• Andrew JK Tan

Nikon Z 6 - Does it perform in Winter Wildlife Photography ? Part 2 of 2


The Nikon Z 6 had surprised me with how well it had performed in the tough genre of wildlife photography (given my early reservations mentioned in Part 1) and how robust it was in the winter conditions.

Ergonomics & Hardware Commentary

The mirrorless Z 6 body though small was comfortable enough for me to hold even when the FTZ adaptor + Nikkor TC-14E III + Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR were mounted.

The knobs , button & dials were large enough & well positioned for me to operate even when I had my - 60 DegC gloves on

Battery life wise , again I was surprised that each battery lasted a full day of photography easily. Over the week of photography , each fully charged battery gave me between 850 to 1300 shots with 10% battery life left. A great performance for a mirrorless camera and most importantly , I did not really notice any difference when compared to my usage in normal tropical conditions.

Did I have any issues with the Z 6 just having only 1 storage card slot ? Nope ! I was using a 128MB XQD card and backed up my card daily per my normal workflow.

The EVF worked great but it should be tuned appropriately brightness wise.

TIP : have the histogram switched as an added insurance that each exposure was accurate.

The overall Z 6 body size / weight coupled with the FTZ adaptor + Nikkor TC-14E III + Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR allowed me to hand-hold this setup which provided me with up to 700mm capability for really long periods with no issues (for me). This to me was very important in photographing & stalking wildlife.

An area that could be improved was the eyepiece design , the current design based on how I used the EVF allowed light to leak in , making it hard ocassionaly to view through the EVF especially when photographing in extremely strong sunlight. It could also be that the conditions were tougher with so much light being reflected from all that snow but I still think if it was a cup like design where I can rest my eye in , I would have had an even better experience.

My AF Tracking setup

- AF-C

- AF-C priority setting set to RELEASE

- AF Area mode set to DYNAMIC-AREA AF

- Focus Tracking with Lock-on set to level 1 for quickest response but that also meant that if I was inaccurate when placing the AF point on my subject , my focus accuracy could be affected.

Photographing the Red Crown Cranes at TSURUI VILLAGE

ISO640 f10.0 1/1250s 700mm focal length (with 1.4x TC)

TIP : To photograph the above image , make sure the crane's head is against a dark background

ISO100 f5.6 1/1000s 500mm focal length

ISO100 f5.6 1/800s 200mm focal length

ISO160 f8.0 1/640s 500mm focal length

I had no issues focusing even with the relatively strong backlight. It was great in this case to use an EVF like the one in the Z 6 to get the exposure I wanted spot on every time.

ISO640 f10.0 1/1250s 700mm focal length

Tip : for the above shot , I normally try my best to compose with no overlap between subjects

Also the very slight over exposure was intentional to create an "art" or painting like effect & again the EVF helps me greatly in achieving the effect easily.

ISO250 f8.0 1/1250s 200mm focal length

ISO400 f8.0 1/1000s 500mm focal length

ISO400 f8.0 1/1000s 500mm focal length

With the Red Crown Cranes , the Z 6 had no issues at all locking on when they were in flight. When locked on , the images captured were tack sharp !

ISO640 f8.0 1/800s 800mm focal length

ISO1600 f8.0 1/2000s 700mm focal length (with 1.4x TC)

So absolutely no issues at all photographing the Red Crown Cranes. The EVF helped greatly in getting the exposure spot on which was not that easy (& photographers should not be over confident) especially when we have bright white snow background with white cranes.

Photographing the Swans at LAKE KUSSHARO

ISO400 f10.0 1/1000s 270mm focal length

ISO400 f10.0 1/1000s 210mm focal length

ISO400 f10.0 1/1000s 310mm focal length

ISO640 f10.0 1/2000s 290mm focal length

ISO400 f10.0 1/800s 310mm focal length

ISO400 f10.0 1/1600s 240mm focal length

IISO1600 f8.0 1/8000s 350mm focal length

I had a fantastic location to photograph the beautiful swans but there was a lot of strong backlight , high contrast backgrounds and also a heavy amount of steam evaporating in the foreground. All of the above could have made it difficult from the Z 6 but I had no AF issues at all and again the Live Preview in the EVF helped greatly in getting spot on exposure. The whole experience was just great & there was no time wasting in chimping to ensure correct exposure.

Photographing EZO Deer at NOTSUKE PENINSULA

ISO400 f10.0 1/1000s 270mm focal length

ISO400 f10.0 1/1250s 500mm focal length

ISO400 f10.0 1/640s 500mm focal length

No issues again from the Z 6. The similarities in color tones between the long grass and the fur coat of the EZO Deer did not give the Z 6's AF any issue.

Details from the 24MP Z 6

ISO1600 f8.0 1/1000s 500mm focal length

ISO1600 f8.0 1/1000s 500mm focal length

ISO640 f6.3 1/1600s 410mm focal length

ISO1600 f8.0 1/1000s 400mm focal length

ISO1600 f8.0 1/1000s 500mm focal length

ISO320 f8.0 1/800s 500mm focal length

ISO250 f8.0 1/800s 500mm focal length

Details wise I was so impressed with the clarity , crispness AND details that I obtained from the Nikon Z 6 coupled with the SGD$1300 Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR.

So for those doubting or have reservations whether the Nikon Z 6's 24MP resolution is sufficient , well I can assure you that it IS more then sufficient. Sure the Z 7's 46MP resolution could do wonders but I doubt many can see the differences if any given the presentation and viewing platforms that most of us are normally using.

Closing Remarks on the Z 6

The Z 6 was not perfect but I used it as the PRIMARY camera in this trip and I did NOT ONCE MISS my Nikon D850 which I did bring for this trip. The Z 6's performance in this winter wildlife photography trip definitely surpassed my own expectations & dispelled any reservations that I had.

The advantages which I value with the Z 6 for wildlife photography

- the 12 FPS capability

- the overall image quality & details captured

- the Live Preview through the EVF

- the lighter weight (every gram counts) and overall ergonomics

- the overall robustness & weather sealing gave me lots of confidence

The above advantages are so easily overlooked but they gave me the highest percentage of capturing the wildlife moments that I wanted.

The overall value (which to me is tremendous) from the Z 6 when matched with the extremely affordable Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR was just unbeatable with the overall results that the combo could produce.

I have to give real credit to Nikon for engineering the superb FTZ adaptor which provided me with capable AF tracking at 500mm to 700mm focal lengths for my F-mount lenses which allowed me to track really fast moving subjects like swooping eagles and kites "fighting" with the Dynamic-Area AF mode.

Sure using an adaptor can never challenge a native Z mount lens but that does not exist yet at the focal lengths that I am using for wildlife & sports photography.

I would like an alternative eye piece design to prevent strong stray light from entering the EVF

While I wait for native Z-mount telephoto zooms & prime lenses , the AF tracking performance through the FTZ adaptor could still be improved in terms of speed and providing new tracking area AF modes with even better tracking algorithms which could match my D850 DSLR would be great.

The refresh rate of the Z 6 EVF is currently not the best out there and even so in no way did it impact my wildlife captures whether I was freezing the motion or in panning situations. So any further improvement would also be a great bonus.

Lastly AF tracking in low light and low contrast situations should also be improved.

Finally the most important questions , should I use this camera again in my next wildlife shoot ? Definitely a YES !

I hope you really enjoyed my experience sharing with the Z 6's capability and images from my Hokkaido Winter Wildlife Photography adventure. Now for the next winter wildlife photography adventure in a week's time with my Z 6.

Till the next blog , Gong Xi Fa Cai and happy photography.

#NikonZ6 #Wildlife #Hokkaido