A honest review for Wedding Photography
A review by award winning Sydney Wedding Photographer Kevin Du
I’ve been sitting on the fence for a very long time deciding whether it was time to retire my ageing, but still very dependable Nikon D750 bodies. The rubbers were starting to peel off from being used way too much, my mode dial no longer locked in place. I’ve dropped it way too many times for my liking…
But I loved the D750 and it was still a workhorse for me after 300,000 shutter actuations and a factory shutter recall it was still doing just fine.
However, Nikon was getting left behind by the other giants in the room who had cameras that could autofocus better (Sony) and was getting a lot of bad press about not innovating or keeping up with the competition. I knew a lot of fellow photographers who made the switch to Sony simply for that reason alone.
With the new announcement of a Z6 replacement around the corner, has Nikon finally given wedding photographers what we have been asking for?
On the 14th of October 2020, Nikon finally announced the successor to the rather unappreciated Z6. They named it the Z6II not Mark II (because Canon already took that one). Nikon didn’t do the “S”, or added a “10” to the end !!
I was so excited I took the leap of faith and put a pre-order in without even seeing the camera. I normally a very rational person but something in me said I had to have one and I even convinced my wife I needed a new camera!
Did I make the right decision to switch to the Nikon Z mirrorless ecosystem? I guess we’ll find out pretty soon…
So without waffling on too much, let’s get on to the review. But before I do that, why should you believe what I say?
Why should you listen to me?
So here is a bit about who I am so you can tell I’m not an angry bald armchair YouTuber (yes you know who I’m talking about), and actually uses the cameras in real world professional scenarios. I won’t read off any spec sheets because you can find them on the Nikon website
My name is Kevin Du, a wedding photographer from Sydney Australia. I started my business Images by Kevin in 2014 and I gave up my day job 4 years ago and wedding photography it is now my full time profession.
I normally photograph over 30 weddings a year in any given year, and I have photographed over 250 weddings over 6 years, and have won a few fancy awards in my time too.
I have been using Nikon cameras for absolutely forever and I have owned a FM2, F90, D70, D800, D610 and D750 over the years, and now the Z6II.
I have used the Nikon Z6II now pretty extensively, using it in my usual real world scenario of a wedding day and noting down after every wedding what I loved about it, and what I miss from switching from the DSLR.
So here’s the improvements and things I would like to see improved in the future below
Two Memory Card Slots FINALLY!!!
When Nikon announced their first mirrorless camera the Z6 a few years ago, the reason why I didn’t even consider replacing my DSLR was the fact it was missing one very important thing that a wedding photographer needs to have.
Dual Card Slots. Yes it might seem like an unnecessary omission but as a wedding photographer I can’t simply go and reshoot a wedding day. Imagine losing all of your photos because your single card failed. Not that it’s likely to happen with the XQD format, but to me I want my photos to be as safe as possible and two slots gave me and my clients that peace of mind.
The Nikon Z6 were excellent cameras but the the photography community really gave Nikon a hard time for not putting two card slots in their first mirrorless camera. All of the famous Youtubers loved to hate and criticised it endlessly, of course the mass exodus from Nikon began.
But for the Nikon faithful who stuck it out, we are now rewarded with a camera that addressed the biggest elephant in the room.
It uses one CF express/XQD slot and one SD card. Yes they are two different card formats, but the CF express format is far more reliable and about 6 times faster than your quickest SD card. They are more expensive but I got a really good deal from B&H Photo during Black Friday, so look out for the sales when they do come around.
Am I a little disappointed that they didn’t put two SD card slots instead of two different cards? Nikon believes this camera should have the latest and greatest memory cards to live up to its new found speed boost which leads me to my next point.
Processor Update – Two instead of one
Two is always better than one, and Nikon addressed another of the criticisms of the Z6.
With the new dual Expeed 6 processors it has certainly improved the buffer and overall snappiness of the camera. The camera now shoots 12 to 14 frames per second which is far more than any wedding photographer would need but more importantly the buffer won’t run out on you anytime soon.
The only time I would use the higher frame rates would be during a first kiss where I need to make sure I get the shot, then quickly move on to another perspective.
I found the buffer was never an issue and I even had enough to roll video footage consecutively right. Pretty amazing!
One of the shortcomings of the Nikon D750 was the terrible buffer, I would take 15 shots and the camera would freeze up while it was writing to the cards, but with the CF Express cards coupled with the new processors they have completely solved that problem.
Overall the camera feels super quick, there’s no lag to preview photos, menu operations are quick and of course, the autofocus is superior.
Has Nikon addressed the autofocus issues of the past?
Absolutely hand on heart YES IT HAS
One of the main reasons for me switching from DSLR to mirrorless was that the autofocus performance on the Nikon D750 was pretty good, but it did miss a lot of the times. To fix that problem, I would overshoot certain moments to ensure I got at least one in focus. I am sure anyone who has shot with a DSLR can relate to this.
One of these moments is during a sparkler send off, it is pretty dark outside and most DSLR cameras would struggle to obtain autofocus. In this scenario, the Nikon Z6II nailed every SHOT. Not one missed with the eye 100% in focus.
