Is Nikon’s flagship D6 set for Olympic glory?

Top-of-the-range DSLR launches into fight for pro dominance at Tokyo 2020

Nikon has officially launched its latest flagship DSLR, and in strict reverence to the gods of sequential numbering it’s stuck with calling it the D6. The new professional powerhouse is built for demanding sports and news shooters and Nikon says it leaves nothing to chance.

It’s become a tradition for camera companies to launch their new pro cameras in an Olympic years, so expect to see the Nikon D6 slugging it out alongside Canon’s EOS-1D X Mark III and the Sony A9 II at trackside in Tokyo later this term.

Pretty tasty, right? But it’s about more than inky black good looks – the D6’s body looks set to continue the fine handling of the Nikon D5.

First up, and clearly vital for sports shooting, the D6 has a redesigned AF system. It uses an arrangement of 105 selectable cross-type AF sensors, leading to a 1.6x higher density of coverage than in the D5. Nikon says subject tracking is unparalleled even in very tough lighting conditions, with a -4.5EV sensitivity at the centre point and -4EV for the others.

There are also more Group-Area AF patterns and improved scene recognition, so users will be able to match modes more easily to the subject. Nikon says the D6 is also the first DSLR to let you prioritise focusing on your subject’s eyes when using Auto-Area AF or 3D tracking modes.

From the rear you can see the 3.2in 2,359k dot touchscreen. It’s not a tilting type, which adds to the D6’s ruggedness.

Another big factor in sports photography is getting your pictures out to the public as quickly as possible. For amateurs it might not sound exciting, but the D6 has been plumbed with a huge number of features that make image transfer faster and easier. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and built-in GPS, and the camera’s wired LAN supports 1000BASE-T standard and achieves 15% faster communication time than the D5.

In-camera workflow via the 3.2in, 2359k-dot touchscreen is also streamlined, and all the key ports are easily accessible, even when shooting with a wireless transmitter attached.

Connectivity is at the heart of the D6’s proposition, allowing working pros to upload breaking images in a snap.

You’d expect a high frame-rate for a sports camera and the D6 comes in at 14fps with full autofocus and auto exposure. If you want to shoot silently, this falls to 10.5fps, but it’s still pretty brisk. To keep up with the frame rate, it uses twin XQD or CFexpress card slots, the fastest media currently available.

Here’s the top. If the design looks familiar, that’s because it works.

Resolution isn’t the stand out specification for a workhorse camera like the D6, and while its 20.8Mp full-frame CMOS chip might seem low in pixels compared to others, it’s tuned to give stellar results along with the EXPEED 6 processor.

Complementing that, the ISO range runs from 100 to 102,400 range, and can be extended from ISO 50 to ISO 3,280,000. That top end might be a bit gravelly, but you can shoot in the dark if you want to. Movies can be recorded in up to 3840×2160 4K UHD at 30p.

Twinned with the new Nikkor 120-300mm f/2.8 VR it’s going to be a special combination.

Of course, this is all wrapped up in a battle-ready body, that anyone having used the D5 will feel instantly at home with. The D6 measures 160x163x92mm and weighs 1450g with its EN-EL18c battery and two cards. Fully weather sealed it also includes Kensington locks for security.

The Nikon D6 will be available in April at an RRP of £6,299.