Nikon Z6 vs Sony A6500
The Nikon Z6 and the Sony Alpha A6500 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2018 and October 2016. Both the Z6 and the A6500 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (Z6) and an APS-C (A6500) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 24.3 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Nikon Z6||Sony A6500|
|Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Nikon Z mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|24.3 MP, Full Frame Sensor||24 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|4K/30p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO 100-51,200 (50 - 204,800)||ISO 100-25,600 (100 - 51,200)|
|Electronic viewfinder (3690k dots)||Electronic viewfinder (2359k dots)|
|3.2 LCD, 2100k dots||3.0 LCD, 922k dots|
|Tilting touchscreen||Tilting touchscreen|
|12 shutter flaps per second||11 shutter flaps per second|
|In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|310 shots per battery charge||350 shots per battery charge|
|134 x 101 x 67 mm, 675 g||120 x 67 x 53 mm, 453 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon Z6 and the Sony Alpha A6500? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon Z6 and the Sony A6500. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A6500 is considerably smaller (41 percent) than the Nikon Z6. Moreover, the A6500 is markedly lighter (33 percent) than the Z6. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
Concerning battery life, the Z6 gets 310 shots out of its EN-EL15b battery, while the A6500 can take 350 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack. The battery packs of both cameras can be charged via USB, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Nikon Z6||5.3 in||4.0 in||2.6 in||23.8 oz||310||Y||Aug 2018||1,999|
|Sony A6500||4.7 in||2.6 in||2.1 in||16.0 oz||350||Y||Oct 2016||1,399|
|Canon 6D Mark II||5.7 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Nikon Z5||5.3 in||4.0 in||2.6 in||23.8 oz||470||Y||Jul 2020||1,399|
|Nikon Z6 II||5.3 in||4.0 in||2.8 in||24.9 oz||410||Y||Oct 2020||1,999|
|Nikon Z7||5.3 in||4.0 in||2.6 in||23.8 oz||330||Y||Aug 2018||3,399|
|Nikon D750||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||26.5 oz||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Panasonic GH5||5.5 in||3.9 in||3.4 in||25.6 oz||410||Y||Jan 2017||1,999|
|Panasonic GX8||5.2 in||3.1 in||2.5 in||17.2 oz||330||Y||Jul 2015||1,199|
|Sony A9 II||5.1 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||23.9 oz||690||Y||Oct 2019||4,499|
|Sony A6600||4.7 in||2.6 in||2.7 in||17.7 oz||810||Y||Aug 2019||1,399|
|Sony A7 III||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.9 in||22.9 oz||610||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|Sony A9||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||23.7 oz||650||Y||Apr 2017||4,499|
|Sony A6300||4.7 in||2.6 in||1.9 in||14.3 oz||400||Y||Feb 2016||999|
|Sony A7 II||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||21.1 oz||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|Sony A77||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.2 in||25.8 oz||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|Sony NEX-7||4.7 in||2.6 in||1.7 in||14.1 oz||430||n||Aug 2011||1,349|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A6500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 30 percent) than the Z6, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon Z6 features a full frame sensor and the Sony A6500 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the A6500 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 24.3MP, the Z6 offers a slightly higher resolution than the A6500 (24MP), but the Z6 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 3.91μm for the A6500) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the Z6 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 10 months) than the A6500, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The Nikon Z6 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 51200, which can be extended to ISO 50-204800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A6500 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-51200.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under review, the Z6 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the A6500 (overall score 10 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Nikon Z6||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||25.3||14.3||3299||95|
|Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|Nikon Z5||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Nikon Z6 II||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|Nikon Z7||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.3||14.6||2668||99|
|Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Panasonic GH5||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/60p||23.9||13.0||807||77|
|Panasonic GX8||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.5||12.6||806||75|
|Sony A9 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.0||3434||93|
|Sony A7 III||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3730||96|
|Sony A9||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The two cameras under consideration are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the Z6 offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the A6500 (3690k vs 2359k dots). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon Z6 and Sony A6500 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||n||n|
|Nikon Z6 II||3690||Y||3.2||2100||tilting||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||Y|
|Sony A9 II||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7 III||2359||n||3.0||922||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One feature that is present on the Z6, but is missing on the A6500 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, both cameras under consideration feature an electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Nikon Z6 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The Z6 writes its imaging data to XQD cards, while the A6500 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon Z6 and Sony Alpha A6500 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|Nikon Z6 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|Sony A9 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|Sony A7 III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the Z6 has a headphone jack, which is not present on the A6500 This port makes it possible to attach external headphones and monitor the quality of sound during the recording process.
The Z6 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the A6500 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A6500 was succeeded by the Sony A6600. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon Z6 better than the Sony A6500 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon Z6:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (3690k vs 2359k dots).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.80x vs 0.70x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2100k vs 922k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.1 vs 2.0).
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 10 months after the A6500).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A6500:
- More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 134x101mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 222g or 33 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (350 versus 310) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (30 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2016).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the Z6 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon Z6 and the Sony A6500 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the Z6 or the A6500 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Nikon Z6||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2018||1,999|
|Sony A6500||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2016||1,399|
|Canon 6D Mark II||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Nikon Z5||..||89/100||4.5/5||..||4/5||Jul 2020||1,399|
|Nikon Z6 II||..||..||..||..||..||Oct 2020||1,999|
|Nikon Z7||+||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2018||3,399|
|Nikon D750||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Panasonic GH5||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2017||1,999|
|Panasonic GX8||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2015||1,199|
|Sony A9 II||..||90/100||5/5||..||5/5||Oct 2019||4,499|
|Sony A6600||+||83/100||4.5/5||..||4/5||Aug 2019||1,399|
|Sony A7 III||+ +||89/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|Sony A9||+ +||89/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Apr 2017||4,499|
|Sony A6300||+||85/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||999|
|Sony A7 II||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|Sony A77||91/100||81/100||..||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|Sony NEX-7||+ +||81/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Aug 2011||1,349|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Nikon Z6 vs Sony A6500
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon Z6||Sony A6500|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon Z mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2018||October 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 1,999||USD 1,399|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon Z6||Sony A6500|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||858.01 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.1 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24.3 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6048 x 4024 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.94 μm||3.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.84 MP/cm2||6.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 51,200 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 204,800 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||95||85|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.3||24.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||14.3||13.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||3299||1405|
|Screen Specs||Nikon Z6||Sony A6500|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||3690k dots||2359k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||2100k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon Z6||Sony A6500|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||12 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||200 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/8000s||YES|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||XQD cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon Z6||Sony A6500|
|USB Connector||USB 3.1||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||micro HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||no Bluetooth|
|Body Specs||Nikon Z6||Sony A6500|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||310 shots per charge||350 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||USB charging||USB charging|
134 x 101 x 67 mm
(5.3 x 4.0 x 2.6 in)
120 x 67 x 53 mm
(4.7 x 2.6 x 2.1 in)
|Camera Weight||675 g (23.8 oz)||453 g (16.0 oz)|
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