Just two years after the announcement of the Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7, we have a countdown timer for the Nikon Z6 II and Nikon Z7 II! What improvements could these cameras bring? How will they compare against the existing competition? What about other cameras we might see in 2021?

We have no information yet, so in this article, we’ll make a few predictions, and talk about what they could mean for Nikon and the photographers/videographers who use Nikon/Nikkor gear!

nikon z 20mm f 1 8 mirrorless nightscape lens
Nikon Z 20mm Review Coming Soon! Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S | 10 sec (x50+ meteors) f/1.8, ISO 6400

First, before we dive in, let’s look back at the overall history of full-frame mirrorless, and remember a few things: For one, if anyone is thinking, “isn’t it a bit soon to release a mk2 camera, ‘just’ two years after the first generation? This might have been the case a decade ago; Nikon and Canon both would usually take 3-5 years to update their pro and semi-pro camera bodies, indeed. However, things have changed now with modern digital technology, as well as the overall global economy, and the precedent is now a much shorter product cycle.

In fact, Sony announced the mk2 version of their A7-series full-frame mirrorless cameras just 13 months after the initial release of their first-gen A7! So, in terms of the current market climate, this could be “right on schedule” for Nikon.

Second, you might be asking, “why is Nikon going with a ‘mark 2’ version of their existing products, and not giving us a Z8 or a Z9”? I believe this was an inevitable change in Nikon’s nomenclature because they’ve switched things up in terms of their nomenclature. (In other words, they went with “Z6” instead of “Z600”)

I don’t think the “mk2” name is anything to worry about, however; both Sony and Canon have used it for generations now and it absolutely does NOT necessarily mean “minor update”. There can be significant improvements and feature additions without changing the number entirely.

Of course, make no mistake, we’ll eagerly await a “Z1” flagship action sports camera, of course, and who knows, maybe some day we’ll get a “Z4” camera that competes even more with the Canon EOS RP and the new Sony A7C.

Either way, let’s set the ground rules for predicting, hoping, and/or worrying about the Z7 II and its “little sibling” Z6 II: No matter what, they’re going to be somewhat similar to their predecessors. The Z6 II will likely be a lower resolution version, the Z7 II a higher resolution version, and both will be robust, high-end, high-performance cameras that cost somewhere around $2,000 and $3,400, respectively.

Nikon Z6 II Specifications (Predictions)

It seems that 24 megapixels is still very popular among “normal” resolution cameras, so let’s assume that the Z6 II has the same number of megapixels as its predecessor. We could see some improvement in the overall image quality, though, if there are any improvements to Nikon’s BSI technology. Hopefully we’ll see slightly better dynamic range and slightly lower noise levels, making for better images at all ISOs.

There’s a small chance that we could see a few more megapixels, but it’s unlikely Nikon would go any higher than ~30, and even that is unlikely.

[Related: Nikon Z6 Review: Does Sony Have Serious Competition?]

Hopefully, the biggest changes present in the Z6 II will be more related to the actual performance of the camera, in terms of autofocus speed, precision, and consistency. Keep in mind that with firmware updates, the existing Z6 has already seen a significant overall improvement, and a Z6 II with any significant boost to AF performance will rival the likes of the Sony A7 III, or even rival an inevitable Sony A7 IV, hopefully.

In terms of overall speed, let’s hope for just slightly better overall FPS, (Frames Per Second) and a slightly better overall EVF experience with zero blackout and reduced lag, etc.

There are some physical changes that I’d like to see in the next generation of full-frame Z-mount Nikon bodies, but since I suspect that the two mk2 bodies will be just as physically identical to each other as their predecessors were, let’s save that for later. (Hint: dual card slots, and that’s about it!)

One last thing that must be predicted, before we move on, is the Nikon Z6 II price: Could it be $1,999, again, like the Z6 was? That seems likely, however, keep in mind that the Nikon Z5 just came out too, and costs only $1,399, yet offers almost everything (physically, at least) that the Z6 has.

Therefore, if the Z6 II is a truly significant improvement above the Z6, there’s a small chance that it will MSRP for $2,199, or maybe $2,299, and only arrive at $1,999 after a couple of years.

