D6 First Impressions

Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
4,457
Location
CT USA
I'll start by saying these are my observations based on a 3 hour outing. While I appreciate the studio side by side tests, that isn't real life for me. I use my 600 EFL with a tC 14EIII about 80% of the time so I'm familiar with the performance of the D5 on that combo. As I know what the D5 can do with that lens, it seemed like a good first test to use the D6 on that lens combo.
Overall feel is the same as the D5, menus are almost the same, the D6 has more items. I set up my D6 the same as my D5 so any differences should be obvious. The best place for this first outing is by an osprey nest that I've been photographing for several years. I'm familiar with the location and how the D5 handles the area. I shoot either in manual or auto ISO. Today I chose auto ISO as it was mostly overcast with constantly variable light.

First I noticed that the metering mode (highlight preservation) seemed to trend toward underexposure. Once the sun came out, metering seemed to act like the D5. I never thought the highlight preservation on the D5 really worked, but it seems like it have been tweaked a bit on the D6.

Bursts of 14 fps sound really impressive and I have to say I got some extra shots that had great timing. Even 12 fps can miss that one great shot in between. I did note that the D6 is much easier to squeeze off just one frame in continuous high where the D5 it was almost impossible to get a single shot; I usually got 2 or 3. Little refinements.

Now the AF, which is touted to be improved. It is. Gone are the menu choices of Group AF Horz and Group AF Vert, in their place are Group AF C1 and C2. Both can be customized. I set a custom area for C1 and C2 and found them very useful. The other change I noted is with the dynamic AF. Back to the D4 I used dynamic quite a bit and it worked well. The D5 supposedly improved upon that but I don't agree. In Dynamic AF the D5 would focus on the center point but if you drifted off that point for more than 1/2 sec, it would re-focus on whatever was under the sensor at the time. The D4 held focus anywhere in the selected box once the center point acquired. The D6 seems to have gone back to that, Dynamic AF held on the subject as long as it was in the box. Initial impression that needs more investigation on my part.

AF is snappy at f5.6 and reminds me of the D5 AF performance at f4. It wasn't flawless but held very well on a flying osprey against a wooded background. My gut reaction is that the AF ability gained a stop. What I mean is the D6 af performs equally or better than the D5 at a stop lower light level. It really performed well at 6am this morning under overcast conditions.

I'll be exploring the AF changes to see what modes work best for my BIF photos. I didn't do any AF fine tune but it looks like I've got a bit of front focus with the 600/1.4 combo so I'll have to make some adjustments there.

An osprey appeared overhead. This was a quick aim and shoot using Group AF C2 that the D5 would have missed.
D6A_0455.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

IQ is about equal to the D5, the slight green tint is reflected light off the marsh.
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2005
Messages
21,871
Location
Newcastle, Washington
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience so far with the D6. I've been waiting for someone that shoots BIF to report on what they have found so far. Although you report was informative, I didn't read enough to make me sell my D5 and buy a D6. I'm still on the fence and eager to hear more from you on how the D6 is performing for you shooting birds in flight.
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
4,457
Location
CT USA
Louie, To be honest, I'm not really convinced the differences are worth the price. I did get many more keepers than I would have with the D5 under the same conditions. The 14 fps is nice and the AF improvements are noticable, more so at lower light levels. I've had the camera for 30 hours and my local afternoon osprey spot was barren. I'm sure there is much more to learn! My real test is diving osprey. I also need to see what the Dynamic AF settings can do now that they seem to work more like they used to. The high ISO's this morning were handled ok, not seeing a big difference.
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
4,457
Location
CT USA
ISO 3600 is very clean. I was stream-side yesterday morning under heavy overcast with heavy drizzle falling. This catbird was under the dense canopy and I was amazed at how clean the file was. I do need to push the ISO more to see how high I can go, but I know I am happy up to 3200.
D6A_0826.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


I only had on chance at a dive and never got the camera to position before he hit the water. Same conditions as above. The difference was that the D6 instantly locked on the osprey as he left the water and stayed on him in spite of the distracting background and foreground rock. The D5 would have failed this even if the light levels were higher.
D6A_0829f.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
D6A_0834.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


The other thing I found was the auto-AF Fine Tune. I tried it after using my usual target method and it turns out to be just about the same. You need to do at least 10 tries with the built in fine tune and come up with your own weighted average but that's what Focus Tune does anyway. The AF fine tune bias is on par with the last 3-4 bodies I've purchased (always 4-5 units of front focus from the factory).
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
4,457
Location
CT USA
Thanks for sharing your experiences :) Do you ever use 3D AF for birds In flight?
On the few occasions I tried it with the D5 it was a disaster as it seemed to prefer locking on the background over the subject.
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
4,457
Location
CT USA
I haven't had much opportunity to shoot the D6 for a bunch of reasons, busy with other things in life and lack of osprey activity. Travel restrictions and protests haven't helped along with the closures/cancellations of most of my normal shooting spots.
That said, I stand by my impressions regarding the AF, much improved over the D5. I had to opportunity to shoot osprey flying in the fog which I had done last year with the D5. The D6 definately hit better and even tracked against a busy BG (albeit very hazed out).
I would say that if you have a D4 or D4s the D6 upgrade is a no-brainer. The MP gain along with the killer AF is certainly worth it, if you need killer AF! The D5 to D6 upgrade is a little less clear. IF you are missing shots because of AF with the D5 (whether it's due to low light or fast subjects) then you have to decide if a net cost of about $3000 (assuming you can get $3500 for the D5) is worth it. If the D5 AF has frustrated you (especially the dynamic area AF) then you'll be happy with the D6, again assuming it's worth about $3K. If you need connectivity stuff, the D6 is probably better but I don't use that, I need the top of the line AF.
What the D6 doesn't do is improve your poor technique. If you have trouble tracking BIF with a D5 you'll have trouble with the D6. I hope as time goes on I'll get those shots I've been missing and if so, the cost will be worth it.
 
Joined
Apr 30, 2006
Messages
2,481
Location
colorado
ill get a D7 ...the AF will be so much better than the D6
 
Joined
Mar 23, 2007
Messages
4,958
Location
Collecchio, northern Italy
Sorry to recall this after so many months... I'd like to know another thing. Leaping from D5 to D6 was x times better. Leaping from D4, how much more? While many aren't persuaded to take the plunge from a D5, how much better does the D6 perform compared to the D4? Thanks in advance.
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2007
Messages
474
Location
Massachusetts
Sorry to recall this after so many months... I'd like to know another thing. Leaping from D5 to D6 was x times better. Leaping from D4, how much more? While many aren't persuaded to take the plunge from a D5, how much better does the D6 perform compared to the D4? Thanks in advance.
I didn't use the D4, but shot with a D4S for several years. I made the jump to a D5 and was impressed with the difference in autofocus. I had an opportunity to acquire a D6 at an excellent price with under 3,000 clicks on the shutter. The autofocus, in my opinion, is better than the D5 and would be miles ahead of the D4/D4S. I am a sports photographer so the autofocus and low light advantage of the D6/D5 are most important to. If you're a studio/still life photographer, I'd go for a D850 and skip the D6.
 

Latest threads

Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Nikon Cafe is a fan site and not associated with Nikon Corporation.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Forum GIFs powered by GIPHY: https://giphy.com/
Copyright © Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom