Nikon Z6 Review: Worth it in 2021?

This is a review guide covering the Nikon Z6.

In this all-new guide you’ll learn about:

Let’s dive in.

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In a hurry? Here’s the quick summary

Nikon Z6

The Z6 is an all-rounder. It shoots fantastic stills and great videos and has a little bit of everything in it to suit the need of a wide number of different customers.

Should I buy it?

It will depend on the kind of photography you want to do.

If it is high-speed action or sports or wildlife, then I would recommend that you look at the D850 or even the D500 as better options (within the Nikon stable).

If it is portraits or landscape or low light, then the Z6 is a formidable camera, and you cannot go wrong with it.

If it is an out-and-out video camera that you are looking for then the Z6 is probably not the best pick we would recommend that you look at some Micro Four-Thirds options as well as some of the latest Sony mirrorless offers.

Overall, I will rate it high based on the all-around package that it brings to the table.

Pros and Cons Nikon Z6

Pros
  • 24.5-MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor
  • EXPEED 6 image processor
  • 273-point Phase Detection autofocusing system
  • Built-in 5-axis image stabilization
  • 12 fps continuous shooting speed.
  • UHD 4K 30p video with N-log and 10-Bit output
  • 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen LCD panel
Cons
  • Disappointing viewfinder lag in continuous shooting mode
  • Problems with keeping subject in focus while tracking because of viewfinder lag
  • Single memory card slot

Nikon Z6 Specs

Nikon pits the Z6 as an all-rounder – a camera that does it all. But does it do all of them really well?

Autofocusing

Autofocusing on the Z6 is powered by a 273-point phase-detection autofocus (PDAF) system.

The AF points cover almost 90% of the frame, giving you the freedom to keep your subject practically at any corner of the frame and yet be able to lock focus.

Nikon Z6 Sample Image
Nikon Z6 example image – Source

Image stabilization

Nikon has provided a 5-axis sensor-shift type image stabilization system in the Z6.

Nikon Z6
Nikon Z6 example image – Source

Continuous shooting speed and viewfinder lag

Nikon advertises the Z6 as a camera that shoots 12 frames per second.

That’s great news for someone like me who loves shooting wildlife.

But when I pick the camera in hand and start tracking and photographing a bird in flight I realize that the camera has a serious issue – viewfinder lag.

If you are shooting at the highest frame rate the viewfinder lag will slow you down and you will find it next to impossible trying to track a moving subject.

If it is birds that you are interested in then the Z6 fails miserably. The only time I think this can work is when your subject is standing still.

But in that case, you don’t need 11 frames per second to capture one decent sharp photo.

Another way to avoid the viewfinder lag is to shoot at a reduced frame rate, which for me is like driving a Lamborghini Huracan to pick up groceries.

An utter waste of a beast of a machine.

I wonder why Nikon didn’t think about this in the designing and testing phase?

Nikon Z6 Design

Let’s quickly go through the design specs of the camera.

Body Design

I love the compact design of the Z6. It is much smaller than your average DSLR.

The bulk is smaller than even a crop camera like the D500 which is a big deal for people who would love to have a full-frame camera in their hands but hate the idea of having to lug the weight of a bulky DSLR.

This is a very well-built camera. it feels solid in the hands and the grip and buttons fall easily in place.

That said, A few buttons accidentally get activated when trying to operate others like the Manu and the Magnification buttons at the back.

This can become an irritation after a while.

The design of the camera is tailor-made for someone who is a right-handed individual. At the back, all but two buttons are on the right side.

On the top plate, only the main shooting mode dial is on the left.

I like the deep finger grip which gives a reassuring feeling when shooting. If you have larger hands there might be an issue with the grip because your little finger will dangle in the air.

I don’t have very large hands and mine just manages to fit in.

I would say that a battery grip would certainly make things more manageable. But then with a battery grip, you will add more bulk to the camera.

Note

When the Z6 was launched no OEM battery grip was available. Nikon later launched the MB-N10 battery grip for the Z series cameras in October of 2019.

This does add that extra juice that most mirrorless cameras will not mind.

The back of the camera is dominated by a large 3.2-inch 2.1-M dot tilting touchscreen that offers a bright and beautiful view of the scene in front of you.

Nikon Z6 Body

The EVF

The large 3.6-M dot EVF sits at the top of the LCD screen. It offers a bright and beautiful view of the scene in front.

