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Nikon D6 Review

Nikon's flagship D6 is Nikon's top of the range flagship DSLR and offers 14fps continuous shooting, built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as an updated auto-focus system.


|  Nikon D6 in Digital SLRs
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Nikon D6 (9)

The Nikon D6 is the latest flagship DSLR from Nikon and is the top-of-the-range professional full-frame DSLR designed primarily for professional sports photographers, updating the Nikon D5. The camera features a 20mp full-frame sensor, a solid weather-sealed body, and ample battery life. It has an updated autofocus system, designed to give better focus, as well as quicker continuous shooting with AF.  It's available for £6299 / $6495.

Nikon D6 Features

Nikon D6 (1)

The Nikon D6 is built to be the ultimate professional DSLR, with features that a professional sports photographer would need, including built-in GPS, built-in RJ-45 (ethernet) connectivity for instant and rapid image transfer, a tough weather-sealed camera body, and exceptional battery life offering over 3,500 shots.

In the centre, there's a 20mp full-frame CMOS sensor, which may seem "low-resolution" for a digital camera in 2020, however, the use of a 20mp sensor results in lower noise (than a comparable 36/47mp sensor for example), as well as offering an impressive ISO range from ISO100 to ISO102400, which can be extended all the way up to ISO3.2million.

A 20mp image is also likely to be of benefit to sports shooters, as this allows for quicker image transfer, as dealing with 10MB images is much quicker and easier than dealing with 30+mb images from high-resolution cameras, particularly if you're shooting 100s or 1000s of images in a day.  20mp is also likely to be ample resolution for the majority of news organisations.

The camera offers 14fps continuous shooting with continuous AF (autofocus) and AE (exposure), with a buffer of 200, an improvement over the D5, which offered 12fps, or 14fps with mirror lock-up (and fixed AF).

The camera also offers a 3.2inch touch-screen, an optical viewfinder (OVF) with 0.72x magnification, a built-in vertical battery grip, amongst other things, including a top LCD, and rear LCD, as well as light-up buttons and displays so that you can operate the camera in the dark.

Nikon D6 (14)

If you're familiar with the Nikon D5, then it's likely you'll be quite familiar with the Nikon D6, because in a lot of ways the camera is very similar, however, there are a number of updates:

New features and differences found on the Nikon D6:

  • 105 AF-points (all cross-type), with increased sensitivity
  • 14fps continuous shooting with AF/AE
  • 1-5fps quiet mode continuous shooting
  • 10.5fps continuous shooting in live-view
  • Wi-Fi / Bluetooth, and GPS built-in
  • Kensington Lock socket
  • New auto white balance algorithm, for improved consistency
  • Create multiple-exposure images after shooting
  • Quick sharpen adjustments (pre and post-shooting)
  • Up to 900s shutter speed available
  • USB Type-C

Autofocus is one of the main features of the Nikon D6 that has been updated and if we look at the Nikon D5, it may at first seem to offer more focus points, however, the number of selectable focus points, and the type of focus point has been updated on the Nikon D6.

Autofocus is one of the main features of the Nikon D6 that has been updated

The Nikon D6 uses a newly designed Multi-CAM 37K autofocus sensor module, that features 105 AF points, and they are all cross-type, and all selectable, whereas the Nikon D5 only offers 55 selectable AF points (shown with a square, below, out of the 153). The Nikon D6 has also been updated with a triple sensor arrangement for every focus point, compared to the double-sensor arrangement on the D5. Sensitivity in the centre has been improved down to -4.5EV.

Nikon D5 AF Vs Nikon D6 AF - Image: nikon.com.au
Nikon D5 AF Vs Nikon D6 AF - Images: nikon.com.au

From Nikon: "The use of a triple-sensor arrangement for each focus point and the new focus point layout reduce non-AF-sensitive areas, and achieve approx. 1.6× higher-density AF coverage compared to the D5, enabling even more accurate subject acquisition. Moreover, the centre focus point works down to -4.5 EV*2 and the others to -4 EV*2, making autofocus possible even in dark situations or with low-contrast subjects."

