Nikon Announces the Z6 II and Z7 II: The Next Generation of Mirrorless

Nikon introduced on Wednesday its next generation of mirrorless cameras with the announcement of the Z6 II and Z7 II. The models are identical in terms of body and sizing, but they improve some key features that many were concerned about with the first generation, we’ll dive into the details. The announcement comes on the news that a sports/wildlife-oriented Z9 is on the horizon too.

The question is whether or not the improvements warrant an upgrade for current Z6 and Z7 users, and what this means for Nikon DSLR users looking to make the transition to mirrorless?

The new announcement increases the competition between Nikon, Sony, and Canon. All have released exciting new cameras this year and more are in store for the future. Nikon and Canon, especially, have some very exciting lenses in the pipeline too. I have noted this in previous articles, but the mount sizing used by Nikon and Canon allows for innovative lens engineering and it gives them an edge moving forward.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost two years since the Z6 and Z7 were released, representing Nikon’s first foray into the mirrorless market. As with any first-gen product, the two cameras had shortcomings, but they are both remarkably good cameras. The Z6 has turned into one of the best hybrid cameras on the market and the Z7 is a D850 mirrorless clone.

The biggest gripes with the models were autofocus performance, lack of dual card slots and a few other minor features. The mark II models address those issues. The new cameras are priced competitively too, as many thought that they would be considerably more expensive than the mark I cameras, but they are actually in the same price range as the current cameras.


Z6 II – $1,996.95
Key Features
• 24.5MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
• Dual EXPEED 6 Image Processors
• UHD 4K30 Video; N-Log & 10-Bit HDMI Out
• 14 fps Cont. Shooting, ISO 60-51200
• 273-Point Phase-Detect AF System
• 3.6m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
• 3.2″ 2.1m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
• 5-Axis In-Body Vibration Reduction
• Dual Memory Card Slots


The updates for the Z6 II are subtle but important. Let’s run through and what’s new. First off, the Z6 II gets a new processor – the Dual EXPEED 6. It should improve the overall performance of the camera, but photographers will most likely notice the increased burst rate. The Z6 II is now capable of shooting up to 14 fps.

Autofocus, autofocus, autofocus. It’s by far the biggest concern for those thinking of switching from DSLR to mirrorless. Nikon gives the Z6 II an updated autofocus system, which includes Eye and Face Detection for humans and animals in the new Wide-Area AF Mode. This mode works for both photo and video. We will have to stay tuned for reviews, but the minor autofocus tweaks could be a huge step forward for the Z series.

Another key improvement is video, and the Z6 was already an awesome video camera. The Z6 II gets support for HDR (HLG) mode when recording. This allows for instant HDR-suitable video files that can be played back immediately. N-Log capability is also available for ultimate control during post-processing and color grading.

Big video news – a future firmware update coming this winter will ad UHD 4K 60p recording.

Per B&H, the Z6 II will also be ‘eligible for an optional ProRes RAW upgrade, enabling the camera to output ProRes RAW footage to a compatible Atomos external recorder. This upgrade provides greater color grading flexibility with the ProRes codec along with the ability to output uncompressed 12-bit raw footage over HDMI. This upgrade will be available in early 2021.’

So, it seems the Z6 II will definitely be one of the best video mirrorless cameras on the market.

Moving on, no need to worry about single card slots anymore. Now, dual slots are supported – one CFexpress Type B and one SD UHS-II. This is a nice bonus since CFexpress/XQD are no doubt speed demons, but also much pricier than SD storage.

A bit under the radar, but a cool mode allows for the camera to record exposures up the 900 seconds without an external remote. Usually, you need an external remote to record an exposure beyond 30 seconds.

The Z6 II is also compatible with the MB-N11 Power Battery Pack, which will improve battery life and improve ergonomics for some who prefer a ‘beefier’ camera.

The most surprising and awesome part of the Z6 II announcement is the price. At $1,996.95, it is priced exactly the same as the current Z6. Although the updates are minor (but important), you can get them at the same price as the Z6, that’s great news.


Z7 II – $2,996.95
Key Features
• 45.7MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
• Dual EXPEED 6 Image Processors
• UHD 4K60 Video; N-Log & 10-Bit HDMI Out
• 10 fps Cont. Shooting, ISO 64-25600
• 493-Point Phase-Detect AF System
• 3.6m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
• 3.2″ 2.1m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
• 5-Axis In-Body Vibration Reduction
• Dual Memory Card Slots


The Z7 II received almost identical updates as the Z6 II. The new Dual EXPEED 6 processor boosts performance, but the Z7 II will only get a boost to continuous shooting up to 10 fps, versus 14 fps for the Z6 II. The difference lies mainly in the increased resolution of the Z7 II.

The Z7 II gets all the new autofocus improvements. The new Wide-Area AF mode includes Eye AF for wildlife and people, something that will definitely excite wildlife photographers. All the other updates are identical to the Z6 II.

Dual card slots will be a welcomed addition for many photographers, including myself. I love the dependability and speed of CFexpress and XQD, but I have so many SD cards that have gone to waste. It’s a nice backup to have, especially when you don’t want to spend almost $200 on 64 GB of additional storage.

The Z7 II will experience a substantial video boost with UHD 4K 60p recording, which will be coming in that future firmware update. HDR (HLG) and N-log are also included with the Z7 II.

The other similar updates include the battery pack compatibility and a shooting mode that allows for up to 900 seconds in timed exposure shooting.

The price is still right for the Z7 II, but it is currently marked $200 more than the Z7.

Should You Upgrade?

I think the biggest question on the mind after the announcement is, should you upgrade? My answer – it depends.

If the autofocus improvements are substantial, they seem to be. It could be an opportune moment to switch from Nikon’s DSLR system to mirrorless. You can adapt DSLR lenses, with no loss in image quality, and native telephoto lenses are coming, including a 100-400mm, a 200-600mm, and future super-telephoto primes.

The minor updates fix key issues with the first generation and smooth out an already fantastic set of cameras. I have loved the switch to mirrorless, the size and weight savings have been worth it to me alone.

Now, should you upgrade if you are a current Z6 or Z7 owner? This is a trickier question and I think it’s not worth it. The updates are minor, but the autofocus fix could be substantial and make it worth it. If video is your thing or you enjoy having a powerful hybrid camera, it might be worth it as well.

For me, as a current Z7 owner, I don’t think it’s worth it, especially when my focus is landscape. The dual card slots don’t matter to me or the autofocus improvements. Autofocus is more than good enough for me and I have successfully used it while photography wildlife as well. It would have been nice to see some updates to the EVF or LCD, but we did not.

Now, if Nikon offers a special or a trade-in deal for the first-gen models, then I will seriously consider moving to mark II. I think it’s great that Nikon is pricing these new models very similar to the first-gen models.

All in all, maybe it’s not the massive update that some of us had hoped for, but the updates that were included should make a big difference, and result in a much more polished camera system. The lenses are coming as well, which makes the system even more powerful.

Whether or not you should upgrade is up to you. I think it’s a great time to move from Nikon DSLRs to mirrorless, but I think I’d stay put if you are a current Z6 or Z7 owner.

Matt Meisenheimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin.  His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.

Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.

As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.

You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com

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