The Nikon Z7 exceeded our expectations and then some. Now it's time to find out if the Nikon Z6 is an amazing all-rounder. Michael Topham puts one of the first samples in the UK to the test
Nikon Z6 Review: Build & Handling
Getting the right look, feel and balance to an entirely new system presents a serious challenge for camera manufacturers. With Nikon’s expertise of producing DSLRs that feel as good in the hand as they are too use, I had high hopes they’d get it right and I’m glad to report they’ve nailed it. Nikon’s design team has managed to strike the perfect balance between what feels natural to existing users while making it considerably leaner than their smallest full frame DSLRs.
Viewed directly alongside the Nikon D750, it looks like the Z 6 has been in the gym shedding the pounds whereas its DSLR cousin has consumed a few cakes too many. There’s a 165g difference in weight between these two cameras and Nikon has achieved this without needing to make the body so small that the handling is compromised. With a wonderfully sculpted handgrip and sizeable thumb rest, behind which the XQD card is stored, the Z 6 offers an extremely satisfying handling experience, which from the moment you pick it up feels more comfortable than the Sony A7 III.
Though it might seem a relatively minor thing, the rubberised texture of the grip on the Z 6 feels more secure in yours hands than the A7 III, especially when you’re working with gloves or when your hands are wet. It isn’t a mirrorless camera that handles best with small lenses either. As I discovered, the grip provides sufficient purchase to wrap your right hand around it firmly when working with long and heavy telephoto zooms mounted via the FTZ adapter.
To give it strength and rigidity the Z 6 is built around the same magnesium alloy chassis as the Z 7, which is fully weather sealed to prevent moisture, dust and dirt penetrating through the body seams and damaging the internals. Nikon offers further reassurance by saying it’s weather-sealed to the same standard as the D850, which I can vouch for being extremely durable having used it in persistent rain for hours on end without a hint of a glitch. Anyone who shoots regularly in the portrait orientation or would like to increase shooting stamina will appreciate that the MB-N10 battery grip provides the same level of dust-and drip-resistance as the body. In addition it supports USB charging using the EH-7P Charging AC Adapter, however unfortunately it was still in the development stage at the time of testing and there’s no further news on its availability or price.
Existing Nikon DSLR users will love the way they immediately feel at home with the Z 6 in terms of its operation. There’s not a great deal new to learn and by keeping the dedicated buttons and controls we’d expect to see on a camera of this level it saves you having to dive into menus or learn a whole new way of working.
The mode dial is a located from the top left shoulder and needs the central lock button to be depressed as it’s rotated as it can’t be permanently unlocked. Rather than getting a drive dial beneath it, drive modes are loaded using a dedicated button below the menu button and are set with the front/rear thumb dials. You get a joystick that falls naturally under your thumb for shifting the focus point around the frame and its knurled texture helps distinguish it from the AF-ON button above.
Video mode is engaged from a stills/video switch that’s in easy reach of your thumb. Inside this switch is the Disp. button to toggle through the various display modes that include a levelling function and histogram. The front and rear thumb dials are perfectly positioned for making quick exposure adjustments and the way the camera allows you to reassign the lens’s manual focus ring to control aperture or exposure compensation is a nice touch.
Up on the top plate the dedicated movie-record button only starts recording when you’re in movie mode, but like many of the buttons across the body it can be assigned independently to stills and video functions. There’s a conveniently positioned ISO button directly behind the shutter button, but I found the exposure compensation button a little bit too far off to the side for my liking. The addition of a top plate screen is another reference to DSLRs of the past. It doesn’t permit being inverted to display black on white like some other cameras, however it reveals all the key shooting information you might want to glance down at such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, battery power, drive mode and the remaining capacity of the memory card. Being an OLED display, it’s also intelligent enough to automatically adapt to the ambient light conditions.
All things considered, the Z 6, much like the Z 7, offers the finest handling experience of any full frame mirrorless camera on the market right now. It fits the average size hand exceptionally well and when you add its pro-spec build quality to the pleasing feel of all of the buttons and controls, you have a camera that you simply don’t want to put down and just want to keep using.