Now that Nikon has formally announced the Nikon Z9, let’s take a look at how its specifications stack up against those of the Nikon D6, the previous flagship camera in Nikon’s lineup.
|Camera Feature||Nikon D6||Nikon Z9|
|Announced||September 2019||October 2021|
|Sensor Resolution||20.8 million||45.7 million|
|Sensor Type||CMOS||Stacked CMOS|
|Sensor Size||35.9 × 23.9mm||35.9 × 23.9mm|
|Sensor Pixel Size||6.45µ||4.35µ|
|Image Size||5,568 × 3,712 pixels||8,256 × 5,504 pixels|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 64|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-102,400||ISO 64-25,600|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, ISO 204,800-3,280,000||ISO 32, ISO 51,200-102,400|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||EXPEED 7|
|Viewfinder Type||Pentaprism||Electronic Viewfinder|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250||1/200 (Auto FP high speed sync up to 1/8000)|
|Storage Media||2× CFexpress Type B with XQD compatibility||2× CFexpress Type B with XQD compatibility|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||14 FPS||20 FPS raw; 30 FPS JPEG; 120 FPS with 11 megapixel JPEGs|
|Buffer Size (RAW, Lossless 14-bit)||200||Over 1000|
|Continuous Shooting||14.3 seconds||Over 50 seconds|
|Shutter Speed Range||1/8000 to 900 sec||1/32,000 to 900 sec|
|Shutter Type||Mechanical shutter, EFCS in MUP, electronic shutter||Electronic shutter only|
|Shutter Durability||400,000 cycles||Unlimited|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||180,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III||TTL exposure metering using main image sensor|
|Autofocus System||Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 37K; 105 points, all cross-type||Hybrid phase/contrast detect AF with 493 points|
|AF Area Mode||OVF: Single-point AF; 9, 25, 49, or 105-point dynamic-area AF; 3D-tracking; Group-area AF; Group-area AF (C1); Group-area AF (C2); Auto-area AF|
Live View: Face-detection AF, Wide-area AF, Normal area AF, Subject-tracking AF
Single point AF; Pinpoint AF; dynamic AF (S, M, L), wide-area AF (S, L); Auto Area AF; 3D-Tracking
|AF Detection Range (f/2 lens, ISO 100)||-4.5 to +20 EV||-5 to 21.5 EV; -7 to 21.5 EV with Low-Light AF enabled|
|Video File Format||MOV / MP4||MOV / MP4|
|Video Compression||MPEG-4 / H.264||Apple ProRes 422 HQ (10-bit); H.265 / HEVC (8-bit / 10-bit); H.264 / AVC (8-bit)|
|Video Maximum Resolution||3,840 × 2,160 (4K) up to 30p||7680 × 4320 (8K) up to 30p|
|Slow Motion Video||1080p up to 60p||4K up to 120p; 1080p up to 120p|
|Video Max Recording Time||105 minutes||125 minutes|
|LCD Size||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||2.4 million dots||2.1 million dots|
|LCD Tilt||Vertical axis only||Vertical and horizontal axis|
|Built-in Wired LAN||1000 Base-T Support||1000 Base-T Support|
|Battery||EN-EL18c||EN-EL18d (backwards compatible with all EN-EL18 type batteries)|
|Battery Life||3,580 shots (CIPA)||700 shots|
|Weight (with battery and card)||1450 g (3.20 pounds)||1340 g (2.95 pounds)|
|Dimensions||160.0 × 163.0 × 92.0mm (6.30 × 6.42 × 3.62 inches)||149 × 149.5 × 90.5 mm (5.87 × 5.89 × 3.56 inches)|
|Price at Launch||$6500 (check current price)||$5500 (check current price)|
Looking at these specifications, it’s clear that both the Nikon D6 and Nikon Z9 are very high-end cameras for sports and wildlife photography. But there’s no denying that the Z9 has more advanced features of the two. It shoots more frames per second than the D6 (20 vs 16) yet has over twice as much resolution – without sacrificing on buffer depth. That’s a huge leap in technology.
Not to mention video, where it’s hardly a contest. The Z9 is one of the most advanced mirrorless cameras on the market for video shooters, while the D6 was already a bit behind on video specs at the time of its release in late 2019. Even if you don’t need 8K for your work, the ability to shoot slow-motion 120p 4K video – plus record 10-bit N-log video internally – are far above the D6’s specs.
There are plenty of smaller areas where the Z9 is ahead, too, such as its multi-axis tilting rear LCD and smaller, lighter form factor. Meanwhile, the D6 is only substantially ahead in its battery life. The Z9’s battery life is very good for a mirrorless camera, but (at least if you’re shooting through the viewfinder) the D6’s is clearly better. That’s as expected in any DSLR vs mirrorless comparison, though.
