• Andrew JK Tan

Nikon Z6 - An Amazing Brief Encounter


Most of you may have read my experience with the new Nikon Z7. If you have not , do have a read as it will give you a great idea on features that are also in the Z6.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the Z6 for a day which was actually more for me to re-familiarize myself with the Z Series layout & menus & prepare for the Nikon Z Series talks that happened with the major dealers recently.

Fortunately I did manage to squeeze in some time to get my immediate impressions on this new mirrorless camera. So what really are the main specification differences between the Z7 and the Z6 ? The image below shows just that.

The 4 most important areas that I really wanted to check out was

1. the overall response

2. autofocus tracking performance

3. high ISO / dynamic range performance

4. IBIS (In-Built Image Stabilization)

All images captured were with the Nikkor 24-70mm f4.0S

Overall Handling / Response

- The Z6 definitely feels signicantly zippier with the 12 FPS capability

- I had no issues at all with the Z7's excellent handling , but the Z6 just felt even faster !

- shooting RAW + JPEG FINE * at 12 FPS did NOT slow down the Z6 at all after more then 5 secs. of continuous shooting

Autofocus Tracking Performance

This was the main area that I mentioned that I needed more testing when I used the Nikon Z7.

With the limited time , I did some testing with oncoming vehicles traffic that were moving at different speeds.

Setup 1

I used the following setup AF-C , Dynamic Area AF mode & Wide Area AF-S mode , Back-Focus button setup only. By setting up the camera in this manner , I had to ensure that the AF area was placed on the moving subject manually - this was the only way that I track moving subjects irrespective how fast or erratic the subject movement may be.

Results Setup 1

- A 100% hit rate (success) with oncoming traffic irrespective of traffic speed and color contrasts

- This was a superb result at 12 FPS , the Z6 just fired away confidently , so no issues here.

Setup 2

I used AF-C & Auto Area AF mode. In this mode the AF area square tracks the subject automatically on its own. This Auto Area AF mode is similar to the 3D area tracking mode in the Nikon DSLRs

The 3D AF tracking mode was not one that I used on a regular basis , the photographer needs to understand the tracking algorithm to get the best from this mode likewise this would also apply to the Auto Area AF mode in the Z6 but I had to test it even though I would most likely not use this option for subject tracking - call me "old school"

Results Setup 2

- The hit rate was about 60% , the AF accuracy improved when the vehicle moved closer to me

- The misses were mostly when the vehicle was still a distance away.

- So an area to improve & which could be done potentially with future firmware tweaks

High ISO / Dynamic Range performance

When I picked up the Z6 from Nikon's office , I did a quick test while I was having my coffee break before heading home.

The capture below was captured at ISO25,600

I used Nikon's NX-D software to read the Z6 RAW file which my current Adobe RAW Converter cannot open yet. I then converted it to JPEG at highest quality level for this upload.

The next few pictures will show what I saw when I magnified the image below to check out the ISO25,600 grain control in it's RAW state !! Check it out !

Screenshot of Nikon NX-D when reading the Z6 RAW file , 400% magnification , ISO25,600

Screenshot of Nikon NX-D when reading the Z6 RAW file , 400% magnification , ISO25,600

Commentary

I do have to say that this may NOT be the best image to test the ISO25,600 performance for sure but pixel peeping the Z6 RAW file at 400% to 500% was pretty incredible. The grain control was SUPERB , it did not look like a typical ISO25,600 file at all ..... WOW !!

Looking at the shadow areas , the grain was so well controlled , in fact the grain was so smooth and with no artifacts that I could see. I was very impressed !!

Being able to see eye lash details at ISO25,600 & at 400% magnification was actually pretty good too , so no complaints from me at all.

The next image shows the AMAZING Shadow Recovery of the Z6 RAW file ...... again WOW !!

Captured this shot below in RAW while I was having breakfast at a food court near my apartment. Ha Ha , you can tell how desperate I was to test the Z6.

As captured in RAW, straight out of the Z6

The next 3 screenshots show the amazing shadow recovery by Photoshop CC in the deep shadow areas of the capture. You can see the side by side Before Vs. After comparison.

Commentary

I have to repeat that this is the FIRST time I am viewing the Z Series RAW file and for this case the RAW file from the Z6. I am so glad that I was hardworking enough to download the Nikon NX-D software to read the RAW files.

Well , I am sure the images speaks for itself on the Z6 RAW file performance with shadow recovery. No banding , No unwanted artifacts , really superb performance !!

IBIS Performance

This next image shows what the IBIS can do @24mm focal length.

The shot was captured hand-held at 1 second exposure. I was free standing & NOT leaning on the rails for extra support.

The next two screenshots show that I managed to capture a SHARP shot even with a 1 second exposure

Commentary

Nikon's IBIS works and I did get that 5 Stops advantage that Nikon is marketing.

If we use the Reciprocal rule for the focal length to determine the slowest shutter speed , I would be using 1/24s , realistically I would set 1/30s as the slowest shutter speed. Now if I were to interpolate a 5 stops advantage , I should be shooting at 1 second exposure time which is exactly what I did !!!

New Creative Control Filters

This one was a big surprise the NEW Creative Control Filters can be applied to the RAW files too , another Wow !! This could open up new creative avenues for photographers. I only found out just today when I managed to open my Z6 RAW files with the Nikon NX-D

So if you have read this far , you can already guess that I am extremely happy with the Nikon Z6's performance. The only minor niggle is the Auto Area AF Subject Tracking mode that could be improved further but for me it is a non-issue as it is an AF area mode that I will not be using.

In summary , the Z6 is a gem of a mirrorless camera for me !!

Remember to read my blog on my Z7 experience to supplement this Z6 blog.

There will be definitely be more Z Series blogs upcoming in the very near future. Till my next blog , take good care of yourself.

Andrew

#ZSeries #Z6 #IBIS