Z6II - First Impressions

Discussion in 'Nikon Cameras' started by adamhiram, Nov 6, 2020.

  1. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I picked up my new Z6II body this week, along with 24-70mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/1.8 Z-mount lenses. I actually purchased the first generation Z6 right before Nikon announced the Z6II, so I had a few weeks to get my feet wet before returning it to get the newer body. For some background, check out some of my prior posts, Upgrade path to full frame - DSLR vs. mirrorless, and Z6 - First Impressions.

    Observations:
    • The ergonomics are exactly the same as the Z6, however they changed the dimensions just enough that L-brackets from the first generation Z6 won’t fit right, and it will be at least a few weeks until something is available.
    • The FTZ adapter is the same, but I recently learned the part underneath that protrudes actually houses a motor used to adjust the aperture on F-mount lenses. It's still weird that it protrudes below the bottom of the camera body, but at least I understand why now.
    • The native Z-mount lenses are amazing, with lightning fast focus that is almost completely silent. The 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is a bit heavy for such a small mirrorless body, but significantly smaller and lighter than the F-mount versions, and still pretty manageable. The 85mm f/1.8 is nice and light, and feels pretty balanced on the body.
    • As far as lens selections go, my original plan was to go with all primes, however I opted for the expensive 24-70 f/2.8 for 2 main reasons - you can’t buy Z-mount f/1.8 primes for $200-400 like you could with F-mount, and various tests have shown that the 24-70 f/2.8 is as sharp or sharper than many of the primes at the same apertures. Unless I need a wider aperture or want a lighter weight kit, I don’t know if it is worth the added cost for those primes. I'm also curious how the bokeh from the zoom compares with the primes, as that could make a difference as well.
    • I didn’t really have a lot of issues with battery life with the first gen Z6, and the Z6II comes with an EN-EL15c battery, which actually has a larger capacity (1900 vs. 2280 mAh)
    • Switching between focus and AF area modes is just as tedious as before, but I’m getting used to it. They are set independently, so for example if I want to switch between AF-S single-point and AF-C auto area, I have to change 2 settings every time. Unlike Nikon's DSLRs, it does not remember that I want different AF area modes depending on whether I am in AF-S or AF-C.
    • EyeAF works at least as well as on the Z6, which I found to be quite usable. I haven’t used it enough to get a good feel for whether it is noticeably better, but I really wasn’t missing a lot of shots before. I read somewhere that it does a little better with sunglasses, so I’ll have to give that a try.
    • I’m not sure if they fixed the issue where it would you could not force DX lenses to be used in full frame, as I traded in most of my F-mount gear towards the new body. On the plus side, the Z6II only cost me about $350 out of pocket, so no complaints there!
    I don't have any sample photos to share, since Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw do not yet support the Z6II. Hopefully there is an update soon!


     
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  2. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Through a little research, I learned a common trick to be able to import Raw files into Lightroom before a camera is supported in Adobe Camera Raw by editing the EXIF header. Simply change the Camera Model Name from "Nikon Z 6_2" to "Nikon Z 6" and Lightroom thinks it is the first generation Z6 and can import it. In this case, I don't expect the rendering to be much different when it is supported, as it is almost the same camera and the exact same sensor, so hopefully I won't have to go back and re-edit these later.

    There are plenty of apps that will allow you to edit the EXIF data, many of which are not free, so I opted for a command-line tool called ExifTool, which is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. It's not as user friendly as the ones with a pretty GUI, but it gets the job done.

    For this fix, the command-line is:

    exiftool -model=“NIKON Z 6” filename

    where filename can be a single NEF file, a list of NEF files, or the name of a folder to edit all.
     
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  3. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That was quick. It looks like Kirk already has a new version of their L-bracket available for pre-order.
     
  4. mjcmt

    mjcmt TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Impressive rig Adam (I'm assuming). Your lens selection sounds impressive too. Looking forward to your upcoming photos.
    May be a while before I own one...a long while. Just bought a refurbished D750 for my 35 yr old AIS primes.
     
  5. Gobae

    Gobae TPF Noob!

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    Nice job on the comparison/review! I wish more reviewers gave the kind of details you did. For instance the body dimensions changing enough that the L bracket doesn't fit. While probably not a deal breaker for anyone looking to upgrade it can be an unforeseen frustration that most reviewers never bother to comment on.
     
