Nikon Z6ii Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Review
An in-depth review of the Nikon Z6 ii full-frame mirrorless camera. Discover why it's the best value model in 2023, and why you should think about upgrading.
Before we get started with this Nikon Z6 ii review, a quick bit of context. I’m a professional wedding photographer who has used Nikon cameras for many years – they’re the only camera brand I’ve ever used professionally.
I bought a Nikon Z6 in 2019 and have loved using it ever since – though, from my point of view, there were a few areas that could be improved.
So when the Nikon Z6 ii was released, it was an easy decision for me to upgrade, as I was keen to see if these few (yet key) areas had been addressed.
And jumping ahead, I have to say the Nikon Z6 ii improves on the original Z6 while keeping all the features I loved in the first place. But is it now a mirrorless camera that delivers in every area it needs to?
Mirrorless powerhouse that offers exceptional value, stellar image quality & a growing range of great lenses.
Importantly, this review will look at how the Z6 ii performs in the real world – real photography job conditions. I will compare it to both the Z6 and other mirrorless cameras, from Sony, Panasonic and Canon.
You’ll find example images I’ve taken over the last 5 months, professionally at weddings, and also day to day. This has been a camera I’ve pretty much not put down since buying it.
In my opinion, the Z6 ii is still the best Nikon camera for a wedding photographer or a commercial photographer – or even an enthusiast.
So let’s take a look at just why I would recommend this fantastic Nikon mirrorless camera to such a wide cohort of photographers.
Nikon Z6 ii Specs
- Excellent image quality
- Growing selection of excellent Nikon Z lenses
- Nikon F lenses adapt well using the FTZ adaptor
- Unbeatable value for money
- Ergonomic design, great build & weather sealing
- Easy to use and customisable menu and controls
- Dual card slots
- Improved buffer over the Z6 (due to dual processor)
- Excellent eye AF and tracking focus modes
- Improved overall autofocus over the Z6
- Sharp images at low light and high ISO
- Fantastic in-built image stabilisation
- Battery life could be improved
- Touch-screen doesn’t flip forward
- Startup time could be quicker
- No AFC in Pinpoint AF mode
- 24MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor
- Continuous shooting at up to 14 fps (in 12-bit Raw with single AF point)
- Full-sensor UHD 4K video at up to 30p
- UHD 60p from an APS-C crop promised in future firmware update
- Two card slots (1x CFexpress/XQD, 1x UHS-II SD)
- 3.69M-dot EVF with improved blackout times
- Tilting 2.1M-dot read touchscreen
- USB-C socket for recharging or powering the camera
- Battery rating of 410 (LCD) and 340 (EVF) shots per charge
- Connectors to allow battery grip with portrait orientation controls
Build & Appearance
The Nikon Z6 ii is pretty much identical to the original Z6 in terms of appearance. It looks like a Nikon – it looks like a camera. But of course, it is smaller than a DSLR, such as a Nikon D750 or Nikon D780.
The build too is just as good as its predecessor. With weather sealing, you can use it in all conditions. I have shot in heavy rain with my Z6 ii and it’s stood up just as you’d expect a weather-sealed Nikon to do so.
So, as Nikon got it so right in terms of the appearance and build of the original Nikon Z6, the Z6 ii doesn’t need to deviate from this at all.
The Nikon Z6 ii delivers in exactly the way you’d expect it to when it comes to build quality.
Ergonomics & Handling
The Nikon Z6 got the ergonomics and handling 100% right – and in my opinion, it was already the very best of any mirrorless camera on the market in these terms.
Having handled Sony, Canon and Panasonic mirrorless cameras, each model never felt right ‘in the hand’. The grip was never deep enough, each model never felt ‘like a camera’ – and for me and many photographers, handling is so important.
So, Nikon hasn’t changed a thing here with the Nikon Z6 ii, as simply put, there really was no reason to change anything. The Nikon Z6 ii ergonomics and handling just work.
If you’re coming from a D850 or D750 – or even from a Canon DSLR – the Nikon Z6 ii will feel reassuringly familiar.
The menus are easy to use and modify. The grip is deep and the camera feels good to hold and use, the buttons are intuitive to use as you’d expect from a Nikon – the main difference in comparison to a DSLR is that it’s a lot lighter – and that’s a huge plus point, particularly if you’re shooting for long periods.
