Hands-On First Impressions With Nikon's Brand New Z6 III

Hands-On First Impressions With Nikon's Brand New Z6 III

The long wait is over. Today, Nikon announced a major follow-up to its Z6 line of mirrorless cameras, the brand-new Z6 III.

Nikon is on an absolute roll as of late. Ever since the release of the Z9 in 2021, the camera manufacturer has been creating a slate of products that have reinvigorated the brand and strengthened its bond with its customers. First the flagship big body Z9, then the smaller workhorse Z8, then the retro Zf. They’ve taken customer needs into account and offered what people have been asking for. This all, of course, has recently been elevated to an even higher level with their acquisition of cinema camera manufacturer RED which promises even more exciting developments for the company moving forward.

But their initial entrance into the mirrorless market came slowly with the original Z6 and its higher resolution twin, the Z7. I owned the original Z6. I even bought it twice. But those original bodies, and their successors, the Z6 II and Z7 II, definitely had a handful of compromises which users commented on over the years, leading to a long anticipation for the day that Nikon would release a third generation which could take advantage of some of the advancements made since the Z9 and continue the upward trend. Well, they have finally done so with the brand-new Z6 III.

I have not gotten to have an extended period with the camera yet to offer a full detailed review. But, I have gotten a chance to shoot with a pre-production model and my initial thoughts are that those Nikonians who have been waiting around for Nikon’s third generation to finally arrive will feel it was well worth the wait.

The Z6 III comes again with a full frame 24.5 MP sensor. But this time it is the world’s first “partially-stacked” sensor. What that means is that it is somewhere between the stacked sensor you would see on the flagship models and a “regular” sensor. Only part of the sensor is stacked. So, while it might not be fully stacked like the more expensive models, the partial stack still allows for significantly faster sensor performance.

With the lower megapixel count and the new sensor, the Z6 III is likely to be the company’s best low-light performer. It uses Nikon’s latest autofocus technology from the Z9/Z8, meaning there has been a massive upgrade in autofocus performance from previous Z6 models. The company is claiming a 20% increase in autofocus speed versus the Z6II, and the camera can focus all the way down to -10 EV. Again, I will test this in more detail once I get a full review unit. But in my testing with the preproduction model, it did a great job of grabbing onto faces and small details in much the same manner I’ve come to expect from my Z9. Since that camera has rarely let me down, I’ll be excited to get my hands on a production unit to really put the Z6 III through its paces.

Image shot with Z6III courtesy of Nikon.

One thing that immediately stuck out to me was that the Z6 III will be an excellent option for hybrid shooters or video creators. It is able to shoot 6K full frame video. It offers the same video formats as the Z9 and Z8, including Nikon RAW, ProRes RAW, ProRes 422, as well as the standard H264 and H265 variants. All come with the option of shooting in N-Log or Rec709. All this is important as I think the Z6 III will pair very well with those shooting with the Z9/Z8 as their A camera who are looking for a smaller secondary camera whose footage will match. With its smaller footprint, this camera would be perfect mounted to a gimbal. Or, for those who don’t need the added resolution or benefits the bigger Nikon cameras provide, at 6K resolution, the Z6 III is more than capable of acting as the primary video camera. With its full-sized HDMI and fully articulating screen, the Z6 III is a great option for filmmakers. Perhaps even a better option than its more expensive siblings for those working in low light.

For stills shooters, the EXPEED 7 image processing engine makes the camera lightning fast, roughly 3.5x faster than previous Z6 models. Like the larger Nikon bodies, the Z6 III offers 20 fps in RAW with the option for stills up to 120 fps with Pre-Release Capture. The speed of the camera is further enhanced by the redesigned semi-stacked sensor. And the camera’s added autofocus capabilities really shine in fast shooting environments. Additionally, for wedding or event shooters who prefer the 24.5MP stills, this would be a solid option for occasions when both stills and video are requirements. The ISO range is from 100-64,000 (51,200 in video) and is expandable to 204,800 in stills. That all comes with 8 stops of vibration reduction.

Image shot with Z6III courtesy of Nikon.

In terms of size and ergonomics, the camera is what you would expect. Very similar to the original Z6/Z6II bodies. Smaller than the Z8 at 760 grams. But still built solid. The camera boasts the brightest EVF of any mirrorless camera currently on the market. And fans of fully articulating LCD screens have finally gotten their wish. The camera has two card slots: one CFexpress/XQD slot and one SD card slot.

