The Nikon Z6, released towards the end of 2018, was one of two mirrorless camera's that Nikon released to approach the serious end of the mirrorless camera market.
Sensor: BSI-CMOS 24.5MP
Lens mount: Z mount
ISO range: 100- 51,200
Video: 4K 60p
Memory card slots: 1x CFexpress/XQD, 1x UHS-II SD
Celebrated by many in the photography community, it hit the right notes when it came to introducing serious amateurs and semi-professional photographers to the mirrorless world, priced at a level that wasn't prohibitive to people who wanted to take a step up but expensive enough to exude a level of quality that we'd come to expect from Nikon's high-end DSLR cameras of a previous era.
This review will address the core differences between the Z6 and Z6 II, however slight, and look at the camera within the context of the broader full-frame mirrorless world.
Nikon Z6 II review: Design
- Good weather sealing
- Durable feel
- Comfortable hand grip
From a design perspective, there's almost nothing to tell the Z6 and this second incarnation apart. It uses the same body parts, grip, and weather-resistant body, with a sturdy and durable feel that, although it feels a little heavier than its immediate counterparts, gives a reassuring feel in hand.
The body itself is relatively small, but there's enough room for a generous screen on the top displaying vital information and an impressive tilting LCD touchscreen at the back, much like other cameras of a similar ilk.
The command dials feel well manufactured and the camera's ergonomic design makes it very enjoyable to use. Weight and size stats are marginally higher than the original Z6, but Nikon has made it work well and ensured that the Z6 II feels slightly more refined.
Other, more practical design changes are most welcome. A second card slot has been added to the Z6 II, which was missing from the original version. It's compatible with CF Express, so twinned with a standard SD, there are some serious capacity and speed improvements to be found in this area. Users familiar with the overall Nikon mirrorless ecosystem and control layout will be reassured that all the buttons are in the right place, especially the AF-On switch, which allows the photographer to navigate around the camera's 270+ focus points with speed and ease.
Nikon Z6 II review: Performance
- Improved image processor
- Shutter speed settings have been widened and improved
- Video now features 4K at 60fps
The performance and quality of the original Z6 were not to be sniffed at, offering an excellent mirrorless experience. There are some subtle but impressive performance improvements to the Z6 II, that if you delve deep enough, make a marked improvement to its overall usage.
The first is the introduction of a dual image processor, which drives most of the improvements, offering the opportunity to expand the camera's burst rate from 12FPS to 14FPS. This is not as much as the camera's direct competitor, the Canon R6, but is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. There are also general speed improvements to autofocusing. It has the same amount of autofocus points as the Z6 but is somehow a little snappier and more immediate. There's also a better range of shutter speeds, something astrophotographers will be keen to investigate further.
The original Z6 was always powerful regarding video, but its appeal has now been widened with the introduction of 60fps at 4K. It's a dynamic and enjoyable video experience, only slightly let down perhaps by the Z6 II's increased weight. If you're serious about shooting on a fixed base rather than handheld, the improvements brought about by the dual processor should also be music to your ears and means the camera is a formidable filmmaker's companion.
Nikon Z6 II review: Functionality
- It strikes a fine line between the perfect amateur and pro setup
- Functionality is consistent and impressive
- Critics may argue bigger improvements can be found elsewhere
Consistency in the stats is where the Z6 II excels, it also manages to be significantly more affordable than its direct rival, the Canon R6. As a direct comparison, it could be argued that had Nikon packed a few more noticeable upgrades in the Z6 II, it'd be a class leader, but as it is, it's a well-balanced camera that suits both pro and intermediate users.
Functionality is identical to the original Z6, which will please Nikon purists, and it has to be argued that its menu systems, layout and overall functionality surpass that of Canon's mirrorless cameras in a few areas. We like the layout, especially the aforementioned AF-on button. Still, we do also feel that due to the size of the body some compromises have to be made somewhere and an extra user function button or two that the user could program to their liking may not have gone amiss. A bit of a quirk is that the viewfinder's information can only be hidden by programming one of these sought-after custom buttons to 'live view info display off,' which feels a little illogical when it could have been programmed to the DISP button. At least, unlike the original Z6, there is an option to hide all this information for a clutter-free display.
Should you buy the Nikon Z6 II?
If you already own the Z6, then there's a simple answer: no.
It's not enough of an upgrade to warrant a brand new purchase, but in some ways, to criticize this area is to miss the point. The Z6 II is the perfect camera for semi-pros or advanced amateurs looking to make the first leap to mirrorless. Being cheaper than the Canon EOS R6 it is arguably more accessible and allows first-time users to really notice the upgrade from the brand's DSLR cameras. For professionals, it could also work well as a second camera as a backup to a tried and trusted DSLR. Add an adaptor and you can use the same lenses, too.
If the Nikon Z6 II isn't for you
There's no doubt that the Z6 II won't suit everyone, but the benefit of this camera is that it does a lot of things well. If you're after a more conventional option though and want to stick with DSLR power, then the Nikon D850 still takes some beating. The Canon EOS R6 is the obvious direct competitor from Canon in the mirrorless market, which we recommend if you'd like to stay with Canon, but of course, with the caveat that it is slightly more expensive. If you've got a fair bit more money to spend, then there's also the Sony A9 II (opens in new tab), which, if you're dedicated to Sony, is a more professional and smart camera all around.