Nikon Z7 II Specifications (Predictions)

For Nikon’s high-resolution flagship body, things are a little bit more unpredictable. Unlike the ~24 megapixel class of cameras that seen to be comfortable where they are, high-megapixel models are always trying to push even higher. Could we see a ~60-megapixel Z7 II? More? Less?

[Related: Nikon Z7 Review: The Ultimate Landscape Photography Camera?]

Anything is possible, however, considering that Canon just released a 45-megapixel beast, the EOS R5, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Nikon’s 45-megapixel sensor is still very respectable, and we’re probably a little bit more likely to see a 45-MP sensor than anything higher. Still, there’s a decent chance we’ll get a ~60-megapixel camera; we’ll find out on October 14th!

Like the Z6 II’s other potential improvements, at the top of the list of most photographers who are wishing for an improved Z7 would be, better autofocus, more speed, and of course other things like better video. The Z7 sensor is capable of 8K frames, by the way, so if we wanted to make a truly wild prediction, we might guess that a Z7 II is going to be able to shoot 8K, though likely not in RAW, unless it is to an external recording device. (You know, the things with cooling fans on them?)

Speaking of video, here’s to hoping that both the Z6 II and Z7 II have slightly improved 4K video specs, such as 60p or maybe even 120p framerates, and no-extra-fee RAW output to an external recorder.

Is wishing for all of these video specs a bit of a stretch for Nikon, the company that historically makes the best photography cameras, and places a little less emphasis on video specs than competitors do? Maybe, but I’m a firm believer in the notion that if you don’t ask for MORE than you think is possible, you might wind up getting even LESS than is possible.

Last but not least, what will the Nikon Z7 II price tag? Again, it could very well be the same as the original MSRP of the Z7, which was $3,399. There is also a small chance that it could cost slightly more, maybe $3,499, but definitely no more. It’s also unlikely that they’ll drop the Z7 II at $2,999, but hey, we can hope!

Dual Card Slots? Anything Else?

Nikon Z5 VS Z6 dual card slots

To be quite honest, the first generation of Nikon full-frame mirrorless bodies were already very physically robust to begin with. If you bought either of those cameras and are relatively happy with them now, then you can trust them to be hard-working, respectable cameras for many years to come. Technology may be advancing at an incredibly fast pace now, but one thing is clear about Nikon cameras (and lenses): They’re still making them as “indestructible” as possible, so if you really wanted to get a decade or more of use out of them, you absolutely could.

Comparatively speaking, Sony’s first generation, the A7, A7R, and A7S, were (and there’s no polite way of saying this) …pieces of junk. They literally fell apart on numerous coworkers and co-adventurers of mine.

In fact, it wasn’t until Sony’s mk3 generation, which started arriving less than 1 year before Nikon’s “mk1” generation, that things truly started getting good for Sony camera bodies in terms of physical build quality and other aspects of the general user experience such as battery life and low-light, fast-aperture autofocus reliability.

Nikon, on the other hand, achieved many of these things with their very first generation–solid battery life, impressive in-body stabilization, gorgeous viewfinders, and “more than good enough” autofocus.

So, with that said, what physical improvements could we expect from the Nikon Z7 II or Z6 II, keeping in mind that the originals were already just as good as, or even better than, their competition?

Hopefully, obviously, dual card slots; maybe it’ll be dual SD slots in the Z6 II, and XQD + SD in the Z7 II. But what else?

[Related: Nikon Z5 VS Nikon Z6 | Image Quality & Autofocus Tests]

Another thing we can expect is a carry-over from the Nikon Z5: not just improved battery life, but direct USB-PD battery power, for all-day shooting that means you never have to swap out your in-camera battery, in fact it might even stay near 100% all day long if you’re a videographer who leaves your camera on a rig or tripod, and you can just velcro or gaff-tape an Anker 10,000 mAh or 20,000 mAh battery onto.

Speaking of the Nikon Z5, I personally like how the mode dial has been moved to where the top panel LCD display is on the Z6/7, and I hope Nikon does this, plus also adds a DSLR style dial to the top-left of the body, for things like drive mode (which is in a terrible place on the lower-right corner of the Z6/7, one of their only ergonomic/UX flaws) and maybe BKT, WB, and Metering buttons on top of it, as the D850 has. (By the way, speaking of the Nikon D850, while I really love having physical buttons for those three things, I really hope Nikon leaves QUAL buried in a menu because I don’t know anybody that needs to switch from RAW to JPG on-the-fly with a physical button! To me, it’s just a totally un-used button, and actually, a risk for accidental settings changes, especially on the D750 and D780…

How Well Is Nikon Competing Against Sony And Canon?

