Nikon Z6 Mirrorless Camera Review - Real World

Nikon Z6 Mirrorless Camera Review - Real World

Nikon Z6 Mirrorless Camera Review - Real World

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TrueToad
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Updated 2020:  The best in the class of mirrorless cameras once you apply Nikon's latest firmware update that adds improved autofocus. This Nikon Mirrorless camera is one super camera.

Are you thinking about buying a Z camera? Nikon's Z6 is the next level of a superior mirrorless camera and offers many advantages over any DSLR or Crop Sensor Camera to date. With the future of new Z mount lenses that are now available and new lenses on the horizon, Nikon will be a force to be reckoned with.

Bottom Line: If you are in the market for a full-frame mirrorless camera and wish to build on the future of S lens technology and do not wish to spend the extra $1000.00 for the Z7's extra megapixels then the Z6 is an excellent choice.  Remember, Nikon is primarily an Optics company so, having a system that uses Nikon's Lenses you are at the top.

Nikon set our expectation high on the mirrorless camera bar and pumped everyone up by releasing teaser ads explaining how light would be bent, and mirrorless re-invented prior to the launch and NOW, Nikon has improved the performance of the Z by adding Auto Eye Focus & Detection - and improved focus in low light conditions - way to go Nikon!!

The Nikon Z after months of daily use of both the Z7 and Z6 I have enough insight to share with readers wishing to know more about the Z line. 

This Camera is Best Suited for those beginners all the way to serious enthusiast photographers. A fantastic camera for your daily shooter. What the Z cameras are not suited for is the serious business photographers who make their living shooting events and weddings - not until Nikon addresses dual card slots and improved focus performance will the Z cameras be taken seriously by true professionals.

Why Buy a Nikon Z6 Mirrorless:

  • More Information provided in the viewfinder and LCD which is customizable
  • The EVF displays the exposure in real-time - WYSIWYG, What you see is the picture you get, no more chimping
  • No Mirror for more quite operations and less vibration + focus is direct off the sensor
  • Lighter and smaller - makes you want to use the camera and not dread carrying it
  • Better Video and Live View - The Nikon Z6 has superior Video capabilities over any Nikon Camera to date
  • Faster Frame Rates a whopping 12fps
  • Video Autofocus 
  • True Silent Shooting - no sound what so ever
  • The BEST time-lapse of ANY camera - NO camera on the market has better timelapse
  • The best ergonomics of any camera - my opinion
  • Full customization to fit you the photographer, 3 still profiles and 3 video profiles via dial
  • Latest bells and whistles for BlueTooth, Wifi, and SnapBridge
  • You will LOVE using the Nikon Z6

Why NOT Buy a Nikon Z6 Mirrorless:

  • I find no reason not to purchase a Nikon Z camera if you are a hobbyist shooter. Professionals who make a living from their cameras shooting weddings/events need better focus performance and dual card slots.

Build and Ergonomics: The Nikon Z6 is a well made, high quality, a rugged weathered sealed camera on the level of a D5, the build is just that good. Ergonomically speaking the camera is designed to fit into your hand without being cramped with all necessary buttons within fingers reach, couple that with the lightness of the Z6 means it is a pleasure to hold and use.

The EVF: Just like its big brother The EVF is one of my favorite likes with the Nikon Z6, It is Big and Bright with minimal lag and excellent refresh rates. Looking through you see the total information picture - a lot more information and the best part you can customize most of it. If it becomes too cluttered you can declutter with a touch of the DISP button. On the side of the EVF is a push-pull diopter to adjust for eyesight with or without glasses, and a button to switch between EVF only, LCD only, or both. The EVF also has a long eye relief to keep your nose off the LCD when looking through the EVF. I rate the Z6 EVF as the best EVF on the market.

LCD: Like the EVF the LCD is large, easy to read, and can if you desire to display the most important photo information at a glance, and the good news is most of what is displayed can be changed by touching the screen icons so you don't need to go into the menus.

