Yes, I know I’m a little late to the party with this test. However, rather than just installing the new Z6 / Z7 firmware, testing it for an hour, and giving you a “report” like most YouTube videos, I wanted to be a little more thorough.
I have been using the Z7 heavily – both at home and in the field – since the 3.0 firmware update and really putting the new features to the test. In this video, I’ll discuss how to set them up, how they work, what’s good, what’s not, and more.
We’ll specifically look at how the new Animal Eye-AF works with both pets and wildlife, we’ll talk about the improved Tracking Mode operation (and how well tracking mode is working for wildlife), and we’ll wrap up with a discussion of the current state of the Nikon AF system in the Z cameras.
Check it out:
Need help installing Nikon firmware? Check out my how-to video here.
PS – If you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll REALLY like my e-books and video workshops! Thousands of pages and hours of videos filled with tips, tricks, and techniques – all my best content! Check ’em out – click here (hey, it’s free to look).
Hi Steve. I’m curious about how fast the Nikon mirrorless AF is. My regular camera is a D850, but I’ve also used a Sony A9. The A9’s tracking is very impressive once you ‘lock on’, but that initial focus acquisition can take noticeably longer than my D850. With my D850, if I have the/a focus point _on_ what I want to shoot, it essentially locks on instantaneously (with a pro lens). However, with the A9, it takes a heartbeat or 2 longer – which can be very significant when you are shooting fast moving/twitching subjects like birds. And very occasionally,… Read more »
Merci beaucoup monsieur Perry,
Toujours un plaisir de vous suivre.
Eric – Switzerland
Thank you very much, Mr. Perry,
Always a pleasure to follow you.
Eric – Switzerland
Great informative video. I shoot mainly birds and some wildlife. I have D850 with 500PF and its a great combination. I would like to move to Z series but which is the better option Z6 or Z7 for what I shoot?
I have sold all my DSLR gear for the Z 6. I would love to see you do an ebook on the Z series. I formed a Z User’s Group within my camera club and created a document of all the new and improved features of the Z series.
Working on it now 🙂 It’s a new version of the current AF book exclusively for the Z series. Don’t ask when it’ll be done – no clue 😀
Hi Steve What would we all do without you ! ? Always had issues with firmware upgrades …until your great piece that makes it fool proof.
Keep up the good work.
I am using Z7 since Nov 2018. Initially I was surprised with the quality I noticed in birding. Flight shots were very nice in AF, not in AFC. Gradually I noiced it not working as I expect in bird photography. Even I noticed very good clear bird in EVF, BUT WHILEdownloading in PC, it is not good.May be a problem in recoding. Next I have exchanged a new one, z7, but noticed problems as you mentione, flight shot are not so good.
ahope Nikon will take immediate steps to make it useanle properly for bird photography.
Hi Steve. Great work as usual. I had an issue making the Fn1 button choice ‘stick’ until I realized I might need to update ‘save user settings’, i.e. update this change for U1. I have my wildlife settings saved to U1. That seemed to work.
Good way to go. I honestly don’t use the user setting because all I tend to shoot is wildlife. 🙂
Hey Steve, Thanks for another great video on the Firmware 3.0 for Nikon. You are consistently the most realistic reviewer of Nikon gear that I know. Thanks for saying it the way it really is. I have such a hard time deciding whether to stick to my DSLR gear or just leave Nikon all together and get Sony gear. From what you have just said, I believe Nikon will get there within 6 to 12 months, so I’ll stick to my D850 AND D500 for the time being and jump to mirrorless when Nikon is really there.
And it is really hard to say – we just don’t know what the landscape is going to look like for mirrorless in the next 1, 2, 3 or 4 years. It’s hard to say what to do now. Sony is clearly on top at the moment, but Nikon and Canon are just getting three footing and may knock it out of the park – or never catch up. No way to know. I think holding pat for the moment is a good choice.
