Z6 for manual focus lenses - Thoughts & questions

Aug 29, 2019
I picked up a used Z6 this week to try with my Olympus OM lenses. Been shooting Olympus Micro 4/3 for years, was curious to try out a larger format, and -- rightly or wrongly -- I've been hesitant to pick up Sony for fear of the interface. For whatever reason, it seemed more likely to me that Z6 would have a suitable interface for manual lenses.

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Have only played around with my Z6 + OM lenses a bit, but some thoughts so far:

  • Z6 allows you to pre-configure focal length + max aperture for a handful of lenses. Like with my Olympus, telling the camera the correct focal length of the lens is important for IBIS performance. On Olympus, you have to manually change the focal length any time you swap lenses. On the Z6, I can quickly jump between those pre-configured lenses I set up, which makes the process simpler + faster. Further, I have one of the Fn buttons on the front of the camera mapped to bring up the menu for changing between these lens configs. Super slick, I love this.

  • The IBIS in Olympus has spoiled me to the point I don't want to use manual lenses without it. It's obviously helpful to reduce blur in photos, but what I really love it for is improving the manual focus experience. I prefer to focus with a magnified view and stabilization improves the experience immensely. It works great on the Z6. I'm able to map the magnification function (confusingly called "Zoom") to the second Fn button on the front of the camera.

  • That said, the stabilization during exposure is not as effective on the Z6 vs. my EM5ii. I've read that the Z6 uses just 3-axes of IBIS with manual lenses, maybe there's room for improvement here with firmware. But I won't hold my breath. (Or maybe I should hold my breath during exposures to get the most of what IBIS I've got.)

  • The joystick is great for moving the focus point, much quicker than tapping the d-pad on the back of my Olympus. With Olympus, I got used to leaving the focus point in the center and recomposing after focus, but I expect with the Z6 I'll be more likely to move my focus point around and focus with the composition I want.

How I have my camera configured:

  • Aperture priority mode
  • Fn1 button: "Zoom" (magnification for focus)
  • Fn2 button: Select from pre-configured manual lens focal lengths
  • "Easy EV adjust" (or something); lets me use the front dial on the camera to adjust exposure comp without having to combine button presses
  • Focus point joystick center-click: Reset focus point to center

Some things I have to get used to / might like changed:

  • IBIS seems to be active at all times while the camera is turned on. I like that Olympus activates IBIS only on half-press of the shutter (or when magnified), I assume this saves battery. Seems like something Nikon could adapt. (My Ricoh GR III could also benefit from a lazier IBIS.)

  • In aperture-priority mode, the rear dial on the Z6 is useless with manual lenses. Same with my Olympus. Would be nice if I could customize the function of the dials, I'd love to use one dial for exposure comp and the other for ISO, without the combo-button-press thing.

  • Magnification ("Zoom") does not get canceled on half-press of the shutter. Maybe this is just something I'll get used, but since I've been on Olympus so long, I expect that half-pressing the shutter will kick me out of magnification to show the full composition. On the Z6, I have to press the "Zoom" button a second time to kick out.

  • When the view is magnified, the framerate in the EVF/screen drops dramatically. This is pretty disappointing. I updated the firmware to 2.01 yesterday, didn't seem to improve this.

  • Setting the Fn button to magnify the view works purely as an on/off toggle, and you have to specify the zoom level you want when configuring the button. On Olympus, I like that I can have a Fn button mapped to magnify, and when in magnified view I can use a control dial to change my zoom level -- and the camera remembers the last-used zoom level. With the Z6, I have to preset the magnification level. There are dedicated buttons on the back of the camera to change magnification level, but they're not as conveniently placed as the Fn buttons and still don't quite operate as well as Olympus, IMO.

  • I don't shoot from the rear screen often (on my EM5ii, I have the flippy screen turned inward) so this isn't a big deal, but would be nice if there was a view option that removed all data and just showed the image. Having the data on the rear screen seems pretty redundant when there's a small OLED on the top of the camera with the relevant info I need.

  • On the playback/review screens, Olympus allows one dial to advance through frames and a second dial to zoom in and out. On Z6, both dials can advance through frames, but you need to use the dedicated zoom buttons on the back of the camera to punch in. Further, Olympus remembers your last-used magnification level and returns to it, which is nice. On Z6, you have to go through each zoom step. What I DO like on the Z6 is that by default it'll magnify in to where you set your focus point, vs. always zooming into the center of the image.
Anyway, just some early thoughts which might be useful for someone else considering using the Z6 for manual lenses. Anyone got any other observations or suggestions for manual lenses on this camera?
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