I can honestly say with my DSLR I would opt for safety with an on camera flash but with the Z6II I am so confident that it will do the job I don’t need it.
Is the eye autofocus any good? 100% yes it has changed my life and I have gone from getting 3/10 shots to now 9/10 shots sharp as a tack in focus.
Reliability is everything in wedding photography and you do not get a second chance. Having a autofocus system that doesn’t let you miss is a game changer. It is really that good. Even in serious backlighting the focus is fast and predictable.
Nikon has given the option to use eye tracking mode which I have assigned to the FN1 button to make it even more reliable, simply click on the button to activate and it will follow your subject’s eyes and lock on it. A really neat feature that’s unique to Nikon.
There is now a joystick on the back which is the same as the D850. Nice!
One point I must mention where the autofocus does lose itself is if you are trying to photograph through a window to capture a scene outside, it will try and take a photo of the window instead. To overcome this, you would have to jump out of subject tracking mode and go to a single point or dynamic AF.
Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
I was always a firm believer of an optical viewfinder. Nice, bright and true to life, it was like looking through glass and seeing what you see. It is a pleasure to look at, especially the nice ones found on the D850.
The only problem is, once you take the photo, it often looked really different to what you imagined. The exposure was off by a few stops, and it was often blown out or underexposed.
With an EVF, what you see in it is EXACTLY what you get when you view it. Perfectly exposed, sharp images every time. You can even review the images right after you take them in the EVF so you don’t even have to chimp the back of the screen.
Nikon has provided a 3.69 million dot EVF which is far superior than any of the Sony and Canon EVFs I’ve come across for its price point and looking through it the colours are true, detailed and has excellent resolution.
Yes, there is blackout especially if you shoot a lot of frames at one time, but if you press the shutter it still takes a photo and the buffer can keep up.
There is one disadvantage I found is after a long wedding my eyes would be ever so slightly strained compared to using a OVF, but I have now learnt to not squint so hard when looking through it and makes this much better.
I am now a true EVF convert and for the benefits it provides certainly outweighs the cons.
How it feels in the hand and quality
Overall the build quality is great and I can’t find anything to fault on it. It feels solid, nice to hold in your hand and nothing rattles or shakes.
Nikon no longer makes cameras in Japan but if Nikon can keep the price down for us by making it somewhere else but still keep the quality control then I’m all for it. I am sure some people will complain it is no longer made in Japan but not many things are anymore.
The grip is substantial, and pretty much feels like the D750 in hand. Which was pretty awesome compared to a lot of other cameras including Sony and Canon. It feels solid, well weighted and made of magnesium alloy.
My fingers don’t fall out of the grip unlike the one on a Sony body which my pinky comes out.
Z Mount Lenses
The new Z mount S-Line lenses are just sublime. They really are that good and is a huge step up from the G lenses of old. I bought three lenses, 24mm, 50mm and 85mm and this is enough for me to photograph an entire wedding with. All of them are the S line 1.8 versions.
Sharpness is far better right to the corners and coupled with the eye autofocus it makes for a really sharp image.
I would never dare take a group photo at f1.8 with my old G lenses and a DSLR. Every member of the group was sharp right to the edges. Most G lenses wide open tend to go soft towards the sides. There’s not much vignetting either wide open.
Here’s a few more examples of photos all taken at 1.8
Another great benefit of the mirrorless system in general is the weight saving.
The Z6II weighs 705grams versus the Nikon D750 at 840gram with battery and cards.
A nice weight saving but where it really makes a difference is the how much bulkier the DSLR cameras are compared to the mirrorless. It feels lighter on my back when using the Holdfast Money Maker and it doesn’t hit me as much due to its thinner profile.
Every gram makes a difference when you are using the cameras for over 14 hours in a day, and my back will thank me for it later when I can’t move around as fast as I used to.
If you attach a 70-200 2.8 lens it will feel heavy but is noticeably lighter in hand. I would look into purchasing the battery grip in the near future so it feels more comfortable with longer telephoto lenses.
Serious game changer here for those switching from the old DSLR. Nikon had the 3D tracking mode which was pretty good, but it did miss its fair share of times especially when there was a lot going on in the scene such as a bride walking down the aisle.
It would obtain focus, but not where you needed it like someones shoelace instead of the eye or the face.
Now with the Nikon Z6II, they have improved the subject tracking to the point where its nearly foolproof. Only user error will make it not work!
Once you learn how to use the Nikon subject tracking mode (simply press the AF-C Auto Area AF Mode and toggle the subject tracking box and it will track people, animals (only cats and dogs for now). You can also toggle it on and off to move to a different subject.
Eye AF is also available in video mode too, which is pretty amazing.
I am hoping Nikon will continually improve this with firmware updates so that it prioritises the things in the centre of frame as I found it was the only downfall here. Sometimes it will track the closest subject regardless of whether its what you want in focus. We can work around this by using the subject tracking button, but it would be nice if the camera could figure it out by itself.