All Nikon Z Lens 2020JUNE PBS2

Based on the last two or three years worth of new cameras (and significant firmware updates) for all three major brands, one thing is becoming clear: The playing field is leveling off. The “significant lead” that Sony had over Nikon and Canon just 3 years ago is now significantly diminished.

Why? Mainly because mirrorless technology itself is maturing. From viewfinders to battery life, across the board we’re seeing great performance. In terms of sensors and image quality, we’re also seeing minimal differences that are only really visible in lab tests, not real-world environments.

In a few ways, such as with stabilization technology, both Nikon and Canon seem to be leap-frogging Sony right now! Plus, of course, anyone who has ever actually picked up and worked with a Nikon camera knows just how user-friendly they are, with both the ergonomics and menu interface that make photography itself feel more effortless.

With the Nikon Z-mount mark II generation, hopefully, Nikon will take another step towards “catching up” in a few more ways, and “actual superiority” in a few other ways. At the end of the year, though, the biggest news will probably be that choosing a camera system is no longer about hands-down winners or losers, but a significant amount of personal preference, creative style, and other things like which lenses are offered for which mount.

Nikkor Lens Forecast

Nikon Z Mount Lens Roadmap 2020 09 Zooms

Nikon Z Mount Lens Roadmap 2020 09 Primes

Speaking of 2021, what lenses might we expect to come next? Nikon’s official map shows eight new lenses currently in the works, four primes and four zooms:

  • Nikkor Z 28mm (f/2.8, ultra-compact, maybe?)
  • Nikkor Z 40mm (f/2.8, ultra-compact, maybe?)
  • Nikkor Z 50mm Micro
  • Nikkor Z 105mm Micro S-Line
  • Nikkor Z 24-105mm S-Line (f/4, decently compact, maybe?)
  • Nikkor Z 100-400mm S-Line (f/4-5.6, decently compact, maybe?)
  • Nikkor DX Z 18-140mm (f/4-6.3, decently compact, maybe?)
  • Nikkor Z 200-600mm (f/5.6, maybe?)

NOTE: Nikon’s S-line is their high-end series, so if a lens says “S-Line”, you can bet it’s incredibly sharp and flagship-quality overall, whereas the non-S lenses have still been decently sharp and good overall, but just slightly less robust.

[Related: Nikon Officially Announces Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S and Z 50mm f/1.2 S Lenses]

Those are the official lenses that are definitely arriving sooner or later, and indeed eight lenses is a lot for one year. Still, what might we DREAM of in the future, maybe later in 2021, or in 2022? Here’s what I’d love to see:

  • At least one more f/1.2 flagship prime, either 35mm or 85mm, but preferably both!
  • An exotic ultra-wide prime, anything from a ~14mm f/1.8 to an ~18mm f/1.4, or maybe even a 24mm f/1.2. These would be a huge deal for nightscape photographers!
  • At least one f/2 zoom, either a 24-60mm f/2, or a 28-70mm f/2, or maybe a 60-135mm f/2.
  • Something else truly unique and unprecedented that takes advantage of the enormous Z-mount, such as a Tilt-Shift lens with massive movements, or an ultra-portable super-telephoto prime lens.
  • At least two DX lenses, preferably a 10-20mm or 8-18mm, and maybe a compact, relatively affordable ~35mm f/1.4 DX.

But, that’s just me. What would you like to see from Nikon in the future? Leave a comment below!

Conclusion | Nikon Z6 II & Nikon Z7 II Announcement & Specifications: October 14th!

Check back on October 14th, when we’ll all know the specifications of these two new cameras, and we can put the speculation to rest…and start deciding whether or not we are going to buy one!

Personally, I’m already loving the Nikon Z5, in fact so much that I don’t know how Nikon can attract me to a Z6 II, since I don’t shoot much video and will not be very tempted by full-sensor width 4K 60p video. Would I consider it, though, if the Z6 II were priced at only $1,999? Yes, absolutely!

What do you think? What do you hope to see, and what do you think Nikon’s future will be in terms of full-frame mirrorless?

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