More features of the AF system:

  • 17 custom group-area AF mode variations
  • New AF engine - processes approx. 1.6x more defocus information for enhanced AF tracking
  • Advanced Scene Recognition System (ASRS) improved includes face, eye and upper body detection
  • Improved AF fine-tuning for both the wide-angle and telephoto ends of zoom lenses

 

Compared to the Nikon D5 and new Canon EOS 1DX III...

Nikon D5 Nikon D6 Canon EOS 1DX III
20.8mp FF sensor 20.8mp FF sensor 20.1mp FF sensor with Dual-Pixel AF
3.2inch, 2359K, Touch 3.2inch, 2359K, Touch 3.2inch, 2.1m dots
0.72x magnification 0.72x magnification 0.76x magnification
ISO100-ISO102400
ISO3,280,000 max
ISO100 - ISO102400
extends to ISO50, ISO3280000
ISO100 - ISO102400
extends to ISO50, ISO819200
153 points, 99 cross-type,55 selectable
15 support f/8
105-point AF (all cross-type), all selectable
15 support f/8
191 AF points, 155 cross-type,
3869 live-view AF points
-4EV -4.5EV sensitivity -4EV sensitivity (-6EV live-view)
12fps with AF/AE,
14fps (mirror lockup), 200 shot buffer
3fps quiet mode
14fps with AF/AE
200 shot buffer
1-5fps quiet mode (mech)
10.5fps silent live-view shooting
16fps continuous with AF/AE
20fps live-view, mirror up, exposure and AF tracking
Unlimited JPEG buffer, or over 1000 raw shots
4K (UHD) at 30fps, stereo mic 4K UHD, 30,25,24p
FullHD 60fps
5.5K / 4K CINE, 60fps
FullHD 120fps
3780 shots 3580 shots 2850 shots
Optional GPS built-in, USB-C GPS built-in, USB-C (3.1 Gen 2)
Mic, Headphone, RJ-45 Bluetooth, Wi-Fi,
RJ-45, Mic, Headphone sockets
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi,
RJ-45, Mic, Headphone sockets
1405g (with battery and memory cards) 1450g (with battery and memory cards) 1440g (CIPA)
£5199 £6299 £6499

* Bold shows improvements over Nikon D5.

As you can see in the table above, the changes made to the Nikon D6 could be considered as quite subtle, however, if you need GPS or Wi-Fi, then they could be seen as essential updates. The D6 has P, A, S, M shooting modes, giving you full manual controls, as you would expect.

Nikon D6 (2)

Key Features

  • 20.8mp Full-Frame FX CMOS sensor
  • Nikon F-mount
  • 3.2inch touch-screen, with 2359K dots
  • 0.72x magnification optical viewfinder (OVF), with 100% coverage
  • 105 AF points (all cross-type), -4.5 EV sensitivity
  • 14fps continuous shooting with AF/AE at full resolution
  • 10.5fps silent continuous shooting using live-view (fixed AF)
  • 60fps 2mp images, 30fps 8mp images
  • ISO100 to ISO102400, extends to ISO50, ISO3280000 (Hi5)
  • 4K UHD Video recording, 30,25,24fps
  • GPS built-in
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RJ-45, Mic, Headphone sockets
  • Weather-sealed magnesium alloy body

Nikon D6 Handling

Nikon D6 (6)

The Nikon D6 is extremely solid, and well-built, thanks to the tough magnesium alloy construction, and you can see how thick the metal used is, in the picture (below) showing the battery removed. As expected, weather-sealing is included, with all ports and connection securely covered with rubber covers.

The handgrip feels extremely solid, with a large rubber grip stretching from the front, all the way round to the back of the camera. On the back is a good sized thumb grip making it possible to have a firm grip of the camera. The vertical shooting grip provides a deep grip and a comfortable recess for your middle finger. You'll also find a large thumb grip on the rear that provides additional purchase.

