After some time of shooting with a basic DSLR camera, I decided it was time to consider an upgraded camera body. I was happy with the results produced by my starter camera, but I was looking for a few additional features. After much research and studying all I could find on options, I settled on the Nikon Z6.
To be sure, most experts recommend putting your money into lenses. That’s where you find the real difference in photographs. However, I had already obtained the lenses that work for my style of photography.
For a year or so, my thought was that my next camera body — one which would work for me for years to come — would be the Nikon D500. The top-of-the-line DX (crop-sensor) camera body in the Nikon line, it seemed like a natural progression.
The D500 would use the lenses I already owned. It also had a few additional ‘bells and whistles’ which would give me a little more shooting flexibility. All in all, it seemed like a great camera.
There were only two things which caused me some concern: The camera body was an older design (2016) and, most significantly, it was heavy. At 760 grams — one and 2/3 pounds — it seemed like a lot of weight to carry around. And in street photography, there is a lot of camera carrying — no tripods, no table to set the camera down between shots.
The D500 features a 21 mega-pixel sensor, smaller than the 24 mega-pixel sensor on the D3300. However, that size is still large enough for the sizes of photos I might want to print. The D500 seemed to be my leading choice.
Two other cameras I considered, briefly, were the Nikon D750 and D850. Both cameras use a full-frame (35mm) sensor. While I could mount my existing lenses on either one, they would only work in DX or crop-sensor mode. That seemed like a waste of the sensor. To fully utilize the sensor, I would have to invest in full-frame lenses, a considerable additional expense.
Those camera choices also had their drawbacks. The D750 employed even older technology (2014). The D850, while newer (2017), is even heavier than the D500: 925 grams or more than two pounds. A third factor was expense. At nearly $3300 for the camera body alone, the D850 was far outside my price range.
Enter the Z6
In my research, I became aware of Nikon’s entry into the mirrorless camera realm with two cameras, the Z6 and Z7.
Mirrorless cameras, as the name implies, don’t have a viewfinder mirror positioned in front of the sensor. They use on an electronic viewfinder, essentially a miniature video screen.
This factor reduces the weight of the camera body — 675 grams or 1.5 pounds for either the Z6 or Z7. Significantly, the mirrorless design also allows for a much smaller physical size.
In many ways, the Z6/Z7 represent the ‘camera of the future’. Both feature full frame sensors. The major difference is that the Z6 features a 24.5 mega-pixel sensor and the Z7 has a 45.7 mega-pixel sensor. As I mentioned previously, a 24 mega-pixel sensor is quite sufficient for the size of photos I may print (usually no larger that 16×20). So with the larger sensor on the Z7, I would be paying significantly more for something I don’t really need.
The buttons are well placed and I particularly like two finger-tip assignable function buttons beside the lens. I have one of these set to zoom the view to 100%. That, in combination with back-button focus, makes tack-sharp photos a breeze.
Because the Z6 has fewer pixels on the same size sensor, the pixels are larger than those on the Z7. This translates to better low-light sensitivity for the Z6..
I also considered the new Z-series lenses. The Z6 and Z7 feature a lens opening of 55mm, up from the 44mm of the standard F-mount Nikon lenses. This larger opening allows more light — the essential element of any photograph — onto the sensor.
There were two concerns regarding the Z6 camera. As with the other full frame cameras I considered, I would need to invest in full frame lenses to take full advantage of the increased sensor size. However, the Z6 will accommodate the current F-mount lenses through the use of an adaptor, which is included in the package. Reviews of the adaptor indicated that it does a good job of marrying the older lens technology to the new lens system.
The second concern involved the auto-focus system on the Z6. The system is slightly different from that used in the Nikon DSLR cameras. Reports indicated that it was slower in focusing on a subject, particularly a moving subject. Since part of my photography enjoyment is shooting my grandson’s sporting events, this gave me some pause.
However, as I read further, it seemed that firmware updates are fixing the focusing problem.
Side by Side
With my wife’s blessing to get a new camera, I visited Murphy’s Camera, my local, and highly reliable, camera store. While I was leaning toward the Z6, I still wanted to convince myself that I was making the right choice for me.
In a side-by-side comparison with the D500, and going over my shooting style and genre likes with store employees, I settled on the Z6. (It also didn’t hurt that the Z6 was significantly on sale for the Christmas season, putting its price below that of the D500.)
Thanks to a generous trade-in offer from Murphy’s for my D3300, I got the price well within my budget range. I also traded the 18-35mm lens that came with the D3300, since the Z6 came with a 24-70mm.
While I don’t have plans to buy any additional full frame lenses for the Z6 for some time, my 70-200mm lens works perfectly with the adaptor. And the 24-70mm has given me some amazing results, particularly in low-light situations.
And the focus issues? So far, I have not found that to be a problem at all. Perhaps if I were shooting college or professional sports which move faster, it could be an issue. But I don’t do that.
My sports shooting is confined to my 8-year-old grandson’s sports activities, which I find are well within the tracking ability of the Z6. Furthermore, I have seen improvements in the focus ability with firmware releases that have come out since my purchase.
A year later, I’m extremely happy with my choice of the Z6. I am confident that this camera will serve me well for many years to come.