I have used the Sony autofocus and I would say they are pretty close. I could be wrong about other brands, but I do know it’s vastly improved from my D750 and DSLR cameras in general.
To me that’s more than good enough.
Video – Is it good?
In a nutshell, yes it is. Really good actually. For my use case which is hybrid photography and videography, it works brilliantly. There is 1080 60p, 4k 30p which is more than adequete for most people.
What is great is there is eye tracking in video mode which is just as good as photo mode.
The IBIS works great and I can achieve gimbal like smoothness just by making my arms and body like a tripod. Anyone with good handholding technique can get very stable video capture with little shake.
You can also change from photo and video mode with a flick of a dial on the back of the camera, so it works really well for what I use it for.
Here’s an example of a wedding video shot entirely on the Nikon Z6II, 1080p 60 frames per second.
In Body Stabilisation
Coming from a DSLR where any sort of in body stabilisation is non existent, I’ve come to love this feature immensely.
It has 5-stops of image stabilisation which comes in handy for wedding photography so you can use slower shutter speeds, or just decrease the ISO so you get less grainy photos.
The photo below was shot in a dimly lit Sydney wedding reception venue handheld at shutter speeds that I wouldn’t even dare consider on a DSLR.
This was another concern coming over from the DSLR where I could shoot an entire wedding with 1 battery.
I can say that the new EN-EL15C battery has improved the battery life to the point where it’s close to DSLR levels. For the past 5 weddings, I have been consistently getting 1400-1500 shots out of one battery which is impressive considering how much I used the back screen to check my photos.
I would only need to swap out a battery once I was at reception photographing speeches and it would take me until the end of the night.
Bonus is I can still use my old EN-EL15 batteries which are the same as the D750, D850, D800 and D810. So don’t sell your old batteries! They don’t last as long but still fine.
I also do hybrid coverage, meaning both photo and video at the same time so when I do this I would have to swap out 2-3 batteries for a wedding but that is to be expected from this type of work.
You can also charge the camera via a USB-C cable. Not that I ever needed to but nice to know that I can.
It is really quiet
Anyone familiar with DSLR cameras would know how loud the shutter clap can sound, especially on a D5 or Canon EOS 1DX. It’s bloody annoying and sounds like a machine gun! Anyone who listens to a press conference would know how loud the sound it makes while the person is trying to speak.
With the Nikon Z6II, the shutter sound is so quiet, the people you are photographing can hardly hear it. A great benefit for wedding photographers who want to be a bit more discreet when working.
There is even a fully silent mode or stealth mode for those who want to creep out. I have used this inside a church and it’s fantastic. Even for a outdoor wedding ceremony.
The menus are now easier to navigate and I love how there is a “I” button you can assign your settings to for quick access. Nikon already had pretty easy menus so they didn’t need to do much here.
It also has WIFI now so you can send your photos via Snapbridge quickly. Setup is a breeze and it is far better than the old Nikon app that was painfully hard to use. Not important for me but nice to have.
Anything I would like improved?
Yes, of course there is. No camera is perfect, but I think they have come pretty close to making the best wedding photographers camera for my purposes.
I’ll list them off here
- No quick format buttons on the camera like there was on the D750.
- A little hard to press the FN1 and FN2 buttons for those with smaller hands like me
- Blackout time when shooting is apparent.
- Delay when putting eye to EVF
- They removed the metering button
- Drive mode button in a weird spot down the bottom of the camera
- Missing the good old sub control dial
Most of these points are little annoyances as opposed to deal breakers that they had to get right. I feel that with a bit more time and muscle memory these things will be less of a problem.
For my purposes, if Nikon gave me two card slots, eye tracking, subject tracking, in body image stabilisation and superior autofocus I would be a pretty happy wedding photographer.
Guess what? They gave me all of these things, and more. I am so sure Nikon will keep making this camera better in future firmware updates.
Yes I know people love to hate on Nikon, but they are here to stay and taking the fight up to the bad boys in the room. They will strike back with a vengeance with their upcoming Z8/Z9.
I am a firm believer in choosing a camera you are comfortable with, and for my use case as a Sydney wedding photographer it does the job for me and makes my life so much easier. Plus, I love the Nikon colours and the way it feels in my hand so that enough is why I’ve decided to stay.
Cameras are tools and it’s more about how you use it. If you like one camera over the other, just get it! I honestly thing they are all very much the same with different feature sets for different people.
Conclusion – Nikon Z6II review wedding photography
It has been a long article and thank you so much for staying with me till the end. I hope you’ve found it useful in your decision in whether you should buy a Nikon Z6II or not.
If you are after a camera that does both photo and video extremely well I would definately recommend this camera for your purposes. If you’re a wedding photographer like me who does this for a living, then yes I’d say make the switch if you’re sitting on the fence with a DSLR.
You won’t regret your decision!
Please comment below if you have any questions on the Nikon Z6II, love to hear your thoughts/opinions. If I can help someone who is thinking about buying one feel free to reach out.
Check out my review of the Nikon D750 here