Nikon Z6 First Impressions Preview

Nikon Z6 First Impressions Preview

NASIM MANSUROV

For a number of years now, I have owned a pair of Nikon D750 cameras that I have used heavily for travel photography and videography, but I have been wanting to move up to a more modern version of the camera that has 4K video capabilities. When Nikon announced the Z6 mirrorless camera, I thought it could be a perfect camera to move up to from the D750, so I decided to try one out. After a few months of waiting, I finally received the Nikon Z6, so I decided to take it with me on a trip to New Zealand and see how it works out as a travel and walk-around camera.

New Zealand Sunset NIKON Z 6 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S @ 60mm, ISO 100, 1/1, f/8.0

Considering that the Nikon Z6 and the Z7 are mostly similar (see our Nikon Z6 vs Z7 comparison article), with the major differences being in sensor resolution and total number of focus points, most of what we have already written in our first impressions review of the Nikon Z7 and our in-depth Nikon Z7 review equally applies to the Z6 as well. However, if you take into consideration the fact that the Nikon Z6 is priced a whopping $1400 lower than the Z7 (thanks to its sub-$2K price point), then all the combined features of the camera give it remarkable value, arguably far higher than that of the Nikon Z7.

Tasman Glacier View

NIKON Z 6 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.0

Nikon decided to keep the two cameras identical physically, so there are no differences there. The buttons, their layout, all menu and control options are almost identical, making it very easy to switch between the two cameras (in fact, when the two cameras are used side by side, it is impossible to tell which one is which without looking at the label on the front). Both Z6 and Z7 have the same, exceptionally good in-body image stabilization (IBIS) systems. So if one does not need a high-resolution camera and finds 24 MP to be sufficient for their needs, the Z6 looks extremely appealing for any Nikon shooter.

Tasman Glacier, New Zealand NIKON Z 6 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S @ 37mm, ISO 100, 1/1000, f/5.6

Compared to the Nikon D750, the Z6 has several notable strengths that make it a great upgrade candidate. First of all, the Z6 has a 5-axis IBIS that the D750 lacks. This in itself might make it worth moving to the Z6, since IBIS allows all lenses to be stabilized, whether you are using a native Z mount lens, or an adapted Nikon F lens using the FTZ adapter. Second, the Nikon Z6 has an electronic viewfinder (EVF), which not only allows one to preview the image before capture but also take advantage of being able to zoom in on the subject, tweak focus while zoomed in and view useful overlay information. So if one has a bunch of older manual focus Nikkor lenses gathering dust, the Nikon Z6 can bring those lenses back to life. Third, the Nikon Z6 has excellent 4K video recording capabilities (as well as 10-bit HDMI output), something the D750 lacks completely. Lastly, there are other advantages to the Z6, such as 1/8000 vs 1/4000 maximum shutter speed, superior / newer sensor and processor, lighter weight and smaller size (we pointed these differences out in our Nikon Z6 vs D750 comparison article). Interestingly, Nikon even kept some of its high-end features such as Digital Split Screen on the Z6, something that the D750 never had. In short, the Nikon Z6 has a much stronger and more appealing feature set compared to the Nikon D750.

Waterfall in New Zealand NIKON Z 6 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S @ 64mm, ISO 100, 2/5, f/8.0

And for someone like me who wants to upgrade from the D750 to a 4K-capable camera, or perhaps wants to move from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z6 simply looks like a phenomenal choice for the money. True, if one was to evaluate other mirrorless camera systems on the market, there are plenty of great choices out there from Fuji, Sony, and other manufacturers. However, if one is invested in Nikon glass and wants to continue using it, the Nikon Z6 and the Z7 are pretty much the only proper options. The only unfortunate part about the FTZ adapter is the inability to use older screw-type lenses – I wish Nikon considered releasing another version of the adapter that can work with those lenses. That might be an unpleasant issue for those photographers who happen to own AF-D lenses. Such lenses will only be used as manual focus lenses.

Lake Pukaki View NIKON Z 6 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S @ 41mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/5.6

Having been shooting the Nikon Z6 along with the Canon EOS R (more on the latter in a separate article and upcoming review), I have to say that I am very impressed by what I see so far. The Nikon Z6 excels in so many areas that it has already become one of my most favorite travel / walk-around cameras (together with the Fuji X-H1, which I also consider as one of the best travel cameras on the market). And despite some of the strengths of the Canon EOS R, the Nikon Z6 just delivers a vastly superior experience in comparison, especially when it comes to simple ergonomics, EVF and base features. Shooting with the two side by side, I came to the realization that Nikon should have pushed a few high-end lenses with the Z7. The trio of S-series lenses like the Nikon 24-70mm f/4 S, 35mm f/1.8 S and 50mm f/1.8 S are all great, but Canon’s RF 50mm f/1.2 is just breathtaking:

Canon EOS R with Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 Canon EOS R + RF50mm F1.2 L USM @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/5000, f/1.2

Instead of showing off with the manual focus 58mm f/0.95 that nobody is going to be able to afford, Nikon should have introduced the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 S at the time of release and not push it all the way to 2020. Two years is a long time to wait for a lens with such potential. No matter how great the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 S is, you simply cannot compare the capabilities of an f/1.8 lens to f/1.2 for portraiture. It was shocking to see how sharp images look wide open with the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 – it very much reminds me of Fuji’s 56mm f/1.2, which is the only other lens that I have seen so far that can be that sharp wide open.

No matter how camera bodies compare, the outcome of the camera system race at the end of the day is going to come down to lenses. Sony has a pretty big headstart with native lenses and has a more established system at the moment, but if Nikon and Canon don’t quickly introduce both enthusiast-level and pro glass, the gap is only going to widen. Considering the fact that Sony is pretty much only concentrating on one mount, while Nikon and Canon have to continue supporting their DSLR users, as well as the new mirrorless systems, it might take a few years before we can directly compare these mirrorless systems.

Going back to the Z6, I think Nikon really nailed this camera. For the price, it is hard to find a lot of things to complain about. If Nikon improves the AF performance and accuracy of the camera in all lighting conditions, it will be tough to recommend a full-frame Nikon DSLR going forward. Unless Nikon somehow matches the feature set of the Z6 on the upcoming Nikon D760 (which is highly unlikely), my default recommendation for Nikon D750 owners will be to take a serious look at the Z6 before considering another DSLR. I have been using the Nikon Z6 with the Nikkor 24-70mm f/4 S and the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 S, and these two lenses have been able to cover most shooting situations when traveling. I would love to see a lightweight 70-200mm f/4 S, but it is sadly not even on the roadmap. Together with the 14-30mm f/4 S and the 24-70mm f/4 S, it would have made a killer trinity kit!

Stay tuned for a detailed review of the Nikon Z6 within the next few weeks. For now, we are giving it our big thumbs up!

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