Nikon Z6 II Review

The Nikon Z6 II replaces the original Nikon Z6 from 2018 as the Big N’s enthusiast-level full-frame mirrorless camera. With a 24MP sensor, it hits the sweet spot between resolution and processing power, and for many users is a preferable option to the professional-grade Nikon Z7 II, which comes with approximately double the megapixel count.

The original Z6 ticked most of the right boxes, and so what we see here is very much a refinement rather than anything radically new. It receives incremental improvements to speed and functionality after Nikon listened to user feedback and complaints levelled at the first version of the camera.

Externally there is very little difference between this new camera and its predecessor. The only giveaways are the “II” nomenclature next to the Z6 logo and a marginally deeper battery door. It’s a couple of millimetres deeper, and weighs in at 20 grams heavier, to accommodate some of the internal changes.

The question is, with the Z6 II being a modest update of a 2018 camera, how does it compare to its 2020 contemporaries like the Canon EOS R6, Sony A7C and Panasonic S5?

Nikon Z6 II: Specifications

  • Sensor: 24.5MP CMOS BSI
  • Image processor: Dual Expeed 6
  • AF points: 273 hybrid AF points
  • ISO range: 100-51,200 (50-204,800 exp)
  • Max image size: 6048 x 4024px
  • Video: 4K UHD at 30/25/24p • 1080p (FullHD) at 120/100/60/50/30/25/24p
  • Viewfinder: 3690k-dot OLED EVF, 100% coverage, 0.8x magnification
  • Memory card: 1x SD UHS-II, 1x CFexpress (Type B) / XQD
  • LCD: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2100k dots
  • Max burst: 14fps
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C, mini HDMI, GPS, microphone, headphone
  • Size: 134 x 101 x 70mm
  • Weight: 615g body only (705g with battery)

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Nikon Z6 II: Key Features

The Nikon Z6 II comes with two card slots, rather than the single XQD of the original. Here we have a dual XQD / CFexpress card slot, along with the more commonplace SD format, able to take the fastest UHS-II variety, and this is undoubtedly due to the criticism levelled by some at the initial camera.

The other major change under the hood is that there are now not one but two Expeed 6 processors, providing double the processing grunt. Creating images from the raw data captured by the image sensor is a processor-intensive task, and turning a series of static pictures into smooth video is even more so. This extra processing power translates to faster shooting frame rates and improved low-light performance, as well as better video.

As such, the Z6 II receives an increased continuous shooting speed of 14fps, up from 12fps on its predecessor – and the extra horsepower means that it can buffer 124 12-bit raw files or 200 JPEGs. However, shooting at 14fps implies that focus is locked from the first frame (which was the same case with the original’s 12fps top speed); drop to 12fps and you receive the benefits of continuous autofocus.

For video, the camera currently maxes out at full-readout 4K 30p but will be receiving 4K 60p (albeit with a 1.5x crop) with a firmware update in February. You’ll be able to shoot a movie for longer, though, thanks to the USB-C ‘hot charging’ support, which enables you to power the camera while it’s in use.

Everything else here is exactly as it was with the original Z6, from the 24.5MP sensor to the 120fps in 1080p to the resolution of the electronic viewfinder and LCD screen.

Nikon Z6 II: Build and Handling

The camera control layout is identical to the original Z6 (and the Nikon Z5 and Nikon Z7, for that matter). The deep grip makes the body comfortable to hold, and the scrolling front and rear dials are in easy reach of the forefinger and thumb, as are all the other essential controls such as the shutter, ISO and exposure compensation buttons.

That said, the sheer number of inputs is limited compared to those available on some more upmarket DSLRs, due mainly to the physical size of the camera body. For example, switching between continuous/single / timer shooting requires bringing up an on-screen menu, rather than selecting it on a dial.

There are a pair of user-definable Fn buttons on the front of the camera, but most people will be happy with their preset functions of selecting white balance about Fn1 and focus mode/area in Fn2. A welcome improvement over the Z6 is that animal and human face/eye detection is directly selectable along with the area AF modes; previously this was buried in the custom functions.

The rear LCD and electronic viewfinder are unchanged, which is a bit of a missed opportunity. The OLED EVF is clear enough, with 3.69 million dots, but its 60Hz refresh rate is starting to feel creaky next to the 120Hz offered by rival bodies. Likewise, it is curious that Nikon has decided to stick with a tilting back LCD, instead of taking the opportunity to add a fully articulating screen – something that hobbles portrait and video shooting.

Like the original, the Nikon Z6 II possesses weather sealing for all-purpose shooting and features a joystick for precise autofocus (though you can obviously still select your focus point by tapping the touchscreen).

Nikon Z6 II: Performance

As noted, the improved maximum burst rate put the Z6 II on similar footing with other speed-focused cameras – though with other mirrorless cameras offering up to 20fps, it’s a shame that Nikon hasn’t pushed the processing power a bit more here (especially since 14fps shooting lacks C-AF).

Still, a fast framerate for action photography is nothing without snappy autofocus – and the hybrid AF system, which spreads 273 AF points across the entirety of the image sensor, locks onto subjects with unerring accuracy. It’s still a half step behind the phase-detect systems employed by other cameras, but it’s not far off.

The human/animal face and eye detect modes are impressive, locking onto two- and four-legged subjects even against the busiest of backgrounds, and switching automatically between faces or individual eyes depending on their proximity. Again it’s a hair behind Canon and Sony’s AF systems, but it’s still remarkably good and extremely reliable at both finding and tracking subjects.

The original Z6 was already a low light specialist, and performance here also sees a boost; exposure metering now works all the way down to -6EV, enabling the Z6 II to practically see in the dark. And shooting in the dark is one of the areas where the in-body image stabilization comes into play.

Though the performance of the IBIS feels largely unchanged, Nikon’s system is right up there with Canon and Panasonic in terms of full-frame stabilization, leaving Sony in the rear-view mirror.

Nikon Z6: Verdict

The Nikon Z6 II is a light refresh of the original Z6, with a second memory card and processor bringing a bump to burst shooting and the promise of 4K 60p video. However, the latter is cropped (and not here until February) and the camera still lacks an articulating screen, limiting its appeal for video and vlogging. At its price, it’s a very capable camera, though certain of its specs are outperformed by rival systems.

Check Nikon Z6 II, Nikon Z6 Price and Bundles  

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