Nikon has updated their Z6/7 line up to the Z6II and Z7II. If you read this blog you know we have been testing and reviewing the Z6/7 since they first came available, almost two years of shooting with these cameras. The Z6 was my first foray into mirrorless, and for first timers, it takes some time to get used to an electronic viewfinder. Benefits included a realtime exposure and histogram in the viewfinder, in-camera image stabilization and beautiful ergonomics with a small form factor. For many types of photography, the first generation Z cameras were great (and still are). But I shoot a lot of action, both sports and wildlife in low light, and the shutter lag and start up time was slower than my DSLR. One advantage of an optical viewfinder is you put it to your eye and it is ready to go whether the camera is turned on or not.
The Z6II has a second Expeed 6 processor, and I’m happy to report this new version is much faster on all fronts than the original Z6. Now when I bring the camera to my eye the viewfinder snaps on and is ready to go. Autofocus is also faster. To put this to the test, I photographed birds in flight on a blue sky using the Z6II and the Z mount 70-200mm F2.8, and had excellent results. One thing is for sure…focus speed is very fast using native Z mount lenses. I can’t wait for Nikon to release longer telephotos for the Z system. With this bump in autofocus I’m guessing more photographers might think about trying out the Z system. And if you have used the new Z lenses, you know what I mean. They are just sharp as tacks, and produce beautiful colors and contrast.
The Z6II also has some other great improvements. Now using the I Menu you can quickly choose animal and eye/face autofocus, and choose to use this in a narrower focus area as well. If you shoot portraits, this feature alone should have you considering upgrading from the Z6. We photograph a lot of people, and absolutely love using eye/face detect with the Z6II. The Z6II now has two card slots, which will allow you to use your existing SD cards, no need to go buy new XQD cards if you don’t own them. You also now have extended shutter speeds to 15 minutes, and a faster frame rate at 14FPS (in extended mode).
We went up to Rocky Mountain National Park last night to try the Z6II with the new 14-24mm F2.8 for some star photography. Wow! This new lens has an illuminated focus panel on the lens. I just manually set the lens to infinity using this scale, and every in the image was razor sharp. This lens is another beautiful piece of glass, and has virtually no coma (oval shaped stars) that I could see. Stars were pinpoint sharp using a 20 second exposure, ISO 3200 at F2.8. I can’t wait to try this lens on aurora next year. This new 14-24mm F2.8 is noticeably smaller and lighter than the DSLR version…I’ll have a review on it in the future.
So is the Z6II for you? I know many of our workshop participants are thinking about trying out mirrorless. The bottom line is the Z6II is a great camera, much improved where Nikon needed to do it the most with autofocus, start up time and dual card slots. And if you pair the Z6II with a 24-200mm Z mount S line lens, this is a perfect super light, compact travel camera set up. But the bottom line is Nikon DSLRs are still awesome. Here is some good trivia. The almost 4 year old D850 is still sold out at many major retailers (currently on sale). That just goes to show you how incredible the D850 is; many photographers and reviewers think it is the best all around DSLR ever made…I totally agree.
Cree and I like having a couple of Z cameras to use on shoots, but we regularly use D850s as well. We still love the optical viewfinder experience with no black-out or shutter lag during super fast shooting sequences. And when it comes to blazing fast focus, nothing tops the D5 and D6. Cree and I often start our mornings in our backyard bird blinds shooting long telephotos and D5/6 cameras. In the end there are a lot of great Nikon cameras and lenses, and many photographers may be happy just sticking with what they have. But if you are interested in trying mirrorless, the Z6II is a solid camera with great performance. And those Z lenses are incredible…