Nikon Z6 Review

The Nikon Z6 II is the follow-up to the company’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the Z6. Now over two years old, the Nikon Z6 has become one of our favourite mirrorless cameras. But there’s still room for improvement, and with the Z6 II, Nikon has opted to retain the core spec and design of the Z6 while addressing its weaknesses.

To that end, pretty much all the main features of the Z6 II are inherited from the Z6. This includes the excellent full-frame 24.5MP BSI CMOS sensor, which delivers images with excellent levels of detail, plenty of dynamic range and a very good high-ISO noise performance.

Compared to one of the Z6 II’s closest rivals, the 20.1MP Canon EOS R6, the extra pixels here give you that bit more flexibility when it comes to framing and cropping, whereas the EOS R6 has a slight edge at higher sensitivities. Comparing the Z6 II to its other close rival, the Sony Alpha A7 III, there’s really not much between them with regards to results. While the sensor remains the same, Nikon has equipped the Z6 II with a second EXPEED 6 image processor. This brings a number of performance improvements, most notably an increase in burst shooting speed, from a maximum of 12fps to 14fps. That’s faster than the Alpha A7 III, and a match for the EOS R6 (although the R6 can shoot at 20fps using its electronic shutter).

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The Z6 had a strong set of video specs, including the ability to shoot oversampled 4K for footage with plenty of detail. For the Z6 II, Nikon has tweaked the video capabilities to enable 4K capture up to 60p, although this won’t be available until around February 2021 via a firmware update. The Z6 II also gains a number of output options that include the capture of 10-bit HLG HDR footage to an external recorder. With the Z6 II using the same design as the Z6, there are few surprises when it comes to building quality and handling. The magnesium alloy body parts, weather sealing and comfy grip make the Z6 II feel more durable than rivals, while Nikon has managed to squeeze in a UHS-II SD card slot alongside the XQD/CFexpress card slot, resolving one of the key weaknesses of the Z6.

Specifications

  • Sensor: 24.5MP CMOS BSI
  • Image processor: Dual Expeed 6
  • AF points: 273 hybrid AF points
  • ISO range: 100-51,200 (50-204,800 exp)
  • Max image size: 6048 x 4024px
  • Video: 4K UHD at 30/25/24p • 1080p (FullHD) at 120/100/60/50/30/25/24p
  • Viewfinder: 3690k-dot OLED EVF, 100% coverage, 0.8x magnification
  • Memory card: 1x SD UHS-II, 1x CFexpress (Type B) / XQD
  • LCD: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2100k dots
  • Max burst: 14fps
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C, mini HDMI, GPS, microphone, headphone
  • Size: 134 x 101 x 70mm
  • Weight: 615g body only (705g with battery)

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Nikon Z 6II FX-Format Mirrorless Camera Body Black
  • Mirrorless versatility on a whole new level. 24.5MP BSI...
  • Full frame. Full pixel readout. Full featured 4K UHD Video....

Nikon Z6 II: Design

The Nikon Z6 II arrives just over two years since the Z6 launched, and Nikon has opted to keep the new camera’s design virtually identical to that of its predecessor.

While this might seem unimaginative on Nikon’s part (and also a way to save some R&D costs), the decision to use the same body is no bad thing – the Z6 is one of the best-handling mirrorless cameras out there, with controls falling easily to hand and key settings quick to access. The joystick (officially known as the sub-selector) is also weighted nicely, while all this is complemented by a large and comfy handgrip and well-defined thumb rest.

Simply put, the Z6 II is among the most pleasant mirrorless cameras to shoot with. Sticking with the same style does, however, mean the Z6 II uses exactly the same tilt-angle display as the Z6. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you’re predominantly shooting stills, but those capturing video (and self-shooters in particular) might be disappointed not to see a fully articulating vari-angle display worked into the design of the Z6 II.

That gripe aside, the Z6 II feels really durable, with magnesium alloy top, front and back covers, and the same excellent level of weather sealing as Nikon’s pro-spec DSLR, the D850.

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Nikon Z6 II: Features

For the Z6 II, Nikon has opted to stick with the same full-frame 24.5MP BSI CMOS sensor that’s in the Nikon Z6. This enables a native ISO range that runs from ISO100 to 51,200, and which can be expanded to ISO50-204,800.

While the Z6 II keeps exactly the same sensor, Nikon has managed to squeeze in a second EXPEED 6 processor. This delivers a number of improvements, the most notable of which is an increase in burst shooting speed to an impressive 14fps, up from an already quick 12fps on the Z6.

The Z6 II also uses the same 273-point AF system as the Z6, though there have been some improvements here too. Overall performance has been improved, while human or animal eye/face detection is now available in the Wide-Area AF modes, rather than just the Auto-Area mode. Focusing in low light should also be better, because the Z6 II can focus in light levels as low as -4.5EV (improving on -3.5EV of the Z6), while a low-light AF setting sees the Z6 II able to achieve concentrate at an incredible -6EV.

The Z6 already had some impressive video credentials, and the Z6 II improves on these further. As well as using the full width of the sensor to capture 4K footage at up to 30p, the Z6 II is also in a position to shoot 4K60p.

A little caveat here though: there will be a 1.5x crop when shooting at this rate, and the upgrade won’t be available until around February 2021 via a firmware update. The Z6 II will also be able to continue capturing when connected via USB-C for recharging, which wasn’t possible with the original Z6.

Other key features remain exactly the same though, including the excellent 3.69 million-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) and 5-stop in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system.

Nikon Z6 II: Performance

While the Nikon Z6 II can shoot at 14fps, the details are in the small print – at this maximum rate, you’re limited to 12-bit raw files and a single AF-point.

If you want a little more dynamic range in your files, and want to take advantage of the Z6 II’s tracking AF, this drops to a still very good 12fps – that’s faster than the Alpha A7 III’s 10fps, and a match for the EOS R6’s 12fps (though the R6 can shoot at up to 20fps using its electronic shutter). The buffer should be more than enough for most scenarios as well, with the Z6 II able to handle 124 12-bit raw documents or 200 JPEGs at its highest frame rate.

The Z6 II’s 273-point AF system has 90% coverage across the frame, which is good in isolation, although it’s left trailing the 693-point system in the Alpha A7 III and the class-leading 6,072-point AF system in the EOS R6.

Those predominantly shooting people (or pets) might favor the systems in the Z6 II’s rivals, as they’re a bit more sophisticated when it comes to eye and face tracking, but the Z6 II still does a very good job here, locking quickly and accurately on to the subjects we tested it on.

It’s a similar story if you’re monitoring subjects – use the Z6 II in isolation and you’ll be very impressed with the speed of acquisition, but it’s not quite a match up for the EOS R6 (which uses pretty much the same AF system as the flagship Canon EOS-1D X Mark III).

The built-in 5-stop image stabilization system in the Z6 II is a consistent performer. Again, it’s nearly as impressive because the EOS R6’s 8-stop system (that is lens-dependent), but you can happily shoot at super-slow shutter speeds and come away with sharp, shake-free images.

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Nikon Z6 II: Verdict

Nikon has taken one of our favourite mirrorless cameras and addressed its main weaknesses. While it might not be class-leading in key areas, it’s the Z6 II’s strong performance across the board that makes it such a compelling choice.

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