8-bit vs 10-bit on the Nikon Z6. Unexpected!

How different is the 8-bit and 10-bit video from the Nikon Z6 (AmazonB&H)? Is it worth getting an external recorder? Watch to find out:

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8-bit vs 10-bit

It is pretty obvious from the above video that 10-bit is much better than 8-bit on the Nikon Z6. In fact, I have no hesitation in recommending an external recorder if you want the best image quality from the camera.

However, if you want to just output to YouTube, it might not be such a bad idea to stick to 8-bit. Here are advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages

  • Full size of the sensor. As I mentioned in this video, you lose 10% of the image area in 10-bit.
  • Lower bit rate. UHD is 144 Mbps.
  • You don’t need to lug around an external recorder, SSDs and a cable, extra batteries, etc.

Disadvantages

  • Image quality!
  • Compression artifacts are worse than cameras like the GH5 or a7S II in 8-bit.

What cable and recorder you need for 10-bit 4:2:2?

Any recorder capable of receiving a 10-bit signal via HDMI should work. I’ve tried it on three different devices and it all works.

I currently use an Atomos Shogun to record and it takes all modes.

In the future, if you want to record RAW, a newer recorder might be necessary, like the Atomos Ninja V (AmazonB&H).

The cable I’m using is from Amazon Basics.

HDMI options in the Nikon Z6

The HDMI options in the camera are limited. You get these options:

1 Output range – Auto, Limited Range, Full Range

Limited Range is studio swing, between 0-100 IRE. Pick Full Range.

2 External recording control – On, Off

This allows you to control your external recorder (record and stop) via the camera record button. This only works if the camera doesn’t have an XQD card in camera.

3 Output data depth – 8-bit, 10-bit

This setting is rare in mirrorless cameras. The Nikon Z6 (AmazonB&H) actually allows you to select between 8-bit or 10-bit output. Which one should you pick? Read on.

4 and 5 N-Log and View Assist – I’ll discuss this in a future video.

8-bit vs 8-bit!

You can record 8-bit 4:2:0 internally (H.264) or 8-bit 4:2:2 externally (e.g., DNxHR SQ). The data rate is three times more, but the image quality is definitely better. It’s not as pronounced as 10-bit, but the difference is easily visible on a production monitor.

I’ve tested this in all the Picture Controls – Neutral, Flat, Portrait, and so on.

The bottom line is, if you want the best video quality from the Nikon Z6 (AmazonB&H), you need an external recorder, period.

And if you have an external recorder, pick 10-bit. There isn’t an overriding reason to stick to 8-bit.

My HDMI settings

In a nutshell:

  • Output range – Full Range
  • External recording control – On
  • Output data depth – 10-bit
Exclusive Bonus: Download my camera settings and 7 cinematic custom picture controls for the Nikon Z6. Setup your camera for cinematography, ready to shoot.

And, get my free guide to exposing and grading N-Log - delivered to your inbox!

 

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  1. I’ve been shooting a feature film since April 2018 on my GH5. I’ve been using 10-bit for the control in post and visual effects (i.e. green screen, etc.). But, if you’re just vlogging or shooting straight up video for YouTube, than yes, stick to 8-bit.