It's been a long road to Nikon's new mirrorless full-frame system, unveiled on 23 August 2018 as the Z series, consisting of two cameras: the Z7 and the Z6.
But why two bodies and what's the difference between each in this brand-new setup (which includes a brand new lens mount too)? We've been at the Z series launch to find out...
Nikon Z7 vs Z6: Design and Lens Mount
- Both cameras: Z series mount; FTZ adapter available for F-mount compatibility
- Both cameras: In-body stabilisation to claimed 5-stops (VR; vibration reduction)
- Both cameras: Magnesium alloy front, back & top covers
- Both cameras: Weather sealed (to Nikon D850 standard)
- Both cameras: Single XQD card slot (no SD card slot)
As you'll likely notice from the repeat of 'both cameras' above, there's no physical difference between Z7 and Z6. They're the same size, the same build, with the same core systems. Resolution, focus and burst speed and the primary points of difference - which we'll come to cover under the headings below.
Critical to the Z series design is the brand new Z mount. Yep, Nikon has made its first new lens mount for many years, bypassing the Z-series' direct compatibility with the traditional F-mount lenses (this is possible via the FTZ adapter). At launch there will be three S-Line class lenses: a 24-70mm f/4 zoom (£999), a 35mm f/1.8 (£849) and a 50mm f/1.8 (£599). A Nikkor 58mm f/0.95 will follow (£TBC - predict 'lots'!), which ought to get pros extra excited. Plenty more will follow in 2019 and beyond, detailed at the conclusion of this very article.
Nikon has also lifted the lid on its in-camera stabilisation system (which it lables VR for Vibration Reduction) that's good for up to 5-stops. This system caters of horizontal, vertical, pitch, yaw and roll in five directions.
With weather-sealing and a solid, ergonomic build, the Z series retain Nikon's styling, but in a package that's far smaller than a Nikon DSLR. Oddly, however, the company has opted for a single XQD card slot (no dual slots, no SD cards, which seems like a bizarre decision to us).
Nikon Z7 vs Z6: Viewfinder & Screen
- Both cameras: 3.2-inch tilt-angle LCD touchscreen
- Both cameras: 3.6m-dot Quad-VGA electronic viewfinder (100% field of view, 0.8x magnification)
Again, the touchscreen and viewfinder systems are the same between Z7 and Z6, but both are impressive.
The tilt-angle LCD screen is touch-enabled, while the built-in viewfinder offers a massive resolution, high frame-rate for smoothness, a 100 per cent field of view, and a 0.8x magnification to make it appear absolutely huge to the eye. Indeed, we're not sure we've seen a better electronic viewfinder system before this.
Nikon Z7 vs Z6: Image Quality, Speed, Video
- Z7: 45.7MP full-frame CMOS sensor (FX format), ISO 64-25,600 native
- Z6: 24.5MP full-frame CMOS sensor (FX format), ISO 100-51,200 native
- Z7: 493 phase-detection points, covering 90% of frame
- Z6: 273 phase-detection points, covering 90% of frame
- Z7: To 9fps bust maximum / Z6: To 12fps burst maximum
- Both cameras: 4K video, Full HD at 100/120fps, 10-bit HDMI clean out (with N Log)
The main area where the two cameras differ is in resolution. The Z7 has a massive 45.7 megapixels on offer, the Z6 is lower-resolution, at 24.5 megapixels.
Both sensors are the same FX format full-frame size, offering 90 per cent coverage of horizontal and vertical with phase-detection autofocus points. The higher-resolution Z7 offers more points, at 493, compared to the Z6's 273.
Because the Z7 has heaps of resolution, it's got a lot more data to process. As a result it can't whirr off shots quite as quickly as the lower-resolution Z6. However, with 9fps and 12fps maximum, respectively, neither is a slouch when it comes to burst shooting.
Nikon Z7 vs Z6: Conclusion
- Z7: Available late September 2018, £3399 (body only), £3999 with 24-70mm, £3499 with FTZ adapter, £4099 with 24-70mm and FTZ
- Z6: Available late November 2018, £2099 (body only), £2699 with 24-70mm, £2199 with FTZ adapter, £2799 with 24-70mm and FTZ
- From late September 2018: 24-70mm f/4 (£999); 35mm f/1.8 (£849), FTZ adapter (£269)
- From late November 2018: 50mm f/1.8 (£599)
- In 2019: Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 (2019); 20mm f/1.8; 85mm f/1.8; 24-70mm f/2.8; 70-200mm f/2.8; 14-30mm f/4
- In 2020: 50mm f/1.2; 24mm f/1.8; 12-24mm f/2.8
With a whole new camera system comes a whole lot of risk. Will established Nikon users and newcomers alike be drawn in by the new Z mount and its promise of 'new optical standards'?
Given the quality of the lenses on offer from day one, and the company's already extensive plan to expand over the coming couple of years, we'd say there's a lot to tempt. The camera is smaller than a DSLR, offers up-to-date features, without extensive compromises (short of battery life, which is said to be 330 shots per charge by CIPA standards).
There is the price to also consider though. At £4K with the 24-70mm f/4 kit lens, the Z7 is a pricey bit of kit. It may be the lower-resolution Z6 that spells a greater success, as it's more affordable (well, it's still £2699 with that lens), faster and doesn't have the ultra-high resolution that not many photographers will actually need.