Nikon D6 vs Nikon Z9

Now that Nikon has formally announced the Nikon Z9, let’s take a look at how its specifications stack up against those of the Nikon D6, the previous flagship camera in Nikon’s lineup.

Specifications

Camera Feature Nikon D6 Nikon Z9
Announced September 2019 October 2021
Camera Type DSLR Mirrorless
Sensor Resolution 20.8 million 45.7 million
Sensor Type CMOS Stacked CMOS
Sensor Size 35.9 × 23.9mm 35.9 × 23.9mm
Sensor Pixel Size 6.45µ 4.35µ
Image Size 5,568 × 3,712 pixels 8,256 × 5,504 pixels
Base ISO ISO 100 ISO 64
Native ISO Sensitivity ISO 100-102,400 ISO 64-25,600
Boosted ISO Sensitivity ISO 50, ISO 204,800-3,280,000 ISO 32, ISO 51,200-102,400
Image Processor EXPEED 6 EXPEED 7
Viewfinder Type Pentaprism Electronic Viewfinder
Viewfinder Coverage 100% 100%
Viewfinder Magnification 0.72× 0.8×
Built-in Flash No No
Flash Sync Speed 1/250 1/250 (Auto FP high speed sync up to 1/8000)
Storage Media 2× CFexpress Type B with XQD compatibility 2× CFexpress Type B with XQD compatibility
Continuous Shooting Speed 14 FPS 20 FPS raw; 30 FPS JPEG; 120 FPS with 11 megapixel JPEGs
Buffer Size (RAW, Lossless 14-bit) 200 Over 1000
Continuous Shooting 14.3 seconds Over 50 seconds
Shutter Speed Range 1/8000 to 900 sec 1/32,000 to 900 sec
Shutter Type Mechanical shutter, EFCS in MUP, electronic shutter Electronic shutter only
Shutter Durability 400,000 cycles Unlimited
Exposure Metering Sensor 180,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III TTL exposure metering using main image sensor
Autofocus System Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 37K; 105 points, all cross-type Hybrid phase/contrast detect AF with 493 points
AF Area Mode OVF: Single-point AF; 9, 25, 49, or 105-point dynamic-area AF; 3D-tracking; Group-area AF; Group-area AF (C1); Group-area AF (C2); Auto-area AF

Live View: Face-detection AF, Wide-area AF, Normal area AF, Subject-tracking AF

Single point AF; Pinpoint AF; dynamic AF (S, M, L), wide-area AF (S, L); Auto Area AF; 3D-Tracking

AF Detection Range (f/2 lens, ISO 100) -4.5 to +20 EV -5 to 21.5 EV; -7 to 21.5 EV with Low-Light AF enabled
Video File Format MOV / MP4 MOV / MP4
Video Compression MPEG-4 / H.264 Apple ProRes 422 HQ (10-bit); H.265 / HEVC (8-bit / 10-bit); H.264 / AVC (8-bit)
N-Log No Yes, internal
Video Maximum Resolution 3,840 × 2,160 (4K) up to 30p 7680 × 4320 (8K) up to 30p
Slow Motion Video 1080p up to 60p 4K up to 120p; 1080p up to 120p
Video Max Recording Time 105 minutes 125 minutes
LCD Size 3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD 3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD
LCD Resolution 2.4 million dots 2.1 million dots
LCD Touchscreen Yes Yes
LCD Tilt Vertical axis only Vertical and horizontal axis
Built-in GPS Yes Yes
Built-in Wi-Fi Yes Yes
Built-in Wired LAN 1000 Base-T Support 1000 Base-T Support
Battery EN-EL18c EN-EL18d (backwards compatible with all EN-EL18 type batteries)
Battery Life 3,580 shots (CIPA) 700 shots
Weight (with battery and card) 1450 g (3.20 pounds) 1340 g (2.95 pounds)
Dimensions 160.0 × 163.0 × 92.0mm (6.30 × 6.42 × 3.62 inches) 149 × 149.5 × 90.5 mm (5.87 × 5.89 × 3.56 inches)
Price at Launch $6500 (check current price) $5500 (check current price)

Looking at these specifications, it’s clear that both the Nikon D6 and Nikon Z9 are very high-end cameras for sports and wildlife photography. But there’s no denying that the Z9 has more advanced features of the two. It shoots more frames per second than the D6 (20 vs 16) yet has over twice as much resolution – without sacrificing on buffer depth. That’s a huge leap in technology.

