Muntjac stag – its about Fox-sized. Z 6; 1600 ISO; 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; uncropped; Lightroom; our back garden, Bristol; 3 Apr 2019.
I posted here about buying the Z 6, one of Nikon’s new full frame mirrorless cameras, giving my initial thoughts. Since then, I’ve been reading (and using a red biro to scrawl all over) the 247 page instruction manual that (thankfully!) comes with the camera, and configuring the camera to my way of working. Then I’ve been sitting in my beloved armchair, interminably taking pictures and altering settings, in an attempt to have the layout of the camera’s controls become second nature to me – so that I won’t have to think before altering anything. And I planned a visit to the Somerset Levels to have a first go with it outdoors, in the real world. But fate intervened.
I’ve posted before about the Muntjac Deer which frequent our quiet and secluded back garden. They have been introduced to the UK from China and, quite simply, we delight in their presence. They are small, decidedly skittish, and we have been especially delighted to see one or two of their fawns.
We’d not seen them for awhile, and so their reappearance caused some excitement – and there was the Z 6 charged and ready, mounted via the FTZ adapter with one of my favourite lenses – the 70-300 AF-S Nikkor. And so to using this new camera in anger for the first time. As I said, these animals are very skittish, being spooked by the slightest noise or movement, so that opening the kitchen window was out of the question. So the pictures had to be taken through the double-glazed window and, because our kitchen window is up above the garden, the camera was looking down at an angle through the double-glazing, rather than horizontally straight through it. The deer were about 30ft-40ft away.
Same animal. Z 6; 1600 ISO; 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 405mm; cropped; Lightroom.
THINGS TO TALK ABOUT
In terms of handling and ergonomics, the Z 6 works just wonderfully. It has a large, deep handgrip and a well positioned thumb rest, and just feels completely at home in my hands. Many of the buttons and dials fall under my fingers or thumb, and many are in the same positions as those on my D800. It just feels good to use and, with the 70-300, feels very well balanced.
As with my other big Nikons, I’m using an OP/TECH USA neck strap intended for heavy DSLRs. This is a little overkill for the distinctly leaner Z 6, but I’m still using fairly large Nikon F-mount lenses (esp the 70-300) and I’m not getting any younger: these wide OP/TECH straps really do spread the weight across the shoulders very well, and they’re quite reasonably priced.
I used Aperture Priority mode (as I nearly always do), and 1600 ISO. The pictures were split between full frame format, where the longest reach of my lens is 300mm, and DX (= APS-C) format, where the reach is lengthened to 450mm; entirely handheld. Full frame images have 24.5MP; DX format has 10.3MP. All images used stabilisation.
Some think that Nikon’s images can be a little cold in tone, and so I’m using the new Natural Light Auto white balance, which looks natural.
I’ve taken all focusing functions away from the shutter release, and the large and ideally (and traditionally) sited AF-ON button (back button focusing) works wonderfully. In this test, through double-glazing, the autofocus was very quick and sharp.
Same animal. Z 6; 1600 ISO; 70-300 Nikkor lens used in full-frame format to give 300mm; cropped; Lightroom.
Immediately below the AF-ON button is the joystick and this works well too, again well sited below my right thumb, and enabling me to move the focusing point rapidly around the frame. I’ve opted for it jumping to every other focus point, for speed of use. Pushing it locks the exposure.
And immediately below the joystick is the customisable i button, which gives quick and easy access to a very useful range of camera settings.
The exposure compensation button is not so well placed, and so I’ve customised the main command dial, which I can easily reach with my right thumb, to adjust exposure compensation without using the button.
Since I don’t take videos, the movie-record button has been cannibalised to quickly switch the camera between full-frame and APS-C format with the aid of the main command dial.
The camera’s excellent Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) is set to Prioritize Viewfinder mode: looking through the viewfinder turns it on, taking my eye away turns it off; the monitor screen remains off until I review my images (when finger swiping can be used on the touchscreen) or look at the menus. I’m not using all of the touchscreen facilities, but its reassuring to know that the touchscreen is turned off while the viewfinder is being used.
Firing off 25 or so pictures, with much autofocus use, brought the battery down from full to 84%: a spare battery may be needed for a day out, although Nikon says that 310 shots can be taken on a full charge.
Then a Sony QDA-SB1 XQD card reader gets the images from the camera’s Sony 64GB QS-G64E card onto my PC, where the images are read into Lightroom Classic CC. Lightroom doesn’t seem entirely at home with the Z 6 yet: there are issues with sharpening parameters, which are addressed here .