Nikon Z 6II Review: In-Depth Lab Tests

December 14, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

Rangefinder is a member of the Technical Image Press Association which has contracted with Image Engineering to perform detailed lab tests of digital cameras, including the Nikon Z 6II that debuted in the market on 10/14/20 (its lab tests are outlined below). See here for a full methodological rundown of how Image Engineering puts cameras through their paces for detailed reviews.

Nikon’s follow-up to its first-ever full-frame mirrorless, the Z 6II is proof positive that camera makers do indeed listen to their customers. To wit: the Z 6II has two card slots, resolving what, for some, was an unforced error in the original camera. That’s not the only change Nikon made in the Z 6II. There are now two image processors and slew of other enhancements. 

[Read: Nikon Z 6 Review—What We Liked, Image Quality and Design]

Nikon Z 6II Features

The Z 6II retains the same 24.5-megapixel, backside-illuminated image sensor as its predecessor but adds two EXPEED 6 processors to help improve performance and increase the buffer capacity during continuous shooting. The camera boasts an ISO range of 100-51,200, which is expandable up to ISO 204,800. The in-camera vibration reduction system can deliver up to five stops of image stabilization.

The Z 6II has an enhanced autofocusing system that now supports people and animal eye and face detection in both still and video modes. There are 273 on-sensor, phase detect autofocus points capable of focusing on subjects in low light, down to -4.5 EV.

Nikon made several workflow-related upgrades in addition to boosting the processing power: firmware updates can now be loaded into the camera via Nikon SnapBridge and the camera can be used as a webcam with the Nikon Webcam Utility software. The display can now be cleared of data to give you an edge-to-edge view of your scene and the viewfinder will automatically switch off when you flip out the display. You can now supply power to the camera via USB during use, to prolong battery life. 

As for video, the Z 6II records 4K at 30p and full HD at 120p. Autofocusing speed and tracking sensitivity are adjustable and the focus ring is now reversible. Nikon plans to release a firmware update in February 2021 that will unlock 4K recording at 60p with full pixel readout, HDR video, and 12-bit ProRes RAW output.

You can learn more about the Nikon Z 6II (and Z 7II) features here.

The Z 6II retails for $2,000 (body).

Resolution & Texture Reproduction

At ISO 100 the Z 6II can resolve 100 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum, similar results to its predecessor and topping the comparably-priced Sony a7c, Canon EOS R and Panasonic Lumix S5.

The camera shows consistent resolution as you ramp up the ISO and is capable of resolving 95 percent or more of its theoretical maximum up through ISO 1600. Resolution naturally degrades as you push into the higher ISOs: at ISO 3200, the Z 6II is resolving 92 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum, while at ISO 12,800, it’s down to 85 percent. The Z 6II outperforms the EOS R and is more-or-less on par with the Lumix S5 and a7c when it comes to resolving power at higher ISO levels.

Visual Noise   

When viewing a file from the Z 6II on a digital display at 100 percent, the camera shows no observable visual noise at nearly any ISO tested until you reach ISO 6400 and above. That’s a better result than Image Engineering observed with the Lumix S5, Sony’s a7c and the EOS R. The camera performs even better when viewing its output on a small display not magnified or as a large print, with no observable noise in any ISO setting. 

Nikon Z 6II Dynamic Range & Color Test Results

At ISO 100, Image Engineering found that the Z 6II can deliver 9.8 f-stops of dynamic range. That’s better than its predecessor, but less impressive than the 11.2 stops from the Lumix S5 or the 14.1 stops from the EOS R (at ISO 800) . However, the Z 6II delivers a consistent 9.7 stops of dynamic range from ISO 400-3200. 

In terms of color reproduction, Image Engineering found that seven colors deviated strongly from the reference target. The colors that veered off course were purples and reds. That’s slightly worse than the Lumix S5 and EOS R, both of which had six strong deviations, and considerably behind the performance of Sony’s a7c, which only produced two strong deviations. 

The Nikon Z 6II color reproduction chart. The top half of the chart compares a reference color (right half of each color patch) with the color reproduced by the camera (left). Below is a table that lists the DeltaE, or degree of variation, of each color patch from its reference target. Red cells indicated strong color deviations, light green cells represent colors with noticeable deviations, and a dark green field represents a moderate deviation.

Nikon Z 6II Video Resolution, Noise and Dynamic Range  

Like the Z 6, the Z 6II can resolve 103 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum resolution when filming video, though Image Engineering noted that the new camera adds a tad more sharpening at the edges than the original. 

Image Engineering found no visible noise when viewing still frames from video captured from the Z 6II in any of their viewing conditions (100 percent magnification on a display, postcard-sized print and 11 x 15-inch print). 

As far as dynamic range is concerned, the Z 6II delivered 10.7 f-stops at low ISO and 10 stops at higher ISOs. That’s better than many of the camera’s similarly-priced rivals, including the Lumix S5, Canon EOS R and Sony a7c. 

[Camera Review: Nikon Z 7]

The Nikon Z 6II Performance

The Z 6II clocks in with a startup time of 0.8 second, faster than the Z 6’s 1.3 seconds. It’s also quite speedy during continuous shooting. Image Engineering measured them at 14.8 frames per second (fps) while shooting JPEG or RAW images using the mechanical shutter. Switch to the electronic shutter and the speed falls to 12fps. The Z 6II outclasses many of its comparably-priced rivals when it comes to shot-to-shot speed.

In bright light (300lx), the Z 6II could acquire focus and capture an image in just over a fifth of a second—faster than the Z 6 but comparable to the Lumix S5. In low light (30lx) that same process took a third of a second, on par with the Z 6 and faster than the Lumix S5 and the Sony a7c.

Final scores for the Nikon Z 6II.

Price: $2,000 (body)