The new Nikon Z6 III is the third iteration of the firm’s mid-range 24.5MP full-frame ‘all-rounder’. It gains an array of new features, including a novel ‘partially stacked’ sensor that promises higher speed, but without the cost of the fully stacked sensors found in the firm’s top-line cameras. It also gains a superb new viewfinder. As a result, it looks set to be one of Nikon’s best mirrorless cameras yet.

Nikon Z6 III at a glance:

  • $2500 / £2699 body only
  • $3100 / £3249 with 24-70mm f/4 lens
  • £3439 with 24-200 f/4-6.3 VR lens
  • £3539 with 24-120 f/4 S lens
  • 24.5 MP partially-stacked full-frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-64,000 (standard)
  • Up to 20fps shooting
  • 6K 60fps N-RAW video recording
  • 8-stop in-body stabilisation
  • 5.76m-dot electronic viewfinder
  • 3.2in, 2.1m-dot fully articulated screen

When Nikon entered full-frame mirrorless in 2018, its first two models, the 24.5MP Nikon Z6 and the 45.7MP Nikon Z7, matched or equalled anything else on the market. But when the updated Z7 II and Z6 II appeared in 2020, they looked to have dropped slightly behind the pace, particularly with regard to autofocus.

Last year, the retro-styled 24MP Nikon Zf appeared to take on the Z6 line’s mantle, at least in part, with technologies borrowed from the professional flagship Z9 and Z8 models. Now, though, we have a true update, the Nikon Z6 III.

At first glance, it might be easy to think that not a huge amount has changed. Again we get the same 24.5MP sensor resolution in a very similar, if cosmetically refreshed, body design. But in fact, the Z6 III comes with exciting new sensor technology, a sensational new viewfinder, and almost the same autofocus system as the Z 9 and Z 8, thanks to its Expeed 7 processor. This makes for a huge step forward over the Z6 II.

Nikon has built the Z6 III around a novel 24.5MP partially-stacked full-frame sensor. Credit: Andy Westlake

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Z6 III before its official launch, and it’s an extremely impressive camera that jumps straight back to the top of its class. There’s no word on a Z7 III, by the way, but it seems a safe bet that one must be in its way.

Nikon Z6 III: New features

Let’s take a closer look at the new technologies onboard the Nikon Z6 III. Firstly, the sensor employs a new architecture that Nikon describes as ‘partially stacked’. This means that memory and processing circuitry is bonded directly to the top and bottom of the chip, allowing dramatically faster readout.

Top controls are similar to the Z6 II, but with an extra button to illuminate the LCD status panel. Credit: Andy Westlake

As a result, the firm claims that the sensor readout is the fastest in its class, being 3.5x faster than the Z 6II. However, the sensor is much less expensive to produce than fully-stacked designs. For the user, the most obvious benefits should be faster, more responsive focusing; reduced rolling shutter distortion with the electronic shutter; faster continuous shooting; improved video specs; and a more fluid viewfinder experience.

On the subject of the viewfinder, it’s higher resolution than the Z 6II’s, at 5.76m-dots. But that’s arguably the least of its tricks. It’s also extremely bright, at 4000 nits, which surpasses even the Z9’s. In principle this should make it clearly visible even on sunny days. The colour gamut is unusually large too, encompassing the DCI-P3 colour space. In practice, this all translates to a fantastic viewfinder view: large, sharp, super-bright, and with natural-looking colour.

As before, there are two memory card slots, one for UHS-II SD and the other for CFexpress Type B/ XQD. Credit: Andy Westlake

Nikon has also significantly improved the Z6 III’s autofocus capability, not only compared to its predecessor, but also the Zf. Its subject detection system recognises people, animals, vehicles, and planes; eye-tracking is also onboard. Autofocus is specified to work in staggeringly low light of -10EV, while for the first time in the Z6 line, you also get Nikon’s 3D-tracking technology.

That partially stacked sensor also brings a significant boost to the camera’s shooting speed. You can shoot still images at 14 frames per second using the mechanical shutter, and 20fps with the electronic shutter, both in full resolution raw and with AF tracking. Switch to recording JPEG files, though, and you get 60fps at 24MP resolution, or 120fps with a 10MP 1.5x (DX) crop.

Power is provided by Nikon’s standard EN-EL15c battery. Credit: Andy Westlake

Pre-capture is also included, which allows 1 second’s worth of images to be continuously buffered, and then recorded when the shutter button is pressed.

In-body image stabilisation is on board, and rated for up to 8 stops of shake reduction when shooting hand-held. For what it’s worth, Nikon has also included the same high-resolution multi-shot mode as on the Zf. But such modes are rarely ever worth using, regardless of camera or brand.

On the base, there’s a hole for an anti-twist pin behind the tripod socket. Credit: Andy Westlake

Perhaps the biggest updates come with regards to video recording. Impressively, the Nikon Z6 III boasts internal 12-bit RAW video recording at 60fps, in either 6K or 4K resolution from the full sensor width. It can also record slow-motion footage in Full HD at 240fps, complete with audio.

You now get a full-size HDMI port, plus the option to record line-level audio via the headphone socket. Credit: Andy Westlake

There’s a good choice of codecs, including Nikon’s N-RAW format, Apple ProRes RAW and ProRes 422HQ, alongside the more usual H.265 and H.264. You get a full-size HDMI port and the option to switch the 3.5mm mic socket to recording Line-level audio.

