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Nikon Z6 overview: The most effective full-frame mirrorless digital camera for video

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When Nikon launched its two all-new full-frame mirrorless cameras, it was laying down a problem to Sony. The landscape- and portrait-oriented 45.7-megapixel Z7 strongly resembles Sony’s excellent, 42.4-megapixel A7R III. In the meantime, the mannequin we’re taking a look at in the present day, the 24.5-megapixel Z6, seems to be a heckuva lot just like the world-beating 24.2-megapixel Sony A7 III. Each Z-Mount cameras value almost the identical as their Sony counterparts and pack related options, like in-body stabilization and full-sensor 4K video.

Nikon Z 6


  • Finest full-frame mirrorless digital camera for video
  • In-body stabilization
  • Good ergonomics
  • Glorious pictures and colour science
  • Comparatively inexpensive in comparison with Z7


  • Mediocre autofocus topic monitoring
  • Single card slot makes use of hard-to-find XQD format
  • Contact show doesn’t flip round

That is clearly not a coincidence as Nikon is attempting to disrupt Sony’s mirrorless dominance. Does it succeed with the Z6? It is not excellent, however in a few areas, Nikon has truly bested the present full-frame mirrorless champ.


The Z6’s physique, button format and menu construction are an identical to the Z7, which I coated within the final overview. The TL;DR is similar, although: These cameras have nice ergonomics.

The Z6 packs a weatherproof physique and huge grip that DSLR shooters — notably professionals with huge, heavy lenses — will recognize. On the similar time, it is significantly smaller and lighter than comparable DSLRs like Nikon’s personal D850 or D750. Meaning it might function a avenue, tourism, images or panorama digital camera.

Gallery: Nikon Z6 overview | 31 Photographs

All of the controls, from the facility swap to the main target level joystick, are simply the place you want them. If you happen to’re used to Nikon cameras, you will be proper at residence. Maybe the one black mark is on the menu system, which I discovered a bit too complicated. You must do a number of scrolling to search out sure gadgets, and so they’re not all the time the place you’d count on them. Your greatest guess is to program the Q menu and buttons so that you not often must dive into the menus.

As for the digital viewfinder (EVF), it is glorious, offering a transparent picture because of the three.69 million dot, 0.8 instances magnification OLED show. Nonetheless, the 60 Hz refresh fee is decrease than rival cameras and creates some lag whereas in use. As with the Z7, once you’re capturing in bursts, it usually has bother maintaining with the digital camera.

Maybe the most important adverse with the Nikon Z6, as with the Z7, is the dearth of twin card slots. Nikon seemingly determined to stay to a single slot to hit the $2,000 value level, however its chief rival, Sony’s A7 III, does have two SD playing cards (although just one is the sooner UHS II selection). Nikon additionally elected to go together with extra unique XQD playing cards, which provide larger speeds of as much as 400 MB/s, however are each dearer and more durable to search out. You may have an alternative choice later, although, as Nikon will assist CFExpress playing cards down the highway by way of a firmware replace, providing much more pace.

As I discussed within the Z7 overview, if you happen to determine to purchase a Z6 or Z7, you are not simply shopping for a digital camera however leaping into a wholly new digital camera system. And due to the big mount diameter and brief flange distance, Nikon can construct sharper, sooner and lighter Z-Mount lenses than it may with its DSLRs. Proper now, nevertheless, it does not have an important choice, with simply three fashions: the 24-70mm f/4 S zoom, wide-angle 35mm f/1.8 S and customary 50mm f/1.8 prime.

Fortunately, by 2020 it’ll have 13 Z-Mount lenses, together with the insanely quick Nikon 58mm Noct-Z handbook mount lense that is coming subsequent yr. If you happen to want higher lenses in the present day, you may all the time buy the $250 FTZ adapter and use any of Nikon’s present F-Mount glass with various levels of compatibility. Newer lenses have extra options, like metering and autofocus, enabled.


Nikon Z6 full-frame mirrorless camera review

Contemplating that it has almost half the decision of the Z7 (and thus 1 / 4 the bandwidth wants), it is stunning that the Z6 suffers a number of the similar efficiency points. Burst-shooting speeds are a bit sooner (12 fps in comparison with 9 fps), however nonetheless solely 5.5 fps with steady autofocus enabled. With a lot smaller file sizes on the Z6, nevertheless, you may not less than seize extra frames earlier than the buffer fills (47 in comparison with 26 JPEGs). That is nonetheless a fraction of the 163 frames you may seize with Sony’s A7 III, nevertheless.

The Z6 matches the Z7 in different methods, too. Autofocus works nice so long as your topic does not transfer round a lot. Throughout motion capturing, although, the monitoring system can lose the topic and concentrate on the background as an alternative, ruining the shot.

