Nikon Officially Announces the D6

After weeks of NikonUSA telling us why the Nikon D5 is so good in their D6 launch promotion videos, today NikonUSA finally adjusted their sights to the actual camera that was being announced. Welcome the Nikon D6.

D6 24 70VR front34.high

From the trade show teases we already knew that the D6 looks much like a D5, with very little variation. Physically, the changes are mild: the prism shape changed a bit and the camera is slightly taller, the button cluster on the top left panel is also taller and features a new mechanism, some slight angle changes were made to the grip, and some minor changes happened with button placements on the back. The D6 takes the same EN-EL18 type battery as its predecessors, too, this time in c form (EN-EL18c). In shutter mashing mode, it does 8670 shots (non shutter mashers only get around 3500).

So the changes must have all come on the inside, right?

Indeed so, though perhaps not as many changes as some had hoped. 

The image sensor will be the first disappoint to some, I suppose. It's still 20mp (20.8), just as Canon stuck with 20mp on their 1DX Mark III. Personally, I'm okay with that, though I'm not sure why Nikon wasn't just tuning the 24mp Exmor instead, as it's better up through ISO 3200. We do now have 4K 30P video (1.5x crop) coming off the updated sensor. 

Like the D780, Nikon has brought over the extended shutter speeds (30 to 900 seconds). The shutter itself now supports 14 fps with everything operative, again with minimal blackout time. That new shutter is tested to 400k cycles. If you don't need a high pixel count, you can produce 2mp images at 60 fps or 8mp images at 30 fps (using Live View), though focus is locked on the first frame. If you want to just shoot silently, Live View will produce 10.5 fps using the full sensor, too. Unfortunately, that's with locked focus, too (5 fps with focus). 

The focus system, meanwhile, now uses a "densely packed" 105 point sensor, with all areas being cross-type. Nikon describes the new sensor as having 1.6x the detection density than the D5, the implication being that it can more discretely determine subjects and edges and has no (significant) gaps between sensors. Group AF now gets a big goose—maybe literally if you're a wildlife shooter—with 17 different options, something I need to see in action but in theory think will be quite useful to the sophisticated shooter.

Focus performance extends down to -4.5EV at the center sensor, and -4EV on all the others, another improvement from the D5. As if all that weren't enough, Nikon is claiming the first Eye Detect capability for DSLRs (requires you be in Auto Area or 3D Tracking mode). 

For the shutter mashers, dual CFe card slots promise near infinite buffers (200 shot) that clear in an eye blink, plus if you get yourself a CFe reader, you can now get really fast image ingest, even with Lightroom Classic. Well, okay, Lightroom may take some time to render previews still, but at least it'll grab the files and put them on your drive faster.

The D6 suddenly discovered how to communicate without wires or dongles. There's built-in 801.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with Bluetooth, the usual SnapBridge capability we've seen for awhile now in other Nikon bodies. You can still attach a WT-6A if you need more range or want to ftp, but the D6 can now talk to your phone by itself if need be. The D6 also has its own built-in GPS receiver. USB is now Type C and 3.1 as you might expect. The 1000BASE-T Ethernet connection supposedly transmits images 15% faster (has to be an internal server change, not a change to Ethernet ;~). 

Lots of little things have changed. JPEG shooters can now shoot two different sizes/qualities of JPEGs simultaneously, allowing you to pop smaller, lower quality images off to your client via SnapBridge while waiting to deliver the higher quality images later when you have a faster pipe. There's a Kensington-style security slot so you can chain your camera to a post, should that be your thing. Nikon's making a big deal about menu, customization, and workflow changes that makes the camera more functional for the working pro. For instance, you can now recall a full set of shooting functions via a single button. You can also promote a just taken image to the front of the download queue, too. Focus stacking has been added.

Price is US$6499, and the D6 will be available in April 2020. Guess I won't have one for some sporting events I have coming up in March. Pity. It'll be a longish while after that before I can really put the camera to its paces. 

My guess is that much of the Nikon world is going to be disappointed with the D6, at least on reading the specs. No new sensor. No PD on sensor for Live View. No 4K 60P or 1080P/120. No mention of raw video, HEIF file support, or boosted ISO capabilities. And so on. Enter your own complaint here.

Given that there's been four years between the D5 and D6, I too expected more. It seems like Nikon's top designers must have been busy with something else during this period. Oh, right, mirrorless. 

But I'm still curious. Nikon has introduced some changes to the D6 that I've been suggesting for a long time now, such as allowing us to recall a Settings Bank with a button or being able to shoot two different JPEG sizes/qualities. Plus they did seem to address a lot of customization and configuration issues. Meanwhile, the changes to the focus system all look and sound good, but it'll take some real shooting to see how much better they are than what we have with the D5, which is still pretty awesome in its own right. 

Still, there's not enough "magic" in the D6 announcement to move most people's bars. Canon at least had that fancy new AF-ON button that lets you control the focus position so easily. Meanwhile, while Nikon has had voice memo on the pro bodies since before some current camera designers were born (excuse me, a slight exaggeration), Sony was the first to automatically translate that to text. 

What I see is that Nikon is still engineering, but they're not doing so with much imagination. I want both, and so should you. 

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