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Nikon Z5 vs. Z6 – The Only 5 Differences that Matter

The Nikon Z5 was announced this week at a price point approximately $400 less than the older Z6. While it was assumed that the Z6 would remain more capable in most ways, the cameras seem remarkably similar.

One notable difference was a smaller and slower kit lens included with the Z5 (Check out our list of Z mount lenses). But as far as the bodies go, aside from some minor size and weight differences, I could only find five major differences, summarized below:

Nikon Z5 vs. Z6 Feature Comparison Table

Nikon Z5

Nikon Z5
Nikon Z6

Nikon Z6
Max Frame Rate: 4.5 FPS Continuous Shooting12 FPS Continuous Shooting
Video:4K Ultra HD at 30p; 1080 at 60p4K Ultra HD at 30p; 1080 at 120p
Rear LCD Screen:3.2-inch (1.04M dots) tilting TFT3.2-inch (2.1M dots) tilting TFT
Top Display:noneDSLR-style top OLED display
Card Slots:2 SD Slots1 XQD/CFexpress Slot
Where to Buy:Amazon.comAmazon.com
Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Aside from the addition of two card slots (an advantage in favor of the Z5), the other four differences point to the Z5 being an intentionally downgraded version of the Z6, designed to occupy a lower price slot and compete with the EOS RP. It’s not a bad strategy on Nikon’s part, as a low-end full-frame camera will allow them stay competitive on the lower end, while preserving their margins on the upcoming Z6s and Z7s models.

Do you see any other major differences between the Z5 and Z6 that I’ve missed here? Let me know in the comments below.

Update: The Sensor Data Is In

September 17, 2020

One of the remaining questions in the Z5 to Z6 comparison was the sensor differences. The Z6 uses a 24.5 megapixel BSI (backside illuminated) CMOS sensor, while the Z5 uses a 24.3 MP CMOS sensor with no BSI. They both use the same Expeed 6 processor. BSI sensors arrange the wiring behind the photocathode layer, and can help increase the chance that input photons will be captured, often improving the low-light sensitivity of the sensor by around 1/2 a stop.

Does this translate into real-world differences between the Z5 and Z6 sensors? Let’s take a look at the new sensor tests just in from DPReview and Photons to Photos.

The sample images from DPReview show slightly more color noise in RAW files from the Z5 vs. the Z6. Of course, the difference is more pronounced at ISO 51200 than ISO 12800. I would guess the improved low-light sensitivity of the Z6 gives it somewhere between a 1/2 to a full-stop advantage over the Z5.

ISO 12800
ISO 51200

In JPEG mode, both cameras apply a similar amount of noise reduction, resulting in slightly lower effective detail resolution in the Z5.

See the full results and compare for yourself at DPReview.

Next, I looked at the Photographic Dynamic Range vs. ISO Setting test from Photons to Photos.

The Z5, Z6, and even the Z7 were almost identical with regards to dynamic range at various ISO settings. The Z5 starts off somewhere in between the Z6 and Z7, then ends up tracking each of them very closely as each camera gets a slight bump at different stages of the ISO axis.

Check out the full results from Photons to Photos.

Are these differences enough to give the Z6 a decided advantage over the Z5 in the sensor category? In my opinion, no. The Z6 does show a slight advantage in low-light sensitivity, but it’s unlikely you would notice the difference in real-world scenarios. While I shoot a Z6 myself, I would not hesitate to recommend the Z5 to anyone based on its sensor – it can hold its own against anything else in its class.

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2 Comments

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    • Good point–it’s not the resolution per se that matters but the fact that it indicates they are using different sensors between bodies. It looks like the Z6 uses a BSI sensor while the Z5 is a standard CMOS variety.

      It remains to be seen how much difference this will make in real life, or even in pixel peeping. I’m looking forward to seeing some samples in the DPReview studio scene comparison tool, as well as the dynamic range test results at Photons to Photos.

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