Nikon Z6 review: How is it for astrophotography?

If you’re wanting for a extremely succesful mirrorless digicam for astro and night time sky images, few fashions are higher than the Z6. However, there’s all the time going to be an elephant within the room with any Nikon Z6 assessment, and that elephant is the Z6ii. Yes, the Z6 – which solely launched in 2018 – has already been outdated by the Z6ii, so why are we testing and recommending the unique mannequin? Well, the reply is removed from easy, however basically it comes down to cost and utilization. For us, the cheaper unique Z6 represents higher worth than the Z6ii, except you’re utilizing it for video and high-intensity shoots, like weddings. Simply put, we don’t really feel you’ll want to spend the additional cash on the Z6ii. 

Nikon Z6 Key Specifications

Type: Mirrorless 

Sensor: 24.5MP backlit CMOS

Lens mount: Nikon Z (FX) 

ISO vary: 100-51,200 (earlier than growth) 

Viewfinder dimension/decision: 2.1K dots, 3.2-inch touchscreen 

Video functionality: 4K 30 fps 

Weight (physique solely): 1.48 lbs

Size (physique solely): 5.2 x 3.9 x 2.6 in

Memory card kind: Single slot CFexpress, XQD 

We love the Z6 for quite a few causes which we’ll talk about in additional element beneath, however the principle ones are that it has an outstanding backlit sensor, good for low mild picture high quality, and a staggering 100-516,200 ISO vary that delivers unbelievable readability even within the darkest of lights. Combine this with some market-leading, in-built picture stabilization and also you’ve bought probably the greatest cameras for astrophotography round. In reality, we’d say this is among the many finest mirrorless cameras for any use, so that you’ll have the ability to use it for way greater than astro. 

If you do, nevertheless, wish to use it for astrophotography, then chances are you’ll wish to mix it with a number of the best telescopes round to get tremendous clear pictures. For newcomers wanting for a simple goal, we suggest lunar images – we also have a information on how to shoot the moon, that will help you become familiar with combining your gear.

Nikon Z6 assessment: Design

  • Z mount design is nice for lenses and physique dimension 
  • Good vary of buttons 
  • 3.2-inch adjustable contact display is good 

Nikon Z6 review

(Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

When Nikon lastly launched its mirrorless vary, the secret was to permit the brand new Z mount to enhance not solely the efficiency of the cameras, but in addition the look and feel. When you deal with the Z6 with none lens you’ll instantly discover that it’s considerably thinner and barely lighter than most full-frame DSLRs. That diminished depth makes it simpler to deal with, so if you happen to’re holding it for extended intervals, this is a giant benefit over conventional DSLRs. Once you add a lens, nevertheless, that weight undoubtedly comes again and, even supposing some Z mount lenses are surprisingly mild, you’re unlikely to note a lot distinction in total heft from conventional DSLRs. The total dealing with for the Z6 is wonderful, although, and Nikon’s conventional grip design means you get a agency maintain on the digicam that’s comfy and sensible, particularly with the customizable shot-adjustment buttons inside straightforward attain.

You’ll discover these customized buttons on the correct of the lens mount, which implies you can also make fast changes to issues like white steadiness with out wanting up from the viewfinder. Meanwhile, there is the standard command dial, which has M, A, S and P modes together with three pre-set choices (U1-3), which let you program in settings you employ frequently. We discover this extremely helpful for issues like taking pictures stars, the place you’re all the time wanting for a 20 second shutter speed and huge aperture as commonplace. The prime set of buttons are accomplished by guide ISO management, an publicity button, and a recording button for video. In addition to the adjustment wheel on the rear of the digicam physique, which is primarily used to make changes to shutter speed and ISO, there’s a second wheel on the entrance of the taking pictures grip that permits you to management your aperture. When you’re utilizing the viewfinder, this set-up actually helps you focus in your shot.

