The Nikon Z6 II is an updated version of the company’s 24MP multimedia full frame mirrorless camera. It gains more processing power to add improved autofocus and a few other tweaks to an already well-rounded feature set.
- 24MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor
- Continuous shooting at up to 14 fps (in 12-bit Raw with single AF point)
- Full-sensor UHD 4K video at up to 30p
- UHD 60p from an APS-C crop promised in future firmware update
- Two card slots (1x CFexpress/XQD, 1x UHS-II SD)
- 3.69M-dot EVF with improved blackout times
- Tilting 2.1M-dot read touchscreen
- USB-C socket for recharging or powering the camera
- Battery rating of 410 (LCD) and 340 (EVF) shots per charge
- Connectors to allow battery grip with portrait orientation controls
The Z6 II launches at the same price as its predecessor, with a recommended selling price of $1999 body-only or $2599 with the Z 24-70mm F4 S lens. It available now.
What’s new and how it compares
|The addition of a second card slot will be a hugely welcomed change for some photographers.|
The Z6 II is a subtle refresh of the existing Z6, extending the capabilities a little, but offering a mostly similar, well-rounded stills and video feature set. In terms of hardware, the main difference is that the Mark II gains a second Expeed 6 processor, with most of the performance and feature improvements stemming from this additional processing power.
Nikon says the autofocus performance has been incrementally improved over the original Z6, but the most notable feature change is the addition of face and eye detection (both human and animal) to the wide area AF mode. Previously these features were only available in ‘Auto’ area AF, meaning the camera decided where to focus. By adding them to wide area, you are able to narrow-down the region in which that camera hunts for faces, giving you a way of pre-selecting the face you wish to focus on.
The variants of Wide Area AF with human and animal face/eye AF have been added to the list of AF modes accessible from the ‘i‘ quick menu, meaning you don’t have to separately engage those functions.
Nikon says the focusing system now works in light as low as –4.5EV (a one stop improvement), when using an F2.0 lens (or faster). And that’s without using the slower low light AF mode, which extends a further two stops.
The Z6 II’s maximum burst speed increases to an impressive 14 frames per second, but only if you use a single AF point and you’re willing to take the slight dynamic range hit of shooting 12-bit Raws. If you want the camera to choose an AF point or track a subject, it shoots at a still very respectable 12 frames per second.
|The (paid) Raw upgrade will allow an output that an Atomos recorder can encode as ProRes RAW or, after February 2021, a Blackmagic Video Assist to encode as Blackmagic Raw.|
The Z6 II builds on the Z6’s already pretty strong video feature set, with the promise of UHD 4K 60p in a free firmware update due in February 2021. This higher rate footage will come from an APS-C crop of the sensor, and will only be available for internal capture.
In addition, the camera’s video output options have increased, with the Mark II able to output 10-bit HLG HDR footage, in addition to N-Log, to an external recorder. An optional paid upgrade enables a 12-bit line-skipped 4K Raw stream can be sent to an external recorder to be encoded as ProRes Raw or, after a February 2021 firmware update, as Blackmagic Raw.
The viewfinder in the Z6 II is the same 3.68M dot OLED as in the original model. Nikon points out that the optics and coatings are of its own design and says it’s decreased both the refresh lag and the blackout time between shots. However, the company hasn’t put a number on either improvement.
Despite being a relatively subtle update, the Z6 II remains broadly competitive with the other cameras with launch prices around $2000. The Canon EOS R6 is the outlier: priced at a higher level but offering better specifications (though it can’t always deliver the full promise of its video capabilities).