I write this the day after shooting a full wedding – I shoot with two bodies and now almost exclusively shoot Nikon Z, with my D850s and D5s going unused.
However yesterday I switched over to my D850 for a few shots late on, shooting off around 300 shots, compared to around 5000 on my two Z bodies.
I was immediately struck by how heavy the D850 suddenly felt with its 24-70mm attached – and I found myself missing the lighter Z6 ii straight away!
I think this is one of the biggest compliments I can pay to the Z6 ii. The D850 is probably the best ever reviewed DSLR – yet now, it goes unused as I choose my mirrorless Z6 ii over it, not just because of the ergonomics of the camera, but for all the areas I cover in this review.
In my review of the Nikon Z6, I found myself comparing the camera to the focussing on my Nikon D850 and Nikon D5.
However, I was trying really, really hard not to do this – the D850 and D5 are fully professional cameras, costing around twice as much or more on release compared to the Z6.
Now when I’ve come to write my Nikon Z6 ii review, I’m an experienced Nikon Z user and owner. So importantly, I now realise even more that this is not a fair comparison to make.
When the Nikon Z9 is released – that will be the time to compare focussing to top-line Nikon DSLRs.
You really do have to get to know the Nikon Z camera system – and you really have to find the focus modes that work for you, in the right situation.
It certainly isn’t a case of leaving the camera in continuous focusing all day, like you may have done with your DSLR – it’s a completely new system, with a bit of a learning curve, but it’s not a steep one at all I’m happy to say.
But before we get to that – the main and very pleasing thing to report is that the Nikon Z6 ii is a big step up from the original Nikon Z6 in terms of focusing.
In fact, autofocus is the area where the camera has really improved over its predecessor, and this is key – for me and many other users, the focussing is where the Nikon Z6 didn’t quite get it right.
But the Nikon Z6 ii has addressed these issues – and with the release of the most recent firmware, it now performs really well throughout its vast variety of focus modes.
I’ve tested all the focus modes – both in continuous and single point focus modes – and can say they all perform really well.
Are they all perfect? No – let’s not forget this is only Nikon’s second-ever full-frame mirrorless camera (alongside its sister model the Nikon Z7 ii). There are still improvements to make.
However, for a camera at its price point, you cannot help but be extremely impressed – the focusing is really good.
If you’re coming from a DSLR like a Nikon D750, Nikon D780, Nikon D610, Nikon D810 – you will find the Nikon Z6 ii focusing is a big improvement over those models.
Looking in more detail, for shooting people, the Eye AF and focus tracking modes – especially since the latest firmware update – work fantastically well.
You will find the tracking modes far surpasses what the original Nikon Z6 was capable of (just ensure you update your firmware to really show off what they can do!)
Very occasionally the camera may lose the subject, but it is easy to lock back on. For the most part though, once locked on, the tracking stays locked on – the same with the Eye AF.
You can also turn the low light focusing mode on, however, be aware that this can cause focusing to take longer to acquire.
One point where improvements could still be made is when using the smallest focal points available, such as Pinpoint focus in AFS (single-point autofocus). Very occasionally, you will find the focal point hunting particularly in low light or backlit situations.
However, from the first time I used the Nikon Z6 ii, I have been learning that this fantastic camera is one that cries out for you to utilise its versatility.
Use the tracking for fast-moving subjects – put it into AFC single point when on the move – go to AFS when shooting details, still subject and landscapes.
I tend to shoot most of the day at a wedding in Dynamic-area AF AFC – but then switch to Eye AF and single point pinpoint AF when needed. It’s all about using the right focus mode to make the best of each situation.
The menus are easily customisable as are the FN (function) buttons, meaning you can easily switch to focus tracking when needed.
One thing I do miss is the ability to put AFC into pinpoint focusing – and I do hope Nikon address this in future versions. When in AFC the focal point is unable to lock onto very small details or subjects, as it’s quite large, comparatively.
But this is a very small complaint – and overall, the focusing is very, very good on the Nikon Z6 ii and has improved so much compared to the Nikon Z6.