Nikon Z6 review

(Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

When you’re taking pictures astro, most will depend on the monitor, and the Z6 has a terrific 3.2-inch show on the rear of the physique. It’s a contact display, and you’ll entry all of your menu objects from right here to make changes to your shot or settings. You can use the contact display to pick a spotlight space, and even set it to shoot on contact too. It’s clear and brilliant, and since it’s a mirrorless system there’s no noticeable lag once you’re utilizing this view. Our solely actual gripe with the contact display is that it isn’t as cell as some – it attaches through the highest of the display and might’t be rotated, so it’s restricted once you’re taking pictures in portrait orientation from a set place, like a tripod.

Nikon Z6, handheld – 300mm, f/9, 1/160sec, 640 ISO – you’ll be able to see some foreground grain, up shut, however this picture was shot with a DX lens and the Z6 copes remarkably effectively regardless. (Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

The Z6 physique is totally weather-sealed, which implies you may be out in average rain or wind for just a few hours earlier than you’re prone to expertise any issues. We even ‘accidentally’ dropped it in some river mud, and whereas it’s powerful to scrub out of a number of the indents within the digicam physique, this incident has by no means impacted efficiency. Elsewhere, there are clear markings for securing and altering lenses, and the seal between the digicam and lens is tight and extremely safe. The strap connectors are effectively made and maneuverable too, so there’s little hazard of unintentionally dropping the Z6.

Our major gripe with the design is the reminiscence card slot. As in, there’s solely a single card slot (which implies it’s a must to change playing cards if you happen to’re taking pictures plenty of photographs in a single session, and you don’t have any back-up card), and this digicam doesn’t settle for commonplace SD playing cards like most fashions. The Nikon Z6 is suitable with CFexpress and XQD playing cards solely, which is nice from a efficiency perspective (these are tremendous quick playing cards and sensible for steady taking pictures), however dangerous for your pockets. Even the most cost effective 128GB CFexpress playing cards will price you $150 and upwards. One factor the Z6ii cures is that it provides a second card slot, and permits the usage of SD playing cards.

Overall, we love the texture and dealing with of the Z6 – it’s probably the greatest cameras we’ve ever used. While you’ll discover some with higher touchscreens, and definitely lower your expenses on reminiscence playing cards elsewhere, it’s powerful to complain in regards to the design of the Z6 physique.

Nikon Z6 assessment: Performance

  • 24.5MP backlit sensor is good for night time scenes 
  • Amazing ISO capabilities (as much as 56,200) and sharpness 
  • Superb in-body stabilization 

Nikon Z6, tripod – 65mm, f/22, 20 sec, 640 ISO – stunning coloration seize, even at midnight. And there’s wonderful distinction too, with the night time sky, regardless of mild air pollution. (Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

The Z6 is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to nighttime time and low-light taking pictures, which is the place we did the vast majority of our exams. While the 24.5MP sensor dimension is merely common amongst high-end mirrorless cameras, and nearly half that of the subsequent mannequin up – the Nikon Z7 – this gained’t compromise the standard of your panorama and night time sky photographs. What issues extra is the ISO vary, which runs from 100 – 56,200 (and is additional expandable to between 50 – 204,800), and the readability of the photographs taken at larger ISO settings. Sharpness, noise, and EV are remarkably constant throughout the vary, and evaluate extraordinarily effectively to competing cameras, together with the dearer Z7.

When you’re taking pictures anyplace as much as 12,800 ISO there’s little or no noise or softness to the picture, and it solely begins to degrade barely on most and expanded settings. This is good for low mild conditions like astro, particularly if you happen to’re making an attempt to select unlit objects or surroundings to provide the night time sky some context. Combined with the in-built picture stabilization, which Nikon claims can compensate as much as 5 stops, it means you’ll be able to confidently shoot handheld in low mild, for pictures of the moon, as a result of the unbelievable ISO will allow you to hold your shutter speeds excessive sufficient to retain readability. We discover it powerful to think about a greater all-round digicam when it involves low-light taking pictures – the Z6 is truly one of many fashions used to seize a number of the best astronomy images in 2021 – and the efficiency of the Z6 is solely overwhelmed by specialist astro fashions on this space. 