To me, it feels just like the Z6 has barely sooner AF efficiency than the Z7, probably as a result of there are solely 273 phase- and contrast-detect factors as an alternative of 497. Nonetheless, you will often lose your topic, particularly with computerized monitoring as an alternative of heart level autofocus. As with the Z7, the EVF often blanks out once you shoot in bursts, making it nigh-on not possible to comply with fast-moving topics.

For topics that do not transfer round a lot, autofocus works very nicely. Sadly, Nikon does not provide eye-tracking autofocus, so if you happen to’re capturing extensive open with a slim depth of subject, you might finish with in-focus noses and out-of-focus eyes. And sadly for Nikon, Sony’s A7 III has set a excessive customary with uncannily correct eye-tracking focus. Eye-detection on the EOS R is not nearly as good, however not less than Canon has the characteristic.

Different points of the Z6 are prime notch, nevertheless. The in-body stabilization (which Nikon calls vibration discount or VR) rivals and even beats the A7 III in some instances as a result of the bigger mount offers it extra room to work. And naturally, Nikon’s different principal full-frame mirrorless competitors proper now, the Canon EOS R, does not have in-body stabilization in any respect. So Nikon Z6 photographers get the advantage of stabilization with any lens, together with F-Mount or handbook focus fashions just like the aforementioned Noct-Z f/0.95.

Battery life can also be excellent. Whereas Nikon claims a mere 310 pictures per cost when utilizing the EVF and 380 with the rear show, I discovered I used to be simply in a position to get between 600-700 pictures on a cost. You may shoot 85 minutes price of video, which is already fairly respectable (you are fortunate to get 45 minutes with Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K) however once more, I discovered I may go for longer than that — as much as two hours. Ought to it’s essential to shoot for longer, a battery grip is in growth, and you may cost whereas capturing by way of the USB-C port.

Picture High quality

Nikon Z6 shot at ISO 12,800

Steve Dent/Engadget

The Z6 has the same sensor to the Z7 however with decrease decision and an anti-aliasing filter. That signifies that whereas pictures aren’t fairly as sharp as its far more pricey sibling, the Z6 does have higher low-light efficiency. (The decrease decision additionally helps video; extra on that in a second.)

I discovered I may shoot at evening at ISO 12,800 with out sweating an excessive amount of about extreme noise and nonetheless get usable pictures at as much as ISO 25,600 on RAW pictures with some post-processing. That sort of vary offers you a number of choices when capturing at evening, particularly if you do not have a extremely quick lens — and you will not if you happen to solely have Nikon’s native Z-Mount lenses.

Total, the Z6 is among the greatest full-frame low-light cameras on the market, bested solely by the A7 III, and Sony’s 12.2-megapixel low-light champ, the A7S II.

As with different Nikon cameras, I discovered the colours to be correct and pictures crisp and sharp with few artifacts. Pores and skin tones are particularly good, which is one thing you’d count on from a model extensively utilized by skilled photographers.

You may shoot in RAW with as much as 14-bits per colour, and even all the way in which as much as ISO 6400, you have received room to tweak shadows and highlights in Lightroom and different picture editors. 12 stops of dynamic vary helps tame pictures shot on sunny days or different excessive darkish/mild contrasty conditions. Total, picture high quality is sort of on par with Sony’s A7 III, which is a excessive praise for a brand-new digital camera.

Gallery: Nikon Z6 overview pattern images | 44 Photographs


One other space the place Nikon sort of copied Sony — and was good to take action — is in video. Very like the A7 III in comparison with the A7R III, the Z6 truly has higher video functionality than its dearer Z7 sibling. That is as a result of the Z6 can do a full readout of the sensor and supersample it, leading to exceptionally sharp 4K video. The Z7, however, does some line-skipping at full body, so it’s essential to crop to APS-C to get the sharpest doable video — precisely just like the A7R III.

With the Z6, you not solely get sharper video however can profit from the full-frame sensor’s glorious low-light functionality and shallow depth of subject. That makes it extra sensible as a documentary or cinema digital camera as you will not want tons of lights to shoot at evening nor quick lenses to make your topics stand out towards their backgrounds.

It truly bests the A7 III in a key space: providing 10-bit, 4:2:2 log video output to an exterior recorder. That offers you extra dynamic vary (and colours) to work with in post-production, particularly if you happen to’re capturing in difficult lighting. It might additionally deal with slow-motion at as much as 1080p 120 fps, however in contrast to the A7 III, it has to crop all the way down to APS-C to do this. Lastly, the Z6 (and Z7) provide separate publicity settings for video and images and allow you to outline customized i-menus for every. That is key as a result of video and images are two fully completely different disciplines and separate settings make it simpler for folk (like me) who swap forwards and backwards.