Eye AF now works in wide area and video mode and autofocus works at up to -4.5 EV (expandable to -6 EV with low-light AF mode on – this matches the Sony A7s iii).
If you are upgrading from the Z6 to the Z6 ii as I did, you will be really impressed with the new camera and its autofocus capabilities. If you’re upgrading from a D750, you will be blown away.
I have used this camera extensively at weddings, where lighting conditions are ever-changing as I move fluidly from one location to another – and the autofocus has served me really well.
Low Light Performance
Now as I’ve said, the low light focusing of the Nikon Z6 has been improved with a new specialist mode – put your camera in AFS (single point focus) and turn on the low light AF option via the custom menu (A10).
The results are really impressive – and reduce the amount of hunting your camera will do in low light situations.
Low light performance on the Nikon Z6 ii is excellent both in terms of autofocus performance and clean images at high ISOs . ISO 6400 is no problem at all, and you can push the ISO right up to 12800 with little noise.
For the noise that you do get, you can tidy this up easily with noise reduction in Lightroom or Photoshop – without losing too much sharpness.
Mirrorless cameras really have pushed the boundaries of low light photography and the Nikon Z6 ii excels in this area – just as its predecessor the Z6 did.
I shoot exclusively in RAW both professionally and for personal work – so I can’t comment on the quality of JPEG straight out of camera. But the quality of the RAW images the Z6 ii produces is exceptional.
Just as with the Z6, the Z6 ii files do come out a little pink, but that is nothing that cannot be corrected in editing.
The files the Z6 ii produces really are lovely – they are clean, low on noise even at high ISO and nice and sharp where needed.
But where the Z6 sometimes produced some unpleasant banding when recovering shadows to a great extent, you can now utilise the full and very impressive dynamic range of the Z6 ii without worry.
However, in real-world use, you never really have to push the camera to its full capabilities for dynamic range – or at least, I never have.
The 24.5-megapixel sensor of the Z6 ii may not allow you to capture such fine detail as the Z7 ii, so for some commercial photographers maybe they may yearn for higher resolution.
But for a wedding photographer like me – and I’m sure, for most photographers of any specialism – the sensor and the camera will produce excellent images time and time again.
You’ll find the Z6 ii is easy to set up and easy to get to grips with – customise the menu to your needs and assign the FN buttons to allow you to quickly switch settings to suit your shooting (I have mine set to enable to switch between focus modes).
The camera does start up a little slow and if you’re shooting weddings or people, I recommend you extend the power off delay of the standby timer to 1 or 5 minutes.
I know that seems excessive and it will eat dramatically into your battery life as your display / EVF will be left on for up to a full 5 minutes, but by extending the standby timer, you’ll find yourself not having to wait for the camera to start up – this simple change to the camera settings has helped me immeasurably (I just make sure I always have spare batteries at a shoot!)
Another feature that has greatly improved since its predecessor aside from the focusing is the buffer, with over 3 times the depth in the Z6 ii when compared to the Z6.
I have noticed this in real-world shooting – I can now comfortably keep on shooting moments like confetti or the first dance without worrying about the buffer.
Overall, the performance of the Nikon Z6 ii has built on what the Z6 was already very good at – and improved on it.
Other Useful Features
I have used the video mode for one professional job with the Z6 ii and it performed extremely well.
Nikon has long been criticised for their video output – however, that’s more than a little unfair. Since the Nikon D810, they have really upped their video game and the Z series takes Nikon video capabilities to another level.
This review looks mostly at photography – however, for the one commercial video I have made with the Z6 ii, I was very impressed.
Compared to the Nikon D850, the video performs better – autofocus being so vastly improved – and the output was greatly improved as well, with cleaner, sharper video files.
I had a second shooter along on the job, who was using a Sony A7s ii (famous for its video output) and the Nikon Z6 ii footage I shot matched up perfectly to it, if not better than the Sony.
There are of course alternative mirrorless cameras on the market – and I take a brief look at these below.
- Sony a7 III – Sony has a much wider range of native mirrorless lenses, though Nikon really is catching up! Nikon’s range of 1.8 Z primes is exceptional. The a7 III has a superior battery life compared to the Nikon Z6 ii and is smaller too – however, I feel Nikon Z cameras have the best ergonomics of any mirrorless cameras available right now. The a7 iii is definitely an impressive camera – but an ageing one. The newer Z6 ii has more features packed into it as you’d expect from the newer model.