What we like is the bright display and the performance of the Eye-sensor. But not so much the lagginess in high-speed conditions.

Fluorine coating on the viewfinder helps prevent smudges and fingerprints as well as dust and grime from affecting the screen.

Weather sealing

The Z6 is a weather-sealed camera.

Nikon Z6 Weather Sealing

Shorter Flange Distance

This is a specialty of the whole Z series camera system of Nikon and not just the Nikon Z6.

The short flange distance of 16mm means that the lens sits deeper into the camera body and therefore closer to the sensor.

Of course, this happens because there is no mirror inside the camera body to flap around and therefore that space has been utilized.

The shorter flange distance also means Nikon will now be able to manufacture new wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lenses.

But does it give it a significant advantage over other mirrorless systems?

Considering that all mirrorless camera systems including the Sony E mount and the Canon RF mount have a similar shorter flange distance, there is no real advantage.

Except when you are moving from a DSLR to a mirrorless.

Another advantage of the Nikon Z-mount system (over the F-mount DSLR system) is its large inner diameter.

The Z-mount system’s inner diameter is 17% larger than the legacy F-mount system,

That means it is now possible to produce super-fast lenses like an f/0.95.

Nikon Z6 Image Quality

The full-frame camera is powered by a BSI CMOS sensor. BSI stands for Back-side Illuminated.

The wiring and much of the non-photocathode mechanism are integrated at the back of the sensor rather than the front. The Photocathode layer is thus less messy.

Such sensors are better equipped to capture an additional amount of light which comes in handy particularly in low light situations.

These sensors are known for their superb low-light performance.

All that said, you would still want to know how good the Z6 is in terms of still images in real-world situations and my reply would be – stunning.

It produces one of the best JPEGs files Straight out of the Camera (SooC).

Dynamic range is more than good. The camera has a low noise threshold.

That means even if you shoot an image at a low ISO (under-exposed to retain highlights) and then push it in post-processing to the optimum level the camera performs admirably showing little noise.

Being a low-resolution sensor, it fares better than some of the high-resolution full-frame sensors in terms of noise performance.

Dual-Gain ISO

Also, like some of the Sony mirrorless cameras, the Z6 comes with dual-gain technology.

At ISO 800 the higher gain circuit kicks in which has the effect of suppressing any noise at higher ISO levels.

This eliminates the need to use a high ISO number for low light captures.

You can comfortably shoot at ISO 800 even when you should have been shooting at ISO 3200.

The extra stops of ISO retain details in the highlights giving you the leverage not to blow out the highlights.

And as the details in the shadows are retained too, you can retrieve them during post-processing without introducing additional noise or losing dynamic range.

Nikon Z6 Sample Image
Nikon Z6 example image – Source

Nikon Z6 Video Quality

Between the Z6 and the Z7, the former is the better camera for shooting videos. Why?

Because for a start the Z6 oversamples its UHD/4K clips. It uses the entire width of the sensor and then downsizes it.

In layman’s terms that means higher quality and better detailing.

There is a crop mode too. That is equivalent to a DX sensor size of roughly 1.5x. You can use that too but you will lose a higher amount of detail.

To add to that the Z6’s 5-axis image stabilization works even in movie mode, so you get a much more stabilized performance.

Plus, for those who wish to have a greater degree of control over the final footage, you have the option to output 10-bit Log footage to an external recorder.

Although this is not the best mirrorless camera for shooting video work it comes with a few advanced features a budding filmmaker will like.

You can select a Flat profile that retains much of the dynamic range and adjust Zebra patterns.

You can monitor and adjust the audio levels and even get a time code functionality which comes in handy in multi-camera setups.

Nikon Z6 Overall Performance

The Z6 is a mixed bag. It fails to live up to expectations on some counts and then makes us very happy in other aspects.

The smaller resolution and the powerful image processor mean this should have been a fantastic camera for shooting wildlife and fast action.

But the viewfinder lag is a real deal-breaker.

People would be looking towards Sony to see what they have to offer in terms of high-speed continuous shooting and many of those shoppers will not come back.

That said, the Z6 is a mirrorless camera with a lot of potential for someone looking for a full-frame lightweight compact body.

It can use the legacy lenses via the FTZ mount and that means many existing Nikon users would be happy to stay on.

Final Remarks

We hope you enjoyed this review guide on the Nikon Z6.

Consider everything we’ve reviewed as to whether this is the right camera for you!

Have fun, good luck, and keep photographing!

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