Nikon Z5 vs Nikon Z6
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Refers to the year this camera was officially made available for sale.
Refers to the date the manufacturer publicly announced the upcoming release and general specs of this camera.
July 21, 2020
August 23, 2018
Nikon Z5 vs Z6 Overview
These are very similar full frame mirrorless cameras—as the names suggest. That means, with any Nikon Z5 vs Z6 comparison, you have to search hard for the differences.
However, the Nikon Z6 is the better in the following areas:
- Image sensor
- Low-light performance
- Continuous shooting speed
- Boosted ISO range
- Memory cards
- LCD resolution
- Video capabilities.
It also has a small LCD on top of the camera body, which is missing on the Z5.
Body and Handling
Cameras are a lot like cars these days. There are a lot of similar models based on the same basic design. The Nikon Z5 and Z6 are two cameras that show this perfectly.
They look almost identical, but the Z6 is only 2 mm thinner and 5 g lighter. Both are more compact than Nikon DSLRs and handle well due to their large grips.
They also have the same Nikon Z-mount. So you can use the same lenses with both cameras. In fact, you can even use F-mount lenses if you get an FTZ adapter.
The only differences in ergonomics and usability are in the screens and dials. The top of the Nikon Z6 has the mode dial on the left and a small LCD screen on the right. The rear LCD is also better than the one on the Z5, with more than double the resolution (1,040K dots vs 2,100K dots).
The Nikon Z5 has the mode dial on the right-hand side. This means there’s no room for an LCD screen on top. That’s a pain if you like checking your aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation settings on-screen. However, whether the dial should be on the left- or right-hand side is just a matter of personal preference.
It’s also worth pointing out that neither camera has a built-in flash. But you can always use an external flashgun.
Both cameras have full-frame sensors with an Expeed 6 image processor. However, the Nikon Z5 has a 24.3 MP CMOS sensor, whereas the Z6 has a 24.5MP BSI-CMOS sensor.
The higher resolution of the Z6 sensor is not a significant difference. Both cameras offer excellent image quality. However, the BSI sensor (backside illuminated sensor) gives the Z6 the edge in dynamic range (-3.5 to +19 EV vs -2 to +19 EV). This means it’s better in low light.
Their native sensitivity range is the same. But the Z6 has a higher expanded ISO limit (204,800 vs 102,400). So it’s even better suited for darker environments.
Another significant difference is their burst rates. The Nikon Z6 can be more adept at capturing action shots at 12 fps. It’s something worth considering if you’re taking wildlife or sports photos.
The higher the number of megapixels, the more detail the cameras sensor can capture.
Image resolution is measured in pixels and megapixels, width by height. The higher the number, the higher its resolution.
6016 x 4016 px
6048 x 4024 px
The camera sensor captures light and records the image. Sensors vary in physical size, the number of pixels, and quality.
The sensor size contributes to the overall quality as well as the dynamic and tonal range a camera can capture. As a rule of thumb, the more surface there is to read the light, the more information it will capture.
23.9 x 35.9 mm
23.9 x 35.9 mm
Refers to the most commonly used sensor sizes.
The number of sequential frames per second the camera can write to the memory card when shooting in burst or continuous mode.
The lens mount will tell you what type of lens range you can fit onto the camera body. Often the same camera company will have different lens ranges for different cameras.
The image processor in the camera converts the information collected on the sensor for digital storage on the memory card.
The aspect ratio refers to the proportional difference between width and height. The most popular aspect ratios are 3:2 and 4:3.
Lower ISO are less sensitive to light but make a cleaner image.
Higher ISO is necessary for low-light situations or night photography, but higher ISOs often introduce grain or noise.
Minimum Shutter Speed
The minimum shutter speed will tell you the longest exposure your camera can take without using an external accessory.
Maximum Shutter Speed
The maximum shutter speed tells you the length inside 1 second the camera will capture. These can sometimes be extended with accessories such as extra external batteries.
1/ 8000 s
1/ 8000 s
Autofocus points show where the camera is focusing graphically as squares or brackets in Live View or on an electronic viewfinder. These points are also used for light meter readings.
In-body Stabilization means the camera has a certain technology embedded that counteracts camera shake.
The viewfinder type is either electronic or optical. Electronic viewfinders will have a small screen in the viewfinder. Optical viewfinders will use prisms and mirrors to look through the lens.
Nikon Z5 vs Z6 Video Specs
The Nikon Z6 is better for shooting video. It uses the full sensor width in 4K up to 30 fps and 1080p up to 120 fps.
Video shooters will also like that the Z6 can shoot 10-bit N-Log with HDMI output. This gives a better dynamic range and helps with color grading. (The HDMI output means you’re using an external recorder, not the memory card.)