Nikon Z6, tripod – 24mm, f/4, 30sec, 320 ISO (notice the star trails forming after a barely longer publicity) (Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

Elsewhere the Z6 is able to as much as 12fps burst taking pictures for about 4 seconds at a time, which is about proper for a digicam of this worth. While you in all probability wouldn’t select to make use of it over a number of the Sony Alpha fashions for sports activities or movement images, the Z6 nonetheless handles itself effectively on this space. It’s simply higher for panorama images and portraits. Shooting is tremendous quiet and environment friendly, there’s no interruption between photographs such as you discover with DSLRs, and there’s even a silent taking pictures mode for once you wish to get discrete photos.

In phrases of AF, the Z6 is a really competent digicam. It has 273-points of AF detection, and so they cowl 90% of the view, which is respectable protection and definitely sufficient for panorama photographers. This stat compares poorly to the Z7, however the protection isn’t a major step-down, and once more it’ll make little distinction to nighttime sky pictures and landscapes. It focuses quick and precisely, whether or not you’re utilizing the contact display or the viewfinder. 

Nikon Z6 assessment: Functionality

  • Accurate contact display taking pictures
  • Bluetooth and WiFi enabled  
  • Not straight suitable with Nikon FX and DX lenses 

Nikon Z6 review

(Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

The Z6 is full of options and features designed to make your photographs not solely higher, however simpler to realize. Given that this is a mirrorless digicam, the contact display show is essentially the most correct way to shoot (except you’re in direct mild or taking pictures a brilliant moon). The viewfinder is a smaller simulation of the sensor picture, so is truly barely over-sharpened and, if you happen to’re taking pictures by means of the FTZ adaptor, it can really feel rather less pure (such as you’re watching a TV present) particularly if you happen to’re utilizing DX lenses.

We get pleasure from utilizing the contact display to focus the shot whereas in single-point mode in dwell view, and it’s way simpler than adjusting focus with the little stick whereas in viewfinder mode, however didn’t discover a lot pleasure in utilizing the touch-shooting. It’s a neat characteristic you’ll play with in the beginning, and shortly ditch in favor of contact focusing. While we’re with reference to the contact display, we discovered the auto show change mode very inconsistent and wouldn’t suggest utilizing it – it appears to vary modes randomly, which is a ache if you happen to’re lining up a shot. This provides the slightest of annoyances whereby it’s a must to press the show change button 3 times to maneuver from Viewfinder to Monitor solely. If you’re rushed for time, this is irritating. Aside from that, it’s straightforward to shoot with and cycle by means of the menus utilizing the contact display. Here you’ll discover all the usual choices, like focus modes, metering, and timers, in addition to extra superior choices like batch exposures, WB changes, and button customization. In reality, the extent of customization is intimidating, as nearly all buttons on the Z6 physique may be modified, and you’ve got a complete roster of pre-set choices for your command dial. This makes it a digicam that fits extremely specialised taking pictures, like astro photographs.

Nikon Z6, handheld – 300mm, f/13, 1/60 sec, 500 ISO – element is nonetheless wonderful, although this was shot through a DX lens hooked up with the FTZ adaptor. (Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

When it involves interfacing with different gadgets, Nikon makes use of the SnapBridge app to attach your digicam with good gadgets like a telephone. This is a terrific concept in precept, and you’ll select to both have a steady connection that mechanically transfers each shot to your smartphone, as you are taking them, or to have a managed model the place you choose and edit the photographs you want after you’re finished taking pictures. In follow, it’s a fiddly app and might take some time to attach and obtain full-sized pictures. Not an issue if you happen to’re trying to get pictures direct out of your digicam to publish on social media, however it’s no way to switch giant portions of information. And SnapBridge typically has wobbles at any time when it’s up to date, or your digicam’s firmware is up to date… so you’ll want to anticipate some occasional teething points.

Using SnapBridge will drain the battery lifetime of the Z6, so we wouldn’t suggest having it related on a regular basis. The Z6 has a few 320-330 shot battery life, which is about common for mirrorless cameras, so we’d suggest holding a spare battery if you happen to’re going to be taking pictures all day. When you contemplate this battery life with the one reminiscence card slot, you realise this isn’t a digicam designed for intense shoots. It fits a slower tempo, and a extra thought-about shot.

