Nikon Z 6 Review—What We Liked, Image Quality and Design

December 14, 2018

By Theano Nikitas

With the launch of the Z 6 (and Z 7), Nikon is looking to make its mark in the full-frame mirrorless camera segment by going head-to-head with the Sony a7 series and the new Canon EOS R.

Of the Nikon Z series, the 24-megapixel Z 6 has a lower-resolution sensor than the 45-megapixel Z 7. But at $200 for the body, it’s also $1,400 less expensive. There are currently three native lenses for the Z-series models—a 24-70mm f/4 S, a 35mm f/1.8 S and the 50mm f/1.8 S. For $250 ($150 if you bundle it with the camera), you can pick up the FTZ mount adapter to seamlessly use more than 90 current NIKKOR F-mount lenses on the Z 6.

We spent time shooting with the Nikon Z 6, the three native lenses and the new AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR super telephoto lens with the FTZ adapter.

Image Quality

Even with straight-out-of-the-camera JPEGS, the image quality is impressive. Process some RAW files and you’ll find excellent dynamic range and very low noise, even at high ISOs such as 51,200. Colors are natural and, overall, perfectly rendered. Metering is generally spot-on, although some high-contrast test shots exhibited highlights that were clipped more than expected.

Video quality is equally impressive, but if you want the best 4K footage, be sure to use an external recorder for 10-bit capture. Recording to the XQD card, 4K video looked clean and really quite lovely with nicely saturated and accurate colors.


At 5.3 x 4 x 2.7 inches and weighing 20.7 ounces, this well-built, weatherproof camera body is smaller and lighter than Nikon pro and semi-pro DSLRs, and it’s extremely comfortable to shoot with, even with the FTZ adapter and the AF-S 500mm PF lens attached. Unlike with other mirrorless cameras, photographers with larger hands won’t feel cramped while holding the Z 6 either.

There’s no learning curve for Nikon users thanks to the familiar control layout and menu system, although I found it a little more time-consuming to change AF modes since  you need to go into the menu system. But because of the responsive touch-screen display, navigating menus and tap-selecting AF points was convenient.

The EVF is one of the best and brightest I’ve shot with. Nikon increased the diameter of the lens mount to 55mm (the F mount on its DSLRs is 47mm) and shortened the flange distance, a move that lets more light into the camera. The wider lens mount means Nikon can build faster lenses, including its first f/0.95 lens, due next year. It also means that when you use the adapter on existing F-mount lenses, you should enjoy much sharper image quality out at the corner of the frame than you’d typically expect when using a lens adapter.

Yes, there’s only a single card slot, which will disappoint some people; on the other hand, the Z 6 uses XQD cards so you have access to fast, high-capacity media.

What We Liked

Image quality—both still and video—is one of the Z 6’s strong points, as it should be. In addition to great video quality, there’s no cropping or pixel binning, and 4K (albeit at 8 bit) can be recorded internally.

High ISO performance is also impressive. The ergonomics of the camera are great and, especially if you’re a Nikon user, the controls and menus make the Z 6 a pleasure to use. Although I’m usually not a fan of EVF’s, this one stood out over others I’ve used. The touch screen was not only responsive but worked when scrolling through menus.

Built-in five-axis image stabilization works well, and VR lenses, when attached via the FTZ mount adapter, deliver three-axis stabilization. I noticed no difference in AF performance or other functions when shooting with the adapter versus native lenses. In good light, auto-focus worked well, as did face detection. I liked the pinpoint AF option for portraits; wedding photographers will appreciate the quiet shutter—even without enabling the Silent Mode.

You can now transfer RAW, JPEG and movie files direct to PC or Mac over Wi-Fi and recharge the Z 6 via USB.

What We Didn’t Like

I really miss the dial and button focus mechanism that you find on Nikon DSLRs, and I found changing AF settings on the Z 6 less intuitive and convenient. You also can’t ignore that there’s only one card slot.

I’m not a big fan of Nikon’s SnapBridge Bluetooth image transfer technology. I find it to be clunky and slow. And a CIPA battery rating of 310 shots per charge is disappointing.

I’d love to see a bump in performance speed and the ability to shoot at 12 fps without locking focus and exposure on the first shot. There are better choices, like the Sony a9, for high-speed shooting.

Notes from Image Engineering

Rangefinder is a member of the Technical Image Press Association, which has contracted with the camera testing lab Image Engineering for detailed lab tests of digital cameras. Below are their results from the Z 6. 

  • The Z 6 has excellent resolving power. It can resolve 100 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum.
  • Nikon’s in-camera sharpening is much stronger in the Z 6 than in the Z 7.
  • When viewing a postcard-sized print, noise becomes visible at ISO 25,600. The Z 6 has very good noise control.
  • When viewing larger prints, noise would be visible at ISO 6400.
  • You’ll enjoy 9 stops of dynamic range (in JPEGs) at ISO 100. Dynamic range is consistently in the 8+ range as you increase ISO levels.
  • In terms of color reproduction, six colors (four bright reds and two deep blues) deviated strongly from the correct values.
  • Shutter release times clock in at .1 second.
  • Autofocusing in bright light (300 lux) and low light (30 lux) are both slower than the Z 7, with the Z 6 clocking in at .30 seconds in both environments.

The Bottom Line

If you’re unlike most photographers and are brand- agnostic, check out the Sony a7 III and the Canon EOS R for a full-frame mirrorless camera between $2,000 and $2,300. They offer similar specifications, although the Canon EOS R’s 30-megapixel sensor has a slight edge on resolution, and the Sony has speedier continuous shooting with continuous AF/AE and more native lenses in the lineup.

You’re likely to have a large investment in glass and other accessories for your brand. If that brand is Nikon, then the Z 6 may be the perfect mirrorless camera for you, especially if you’re consistently shooting in low light. When compared to the Z 7, the Z 6 is a better option for low light and for 4K video.

We have to keep in mind that the Z 6 and the Z 7 (as well as the Canon EOS R) are much younger in their development than Sony’s a7-series cameras, and we imagine that Nikon’s second-generation full-frame mirrorless will be even better than these first efforts. That’s saying a lot considering we think the Nikon Z 6 is pretty impressive all around.

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