I have previously had the pleasure of reviewing the Nikon Z 7, and it got a five out of five stars. As you can see up top, I’m giving the Z 6 (not Z6, apparently) the same score because they share mostly the same specifications with the exception of the sensor pixel count and number of focusing points, which we will get into later. As a quick overview, the Nikon Z 6 is perfect for photo and video enthusiasts, especially those that have invested into the Nikon system, as well as those that will carry this camera to higher levels with Nikon’s plan for the next firmware update in May 2019. The update will bring features like Eye-Detection Autofocus, RAW video output, and support for CFExpress memory cards.
The Z 6 shares the exact same body and button layouts as the Z 7, as well as the user interface. Similarly, they share the same weather-sealed build and large grip that people coming from DSLRs will appreciate, while still being smaller and lighter than the Nikon DSLR counterparts, so you have the option to travel light which is preferable when you’re shooting street or landscapes. The Z 6, like the Z 7, has great ergonomics - the button layouts, dials, joystick are placed for swift setting and focusing point adjustments.
With a 24.5-megapixel sensor, you can definitely get detailed and sharp images as you can see here and in the gallery at the bottom of the page - some portraits and my attempt at abstract street photography. Since I tested the Nikon Z 7 only with the 24-70mm f4 kit lens, I had the chance to test out the FTZ adapter with the Nikkor 58mm f1.4 this time. At this day and age, 24.5 megapixel is enough for most applications, except for large commercial prints which would most likely require the 45.7 megapixels of the Z 7.
Both Nikon Z cameras also have 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IS), which helps a lot in low light photography. I shot a photo of a friend’s pet dog at 1/10 shutter speed handheld and I could still get the image tack sharp. Unfortunately, I’ve since lost said image so you’ll just have to take my word for it - really, it’s that good! By the way, the 24.5-megapixel sensor of the Z 6 is back-illuminated, which gives it better low light performance and ISO range of 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-204,800).
Performance and Focus
So, because I did most of my testing on the FTZ adapted lens, I can safely say that the adapted lens performed just as well as the kit lens - fast and on point. When compared to the Z 7, it focuses a tad bit faster, which is usually the case for “lower” resolution sensors. Speaking of which, the Z 6 has 273 phase- and contrast-detect points, instead of 497 points of the Z 7, and covers 90% of the frame. The only focus mode that is mediocre is the focus tracking which is usually hit-or-miss.
I didn’t get to try the Z 6 for some action shots but its burst mode does 12fps for AF-Single, and a respectable 5.5fps for AF-Continuous like the Z 7, which should not be compared to the professional sports cameras like the Nikon D5. But it is still possible to do action photography with that speed, it’s just about knowing when to hold down that shutter button. Plus, because the Z 6 uses an XQD card (soon compatible with CFExpress with firmware update), you will never outrun the buffer even when shooting 14-bit uncompressed RAW images.
The video specifications are identical between the Z 6 and Z 7 - 4K recording up to 30fps and 1080p recording up to 120fps with a 1.5x crop and up to 60fps full frame. However, the Z 6 does a full sensor readout and supersamples it, whereas the Z 7 does line skipping, and without getting too technical it means the Z 6 has better and sharper 4K footage. Unlike the focus tracking in photo mode, Z 6 focuses phenomenally for video and it’s definitely comparable to the A7III.
Given video recording capabilities of the Z system, you can go far and beyond if you choose to invest in it, especially because of the aforementioned firmware update that will bring Eye-Detection Autofocus and RAW video output into an external recorder. RAW video essentially gives you the option to change the settings of the footage in post-production, giving you a lot of flexibility.
The Nikon Z 6 is personally the highlight for the Z system right now - great low-light performance for photo and video, has 5-axis in-body IS, fast and accurate autofocusing, perfect for any photographer and videographer out there. I highly recommend the Z 6 for people who currently have Nikon lenses in their kit, and anyone who is choosing a system to jump into. I’m pretty excited for what Nikon has planned down their product pipeline and their future plans beyond that.