Z6 - First Impressions

Discussion in 'Nikon Cameras' started by adamhiram, Sep 18, 2020.

  1. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I recently picked up a Z6 and wanted to share my first impressions, similar to this thread from @Peeb last year.

    I purchased it from Adorama for $1844 with an FTZ adapter, with the intention of using adapted F-mount lenses until I get around to picking up some native glass. As of this post I have not had a chance to shoot with it yet, but figured I would use this as a running thread with my thoughts as I get up to speed. For reference, I am coming from a D500, which has a crop sensor, but solid build, and is an autofocus monster.

    Ergonomics
    • My first impression is that this thing is really small, but feels solid
    • Wow, the Z lens mount is huge!
    • Feels good in the hand, familiar Nikon feel with a nice deep grip
    FTZ adapter
    • Nice snug fit, autofocuses modern G lenses as well as any DSLR
    • Why does the bottom protrude lower than the bottom of the body so it can't stand up now. What a strange design. This piece is an integrated tripod mount, but I can't imagine when I would want to mount the tripod to the adapter, rather than to the body or lens. Not a big deal, just an odd design decision.
    First time using an adapted lens
    • I mounted a 50mm f/1.8G lens to the FTZ adapter and it works just fine
    • It looks a bit strange, something that I guess comes with the territory of using an adapter
    • It feels very front-heavy. I don't mind a heavy body as long as it feels balanced, but this is a smaller lighter weight body with the lens extended further out. Even something as lightweight as the 50mm f/1.8G feels a little unbalanced. I'm curious if it feels the same with native Z-mount lenses, particularly some of the longer or heavier ones.
    • I'm also curious if the battery grip might help it feel more balanced, although I haven't heard many good things about the grip for Z6/Z7.
    Diopter adjustment
    • This might not be particularly useful for most, but this could have been a deal breaker for me. I wear glasses, really dislike pressing my glasses to the eyecup, and haven't been able to wear contacts for a long time. I've always adjusted the diopter and added a correction eyepiece so I can see through the viewfinder clearly without my glasses.
    • I asked in this forum. I asked my local camera shop as well as Adorama. I even contacted Nikon support. They all told me the same thing - the Z6/Z7 use a different eyepiece than SLRs, and the standard rectangular eyepiece accessories will not fit. There are no correction eyepieces available for their mirrorless bodies.
    • As it turns out, all of them were mistaken - the DK-20C rectangular correction eyepieces fit just fine. I'm not sure if it interferes with the eye sensor just above the viewfinder, but it fits and it works.
    • More importantly, the diopter range on the Z6 is wider than with prior DSLRs I've owned, going all the way to -4.0. This was actually sufficient for me, so the addition of a correction eyepiece was not needed. I just thought I would document that here in case it helps someone else, since I was unable to find this information elsewhere.
    Battery
    • My biggest question right now is how long the battery will last compared to a DSLR. I've heard everything from a few hundred shots to 1000+ shots and still going at the end of the day. I understand it is more about how long the viewfinder is on than how many shots I take, so I'll have to wait and see how it goes.
    • It comes with an EN-EL15b battery, which I understand is basically identical to the EN-EL15 spare batteries I already own, but can be charged via USB. Also, the Z6 does not include the USB charger and I don't plan on spending $60 for it, so there's really no benefit to to this as far as I'm concerned.
    • It uses the same MH-25a charger that came with my D500
    The first shot
    • The shutter has a very quiet muffled sound. I guess a quiet shutter is one of the benefits of mirrorless, but there's just something so satisfying about the solid ker-chunk sound of a DSLR shutter. I'm sure I'll get used to it soon enough.
    That's about it so far. The one potential deal breaker for me was the diopter adjustment and availability of correction eyepieces, and both turned out to be non-issues. I'm excited to try out the eye-AF, and of course use some of my fast primes on a full frame body for the first time. Additional posts to come as I get up to speed.


     
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  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Congratulations on the new machine. I am pretty sure you will find that full frame is actually quite a wonderful format especially in studio.

    I am glad the eyepiece correction is sufficient for your vision. I always appreciate your careful and thoughtful reviews, and this brief write-up is no exception. I have seen a couple of dPreview video reviews of the Nikon Z-line models done by Chris Nichols, and his extremely positive experiences have opened my eyes to a possible Nikon Z future... But my current lens collection has me thinking about staying in the DSLR realm.
     