For those of you wondering, Nikon has not announced a new Z7 III as of yet. Future plans for that model are still being discussed within the company which means that, this time around, the Z6 III gets to stand on its own in the spotlight.

The Z6 III is expected to hit shelves in late June and retail for $2,499.95 (body only). There will also be an option for a package of the body plus NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 lens option for $3,099.95. Nikon also announced there will be an optional MB-N14 power battery pack available this summer for a suggested retail price of $359.95.

I’m looking forward to getting to really put the camera through its paces when I get a full production model in hand. But, for now, what do you think of the proposed specs? Is this the camera you have been waiting for?

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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Are you sure that it is the same N-RAW? Now with the acquisition of RED and now that they own the patent, there is no reason to place any limitations on their N-RAW. N-RAW may not be at good as RED RAW but it can get closer now .

Likely a future firmware update as the RED acquistion just went thru and this model was obviosuly in development prior to that.

Betting a firmware update for the Z6 III, Z8 and Z9 with RED RAW is in the works for the end of this year.

I had the original Z6 and loved it. I was looking for a more videocentric Z model. This camera seems to meet all my specs. I wish they did not have to increase the price by $500. I guess that is the way it goes. For Sony users, I think we can expect a new A7S model. I just hope Nikon does not take forever to ship the Z6 unlike the Fujifilm and who could forget how long we had to wait for the legendary D850.

Yeah, it seems like a decent upgrade, but that $500 hike is kinda hard to swallow as this very much is an entry-level full-frame camera. It will have a ton of features arbitrarily hamstrung as Nikon always does that make their flagships more appealing. (fewer custom menu options, less bracketing, etc)

At $2k, the Z6II was priced for that position in the market, but now at $2500 I think for many users it starts to get too expensive for what you get. Esp when Sony has some really great cameras such as the A6700 or the Sony a7 IV which are in similar price backets and compete very aggressively on value.

Personally, as a Z7ii user, who paid about $2500 USD for my camera, I'd be hard pressed to justify the downgrade to 24mp for the same price point. I expect that "if" a Z7iii ever lands it will be at like $3500 which starts to feel bonkers.

An entry level full frame camera ?

I don't class this as an entry level full frame camera. It blows away the z6ii, it has a partial stacked sensor fastest scan rate no other camera under 4 thousand dollars can match this ,min rolling shutter at 20 fps, 14 fps with mechanical so no rolling shutter, the exceed 7 processor major AF upgrade over thise early z7/z7, major upgraded evf, video capabilities wow , flicker control.. . This is much closer to the z8/z9 than the z6ii so no way can you class this as a entry level camera. I ditched the z6ii for the Z9 but if the z6iii was out then I would have gone for the z6iii as more versatile than the z9.

I promise you it will be designed like an entry-level full frame in terms of menu systems, features, and such. How do I know? Because every prior Z6 and Z7 was, and so were all their DSLR predecessors, D6XX and D7XX.

Sure, it has next-gen tech so its specs look great when you compare it to cameras that came out half a decade ago, but, regardless,it's going to be the entry-level option of the next generation.

Note: I'm not saying entry level is inherently bad, I think it has a critical purpose and is the perfect camera for a ton of people. I just think the price point of entry level keeps creeping up and this is a massive jump.

Its also worth noting that tech is generally supposed to get cheaper. Say compare the price of a top tier gaming laptop today to one 15 years ago. Computing equipment has, generally speaking, been going down in price, but cameras continue to climb northward. Which is a strange strategy in a collapsing market.

Isn't the A7IV the same price as this camera? You would be right if the sensor was a normal BSI sensor. I would expect it to be priced the same as the Zf if it were not a partially stacked sensor. If I didn't own the Zf or Z8 then this would be my next camera. The blackout-free shooting and high frame rates are amazing on the Z8, I'm impressed that they brought it to the Z6III. Nikon claims that it has the same AF as the Z8, making it one of the best in the industry. The video specs are a huge leap. At $2500 this camera sounds like amazing value. I suppose if a photographer's primary use case is portraits and landscapes then likely all these features would be meaningless. The original Z7 might be their best option.

