|My much-used Nikon Z7, purchased used from a friend (this guy) in late 2018.|
Please note that the following article is very much a personal take, written from the perspective of someone who has been using an original Z7 for some time. Your needs (and your experience) may well vary greatly from mine, and I'd encourage you to read our launch content to get a feel for how well (or not) the Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II meet your requirements.
And with that out of the way...
Here at DPReview we get to use a lot of cameras and lenses in the course of our work (lucky us) but despite the availability of free loaner equipment, most of us still own and maintain a personal collection of gear. I'm talking about cameras, lenses and accessories purchased with our own money, for those times when we're not testing the latest and greatest new thing. Much of my favorite gear of the past few years has – when finances have allowed – made its way into my personal collection.
For two years, my main camera (alongside models from several other manufacturers, I hasten to add) has been the Nikon Z7. The Z7 divided opinion when it was released in 2018 (who knew that so many people couldn't live without a second card slot...?) but it met my fairly basic requirements very well. I needed high resolution in a compact body, image stabilization, a high–resolution viewfinder (with a priority on detail, rather than refresh rate), and a menu system which I could navigate without getting a headache. Something to replace my D810, with an emphasis on image quality rather than speed.
I had a running list of things I wanted fixed – or at least improved – in a future Z7 replacement
Fast-forward two years and my needs haven't changed that much. That being said, after spending so long with a single model as my primary 'creative' camera (and having used the raft of competitive full-frame options released by Canon, Sony and Panasonic in the intervening time), I had created a mental list of things I wanted fixed – or at least improved – in a future Z7 replacement.
In no particular order, here's my list – all of which might equally apply to the Z6.
- Backlit controls
- More customization for Fn buttons (for example the option to toggle silent shooting on/off)
- Improved VR
- Faster AF, better focus reliability in low light
- A proper analog for 3D AF tracking as found in Nikon's DSLRs
- Compatibility with 10–pin MC–30A release (the plug–in MC–DC2 is fiddly and flimsy)
- A proper vertical grip
- A less intrusive EVF electronic level
- Greater articulation of rear LCD (and a less sensitive EVF/LCD switch)
- More effective sensor cleaning / dust–reduction
Two things not on my list, but I know are very close to some peoples' hearts: Improved video, and twin card slots.
Of the 12 improvements and additions mentioned above, the Z7 II addresses five of them (highlighted in bold), but only three from my main list *. The Z6 II and Z7 II are nearly impossible to tell apart from their predecessors, and that's quite revealing: They're extremely similar. Even the old MB-N10 battery grip will fit the the new cameras, which is good news for the five people who bought one.
|Unlike the original Z6 and Z7, the new Mark II models are offered alongside a true vertical control grip, which duplicates controls for portrait-orientation shooting.|
Is the provision for a proper vertical grip, and improved autofocus enough to make me upgrade from my Z7? Honestly...? probably not. I say 'probably' because I'm reserving judgement until I can judge for myself the improvement to AF in low light and the handling difference that the new grip makes when shooting with the Z 70–200mm F2.8 VR S. The fact is that – for me – the original Z7 is still a great camera, and here at DPReview, even two years on, we still consider the Z6/7 to be among the most pleasant to use of the full-frame ILCs currently on the market. If I buy a new camera in the next year or so, it might just end up being a second Z7, if the prices drop low enough. But if I do upgrade, at least I know that the process will be unusually painless (even my custom Acratech and RRS tripod plates for the Z6/7 will fit the new models).
There are a lot of 'single issue voters' out there in the camera–buying world
Of course, that's just me. There are a lot of 'single issue voters' out there in the camera-buying world, whether that issue is the number of card slots, USB power, battery life, which way the focus ring rotates (FINALLY something you can customize in the Z6/7 II...) or whatever else.
The Z6 II and Z7 II have twin card slots. They can be powered over USB. They are, undoubtedly, faster and more powerful cameras than their predecessors. Nikon claims that their twin processors allow for improved low light AF performance, as well as more versatile face/eye-AF, reduced blackout time between shots, and faster continuous shooting. Hopefully, the increased processing power will allow Nikon to add more features via future firmware updates, too.
There will be a lot of people reading our launch coverage of the Z6 II and Z7 II and thinking (and no doubt already commenting) 'these are the cameras that the Z6 and Z7 should have been'. I think that's unfair (hindsight is cheap – R&D isn't), but they're certainly better cameras – and a more convincing entry-point into mirrorless for existing Nikon DSLR owners.
That's crucial, because while the answer to the question 'should you upgrade from a Z6 or Z7 to the Z6 II or Z7 II?' is a resounding 'maybe...', for Nikon users considering whether to move into mirrorless for the first time, it's much more clear–cut.
If you're a D750 or D850 (or D5000–series or D7000–series) owner, you'll probably find these new cameras more attractive upgrade options than the original Z6 and Z7. They work in broadly the same way (if not exactly the same) as the DSLRs that you're used to, autofocus should be a little better, you can use your existing SD memory cards if you want, without the short–term need to invest in a new media type, and if you need proper vertical controls for portraits or long lens work, you got 'em. Meanwhile the extra processing power makes them a little more future-proof when it comes to firmware updates.
But what if you're not an existing Nikon DSLR user? Is the Z6 II a better option than (say) the Canon EOS R6, or Sony a7 III, or Panasonic Lumix DC–S5? That's not a question we can answer yet. They certainly look pretty competitive on paper, and you can see how their specs compare in our database, but bare numbers can only tell you so much. Rest assured though that we'll be testing both the Z6 II and Z7 II (and adding them to our Buying Guides) as soon as we receive final production samples.
* While a minor enough update that it was not covered in our original technical briefings on these cameras, it turns out that the level indicator has been made slightly less intrusive in the Z6 II and Z7 II, but it's still a great big artificial horizon circle slap-bang in the middle of your image.
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