Nikon's Z6II, and their Z system in general is better than I expected

February 27, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

I've bought a Nikon mirrorless Z mount camera, and the body and lenses are performing better than I expected. In fact, I'm impressed.

At the end of 2020, I bought a mirrorless Nikon Z6 II. I did so for three reasons. I was looking for camera lighter than my beloved Nikon D850 and with even better high ISO performance. The third reason was that I wanted to explore the mirrorless world we’ve all been hearing so much about - and which frankly, I thought was being over-sold by the fan boys.

So I bought a Z6 II together with a Nikon f/4 24 - 70 zoom. Later, during the new year sales I also bought two primes: a Nikon 50 mm and a 85 mm both of which are faster than the zoom being f/1.8. I'm yet to use the primes in any substantial way, but I have made a couple of hundred images with the new body and the 24-70 zoom and have been pleasantly surprised at the results.

A couple of weeks ago, and after looking at the images from the Z6, I had come to the conclusion that the greatest strength of the Z system was the new lenses, which are superb. The images from the 24–70 are beautifully clear, which is in keeping with various reviews I read before buying. However, what has surprised me is the quality of the of the images produced by the Z6 II body. I’d better explain.

My wife and I recently enjoyed a trip to Western Australia’s  south west and I took both the D850 and the Z6 with a view to doing some landscape and bird photography with the D850 while using the smaller, lighter Z6 as a “carrying around” camera. However, a telling experience was when we stopped in the forests, and I made a number of hand-held landscape shots with both cameras. (Simply to save me swapping lenses on the D850 to which I had fitted my 16-35 zoom, I shot some images using the Z6 with the 24–70.) It was fairly dim as as one would expect under the tree canopy and I made the mistake with the D850 of not setting a sufficiently fast shutter speed, meaning I was shooting hand held at around 1/30 second. This resulted in a number of images, which initially appeared okay but which have a degree of camera shake making several unsuitable for printing. 

This wasn’t a problem with the Z6 images. Using shutter speeds as low as 1/25 second and thanks to the camera’s in body stabilisation (IBIS), the images are crisp, the colours are clean and vibrant. Further, with the lens tolerating a tiny aperture of f/13, the outfit produced images that are sharp from immediately in front of me to close to infinity. 

This is an example.

Image of a Western Australian forest made with the Nikon Z6 II and the Nikon f/4 24 - 70.Image made with the Nikon Z6 II and the Nikon f/4 24 - 70.

 

This came as a complete surprise. I had not thought of the Z6 with its 24 megapixel sensor as being an alternative to the 46 megapixel D850 for landscapes, but it appears that the camera is more capable than I had expected. I had made the assumption that because of its sensor, the D850 would exceed the Z6 in landscape work. Indeed, I am confident that with both cameras on tripods, meaning that the Z6’s IBIS wasn’t an advantage that this would be the case. However the IBIS of the Z6 has proven itself in the low light conditions, and in effect compensated for its relatively low pixel count by having no discernible camera shake and hence super sharp images.

This is a cropped version of the same image at 100%.


Copy of the forest image above cropped and displayed at 100%Copy of the forest image above cropped and displayed at 100%© Shane Baker All rights reserved

Another advantage of the Z mount system, if you are already a Nikon user, is that with Nikon’s FTZ adapter, it can accept F-mount Nikon lenses. I have tried several of my Nikon lenses including my 500 mm pf prime, my f/2.8 70 - 200 mm zoom, and my 16 - 35mm zoom. All have performed as if they were made for the Z6. This means that I can continue to use my better f-mount lenses on this body for the indefinite future.

Finally, another point favouring the Z system lenses comes not from my direct experience but from reviews on the Internet. This is that the Z mount lenses are able to be used wide open. Let me explain. In the past, lenses have required that uses “stop down” a lens a little for really sharp images. This means that while an expensive f/1.4 lens could be used at f/1.4, the sharpest images would be obtained by stopping down a couple of stops to say f/2.8. Similarly the expensive “trinity” lenses such as an f/2.8 24 - 70 were really only sharp at say f/5.6 or f/8, but not so much at f/2.8. This doesn't seem to be the case with the Z mount Nikon lenses which reviews repeatedly state can be used wide open. This means that my f/4 zoom will be sharp from f/4, while the primes I have bought can be used wide open at f/1.8, with the resulting advantages of shallow depth of field and lower ISO.

So what do I conclude from this? It seems that the Z6 II (and presumably the Z7 II) are very capable camera bodies and when combined with the new Z mount lenses produce outstanding clean, crisp, pleasing images, even in low light conditions. They can also use f-mount lenses with the adaptor as if they were made for the body. 

If you are looking for a new camera system or you have Nikon lenses and are looking to buy a new camera body, I suggest you look at the Z6 II and/or Z7 II. Furthermore, Nikon is making an announcement early in March, and this may signal the coming of the mirrorless replacements for the D850 and top of the line, D6. If so, potential owners will have that little bit more choice.

Time will tell. 

In the meanwhile stay safe, stay well - and good shooting.

Shane Baker
[email protected]


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