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Nikon's D6 flagship DSLR is here to ace sports photography

(Image credit: Nikon)

Rumors of a new Nikon pro-level sports camera were running rampant throughout most of 2019, with the camera maker putting a stop to those in September by letting us know that the D6 was in development.

Fast forward five months ahead and the highly anticipated Nikon D6 has finally been officially announced, well in time for the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo in July this year. With a spec sheet that caters to the tough environs of a sports arena, the Nikon D6 is all set to give the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III plenty of competition.

(Image credit: Nikon)

As rumors suggested, the D6 is built around a 20.8MP full-frame sensor – marginally higher than the EOS 1D X Mark III's 20.1 megapixel count, although it has a lower resolution than the Nikon D5's 21.3MP sensor.

For many photography enthusiasts, that might seem like a letdown for a camera that costs a pretty penny, but like its new Canon counterpart, the D6 has been designed for fast-paced sports arenas where action needs to be captured at ultra-high speeds. 

According to Nikon, the D6 has "decisive power, faster workflow [and] absolute reliability" so pro sports photographers don't need to worry about missing out on key moments.

The need for speed

Physically, the Nikon D6 resembles its predecessor quite closely, with its bulky chassis and dual control layout. However, most of its other features are quite different to the D5.

Take the autofocus system, for example, which is brand-spanking new. Where the D5 had a 153-point AF system with regular and cross-type points, the new camera features a 105-point setup which exclusively consists of the more precise cross-type sensors.

Nikon promises that its AF system is now faster, boasting "unparalleled" precision that allows users to select each point individually. The AF system also incorporates a better range of Group-Area autofocus patterns to cater to different shooting scenarios.

The 20.8MP sensor has been designed to produce sharp, impeccable shots even at high ISOs which, like the D5, can be extended from the native 100-102,400 to a whopping 50-3,280,000. Improved autofocus sensitivity gives the D6 the ability to focus down to light levels of -4.5EV. At present, the D5 is still the low-light king, but we can't wait to find out if the new shooter can match its predecessor's performance in near-darkness.

An Expeed 6 image processor gives the D6 the ability to shoot continuously at up to 14fps with full auto-exposure and AF tracking, along with a 10.5fps burst speed in the Silent Photography mode (also available with tracking). That said, this maximum continuous shooting speed falls well short of the 1D X Mark III's 16fps when using the mechanical shutter and 20fps with the electronic shutter.

And, as we were hoping, there are now dual card slots in the D6 supporting both XQD and CFExpress cards.

To make sure professional photographers are able to deliver their images to their agencies on time, the D6 comes equipped with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, along with a 1000BASE-T LAN Ethernet port for wired connectivity. According to Nikon, connectivity upgrades in the D6 make it 15% faster than the previous model.

(Image credit: Nikon)

Pricing and availability

While the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III will begin shipping at the end of February, Nikon fans will have to wait a tad longer to get their hands on the D6. It will go on sale around April 2020, carrying a steep price tag of £6,299 in the UK, while pricing for the US and Australia is yet to be confirmed.