  3. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    @Derrel as always thank you for the kind words and sage advice!
     
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  4. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Congratulations on the new purchase. As with anything new there will be a learning curve as you become acquainted with it, but you seem to have a methodical approach that will serve you well in the process. Now you really need to start posting some samples! :cool-48:
     
  5. Dean_Gretsch

    Dean_Gretsch Always looking... Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I am impressed with your review. As @Derrel said, it is very meticulous and well presented. As a disclaimer, I am a Canon user
     
  6. nmoody

    nmoody TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Sounds like you have a good fit for you. Can’t wait to see what you produce with it.
     
  7. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Congrats on the Z6 acquisition, it looks to be a fun camera with plenty of new bells and whistles. Looking forward to your images and feedback after you run it through the mill. Happy to hear the diopter issue has a solution.

    One thought on the FTZ adapter 'hanging low' so to speak, is to accommodate mounting on a tripod head and keeping the camera base plate out of the way. Many tripod head designs have large foot prints and if you mount an Arca Swiss plate to the base of the FTZ adapter it might hit the camera.
     
  8. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A few additional observations:
    • I was surprised to see the buttons don't light up. Not a big deal, but I definitely appreciated that with my D500 and assumed that was something Nikon was doing with all of their newer bodies
    • The articulating screen has a more limited range of motion than the D500 or D750. The screen on my D500 can tilt up or down 90°, which I believe is the same with other Nikon DSLRs. On the Z6, it can tilt up 90° for low angle shots, but can only tilt down about 45°. While still usable, this does impact use for overhead shots, including some of the recent copy work I've been doing.
    • It looks like the maximum flash sync speed is 1/200, instead of 1/250. No real impact there, just surprised to see it get 1/3 stop slower on a newer body.
    Something I've been starting to think about is what lenses to use. Obviously this discussion is not specific to this camera and is a matter of personal preference, but I am considering going with all primes. I already have F-mount 50mm and 85mm, so perhaps a 35mm would be a good addition as a slightly wider than normal walk around lens. I've never been without a normal zoom and would love a 24-70 f/2.8, but I just can't justify $2300 for something I rarely use. The only catch would be traveling or family events where I don't want to bring 3-4 lenses, and might want something wider at times. I am currently considering a 24-70 f/4 as a general walk around lens, but even at about $600 bundled in, I'm not sure I'd get much use out of it. Also, most reviews rate it as not bad for a kit lens, hardly a ringing endorsement.

    To be continued.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2020
  9. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Learning about AF and AF-area modes today and how they differ from a DLR.
    • I just tried Eye-AF for the first time and I am blown away. From what I gather, it’s not as good as Sony’s latest offerings, but I’ve never used those so I’m still pretty impressed. Face tracking works well too when the subject is too far away for Eye-AF.
    • Subject tracking is pretty amazing too. I think this is what DSLRs were trying to do with 3D tracking in live view, except this works through the viewfinder and is actually usable.
    • Switching AF-Area modes is kind of tedious and feels like an afterthought. On my D500 there was an AF-Area mode button on the left and I would use the 2 command dials to switch between AF-S and AF-C and the different AF-area modes. On the Z6, I have to hold the camera with my right hand, hit the Fn2 button with my right ring finger, and move the control dials with my right thumb and right pointer finger. It’s an ergonomic nightmare. Of course this can be switched using the on-screen menu too, but then what’s the point of all the buttons? Hopefully I can assign these settings to the custom user modes (U1, U2, U3) to make this easier, but I really don’t like this as designed.
    • Lastly, changing the AF-area mode in AF-S (single AF) also changes it in AF-C (continuous AF). For example, I typically shoot in single point AF in AF-S, but want to use Auto-Area AF in AF-C to take advantage of Eye-AF and subject tracking, but when I switch back to AF-S, now that’s in Auto-Area. When I change that back to single point, now when I switch to AF-C that’s changed to single point. I can’t imagine why they would do this, especially when compounded by the ergonomic hassles of switching modes as mentioned above. Again, hopefully I can just assign customer user settings with U1, U2, and U3.
     
