DSLRs have taken a back seat to mirrorless cameras in the past few years, with many speculating they will not be resurrected by camera makers. However, Canon has put those speculations to rest, having announced the EOS 1D X Mark III in January, after releasing an enthusiast-level EOS 90D in August last year. However, with the 2020 Olympic Games coming up this year, we’ll see the professional, sports-focused DSLR flagships from Canon and Nikon face off again, just like the old days.
In the red corner, there’s the newly released Canon 1DX Mark III. And, in the opposite corner is the Nikon D6, which was given a development announcement in September 2019 but there’s been silence since.
The Canon shooter is pretty much a hybrid of DSLR and mirrorless tech, with some of the best features we’ve seen from the latest mirror-free models, like advanced autofocus, alongside traditional DSLR traits like the optical viewfinder and lengthy battery life. We’re expecting the Nikon D6 to be similar as well but it is, as yet, an unknown quantity with rumors suggesting it won’t be an amalgamation and stay true.
2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Nikon single-digit D series, which launched in 1999 with the Nikon D1, and the company promises that the D6 will be “the most advanced digital SLR to date”.
At the moment, we don’t have any official specifications – just some fairly realistic rumors – but we can offer plenty of informed speculation, based on what we think is likely to appeal to professional photographers four years on from the D5.
At the time of the D5’s launch, the camera market was in a very different place. Mirrorless existed – even full-frame mirrorless – but the number of players was limited, with Nikon and Canon yet to enter the full-frame mirrorless market.
Many may wonder why the D6 is even in development – after all, why not just go full pelt with a highly-specced pro mirrorless model, such as the Sony A9 or the newer Sony A9 II, and get out of the top-flight DSLR game altogether?
Well, one reason is that if you’re a seasoned pro you’re likely to already have a kitbag packed full of Nikkor DSLR lenses – it’s one thing asking pros to splash the cash on a new body, but an entirely new kit? That’s a tougher challenge. Give it another five years though, and pros might be more willing to make the leap.
For now, what can we expect the Nikon D6 to include?
Nikon D6: release date and price
A leak from Nikon Rumors had earlier suggested that the Nikon D6 will be announced in mid-February, with February 11 2020 apparently a possibility for the release date. However, it seems as though Nikon could be gearing up to announce it a day later – on February 12 to be precise.
This may be a date for the internal team, though, with another potential release being at Japan’s CP+ camera show, which starts on 27 February.
So far, there haven’t been any leaked prices for the D6, but we can make an educated guess based on previous pricing. The Nikon D5 had a body-only price of £5,200 / $6,500 / AU$9,999 at launch, so it seems likely that its successor will be in the ballpark.
This would also put it firmly in the same territory as its main rival, the just-released Canon 1DX Mark III, which is similarly vying for the camera bags of professional sports photographers.
Nikon D6: sensor and processor
While we have no confirmed information about the D6 sensor, an early leak from the usually reliable Nikon Rumors suggests it will be a 24MP camera. If true, that would have been a step up from the D5’s 21.3MP CMOS sensor.
However, a more recent report from Nikon Rumors puts the sensor resolution at just 20MP, although the publication isn’t 100% sure about that number. If Nikon is looking to lower the resolution, it’s highly possible the camera will be aimed at speed, with rumors suggesting it will top off at 14fps when using the mechanical shutter. That’s slower than the 16fps burst speed the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III is capable of, but we’ll just have to wait and see if there’s any truth to this speculation.
However, we won’t be surprised if the D6 is capable of higher burst speeds as we’re expecting new dual Expeed image processors to debut with the camera.
Nikon D6: video features
The Nikon D5 was the first Nikon DSLR to be capable of recording high-definition 4K/UHD movies in-camera, and we can expect the D6 to build on that – professional shooters are increasingly being asked to supply video content as well as stills.
Where the Canon alternative is capable of 4K RAW capture, perhaps we’ll see 6K recording capabilities make its debut with the D6 – perfect for capturing those 100m finals. However, we also seen other manufacturers hint that 8K will be ready for the Olympics; if Nikon was to jump on board with that kind of technology in the D6, it’d be mighty interesting.
The latest rumors, though, suggest the D6 will be going for the more standard 4K/60p video, which is understandable considering it’s mainly aimed at pro stills photographers. It’s possible the D6 will be able to capture RAW footage but whether that will be internal or external recording is anyone’s guess.
Nikon D6: design
Nikon was kind enough to supply a small picture of the impending D6 in its development announcement. It’s presumably a mock-up, rather than a final rendering, and it looks pretty much exactly like the D5, but with a 6 in place of the 5 in the name.
That said, prolific and reliable camera news leaker Nokishita has unearthed a bunch of press shots just before the official announcement is expected to happen and, like with the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III, the upcoming Nikon is very much like its predecessor physically.
It should come as no surprise to see Nikon keep to a very similar form factor as the D5’s for the D6 – after all, expecting pros to get used to a drastically new way of working is a big task. The square shape of the D5 allows it to incorporate a battery grip for extended battery life, and we expect the D6 to blow its mirrorless rivals out of the water for longevity by doing the same thing.
Also announced as being in development at the same time as the D6 was a new 120-300mm f/2.8E FL ED SR VR telephoto lens, which looks set to be a bit of a beast – the Nikon D6 will have to be large enough to balance well with such lenses, which are popular with sports and wildlife shooters.
Nikon D6: mirrorless features?
Given the popularity of mirrorless models, it would make a lot of sense for Nikon to incorporate some of the features we’d more commonly associate with mirrorless cameras into the D6.
There is of course a limit to what those features might be, thanks to a pesky thing called physics, but we were hoping that Nikon would introduce some improved in-body image stabilization, plus a new silent shooting mode for those quiet moments (something which has proved incredibly useful and popular on the Sony A9).
However, rumors suggest the D6 will remain true to its DSLR roots and not come with IBIS, although an improved autofocus system may be on the cards. Also speculated to be available on the D6 is the option to use the silent electronic shutter.
Nikon D6: card slots and connectivity
Dual memory card slots are pretty much a given. The Nikon D5 can be bought with either 2x XQD slots, or 2x CF slots, but Compact Flash is pretty old hat now, so we’d expect the D6 to be equipped with slots for two CFExpress memory cards (which are the same size and shape as XQD cards), with backwards compatibility for those who already have a stack of XQD cards in their possession.
New dual Expeed processors will likely feature, and we may even finally see the appearance of Wi-Fi on a top-of-the-line pro DSLR. Nikon has previously claimed that it wasn’t possible to include Wi-Fi inside the thick, sturdy bodies of its professional-level cameras, but not having this feature would make a camera launched in 2020 feel extraordinarily outdated – hopefully Nikon can come up with a solution.
So that’s about all we have on the Nikon D6 for now – a set of educated guesses. We’ll update this page regularly as more rumors begin to appear, so stay tuned.