Nikon Z6 ii review

Intoduction As a wedding photographer, though I have used an original Z6 in addition to my Nikon DSLR's for the last two years, I have felt that I could not in good faith use it as a primary camera because of the lack of dual card slots, as I take data loss prevention very seriously. I've used mirrorless cameras from other brands as well, so I've been aware of what brands like Sony have offered, and looked forward to the second generation of the Z6 ii where Nikon has tried to close the gap a little more.


Dual Card Slots The Z6 ii brings us dual slots and I can now move entirely to mirrorless within the Nikon system without worrying 'what if'. This alone warrants the upgrade for me and others in this field. I personally like that we can still use our existing XQD cards, as well as CFexpress, and the new slot is a UHS-II sd card slot.

Dual Processors/Autofocus

The addition of a second processor gives some performance boosts as well. It was necessary to help write data to the second card slot, but also increases overall performance. The autofocus system now acquires focus faster in very low light and rated to focus in -0.5ev lower light levels (the original is still very good though), the autofocus overall seems like the gain has been turned up in AF-C modes to more aggressively track moving subjects, however I've found that in some cases the focus jitters more than the original Z6 due to this added gain and you have no options to reduce it like on higher end Nikon DSLR models (tracking sensitivity, still vs erratic). At the time of writing this, with current firmware, while autofocus performance is overall increased, it is not a night and day difference, the original Z6 remains very good in comparison. I have noticed that the bottom left (if looking at the back of the camera) gets noticeably warm due to the addition of the second processor. ****One thing to note about mirrorless focus and low light: DSLR's, regardless of whether your lens is capable of a larger aperture, focus with the aperture at f2.8 (unless of course, your lens is only capable of a smaller aperture). If your set aperture is something else, it doesn't actually open up or stop down until the moment you press the shutter. On mirrorless cameras, your aperture is actually at whatever you set it to while focusing. The reason this is important is that if you are using primes, when you open them up to say f2 or f1.4 in dark situations, the focus system is actually getting two to four times more light and you will notice that they actually focus noticeably better when you open up. Because of this, the Z6 and Z6 ii focus better in the dark than any Nikon DSLR's I've ever used, when paired with prime lenses. If you are struggling with focus in lower light with these cameras, make sure 'low light AF' is turned on in the settings, and open up your aperture. New Eye AF mode


One complaint many users including myself have had with the first generation of Z camera bodies is that eye AF is just a mode within auto-area mode. You have to let the camera find eyes on its own, and then you have to arrow over to the eyes or person you want, so in some situations getting it to lock onto the right person or eye quickly can be frustrating. Nikon's answer was to add eye AF within a single point wide box, this way if you have more than one person in the frame, you can put the box over the face you want it to eye detect. To be blunt, it's a horrible implementation. The problems are now that you can't select which eye to focus on within the box, so focus seems to jump erratically between front and rear eyes, and that your subject has to stay within the box otherwise you lose focus on them. With the auto-area method of eye AF, you could at least arrow over to the exact eye you want to focus on, and it would stay locked onto your selected subject even as they move around in the frame. You are better off using the AF-C tracking box than this new mode. I hope that in the future, with firmware updates, Nikon gives us eye AF the way everybody else is doing it, where you can put it on a dedicated button, and it grabs the eye closest to your selected focus point. That is the best way to give us easy and efficient eye AF, time tested by Sony and now implemented in Canon's R6 and R5. However that leads me to another issue: Buttons and Customization


The body is nearly identical to the original Z6, so this isn't specific to the Z6 ii. The omission of an AF mode selection button like we used to have on the DSLR's means we have to use one of the available customizable buttons for this function, unless you are fine with the slow method of switching via the 'i' menu. For event work we need speed, so that's not the best option. There aren't enough buttons on these cameras. Yes, we can live with that, but it is a compromise. And of those that there are, only some allow you to select certain functions, for some unknown reason. If Nikon was to implement eye AF like everyone else (on a dedicated button), there's not really a great spot to put it without having our fingers in weird positions. Most people use the FN2 button for AF mode selection. I use the FN1 button for playback, since the actual playback button is in a weird spot, so I can quickly hit this button with my middle finger without taking my eye away from the viewfinder instead of moving my left hand awkwardly to hit the actual playback button on the left rear. You could technically put it here, but holding a button with your middle finger will feel pretty uncomfortable. The only place that could make sense is using the joystick as a button, but that leaves you with an awkward feeling, unstable press. If you could put it on the movie record button, you'd have to press the shutter with your middle finger instead of your index finger. You get what I mean. The Canon R5/6 have two buttons to the right of the AF-On button that are perfect for setting to eye AF and other functions, as well as two more up top you can use or one on the bottom front. Other Notable Mentions


Something I haven't seen touched on anywhere is the fact that when using flash, you can now shoot in continuous H+. With the original Z6, you were limited to continuous H (5.5fps). On the Z6 ii, you can now shoot 9-14fps with flash. For certain moments, especially during the reception dances, twirls, or other fast moving situations, this will be extremely beneficial. Some moments happen in less than a second and even if you only fire two or three frames in a burst, the time between them will be significantly shorter, meaning you are more likely to get the perfect moment. An example is the twirling dance photos in my portfolio. The duration of a twirl is under a second, and with the original Z6 within two frames at 5.5fps, the bride could make a complete 360 rotation. Often times the expression or something else would be off, so you have to keep shooting and hope for the best frame. Some times you could tell that there 'would have' been a best frame between two photos, so with more FPS you could get that 'perfect' frame. There are a handful of other times during a wedding where this would be beneficial, but most of the time the original Z6 is fast enough. You should not be machine gunning your camera, but there are a few moments where quick bursts of a couple frames increases your chance of getting a 'wow' shot with the perfect expression and moment. One thing that bugged me about the original Z6 is the boot up/wake up time. The camera needs a second or so to turn on and be ready to fire a frame. While it's not THAT long, it's still long enough that some times the camera is not ready to fire before I have it up to my eye, and I've actually missed some good candid moments due to this. The moment is gone before I can see through the viewfinder. Obviously you can anticipate the biggest moments of a wedding day and make sure the camera is active for those, but some times for example while you're arranging bridal details to be photographed, a good candid moment with great expressions unfolds near by and while your instincts are fast enough to grab the camera, the camera causes you to miss the best shot. This has remained unchanged on the Z6 ii and something we will have to work around. Canon's R6/5 are instantly active the moment you turn them on or wake them up, there is no delay, and they are as quick to respond as a DSLR. Hopefully in future Nikon models it will be like that as well.


Conclusion


Nikon's updates to the original Z6 bring performance closer to the competition, and allow professionals to move entirely to mirrorless cameras without worrying about data loss on a single card. Slightly faster autofocus, lower light focus, increased fps when using flash, and a few new focus options are a great added bonus. Though maybe lagging behind the competition, Nikon's Z6 and Z6 ii are still amazing cameras that outperform many popular DSLR's in most ways (other than super fast action). I'm confident that firmware updates will only make it better over time much like the original Z6 which almost became a different camera after new firmware updates. While firmware cannot fix the lack of buttons in certain places or the wake up time, these cameras are an amazing tool for wedding and event photographers, and with the Z6 ii you can move to Nikon mirrorless with confidence.





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