Z6 - 1 year on

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beatboxa Senior Member • Posts: 6,449
Z6 - 1 year on
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Just over a year ago, I got my Z6.  I've learned a lot about it since then.  With Black Friday coming up, I thought I'd put together a review for anyone interested.  Here's my first observations from about this time last year.

Overall, the Z6 is an excellent camera, with a handful of quirks.  I love mine.  It has become pretty much my exclusively used camera.  My other cameras (like my D750 or Fuji XPro2) are just gathering dust now, because this is way better than those cameras.

Build Quality

  • The Z6 is an amphibious tank.  It's solid and really well built overall.
  • However, there are a few wear items.  One is the rubber near Fn1 / Fn2.  A second is the rubber cup around the eyepiece.

User experience, Controls, Handling & Ergonomics

Overall, great.

Good:

  • Feels great in the hand, but you may want some extra pinky support.  Make sure you get a base plate if you tripod a lot.  My preferred option was the Smallrig.
  • Buttons are also fairly customizable to make it work for you.
  • i-menu is great.
  • In-camera charging through USB-C!!!
  • Viewfinder, Stills: clear, low lag viewfinder.  I've measured the lag at somewhere around 70ms (14-bit) to 30ms (12-bit).  The viewfinder gets noticeably smoother while holding AF-On--it seems like the sensor goes from 24FPS to 60 or 120 FPS.
  • Viewfinder, Video: there is some lag / latency , but it's still very usable.  Especially with zebras & focus peaking.
  • Super fast FPS

Bad:

  • The drive mode dial is missing.  Please contact the authorities if you find it.
  • The camera needs 1-2 more buttons.  Example:  Without the dedicated AF/MF button, you'll have to assign one.  In stills, I use Fn2, because it's comfortable to use with both dials (ring + thumb + index).  Unfortunately, in video, I use Fn1/Fn2 for exposure compensation (which, btw, is a great feature)--but that means my autofocus mode is relegated to the i-menu in video.
  • Also, this is my first Nikon where the EC button only does one thing:  change EC.  On my DSLRs, the EC button changes EC (rear dial) or metering mode (front dial).  Having one button where both dials do the same thing is a waste of a button.  Another i-menu item.
  • Subject tracking is too many button presses to use in practice (more on this later).
  • Viewfinder customization is available, but limited.  For me, this mainly affects video.  For example, no ability to customize framelines for various aspect ratios.
  • Drive mode setting can't be saved to U1/U2/U3.
  • Needs a bigger buffer.  Current buffer size is good and usually enough though.

Stills & Video Image Quality

  • Stills:  Does this really need to be covered nowadays?  Image quality is superb, as would be expected from a full-frame sensor in 2019.
  • Video:  Brilliant.  You might read specs that the Z6 only does 8-bit internal.  Unless you're specifically doing pro video, this doesn't matter in many cases because Nikon gives us a secret weapon:  Picture Controls.  If you want to grade video later, make yourself a log profile, and you'll see just how much room you have.  You probably won't miss 10-bit, pre-built log, or raw. 
    You can get stunning, full-frame 4k video internally from the Z6 if you know what you're doing.

IBIS

  • Great for stills
  • OK for video.  Better than nothing, but nowhere near gimbal-like.  The IBIS can be jerky, and it's obviously optimized for stills.

Portability

  • Very good for what this camera is.  You won't be squeezing this into a pocket, but it takes up significantly less room than my DSLRs in a bag.

Autofocus

Well, here it is.  The biggest controversy.

Let's start with the TLDR; the autofocus is generally very good.  This is a complex topic, so I'll subdivide it.

  • Accuracy.  Perfect.  Nails it.
  • Speed.  Generally very fast, but is variable.  On high-contrast subjects with vertical detail, AF works pretty flawlessly.  As contrast decreases or only exists as horizontal detail, the Z starts to act up.  Most of the time, it still works well; but other times, it gets obviously confused.
  • AF-C.  Generally works well.  Really depends on your mode, the subject, and settings.  For example, remember that for dynamic area, you have to start with the subject in the center box of the AF grid.  If you want it to stick to the subject better, slow down the refocusing time setting (ironically).  Wide area works well, but sometimes hesitates to even start focusing.
  • Subject recognition.  The only subjects the Z6 can detect as of now are faces and eyes.  But it does so very well.
  • Tracking.  The camera technically has tracking, but the UI is so bad that you can't use it.  If you ever come across the impossible scenario where you have plenty of time to push many buttons to maintain tracking on a moving target, then the tracking actually works great at following your subject around the frame.
  • In the dark.  Depends on the mode & settings, but can really focus well, especially if you have a bit of time.

Lenses

  • The Z lenses are brilliant.  My most used are 14-30, 35 (and recently, 85).  Weird, since everyone else seems to love the 24-70/4 and 50. 
  • Most F lenses work like native lenses.  In fact, my F lenses work better on my Z6 than on my F cameras.  So the Z6 is pretty much a Z & F camera.
  • There are now many adapters for many different mounts, with various performance implications.
Nikon Z6
25 megapixels • 3.2 screen • Full frame sensor
Announced: Aug 23, 2018
beatboxa's score
4.5
Average community score
4.3
bad for good for
Kids / pets
great
Action / sports
great
Landscapes / scenery
excellent
Portraits
excellent
Low light (without flash)
great
Flash photography (social)
good
Studio / still life
excellent
= community average
Nikon D750 Nikon Z6
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