The D6's weight has increased by 45g, up to 1450g, compared to 1405g on the D5. Something to be aware of when thinking about this camera, it is undeniably heavy. You can hold the camera with one hand, but it isn't recommended, instead using two hands is a good idea, giving a firm grip. If you're coming from a smaller Digital SLR then the D6 will seem particularly large, however, this will be of benefit if you use larger lenses, and a tripod will certainly help keep the weight from you.

Illuminated buttons can be found on the camera, making it easy to see buttons and controls when shooting in dark conditions. The mode button is on the top left of the camera, and the ISO button can be found close to the shutter release button, which makes it quick and easy to change the ISO speed. There are three dedicated customisable function buttons on the camera, (labelled as Fn1, Fn2, and Fn3), and you can also customise a number of other buttons and controls (shown here).

Nikon D6 Battery (1)
Any differences between the D5 and D6, on first inspection, are going to be quite subtle, however, there is now support for Kensington locks, there's an added "microphone" logo underneath the Fn3 button, which allows for voice memos to be recorded. The shutter release angle has been updated, and we found it comfortable to use. The four-way controller with middle button can feel a little "mushy" and is used to go through the menus. You can also use the touch-screen to scroll through the menus and select and change options.

The focus system is configurable in 105-point, 49-point, 25-point and 9-point coverage settings in Continuous AF mode. All 105 focus points are compatible with AF NIKKOR lenses with an open aperture of f/5.6 or faster, and 15 central focus points work with an effective aperture of f/8. Focus works down to -4.5 EV (in the centre), and there are 105 cross-type focus points. 

There are options to adjust how the AF performs, with focus tracking options letting you set "blocked shot AF response (quick to delayed)" as well as "Subject motion (erratic to steady)". The camera also features 3D tracking face detection, 3D tracking watch area, and predictive focus tracking is automatically activated according to subject status. There aren't as many options or "case scenarios" as Canon EOS cameras.

Nikon D6 Focus Points In Playback
 

The focus area is concentrated in the middle of the sensor, as shown above. In playback you can show the focus points used, these are shown in red, and the main focus area is shown with the white lines. The focus system works extremely well, as long as your subject is in this area, if your subject is outside this area then, unfortunately, you're out of luck (unless you switch to live-view).

Nikon D6 (3)

The optical viewfinder (OVF) is large and clear, and there is a good overlay of focus points so you can clearly see what the camera is focused on when shooting. You can easily remove the eyepiece adapter by pressing in the two release buttons, and the glass in the centre is fluorine coated. The OVF has on-screen flicker warning when shooting something that is likely to cause an issue, and the camera can automatically detect and shoot "around" this. There is also, a lockable dioptre dial, and you can cover the OVF with the built-in cover.

The Nikon menus are clearly laid out with different (colour coded) sections for each set of options, including playback, photo shooting, movie shooting, custom settings, setup menu, retouch menu, and my menu. My menu lets you put your favourite options for quick access. You can press the i button on the back of the camera to get a quick menu on the screen, and there is built-in help available to explain options. The i menu can be customised to give you quick access to your favourite options.

The 3.2inch screen on the D6 is excellent, with a very clear display and an excellent resolution. Viewing angles are excellent, and it's easy to view even in bright sunlight. You can now use the touch screen to scroll through the menus and change settings, and the touch-screen can be used in live view and in playback. Shooting in live view, you can use the touch-screen to change the focus point to any area of the screen. You can also acquire preset Spot White Balance data, based on the selected area. The screen does not tilt, however, it's likely that a tilting screen would result in a less sturdy or weather-proof camera.

Nikon D6 (17)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 3580 shots (according to CIPA testing standards, which test single-frame release), Nikon says the camera can offer 8670 shots in continuous release mode (using Nikon's testing). A full-size double battery charger is included in the box.


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