There are times in life where an item of photographic equipment comes along that really changes the way that one works. In the case of the Nikon Z 6 this is true more for the weight and size of the system, rather than from the sheer quality of engineering and design.  

The Nikon Z 6, and of course its companion the Z 7 for almost everything but the sensor size, really does take some getting used to after almost twenty years using a varety of Nikon D series cameras. At first glance one could be forgiven for thinking that changing to a Nikon mirrorless camera is almost a straight transition - but you'd be wrong.

I'm not going to go into a detailed review of the system because there are so many ones out on the internet, although the vast majority seem to take great delight in belittling many aspects of the cameras. By far the best inspections and detailed reviews without any bias, so far as one can establish, are those by Thom Hogan. Remember that this is not the first mirrorless camera that Nikon have produced, but the latest development that began with the Nikon 1, so there are many years of knowledge and feedback from users to allow Nikon to get it almost right with their first professional grade mirrorless system. As I noted previously, this is only the beginning of the Z-series with other bodies already rumoured to be in the pipeline. The Z 6 has already had three firmware updates that have significantly improved its operation, not least the Face/Eye detection with AF tracking, allowing one to use it effectively at 12 frames per second - ideal for sports particularly. Alongside this Adobe has updated software for Camera RAW whilst other software manufacturers have also released applications that fully integrate with the Z 6 and Z 7 RAW file system.

In all honesty I think that it has taken me eight months to become really comfortable with the Z 6 as it is not fundamentally like a D series Nikon, however much it appears to be on first using it. Once one has accepted that certain things under the bonnet - hood if you are American - are very different, it becomes a delightful camera to use. For me the light weight and small size have changed the way that I work. No longer do I have struggle around with loads of kit weighing me down and filling every available space, so the pressure on my old body has reduced significantly. The other benefit is that I now take the cameras with me into situations where I might well have had second thoughts about lugging a brace of D3S bodies and associated lenses.

I have used the Z 6 system in really terrible weather, from bitterly cold snowy conditions to torrential rain and have never experienced even a minor hiccup. Yes, the touch screen does sometimes cause a problem when I'm wearing gloves, but there are gloves on the market specifically designed to work with touch screens so that is not the fault of Nikon but my laziness! Of course there is no doubt that Nikon do need to refine certain aspects of the touch screen menus, particularly when shifting focus detection points on the fly, but that is sure to come in the next round of firmware updates.

There are certainly a few of the new NIKKOR S-Line lenses that I expect to buy when either I have the money or they become available, namely the 14-30mm f/4 S, the 50mm f/1.8 S and - if they make one - a 70-200mm f/4 S, as that will obviate the need to carry a pair of FTZ Adapters and older NIKKOR lenses that were designed for the old F mount. The quality of the 24-70mm f/4 S so-called 'kit' lens is astonishing however, far exceeding anything else that I have used, whilst reviews of the current line up of S lenses indicate that they are some of the finest lenses ever produced by Nikon. Personally I have no interest in using other brands of lenses, however good they might be as I just prefer to use Nikon. That's my choice and you are free to disagree with it.

I have used the system in many challenging situations, especially in low light where the combination of a lightweight easy-to-hold camera, allied to superb IBIS stabilisation and RAW files capable of being really pushed to high ISOs really sorts the men from the boys. The Z 6 has rejuvenated my working life once again.

Battery life was something that many of the initial reports savaged Nikon about, but my real world use suggests that their figures are way, way off the mark. Typically I get around 800-1000 frames from a fully charged battery which I am comfortable with. I carry two spare batteries for each body - just in case - as I'm used to getting 4000+ shots from D3S, D4 and D5 batteries and have been spoilt for far too long. I picked up my D3S the other day for the first time in seven months and immediately realised that I had made the correct choice when changing to the Z 6. Now my D3S system is only there as a backup or if someone wants to borrow it. As an aside, if anyone wants to buy a pair of D3S bodies, a NIKKOR AF-S 16-35mm f/4G, a NIKKOR AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8D and a NIKKOR AF 50mm f/1.4D lens, they are for sale for very reasonable prices. Just email me.

I'll retain my Fisheye-NIKKOR AF 16mm f/2.8D, Micro-NIKKOR AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR and NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G VR lenses as there is no point in getting rid of them - certainly not economically. They work perfectly on the Nikon Z 6, bar the lack of autofocus on the fisheye, but frankly who needs that on a super wide angle anyway? I've also got a NIKKOR AF-S 50mm f/1.8G and a NIKKOR AF-S 70-200mm f/4G VR - both the latest F-mount lenses - along with two Nikon FTZ Adapters, which are fine up to the time when equivalent S-Line NIKKORS are available.

The short answer to all this is that I love the Nikon Z 6 more than I imagined I would and can see no real reason why I am likely to buy another D series Nikon, although who knows, circumstances could change...


Nikon Z 6 - After Eight Months