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Nikon Z 6 vs. Nikon Z 7: What’s the best Nikon mirrorless camera?

Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras come in two flavors — the high-resolution Nikon Z 7, and the more affordable Nikon Z6. With just two models, narrowing down the differences is much easier than with Nikon’s much larger DSLR line, but it can still be a bit confusing trying to figure out which camera is better for you.

While the higher resolution (and price) of the Nikon Z 7 makes it seem like the better camera, the Nikon Z 6 still packs a punch, and has a few hidden features at a lower price point. The Nikon Z 7 shines in some situations, but the Z 6 is actually the better choice in others.

Nikon Z 6

nikon z6

Nikon Z 7

nikon z7

Sensor 24.5-megapixel full-frame sensor 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor
Burst Speed up to 12 fps (5.5 fps with viewfinder) up to 9 fps (5.5 fps with viewfinder)
Shutter Speed 1/8000 to 30 sec. 1/8000 to 30 sec.
ISO 100 – 51,200 100-25,600
Autofocus 273-point hybrid phase-detection contrast AF with AF assist beam; detection range -2 to +19 EV 493-point hybrid phase-detection contrast AF with AF assist beam; detection range -1 to +19 (-4 to +19 EV with low light AF mode)
Image Stabilization 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization
Video 4K at 30 fps (up to about 30 minutes) 4K at 30 fps (up to about 30 minutes)
Viewfinder .5-inch 3690k-dot OLED with eye sensor .5-inch 3690k-dot OLED with eye sensor
LCD 3.2-inch 2.1 million dot tilting touchscreen 3.2-inch 2.1 million dot tilting touchscreen
Connectivity Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Battery Li-ion rated at 310 shots Li-ion rated at 330 shots
Dimensions (WxHxD) 5.3 x 4 x 2.7 inch 5.3 x 4 x 2.7 inch
Weight 20.7 oz. 20.7 oz.
Kit Lens Available body only, with a 24-70mm f/4 or as part of the filmaker’s kit Available body only, or with a 24-70mm f/4
Price $2,000 body-only $3,400 body-only
Read more Nikon Z 6 Review Nikon Z 7 Review
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Sensor

Both cameras have full-frame sensors, but the Nikon Z 7 has an obvious advantage in resolution. The 45.7-megapixel sensor is similar to the company’s popular D850 DSLR. That’s just shy of twice the resolution of the Z 6. This makes the Z 7 is better at capturing fine detail, great for making large prints or giving users more freedom to crop.

The Z 6 isn’t quite so detail oriented — but remember, more megapixels aren’t always better. While the Z 7 is the high resolution king, cameras with fewer megapixels tend to perform better in low light. The Z 7 is certainly no slouch in low light, but the Z 6 can push the ISO a bit higher without producing as much noise.

Winner: Nikon Z 7

Speed

Both the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 offer competitive speed compared to similarly priced, competing full-frame models. Because of the lower resolution, the Z 6 is the fastest of the bunch, hitting 12 frames per second in high-speed mode. That mode disables live view and auto exposure adjustments between frames, but still has continuous autofocus and captures images at full resolution. Live view and autoexposure are available at 5.5 fps.

The Z 7 can’t handle those large 45MP files as quickly, topping out at 9 fps (which is still very competitive). The good news, though, is that the Z 7 shoots at the same 5.5 fps with live view as the Z 6.

Winner: Nikon Z 6

Autofocus

The 493 autofocus points on the Nikon Z 7 give the pricier camera an edge in focusing accuracy. But, focus isn’t all about a simple point count listed in the tech specs. The Nikon Z 6 can actually focus with less light than the Z 7. Neither is quite up to par with the latest Nikon DSLRs, but the Z 6 outperformed the Z 7 in our experience shooting both in low light settings. The Z 7 does have a separate low light autofocus mode that will allow the camera to focus down to -4 EV, but it’s slower than the standard mode.

On paper, the Z 7 has a better autofocus system, but in real world experience, the Z 6 was able to lock focus in a wider range of lighting conditions.

Winner: Nikon Z 6

Video

Both cameras offer 4K resolution, with the option to output 10-bit 4:2:2 video in the flat N-Log profile (and soon even RAW video, thanks to a firmware update) to an external recorder. These specs are actually better than Nikon’s DSLRs. The cheaper Z 6 is also available as part of a filmmaker’s kit that includes an Atomos monitor/recorder, gimbal, mic, and extra battery for less cash than buying each item individually.

As for video quality, this is where the Z 6 actually benefits from having fewer pixels. It shoots oversampled 4K when using the full width of the sensor, or at a 1:1 pixel ratio when shooting from a cropped APS-C region (equivalent to the Super35 cinema standard). The Z 7, with all those extra pixels to throw around, has to use less efficient scaling methods and ends up with slightly softer video.

Winner: Nikon Z 6

Design

From the outside, it would be hard to tell the two cameras apart if not for the name on the front. Both use the same control scheme as well as the same high-resolution viewfinder and tilting touchscreen. Both are also weather-sealed. There’s not even a weight difference between the two.

Winner: Tie

Low light performance

While the Z 7 is the winner when it comes to high resolution and detail, the Z 6 is the stronger choice for working in low light. Fewer pixels on the same sensor size means the pixels are larger, which makes each pixel more sensitive to light. As a result, the Z 6 has a higher ISO limit and lower noise levels compared to the Z 7. Factor in the better low light autofocus on the Z 6, and this less expensive model looks even more appealing.

That’s not to say, however, that the Z 7 is a low light slouch. Considering the high resolution, the Z 7 still puts up very good results. Both cameras also have image stabilization built into the body, which, if the subject isn’t moving, allows you to drop the shutter speed lower instead of raising the ISO.

Winner: Nikon Z 6

Picking an overall winner

Both the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 are very capable cameras, and more alike than they are different. Choosing between the two, however, isn’t always an easy choice. As always, the answer depends on what’s in front of the camera and, perhaps more importantly, who’s behind it.

The Nikon Z 7 is the best camera for pixel peepers, those photographers looking to capture every last detail with a high-resolution sensor. The Z 6 does better in low light, is faster, and the better choice for serious videographers. Combined with the lower price point, the Z 6 is likely to be the more popular choice, while the Z 7 is reserved for a smaller niche of photographers.

Hillary K. Grigonis
Hillary never planned on becoming a photographer—and then she was handed a camera at her first writing job and she's been…
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