The one question remaining is the autofocus system, where the D6 is famously excellent and the Z9 is largely untested. But the Z9 does show a lot of promise in this area. Nikon has been steadily improving their mirrorless autofocus over the years, and they claim the Z9 has their best AF performance yet.
Take a look at the Z9’s focus tracking shown by Nikon in this (admittedly overpositive and dramatic) advertisement:
If the real-world performance is anything like that, the Z9 will have no trouble competing with the D6 in focus performance and may be an improvement over it.
Overall, the Z9’s features exceed those of the D6, as expected for a high-end mirrorless camera released more than two years after the DSLR. The magnitude of improvement is impressive, though – certainly a bigger jump than from the Nikon D5 to Nikon D6 – and should be encouraging to anyone who has high hopes for Nikon’s next steps in mirrorless.
My recommendation is to get the Z9, not the D6.
Usually in my comparison articles, I equivocate a bit and talk about how both options are good cameras – and while that’s true in this case too, the Z9 is the way to go if you’re buying one of these cameras new today. It’s $1000 less expensive, it has better features, and mirrorless is clearly Nikon’s future.
Photographers with an extensive set of F-mount supertelephoto lenses may cry foul at those sorts of statements, but even then, I’d recommend the Z9 over the D6. Supertelephotos are some of the lenses that work the best with the Nikon FTZ adapter, even for fast autofocus tracking. And you can always sell them to fund the upcoming Z 400mm f/2.8 if you prefer to eschew the adapter.
What about if you already have the D6, or a slightly earlier model like the Nikon D5? Is it worth selling it to switch to the Z9?
My answer is still yes. If you’re the type of photographer who’s currently using a D6, you’ve already made the decision to pay extra to be at the peak of today’s camera technology, probably because it’s important for your business. You’ll lose some money when you sell the D6, but the Z9’s benefits are worth paying for. You’ll very likely come out ahead in the end.
I should, however, mention that it may still be worth getting the D6 if you’re buying used and find a great price. The issue is, at the time that I’m publishing this article, the D6 is selling used for more than $5000, at which point the Z9 simply makes more sense. Used prices may drop on the D6 now that the Z9 is announced, but at least for now, the winner is clear.
Finally, my recommendation for sports and wildlife photographers on a tight budget is to get an older generation workhorse like the Nikon D4 or D4s, which sell for excellent prices used (as in, under $1500). But photographers who aren’t on a budget – and therefore are considering the D6 vs Z9 in the first place – have an easy answer. Unless you’re opposed to mirrorless cameras no matter what (at which point, good luck, because nearly the whole camera market is going to be mirrorless before long) the Z9 is superior to the D6.
You can purchase either camera through the links below:
In principle, I started with Nikon for a long time with a Nikon F5, then switched to a Nikon D70,D80,D200,D300,D3,D3x,D3s,D4,D4s,D5, Nikon Z6,Nikon Z6 II, Nikon Z II, Nikon Z9 and now a Nikon D6. What can I say, I can’t cope with this mirrorless technology, the EV viewfinder is nothing for me! It may be that the Z9 is a technological miracle, but I want to take photos and not make videos. The Nikon d6 is the best Nikon camera I’ve ever held in my hand so far. Autofocus is a dream, image quality at the highest level does not have to hide from the Nikon Z9. A battery charge sometimes lasts up to 8000 pictures. No AI dependency confusing a tattooed face with facial recognition, I don’t have to wait for a new firmware update to come out for anything to work. The Nikon D6 process works 100%… The pictures in jpeg are so good that you don’t have to rework anything! Do you want to take pictures or play?
I now have two D6 bodies, I got one in the beginning, NPS priority and returned it, simply because at the time it was NOT worth $3000 or more than a clean low mileage D5. So I bought a D5 and used the extra money to upgrade my lenses in hopes to eventually buy the mirrorless flagship. I was happy to wait and continue to use my beloved D5’s. I had two,, one from work (pool camera) and my own personal D5. However once the Z9 was released I was skeptical and canceled my Z9 NPS priority order. However I realized I probably made a mistake and reordered it a few days later after a friend offered to buy it for $300 more than I paid, including taxes if I didn’t keep it. I tried the Z9 once before getting my own copy. It was overwhelming, and it was weird giving up full control to the AI autofocus. However more than the overwhelming changes in AF and everything else, I did not like using the Z9, I hated the EVF after about an hour or sometimes less. Come to find out now, about 6 months later that I most likely (99%) have CTE, from TBI’s suffered playing football for 11 years, being an Army veteran that served 3 tours in Afghanistan and having a rough and tough life, fighting, falling countless times during my 20 years of skateboarding at a high level.