We haven’t included the Sony a7C here, since it seems more focused on compactness than being an enthusiast’s main camera, but its specs are similar to the a7 III’s, just without the AF joystick.
|Nikon Z6 II||Canon EOS R6||Panasonic S5||Sony a7 III|
|AF system||On-sensor PDAF||
|Depth from Defocus
|Image stabilization||5-axis||5-axis + sync with lens IS||5-axis + sync with lens IS||5-axis|
|CIPA rating||Up to 5EV||Up to 8EV||Up to 6.5EV||Up to 5EV|
|Maximum frame rate||12 fps
|12 fps mech shutter
20 fps electronic
7 fps (AF-S)
|Flash Sync speed||1/200 sec||1/250 sec**||1/250 sec||1/250 sec|
|High Res mode||No||No||Yes||No|
res / mag
|2.36M dots / 0.74x||2.36M dots / 0.78x|
|Rear screen||2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen||1.62M-dot fully articulated touchscreen||1.84M-dot fully articulated touchscreen||921k-dot tilting touchscreen|
|Top-plate settings display||Yes||No||No||No|
|Video capture||UHD 4K 30p
UHD 4K 60p
|UHD 4K 60p
|UHD 4K 30p
UHD 4K 60p
|UHD 4K 24p
UHD 4K 30p
|S-Log2 / 3 / HLG
|Memory cards||1x CFexpress B
1x SD (UHS-II)
|Dual UHS-II SD||1x UHS-II SD
1x UHS-I SD
|1x UHS-II SD
1x UHS-I SD
|Battery life (CIPA) LCD/EVF||410 / 340||510 / 380||440 / 470||710 / 610|
|Dimensions||134 x 101 x 68 mm||138 x 98 x 88 mm||133 x 97 x 82 mm||127 x 96 x 74 mm|
|Weight (CIPA)||675 g||680 g||714 g||650 g|
* When shooting 12-bit Raw using a single AF point
** In electronic first-curtain mode: 1/200th with mechanical shutter
*** Promised in Feb 2021 f/w update
Body and handling
|The camera’s ergonomics are essentially the same as the original Z6, which is a good thing.|
The body and handling of the Z6 II is basically the same as its predecessor, which means it remains a solidly-built camera with a comfortable grip. The body is primarily constructed from magnesium alloy, providing a good balance of weight and solidity.
The grip itself is comfortable and the front and rear dials very well positioned so that they are readily accessible when you’re holding the camera. There are two customizable Fn buttons next to the lens mount, which can be configured independently or set to perform paired functions (such as aperture open and close during video capture).
Viewfinder and screens
Although the spec of the Z6 II’s viewfinder isn’t particularly stellar by 2020 standards, the camera does at least use it to its full potential (there are rival cameras with high dot-count finders that then drive the screen at lower resolutions). We’ve not had a chance to test the effects of lag and improved blackout with fast-moving subjects but will do so as soon as we can.
The rear screen is also unchanged, meaning it has a decent resolution but only a tilt up/down design. We find we prefer the two-axis screens used by the likes of the Fujifilm X-T3 for stills or a fully articulated screen for video.
Menus and interface
The camera’s menus are consistent with most Nikon cameras made over the last decade or so. This means the menus are quite dense with options but the key ‘Customs Settings’ section is well arranged and color-coded, which makes it easy to navigate. A My Menu tab can be configured with either your preferred options or a list of your most recently used options.
In terms of the user interface, the main change is the addition of Wide Area + face detect and Wide Area + animal detect to the ‘i‘ quick menu, meaning that you can more quickly engage human face or animal face detection as part of your AF mode selection.
The Z6 Mark II comes with the latest EN-EL15c battery. It’s 20% higher-capacity version of the 15b that came with the previous model. The camera is compatible with earlier EN-EL15 batteries but will perform much better with the more recent versions. USB-charging is only available with the type b and c units.
The camera is rated as delivering 410 shots per charge if you use the rear LCD and 340 shots per charge if you use the viewfinder. As always, these ratings are based on very challenging usage, and it’s not uncommon to get at least twice as many shots per charge in practice, depending on how you use the camera. We tend to find a rating of around 400 is sufficient for a day’s committed shooting or a weekend of fairly active photography, but not enough for something as photographically intense as a wedding.
