Now that Nikon has released its first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Nikon Z6 and Z7, it’s a good time to see how the two cameras compare. Naturally, they are quite similar in many ways, even having identical control layouts and the exact same weight. But under the hood, there are plenty of differences, some of which are quite significant. If you are thinking of buying either the Z6 or Z7, this article will help you understand the pros and cons of each.
Nikon Z6 and Z7 Specifications Comparison
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 marketed as a more premium offering, with its 45.7 MP sensor that can push 9 fps and an 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||6048 x 4024||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|
|4K Video Type||Full-sensor width (oversampled)||Line skipping|
|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||310 shots (CIPA)||330 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)|
Now that we have used both the Nikon Z6 and Z7 extensively for real-world shooting, it is clear that there are some major differences between the two cameras that photographers need to know about. (See our reviews of the Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7.) First, however, let’s just look at the specifications alone. As you can see, the Z7 is ahead in some areas, but the Z6 isn’t a slouch by any means. And 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, the Z6 is actually slightly better than the Z7, since its 4K video is downsampled from the full width of the sensor (totaling about 6K at first) rather than pixel binned. And, as you’ll see in a moment, the stills image quality on the Z6 is no slouch either, especially at high ISOs.
The biggest difference between the two cameras is, of course, sensor resolution: 24 MP versus 45 MP. Some photographers actually prefer lower resolution in this case, since it leads to smaller file sizes that are still plenty large enough for huge prints. Others, such as those who shoot landscapes and make large prints, will find 45 MP to be critical to their work.
You’ll also notice that the autofocus system is different between these cameras. The Z7 has a 493 point system versus the Z6’s 273 point system. In practice, this just means that the Z7 has finer “steps” when you move the autofocus box. Although this sometimes helps for composition, it doesn’t impact the cameras’ tracking capabilities, which works equally well on both cameras. However, the Z6’s faster frame rate (12 FPS versus 9 FPS) is a significant benefit in some conditions, so the Z6 is the better camera for fast action.
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 using on its high-resolution cameras. That said, the difference between ISO 100 and ISO 64 is only 2/3 stop. And although battery life technically leans in the Z7’s favor (330 versus 310 shots), that difference is invisible in practice.
In short, the Z6 is actually the better camera in some important ways, despite its lower price. Unless you need 45 megapixels rather than 24, I recommend saving $1400 and buying the Z6. It’s hardly a downgrade; you get better 4K video quality, a faster frame rate, smaller file sizes, and better high ISO performance.
Speaking of ISO, let’s take a look at some samples from each camera to see how they perform side by side:
25. Nikon Z6 vs Nikon Z7 ISO Performance Comparison
Let’s start with ISO 100, the lowest shared native ISO value on the Z6 and Z7. In order to compare 24 MP versus 45 MP side by side, I downsampled the Z7 images to match the Z6’s 4024 × 6048 resolution. The Z6 is on the left, and the Z7 is on the right:
The two images are very similar overall. There is a bit more detail on the Z7 image, thanks to the higher initial resolution of 45 megapixels, but differences are slight. (Look at the top edges of the color swatches to see a good example of where the Z7 is more defined.) At ISO 200 through 1600, differences in noise are still minor, but the Z6 does have a bit less. However, at these ISOs, the Z7 retains its slight edge in image detail. Personally, I prefer the Z7 files in this range:
At ISO 3200 and 6400, the Z6 is starting to look clearly better than the Z7 in noise performance. This is especially noticeable in the red and pink swatches. Although the Z7 is still the sharper file at both ISOs, I am starting to prefer how the Z6 looks. But especially at ISO 3200, it is a bit of a toss-up:
The Z6 starts pulling away at ISO 12,800. Pay attention to the green, pink, red, and gray swatches. Although the Z7 still shows reasonable performance, and remains slightly sharper, the Z6 performs better overall at this ISO:
By ISO 25,600, it is clear that the Z6 is ahead in noise performance, and the extra noise in the Z7 has essentially eliminated the sharpness advantage. The better file here is definitely the Z6’s:
And at ISO 51,200, the Z6 not only wins in noise but also detail and sharpness, leaving the Z7 clearly behind:
Lastly, at ISO 102,400, the Z6 is far ahead of the Z7 in every way, including brightness. However, both images are pretty much unusable:
The takeaway here is that the Z6 is the better camera in noise performance, but the Z7 is sharp enough at lower ISOs to make up for the difference. From ISO 100 to ISO 1600, I prefer the Z7 files, and I can see an argument for the Z7 files being preferable even up to ISO 6400.
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. For example, we’ve already had the D800 vs D800e and the D810 vs D810A. However, the Z6 and Z7 have more differences than either of these cases, with a $1400 difference in price and very different target audiences.
The Nikon Z6 is naturally the more popular of these two releases, and not just because of the lower price. 24 MP is a bit of a sweet spot in the megapixel race, especially if you take a lot of travel pictures or shoot events. For that reason, I recommend getting the Nikon Z6 for most photographers who are considering the two cameras. You should get the Z7 only if you know that you need the extreme 45 MP resolution for large prints or tight cropping. All the other differences between the two cameras are negligible, and many of them even lean in the Z6’s favor.
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. Now that we have done extensive head-to-head testing, it is clear that Nikon has two serious winners on its hands.