With Nikon’s long-awaited full-frame mirrorless Z6 and Z7 cameras finally announced, and the Z7 now shipping to the earliest pre-orders, it’s time to take a look at how the two compare. Naturally, they are quite similar in certain ways, even having practically identical camera bodies. But under the hood, there are plenty of differences, some of which are quite significant. Are you thinking of buying either the Z6 or Z7? If so, this article should help you understand the main pros and cons of each.
Nikon Z6 and Z7 Specifications Comparison
Physically, both cameras physically look identical and weigh the same. However, Nikon is clearly targeting the Z6 and Z7 at different audiences, akin in many ways to the difference between the Sony A7 and A7R line-ups, or the difference between the Nikon D750 and D850.
The Nikon Z6 is targeted as a general-purpose mirrorless camera, with its 24 MP sensor, 12 fps continuous shooting speed and 273 autofocus points. The Nikon Z7, on the other hand, is going to be marketed as a more premium offering, with its 45.7 MP sensor that can push 9 fps and a superior autofocus system with a total of 493 focus points. Both cameras offer hybrid autofocus systems, with on-sensor phase detection and contrast detection AF.
Let’s take a look at the specifications in more detail:
|Camera Feature||Nikon Z6||Nikon Z7|
|Sensor Resolution||24.5 Million||45.7 Million|
|Sensor Type||BSI CMOS||BSI CMOS|
|In-Body Image Stabilization||Yes, 5-axis||Yes, 5-axis|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 24.0mm||35.9 x 23.9mm|
|Image Size||6000 x 4000||8256 x 5504|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||EXPEED 6|
|Viewfinder||Electronic / EVF||Electronic / EVF|
|Viewfinder Type / Resolution||QVGA / 3.6 Million Dots||QVGA / 3.6 Million Dots|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200s||1/200s|
|Storage Media||1x XQD||1x XQD|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||12 FPS (limited to 12-bit RAW and no AE), 9 FPS (14-bit RAW but no AE), 5.5 FPS with AE||9 FPS (only 12-bit RAW, no AE) – 8 FPS (14-bit RAW, no AE) – 5.5 FPS (14-bit RAW and AE)|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000||1/8000|
|Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter||Yes||Yes|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||TTL metering using camera image sensor||TTL metering using camera image sensor|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 64|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-51,200||ISO 64-25,600|
|Autofocus System||Hybrid PDAF||Hybrid PDAF|
|Focus Peaking / Peaking Colors / Levels||Yes / Red, Yellow, Blue, White / 3||Yes / Red, Yellow, Blue, White / 3|
|Video Maximum Resolution||4K @ 24/25/30 fps, 1080p @ 120fps||4K @ 24/25/30 fps, 1080p @ 120fps|
|HDMI Out / N-LOG||4:2:2 10-bit HDMI Output / Yes||4:2:2 10-bit HDMI Output / Yes|
|Articulating LCD||Yes, Tilting||Yes, Tilting|
|LCD Size||3.2″ Diagonal LCD||3.2″ Diagonal LCD|
|LCD Resolution||2,100,000 dots||2,100,000 dots|
|Battery Life||330 shots (CIPA)||310 shots (CIPA)|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes|
|USB Version||Type-C 3.1||Type-C 3.1|
|Weight (Camera Body Only)||585g (20.7oz)||585g (20.7oz)|
|Dimensions||134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm (5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7″)||134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm (5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7″)|
|MSRP Price||$1,999.95 (check price)||$3,399.95 (check price)|
At this point, we have only handled the Z7 in person, since the Z6 has yet to ship. However, even based upon specifications alone, it’s still possible to draw conclusions about who each camera is aimed for. As you can see, the Z7 is ahead in some areas, but the Z6 isn’t a slouch by any means. In fact, for many of the most important specifications, the two cameras are identical.
Are you primarily interested in the video features of these cameras? If so, you’ll be happy to hear that you can get the ($1400 less expensive) Z6, since the two cameras appear to have the same video features. The same is true if you care more about handling concerns, since the Z6 and Z7 share the same camera body with identical specifications (weight, size, screen resolution, and so on).
