Photo by Patrick Donnelly on Unsplash
It’s hard to believe that not all that long ago, digital cameras were just digital cameras with no video capabilities.
I remember being blown away when HD video was added to many DSLRs. And now, here we are discussing the 4K UHD video features of two very capable Nikon cameras. If you missed it, I have a complete Nikon Z7 review that dives deep into the features, performance, image quality, and other important factors of this camera. If you want a broader view of the Z7’s capabilities, have a look at that.
You can learn more about the Z6's other features in my Nikon Z6 review.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - videography is the new still photography. I’m not saying that video has usurped the importance of photography, but it is certainly a more important skill now than ever before, especially for professional photographers.
Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6 Common Video Features
There are a few things these cameras share in common on the video front.
For starters, both the Z7 and Z6 have the exact same body and the exact same grip. From a handheld shooting point of view, they are evenly matched in terms of comfort and usability.
Nikon seems to have prioritized easy handheld recording given the button layout of both cameras.
More specifically, the video record button is placed at the top of the grip so you can easily start and stop recording with your pointer finger.
Another common trait of these cameras is the big, bright, 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD. With 2.1-million-dots of resolution, you don’t miss any details when you’re shooting. Its tilting action is nice for keeping an eye on low-angle and high-angle footage, though a fully articulating screen would have been nice.
The EVFs in these cameras are even better, if you ask me. Granted, I don’t shoot much video with my eye to the viewfinder, but the fact that the EVF doesn’t get soft when shooting video (an issue I’ve found in my Sony a6300) is definitely a bonus.
Of course, both the Z7 and the Z6 feature 5-axis in-body image stabilization, which is a Godsend when shooting handheld video.
This is especially true when you’re panning or tilting while handheld. The image stabilization helps you get buttery smooth motion, though it should be noted that it isn’t as effective when walking and shooting video at the same time.
Something else of note is that both of these cameras have good continuous autofocus performance when shooting video in good lighting. Even if the subject is moving quite fast toward the camera, the Z7 and Z6 do a good job of tracking the subject. In low-light, the autofocus obviously struggles, but that’s to be expected of any camera.
These cameras can shoot up to 30p in 4K, so there's no 60p option for slow-motion recording, though you can record in 1080 120p if slow-motion footage is needed.
One last note - neither camera has a good built-in audio pre-amp. For Nikon shooters, this is nothing new, so just be aware that if you use a mic that has poor output levels, the audio will be very noisy.
Nikon Z7 Video Capabilities
Let's focus on the Nikon Z7 video specs.
The primary thing you should know about filmmaking with the Nikon Z7 is that even though it offers 4K UHD video recording, it does not offer full sensor readout in full frame mode. For full sensor readout, you have to shoot with a 1.5x crop factor.
As a result, full frame video footage is quite soft compared to the Z6 and quite noisy as well. Banding and pixelation can also be an issue.
On the plus side, the camera has 10-bit N-log video via the HDMI output. This gives you improved dynamic range and much more color depth with which to work in post-processing. See the Z7 in action in the video below by AdoramaTV.
Make no mistake, the Z7 is a still camera with video capabilities. As noted in the previous section, it has a lot of features to help you capture excellent video. However, the Z7 is not intended to be a go-to camera for video footage. That distinction goes to the Z6.
Nikon Z6 Video Capabilities
Nikon definitely developed the Z6 to be the video king of its mirrorless lineup.
Not only does it offer super-sampled full frame recording and better shallow depth of field than the Z7, but it also performs beautifully in low-light situations.
That's advantageous for situations in which you don't have a ton of light (or don't want to lug around lighting).
Its pixel-to-pixel readout of the sensor means there's no pixel binning to get to full 4K video. As a result, video is clean, sharp, and detailed, and dynamic range is outstanding, particularly if you're recording externally.
Speaking of external recording, the Z6 offers 10-bit N-log video output just like the Z7. The result of this is improved dynamic range, as noted above, as well as better colors, particularly if the video footage was shot in challenging lighting.
Something to be aware of is that the Z6 has a focus-by-wire system. This means that you can't set lens marks based on where your subject is located and pull focus to follow their movements.
The camera does have focus peaking when shooting in manual mode, so you can at least see what's sharp and what isn't.
For some reason, though, Nikon doesn't let you use focus peaking and highlight peaking at the same time.
Despite these minor issues, the Z6 is a very, very good camera for filmmaking - perhaps one of the best on the market right now. Get more details on this camera in the video above by AdoramaTV.
When comparing the Z6 to the Z7 for video purposes, the Z6 is a clear winner. If video is the most important factor when you buy a new camera, the Nikon Z6 video specs make it a prime choice.
And since the Z6 is $2,000.00 (body only), it's far cheaper than its big brother, which comes in at $3,400.00 for the body only.