Nikon Z5 vs Z6: The Ultimate Comparison

Nikon has expanded its full-frame mirrorless lineup with the release of the Z5, positioned as an accessible “entry-level” option for photographers.

Released below the high-end Z6 and Z7 models, the Z5 shares many of the same headlines features like in-body image stabilization, an electronic viewfinder, and Nikon’s advanced autofocus system.

while the z5 and z6
Nikon Z5 vs Z6

However, the Z5 reveals some subtle differences that highlight its target as an affordable still photography-oriented camera, rather than a hybrid for both photography and video.

Though closely related to the Z6, the Z5 presents a more budget-friendly choice for photographers seeking Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless capabilities.

The Z5 omits some of the Z6’s pro-focused features while retaining a robust set of specs for shooting still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and more.

The Z5 establishes Nikon’s Z-series as a compelling and versatile platform for photographers at multiple price points, from professional video/photo hybrids to an accessible still photography workhorse.

For photographers looking to step into the world of full-frame mirrorless from Nikon, the Z5 strikes an appealing balance of capabilities and value.

As an “entry-level” Z-series camera, the Z5 provides a gateway into the system without an overly lavish price tag.

At the same time, the Z5 maintains much of the performance, quality, and user experience you’d expect from this prestigious Nikon line. With the Z5, going mirrorless just got a lot more accessible.

1. Nikon Z5 vs Z6: Sensor

sensor nikon z5 vs z6
sensor nikon z5 vs z6

While the Z5 and Z6 share a common full-frame design, subtle variances in their sensors and processors result in some key distinctions.

Both cameras offer 24.5 megapixels of resolution, but the Z6 features Nikon’s advanced 24.5 MP BSI (backside illumination) full-frame CMOS sensor.

This sensor is known for excellent dynamic range, color reproduction, and performance across a wide range of ISOs.

In contrast, the Z5 debuts a new 24.5 MP full-frame sensor without a BSI design, which could potentially impact dynamic range and image quality somewhat.

However, the Z5 sensor does have a wider native ISO range, spanning from 100 to 51,200, compared to 100-51,200 on the Z6.

And Nikon has paired the Z5’s new sensor with two EXPEED 6 image processors instead of a single chip, which may enable faster performance and help compensate for the non-BSI design.

Still, all else being equal, the BSI sensor in the Z6 is likely to have a slight edge for dynamic range, image quality, and performance at higher ISOs.

For many photographers, these sensor and processor differences will be quite subtle, especially given the Z5 and Z6’s matching resolution.

But for those sensitive to slightly more shadow noise or wanting the absolute best dynamic range in high-contrast scenes, the Z6’s BSI sensor emerges as a point of differentiation.

Outside of the sensor, though, the Z5 and Z6 reportedly share very similar autofocus, video, and other core specifications—reinforcing their position as brothers in Nikon’s Z-series family with unique values for different types of photographers.

2. Nikon Z5 vs Z6: Design

design nikon z5 vs z6
design nikon z5 vs z6

Though released as siblings in Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless line, the Z5, and Z6 exhibit some key differences beyond their sensors.

One is size and construction: like the Z6, the Z5 has a weather-resistant magnesium alloy body, ensuring durability and portability. However, the Z5 lacks some of the pro-focused features of the Z6, like a top-plate LCD screen for quickly checking and adjusting critical exposure settings.

For most photographers looking for an approachable full-frame Z-series camera, this omission is unlikely to be a problem. But it does indicate the Z5 is aimed more at casual and enthusiast still photographers rather than professionals.

Screen-wise, the Z5 has a lower-resolution 2.1-inch rear LCD compared to the Z6’s 3.2-inch display, though both cameras share the same high-resolution 3.69-million-dot electronic viewfinder.

Beyond the screen, the Z5 and Z6 appear very comparable in size, weight, build quality, autofocus, 4K video specs, dual memory slots, and connectivity options.

Their most notable differences come down to features, screens, and of course sensor technology. At the end of the day, preference will depend on a photographer’s specific needs and interests.

If LCD quality is a priority or extra pro-friendly features are desired, the Z6 remains an excellent choice. But for a capable yet more compact and wallet-friendly full-frame experience, the Z5 seems ideal as an accessible entry into Nikon’s vision for the Z-mount system.

Fewer frills and a slightly smaller price tag sum up the main distinction – an approach that aims to give almost as much as a professional camera can possibly offer, at a price more in reach for casual shooting.

In summary, while incredibly similar at a glance, meaningful differences in features, screens, and price position the Z5 and Z6 to address different types of photographers within Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless lens lineup. There’s something for pros and amateurs alike.

3. Nikon Z5 vs Z6: Burst shooting

burst shooting nikon z5 vs z6
burst shooting nikon z5 vs z6

The Nikon Z5 and Z6 mirrorless cameras offer different burst shooting performances, an important feature for fast-paced photography.

The Z6 is capable of burst speeds of up to 12 frames per second (fps), which is still competitive despite its relatively modest buffer capacity. In contrast, the Z5 can only shoot at 4.5fps, which some photographers may find disappointing.

