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Nikon Z6 III announced: Internal raw video recording and 120fps stills burst rate

The Nikon Z6 III
4 minute read
The Nikon Z6 III

Nikon has announced the Z6 III, a camera that brings many of the features of the Z8 and Z9 at a more affordable price point.

That the Z6 III was going to be announced hasn't exactly been a secret. Nikon said it would be releasing details about the new camera a week before its launch, and made no secret of the model name. However, the full details and specs have been under embargo until now.

The Z8 and the Z9 are still very much Nikon's flagship mirrorless models, but the specification that has been revealed for the Z6 III would suggest that the degrees of difference between the high-end and medium budget cameras are closing in. So, what's new? Quite a lot as it happens.

Image: Nikon

Nikon Z6 III features

Heading up the new features of the Z6 III is the brand new 25.4MP sensor, which turns out to be the first of its type in a mirrorless camera. Called a "partially stacked sensor", the new CMOS  imaging device skirts a balance between the benefits of a full-stacked sensor and a backlit sensor. While the readout on the partially stacked sensor isn't quite as fast as that of a full-stacked one, it is considerably faster than any backlit model. What this means in real world use is that rolling shutter effects are virtually eliminated without the need for a global shutter. Nikon says that the readout on the Z6 III sensor is 2.5 times that of the Z6 II.

As you'd expect, the sensor caters for phase-detection autofocus, and Nikon says that the autofocus calculation speed is on par with that of the Z8 and Z9. Native ISO ranges from 100 to 64000 and is expandable to 50-204800.

Next on the list of notable features is the electronic viewfinder. The EVF has a resolution of 5760K, DCI-P3 colour gamut, and an eye searing 4000 nit peak brightness level, updating at 60hz frequency. While the refresh rate might be lower than some other cameras, the extremely high resolution and brightness should ensure that the image looks as close to real world optics as humanly possible. Speaking of optics, Nikon claims the optical system that delivers the EVF image to your eyes has been designed such that it ensures tack sharpness from corner to corner.

Autofocus features deep learning technology, allowing the camera to identify people, faces, birds, dogs, automobiles, boats and planes. Eye focus has been tuned such that the camera can maintain focus even when the subject is small within the frame. 3D subject tracking also features, which is a first for the Z6 line.

The Z6 III features the same EXPEED 7 processor found in the Z9 and Z8, while stabilisation is claimed to be around 8-stops. Nikon told us that the stabilisation system features what it is calling Focus Point VR, which 'pivots' around the focus point. The company claims that this achieves an extra half to full-stop of additional stabilisation over standard methods. Quite how this is done from a mechanical standpoint, we're not sure.

Okay, so that's the main nuts and bolts covered; what about the video and stills capabilities?

Image: Nikon

Nikon Z6 III video specs

The Z6 III very clearly shows the fruition of the company's takeover of RED. Right off the bat, the Z6 III features 4K and 6K internal raw recording in NRAW and ProRes RAW formats. This is important, not just because it gives the camera a huge advantage over most of its competition by allowing internal raw without an external recorder, but also because the inclusion of NRAW negates the need for users to have to own FCP or Premiere Pro.

While it would be great to see BRAW as well, the inclusion of NRAW means the the use of Resolve is perfectly viable as an editing tool. As an aside, the 4K raw mode is produced from supersampling a 6K image, with frame rates available for both up to 60fps.

In addition to raw recording, the camera can also record 10-bit ProRes HQ, H.265 and H.264 formats. For slow motion fans, 120fps is available in non raw modes in 4K, while 240fps is available in 1080p.

For stills, in JPEG mode the camera can capture 120fps burst rates with full continuous autofocus at 10MP resolution in DX mode (APS-C), with 60fps possible in FX (full-frame) mode, both modes using the electronic shutter.

Unlike the Z8 and Z9, the Z6 III still features a mechanical shutter. Although, even using this, the camera still manages a pretty quick 14fps high speed stills shooting in raw. An important feature to note is the pre-release capture system. This captures images around a second before the shutter button is pressed, so, if you're slightly slow off the mark in sports or wildlife photography, you still stand a chance of capturing the moment.

Image: Nikon

Final specs

Lastly, in terms of notable specifications, the camera weighs in at 750g for the body and features the same quality weather sealing as its pricier siblings. The weather sealing remains intact even when the new optional battery grip is attached, featuring two batteries and the ability to act as a charger. Nikon claims that the Z6 III has been designed to perform in temperatures as low as -10 celsius.

Storage takes the form of a single CFexpress slot and a single SD card slot. The Z6 III can be time synched with other cameras, and comes replete with a line-level audio in jack. 

Conclusions so far...

The Z6 III would appear to offer a winning combination of cutting edge features and technology and a very reasonable price. At an RRP of $2499 / £2699 for the body,  £3249 for a bundle with a 24-70mm f/4 lens and £3459 for 24-120mm f/4 glass, the Z6 III seems to offer many of the advantages of the Z9 and Z8 for a lower price and a much lighter package.

Granted, those 120fps stills burst speeds come at the cost of an image crop and 1MP less resolution than the same mode on the Z9. But, given that most images of that type will be on telephoto anyway, it's a compromise I'd happily accept. 14fps in the mechanical shutter mode in full-frame raw is also a very respectable speed.

The lightweight nature of the Z6 III will likely make it a useful second companion for users of the Z8 and Z9, while those who could never justify the expense of those cameras will be getting many of the same features for much less money. We'll be taking a much closer look at the Z6 III very soon in our review.

Tags: Production Cameras mirrorless Nikon