Nikon Z6 II & Z7 II Review: The Z Series Strikes Back
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
A lot of our audience are Nikon fans, and we are as well. We’ve been very privileged to get an exclusive hands-on on the Nikon Z7 II as well as the Z6 II with the Nikkor Z 50mm f1.2 S as well as the Z 14-24mm f2.8 S. How do these cameras perform? Are they better than the original Z6 and Z7?
Let’s talk about the Z6 II first, because I think this is the camera a lot of you out there are going to be getting. 24MP is that sweet spot for photography and you have great video on this as well, so let’s talk about the similarities and the differences. It looks pretty much the same as the original Z6, but there was something that I noticed; when I took it out of the box, I realized the grip felt a little bit different. It felt a little bit larger, so I asked the Nikon reps here in Singapore and they did tell me the grip is slightly larger and that is a welcome addition because I have larger hands and I like a beefier grip, especially when you’re holding lenses.
But a lot of the upgrades, of course, are inside of the camera. Now, you have the dual Expeed 6 processors, that’s the same as in the Nikon D6. Besides that though, you’re getting better battery life with up to 340 shots for photography versus 310 shots. You’ve got a much better buffer, from 35 frames up to 124 frames thereabouts, and that is really important. Up to 14 frames per second versus 12 frames per second isn’t a big deal but if you’re into sports photography or wildlife photography, no one’s going to complain about having a couple extra frames.
Additionally, you’ve got better autofocus. One of the attributes that you’re getting with that dual processor is the autofocusing, and this is the question everybody has on the Z6 II or the Z7 II: is it worth getting these cameras now because of the autofocusing system?
Here are my thoughts in a nutshell. Yes, the autofocusing is much better, but it depends. If you’re doing photography for people, it’s great. Animals, the eye-tracking is hit and miss, but I wasn’t missing shots when I went to the zoo at all or even photographing my dog. It did lock on to the subject very quickly, but you’re just not getting that eye-tracking that you would get on a Canon R6 or R5 which to me, is some of the best animal eye-tracking focusing on the market, hands down.
Nikon’s system doesn’t have that eye locked on all the time, it flutters here and there, but my shots are in focus, they are sharp so I have no complaints at all. Now, in terms of photographing people, it doesn’t have the distances that Sony or Canon has in terms of grabbing somebody in the far distance and locking onto the eyes. You have to be closer to your subject.
Again, I’m using a pre-production camera on the Z7 II. The Z6 II has just been updated with firmware, so you know there will be updates coming out there, but as far as I could tell with the animals, the autofocus box fluttered on and off. As you can tell by my images, it’s tack sharp so I don’t care whether I see a little box on the eye. As long as my image is sharp, I’m happy with it and that’s what I was getting out of this autofocusing system.
Also, you have this new wide autofocusing for people and for animals as well, which sort of gives you a little box and you can kind of focus within that box. It’s nice in a sense because it really just nails everything down, because if you are in an area where there’s a lot of distractions, this is going to help pinpoint that focusing system for you a lot easier. I really like the performance that’s coming out of this camera system in terms of the autofocus, it’s really really good.
I haven’t talked about video much on this, but there have been improvements on video. Instead of 4k 30fps, you can shoot in 4k 60fps now, but that is with a 1.5x crop so you are sacrificing a little bit on that, but you at least get 4k 60 out of this. You still get the N-Log, you still can record 4:2:2 10bit into an external recorder, so you have all that there but you’re getting a little bit better video quality. If you’re not into like colour grading your video and you just want straight out of camera footage, the Nikon colours with video are really pleasing to the eye.
Besides that, the EVF hasn’t changed but I shoot with a lot of different camera systems out there, and I gotta hand it to Nikon; they’ve done a tremendous job with the refresh rate on the EVF because it’s a very smooth image. I don’t get fluttering when I’m doing continuous autofocus, I don’t get any sort of noise levels in it, it works really well and that’s the thing about the Nikon system. I think you got to really try it to see these small little nuances that are in this system that really make it a very enjoyable camera to use.
Besides that though, it’s fast, it’s really quick, I love the dual card slot on this. I’ve got the CFexpress card in this, no issues with buffering, the write speeds are fantastic. I got the UHS2 card slot on this as well if I want a backup. The only thing I wish it had is a flip-out display so when I’m shooting video, if I want to record myself, I know what my framing is, I know that I’m in focus. But I’m being non-biased with you right now and I’ve used every mirrorless camera system out there; this has become one of my favourites thus far.
So before we get into the Z7 II, I do want to tell you about a couple of other updates that apply to the Z6 II as well. The minimum shutter speed was originally 30 seconds, now it’s up to 900 seconds. So if you want to do some really cool light photography, now you can do it even easier with the Z6 II and Z7 II cameras. Also, you can update the firmware via SnapBridge, so before you use the old-fashioned way of downloading the firmware to your computer and putting it onto your sd card to update it, you can actually use SnapBridge to update these cameras, which is also a very welcome addition.
Let’s talk about the Z7 II. I’ve always liked the Z7 because of the sensor, that 45MP sensor is a beautiful sensor. You got that same dual Expeed 6 processors and I loved using the Z7 when it first came out, and I like this even more. You go from nine frames per second up to 10 frames per second on the Z7 II. Previously, you would get up to 20 pictures before the buffer would run out and now you have 77 pictures before the buffer runs out. With the CFexpress card slot, you’re never going to have an issue with buffering.
This camera, because of the sensor, might be for those who do landscape photography, architectural photography, or maybe even portrait photography, people who need that high-resolution sensor so you’re not looking to have as fast of a camera as the Z6 II, but at 10 frames per second, I’m more than happy with it.
It’s also zero blackout in the EVF, and the EVF also has a better refresh rate like the Z6 II. This is one of the better EVFs out there, even though it might be lower resolution, it’s really sharp and very clear. There’s better battery life on this as well, around 360 shots or so, this is all give or take depending on how you do your photography.
If you do video, you’ll be happy to know there’s 4k up to 60fps with zero crop on this, so there’s no more 1.5x crop like you get on the Z6 II. It’s a little odd, because when you look at higher megapixel sensors like this, you would think that it has less video functionality versus a smaller megapixel full-frame sensor, but that’s not the case here. For me, the Z7 II is the all-around camera that I would take with me. 10 frames per second is enough for me if I need to photograph things, unless I’m doing high-speed sports photography or wildlife photography.
For the majority of what I shoot, 10 frames per second is more than enough, and 4k 60 zero crop is a very welcome addition. Of course, you do have the N-Log output on hdmi and all that stuff, 10bit 4:2:2 same as the Z6 II. The Z7 II really is a big improvement over the original Z7. Again, I wish it had the flip-out display. That might be my only caveat, and of course, slightly better animal eye-tracking, but again like the Z6 II, these are really good cameras and these are going to make people think twice about Nikon.
If you discounted Nikon before, I wouldn’t discount them now. They’re back in the game, folks.
Content by Bobby Tonelli