Nikon Z6 III: Key features

  • Colour controls: Flexible Picture Controls allow users to define custom colour profiles using NX Studio, and upload them to the camera
  • Viewfinder: The new EVF is stunning: super-bright at 4000 nits, and with a wide DCI-P3 colour gamut
  • File storage: Like the Z6II, there are two card slots, one for XQD/CFexpress Type B, the other for UHS-II SD
  • Autofocus: The Z6III gains almost the same subject-recognition autofocus system as the flagship Z 8 and Z 9
  • Power: Nikon has again employed its familiar EN-EL15c battery, as used by many previous full-frame Z models and DSLRs
  • Connectors: On the side you’ll find microphone/line in, headphone, USB-C, full-size HDMI, and remote release sockets

Updated design

Overall, the body design remains essentially the same, with the Nikon Z6 III being about the same size and shape as its predecessors. It’s a little bit wider and deeper though, measuring 138.5 x 101.5 x 74 mm, and heavier too, at 750g. As before it feels great in your hand, with a large grip and a well-designed control layout. Nikon says it’s fully weather-sealed and should work in temperatures as low as -10 °C.

Rear controls are almost identical to the Z6 II, but the playback and drive buttons have swapped places. Credit: Andy Westlake

Pretty much all the same buttons are found in all the same places. However, the drive and playback buttons have swapped positions, so you can now review your images without having to shift your grip on the camera. A new button on top allows the top-plate LCD screen to be illuminated in low light.

The fully articulated screen allows waist-level shooting in portrait format. Credit: Andy Westlake

On the back, there’s now a fully articulated screen in place of its predecessor’s tilt-only unit. This provides much greater compositional flexibility, although I suspect many Nikon users would have preferred the 3-way tilting design from the Z 9. The body also is now rather more attractively styled, with a viewfinder housing reminiscent of its pro-level siblings.

New Nikon MB-N14 vertical grip

To go with the Z6 III, Nikon has introduced a new vertical shooting battery grip, the MB-N14. This provides duplicate controls for portrait-format shooting, including a shutter button and AF-area joystick. However, it only has a single custom button at the top of the grip, rather than the trio of ISO, exposure compensation and video found on the camera body.  

Nikon’s MB-N14 vertical grip takes two batteries and provides replicate controls for vertical shooting. Credit: Nikon/AP

The grip accepts two EN-EL14 batteries for double the stamina, with one of them being hot-swappable during video recording. It can also be used to charge both batteries via its built-in USB-C port. The Nikon MB-N14 grip is set to cost $357 / £349 and go on sale alongside the camera in July. 

New Nikon Imaging Cloud

Nikon has also taken the wraps off a new cloud-based file-storage service, called Nikon Imaging Cloud. This is designed to provide unlimited free temporary backup for camera files, for up to 30 days, after which files will be deleted. Initially it’ll be for use with the Z6 III, but the firm suggests it’ll likely become available for Z9, Z8 and Zf users too.

The Z6 III’s autofocus kept up well with basketball players running towards the camera. Credit: Andy Westlake
NIKON Z6_3 · f/2.8 · 1/1250s · 135mm · ISO220

Imaging Cloud options are set using an in-camera menu. When the camera is connected to a Wi-Fi network, the files on its memory cards can be pushed to the cloud automatically. Alternatively, files can be selected for backup manually. Files saved to the cloud can then either be downloaded via a web-based interface, or pushed across to other cloud storage services such as DropBox, Google Drive, or Adobe Creative Cloud.

Nikon Z6 III basketball player sample image. Credit: Andy Westlake
NIKON Z6_3 · f/2.8 · 1/1250s · 135mm · ISO160

Nikon Imaging Cloud will also facilitate direct update of the camera’s firmware, without having to use either a computer or smartphone app. To ensure that the camera doesn’t try to update itself during a shoot, it’ll be possible to download firmware files and schedule updates at a convenient time. There will also be free ‘imaging recipes’ produced by Nikon Creators available to download, including custom picture controls.

Nikon Z6 III: First Impressions

Having used the Nikon Z6 III for a couple of hours, it’s impossible not to be extremely impressed. It retains the excellent design and handling of its predecessors, but is transformed in terms of autofocus, shooting speed, and video spec. The new viewfinder is absolutely sensational, too.

Our hands-on first impressions of the Nikon Z6 III are very positive indeed. Credit: Andy Westlake

The Z6 III will be up against some strong competition in the form of the Canon EOS R6 Mark II, Panasonic Lumix S5II and the now-ageing Sony Alpha A7 IV. But my initial impression is that it will probably outclass them all. It’s a really exciting camera that we’re really looking forward to getting hold of for a full review.

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Nikon Z6 III with 35mm f/1.8 lens. Credit: Andy Westlake

Nikon Z6 III: Full specifications

Sensor24.5MP partially stacked CMOS, 35.9 x 23.9 mm
Output size6048 x 4024
Focal length mag1x
Lens mountNikon Z
Shutter speeds15min – 1/8000sec; max 1/16000sec with electronic shutter
SensitivityISO 100-64000, ISO 50-204800 extended
Exposure modesPASM, Auto, U1-U3
MeteringMatrix, Centre, Spot, Highlight
Exp comp+/-5EV in 0.3 EV steps
Cont shooting20fps electronic, 14fps mechanical
Screen3.2in, 2.1m-dot fully articulated touchscreen
Viewfinder5.76m-dot, 0.8x magnification
AF points273
Video6K 60p, 4K 60p, Full HD 240p
External mic3.5mm stereo/line
Memory card1x UHS II SD, 1x CFexpress/XQD
PowerEN-EL15c Li-ion
Battery LifeTBC
Dimensions138.5 x 101.5 x 74 mm