Nikon Z8 & Z9: BEST Bird-In-Flight AF Settings

Looking for the best bird-in-flight (BIF) autofocus settings for your Nikon Z8 or Z9? Don’t worry, you know I got your back!

In this video, we’ll cover all the best AF settings for your Z8 or Z9. We’ll look at relevant menu settings, I’ll show you how to get the most from subject detection, we’ll discuss AF areas and how to use them – and so much more.

This video is a bit of a deep dive, but if you’re a bird-in-flight shooter with a Z8 or Z9, the field-proven advice in this view will skyrocket your keeper rate!

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).

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Don Green
Don Green
1 month ago

Thanks for this very helpful overview! I traveled to Florida on Wednesday this week for five days of bird photography. Downloaded the 2.0 firmware for my Z8 a couple of days before departing and only had time to test it out in the backyard. The new bird detection is working fabulously! Today I used your video button tip to cycle through the focus modes when I encountered small birds in tree branches. Up till then, I’d been using auto AF. But I jumped to single point in seconds to lock onto the warblers. Thanks for that great tip! It worked… Read more »

C.M. Hammon
C.M. Hammon
1 month ago

So, in a previous video, you crowned the Z9 as the King of BIF. Does firmware 2.0 make the Z8 the prince? I think it made the Z8 the camera we all wanted when we first bought it. I’m really happy with mine, now.

Pierre (pderumine)
1 month ago

Thanks again, excellent breakdowns of ow you do it and what is available on bothe cameras. I have a Z9 and am thinking of trading in my Z6II for a Z8 + $$$$’s. For my live Musicals that I usually cover during the summer with Led lights the Alpha 9 III and its new shutter looks great but very expensive and the camera has not yet been tested by photographers really. This battel between the 2 giants is great but costly for the users. Kind regards

Mapquest Directions
1 month ago

Most Helpful & Very timely Video with insights and “why” not found elsewhere. Steve continues to be one of the best!!

Matt Huras
1 month ago

Fantastic video Steve ! One point : I find with the Sony A1 there is no need for a ‘handoff’. I use Sony’s ‘zone’ or ‘large’ AF – they are kinda like the Z9’s wide area when first locking on to the bird – ie. allowing me to target where the camera is searching for the bird, to a subset of the frame (important if there are many potential subjects). But then, with the A1, if I’m not perfect in panning (and I rarely am perfect!) the A1 is very forgiving – allowing the bird to move to any part… Read more »

Carl G
Carl G
2 months ago

Superb video and I am looking forward to your updated setup guide(s) that you mentioned.
In this video I heard you say exactly what I have experienced with my Z8 – that tracking in 3D vs Auto Area AF seem identical when subject tracking is in use.  Still I hear other “experts” suggest that 3D brings extra “unparalleled” benefit.  I don’t see it but these assertions have me wondering… Can you elaborate on this more or will you dive deeper on this in your updated guide? Does Nikon acknowledge this?

Paul Lebras
2 months ago

This is a great video! I have several of your books, but this really illustrates even better how to use various autofocus settings and programmable buttons. Every time I watch one of your videos, I learn something. It is also refreshing to see a self-effacing web personality who does not dictate, but suggests, things. Steve, you are really to be commended for all the free material you post to help photographers.
Paul Lebras (Nikon user since 1970!)