each stop of DR, giving you much more flexible footage.
Nikon Z6 Focus Stacking
The Z6 support focus stacking just like the D850. In theory, this feature, also called Focus Shift will take a series of photos focused at differing focal lengths starting from front to back. The idea is to later combine these images in software like PS to create an image with a huge depth of field. This works well during landscape shots or for macros.
Generally, such a feature would require a tripod set up to minimize any vibrations so it is ideal to use silent shutter mode. This feature can be selected in the Focus Shift menu itself. Also, the IBIS is good enough to allow you to take a stacked shot of around 3–5 shots which can then be stitched together in post-processing.
Nikon Z6 Review Conclusion
As to the question we asked at the beginning. Does it get better with age?
YES IT DOES
The Nikon Z6 is an excellent camera for both Video capture and stills photography. It has excellent low light performance, and despite being Nikon’s first generation Full frame mirrorless platform, it matches quite well against its main rival, the Sony A7 III.
The Camera has excellent build quality and controls will be very familiar to existing Nikon Owners and it is fairly easy to master for new ones. The EVF is in a class of its own and the screen on the back is pretty good, though touchpad AF would have made things easier for users.
AF performance is excellent and thanks to the new firmware, Eye AF is a welcome addition. Subject tracking is good, though sometimes it tends to focus on something in the background in Area AF mode.
This is a superb first attempt by Nikon and consistent firmware updates will make it even better. With consistent support on the lens front as well the Nikon Z system makes an excellent option for those who do not want a Sony but want similar performance.
Nikon Z6 Firmware Update-25th Mar 2020
With the release of the latest 3.0 firmware for the Nikon Z6 & Nikon Z7 Full-Frame mirrorless cameras, Nikon has just turned these two cameras into top-notch, highly versatile devices.
With major improvements in the AF tracking, Nikon has made this feature primarily like the 3D tracking option available on Nikon DSLRs. Of course, the primary addition of Animal Eye Autofocus closes the performance gap with the much-vaunted Sony systems.
All these enhancements have significantly increased the hit rate on AF-C and we see major performance improvements during all our shooting. Also, Nikon now allows assigning the tracking mode to any of the two Fn buttons on the front of the camera. After tracking initiation, just releasing the shutter will cease subject tracking and return to the point of origin. This is a much more efficient process and feels instinctive.
Also, Firmware 3.0 adds CFExpress support which is a welcome addition and helps futureproof the system in a better way.
Nikon Z6 Review & Conclusion(Updated)
The Nikon Z6 and Z7 were designed with evolution in mind and the new firmware update further proves the same. With enhanced performance added to an already formidable system, the Nikon Z6 and the Z7 are easily one of the most recommendable full-frame mirrorless options in the market today.
Nikon Z6 Competitors
The Nikon Z6’s closest competitor is the Sony A7III. It has twin card slots and the battery life is simply class-leading.
The Canon EOS R is also a great camera, although not quite as good as the Z6. The EOS R suffers on the video front due to the huge crop during 4K capture, substantial rolling shutter, and lack of DPAF. Also, the lack of IBIS is a disappointment.
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