Hands-On Nikon Z 6 Review: Updated

Sony’s A7-series of full-frame mirrorless cameras have caused a stir but it’s taken until the 3rd generation for the cameras to deliver what people really want. Nikon, however, seems to have skipped the evolution stage and introduced two cameras that look set to hit the ground running. The Nikon Z 6 is the 24Mp all-rounder of the two cameras that have been announced and it has the build and feature set that should make it popular amongst enthusiast photographers.

We still need to do our in-depth testing, but so far I’m very excited about the Nikon Z6. This hands-on Nikon Z 6 review is based upon the time I spent shooting with a sample prior to the announcement. I’ve also shot extensively with the Nikon Z 7 for its review and as it has a lot in common with the Z 6, I’m optimistic about the Z 6.

Features


Nikon photographers who have been eagerly awaiting a full-frame mirrorless camera now have two options. The high-resolution Z7 or the all-rounder Nikon Z6. I’ve been lucky enough to shoot with both, but as mentioned earlier, this hands-on preview focuses on the Z6.

Like the Z7, the Z 6 uses the new Expeed 6 processing engine. However, in the Z6 it enables a maximum continuous shooting rate of 12fps. The sensitivity range is also ISO 100-51,200.

This is backed-up with a 273-point hybrid focusing system that uses phase and contrast detection. The imaging sensor is used for the focusing so there are pixels dedicated to the AF system. It means that the AF performance is the same whether you’re shooting using the viewfinder or the screen.

Viewfinder and Screens

Nikon is aiming to combine the benefits of an SLR with those of a mirrorless camera with the Z6 and Z7. This means that the viewfinder has to be bright and clear. With this in mind, there are Nikon optics in the electronic viewfinder (EVF).

Fluorine and anti-reflective coatings have been used to repel dirt and banish reflections. With 3.6million dots, it’s a high-resolution device and it shows 100% of the image with 0.8x magnification. That resolution is the same as the Sony A9’s viewfinder. It’s great to see it in a camera aimed at a wider audience.

The EVF’s refresh rate is 60fps. That should mean the image is smooth when following a moving subject. However, Fujifilm offers an even higher rate of 100fps with the X-T3’s EVF.

Nikon has plumped for a 3.2-inch 2,100,000-dot tilting touch-screen on the back on the Z 6. Unlike Sony, Nikon hasn’t limited the use of the touch-control, you can tap and swipe on the screen to navigate the menu, make setting selections, set the AF point and scroll through images.

There’s a small status LCD that shows key settings on the Z 6’s top-plate.

Lens Mount

While designing its full-frame mirrorless cameras, Nikon has also developed a new lens mount. This isn’t a decision that has been taken lightly. However, it removes some of the restrictions that have so far been imposed on the optic and sensor engineers by the F mount.

The mount diameter jumps from the 47mm of the F mount to 55mm with the Z mount. That gives much more scope for letting light into the camera – and future cameras. Whereas the F mount limits the maximum aperture to f/1.4 or f/1.2 at the very most, the new mount makes f/0.95 lenses feasible. In fact, there’s already one in the pipeline.

Although the diameter of the mount may have been increased significantly, the flange depth has shrunk to just 16mm. That and teh lack of a mirror means that the Z6 is very slim – although there’s still a beefy grip.

Although there will only be three S-Line or Nikkor Z lenses available when the Nikon Z6 goes on sale, Nikon has revealed its roadmap. This shows six more lenses coming in 2019. In addition to the luxurious Nikkon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct there will be optics that will be high on any enthusiast or pro photographer’s shopping list. The 85mm f/1.8 will appeal to portrait photographers, for example, while the 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 have all-round appeal.

Stabilisation

In another break from Nikon tradition, the Z6 has a 5-axis stabilisation system built in. This is claimed to give 5EV of shutter speed compensation.

Using in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) avoids having to put Nikon’s VR system in the S-line (or Nikkor Z) lenses. That should help keep size, weight and prices down.

Autofocus

As I mentioned earlier, the Nikon Z 6 has hybrid autofocusing. This is a change from Nikon’s DSLRs which use a dedicated phase detection sensor for shooting with the viewfinder and contrast detection focusing for Live View and video shooting.

The Z 6 has 273 AF points that cover around 90% of the sensor. As a result, you can focus on areas much closer to the edge of the frame than you can with a DSLR. This means you don’t have to use the focus-and-recompose technique. In addition, you can track subjects around more of the imaging frame.

Like the Z 7, the Z 6 has five AF point selection modes. However, the choice changes a little depending upon whether you are In Single AF (AF-S) or Continuous AF (AF-C) mode.  In AF-S mode you have teh choice of Pinpoint AF, Single-point AF, Wide-area AF (Small), Wide-area AF (Large) and Auto-area AF.

Switch to AF-C mode and you’ll find Single-point AF, Dynamic-area AF, Wide-area AF (Small), Wide-area AF (Large) and Auto-area AF available.

In Auto-area AF, the camera attempts to detect the subject automatically. If you press the OK button a tracking point becomes visible. You can then move this over the subject and the camera will attempt to track it around the frame. This operates in both AF-S and AF-C mode but it only adjusts the focus in AF-C mode. – Camera Jabber

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