The Z5 has a 1.7x crop when shooting 4K videos. And it can only shoot 4K up to 30 fps or 1080p up to 60 fps. It’s not an ideal setup for vloggers.
Indicates if this camera is capable of recording video.
Max Video Resolution
The best resolution this camera can capture video in. Modern cameras can capture up to 8K video.
Max Video Dimensions
Video resolution measured by the greatest number of pixels possible in each frame, width by height. A higher resolution means more detail or clarity in your video.
3840 x 2160 px
3840 x 2160 px
Max Video Frame Rate
How many frames per second your video will capture. Most cameras have options for multiple frame rates, depending on the resolution you shoot in. For a general video, 24p or 30p is the standard, but more serious filmmakers may need a higher frame rate for creative effect.
Time-Lapse Built In
A built in time-lapse mode will allow continuous shooting throughout a prolonged period of time to be compressed into a sped up video.
Video File Format
Different cameras can record in various video file formats. The File format you record in can impact how you edit and use the files.
Nikon Z5 vs Z6 Features and Benefits
Both cameras share the vast majority of the available features. I’ve counted 24 areas where the specifications are identical. They include the following:
- Wireless and Bluetooth connectivity
- External microphone and headphone ports
- Weather sealing
- Sensor-shift image stabilization
- A tilting LCD screen
- RAW file support
- Eye detection AF
Apart from slightly more resolution and better performance in video mode, the main advantage of the Z6 is the higher frame rate.
The Nikon Z6 can shoot at 12 fps. But the Z5 can only manage 4.5 fps. That might be a deal-breaker for many photographers who take a lot of action shots of fast-moving subjects.
A built-in flash will often be positioned right above the lens. This will automatically pop up when you activate it.
External flashes are often connected through a hot shoe at the top of a camera, or a cable at the side of the camera.
GPS features in a camera will include location metadata to each of your photographs.
Weather sealing capabilities will give you more confidence when shooting in unfavourable conditions.
Touchscreen allows you to change camera settings and access menus with a swipe of your finger, instead of using buttons.
Screen dots indicate the resolution of the LCD screen by including each sub pixel.
Live View feature allows you to see a continuous live video of what is being seen through your lens.
Bluetooth capabilities allow you wireless control of your camera with other external devices.
Nikon Z5 vs Z6 Storage and Battery
The Nikon Z5 and Z6 take different approaches to storage space.
The Nikon Z5 has dual memory card slots that take SD (Secure Digital) and UHS-II compliant SDHC and SDXC memory cards. However, the Z6 has only a single XQD card slot. But it can also take CFexpress Type B cards if you upgrade the firmware to version 2.20 or later.
There are two sides to this argument—convenience vs performance. The Nikon Z5’s dual card slots are very convenient. There are two of them, and most people already have SD cards. That means you won’t have to buy a more expensive XQD or CFexpress Type B card.
However, XQD and CFexpress Type B cards are much faster than SD cards. And they are available with more capacity.
These both improve the buffer rate of the Nikon Z6. And it makes it much quicker to transfer files to your computer for post-processing.
The Nikon Z5 boasts significantly better battery life than the Z6 (390 shots vs 310 shots using the viewfinder). However, based on my experience with the Sony a1, these numbers will probably improve when shooting in burst mode.
Storage and Battery
SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II compatible)
Dual Memory Card Slots
Approximately how long this cameras battery will last measured by how many photographs you will be able to take.
DXO Mark Scores
Sensor scores tested by DXOMARK
DXOMARK overall sensor score.
Portrait (Color Depth)
As described by DXOMARK 'The Portrait score in our camera sensor reviews defines color depth performance and its unit is a number of bits. A color depth of 22 bits is excellent; differences below 1 bit are barely noticeable.'
Landscape (Dynamic Range)
As described by DXOMARK 'The Landscape score in our camera sensor tests defines the maximum dynamic range of the camera sensor and its unit is an exposure value (EV). A value of 12 EV is excellent with differences below 0.5 EV usually not noticeable.'
Sports (Low-Light ISO)
Described by DXOMARK as 'The maximal value of ISO sensitivity needed to reach a given value of Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR). The greater the value, the better'
Overall, the Nikon Z5 and Z6 are very similar products. Both offer a bundle of impressive specifications typical of modern, mirrorless, full frame cameras:
- Excellent image quality
- A bright electronic viewfinder
- AF tracking
- Wireless connectivity
- External ports
- Weather sealing
- In-body image stabilization
The Z5 has a better battery life, features dual SD card slots, and is more affordable (at the current price).
However, the Z6 is much better in terms of low-light photography, burst shooting, serious video capabilities, storage, and LCD resolution. And that all makes the Nikon Z6 our preferred camera in our Nikon Z5 vs Z6 comparison.
Nikon Z5 and Z6 Alternatives
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