Not to mention video, where it’s hardly a contest. The Z9 is one of the most advanced mirrorless cameras on the market for video shooters, while the D6 was already a bit behind on video specs at the time of its release in late 2019. Even if you don’t need 8K for your work, the ability to shoot slow-motion 120p 4K video – plus record 10-bit N-log video internally – are far above the D6’s specs.

There are plenty of smaller areas where the Z9 is ahead, too, such as its multi-axis tilting rear LCD and smaller, lighter form factor. Meanwhile, the D6 is only substantially ahead in its battery life. The Z9’s battery life is very good for a mirrorless camera, but (at least if you’re shooting through the viewfinder) the D6’s is clearly better. That’s as expected in any DSLR vs mirrorless comparison, though.

The one question remaining is the autofocus system, where the D6 is famously excellent and the Z9 is largely untested. But the Z9 does show a lot of promise in this area. Nikon has been steadily improving their mirrorless autofocus over the years, and they claim the Z9 has their best AF performance yet.

Take a look at the Z9’s focus tracking shown by Nikon in this (admittedly overpositive and dramatic) advertisement:

If the real-world performance is anything like that, the Z9 will have no trouble competing with the D6 in focus performance and may be an improvement over it.

Overall, the Z9’s features exceed those of the D6, as expected for a high-end mirrorless camera released more than two years after the DSLR. The magnitude of improvement is impressive, though – certainly a bigger jump than from the Nikon D5 to Nikon D6 – and should be encouraging to anyone who has high hopes for Nikon’s next steps in mirrorless.

Recommendations

My recommendation is to get the Z9, not the D6.

Usually in my comparison articles, I equivocate a bit and talk about how both options are good cameras – and while that’s true in this case too, the Z9 is the way to go if you’re buying one of these cameras new today. It’s $1000 less expensive, it has better features, and mirrorless is clearly Nikon’s future.

Photographers with an extensive set of F-mount supertelephoto lenses may cry foul at those sorts of statements, but even then, I’d recommend the Z9 over the D6. Supertelephotos are some of the lenses that work the best with the Nikon FTZ adapter, even for fast autofocus tracking. And you can always sell them to fund the upcoming Z 400mm f/2.8 if you prefer to eschew the adapter.

What about if you already have the D6, or a slightly earlier model like the Nikon D5? Is it worth selling it to switch to the Z9?

My answer is still yes. If you’re the type of photographer who’s currently using a D6, you’ve already made the decision to pay extra to be at the peak of today’s camera technology, probably because it’s important for your business. You’ll lose some money when you sell the D6, but the Z9’s benefits are worth paying for. You’ll very likely come out ahead in the end.

Nikon Z9 Card Slots

I should, however, mention that it may still be worth getting the D6 if you’re buying used and find a great price. The issue is, at the time that I’m publishing this article, the D6 is selling used for more than $5000, at which point the Z9 simply makes more sense. Used prices may drop on the D6 now that the Z9 is announced, but at least for now, the winner is clear.

Finally, my recommendation for sports and wildlife photographers on a tight budget is to get an older generation workhorse like the Nikon D4 or D4s, which sell for excellent prices used (as in, under $1500). But photographers who aren’t on a budget – and therefore are considering the D6 vs Z9 in the first place – have an easy answer. Unless you’re opposed to mirrorless cameras no matter what (at which point, good luck, because nearly the whole camera market is going to be mirrorless before long) the Z9 is superior to the D6.

You can purchase either camera through the links below:

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