I know I said I wouldn't talk about it. I know I said that images are better than words.  

The trouble is that the new system has just been delivered - well all but the spare Nikon Z 6 body - and after an evening spent playing with it and shooting in light that I really wouldn't expect a Nikon D3S to deliver the goods I must admit to being astonished by the quality and ease of use.

My initial impression was that the body was even smaller than I remember from my only contact at Nikon UK with it, although as you can see it is about the same size as a 1959 Nikon F body. It feels as right in the hands as a Nikon F does, although only those older photographers will know what I mean, and oozes quality.

Once again Grays of Westminster pulled out all the stops and delivered the kit a day earlier than promised. It came with the Nikon FTZ Adapter to take F-mount lenses, the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S-Line lens and a 64Gb XQD card and it didn't take me very long to set up the camera to function in pretty much the same way as my D3S bodies. For those used to the Nikon menus there is very little to get used to, other than a touch screen if you want it.

By the time the battery had fully charged it was dark outside so I contented myself with doing a few rudimentary tests in gloomy room light, not really expecting a great deal. The new NIKKOR 24-70mm really amazed me though, focussing rapidly and consistently in poor light and giving tack sharp shots with little or no noise at ISO 4000, despite being hand-held at speeds of around 1/30 sec or longer.

However when I fitted the FTZ Adapter and ran through most of my NIKKOR lenses, from an old NIKKOR AF 50mm f/1.4D, a Fisheye-NIKKOR AF 16mm f/2.8D and one of my favourites, the original NIKKOR AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8D IFED, through to a new Micro-NIKKOR AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR and NIKKOR AF-S 16-35mm f/4G VR that I began to appreciate just how brilliant the Z 6 is at retaining the loyalty of Nikon users. The Nikon Z 6 allows them to use (with certain limitations of course) kit that goes back at least 50 years and possibly more, although I haven't had a chance to test this out comprehensively yet. I have just tried a 1963 Zoom-NIKKOR 8.5-25cm f/4-4.5 and a 1971 NIKKOR-Q Auto 135mm f/2.8 - both pre-AI - and they both work in Manual and Aperure Priority although without IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation).

One of the things that really interested me was the actual battery life as opposed to the quoted one of around 330 shots or so. Coming from a D3S where I could happily shoot thousands of shots without worrying about the battery, I must admit that I was concerned about the quantity of batteries that I should have to have with my Z 6. I spent today out and about shooting 12bit RAW, lossless compressed, in a variety of modes, from single shot through to Continuous High Extended and frankly got bored waiting for the end of the battery life. I got 6740 shots with 21% charge left in the battery after what I consider to be an average day's shoot! Later reflection on this astonishing number of shots actually highlighted my own inefficiency in testing though, taking a large number of shots without really doing any composition - more just pressing the shutter and seeing what would happen - rather than any meaningful real world scenario! No way could I come close again to this mind-boggling number of images.

The reality is though that with real constraints of using Vibration Reduction, checking the screen for quality and so forth, leads to far, far fewer images being shot before the battery level drops significantly. Notwithstanding that I still found that I was getting 600 odd images on a charge and haven't yet been left with no battery and more shots to take. Certainly it pays to pack more than one spare battery, which is something I never had to do with the D3S bodies, but there are brilliant deals on from Amazon that means you can buy a double USB-C charger complete with two batteries for under £40, which is a massive saving on Nikon's own batteries.

I must admit that I treated myself to a pair of Hawkesmill hand-made Kensington leather straps which really compliment the bodies and effectively remove the 'look at me' attention grabbers that Nikon use for straps. For some reason Nikon have never produced good straps for their D series cameras; gaudy and thin with no gripping inner surface makes them useless for carrying expensive kit. By contrast the range at Hawkesmill seems to cater for almost every need and taste at what is really a modest price from around £65 per strap upwards - a small price to pay when you consider that bodies costing upwards of £2000 will be hung from them.

As this is merely the beginning of the Z-series I firmly believe that it can only get better. Adobe has now released updated software for Camera RAW and Lightroom that allow me to fully utilise the new NEF RAW files, making it a system that is going to make my life much easier whilst allowing me to really push the boundaries of my low light photography and video production.

In an effort to maximise the smaller system I've also bought a NIKKOR AF-S 50mm f/1.8G and a NIKKOR AF-S 70-200mm f/4G VR, along with two Nikon FTZ Adapters, which make for a much lighter kit to carry whilst delivering great results. No doubt when Nikon introduce a NIKKOR Z equivalent it will be even smaller, although the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens is still expensive compared to the existing AF-S 50mm f/1.8 F-mount lens. It's early days yet and the transition has not been as seamless as I would have liked, but that is more down to me having to learn a new system rather than any limitations of the Z system itself. I suspect that coming from years of using the Nikon D series is actually a disadvantage for me, whereas if I had converted from another system, such as Fuji or Sony, I would have had no preconceptions about the underlying operating system and menus. That's really the main reason why I bought two Z6 bodies, so that I wouldn't have to swap between two systems and add to my confusion!

Will I be tempted to go back to D series Nikons? No!

Will I get rid of my D series Nikons? No, they will remain as an adjunct to the Z 6 bodies and will often have a role to play I suspect, perhaps where one wants a remote control camera in a risky location where the loss of an older body if something goes wrong will not be so worrying.


Nikon Z 6 - A Revolution