Top positive review
The intermediate photographer's review
29 November 2018
I'll declare up front I have no entrenched camera brand loyalty. I've used Canon (40d, 5D2), Nikon (D700, D750), Panasonic (LX100) and currently have (and love) a Fuji (XT2).
Much as I love the physical controls of the XT2 and the amazing colours, I have found myself yearning for the background separation and low light ability that comes from full frame. The XT2 is pretty good up to iso 3,200, but will also focus hunt a bit in low light.
Of all the DSLRs I had, the D700 was my favourite, and I was keen to see if Nikon could bring some of that magic to the mirrorless market. I'm an enthusiastic amateur who generally photographs friends, family, pets and travel.
I was surprised the Z6 was so similar in size to my XT2, and definitely more portable than a full frame DSLR. The first real bit of magic is how good the camera feels in your hands. It's really sturdy - feels incredibly well made like a D700 or other pro-DSLR, and all the buttons and dials are exactly where they should be. The physical dials of the XT2 are great but the buttons are a little small and not well placed.
The viewfinder is spectacular - the XT2s was really good, this is even better. I've always prefered to shoot through a viewfinder, and this is as good as it gets. If you're a DSLR user who thinks an optical finder will always be better - I used to think the same thing, and I wouldn't go back now.
Operating the camera is fantastic. It really feels like an evolution of everything Nikon have learnt about camera interfaces. The touchscreen works really well, but to be honest the combination of physical controls and menus is so intuitive, I found myself forgetting to use it. Everything is so easy to customise, from the short cut menu, to the U1/2/3 profiles and the "my menu", it allows you to concentrate on taking photos and not digging around in menus.
Finally on operation, a quick note on back button focus - this works tremendously well. This is horrible on the XT2 because of the tiny little button (which is also slightly in the wrong place), and was missing from the D750 (no dedicated AF on button), so I have delighted to see how well it's been implemented on the Z6.
When it comes to image quality, the jpegs are superb. The colours look great, if perhaps not quite as fabulous as the fuji (which has the best colours of every camera I've ever had). The dynamic range is great and I never print larger than A3, so 24mp is the perfect size for me. I've been really impressed by the in body stabilisation - hand holding a 1/3 of a second with no shake is astonishing and is really useful with a slower lens like an f4. The high iso performance is fantastic, and iso 5000 is very usable.
Single shot AF is really fast, and continuous AF works really well too. Two areas for improvement - firstly, activating subject tracking is a little odd. You have to go into auto area AF (where the camera usually selects the focus subject) and then hit OK to turn on the tracking reticule. Place the reticule on the target and it then sticks to it round the frame. Performance is a little patchy - pretty similar to the XT2 after all the firmware updates. It's usable, but to be honest I get better results by putting it in wide area AF with continuous AF and tracking the object myself. Second area for improvement is that face detection is also only available in auto area AF. It also works ok, but it's not perfect.
Overall verdict? An amazing camera. The build quality and feel are just astonishing. The interface, menus and buttons are probably the best combination I've ever used. That it manages to be solid and well built, at the same as being compact and significantly lighter than a DSLR is astonishing. In use, it's brilliant. Amazing EVF, fast menus, brilliant image quality and great AF in all except tracking mode. Great work Nikon.