First look: 24 hours with the Nikon D6
Last week Nikon oﬃcially announced their latest ﬂagship DSLR, the D6, and this week Australian Photography had the chance to spend just 24-hours with this impressive camera.
Like the D5 it supersedes, the Nikon D6 has a 20.8-megapixel CMOS sensor built into a solid, fully weatherproofed magnesium alloy body. Side by side, there is no real diﬀerence between the two cameras; the controls, joysticks and function buttons are in the exactly the same positions and both cameras even share exactly the same 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD displays.
The only difference you might notice is that the D6 is 30-grams heavier than the D5 (it weighs 1270-grams), it has a taller mode turret above the release mode dial, and the USB, HDMI, Ethernet and audio connectors on the left side of the camera are slightly diﬀerent, but that’s about it.
The big diﬀerences between the two cameras though, lie beneath the covers.
The D6 has a new EXPEED 6 image processor, a new autofocusing system, a new electronic shutter mode, built-in WiFi and built-in GPS. The EXPEED 6 processor oﬀers improved image processing, including better white balance, colour and image quality at higher ISO’s.
Video resolution remains the same at 4K/30P, but video can now be recorded in both MOV and MP4 ﬁle formats for up to 105 minutes at a time (up from 29.59 minutes). Exposure times in stills mode have also increased from a maximum of 30-seconds up to 900 seconds (15 minutes).
Autofocus is governed by a new Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 37K focussing system that uses a triple-sensor arrangement within each of the D6’s 105 AF cross-points to provide an autofocus coverage density that is now 1.6x greater than that of the D5; this is despite the fact that the D5 actually has more AF points than the D6 (153 AF points of which 99 are cross-type).
This increased AF sensor density oﬀers better low light performance (now -4.5EV at the centre) and better compatibility with slower lenses (the 15 centre AF cross-points will now work at apertures of up to f8).
The new autofocus system also oﬀers signiﬁcantly improved autofocus tracking; the D6 can track and maintain focus on a fast moving subject even while shooting at 14-frames-per-second, and it does this while still allowing you to maintain sight of your subject through the viewﬁnder. (The Nikon D5 can shoot at 14-frames per second, but only with the mirror locked up and no AF).
The new autofocus system also has a face detection, much like the AF system on Nikon’s Z-series mirrorless cameras. The D6 can detect and track faces even at 14-frames-per-second, and while a face is being tracked the camera will ignore any distracting elements that might drift into frame.
This function will be useful to any photographer who spends time photographing kayaking or tennis, or any other sport where an athlete frequently puts their hands in front of their face.
The D6 does make quite a clatter when shooting at extremely fast frame rates, and if you are shooting in noise sensitive environment (the ballet as an example) you can switch into Live View mode and use the D6’s new silent shutter mode to capture images at 10.5 fps in the 20 Megapixel mode, or with the standard shutter at 30 fps in 8MP or up to 60fps at 2MP mode.
Despite the D6 having an identical control layout to the D5, Nikon have also made changes to how a photographer can customise the ﬁve function buttons and even the video record button on the D6. You can now preset these buttons to control a wider range actions, from switching to preset exposure setting on the ﬂy to changing focus modes without having to take your eye from the viewﬁnder.
Nikon has even made it easier to edit images directly from the LCD panel on the back of the camera; you can literally swipe images to apply settings like send, rating, protect and voice memo.
Like most technologies nowadays, the Nikon D6 is an incremental improvement in function that many photographers will never need, but others will thoroughly enjoy. The improved AF and capture rate on the D6 will be welcome features to those serious professional photographers who are constantly hunting for a competitive edge in an exceptionally competitive work space.
Images in this first look were shot using a pre-production Nikon D6, which Nikon states may not fully represent final image quality. Watch this space for a more detailed look at the D6 very soon.