Menus and Customizations: Another Great Feature of The Z6. The Nikon Z is highly customizable and offers 3 dedicated profiles for stills and 3 for video shooters and is independent for each other. With a turn of a top dial, you can move from a landscape profile to an Action shooting Profile for example and if you switch to video have 3 profiles for that mode as well.  The new i menu offers quick access to the most used functions of the Z6 and it can be customized if you desire to remove and replace one function with the one you use more often. With the i menu you literally never need to take your eye off the viewfinder to access and change settings. You may also set and change the action of function buttons such as what the lens focus ring does on native lenses, I set mine to change f/stops. Even the record button can be set for a function when in still photo mode. Bottom Line the Z7 camera is made to fit your photography needs. In summary, the Nikon Z is one of the most highly customizable cameras on the market.

Battery Life: This depends on how much video you shoot - For every hour of shooting you need 1 battery. For still photos using only the EVF, I got near 800. With the LCD on and off I was around 550 with two bars left.  I do recommend you have at least one spare and the good news here is the Z cameras can be charged from the USB cable.

Image Resolution and ISO performance: People reported banding but considering I don't shoot 6 stops under in low light and try to fix in post, I feel that claim is mostly ridiculous. The images from the Z6 is very good indeed. Unlike the Z7 the Z6 includes anti-aliasing so the resolution will not be a good as that of the Z7 but has plenty of punch with the 24mp sensor. The detailed resolution, clarity, and colors this 24mp BSI sensor delivers are very good.  To make it even better the ISO performance is also an improvement when using higher ISOs. This is the one camera where I trust and use auto ISO without fear of too much noise. Low light performance is very good, one of the better cameras, especially in video mode. The native ISO is 100 up to 51,200.

Shutter Performance: The Nikon Z6 offers good shutter performance from a quite, to totally silent, Single Frame, low speed to high speed continuous with the ability to set the number of frames in continuous mode up to 12fps with some limitations like the first frame is metered but not the rest, and I doubt it really matters within one second. You can also limit the number of total frames in a burst if you so desire. As stated you can change the shooting mode within the i menu. If you are into timelapse the Z6 is no slouch and to reduce the file sizes you can shoot at reduced RAW or JPEGs sizes.

Video: Top resolution is 4K no crop 3840x2160 at 30/25/24p as well as the lower resolutions of 1080 with up to 120fps and lower resolutions if required. The Nikon Z6 video performance is better than that of the Z7 and better than any other Nikon camera to date.

Vibration Reduction: The in-camera VR is fantastic - I love it, it works very well indeed allowing me to use non-VR lenses and obtain steady shots at much slower shutter speeds than normal.   The issue is when you attach a legacy F mount lens with built-in optical VR and turn on the Nikon Z camera if the lens VR is set to on it will activate and run continuously for as long as the camera is powered. In the world of DSLRs, the VR only becomes active as you press the focus and remain active until the acquisition of the image, then it turns off.  Secondly, you can not disengage the lens VR and switch to in-camera VR only, doing so will shut down the entire VR system. The camera is not configurable to allow Optical VR only or in-camera VR separately.  Not a big issue but hearing the VR run on the lens constantly is a bit worrisome. Maybe a firmware update will allow the option to use either in the body or lens VR.

Button and Dials: Rear buttons are not backlighted which I enjoy on my D850 for astrophotography. The Z7 button layout is easy to navigate and not too crowded with the i menu button placed right below the joystick to allow quick thumb access to menu items. Fewer dedicated buttons overall but with the i menu, you probably will not miss them. 

Wireless: Like the Z7 the Nikon Z6 features robust wireless options to facilitate wirelessly copying images to your smartphone via Snap Bridge as you shoot and with the Nikon App you can remotely control and fire the camera. 

Using the FTZ adapter: I tested all of my many Nikkors and Sigma lenses. My 3rd party Tamron 90 and Sigma 180mm did NOT work. My other NEWER Nikkor Lenses worked perfectly. The focus speed test results for most adapted lenses are hardly noticeable and varied from lens to lens. More S lenses will take some time to reach the market so the FTZ adapter is a must in my opinion especially if you have an F mount lens in your stock.  At least you get a $100.00 discount on the FTZ if purchased with the Z camera. If you have Tamron/Sigma or other 3rd party lenses please visit their site for compatibility, not all 3rd party lenses work with the FTZ.