Regardless of the autofocus system’s fussiness when monitoring topics for images, the Z6 has glorious AF video functionality. It isn’t fairly nearly as good as Canon’s Twin Pixel system, however I believe it is simply nearly as good as Sony’s provide on the A7 III. And in contrast to the Canon EOS R, the Z6 has in-body stabilization, making hand-held capturing a bit simpler, particularly for non-professional customers. It additionally makes it simpler to make use of with non-stabilized Nikon lenses and even the handbook non-electronic fashions in style with cinematographers.

Nikon Z6 full-frame mirrorless camera

On the draw back, the rear contact show on the Z6 can solely be tilted up or down and never rotated round. That makes it impractical for vloggers or one-man-band video operations, sadly. Canon’s rival EOS R does have a totally articulating display as do Panasonic’s in style GH5/GH5s fashions.

One other concern is handbook focus. The Z6 has a focus-by-wire system, so transferring the main target ring a set distance will not constantly change the topic focus. That makes it not possible to set lens marks based mostly on the place your actors are standing, for example, and pull focus to comply with them. (Nikon lenses additionally focus backwards from different programs, however that is one other story.)

Fortunately, most cinema lenses are handbook focus solely, so the focus-by-wire drawback does not apply there. And Nikon does not less than provide focus peaking once you swap to handbook mode, so you may rapidly see which components of a shot are sharp. Keep in mind that you would be able to’t use it similtaneously spotlight peaking, nevertheless, for some motive. This bug or oversight looks as if it could possibly be mounted in firmware, so I hope Nikon does that.

Whereas the Nikon Z6 does have each microphone and headphone ports for professional shooters, there may be one concern. The pre-amp is not notably good, so when you’ve got a microphone with a weak output degree (learn: one thing low cost you’d discover on Amazon), you will have to spice up the digital camera’s sign, which provides a number of noise.

Most significantly, I used to be very pleased with the video I shot with Nikon Z6. With full-frame super-sampling, it is extremely sharp, and Nikon’s colour science makes it an important people-shooting digital camera for interviews, brief movies, and so on. Because of the large sensor, it additionally delivers usable pictures at ISOs as much as 25,600, giving shooters the choice to make use of pure lighting, even in darkish situations. Nikon simply has to repair a couple of issues (primarily the audio and touchscreen), and so they’ll have a near-perfect mirrorless digital camera for video.


Nikon Z6 full-frame mirrorless camera

With the Z6, Nikon got down to beat Sony at its personal mirrorless recreation. Whereas it did not fairly succeed at that, it is nonetheless a powerful debut. The A7 III does have higher autofocus efficiency and in addition edges the Z6 in picture high quality, particularly in low-light conditions. For the foreseeable future, Sony has a a lot better collection of native lenses, too.

Nonetheless, the Z6 is definitely a greater dealing with digital camera. And it edges the A7 III in video, providing comparable options, autofocus and video high quality, however including 10-bit 4:2:2 video by way of the exterior HDMI output. And whereas each cameras have in-body stabilization, Nikon’s digital camera might need a slight edge there, too, because of the bigger mount.

Nikon’s lens choice is proscribed thus far, however the potential of the Z-Mount is big. One of many subsequent fashions would be the Noct-Z mannequin with a stellar f/0.95 aperture, and Nikon could have 13 lenses in whole by 2020.

The A7 III and Canon EOS R are the Z6’s greatest competitors for mirrorless full-frame cameras, not less than for now. Panasonic will quickly be releasing its personal full-frame mirrorless cameras. Adopting roughly the identical technique as Nikon and Sony, it’ll launch 24- and 47-megapixel fashions, the S1 and S1R, respectively. If the GH5 and GH5s are something to go by, they need to be nice for each video and images, so if you happen to’re not in a rush, it is likely to be price ready.

If you happen to’re keen to shoot with a smaller sensor, take into account Fujifilm’s glorious $1,500 X-T3, which is the world’s greatest APS-C mirrorless digital camera, I imagine, particularly for video. One other nice possibility for videographers is the Panasonic GH5, which handles audio higher than the Z6 and has extra choices (like 4K 60p) for video.

In order for you a decently-priced full-frame mirrorless digital camera, nevertheless, the Nikon Z6 is a good alternative. It is a no-brainer if you happen to already personal (and like) Nikon lenses, particularly if you happen to shoot each video and images. Total, it is an important begin for Nikon within the full-frame mirrorless recreation and can drive all the opposite gamers — particularly Sony — to step issues up.

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