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 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 megapixel sensor and the Z7 has a 45.7 megapixel sensor.
As I mentioned previously, a 24 mega-pixel sensor is quite sufficient for the size of photos I may print (usually no larger than 16x20). 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 sporting events, this gave me some pause. However, as I read further, it seemed that firmware updates were fixing the focusing problem.
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 18-55mm kit lens that came with the D3300, since the Z6 came with a 24-70mm in the new Z-mount format.
While I don't have plans to buy any additional full-frame lenses for the Z6 for some time, my 70-200mm F-mount lens works perfectly with the adaptor. (I later traded my F-mount 70-200mm lens for a faster (f/2.8) Z-mount of the same range). Between that and my 24-70mm, I have the ranges I normally shoot well covered.
The Z6 also has some amazing low-light capabilities. The gyms where my grandson plays basketball are rarely well-lit, but with the Z6, I have no problem getting great photos.
And the focus issues? So far, I have not found that to be a problem at all. I have seen improvements in the focus ability with firmware releases that have come out since my purchase. By 2021, this issue was resolved.
Two years later, I'm still extremely happy with my choice of the Z6. I am confident that this camera will serve me well for many years to come.