If you need more than this, you can power the camera over its USB-C socket or add the MB-N11 battery grip, which provides space for a second, hot-swappable, battery.
Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you’ll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.
The Z6 II’s image quality is indistinguishable from that of its predecessor, including at. This is to say (with the Z 85mm F1.8 appearing a touch sharper than the Z 50mm F1.8 used on the older camera), and are comparable to its peers.
appears good, with warm, rich yellows and greens. Pinks lean a fraction towards magenta, rather than the orange that produces such pleasing skin-tones in Canon’s rendering, but it’s less noticeable than with Sony and Panasonic. is a touch more crude than its rivals: the Canon R6 is showing finer detail despite its lower pixel count, and the pulls out more subtle detail from its very similar sensor. Noise reduction is pretty good but a little more than the competition, which means lower apparent detail.
Like its predecessor, the Z6 II uses a dual gain sensor, meaning that high ISO settings have lower noise. As such the low ISO settings (where the higher gain step would cut into dynamic range) are inherently a little noisier. The difference isn’t huge, though: even in the low-gain mode the sensor is adding very little noise to the image. It also means that, instead of using a very high ISO setting, if you want to protect highlights, you can use the high ISO exposure but keep the camera at ISO 800, where the higher gain is used: there’s little-to-no noise benefit to increasing it above that point.
There’s no sign of the AF banding that could appear in the deep shadows of its predecessor
Our Exposure Latitude test emphasizes how little noise the camera’s sensor and electronics are adding. Even if you reduce exposure significantly, to capture additional highlight information, the Z6’s images are at least as clean as any of its peers. And there’s no sign of the AF banding that could appear in the very (very) deep shadows of its predecessor.
The Z6 II is a pretty adept video camera. Nikon says it will add a Super35 (APS-C) 4K/60p video mode that will bring it broadly into line with the specs of its 24MP peers. However, unlike the Canon EOS R6 and Panasonic S5, the Z6 II is unable to record 10-bit footage internally and instead requires an external recorder for Log, HDR or Raw capture.
In its favor, though is an intelligent separation of stills and video settings. Our of the box the camera will use different exposure settings for both modes, but in almost every other regard, you get to choose whether video mode should take its settings from stills mode or use its own, distinct values. This means you can just jump across and use the same white balance, if you wish, or use a pre-set value for video that won’t then mess up your stills.
Add to this a pretty capable video AF mode, that works more similarly to stills mode than many of its peers, and you have a camera that makes it easy to shoot casual clips or shoot high-quality stills and video back-to-back.
In terms of video quality, the Z6 II is a match for its predecessor, with highlight detailed 4K footage but rather less impressive,, at up to 120p. We’ll have to wait until a firmware update promised in 2021 to see how its APS-C 4K/60p will compare with the R6’s full-frame version.
In terms of rolling shutter, we measured a rate of 22ms for both 4K/24 and 30p, which is much better than the Canon EOS R6 and comparable to the similarly-sensored Panasonic S5 (and S1H, for that matter). That’s a long way short of the 10-15ms figures we get with more video focused cameras such as Panasonic’s GH cameras or the Sony a7S III.
The camera’s Raw stream is sub-sampled: skipping pixels to deliver 4K output from its 6K sensor, but we’ll look at that in more detail in a separate article.
My initial impression of the Nikon Z6 II is of a credible but not terribly far-reaching update to the original camera. That’s no bad thing: the latest updates to the Mark I have meant it remains competitive, so even a small step forward is valuable, but it might leave the Mark II with a fairly short shelf life.
What’s interesting is (on the face of it) how little the application of dual processors brings to the camera: the extra power has allowed Nikon to significantly improve the buffer clearing rate, boosting the number of shots in a burst, and it’s opened-up the possibility of 60p capture, but there’s not much more to show for that added grunt. The top burst rate has increased a little but only with 12-bit output and with a single AF point, which doesn’t exactly tell a tale of abundant processing resource.