So long story short I can’t get used to EVF, I dislike it or hate it, because of my light sensitivity issues and headaches that I get, from my CTE symptoms. I also was displeased Nikon added a Ten-Pin and flash connector ports, and Wire LAN, yet no WT-6 wireless adapter port? So I kept trying the Z9 and its built in, but it was slower, much more difficult to setup initially and was less reliable. My WT-6A has never once failed me, it is 100% reliable and it’s built and attaches so well, it’s bulletproof. I use these WT-6A’s everyday to transfer and transmit images, and speed is sometimes the difference between getting paid or missing the story. So I decided to allow the Z9 to sell out, I sold my Z9 to a colleague for a small profit. I bought an open box D6 with USA warranty and paid $4999. The new D6 I got from MPB.com and paid $4600 but got $230 partial refund for a shipping mistake/wrong batter was included. (They accidentally sent me an EN-EL18 that was at level 3 or near failure. I took this money and bought a new Z9 battery, the D and the MH-33 USB-C charger. I sold my D850, despite also loving it, because 1. I needed the money for the second D6 and 2. the D850 images do not display or allow you to zoom or anything when you put the card into a D6. So I can’t check focus or composition, etc, while having D850 cards or images in the D6. I can send D850 images wirelessly from my D6, just can’t tell if Im sending a blurry image, the correct images, etc. I had the same issue with my D5 and just thought it was because the D850 was a newer camera than the D5 and therefore it can’t properly display or allow zooming in on images. When I tried it on the D6, I was sure it would work and that images would finally work. It didn’t, still can’t zoom or analyze D850 images on a D6 display screen. So I sold the D850.
As you can likely tell by now, wireless ability and transferring images fast is extremely important for me (as a photojournalist.) You’d think the Z9 would be the perfect camera for me, and I hoped it would be, I was legit super excited to get mine and try it out. But not an hour into testing it out, after setting it up, I got sick of the EVF and was getting a headache. For my, with my light sensitivity and because I always shoot with both eyes open, it wasn’t for me. I have always shot with my dominant eye (I have 20-10 vision), which is my right eye, and I keep my left eye on the subject or action. I also regularly use my back screen as a mirror when it’s not in use. I have to complete situational awareness, almost everything I shoot is dangerous. From Police SWAT standoff’s, to wildfire’s and even MLB games…there is always risk of danger or injury. You need to watch for foul balls coming at you at 90mph or look that you’re not in the way of firefighter’s on the fire-line, etc. It’s definitely more difficult to do this while looking at an EVF, vs. an OVF. Your natural instinct is to close your non-dominant eye while trying to look through or at the EVF. This was enough for me, between the wireless problems, the EVF causing me issues, as well as feeling I could do better with my D6. The D6 has very little blackout and therefor it’s a lovely OVF experience! Plus I’ve been using AF joysticks since 2010-2012 with the Canon 1D Mark III and eventually D4/D4s/D5 and now D6. My eye, brain-hand coordination is in my opinion better or just as fast and maybe more reliable than the Z9’s A.I. autofocus. I’m not missing shots with my D6, and when I do it’s almost always my fault, not the camera’s. If I shot portraits I would argue the Z9 or Z7 II, Z6 II are better and faster, more reliable than I could keep up with subjects eyes. However I don’t do much portraiture, so for me and shooting action…I trust my abilities more than I trusted the new Z9. Maybe I didn’t give the Z9 enough time or effort and I’m sure someone will argue I’m wrong. So I’ll say right now, if you’ve read this far, you should know I have nothing against the Z9! It has some game changing specs and it seems to be an amazing camera. I look forward to trying the next prosumer or flagship Z8/Z10. Maybe by then the EVF will improve and feel more natural to me, but I highly doubt it.
No doubt I am in a small group of people, especially with my extremely rare medical condition that has worsened lately. So please do not take my review or comments personally. If you bought and love your Z9.. or disagree, I am happy for you. Everyone has the right to use what makes them happy or more importantly makes your clients happy. The Z9 has amazing IQ, just like the D850/Z7 camera’s.It just so happens, they are not for me…at least not at this point. Hope this helps someone who is deciding and or has experienced a similar first reaction. Thanks!
NO coment D6 Best Profisionell DLSR for ever …… Alles andere ist Kalter Kaffee
I use both the z9 and a D5 for shooting sports. In daylight, I have no problems what so ever using either camera, however I prefer the z9. However, when under the lights, indoor or out, the noise level between the two has me using the D5. I am shooting on some poorly lit high school fields that don’t understand how to properly light the field of play or the gym where they are playing. Is the same true when shooting in well lit stadiums?
As a photographer that saw the many issues with early mirrorless cameras, (a lot of background anomalies when the subject was moving and close-up), I was firm on the mechanical shutter.
My latest camera is a D4S, which has produced some great results for me since my previous D2X. However, Nikon came out with the Z5, 6 & 7 and I rented the Z7 to try it out.
