Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Excellent resolution and high ISO performance
  • Superb build quality and weather-sealing
  • Effective 5-axis image stabilization
  • Partial or complete backward compatibility with most F-mount lenses
  • Large, ultra-high-res EVF
  • Respectable subject tracking performance
  • Beautiful oversampled UHD 4K video
  • 10-bit Log footage to external recorder
  • Video and stills settings are 'sandboxed' from one another
  • Top-panel OLED display
  • Minimal rolling shutter, when shooting 4K video with DX crop
  • Usable silent shutter mode
  • Easy to use, mostly reliable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
  • USB charging
  • Selecting a subject to track is cumbersome
  • AF system doesn't always refocus on new subjects when in Auto Area mode
  • Lower EVF refresh rate than competition from Sony/Canon
  • On-sensor AF may cause banding, slightly limiting usable dynamic range
  • Default JPEG noise reduction a bit heavy-handed at higher ISOs
  • Touchscreen cannot be used for 'touchpad AF' when using the EVF
  • No linear response option for video shooters wishing to manual focus
  • Battery life may be limited with frequent Wi-Fi use
  • Limited native lens selection
  • Pre-amp can add hiss when using external mics

Overall conclusion

While the flagship Z7 has captured the most attention, Nikon's Z6 is the more accessible of the two models due to its lower price, and it's also the better of the two models for those interested in video capture and low light AF performance. The Z6 faces some tough competition, especially from Sony's a7 III, but it holds up quite well, especially considering it's Nikon's first-generation FX-format mirrorless camera.

Still image quality is excellent, with top-notch resolution and high ISO performance. JPEG noise reduction is a bit stronger than we'd like, though turning that setting to 'low' or 'off' will improve things slightly. And, if you try to utilize the camera's full dynamic range you may see banding. The Z6's build quality is exceptional and its controls and menus will be familiar to Nikon DSLR owners in most respects. The camera's electronic viewfinder is very high resolution, though its 60Hz refresh rate is lower than the competition and there's a noticeable blackout between shots when shooting bursts that can make it difficult to follow the action. The touchscreen is nice as well, though the lack of a 'touchpad AF' feature is puzzling.

Adjusted to taste in ACR 11 | ISO 640 | 1/800 sec | F5.6 | Nikon 500mm F5.6E PF ED VR
Photo by Jeff Keller

Speaking of autofocus, the Z6 focuses and does a very good job of tracking subjects in most situations at both 9 fps (no live view) and 5.5 fps (with live view). A faster burst rate of up to 12 fps is available, though exposure is locked. Low light AF is good, with the Z6 keeping up with the Sony a7 III in most situations, though Canon's EOS R is still the low light king. Frustratingly, in Auto Area mode (with continuous AF) the Z6 sometimes would sometimes fail to refocus on a new subject, even if you let go of the shutter release button and recompose.

Video is another bright spot. The Z6's oversampled 4K footage is stunning, and the camera offers a solid collection of controls as well as 10-bit Log output and the promise of Raw to an external recorder. As with stills, the camera's 5-axis image stabilizer works very well. The two main downsides with video include some rolling shutter when panning, the lack of linear manual focus control and 'hiss' when using an external mic.

Cropped to taste | ISO 6400 | 1/60 sec | F4 | Nikon Z 24-70 F4 @ 27mm
Photo by Jeff Keller

Nikon really did its homework when developing its first two full-frame mirrorless cameras. While the Z6 doesn't topple the #1 camera in this class - the Sony a7 III - it comes pretty close. Overall, the Z6 is a compelling enough product that we're confident it will keep Nikon DSLR users from jumping ship to other brands.


What we think


Dan Bracaglia
Photo Editor
The Z6 should be near the top of your list if you’re thinking about going full-frame mirrorless in 2019. It may not have the insane resolution of its big brother the Z7, but what it does have is better quality 4K video, a deeper buffer and perhaps most importantly, a more realistic price tag. Along with the Sony a7 III, prospective buyers now have two exceedingly well-rounded full-frame cameras to choose from for under $2000. Picking between these two is another story though…


Carey Rose
Reviews Editor
The Nikon Z6 is exactly the mirrorless camera I've been waiting for...almost. It feels great in the hand, the controls are sensible, the photos are beautiful, it has amazing video and great in-body stabilization. But there's no denying the battery life is less-than-competitive these days, and for the love of Pete, Nikon, just bring back a mirrorless version of 3D Tracking! Pretty please?

Compared to its peers

The Z6's closest competitor is the Sony a7 III and, as mentioned above, it keeps up with it in most respects. The Nikon offers better build quality, a more detailed, crisper EVF and LCD (though the former's refresh rate isn't as fast,) and a better shooting experience. The a7 III's autofocus system is a bit better, and can shoot at higher burst rates with live view, and its dual card slots and amazing battery life give Nikon something to work on for its second-generation cameras.

Canon dove into the full-frame mirrorless market shortly after Nikon, and its first effort isn't nearly as impressive as Nikon's. The EOS R is priced similarly to the Z6 but while it offers more resolution, noise and dynamic range performance lag behind both the Z6 and a7 III. Autofocus is competitive for still shooting but not for video. In addition, the EOS R's 4K video has a huge crop and substantial rolling shutter. While the EOS R is well-built, the lack of in-body image stabilization is surprising, and some of Canon's ergonomic decisions are head-scratchers.

While there's a substantial difference in price, we feel that many people will be choosing between the Z6 and Z7. The main thing you're gaining by purchasing the Z7 is resolution, courtesy of its 46MP sensor. And, if you're a landscape or wedding photographer, that might be just what you're looking for. The Z6, on the other hand, focuses more consistently (especially in low light,) has more detailed video, slightly better battery life and a deeper buffer for continuous shooting. So, unless you need the extra resolution, the Z6 is the better choice.


Scoring

Nikon Z6
Category: Mid Range Full Frame Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Nikon Z6 is a well-built full-frame mirrorless camera that produces excellent stills and 4K video. Autofocus is reliable most of the time, including during burst shooting, though selecting a subject on which to track is clumsy. The camera's built-in image stabilization works well on native and 'classic' Nikon glass. Battery life isn't class-leading, and some improvements related to manual focus in video should be addressed, but overall Nikon has a winner in the Z6.
Good for
Everyday shooting, video
Not so good for
Sports and action
88%
Overall score