The extra power has allowed Nikon to significantly improve the buffer clearing rate, boosting the number of shots in a burst
Overall, I wonder whether it’s simply too challenging to wring much more out of the IMX410 sensor that the Z6 II (and the majority of its rivals) appears to be using. The APS-C crop is the largest region that sensor can produce 60p 4K from, so there’s not much Nikon can do on that front. Capturing 10-bit video internally and outputting 60p over HDMI should be possible, though: Panasonic’s S5 manages both.
|The ability to add a battery grip with portrait orientation controls will be an advantage for some users. The MB-N11 even lets you swap-out one battery while the second is in-use.|
Personally I wonder whether Nikon concluded there was only so far it could push the current sensor and decided to focus R&D resources on what might be possible with a next-gen chip in a future model (hence the use of two existing processors, rather than the development of a new one for this camera). That’s speculation, of course, but other than the video improvements, it’s hard to see what more Nikon could do with the current sensor.
It’s only really the Canon EOS R6 that pushes beyond what the Z6 II offers, and that’s a significantly more expensive camera
Other than a handful of pros and power users who really need the reliability that a vertical control battery grip or redundancy of twin card slots bring, it’s hard to see much motivation for existing Z6 owners to upgrade, but the improved AF behavior, operation under USB power, grip option and twin slots should make it pretty appealing for buyers just moving to Z. To be clear, it’s only really the Canon EOS R6 that pushes beyond what the Z6 II offers, and the R6 is a significantly more expensive camera, and one that – in some respects – struggles to deliver all it promises.
My main hope is that Nikon continues to develop the Mark II throughout its lifetime, as it did with the original, and that we see more ways of exploiting its added processing power over the coming months and years.
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|MSRP||$1995 (body only), $2599 (w/24-70 F4 lens)|
|Body type||SLR-style mirrorless|
|Body material||Magnesium alloy|
|Max resolution||6048 x 4024|
|Other resolutions||3936 x 2624 (DX crop), 4016 x 4016 (1:1), 6048 x 3400 (16:9)|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 3:2, 16:9|
|Effective pixels||25 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||25 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Full frame (35.9 x 23.9 mm)|
|Processor||Dual Expeed 6|
|Color space||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Color filter array||Primary color filter|
|ISO||Auto, 100-51200 (expands to 50-204800)|
|Boosted ISO (minimum)||50|
|Boosted ISO (maximum)||204800|
|White balance presets||12|
|Custom white balance||Yes (6 slots)|
|Image stabilization notes||5-axis|
|CIPA image stabilization rating||5 stop(s)|
|Uncompressed format||RAW + TIFF|
|JPEG quality levels||Fine, normal, basic|
|Optics & Focus|
|Autofocus assist lamp||Yes|
|Number of focus points||273|
|Lens mount||Nikon Z|
|Focal length multiplier||1×|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Screen type||TFT LCD|
|Minimum shutter speed||900 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/8000 sec|
|External flash||Yes (via hot shoe)|
|Flash modes||Front-curtain sync, slow sync, rear-curtain sync, red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction with slow sync, slow rear-curtain sync, off|
|Flash X sync speed||1/200 sec|
|Continuous drive||14.0 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2, 5, 10 or 20 secs)|
|Exposure compensation||±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|Storage types||CFexpress Type B / XQD, UHS-II SD|
USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 GBit/sec)
|HDMI||Yes (micro HDMI)|
|Wireless notes||802.11ac + Bluetooth|
|Remote control||Yes (via MC-DC2 or smartphone)|
|Battery description||EN-EL15c lithium-ion battery & charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||410|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||705 g (1.55 lb / 24.87 oz)|
|Dimensions||134 x 101 x 70 mm (5.28 x 3.98 x 2.76″)|