THE NOISE FACTOR - Z6 vs Z7 vs D500

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GuyDagar Regular Member • Posts: 433
THE NOISE FACTOR - Z6 vs Z7 vs D500

I came across an interesting video by photographer Michael Aagard discussing the Z6 for wildlife and its low-light high ISO performance. I have heard and seen a lot of discussions by photographers saying that they won't buy the D500 because of its technically (according to poor low-light/sports performance. It is clearly one example of specs on paper not measuring up to real-life shooting.

While I have to agree with Michael about much of what he says, it prompted me to take a closer look at some photos I took with the Z6, Z7 and D500 and compare them strictly for noise factors. While the Z6 does have an edge over the Z7, the Z6 lacks the sharpness of the Z7. Then looking at the D500, as far as noise goes, the D500 is better than the Z7 and because it produces a sharper image than the Z6, it is still the better choice for wildlife and especially birds-in-flight thanks to its amazing focus and tracking performance. A D5 or D6 is certainly the best choice, but we're talking 2-3 times the cost. Certainly the Z6 (and the Z7) are adequate cameras for sports and wildlife, but only adequate when compared to the D500.

Here are some samples at 100%, at ISO 3200 for the Z7 and the D500, ISO 4000 for the Z6, not exactly apples to apples, but close enough. I realize there are a lot of technical variables that affect noise, but I'll leave that to the technicians to discuss further.

First the Z7. What surprised me more than anything is the color-noise. When I corrected the image with Topaz DeNoise I had to apply a fair amount of color-noise reduction. Otherwise the noise was not too bad. These are the uncorrected images straight from the raw files, cropped and exported as jpegs. View images at original size.

Next, the D500. It doesn't have any of the color-noise exhibited by the Z7. The existing noise was easily corrected with Topaz but it isn't that bad for ISO 3200, and it is just as sharp or sharper than the Z7 image.

And finally the Z6. As much as I love the Z6 and as good as its low-light high ISO performance is—it is definitely a little better than the Z7, it doesn't quite compete with the D500—it lacks the tack-sharpness of either the D500 or the Z7. But, as I'm sure many will say, I'm splitting hares here—picking nits as it were. Here are a couple Z6 pics, both at a slightly higher ISO of 4000.

My conclusion is this: The Z7 is a great camera, one of the best in the world of all the cameras out there, for landscape as well as most other subjects that require high resolution and low noise. Shooting at ISO 64 with no low-pass filter gives it a slight edge over the Z6, but the Z6 is a better all-around camera in many ways. The D500 for sports and wildlife and birds-in-flight is unsurpassed.

If you already own the Z7 and the D500, the Z6 becomes superfluous. If you're moving from a DSLR, even the D500, the Z6 is a great camera suitable for just about anything, with a few little short-comings. If you own the D500 and want to move into full-frame mirrorless at a reasonable price, the Z6 is definitely the way to go—and the price will come down even more as the Z6 II is released, but don't sell your D500!

 GuyDagar's gear list:GuyDagar's gear list
Sigma 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Nikon D700 Nikon D500 Nikon Z7 Nikon Z6 +12 more
Nikon D5 Nikon D500 Nikon Z6 Nikon Z6 II Nikon Z7 Sigma 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM
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