However, burst speed is not the only important factor when shooting autofocus and action shots. Both cameras feature the same hybrid autofocus system with eye and animal detection AF, which provides fast and precise autofocusing for active subjects.

Nonetheless, for photographers focused on sports, wildlife, or other fast-moving action photography, the burst shooting capabilities of these cameras may be a key consideration.

While the Z5 can capture decent bursts, its slower 4.5fps speed will make it more challenging to freeze action or pan-moving subjects compared to the Z6’s 12fps burst rate.

The Z6 is better suited for photographers wanting high-energy action shots or continuous shooting of unpredictable fast-moving wildlife and sports. In short, the Z6’s burst speed advantage is meaningful for active photography genres where every frame per second matters.

For most every day and landscape shooting though, the differences in burst performance between the Z5 and Z6 are fairly negligible.

Both provide more than sufficient speed and buffer capacity for casual shooting needs. Their burst capabilities really come into play for the types of high-action photography that put those specs to the test.

In summary, the burst shooting speeds and buffer capacities of the Nikon Z5 and Z6 cameras differ notably for fast-paced photography, though they share the same robust autofocus system.

Photographers should evaluate which performance method suits their specific shooting styles and subject matter when choosing between these two models.

4. Nikon Z5 vs Z6: Video Skills

video skills nikon z5 vs z6
video skills nikon z5 vs z6

The Nikon Z5 lags behind its sibling Z6 and other mirrorless competitors in offering video capabilities, particularly for aspiring filmmakers. Several key limitations hamper the Z5’s appeal for those who prioritize video features.

First, the Z5’s 4K video mode has a 1.7x crop, making it difficult to frame subjects properly or capture wide landscape vistas. This is a major downside compared to the Z6 and other rivals without a cropped 4K video mode.

Second, the Z5 does not have a 120p slow motion video mode or the ability to record 10-bit 4K video externally via the HDMI output. This limits options for creative slow-motion effects and capturing higher color-depth footage for flexible post-production grading.

Third, the Z5 lacks a fully articulating screen, making it hard for filmmakers to check the frame from different angles while shooting. An articulating screen is useful for vloggers, action cam footage, and impromptu low-angle shots.

Finally, the Z5 cannot record 4K video at higher frame rates like the Z6, limiting compelling high-speed video effects. Nor does it have features like 8K time-lapse and interval timer modes that the Z6 offers.

In summary, the Z5’s video capabilities lag behind the Z6 and competitors in meaningful ways for aspiring filmmakers and videographers. Its 1.7x 4K crop, lack of slow motion/10-bit options, fixed screen, and lower frame rates limit options and thwart creative control.

These shortcomings suggest the Z5 may not appeal as much to those prioritizing great video performance in a hybrid mirrorless camera. For serious film and video work, the Z6 is likely a better all-around choice, despite its higher price tag.

The author indicates these limitations may make the Nikon Z5 a less compelling option for those who emphasize video features in a camera.

For most casual and still photographers though, the video capabilities of the Z5 are sufficient and its lower cost could be appealing. As with burst speed, it comes down to individual needs, priorities, and shooting styles.

5. Nikon Z5 vs Z6: Card slot

card slot nikon z5 vs z6
card slot nikon z5 vs z6

An important distinction between the Nikon Z5 and Z6 is the number of memory card slots each provides. The Z5, targeted at less professional and amateur photographers, has two UHS-II SD card slots.

In contrast, the more professional Z6 has one XQD card slot, which Nikon says is more durable and less prone to failure than SD cards.

While Nikon presents the XQD slot as an advantage, we think having two card slots is still preferable for the Z5. It gives photographers more flexibility and redundancy in storing images.

Two slots also enable overflow recording, where the camera automatically switches to the second card once the first card is full. This extra capacity is appealing for shooting large volumes of photos or video.

Some may argue an XQD card is more reliable, but that alone does not outweigh the benefits of two slots for most photographers.

Only dedicated professionals needing maximum performance and endurance are likely to prefer the single XQD slot. For the typical users of the Z5 targets, two SD card slots are undoubtedly a definite plus.

Moreover, the Z5’s two card slots give it an edge over competitors like the Canon EOS RP and EOS R, which only have a single card slot.

Dual slots is a point of difference that expands storage options and appeal. Unless image quality or other factors clearly favor the Canon models, the extra Z5 card slot could sway purchasing decisions.

In summary, while Nikon positions the Z6’s XQD slot as a professional advantage, the Z5’s dual SD card slots are more versatile and user-friendly overall.

They offer more flexibility, capacity, and opportunities for redundancy – all of which are highly useful for photography. For most buyers, two card slots will be seen as a desirable feature, not a compromise.

The different approaches to memory in these cameras come down to balancing needs versus niche professional benefits.

For the money and user types they target, Nikon’s card slot choices make sense but are not strictly better or worse compared to one another. It depends on individual priorities and shooting requirements.