The anomalies in the images that I saw from early mirrorless cameras, (from cellphone to Fuji P&S), were no longer a problem apparently. So, I decided to buy a Nikon Z7-II, (along with the vertical grip battery chamber, FTZ, etc., etc.).
With all the attachments, I spent a little over $4000. I like the camera and because I’ve been using Nikon Pro-Body style cameras since the F4, F11, & F5, the dual-battery/vertical grip attachment was a must for me.
As much as I liked the Z7-II, there were a few things about it that made me reach for the D4S whenever I was going to do some extensive wildlife shooting. The Z7-II felt too much like a camera that catered to the point & shoot/cellphone & “selfies” crowd.
The lack of immediate access to the metering selection (like the metering selection button on all the Nikon DSLRs), is just one of about 5 points about the Z7-II I wasn’t crazy about. Of course, there were a lot of good points about the Z7-II compared to the D4S, but because I shoot primarily in full manual mode, I found it hard to get used to searching for settings that I could find much more quickly in the D4S.
Then again, the base price of the Z7-II was about $3K and almost less than half the price of the D4S, so I did expect the Z7-II to have some ‘gimmicky’ features that would be more in line with the less than serious shooters.
In the end, I felt the Z7-II was a step backwards from the D4S for my level of experience, (I’ve been shooting Nikon SLRs since 1978). Now, with less than 2500 shutter releases on my Z7-II, I’m going to sell the entire Z7-II ensemble with exception of the FTZ adaptor.
I know that Nikon and most major photography equipment manufacturers, are moving to mirrorless. The fact that I couldn’t get the Z7-II to trip-up and create an anomaly in my images, even after I tried to cause them, has convinced me that Nikon has certainly ‘fixed’ whatever caused that kind of thing.
Though I must admit that the cameras which produced the mirrorless images with anomalies that I saw, were not Nikon, I still tested the Z7-II with moving, brightly colored, plaid shirts passing close to the lens and straight, tall, vertical, polls and objects in the background.
That always trips up the images in cellphones and the point & shoots, (from 4 or 5 years ago, anyway). The kind of shooting I described above along with apertures between F4 and F12, would produce the straight lines in background objects to become shifted or bent about half their length up, and the plaid shirt pattern would really throw the sensor for a loop, lol.
Anyway, it appears I’m going to sell my Z7-II and buy the Z9 within the year. I can’t deny that I’ve had a yearning for the D6 since 2020, but I can’t ignore the performance differences either.
PS Thanks for the input and comparison specs.
for Z9 the usa site gives those numbers -6.5 to +19 EV (-8.5 to +19 EV with starlight view
Yes, but Nikon fudges those numbers a bit by reporting them with an f/1.2 lens. We always standardize to f/2 when reporting these figures on Photography Life so that all cameras have a comparable starting point.
What about the ISO sensitivity? The D6 is clearly better for low light!
Yes some say 0.67 stops, I say more like a full stop, at or above 800 ISO the D5/D6 sensor wins, but obviously at the cost of dynamic range at base ISO. Since I shoot a lot in lowlight it’s a bigger difference than 0.67 stops sounds like. I love the images the D850-Z9 sensors produce, it’s a beautiful detailed image, with room for cropping. However I have had the D850, was one of the first to get one NPS priority. I loved it and still think it’s an amazing camera. But the D6 is absolutely better in pretty much every way for what I shoot. I finally sold my D850 recently. I’m all in on D6’s! When looking through my Lightroom image of images on my iPhone, I can hardly tell which images are taken with which camera. I have had to check so many times, because my D6 images are just so sharp, it’s hard to see any real differences. Why? I happen to own all latest and sharpest E-type lenses Nikon makes. The 28mm f/1.4E, 70-200FL, 500mm f/4E VR FL and 24-70mm VR. Unless I crop a lot or zoom into 200% it’s hard to see any image quality difference in good lighting. Obviously you can pull the shadows much more on the D850 and at lower ISO values the dynamic range is definitely better on the D850, by maybe 2 stops or more. It’s pretty extreme in some cases. However at higher ISO the 45.7mp sensor images seem to show a lot of noise and quickly. At 12800 it’s very apparent the D6 has a big advantage, not just for pure noise but the D6 retains fine details and colors much better than the Z9, D850, Z7’s! In the end I sold my Z9 because I prefer the D6 and wasn’t planing on buying any Z-lenses. I love the lenses I already have and the EVF is just not for me. Oh well I could use D6 bodies for the next ten years and die a happy man!
Ya ya more marketing hype at the end of the day the pictures all look great on the wall
Wonder why you didn’t compare Z 6ii
Wow, what an incredible camera. Good job Nikon!
I’m pretty amazed that all the improvements come at a lower price than the D6. I think we’ll see some D6’s on the used market very soon.
Makes sense. Time to get rid of my DSLR kit while I still can…