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.
All images can be enlarged by clicking onto to them to open another version in a separate window, and clicking onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.
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 .
How is noise in low light and catching fast moving birds on the Z6?
Hello Sherry – fast birds are one of the tests I want to do with the Z 6 – so we’ll see! I’m an ex-birder (1967-2002) and so birds are very much on my agenda.
The low capability looks good – two specific things to mention. First, reading Amateur Photographer magazine, there’s no doubt that digital sensor design is coming on by leaps and bounds – sensors really are becoming far more capable.
Then second, this magazine has put the Z 6 though one of its very rigorous tests, with striking results. AP says that image quality at 1600 ISO is almost as good as at 100 ISO – and I’ve used it as 1600 ISO a lot; and that 3200 and 6400 ISO are also very usable. And with some noise reduction in post processing, they also recommend 12,800 and (“at a push”) 25,600 ISO. LOL! but 102,400 and 204,800 are there too, and I’m going to experiment! 🙂 🙂 🙂
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Do keep me posted. I may be able to upgrade soon.
Yes, I will. I have a feeling that the autofocus may not be as good as my D800, but I’m not expert enough with the Z 6 yet, and I haven’t been able to set up any meaningful tests. The camera is a delight to use though, and the electronic viewfinder is so good that I forget its electronic.
What sorts of things/genres are you looking to photograph? A 🙂
Birds that hang out in the shade. Fast moving warblers.
Wow, you are not going for the easiest of subjects – and would I be right in assuming you don’t use flash? What camera are you using now? Well, at the moment, I can only repeat Amateur Photographer’s assessment of the Z 6 at high ISOs, which is very good at least up to 6400 ISO. I tried the 204,800 ISO setting and its undoubtedly grainy and low quality – but then, its a basic tenet of mine that I’d rather have a poor quality picture than no picture at all so, if the need arises, I’ll certainly use it. 🙂
I use a Nikon D750 with a Sigma 200-500 mm with up to 6400 ISO hand held.
That’s a powerful combination – and I’m with you, handheld is the thing, and especially so in these days of stabilisation. I have a D700 and D800 and was thinking of a D750, but now the Z 6 has appeared, and having used Fujifilm mirrorless cameras (X-T1, X-T2), my mind was made up on mirrorless.
Your Sigma will of course be Nikon F-mount fit, and so ought to work well with the Z 6’s FTZ adapter. But I don’t know if your lens’s stabilisation will mate with that on the Z 6 – this is something you ought to enquire about/Google.
And, in any case, remember that in the camera stabilisation (IBIS) that the Z 6 has is only good for telephotos up to about 300mm (this currently applies to all makes of IBIS). The Z 6’s IBIS >>> APPEARS to work well with my 70-300 VR Nikkor lens. A 🙂
Thanks for the terrific information
My pleasure, Sherry, always willing to pass on info, techniques etc – to me, that’s one of the things blogging is all about. Adrian 🙂
Well done, Adrian. Getting to grips in a professional manner with a new camera is not easy at all..well done.
Getting to grips with the beast is one of the reasons I bought it – about the only thing I miss from my working days is the great intellectual challenge a lot of the programming work brought – so in its small way, its very good to get to grapple with this camera, getting it to do what I want – but thank heavens for the 247 page manual!!! As of now, I think its going to be a very useful creative tool – but we shall see!!! It would be good to bring it over for you to see/try, if you’re interested. 🙂
Congratz! The shots look very sharp and natural; have fun going out into the real world! 🙂
Thanks, Harrie >>> in a way, this is quite exciting. I’ve got several specific situations I want to test the camera in but, up to now its looking very good – and I have a feeling it is going to be a very useful, creative tool. A 🙂