  6. greybeard

    greybeard Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    What improvements do you see with the Z6II over the original Z6?
     
  7. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Based on my real world use so far, EyeAF and subject tracking seem to work a little more reliably. Other than that, there's the obvious stuff like the 2nd card slot. Any future firmware updates that require additional processing power will certainly benefit from the 2nd processor, and probably won't be available for the first generation Z6. And lastly, the faster buffer means higher FPS in continuous shooting, which I don't care that much about, but more importantly the blackout period between shots is less noticeable which makes it much easier to keep a moving subject in frame.

    But realistically, slightly better EyeAF and subject tracking, and I wanted the newer camera that was more likely to see firmware improvements in the future.
     
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  8. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I did my first shoot using a tripod with both native and adapted lenses, and the design of the FTZ adapter made it a very frustrating experience. All of my Arca plates protrude too far forward when mounted on the body, blocking the FTZ adapter from being attached, so the plate needs to be removed to attach/detach the FTZ. When attaching an Arca plate to the FTZ adapter, all but my smallest plate get in the way of attaching/detaching the adapter from the camera unless turned 90 degrees, which means repositioning the tripod head. Switching lenses becomes a significant disruption to the flow of a shoot. This L-bracket can’t come soon enough!
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2020
  9. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Using this small mirrorless body with a full sized speedlight on the hotshoe is pretty much a non-starter for me. The weight never bothered me on DSLR bodies, but the same speedlights on this small mirrorless body with less of a grip feels so unbalanced that I can't imagine using it this way. Fortunately this is something I rarely do; in fact I recently sold my SB-700 and only held onto my Godox TT600 manual speedlights. I would think a smaller, and unfortunately less powerful option would be much more usable, unless the overpriced battery grip makes it easier to hold.
     
  10. Rickbb

    Rickbb No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sounds like you need something like the old Graflex Speed Graphic cameras had. A dual grip bracket that holds the flash on the right and on the left a pistol grip with cable release, the camera mounts in the middle. The whole thing looks like a control yoke on an airplane, but it held it steady and the grip was sure.
     
  11. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Some quick updates after a few weeks of use.
    • The 2nd card slot is a life saver. I've never forgotten a memory card before, and always configure my camera not to shoot if it doesn't detect a card. That being said, I forgot my memory card in my computer twice last month. I didn't even notice until I went to import images into Lightroom because it just wrote to the 2nd memory card.
    • Apparently "z6ii" is a hot metadata tag on Flickr. I've been tagging all of my images with z6ii as a reminder to go back and change the camera model in the exif once supported by Lightroom/Camera Raw, and as such all images shared to Flickr have this tag. They also get 10-20x the engagement of other photos.
    • Having to change focus mode and AF-area mode separately is still a major pain. I haven't found a quick way to switch between AF-S Single Point and AF-C auto area with eye/face detect. This is the 3rd time I've mentioned this because it interrupts workflow every time. There must be some way to assign a shortcut to make this more seamless, but I haven't found it yet.
    • High ISO performance is amazing. ISO 3200 looks great. ISO 6400 is still usable without applying additional noise reduction. even ISO 128000 isn't too bad.
    • Overall this camera has been a joy to use, the Z-mount lenses are all an improvement in AF speed, sharpness, and CA, and I have very few complaints.
     
  12. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I discovered something pretty frustrating with Z-mount lenses during a shoot this weekend.

    If I focus on a subject, then switch the lens to manual, it retains its focus point as expected and I don't need to refocus as long as the camera and subject don't move. This is very useful when taking family portraits when I am in them, I just need to mark where to stand and leave sufficient depth of field. However when I turn the camera off and back on again, it resets the lens's focus point. That means if I have a delay in shooting, then want to resume, I have to stop and refocus because it is no longer focused on the subject. This appears to be specific to Z-mount lenses, as I did not have this issue with the 2 adapted F-mount lenses I tried.

    It's a minor annoyance, but yet another thing that interrupts workflow while shooting.

    Update: On the Z6II (and I presume the Z7II), this can be changed in the setup menu under Setup > Save focus position > On. It sounds like this is a known issue with Z-mount lenses where the camera will focus the lens to infinity whenever it is powered on, even if it is set to MF, that was addressed in the 2nd gen bodies.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020

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