- Sony a7 IV – offers many of the same features with the addition of some nice video upgrades too, but this is to be expected with the higher price.
- Canon EOS R6 – undoubtedly another exceptional camera with very high spec video capabilities. But as I look at below, in terms of value for money, I think the Nikon Z6 ii wins out.
- Panasonic S5 – the S5 is a very similar price to the Z6 ii. Nikon wins out in terms of autofocus and other features – and also, in terms of the lenses available (both native Z glass and adaptable F mount lenses – Nikon are pretty hard to beat in this area).
Value for Money
You can pick up a Nikon Z6 ii for less than $2,000 – that’s a great price for a recently released camera packed full of cutting edge features.
The Z6 ii is without a doubt the best value mirrorless camera in its class. Compare the value for money factor to a Canon R5 and the Nikon Z6 ii is less than half the price – and a Canon R6 is still around $1,000 more than the Nikon.
So you could buy a Nikon Z6 ii, the superb Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 s lens and FTZ adaptor (allowing you to use your existing Nikon F lenses) for less than just a Canon R6 body!
I truly believe you will not find a better value mirrorless camera on the market right now than a Nikon Z6 ii – the Sony a7 iii may be similarly priced, but it’s an older camera with similar image quality that lacks the new features and superior ergonomics of the Nikon Z6 ii.
So if you’re looking at trying mirrorless for the first time to either supersede your DSLRs or compliment them, for value for money coupled with excellent performance, I whole-heartedly recommend the Nikon Z6 ii.
Nikon Z6 ii Review | Conclusion
The Nikon Z6 ii is a superb camera. It builds upon what was already very good on the Nikon Z6 – but it now is an all-around better camera.
It may be a modest upgrade in some ways, but in improving key areas like the focussing, adding two card slots and expanding the buffer depth, Nikon listened to what was lacking in the first camera and put that right.
As a wedding photographer, I know many others in my profession who have recently or are about to make the switch to the Nikon Z6 ii. The DSLR Nikon 750 was for a long time a ‘go to’ best camera for a wedding photographer, but it is a little long in the tooth, so many Nikon D750 owners have been upgrading recently.
However, this isn’t just a camera for a wedding photographer or a D750 owner – with excellent tracking, it’s great for wildlife photographers too, and I’ve seen some well-known photojournalists are now Nikon Z ii users as well.
As I’ve covered above, it’s just a great all-round camera. I use it practically every day for all my professional work – but also to photograph my family and the world around me.
Of course, it’s not the perfect camera and I do think Nikon will push the focussing even further – future firmware updates and maybe upgrades to the Z6 iii too.
I’m excited to see what the Nikon Z9 offers too when released. For sports photographers, perhaps that will be the mirrorless Nikon camera for them – and as a Nikon D5 owner myself, I’m also keen to try it. The world of Nikon mirrorless cameras is an exciting one right now.
But for most photographers, the Z9 won’t be needed. The Nikon Z6 ii is a camera that offers exceptional value for money, excellent image quality and a great set of state of the art features to use and get to grips with.
So I would highly recommend this camera – it’s a camera I’ve put through its paces over the last 5 months and I’ll be carrying on using it professionally.
Nikon have always produced some of the very best lenses in the world and the Z series of lenses is exceptional. The f/1.8 primes are incredibly good value for the exceptionally sharp images they produce.
Mirrorless cameras are the future. In the Z6 ii, Nikon has a camera to offer their long time users as an alternative to their DSLRs.
Or like me, you may want to keep a DSLR in your bag alongside a couple of Z bodies (however I must say – I now find myself using my Z gear for 95% of the time and my D5 and D850 sit in my bag mostly un-used!)
However, just to reiterate a point I made above, as a longtime Nikon who now chooses a Nikon Z6 ii over my D850, that really does say it all (the Nikon D850 is approaching legendary status – but I find my Z6 ii offers me more).
It’s not just a camera for Nikon users like me – I think the Z6 ii will turn the heads of those photographers who have long used other camera brands. It really is that good
Mirrorless powerhouse that offers exceptional value, stellar image quality & a growing range of great lenses.