Yes, the point isn't that this camera isn't good. It's a next-generation camera, and it has specs and features to represent that it is the next generation. But as all the other cameras get upgraded to the next generation, this one will start to look overpriced because it is positioned as the entry-level FF body.

Photography is starting to get extremely expensive and this is going to be a big problem for getting adoption. Nikon Z glass is 50% more expensive than Nikon F glass and now Nikon Z bodies are looking like they will be getting big price hikes over what their previous models cost. Would a Z8 II cost over $5000? Would the Z9 II cost closer to $7k?

Personally, I feel $3k+ for an entry level full frame camera + lens feels really rough, especially for someone new to the hobby. Sure, they can go and buy used, but used will be relatively more expensive too compared to in the past.

I'd also add that this is conflated by there being so few APS-C options. All that we have is the Z50 at $1000. I remember a time when we had a D7XXX, D3XXX, D5XXX, D300, etc so that people could get in at any budget from $500 all the way up to top pro bodies. These days the floor is sitting at around $1500 to get started and if the Z50 gets replaced by a Z50II with a similar price hike, we may be seeing that number creep closer to $2000 for the entry level.

I can afford more expensive bodies and this one would never even be a consideration for me at only 24mp but I'm more concerned for those who cannot and more important it worries me about the overall path of the hobby if the major makers start to price a ton of people out. What happens to the future of the Nikon platform if a big percentage of would-be Nikon shooters take a look at the price of modern Nikon and instead go buy a something else. (Canon has the same problem).

If I was Nikon I'd be looking to hit the market with an APS-C camera at about the $600 price point and a full frame at around $1500, even if I need to sacrifice some features to get there. Just to be appealing to newcomers.

I totally get what you're saying. I have been finding that Nikon gear in general has been punching above its price point. I was looking for a second body to use alongside my A7sIII, something that I could shoot some higher-level pro sports and better resolution. I was cross-shopping the A9III, A7rV, and A1. I was going to pull the trigger on an A1 but the price was just way too high to justify. I ended up using my A1 budget to buy a Nikon Z8, 1TB of media, a used Zf, 40mm f2, and a megadap adapter. If I needed to remake that decision today I would be buying a Nikon Z6III. At $2500 it isn't cheap per se but it punches far above its weight.

Just don't need another 24 mp camera. I still love my old D200 anyway.

That's a great camera. One of the last pro CCD cameras.

I should use it more often. I really loved the look of the D200 and even the D40. I have the D3200 in my go bag now due to the 24.2 MP it has. Also for what I do even that is overkill.

For me only two things disappoint with this camera, but there is a lot to admire.

For someone with smaller hands, it looks like the ergonomics are spot on. The semi-stacked sensor is nice, as is the continuous shooting speed even when using the mechanical shutter.

The EVF sounds amazing, and if it's as good as it appears to be then that's a massive plus. The rest of the features tick all the boxes for a good full frame camera. I'd prefer more megapixels, but otherwise it seems about right.

$500 is a hefty amount of cash that could go towards a lens or trip. Also a sensor shield (or lack of) is not a deal breaker, but I would expect one in any $2k+ camera. It's a quality of life feature that I would miss.

I think I'd still go for my A7IV if I was buying again, but this is a really nice camera.

The $2499 price point is the same price the D600, D750 and original Z6 came in at so there’s no change there.

It looks good. Nice review. I've not used one but one of my old studio photographers has enormous sausages for fingers and said the gap between the lens and the grip is too small on mk II version for that giant. Is this the same? I see no B on mode dial? Where is that hidden? Is that a diopter dial unnecessarily big? What is its longest shutter speed in manual model? Is it 60 or just 30? Also jpegs on nikon mirror less seem to miss shadow detail more than their dslr and colours no as good.
Sorry my English isnt perfect and i trying to not use translator for this

The Z6III is a bit larger than the Z6II and smaller than the Z8. Slowest shutter speed in manual is 900 seconds. You can get to the “Bulb”mode in the menu if you need longer exposure times. There is no mirror on the Z6III, just a shutter and the sensor.

Contrary to what some others said, this is not an entry level, full frame camera. The Z6III can be effectively used by working professional photographers. From what I’ve seen, button placement and menus are lined up with the Z8/Z9 (with the exception of some feature differences).

I am trying to find information how the partially stacked sensor impacts viewfinder blackout. I am addicted to my Sony A9 because there is no blackout. How does this camera perform there?