Nikon D6 -Initial Impression

In Gear Review by Patrick

Having waited for this camera since it was announced in 2019 and then having my pre-order put on hold for five month secondary to COVID-19, unboxing this and getting hands on was a relief. I owned the Nikon D5 prior and have shot Nikon camera my entire career. Many are probably wondering what this camera does differently compared to its predecessor, the Nikon D5. Although the D6 might not be as big of an upgrade as the D5 was over the D4s and D4 cameras, it is Nikon’s most refined DSLR to date, and will continue to be for a while. My initial first impressions as compared to its predecessor are as follows:

1. Same basic feeling as the Nikon D5

Right out of the box, the Nikon D6 ergonomics feel exactly like the Nikon D5. As you can see from the above image, both cameras seem to be nearly identical. The D5 is already a very solid camera with exceptionally good ergonomics, so it makes sense for Nikon to reuse the same design and not re-invent the wheel so to speak. The only difference I see is the change in numbers – the rest is all the same.

What about the top view? Again, relatively the same with a few minor tweaks. The D6 on the left and the D5 on the right both with the 24-70mm lens. The button placement is the same, the labels are the same. Nikon did make a subtle change to the left dial – it is now a little taller. Also, the shape of the “MODE”, “BKT” and metering buttons have changed a little, and there is now a little indentation in the center. The middle area where the hot shoe is located is shaped slightly differently, and there is now a plastic cover on the top – that’s to house the in-body GPS chip that does not exist on the D5.

The only visible difference is in the microphone label which is now inserted right below the Fn3 button, which is not there on the D5. Overall, aside from very slight differences on the top, there are no differences in design and ergonomics between the two cameras. Where Nikon has done the most changes is in the camera internals.

Specs Comparison

Without a doubt the biggest differences are in 6 areas internally. AF-ystem, faster processor, storage media, continuous shooting FPS, Wi-Fi and the integrated GPS. The remaining differences are simply firmware tweaks. The AF-System has been something that Nikon has been working on perfecting for years and this is the latest evolution. Although the number of focus points was decreased from 153 to 105, the 105 points have all been optimized for superior performance from each point. Most notably, Group Area AF has 17 potential combinations not that can be tailored to your needs.

Clear Beautiful Files

What I like about the Nikon D6

The bottom line with me is that I did not want a radically new design and with the Nikon D6 it feels familiar just like the Nikon D5. I can input my settings and start shooting just like when I used its predecessor. Another bonus is that many of the accessories that I used on the Nikon D5 are compatible with the Nikon D6. Eye cup, batteries, RRS Arca plate and all the wireless accessories for the SB-5000 work flawlessly. In addition to that, Nikon got these right:

  • Dual CFexpress support
  • Built in Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
  • Built in GPS
  • Improved AF System

What I think Nikon missed with the Nikon D6

This to me seems more like an upgraded Nikon D5 than a revolution in the DSLR. Given the push toward mirrorless cameras as of late, this would have been the opportunity to incorporate some of the best features of mirrorless into their flagship DSLR.

  • Nikon has revamped several of their most popular and high end lenses to reduce weight to make them more appealing. I would have liked to have seen the same weight loss for the Nikon D6 while maintaining its legendary weather sealing properties.
  • The Nikon D5 is 20.8 MP and so is the Nikon D6. I see know reason why they couldn’t have come in around 24 MP and keep the existing frame rate in this day and age given the technologies
  • OK, here’s the thing, the mirror-less Z6 and Z7 both have 5 axis in body stabilization and I have really come to like this feature. Why not include this in the flagship? Missed the boat on this one for sure.
  • Frame Rate: I rely on the fast shutter speeds and although 14fps is an increase I would have liked to seen this come in at around 16 fps. Honestly, when I a m shooting next to a Canon, my will sound slow.

Should you buy this camera

Honestly, only consider buying this camera if you are a professional or serious amateur who make the majority of your finances from photography. Geared toward the sports or wildlife shooters in particular, this camera has functionality to support these genres but for the novice or beginner, these functions would be wasted. Considering the baseline price of $6499 USD, this camera is clearly aimed to those who require everyday performance without fail in a camera.

If those needs and requirements are not on you list, consider the entry level DSLR cameras that Nikon has to offer or the Mirrorless line.

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