Upon first glance, the Nikon D780 and Z6 appear to be very different cameras. The D780 is a traditional-looking DSLR with Nikon’s standard control layout, while the Z6 is a smaller and more streamlined mirrorless camera with a number of new design cues. But beneath the surface, the Nikon D780 and Nikon Z6 share a lot of similarities. It’s not unreasonable to call the D780 a “DSLR Z6,” or the Z6 a “mirrorless D780.”
Below, I’ll compare the Nikon D780 and Z6 and show where they differ, so you have a better idea of which one is right for you.
Let’s start by comparing the specifications of these two cameras:
|Camera Feature||Nikon D780||Nikon Z6|
|Sensor Resolution||24.5 MP||24.5 MP|
|Sensor Type||BSI CMOS||BSI CMOS|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9mm||35.9 x 23.9mm|
|Sensor Pixel Size||5.9µ||5.9µ|
|Low Pass Filter||Yes||Yes|
|In-Body Image Stabilization||No||Yes|
|Dust Reduction / Sensor Cleaning||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||6048 × 4024||6048 × 4024|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 100|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-51,200||ISO 100-51,200|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, ISO 100-204,800||ISO 50, ISO 100-204,800|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||EXPEED 6|
|sRAW File Support||No||No|
|Viewfinder Type||Pentaprism||Electronic / EVF|
|Viewfinder Coverage||100%, 0.7×||100%, 0.8×|
|Storage Media||2× SD, UHS-II Compatible||1× XQD|
|Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter||Yes||Yes|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||7 FPS mechanical shutter, 12 FPS with silent mode in Live View (12-bit RAW)||12 FPS|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000-900 sec, Bulb, Time||1/8000 to 30 sec, Bulb, Time|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200||1/200|
|Shutter Durability||150,000||200,000 cycles|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||180,000-pixel RGB sensor||TTL exposure metering using main image sensor|
|Highlight Weighted Metering||Yes||Yes|
|Full aperture metering during Live View for stills||Yes||Yes|
|Face and Eye AF||Yes||Yes|
|Pet Eye AF||No||Yes|
|Number of AF Points||Viewfinder: 51 Phase Detection AF points, 15 cross-type|
Live view: 273 Hybrid Detect AF points
|273 Hybrid Detect AF points|
|Detection Range||-3 to +19 EV viewfinder; -6 to +17 EV live view||-4 to +19 EV|
|Video Output||AVCHD / MP4 Compression with 4:2:0 sampling, 10-bit via HDMI with 4:2:2 sampling||AVCHD / MP4 Compression with 4:2:0 sampling, 10-bit via HDMI with 4:2:2 sampling|
|Video Maximum Resolution||3840 x 2160 (4K) up to 30p, 1920×1080 up to 120p||3840 x 2160 (4K) up to 30p, 1920×1080 up to 120p|
|Highlight Display (Zebra Stripes) in Live View||Yes||Yes|
|LCD Size and Type||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD Tilting||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD Tilting|
|LCD Resolution||2,359,000 dots||2,100,000 dots|
|Battery||EN-EL15b Lithium-ion Battery||EN-EL15b Lithium-ion Battery|
|Battery Life||2260 shots (CIPA)||330 shots (CIPA)|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes|
|Weight, Body Only (includes batteries and card)||840 g (29.6 oz)||675 g (23.9 oz)|
|Dimensions||143.5 × 115.5 × 76.0 mm (5.6 × 4.5 × 3.0 inches)||134 × 100.5 × 67.5 mm (5.3 × 4.0 × 2.7 inches)|
|MSRP, Body Only (at time of review publication)||$2300 (Check Current Price)||$1800 (Check Current Price)|
Which Camera Should You Get?
As you can tell, the D780 and Z6 share a lot of similarities, including important features like their live view implementation and video specifications. Even in many of the places where they differ, not all photographers will agree on which one is preferable (for example, the choice between dual SD cards vs a single XQD has generated a lot of argument).
Many of the differences just come down to the fact that the D780 is a DSLR and the Z6 is mirrorless. Do you prefer an optical or electronic viewfinder? How much do you care about your camera’s size and weight? Every photographer is different in that regard.
At least the two have the same image sensor. Nikon’s 24.5 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor is one of the best on the market at high ISOs and has excellent dynamic range. You’ll get great image quality regardless of which camera you pick.
In practice, the only real difference in image quality between these two cameras is due to your choice of lens. The D780 has native access to Nikon’s huge lineup of F-mount lenses, which cover practically any need you can think of. The Z6 doesn’t have nearly as many native lenses at the moment, but the Z-mount lenses so far have been consistently excellent, and you can still adapt F-mount lenses via the (somewhat annoying to use) FTZ adapter if you need some more specialization.
And, of course, price is a factor as well. Because the Nikon D780 is newer, it’s selling for a somewhat inflated price of $2300 at the time of this article’s publication and is harder to find used. The Z6 is a much more reasonable $1800, and also sells for better prices used because it’s been out longer. That alone argues for the Z6 if you’re on the fence or starting a new camera system from scratch.
Even ignoring price, at the end of the day, I’d get the Z6 for travel and landscape photography. I also consider it a better general “family photo/video” camera because it’s more portable and has in-body image stabilization. The Nikon D780, on the other hand, is better for sports, wildlife, and stage photography thanks to its excellent 51-point viewfinder autofocus system and native access to F-mount telephoto lenses. Professional wedding, studio, and portrait photographers will appreciate the D780’s longer battery life and bigger native lineup of specialized lenses, too.
I personally decided on the Z6 as my primary video camera and backup landscape/travel photography camera, but I do really like the D780 as well. I’ve used it extensively and wrote a comprehensive review of the Nikon D780 if you want to know more (and we have a Z6 review too).
Let me know below if you have any questions about these two cameras and I’ll do my best to answer!