D800->Z7 or wait for next generation?

Started 6 months ago | Questions thread
ericbowles Regular Member • Posts: 310
Re: D800->Z7 or wait for next generation?

Spare-time photog wrote:

What are my main requirements?

1.) My main reason to switch is to get rid of AF fine tune/AF micro adjustments and to get precise AF all the time. This requirement is mandatory. The more I dived deeper in portraiture the more I recognised, that the focus was not nailed in a lot of pictures. I fiddled around with Reikan software to AFMA my lenses but only with limited success. So I send all my gear (the D800, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8) to Nikon to check and adjust. The result is better, but sometimes the camera struggles to nail the focus. Then I bought a 85/1.8 lens and it missed the focus a lot. By the way a second lens was even worse in combination with my camera. So Nikon checked and adjusted the 85 lens, too. The results are better, but I am still not convinced, that the miss-focus plague is gone forever, as the focus problems in the past seem to be distance and brightness dependent and quite complex. At the end it is a DSLR.

You've got it wrong here.  The Z6/7 and other mirrorless cameras use Phase Detect AF most of the time.  In the first mirrorless cameras, Contrast Detect AF was used but it was unacceptably slow.  Now with the Z6/Z7, the only mode that uses Contrast Detect AF is AF-S with Pinpoint AF.  So you will still need to consider using AF Fine Tuning, but you do have the option of Pinpoint AF if your subject is not moving much.  I used AF-S pinpoint and LowLight AF to photograph the lunar eclipse and it was spectacular - to the point where I stopped using my D850.

2.) Sometimes my D800 AF is hunting in dimly lit situations, and so does the life view AF, so it would be nice if the new camera shows an improved behavior in dim light conditions. This would be a nice to have feature, but it is not mandatory.

It depends.  Generally I get less hunting with the Z6 than my D850 and certainly compared to my D800E.  Dim light is not that big a problem.  In fact, I really like the brighter EVF for lower light conditions.  It makes it much easier to see the subject and choose good AF targets.  But there is some occasional hunting, and when it misses it can be hard to acquire focus.  It seems to maintain a miss a little too long - and that may be a tracking setting.  The is one wrinkle you might want to know about.  Because all the on sensor AF points are horizontal with no cross sensors, sometimes that camera will not focus on horizontal target lines - or vertical lines in vertical orientation.  The solution is just to rotate the camera 45 degrees and use BBF like normal.

3.) I want (nearly) full frame AF point coverage. Obviously this box is ticked, the Z7 fullfills that requirement.

I was lucky to use the Z7 for two or three hours during a workshop under real conditions, with an early 1.0.x firmware. Regrettably I wasn't instantly convinced, the AF system seems to be a weakness, i.e. I got the impression, that it is not that much superior in comparision to my D800:
At the moment I am shooting in AF-C with back button focus nearly all the time, but with the Z7 I tried, I noticed several times even under daylight conditions, that it hunts more then once. That was new to me, although I had to admit, that I can't say wether my D800 is quite free of hunting in such situations or if I got only used to it, so I don't recognize it anymore or if it was just a user error handling the Z7.
So I switched to AF-S and the hit rate was dramatically higher. But even there I had a series of pictures which are out of focus, whatever it was at the end of the day I had mixed feelings about the Z7, which brought me to this forum.

Hopefully I can get here some valuable experiences of former D800 users, who can give a comparision of the Z7's AF system related to the D800 in general and especially the experience with the AF-C modes.

You have not considered the three big advantages of the Z.

1.  Pointpoint AF is not available on the D800 but is on the D850 using LiveView.  It's available through the EVF on the Z cameras - and is very accurate albeit a little slower.

2. The Z cameras have focus peaking using AF-S.  It's available  through the viewfinder so you can see exactly what plane is is focus and adjust if needed.

3.  You can program a function key - like Fn1 - to allow you to Zoom to 50%, 100%, or 200%.  I use this function to check focus, check sharpness on playback, or even just view a subject closely for precise timing of the exposure based on a catchlight or head turn.

My third worry:

As I use very often flash, I am a little bit concerned by the shorter flash sync time, being 1/200 (Z7) and 1/250 (my D800).
Is this of any major importance? I understand that there will be a significant loss in flash output at shutter speeds at or shorter than 1/250 with the Z7, but should I worry about it? Some kind of complication that I am not aware of at the moment?

The synch speed is a non-issue.  You'll use 1/200* to allow the use of any shutter speed you want.  I use fill flash for birds in flight without issue.

But my main concern is the potential need for AF fine tune. After reading all that stuff here and in blogs (e.g. https://blog.reikanfocal.com/2018/10/the-new-nikon-z7-investigating-with-reikan-focal/ and this one https://eduardolibby.com/2018/12/22/nikons-z7-requires-af-fine-tuning/ ) I feel unsure if a switch to the Z7 is the right step to get rid of AFMA now and forever.

Thank you very much for reading all the text!

I think the Z7/Z6 cameras are terrific.  There are a few instances where the D850 is better, and places where the Z7/Z6 are better than any other camera.  I'm not sure there is anything that my D800/D800E does better than the Z7/Z6.

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Eric Bowles

 ericbowles's gear list:ericbowles's gear list
Nikon 1 V1 Nikon D500 Nikon D850 Nikon Z6 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR +14 more
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