6. Nikon Z5 vs Z6: Battery

battery nikon z5 vs z6
battery nikon z5 vs z6

The Nikon Z5 and Z6 cameras differ notably in their battery types, compatibility, and features. The Z5 uses a new rechargeable li-ion battery called the EN-EL15C, which can power the camera from USB while in use.

This makes time-lapse shooting, long exposure modes, or other extended shooting much more convenient with the Z5. Photographers don’t need to bring multiple batteries or plug into power outlets.

In contrast, the EN-EL5B batteries used by the Z6 cannot charge via USB. So for prolonged shooting, Z6 users will need to carry extra batteries or use an AC adapter.

The Z6’s battery life also appears less impressive based on CIPA ratings, though real-world performance may differ. Still, the USB-charging EN-EL15C is a meaningful advantage for the Z5 over the Z6 on the go.

Some other points about batteries:

The Z5 is compatible with existing MB-N10 battery grips, providing peace of mind for those wanting an extra battery and increased stamina. The Z6 is not compatible with that specific grip.

The Z6 only has one memory card slot versus two on the Z5, which could impact battery life by reducing power draw from the card during prolonged shooting or video. But battery types themselves are the primary differentiator here.

Third-party batteries may eventually become available to provide more options and potentially lower costs for both cameras. But at launch, the EN-EL15C offers a compelling Z5 advantage.

In summary, while battery life specs seem comparable between the Nikon Z5 and Z6, the Z5’s USB-charging EN-EL15C battery provides meaningful benefits for convenience, flexibility, and long-form shooting that the Z6 lacks.

Its compatibility with existing grips is also a plus. For some, these distinctions in power sources and options could impact the decision between these cameras, especially if extended battery life is a priority.

7. Nikon Z5 vs Z6: Purpose of the kit

The Nikon Z5 and Z6 cameras debuted with different standard lens kits, catered to their respective target audiences. The Z5 comes with a new compact and lightweight lens kit, while the Z6 includes a larger, higher-end zoom lens.

The Z5 kit includes the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens, designed to be small and portable. This is ideal for those who don’t want to carry a bulky lens, perfect for walking around.

In contrast, the Z6 kit features the 24-70mm f/4 lens, which is significantly heavier due to its larger size and builds. This lens is better suited for professional use where quality and versatility matter more than compactness.

Some additional notes on the lens kits:

At launch, the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens will only be available as part of the Z5 kit. The Z5 body cannot be purchased separately. However, Nikon has stated it will sell the Z5 body on its own in the future.

The Z6 lens is a high-performance zoom covering a wider range, better for travel and landscapes. But it is bulkier, heavier, and more expensive. The Z5 lens sacrifices some zoom and quality for size/weight and lower cost.

Either lens can still work with either camera body, but they are primarily designed to match the positioning and typical users of each camera. Extra lenses would likely be purchased separately based on specific needs.

Third-party lenses will also eventually become available for both camera systems, providing more options at various price points, sizes, and performance levels. Lens selection should expand over time.

In summary, while the Z5 and Z6 share a new mirrorless design and sensor, they appeal to different types of photographers based partly on their included lens kits.

The Z5 kit lens emphasizes portability while the Z6 kit provides high-end zooming versatility. For some, the lens that comes with each camera could impact the decision between them if compactness vs. performance is a priority.

8. Nikon Z5 vs Z6: Price

The Nikon Z5 and Z6 mirrorless cameras debuted at different price points based on their target markets and included components. A few key points about pricing and value:

The Z5 is only available as a single bundled kit with the new Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens. In Europe and Australia, this kit costs €1,719 (approximately $2,175 USD/AU$3,100). The Z5 body cannot be purchased separately yet.

The Z6 body-only can be bought for around $1,799/€1,595/AU$2,999. So while the Z6 has a higher upfront cost, you have the flexibility to add your own lenses. The Z5 bundle largely eliminates that choice and flexibility, at a lower overall cost.

It’s difficult to make a direct 1:1 price comparison since the Z5 is only sold as a kit currently. The Z6 body alone is cheaper, but the Z5 bundle likely represents a more affordable total cost of ownership for those happy with the included lens.

We hope the Z5 can match or beat the value offered by the Canon EOS RP, given its specifications, features, and kit lens option. Time will tell if it can compete strongly against the RP on price performance.

Premium compact-system camera buyers have more options than ever, so the value is key. Nikon needs the Z5 to appeal to those on a tighter budget or who prefer simpler kit-based systems.

Pricing for the Z6 aims to undercut comparable Sony, Panasonic, and Leica options, while still being a step down from high-end Nikon DSLRs. It hits a sweet spot for enthusiasts wanting amazing image quality in a versatile mirrorless body.

In summary, the Z5 and Z6 offer different value propositions due to their pricing structures, including components and target markets.

The Z5 tries to maximize value through an affordable bundled kit, while the Z6 provides a strong body-only platform at a lower cost than comparable Nikon and competing models.

For buyers, determining which combination of features, image quality, and cost works best for your needs will come down to evaluating the overall value of each camera.