Nikon Z6: Additional equipment

Kit lens: Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S

Best huge lens: Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S

Best zoom lens: Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S

Spare battery kind: EN-EL15C

Memory card: CFexpress / XQD

Finally, how does the Z6 combine with peripheral merchandise like lenses, flashes, and tripods? Well, there’s excellent news and dangerous information. In phrases of flash models and tripods, there are not any points with the Z6 – it simply works seamlessly with them. Lenses are a unique story. The Z mount cameras aren’t straight suitable with any FX or DX lenses utilized by Nikon’s DSLRs… however there is an answer! You can purchase an FTZ adaptor, which can fortunately match any outdated FX or DX lens onto your Z6. It’s slim, effectively made, mild and – sadly – very costly. You’re $250 for the FTZ adaptor, which is quite a bit to pay on prime of a digicam physique and any equipment lens you purchase. It does work like a attraction, although, so if you have already got a bunch of costly DSLR lenses it’s effectively value it. Especially when you think about how costly a number of the specialist Z lenses are. Nikon makes the vast majority of the Z mount lenses proper now and, whereas they’re nearly all world-class lenses, meaning you pay masses for them. You don’t have the cheaper Sigma or Samyang options simply but. 

Nikon Z6 review

(Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

Should you purchase the Nikon Z6?

Nikon Z6, handheld – 54mm, f/9, 1/3sec, 100 ISO – notice the superb background readability, and movement, even when handheld at 1/3 second. (Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

If you’re severe about astrophotography, landscapes, or organized portrait shoots then, sure, the Z6 is good for you. What it lacks in sensor dimension and burst taking pictures it greater than makes up for in picture stabilization, ISO capabilities, and pure dealing with really feel. This is a digicam designed for slower shoots in decrease and pure lights, and it’s an absolute pleasure to make use of. We’re prepared to miss small inconveniences just like the reminiscence card limitations and the dearth of contact display mobility as a result of the digicam physique itself is so succesful, and isn’t excessively priced. While we’d completely suggest the newer Z6ii for taking pictures video (as it can handle 4K footage at 60fps), the Z6 is just about similar for images, and is about 20-30% cheaper.

What’s extra, the full-frame Z lenses (particularly the premium S-Line variations) are among the many finest digicam lenses obtainable proper now, and so they’re superbly designed. While they’re eye-wateringly costly, and the vary is extra restricted than you’d discover with the Canon and Sony models, you completely get what you pay for. Overall, we predict you’ll love the Z6 as an astro and panorama digicam… when you have the deep pockets to essentially profit from it.

Nikon Z6, handheld – 24mm, f/11, 1/6 sec, 400 ISO – with such good ISO, you’ll be able to slender the aperture on low mild photographs to ensure element, even when handheld. (Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

Nikon Z6, handheld – 24mm, f/5.6, 2/5 sec, 800 ISO – excellent coloration copy, even in low lights, and the ISO is barely breaking a sweat right here. (Image credit score: Andy Hartup)

If this product is not for you

Let’s be sincere, regardless of its relative worth, the Z6 isn’t the most cost effective digicam on the market, and it’s an excessive amount of for pure newcomers to deal with. If you’d somewhat spend across the $500-700 mark, the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is a terrific place to start out. It’s a terrific entry degree digicam all-round, however the huge factor for us is the display it comes with for Live View taking pictures. When you’re taking pictures astro, the LV is essential and the EOS Rebel SL3 has a unbelievable, totally articulated display – good for tripod-based night time shoots. Canon’s lenses are comparatively low cost too, so that you gained’t should spend masses on a superb entry-level set-up.

If you’re eager to start out with the Nikon model, we recommend the Nikon D3500 as a superb newbie digicam, as it has respectable taking pictures capabilities, wonderful grip, and gained’t price you a large amount of money (lower than $500, often). However, the advantages of selecting the D3500 since you wish to ultimately improve to a Z6(ii) or Z7(ii) are very minimal – it’s a smaller APS-C digicam, and a DSLR, so that you’d doubtless wish to change all of your lenses once you go full-frame. And Nikon’s lenses – whereas good high quality – are removed from low cost. 

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