It is only in some of their technical details where the Z6 and Z7 differ at all. The biggest, of course, is sensor resolution, which is probably the number that will sway most photographers’ decisions: 24 MP versus 45 MP. Another important one is autofocus, where the Z7 interestingly has a 493 point system versus the Z6’s 273 point system. Although this may seem odd on the surface – why would the slower camera need better autofocus capabilities? – I can see a lot of wildlife photographers preferring the 45 MP sensor of the Z7, since it allows more ability to crop.
At the same time, it makes sense for Nikon to build a well-rounded 24 MP camera that is going to be more affordable. For many photographers, 24 MP is more than enough for their day-to-day needs.
The more minor changes between the Z6 and Z7 are also interesting, such as battery life and ISO range. Personally, as a landscape photographer, I love the base ISO 64 that Nikon is starting to use in its high-resolution cameras, and I find that an important positive of the Z7. That said, it is only 2/3 stop difference, and it has no benefit unless you are shooting (likely from a tripod) at ISO 64 – so it’s not like the Z6 is bad in this regard.
Which Camera Should You Get?
This is not the only time Nikon has ever released two versions of a camera with the same body but different internal components. Think the D800 vs D800e and the D810 vs D810A. However, the identical Z6 and Z7 bodies is arguably the most significant, since the two cameras have completely different sensors and are targeted at separate audiences.
The Nikon Z6 is almost certainly going to be the more popular of these two releases, if only because of the lower price. It’s also true that many photographers see 24 MP as a sweet spot in the megapixel race. If you shoot a lot of travel pictures or weddings, and you don’t want to fill your hard drive too quickly (or slow down your post-processing), the Z6 is the camera for you. In short, if you need a dedicated wedding, portrait, street/travel, or general purpose camera for stills and video, the Z6 would be a better choice than the Z7.
Based on what we have seen so far, you should get the Z7 only if you know that you need the insane 45 MP resolution for large prints or tight cropping. 24 MP is already enough for most reasonable applications. Aside from that, you might want to get the Z7 if you have been using the D800-series, and you mentally cannot allow yourself to go down in resolution!
Overall, the Z6 makes a great backup / travel camera for Nikon users whose main system is a DSLR (say, the D850). It also is a worthy upgrade to the D750, D610, or any crop-sensor camera. The Z7, on the other hand, looks more like a primary camera for landscapes and other high-resolution applications.
Before getting too caught up in the hype of these two cameras, it is important to remember that this is just Nikon’s first stab at the full-frame mirrorless market. There are very few native lenses at this point, and it will likely take some time before the Z series cameras are mature enough to work as a fleshed-out system (see the Nikon Z Lens Roadmap). If you remember the difference in maturity between the D800 and the D810, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
And with that disclaimer, it is okay to get back into the hype a bit, because there is no denying that these cameras both look very good! Having tested the Z7 for landscape photography in Colorado so far, our takeaway is that it ticks a lot of the right boxes, and the Z6 shares enough DNA that it is likely to be similar. Assuming that the cameras don’t have any huge bugs, the Z6 and Z7 will be a major force on the high-end camera market today – and Nikon has spent a lot of time getting them right, so it is natural to think they will perform as hoped. That is especially true given the features these cameras have over Nikon’s current DSLR system, such as the very intriguing 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system. If Nikon implements IBIS well on the Z6 and Z7 cameras, it will be exciting to use these cameras with current and older Nikon lenses that do not have Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, both for handheld stills and video. But that’s a topic for a separate article…
Overall, the Z6 and Z7 are positioned to match or exceed the features of its most capable competitors on the market, both DSLR and mirrorless. Combine that with the pent-up desire from Nikon users for a mirrorless system to compete with Sony, and I suspect that the market for both these cameras will be quite impressive.
So, whether your next Nikon camera is going to be the Z6, Z7, or a DSLR instead (which is likely to go down in price now, especially used), there is no bad answer. It will take some head-to-head testing before we know for sure, but the new Z-mount cameras have the potential to be very impressive cameras indeed.