Focus Performance: Lots of variables dictate the results you achieve. Read my "improve Focus Performance Blog Post, link below" Variables such as lens choice (adapted/non-adapted), shooting environment, lighting situation, the subject, distance, and the person holding the camera. In good lighting using a native 2 lens, the focus performance is good. Face detection and eye detection all work in real-world situations - reasonably well but is not perfect. Nikon promised eye detection and they now offer firmware update to provide it!  I upgraded My Zs to the latest firmware and eye detection works!

* For Movie Mode, you can change the focus speed in the menu as well as tracking sensitivity, I use 4 for speed and high 2 for AF tracking sensitivity (video mode) and get good results. This allows videographers to slowly focus on if the situation dictates.

Face, Eye, and Subject Tracking:  The Nikon Z6 supports auto face, eye, and subject tracking. For this tracking, you enter the auto area focus menu a4 to activate and press ok. The Z6 will track the subject you choose and as the subject moves closer the face will track and even closer to the eye. This all depends on the lens you use. If the subject moves further back the Z camera will choose either Face or Subject tracking.  Either way, you get excellent tracking.

The shortlist of my annoying things.

(2) One Card Dilemma.  This is the much-debated topic, the bottom line is the Z cameras only have one XQD slot, if you can not live with one then you will need to wait on the next Nikon Mirrorless - hopefully, Nikon listened to all the ranting, and will address this in their next mirrorless camera.

(3) Either EVF or LCD. Not both. You can not use the touch features of the LCD while looking through the EVF, the LCD goes black. Some reviewers have complained about this missing feature and prefer to have the ability to slide the focus point with a finger while looking through the EVF rather than the joystick, they say it is faster with the finger. Me, I never miss the feature because I never experienced it.

Summary: if you want to skip the rest - The Nikon Z6 is a very capable mirrorless camera for shooters that are not money-making professionals. I am impressed with how well Z cameras are made and the performance for still images and video are both excellent. As far as video is concerned it is the best Video-capable camera Nikon has released to date, Nikon took a giant step forward in regards to the video capabilities on this camera. The many useful features of the Z6 outweighs most shortcomings and is a worthy camera to own and use.

No Battery Grip: It was rumored early that a bottom grip would be offered but due to a lack of coupling on the bottom of the Z cameras there will never be a true working grip, Nikon did release an awful battery grip that is both ugly and not all that useful.

Nikon 400mm ED FL f/2.8
The Nikon Z6 mounted on the Nikkor 400mm ED FL f/2.8 lens
My Wildlife Bird in Flight experience with the Nikon Z6 mounted on a Nikkor 400mm ED FL f/2.8 with and without a 1.4 TC.  Knowing how well the D500 performs I hoped Nikon Z6 would rise to the standards of the D500 for tracking fast-moving birds.  How did it do? It works well but I had some missed shots as it relates to a very demanding bird in flight photography using the Super Telephoto lenses with tracking and continuous focus. In all photography situations, I found the Z cameras perform very well indeed.

Based on my experience the Nikon Z6 the camera is an excellent camera for Landscape, Macro, Stills, Protitaiure, and general photography. The Nikon Z6 can do everything equally as well as my DSLR can do and in many cases do it better with higher quality output. In fact, I find it better in many regards especially for macro, landscape. With the smaller size Z, you might just want to start considering street photography again.

Time to wrap it up:  The Nikon Mirrorless experience is a very pleasant, The camera is easy to work with, a pleasure to carry offers quick access to its many features,  highly customizable that can address any photography needs + compatibility with Nikon's Legendary Flash CLS, access to F Mount lenses and new and future superior Z mount lenses.

The Nikon Z6 is a fantastic camera with a recommendation from the TrueToad for Photo hobbyist and enthusiast.

Get Your Z Cameras through Adorama

Nikon Z6 Features at a Glance - Interactive Features

 

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Lens
  • Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED FL VR
  • NIKKOR 24-70mm f/4 S
  • Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 S
Camera Body
  • Nikon Z6
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