With the Z 6, Nikon is embracing a strategy that’s worked extremely well for Sony: two flagship cameras sharing the same technology and design, targeting two different audiences. And although the Z 7 takes the crown in terms of resolving power, the Z 6 feels very much like the sleeper hit—could this be the new D700? A classic in the making?
Take everything we’ve written about the Z 7 and apply it to the Z 6. End of story? Not quite. Yes, the Nikon Z 6 is essentially a Z 7 with less resolution: it uses a 24.5-MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor in place of the Z 7’s 45.7-MP monster. But both sensors are exactly the same size and back-illuminated, resulting in improved performance when shooting in low-light situations. The pixel density does impact each camera’s respective autofocus, with 273 phase-detection points available for the Z 6, compared to 493 on the Z 7. Yet, for most shooters, these are all likely to be perfectly acceptable trade-offs, especially when considering the bigger picture.
Thanks to its lower megapixel count, the Nikon Z 6 can achieve 12 fps in continuous-shooting mode—faster than the Z 7—with a deeper buffer as well. It also offers a different native ISO range: 100–51 200 versus 64–25 600. The Z 7 does edge it out slightly in dynamic-range tests with 9.3 f-stops at ISO 64, but the Z 6 is actually much more consistent throughout almost all of its ISO range. And to top things off, video performance on the Z 6 is simply stellar, beating out its pricier sibling, thanks to uncropped, oversampled UHD 4K.
Place the cameras side by side, and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell which is which. Ergonomically, the bodies are indistinguishable—like two peas in a pod—and their spec sheets are almost a perfect match. Unfortunately, the similarities extend to all design decisions, and the Z 6 includes that same lonely XQD card slot, potentially making it just as much of a tough sell to wedding shooters.
But the build quality is superb, with a body that’s rugged, well-balanced and fully weather-sealed. It features 5-axis in-body stabilization, and the camera is, of course, compatible with the company’s new Z-mount lenses, as well as older F lenses with the appropriate adapter.
The Z 7 was already a very clear line in the sand from Nikon, but the addition of the Z 6 signals a full-on assault. For Nikon shooters, the future has definitely arrived.
This article was originally published in the inaugural issue of Photo Life Lab: The Gear Issue (Spring/Summer 2019). Photo Life Lab is sold at most major magazine newsstands across Canada. You can also purchase print copies by ordering online here or by calling our subscription office at 1-800-461-7468.