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  • Andrew JK Tan

Nikon Z6 - At the SEA Open Short Track Trophy 2019 (Speed Skating)

I was actually anxious to test the Nikon Z6's capability in photographing a fast paced sport like Speed Skating. The opportunity came on the 5th & 6th of January 2019 when the 4th SEA Open Short Track Trophy was held at the The Rink @JCube.

So just how fast is a speed skater ? So just to give you an idea , Lucas Ng Singapore's top Speed Skater who won the 500m event did it with an average speed of 39kph. The top olympic speed skaters reach top speeds of over 48kph !!

Singapore's Lucas Ng (In Red) in action in the 1500m finals on the 2nd day of competition.

ISO12,800 1/800s f5.6 JPEG FINE* Hand-Held 300mm focal length

Challenges Faced

1. Poor Indoor lighting as NOT all the lights are switched on (check my exposure settings)

2. Top Skaters speeding at > 30KPH

3. Mist rising from the skating rink surface (check out image below to understand)

4. Intentional Hand-Holding to follow the action

5. Intentional use of a Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR with the fastest wide open aperture of f5.6

UNEDITED Straight Out Of Z6 JPEG image

Even with the naked eyes , the overall scene was very gray & low contrast

With Low Light & using the fastest aperture of f5.6 , photographing the action was not as straight forward as in good light !

My Nikon Z6 Setup

- Nikon Z6

- Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

- Hand-Held

- RAW (1st Day) / JPEG FINE* (2nd Day)

- 12FPS setup

- AF-C

- Dynamic Area AF Mode / Wide Area-S AF Mode

- AF Tracking Lock On set to 1 (on the 1st day) / set to 2 (on the 2nd day)

- AF-C priority mode set to Focus (a worse case setup in terms of responsiveness)

- Image Playback turned OFF for both EVF & Display

- Silent Mode OFF - using mechanical shutter to prevent rolling shutter effects

- Flicker Reduction Shooting ON (to prevent banding)

ISO12,800 1/640s f5.6 RAW Hand-Held 310mm focal length

ISO6,400 1/800s f5.6 RAW Hand-Held 410mm focal length

ISO6,400 1/800s f5.6 RAW Hand-Held 320mm focal length

ISO6,400 1/640s f5.6 RAW Hand-Held 480mm focal length

ISO10,000 1/800s f5.6 JPEG FINE* Hand-Held 380mm focal length

ISO5,000 1/640s f5.6 RAW Hand-Held 320mm focal length

"Freezing" Action Findings

- The Z6 with 200-500mm f/5.6 combo did a good job & I managed to nail some really nice shots

- Dynamic Area AF Mode was much more effective & had the higher focusing success rate

- Wide Area-S AF Mode was less effective & was slower in acquiring focus

- Focus Hit Rate success was 75%-80% for head on high speed shots (eyes need to be sharp)

ISO200 1/15s f5.6 JPEG FINE* Hand-Held 220mm focal length

ISO400 1/30s f5.6 JPEG FINE* Hand-Held 220mm focal length

ISO400 1/40s f5.6 JPEG FINE* Hand-Held 270mm focal length

"Panning - slow shutter speed" Findings

- Surprisingly it was VERY EASY to pan with the Z6

- The Z6's EVF did very well making it easy for me to follow the action during panning

OVERALL Findings

- The Nikon Z6 did much better that expected - honestly photographing this fast paced sport at this venue was NOT as easy as one thinks especially when I like to "zoom" into the scene as tight as I can to minimize post production cropping. Zooming in narrows the angle of view & I needed the Z6's AF response to be fast enough to lock on the action as it speeds past my shoot location.

- Ergonomics were excellent , the Z6 coupled with the FTZ adaptor & 200-500mm f/5.6 zoom was easy to hand-hold. The weight was not excessive at all & yet the combo provided me with weight that I needed for panning shots.

- Image quality was superb all round even with the high ISOS that I was using.

- NO banding in sight

- AF-C with Dynamic Area AF mode was capable. I felt that it was as good as my D850 with Dynamic Area 9 (D9) AF mode BUT it was NOT as good in terms of success rate if I used my D850 with Group AF area mode.

- Overall an accomplished performance by the Nikon Z6 , I could capture & deliver the images I wanted. Now that does say a lot about Nikon's 1st generation mirrorless camera !

Watch out for wildlife action in upcoming Z6 blogs. Till then Happy Shooting ......... Andrew

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