Enjoy Terje’s review and I encourage you to leave your questions in the comments!
Over to Terje (The Introduction)
I had been looking to replace my aging Nikon D80 for quite some time, but hadn’t really found anything yet that drove me towards it.
Here’s the thing:
With technology ever changing and improving, the choices increase in number, and the question of when to buy is also a challenge – as usually yet another update/improvement tends to come right after you buy something you thought was exactly what you wanted.
As I was planning a weeklong nostalgia roundtrip in my own country this summer, the time had come to consider it yet again.
Others have recommended to go for a cellphone with a great camera instead, but having spent 12 years with a DSLR I didn’t really picture myself (pun not intended) holding what looks more or less like a toy in the photography world.
Of course it is nice to travel light.
But a good size, heavier camera definitely looks more professional. People who need assistance having their pictures taken in front of sight/view X/Y will often turn to somebody with heavy gear for help.
I tried a Panasonic Lumix G80 (known as G85 in North America), but only after a few challenging shots in mid-day light and dim inside or outside light, I learned that I was not satisfied with it and returned it.
As my information seeking campaign continued, I assumed that being used to an APS-C sensor and then going down a notch in size to M4/3 might not be the best thing for me, as I like to take a lot of evening shots.
(For example floodlit buildings and long-exposure trailing car lights.)
I went back to the Nikon drawing board again, as I assumed they would satisfy my somewhat spoiled tastes when it came to image quality and colour accuracy in particular.
I did a whole lot of research and considered several models including D7500,D750, as well as the Sony A7III.
Buying the Nikon Z6
After a while, and thanks to Nikon’s summer campaign, I decided to dig deep into my budget and take my chances with the Z6 with 28-70 mm f/4 kit lens.
Here are its main specs:
24.5 MP full-frame CMOS sensor
Nikon Z lens mount
3.2 inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2.1 MP
3.7 MP EVF
Up to 12 fps burst shooting
273 AF points
Battery life: 310 shots
Weight: 675 g (camera body with battery and memory card)
28-70 mm f/4 kit lens weight: 500 g
These were the main selling points for me, which eventually in combination pointed more or less only to the Z6:
Full-frame sensor (more light sensitivity for my night shots)
A high-res live view and EVF (more about this later)
Touch screen with touch to focus/shoot
Low noise at high ISO settings (although I prefer as low as possible)
No crop factor in video – I like to call it ‘crap factor’ though 🙂
120 fps 1080p video
Built-in intervalometer (for time-lapses)
A user friendly menu system
The alleged lows that didn’t matter too much to me, as I am just an enthusiast amateur:
XQD cards (very expensive, yet also more robust than SD)
Only one card slot
Autofocus still not the best?
Allegedly short battery life (most live tests end up a lot better than specs though)
No built-in flash (I hardly ever use it, besides that I still have the SB-400 from my D80)
Like with Lumix G80, I did the same challenging test to begin with from my balcony, in midday light (not the best for photography) as well as an evening shot with cold deep blue sky and different temperature street lights.
And looking at the results, I started to worry again if it wouldn’t hold up.
But I decided there must be something wrong with the photographer (I usually say in the computer business that the error is somewhere between the chair and the keyboard), and kept it for a roundtrip in my country, which would be a real field test.
Adding some filters and a stereo mic, I dragged this and a tripod on a walk as well, capturing some waterfalls in long exposure mode with an ND 10-stop filter.
I had a good opportunity to try its 4K video capabilities, and playing them back on my computer with a 2.5K screen already looks awesome… and I still can’t see the full resolution of it, obviously.
Additionally, I decided to shoot both RAW and JPG on this trip, and take some photos into editing mode after. While I need to learn to play with all the sliders and filters, I believe I made the few I tried look heaps better than the standard JPG.
One of the biggest surprises for me came when photographing inside an old historic hotel with timber walls and a lot of atmosphere and old style paraphernalia.
While a cozy ‘living room’ was backlit by daylight and additionally had light bulbs, I found it to be a pretty good challenge test, but while using the preset white balances I was not entirely happy until I went into manual temperature setting.
Thankfully, the monitors show the result before the picture is taken so I was finally satisfied with the real scene vs the viewfinder look (apart from in M mode).
As I viewed the unedited JPG (yes really) on my computer it looked absolutely amazing – even if I have changed the JPG processing settings slightly, as I found them to be a tad too sharp at times.
Have a look at it below:
Bear in mind:
I come straight from a Nikon D80 which is quite an aging product, and a side by side comparison easily reveals the amount of details the Z6 captures in comparison.
In the days when I bought my D80, it was an official standpoint that ‘having live view on DSLR cameras is impossible’, and then not so long after the D90 came, with a live view…
With that being said, I will add that having live view is like nirvana and helps a lot, and additionally that the EVF is absolutely stunning.
The total weight of the camera with battery, memory card and lens is 1.2 kg, just 70 grams more than my D80 combo – a modest weight increase over 12 years compared to myself 😀
I think it handles well, is pleasant and heavy enough, fast enough for me if I do a 5 EV bracketing for HDR and generally a dream to use, and touch to focus is also a dream.
I haven’t had a chance yet to try it much with night shots including:
floodlit architecture, and,
long exposures of trailing car lights,
… so my test is far from complete. I expect to do this in the near future.
One thing I found though was that the live view in some cases (changing ISO value in M mode) doesn’t update to changed settings.
I have updated the firmware to 2.0 only after the trip and not tried it much after, just testing it with an old cabled remote control/intervalometer (the latter I will not need as it has one built-in) and after ordering a new cable it still worked.
I have also not tried it out on any models. I don’t have any at hand unfortunately 🙂
My Final Thoughts
✓ What surprised me on the positive side:
My kit came with a free 64GB XQD card (!)
The EVF is orgasmically beautiful
Live view also for WB is nirvana
Some JPEGs straight out of the camera are amazing
RAW editing opened up a whole new world
4K video looks amazing even on a 2.5K monitor
Programmable shortcut buttons are super (using one for HDR bracketing)
The ‘i’ shortcut is very helpful, and also programmable
✕ What surprised me on the negative side:
Live view does not update when changing ISO value in M mode (Firmware fix, Nikon?)
It’s slightly heavier and feels larger than my D80, but it is full frame vs APS-C so…
More Sample Photos Shot with Nikon Z6
Sample photos to follow below:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Nikon D750 vs Z6?
This is perhaps the most popular question I’ve been asked here on DWB.
You might know that I highly recommend D750, especially considering the current price (here’s my full review of it) but a lot of people had concerns whether it was the right choice for them.
From what I understood, these 2 cameras are similar in many aspects, such as:
very similar ISO performance,
very similar colour depth, and,
a similar dynamic range.
You should absolutely consider Z6 if you need great video capabilities. The 4K, focus peaking, slow mo, awesome autofocus system, and IBIS are all essential for video in 2020.
Considering that the Z6 has a built-in IBIS (and VR), it’ll help you in low light situations, as well as still life photography such as flowers.