Nikon Z6 First Look

Key Features

  • Review Price: £2099 (body only)
  • 24.5-megapixel Full-frame CMOS sensor
  • 273-point hybrid AF system
  • 100-51,200 ISO range
  • 12fps continuous shooting
  • 3.2-inch, 2,100k-dot touchscreen
  • Shoots 4K video at 30fps

What is the Nikon Z6?

You wait weeks, months or even years for Nikon to come out with a full-frame mirrorless model, and then two arrive at once.

While the headlines might belong to the Nikon Z7, Nikon also announced the Z6, a more-affordable version of its new mirrorless model that’s designed to be more of an all-rounder in the vein of Sony’s excellent A7 III

Outwardly, both cameras use exactly the same body and design, but internally there are a few key differences on the Z6, including a lower resolution sensor, higher ISO range, faster frame rate, and fewer autofocus points.

Promisingly, the Nikon Z7 performed superbly in our tests, far surpassing our expectations (if not our hopes) for a first-generation mirrorless camera from the DSLR stalwart. Can the Z6 repeat its success when it goes on sale in late November 2018? Here are our first impressions from the launch event.

Related: Best mirrorless camera

Nikon Z6 – Design and handling

The Z6 uses the exact same body design as its Z7 sibling. This means you’ve essentially got a downsized DSLR, with a spread of buttons and dials which are designed to feel extremely familiar in the hands of existing Nikon fans.

There’s a deep and chunky grip, with large, well-spaced buttons that feel significantly less cramped than the buttons you’ll find on Sony’s A7 range of cameras.

On the top of the camera you’ve got a simple mode dial, with the usual array of shooting modes – including fully automatic for those just taking their first steps into full-frame shooting, plus a dual dial setup which can be used for adjusting shutter speed and aperture.

There’s also a handy display screen on the top plate, which shows you all the key settings you’ve got engaged, including shutter speed, ISO and battery life.

Nikon Z6 Z7

Flip to the back of the camera and you’ll see that most of the buttons are found on the right hand side, making it nice and swift to adjust settings with just the one thumb. Again, it’ll be nice and familiar to existing Nikon DSLR owners, with controls including an AF-On button, four-way navigational pad, and a joystick, which you can use to move the focus point around the scene.

Flip open the memory card flap and try to contain your disappointment that there’s just one card slot here. Try to contain it even further when you realise that it’s an XQD slot.

An XQD card is faster than an SD card, with Nikon keen to give you the best possible performance when it comes to shooting at 12fps. Only having one card is perhaps less likely to cause great consternation in the Z6 than the Z7, but anyone who likes to back-up things “just in case” better think of an alternative solution.

Related: Nikon Z7 review

Nikon Z6 – Screen and Viewfinder

Keen to make sure that DSLR-doubters are impressed by what the Z6 has to offer, Nikon has equipped the camera with a fantastic viewfinder. It’s best-in-class, in fact, giving you 3,690k-dots and a massive 0.8x magnification.

It’ll be good to test the viewfinder in a variety of different situations, such as tracking fast action, or in very low light, but initial impressions are extremely good. It’s bright, clear, and more than good enough to rival even the best optical ones.

Nikon Z6 Z7

You’ve also got a tilting, touch-sensitive, 2100k-dot screen. This is great for taking shots from slightly awkward angles, and you can even fire off the shutter release from it. Moving around various menu options makes a lot of sense via the touchscreen, especially the quick menu (accessed via the “i” button).

We’re slightly disappointed to find that you can’t select a focus point using the touchscreen while shooting through the viewfinder – something which plenty of other mirrorless cameras offer – but the joystick is very nice to use nonetheless.

Nikon Z6 – Features

While the outward design of the Z6 and the Z7 is exactly the same, internally there are some key differences.

Probably the biggest is the difference is resolution. The Z7 gives you a huge 45 megapixels, while the Z6 is a little more reserved at 25.4 megapixels.

Having fewer pixels may not be so impressive, detail-wise, but it certainly helps when it comes to low light shooting. To that end, the Z6 has a bigger native ISO range of 100–51200, compared to 64–25600 on the Z7. This means the Z6 should, theoretically, have the better low-light performance, but we’ll reserve judgement on that until we’ve done some proper testing.

Nikon Z6 Z7

The AF system is also a little more reserved with the Z6. Here you’ve got a 273-point hybrid AF system, compared with the 493-point system of the Z7. On the upside, the Z6 can muster 12fps shooting, compared to 9fps for the Z7.

Battery life for the Z6 has an official rating of just 310 shots. That sounds pretty poor when you compare it to Nikon’s own DSLR systems, but there’s also claims that in the real-world, you can push it to more like 600 shots. We’ll let you know in our full review soon.

With that in mind, Nikon is also developing a battery grip which will hold an additional two batteries, and, what’s more, there’s also in-camera USB charging for power boosts on the move. So it’s not all bad news for this traditional mirrorless camera weakness, then.

Nikon Z6 – Lenses

At launch, there will be just three proprietary lenses for Nikon’s brand new Z-mount. There’s a kit 24-70mm f/4 lens, along with a 35mm f/1.8 and a 50mm f/1.8. Also in the works is a 58mm f/0.95 “Noct” lens that sounds very promising indeed.

Nikon Z6 Z7

Of course, Nikon wants to reassure existing fans that this camera is also for them, so you can buy an optional mount to use your F-mount lenses with the Z6 (which costs £269 separately). If you’re completely new to the system, you’ll be reassured to know that via the adapter, you have access to hundreds of existing optics.

Nikon Z6 – First Impressions

While Nikon’s Z7 is undoubtedly the camera that will generate the most buzz among pros, the Z6 has much wider appeal – and not just because it’s £1300 cheaper.

If you don’t need a super-high resolution camera and prefer the sound of low-light shooting and faster frame-rates, the Z6 makes a lot of sense. For those who are upgrading from a mid-range APS-C body to full-frame for the first time, it’s also shaping up to be a promising option.  

Nikon Z6 Z7

Making the decision to keep the Z6 chunky, while still miniaturising it from a DSLR, makes it satisfying to use, with a sensible button and dial layout.

While the Z6 and Z7 share some of the same niggles, such as that single card slot, they’re not quite as important when you consider the Z6’s price and its less professional target audience.

Exactly how the Z6 shapes up when it comes to image quality is still to be discovered, but we’re excited to find out. Stay tuned for a full review before it becomes available in late November 2018.

Nikon Z6 – The Rivals

Sony A7 III

Sony A7 III

Sony’s latest “all-rounder” model option is attractively priced, features a 24-megapixel sensor, dual SD card slots, 10fps shooting and a 399-point autofocusing system. On the downside, it’s also a little more cramped and unbalanced compared to Nikon’s Z Series – especially when used with larger lenses.

Nikon D750

Nikon’s own ‘entry-level’ full-frame DSLR shares the same kind of audience as the Z6. It’s a camera which is starting to show its age now, but is still a great all-rounder for those looking for their first full-framer.

It’s got a 24.2-megapixel sensor, 6.5fps shooting, Full HD video recording and a 51-point autofocus system. The Z6 beats all of these specs, but the D750 offers traditional DSLR styling, an optical viewfinder – and most importantly – you can buy one for around £1500.


Camera type Mirrorless Camera
Megapixels (Megapixel) 24.5
Image Sensor 24.5-megapixel Full-frame CMOS sensor
LCD Monitor 3.2-inch, 2,100k-dot touchscreen
Video (max res/format) 4K video at 30fps
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