Steve.Thanks for putting out the great video & giving your views on Nikons efforts to imrpove.I and my wife do birding & wild life together.While i am comfortable with my D 850 & 500 PF she finds it a pain to carry DSLRs & presently using Sony RX 10 IV..I am hoping Nikon will soon come out with a mirrorless FF which we can call as Z 850 mirrorless with lighter super telephoto lens so that i can buy them for my w ife & both of us shoot with NIkon gear.
Hi, I want to ask you about the Zs vs D780. I noticed that most of the video was on auto area (which is kinda the equivalent of 3D tracking in the DSLR), but at the end you commented that you end up with better results using the others modes. I would like to ask you about the wide area on the Zs vs the D9, D21, D51 on the D780, because I normally never use the 3D on my DSLR when I’m in trying to track and instead just use a larger amount of AF points depending how hard… Read more »
Based on my experience so far, the DSLRs – including the D780 – are outperforming it for AF. It’s better, but I’d take Group AF on my D780 over Wide AF on the Z7 if I had the choice and had to 100% get the shot 🙂
Thank you for the answer that kinda confirm what I was expecting. The Zs has some advantages (video and pixel peeping), but the D780 remains my best option at least now in 2020. If I want a ligth kit for travel I can always just pick the D780 + 18 35G + 50 1.4 +70 300 that weigth less than the Z6+14 30 +50 1.8S+70 300+FTZ and I already have the lens, so is less investment even if the Z6 is cheapper.
Steve – you didn’t mention anything about the CFexpress part of the 3.0 update – my experience with a ProGrade 120gb CFexpress card was disappointing. Honestly there was no difference between it and a Sony XQD card as far as I could tell. Some additional research leads me to believe the speed of the CFexpress card in the Z6 card is limited by the PCIe bus. I’m no expert so I would love to hear if you have had any experience using these newer cards.
CF express was actually in 2.2 – and I came to the same conclusions you have 🙂 It’s not much of an improvement. At least getting images off the card is faster…
Great and very helpful review. Your detailed information is a real aid in using this new firmware feature..
Excellent analysis! Thank you. Your input is always very much valued!
Absolutely spot on! Thanks for sharing Steve!
Steve, I enjoyed your Z7 3.0 information. As far as I am able to surmise my D5 is still my go-to body. Nikon will probably have a new set of Z firmware service updates in the future. Still waiting to see your D6 review once you get a body. With the potential delay of the Japan Olympics, that arrival may be postponed. Keep up the great user-friendly reviews.
Thanks for another great review. You mention the Tracking AF is not up to snuff for wildlife, but all your examples were birds. Do you think it might be better for larger mammals, like running Pronghorn, horses, etc?
It might be – but – the biggest problem I’ve seen with Tracking Mode is that it acts a little too much like Nikon’s 3D AF for my taste. So, when you have backgrounds that are similar to the subject, it may be prone to jumping to those backgrounds. On the other hand, when I did have subjects that were running along the ground, it did work far better than for flight shots.
Hi, Steve. Great video, as always. I am not using a Z series- still with D850 and D5, but still very good information.
I noticed the Hejnar foot on the 500pf. Do you ever use a camera strap? What do you find good for switching on and off tripods?
Nope, never use a strap. I gave them up years ago, got tired of them always getting in the way. All this time, never dropped a camera. 🙂
Not sure what you mean about switching on and off tripods – I just use a quick release.
Many straps get in the way of the tripod eg BlackRapid. But I think I might stop with straps! Thank you!
Since moving my Black Rapid to a QD quick release (with Kirk foot that supports QD) I’ve been much happier. Very fast to release as needed..and very strong hold with heavy lens
I am happy with my Magpul I think
Question have you tried AF and eye detect with D8 Apply settings to live view off? I have seen it suggested that this really improves the operation of auto focus tracking and eye detection especially in difficult situations.
LOL, yup – first thing I tired. I went back and forth a bit but if there’s a difference it was too subtle for me to notice with what I was shooting.
Curious, so how often are you grabbing your Sony cameras now versus Nikon? Especially for birds in flight and fast action?
