Mid term review of the Nikon Z6 in 2020 – optical prowess with the Nikkor 28/1.4E and 58/1.4G

Released in 2018, the full-frame mirrorless Nikon Z6 & Z7 duo was Nikon’s foray into the mirrorless world. Fully immersed in other brands then, my frank assessment of Z-mount back then [I have a Df and f-mount (Nikon’s DSLR mount) 28mm f1.4E and 58mm f.14G] against the offerings by other brands was that the Z-mount series was still in ‘beta’ phase.

At least this perspective held until the capability of the Z-mount system was improved through firmware updates, and I mean real-impactful updates such as the addition of eye/face/animal-eye detection in firmware ver 3.0 for the Z6 around Feb 2020.

For this review, I have no plans to waste your reading time and re-list the specs all over again, and in this sense, you can definitely drop by the official Nikon site here to get acquainted.

For me, between the recently released Z5 vs the Z6 and Z7, it will seem that the specs of the Z6 most suits my needs (though I will take the dual SD slots system of the Z5 vs the Z6’s single XQD slot anytime) while the higher megapixel, faster, more beefed up with almost double the AF points Z7 is a bit too much for what I do.

A personal issue I do have even now in 2020 is I do find the lack of top end Z-mount lenses an issue, and that has kept me away from fully investing in Z-mount so far. I did not get a Z-mount lens for the loan hence I won’t be able to say much about them. Anyway, I am sure with time, Nikon will be dutifully building up the Z-mount lenses and I look forward to that.

In this sense, I am glad Nikon did have the good sense to make a F mount to Z mount adapter (hence FTZ) bestowing full capabilities of AF-S lenses on the Z mount platform.

And so in this review, my key focus is on the commonly asked question of:

how does the FTZ adapter work in real life managing two of my favorite legendary lenses from Nikon, the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G and Nikkor 28mm f1.4E, both f-mount AF-S lenses

And in this image quality aspect, I am totally impressed – Nikkor 58mm f1.4G

A fellow photographer once told me which I agree with:

amateurs care about camera bodies, professionals care more about the glass and the experts, well, tripods.

Firstly, adapting f-mount AF-S lenses to the Z6 (Z5 & Z7) is as simple as plug and play. Snap in and you are done. The FTZ adapter is a full-function full fledged design and allows these lenses to work with full functionality on the Z-system.

And thus I have now stepped into the land of f-mount legendary lenses on Z-mount with all the perks of mirrorless cameras, such as the WYSIWYG EVF, tilt LCDs, filters (surprise, the Z6 has 31 filters built in) and all the other modern benefits of distortion control etc.

In AUTO Area-AF mode, the face and eye detection worked mostly flawlessly, with any out-of focus shots mostly due to user errors like shooting wide-open at f1.4 too closely. For products or other shots requiring more precision, there’s PINPOINT AF mode, plus all the other conveniences of a more modern AF build that my Nikon Df lacks. The Df’s Continuous mode wasn’t the most reliable and to me, this is resolved in the Z6.

I was honestly worried about image quality on the Z-system. After all the Nikon Df’s heart is the same sensor on the D4 sensor, giving it the ‘photography Pure’ badge and I was glad to see that Nikon did great work in ensuring that the auto-WB was really accurate and most of all, that great image quality potential is part of the Z-mount package.

Coming from Fujifilm and Leica, where I have gotten so used to seeing the shutter speed, ISO and aperture values presented on the top dials, I was glad to have this little LCD on the Z6 presenting all the info I need. One unfortunate thing is I realised that Nikon took out the LCD on the Z5 maybe in its overzealous cost-cutting effort. One can argue the superfluousness of this LCD but I do find it useful.

Surprise, this shot was actually created using the ‘Binary’ filter on the Z6. Most users don’t bother but these filters can be pretty useful and fun.

The original shot for comparison.

At this point, my standard disclaimers:

  1. The Nikon Z6 and FTZ adapter set was a loan and I was not paid for this review for disclosure purposes.
  2. All the images shared here are shot by me using the Z6 and Nikkor 58/1.4G and 28/1.4E. Product shots were shot using the Fujifilm X100V.
  3. All images were shot in RAW format and edited to my preferences.
  4. I am pretty easy-going with copyright but a comment or email to seek permissions before use is always welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

After a week, I can now confidently say the Z6 is Nikonโ€™s outstanding first attempt at a budget-friendly full-frame mirrorless camera. While there were issues on launch, Nikon has worked impressively to iron them up and introduce real-updates to the camera across the 2 years.

Ironically the current street price of the Z6 puts it on par with the Z5, which was meant to be a lower end model.

Menu system wise, I find Nikon’s menu pretty straightforward. The Z6/Z7’s answer to a Quick menu is it’s I (info) menu, which allows one to quickly change key settings, and yes, the LCD is touch-activated and it is a tilt screen.

While some reviewers have compared the Z7 to the D850 and Z6 to the D750 in terms of optical performance, there are some particular features that make the Z6 stand out. Firstly, the excellent 24.5 MP BSI CMOS sensor makes it easy to manage with post-processing. Most of us frankly do not need to shoot at more than 40 megapixels.

Some of the design elements I feel Nikon got right with the Z6: the compact and lightweight design, superb handling (I love how the grips works even with the relatively large 28/1.4E), it’s large and responsive EVF, highly effective in-body image stabilization, solid build quality plus weather sealing, class-leading video recording features, and frankly, something often missed out – an intuitive user design with backwards compatibility for lenses well thought out.

There is still more to test, and I am glad to be doing a portraiture session with a more professional model soon with the Z6, look forward to it ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you for reading.

Keith Wee

Photography Reviewer and Mathematics Educator. Writes for Fujifilm Asia Pacific, Fujilove and FujiXPassion and loves to share life as it is, with its sweet and bitter moments.

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