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Hands on: Nikon Z 6II and Z 7II review

Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless Z cameras receive an update, with twice the processing power and number of card slots…

Nikon Z 6II, Nikon Z 7II
(Image: © Adam Waring/Rod Lawton)

Our Verdict

The Nikon Z 6II and Z 7II are very effective improvements on the original Z 6 and Z 7. The sensors, AF points, build and handling are largely unchanged, so you probably wouldn’t pay swap an existing Z 6 or Z 7 for these, but for anyone new to the full frame mirrorless market, these two cameras are extremely powerful candidates.

For

  • Controls, handling and ergonomics
  • Continuous shooting performance
  • 4K 60p video (soon, for the Z 6II)

Against

  • Relatively modest upgrade
  • Twin card slots use different formats
  • Tilting rather than vari-angle screen

It’s been two years since Nikon unveiled its first full-frame mirrorless cameras with the launch of the Z 6 and Z 7, to much critical acclaim. But despite the widely held praise for the cameras there were caveats, notably with some questioning the decision to only include a single card slot – thus having no possibility of in-camera backup that pros had got used to. The choice of format raised some eyebrows too – while XQD (and more lately CFexpress) cards are lightning- fast and robust, they were (and still are) eye-wateringly expensive compared to the more commonplace SD format. 

Nikon says it’s listened to this feedback and the result is the Mark II editions of both cameras, which now both sport a pair of card slots; one XQD/CFexpress and one SD UHS II – the fastest variant of this format. So in addition to offering peace of mind with in-camera backup, it offers access to a cheaper medium – and one that many upgrading users will already have in abundance. The slimmer form factor of SD cards has enabled Nikon to squeeze in the additional slot with no obvious increase in the size of the camera bodies. 

Nikon Z 6II specifications

Sensor: 24.5Mp BSI 6048x4024 full frame
Processor: Dual Expeed 6
ISO range: 100-51,200 (100-204,800 exp)
Autofocus: Hybrid AF, 273 AF points
Max shooting speed: 14fps
Video: 4K @ 60fps (uncropped)
LCD: 2100k-dot, tilting touchscreen
Viewfinder: 3690k-dot EVF 

Nikon Z 7II specifications

Sensor: 45.7Mp BSI 8256x5504 full frame
Processor: Dual Expeed 6
ISO range: 64-25,600 (32-102,400 exp)
Autofocus: Hybrid AF, 493 AF points
Max shooting speed: 10fps
Video: 4K @ 60fps (1.5x crop)  
LCD: 2100k-dot, tilting touchscreen
Viewfinder: 3690k-dot EVF 

Key features

Nikon Z 6II, Nikon Z 7II

(Image credit: Adam Waring/Rod Lawton)

The memory cards are not the only area that’s seen a doubling-up. The cameras now feature a pair of Expeed 6 processors, and this additional processing grunt has enabled and improved upon a whole host of features. For starters, the max frame rate has increased to 10fps on the Z 7II (up from 9fps) and a blistering 14fps on the Z 6II (from 12fps). The max burst for each camera has also been increased, with 200 JPEGs when shooting at full tilt, or 50 Raws on the Z 7II and 112 Raws on the Z 6II before things start to slow down. Low light performance also sees a boost, thanks to the dual processor design. When paired with an f/2 lens or faster, the Z 7II’s exposure metering now goes down to -4EV, while the Z 6II can practically 

see in the dark at -6EV. Other improvements are that flashguns can now be used in Continuous High Extended mode, and Nikon tells us that autofocus and subject tracking have also been enhanced. 

It’s now possible to shoot 4K video at 60fps (from 30fps on the previous models) on both cameras, though while the Z 7II will have this capability out of the box, this will come via a firmware update for the Z 6II in February 2021. Animal eye-AF is also enabled when shooting video on both cameras – previously they could only track whole animal faces, and again this is down to sheer processing power. 

The original cameras could be charged via USB, but borrowing a trick from the Z 5, they now shoot and charge simultaneously – useful for video or applications such as time-lapse photography. 

Build and handling

Nikon Z 6II, Nikon Z 7II

(Image credit: Adam Waring/Rod Lawton)

The only visible difference on either camera against the original Z 6 and Z 7 is the ‘II’ added to the logo on front.  

Other changes are even more subtle. Pressing the Fn2 button and scrolling the rear command dial now enables you to cycle between animal and human face/eye detection directly, in addition to the other focus modes (with a figure or cute cat icon confirming your choice), rather than having to delve into the custom functions menu. The direction that the manual focus ring operates can also be changed in camera, should you prefer things that way. 

All other aspects of the camera are unchanged, with identical sensors, in-body image stabilization, electronic viewfinders, robust weather sealing, rear screen and control layout as their predecessors. Indeed, the only way to tell the new cameras apart is the discrete ‘II’ nestled alongside the name etched in the bottom-right corner. 

Launched alongside the new cameras is a brand-new battery grip that duplicates the shutter release, AF-ON button and joystick for comfortable shooting in portrait orientation. It houses a pair of batteries that can be ‘hot-swapped’ while the camera is in operation and features a USB-C port for charging them consecutively, even when disconnected from the camera. 

Performance

Nikon Z 6II sample image. (Image credit: Rod Lawton/pre-production sample)

Nikon Z 6II sample image. (Image credit: Rod Lawton/pre-production sample)

Nikon Z 6II sample image. (Image credit: Rod Lawton/pre-production sample)

The two cameras we used were pre-production samples, so the camera controls and performance may change between now and when the camera is released, and the image quality is similarly not final.

Not surprisingly, the cameras' responses seemed identical to those of the original Z 6 and Z 7, and we wouldn't expect any different. We did take quite a few sample images, but they might not represent the final quality. We also look forward to trying production cameras to test their video capabilities.

Nikon Z 7II sample image. (Image credit: Rod Lawton/Adam Waring/Pre-production sample)

Nikon Z 7II sample image. (Image credit: Rod Lawton/Adam Waring/Pre-production sample)

Nikon Z 7II sample image. (Image credit: Rod Lawton/Adam Waring/Pre-production sample)

Early verdict

Nikon Z 6II, Nikon Z 7II

(Image credit: Adam Waring/Rod Lawton)

We think the Z 6II and Z 7II are pretty competitively priced at launch. As ever there are various bundles available, with the excellent Z 24-70mm f/4 S kit lens, an FTZ adapter to enable F-mount lenses to be used, or both, and these offer great value compared to buying them separately. 

As with the previous models, we reckon that the Z 6II will be the most attractive proposition for most of us – offering a faster frame rate, better low-light performance and the benefit of uncropped video – and saving a cool grand into the bargain. But for professionals who need to produce poster-size images, the Z 7II will be the model of choice. 

We got to test preproduction models of both cameras for a photo tour around the city of Bristol, but can’t wait to get them into our labs for a full test – and to bring you the review – as soon as we can. Stay tuned! 

Read more:

Best full frame mirrorless cameras
Best Nikon cameras
Best professional cameras
Best Nikon Z lenses