- Lars Jameson
The Z6II and How it Reignited My Love for Nikon
Updated: Jun 22, 2022
A couple of months ago I checked in on my Nikon D850, curious to see where its current shutter count was at. In 5 years, I had triggered the shutter nearly 114,000 times. The camera has a lifespan of an estimated 200,000 shutter actuations, and so I began to panic. The clock was ticking, and I knew it was time to start thinking about the future. While I fully expect my D850 to exceed 200,000 actuations without a problem, and I can always repair it, I knew it was finally time to invest in Nikon’s mirrorless future. After days of browsing reviews and making up my mind I settled on the Z6II. This post is about why I made that choice, and how my experience has been since making it.
My first impression was that the body is small. Much smaller than the D850. It actually comes much closer in size to my Fujifilm XT-4 than any of my full frame DSLRs. Since I travel with my gear often, especially for hikes, this was a big factor for me. The Z7II is closer to the specs of the D850, at least in the case of resolution, but after 5 years with the D850 I wasn’t concerned so much with resolution. I shoot A LOT, and the smaller file sizes of the Z6II’s 24.5 MP BSI CMOS sensor keep my workflow frustrations in a much more manageable state. The file size was a big factor, especially seeing as my D850 has plenty of life left. My rationale in choosing the Z6II as my next camera factored this in. If I need the extra resolution I can still turn to the old and faithful D850. That is, until it is replaced with a Z8 or Z9.
After a couple of months with the Z6II in my kit, I have fallen in love with Nikon all over again. The wide range of options to customize the shooting experience are almost overwhelming. I know that I will still be finding new features well into ownership. The Z6II can do everything my D850 can do, and more. I especially love the image profiles built into the camera, and the range of customization you have with them. I find these profiles reminiscent of the film simulations on Fujifilm cameras. The Z6II’s custom profiles encourage experimentation and provide interesting results with a lot of character. My personal favorite is the Toy profile, though I tweaked all the settings and created a custom version to use.
I know the Z6II is not a perfect replacement for the beast that is the D850. However, in my case it wasn’t meant to be. I wanted to get into the Z ecosystem and the Z6II seemed like a reasonable point of entry while still retaining professional function. I can now focus on Z glass, while still getting stellar results. Eventually, when my D850 kicks the bucket, I will have a full kit of lenses and a killer backup camera. At that point the only decision will be “Z8, or Z9?”
The main lens I’ve been rocking on my Z6II is the NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S. I love to utilize wide angle focal lengths, and while the 14-24mm f2.8 is lovely, the price and capabilities of the 14-30mm seemed like a solid deal. So far I have not been disappointed, nor in my use have I encountered any situations where I could have benefited from the wider aperture. Since the 14-30mm is an f/4 it is very compact, which is a bonus considering the previously mentioned travelling. It produces sharp images and fits an 82mm threaded filter, a feature highly uncommon for ultra-wide angle lenses. The 14-24mm allows you to use filters too, with the lens hood. However, they are much larger, and much more expensive. Since I love to do long exposures I absolutely love this feature.
The 14-30mm Z lens is the only one I own with Nikons new Z mount. For all other situations I have been relying on Nikon’s FTZ II adapter. In my experience, there is no downside to using adapted glass. Sometimes, I even get better results with the glass adapted to the Z6II than I get natively on the D850. Autofocus is quick and responsive even when using the FTZ adapter. I noticed some reviewers harping on the autofocus capabilities of the Z6II in comparison to the competition. I expected the autofocus system to be a weak point because of this, but it really isn’t. Yes, Sony does Eye AF tracking better, and 4 generations into their mirrorless system, they should. That being said, the Z6II doesn’t disappoint. It performs extremely well, though requires a bit of practice and experimentation to understand how to get the most out of the autofocus system.
Overall, I have been pleased with my experience shooting on my Z6II. It meets all my needs and has a lot of character. I love the images it produces, and the nearly endless opportunity to customize the shooting experience. I really don’t have any complaints so far, and I can’t think of any situations that the camera has let me down yet. I’m glad I waited for Nikon to catch up a little in the mirrorless market, there is something special about Nikon image quality and I didn’t want to give up on their systems. Thankfully, the Z6II has shown me that Nikon is moving into the future while retaining the magic of the past.