I’m a bad example 🙂
I’m using them both about the same, but that’s only because I’m also starting the groundwork for a version of the AF book for the Z cameras.
However, just me out having fun? I’m grabbing the Sony every time. (I like the a9ii even better than my D5 at the moment – but it may be just “new toy” infatuation).
Really looking forward to that AF book for Z’s. When do you think that will be ready??
No way to know. I’m not being cagey, it’s just that I’m terrible at estimates. There are all kinds of potential stumbling blocks along the way, all of which can eat up time. However, it will be based off of – and another version of – the Nikon AF book, so much of the information will be a transfer to the new book (with modifications as needed).That will save some time, but it’s still tough to say.
Well I look forward to it. I’m just finishing up your current Nikon Autofocus book and it’s been very helpful. In the meantime this 3.0 firmware video was great!
Thanks for the information and hard work!!!
My pleasure 🙂
1) You are not “late to the game.” You are exactly on time due to the amount of real world testing you performed.
2) Your explanations of camera set up and use are always excellent.
3)I trust your reviews 100% because you have no bias and the extent of your professional level testing and your thoughtfulness is excellent.
So thanks a lot!
Thanks Jeff – very nice of you to say 🙂
It is a bit iffy on my z6 with low contrast black dog with dark eyes versus orange cat with dark eyes. Was using a 70-200mm with FTZ and it consistently locked on the tabby. Of course I would be happier to test with a 500mm PF, but after 2 years of waiting . . .
Thanks for the update Steve. I didn’t know you were a cat guy….
Yup, I’ve had cats since I was 5 🙂 I’ve also had dogs as well and enjoy both. For my constant travel though, cats work out better.
How about testing with a native lens?
For wildlife, I really can’t – there’s nothing long enough out yet.
Excellent, excellent video, Steve. Thank you.
Are you planning on reviewing the Nikon D780?
I was thinking about it, but there is honestly very little interest in my e-mail box about it. The reviews are a ton of work and I hate to take three weeks to do one if the views are not going to be work the effort.
Thank you for putting this video together, Steve. I’ve been thinking of getting a Z camera, mainly for video, but also to fill in for static photography. But this camera is not at the level for tracking Swallows.
Oh, please tell Rose that I love her photography over on Flickr.
Addenum: Somehow I misspelled my first name, it should be Brian. (I think I need a coffee, damn Daylight Savings!)
I have a Z6 and all the issues with it raised by Steve are spot on. But, one thing the Z6 does extremely well is handling high ISO situations. In this respect, it seems to be on par with a D5. For example, recently I had the opportunity to shoot a Screech Owl at the beginning of the blue hour, to the human eye it was pretty dark, and the results were excellent. Of course, I used a tripod, etc. For macro and landscapes, the Z6 results are excellent and as I get used to it, I am using it… Read more »
Thank you for the information, Edward. I have a D500, too, and I’ve been thinking of adding a Z camera to complement the D500 and, video work.
Iy would indeed struggle with swallows! Heck, the D5 can struggle with swallows sometimes!
Hi Steve – Do you know if using adapted F-mount lenses in general, or f/5.6 F-mount glass in particular, reduces Z7 autofocus performance?
I don’t have any real way to compare since I usually only use long glass. I haven’t really seen much if any difference with the 24-70 F/4 vs the F mount 24-70 2.8, but I’m not shooting action with those either.
Hi Steve – It would be revealing if an F-mount 500mm f/4 E FL cured the initial focus lock-on issues that were obvious on the Z7 (3.0 firmware) with a 500mm f/5.6PF.
I may play with my 180-400 (my 600 F/4 isn’t working at the moment). However, it would have to be similar subjects for both lenses. My impression though is that it isn’t a lens issue since the 500PF seemed to get the initial lock pretty well in normal AF modes, it was only tracking that struggled. I would think if it were a lens issue that it would be equally bad no matter what AF mode I used and that wasn’t the case.
Steve, if you ever come to South Florida as in the Miami area, let me know as I would like to offer you a lunch or diner during your visit and meet the guys at Pitman Photo. Keep the reviews coming