  10. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Something else I seem to be struggling with is the monitor/screen and playback. I haven’t figured out if this body just requires a lot of customization to work as desired, or if I’m trying to make a mirrorless camera work like a DSLR because that’s what I am familiar with.
    • I currently have Monitor Mode set to “Prioritize Viewfinder”, which keeps the monitor off unless I am navigating menus or playing back images. However the default setting is to have the screen always on unless you put it to your eye. I don’t want to have to cycle through 4 different monitor modes when I press the button, I want everything in the viewfinder unless I turn on live view or need it for menus/playback. These options can be limited in the setup menu, but it seems strange that the default mode is to immediately turn on live view on the large external screen and drain the battery faster.
    • Somewhat related to this is image review after taking a shot. If I turn it on, it displays for 4 seconds on the monitor, but also displays for 4s in the viewfinder, which I don’t want. At least it can be cleared quickly by half-pressing the shutter button. There is an option for monitor only, but that doesn’t seem to do anything - perhaps because I normally keep the monitor turned off, as per the previous comment. That leaves me with 2 options: leave it off and hit the Play button to review images, or always remember to half-press the shutter to clear the screen.
     
  11. cgw

    cgw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Customize these functions with a view to extending battery life, e.g., "chimp on demand" rather than "auto chimp," and killing the VF image display. No idea how your Nikon works but my Fujis slurped up power with redundant displays.
     
  12. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Some updates after a few days shooting with the Z6...

    I still find switching AF and AF-area modes to be very cumbersome
    • One individual I spoke with said he wasn’t bothered because he typically sets it once before a shoot and rarely needs to switch.
    • I actuallly don’t find single-point AF-S to be particularly useful on the Z6. My D5100 had 15 selectable focus points in the viewfinder, and my D500 had 45, but being mirrorless the Z6 has 273. That’s great for subject tracking, not so great when I have to select it with a joystick or D-pad; by the time I select the appropriate focus point I already missed the shot. It can be customized to skip every other focus point, which might help in single-point AF-area mode, and of course using the touchscreen is an option.
    • So far, I find AF-C subject tracking to be the most useful. It is essentially focusing and recomposing, except it continues to track the subject when I recompose.
    AF-Assist illuminator
    • I’m really not sure why this is here. The Z6 seems to focus just fine in lowlight, and the lens blocks 2/3 of the illuminator anyway. It’s just a bright light that feels like more of a nuisance than helper. Easily turned off in custom settings.
    Remote shutter release
    • The user manual implies that the only way to do this is using their $200 wireless transceiver set.
    • While it doesn’t have a 10-pin remote terminal like my D500 has, the “accessory terminal” does the same thing and works with my existing Phottix and Yongnuo wireless triggers. It just needed a different cable, and works exactly as expected.
    Tripod mount on FTZ adapter
    • This still seems odd to me, and I ran into a new issue when attaching my BlackRapid camera strap.
    • By itself the camera strap attaches to the tripod mount and works fine.
    • However I typically use a QR plate in conjunction with the strap and now the QR plate doesn’t fit when connected directly to the camera since the FTZ adapter is in the way.
    • I don’t know how comfortable I am connecting my camera strap to the FTZ adapter instead of directly to the camera, and it also looks strange connecting a large RC2 or Arca QR plate to the tiny footprint of the FTZ adapter.
    • I’ll make due with it for now, as it is the only option available, but I definitely look forward to using native lenses where this is no longer an issue.
    Still getting used to full frame field of view
    • Obviously this is not specific to the Z6, but was still part of my experience
    • 50mm feels more like a 35mm on a crop body now
    • 85mm no longer feels like a short telephoto, and it feels odd how much closer to the subject I need to get to fill the frame
    • So far I don’t miss the wider end of the zoom range on my 17-55, but I actually find myself wanting something longer. Perhaps a 70-200 or 3rd party 135mm is in my future.
    No sample photos yet
    • I’ve been taking photos all week, but the hard drive in my iMac is failing. This is the first drive failure I’ve had in almost 30 years, and ironically is the only time I have ever owned a machine that is not user serviceable. Go figure.
    • In the process of troubleshooting, I updated to MacOS Catalina. Now my Spyder4Pro monitor calibration tool is no longer supported, even though it still works just fine. DataColor’s justification was simply, ‘come on, it came out in 2012, just buy a new one’. So like a sucker, I just ordered a Spyder5Pro.
    • I found a 3rd party Mac repair shop that is replacing my 3TB fusion drive with a 4TB SSD, so hopefully this not only fixes the problem, but speeds up workflow.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020

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