HOGAN: Z-AF tracking is on par with Sony, only one problem

Started 1 month ago | Discussions thread
beatboxa Senior Member • Posts: 6,427
Old news

Verkku wrote:

Hogan has a very good article about Z -af tracking. And as he puts it:

" It’s not a performance problem—the 3D Tracking Nikon provides in mirrorless is very similar to Sony’s capability when used for focus-and-reframe use—it’s solely an implementation problem on the Nikon: too klutzy and step driven when it doesn’t need to be. "

The problem is that the activation of tracting is too complicated. The tracking itself is on par with Sony. So let's hope it will be corrected very soon.


This is the same thing I've been saying for the past year. I've called this problem the tracking interface, as opposed to the tracking itself.

On the Z's, tracking & autofocus are decoupled as separate steps. And people often conflate the two because they're used to it being one step.

Tracking = the subject moving around the 2D frame (x-y axes). Telling where to autofocus. The navigator.
Autofocus = the subject distance (= 3rd dimension / z-axis). Autofocusing where tracked. The driver.

Nikon's 3D tracking (DSLRs) is an interface that couples the two together in one fluid step. The Z's do not have this. These are separate steps on the Z's.

There's an irony that you'd want a better interface especially if the performance is bad (though the Z's are generally good at tracking).

Bad tracking performance doesn't mean autofocus misses--it means the yellow box starts following the wrong thing. When this happens (and it also happens on DSLRs), the solution is simple: let the user:

  1. stop tracking
  2. recompose / realign the subject to the box
  3. start tracking again

In Nikon 3D tracking, the steps are:

  1. Let go of AF-On
  2. Recompose
  3. Press & hold AF-On

Simple, fast, & intuitive. But on the Z's, the steps are:

  1. Let go of AF-On (presumably you're autofocusing)
  2. Press OK
  3. Recompose
  4. Press & hold AF-On (or press ok, then press & hold AF-On)

The Z's Step 2 is the main problem. That one added step of pressing OK in-between is a deal-breaker. And this should be a simple firmware fix.

Even if tracking performance was bad (and it's not), the operator's skill in framing can make up for it if they are enabled with a good interface. And obviously, autofocus performance during tracking is a different beast.

Horshack provided a great theory on why the interface may be bad in one of my threads on this subject here:

I suspect it started with Nikon reusing the tracking interface of their Coolpix cameras:

Then not being satisfied with the performance; and finally, deciding not to put in effort to update either the performance or the interface. I think that's reasonable at launch (though I would have at least updated the interface).

But a year later of having this same issue and not addressing it is not reasonable.

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