Your user settings: Master your Z

Started Dec 17, 2020 | Discussions thread
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1llusive
1llusive Veteran Member • Posts: 3,544
Your user settings: Master your Z
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Manual and Firmware link --> https://downloadcenter.nikonimglib.com/en/index.html

Nikon DSLR and MILC cameras have customizable user settings banks. These help you quickly change a number of settings, gearing the camera for a different type of photography or videography with the turn of a dial. If you really want to become a master of your camera in any situation, I recommend setting these up for your use cases. What follows are my settings for the Z 6II, most of which will apply broadly across the current Z lineup. If you haven’t already, this guide is intended to help you get familiar with your camera and set up quickly with a baseline of known good settings. Then, you can season to taste. Note that the primary way I use my camera is in Manual mode with Auto ISO, so keep that in mind as we go through the settings. We will also set up custom controls and the i menu.

How I set up my user settings:

I recommend setting up everything in M mode, including the settings you will use for U1, then using the Setup Menu > Save user settings > Save to U1. Then, while still in M, you will make only the changes that will differ for U2, then save to U2. Finally, make only the changes necessary for U3, then save to U3. This will set M as the mode of operation for your user settings. Feel free to start with A or S if you are not comfortable with Manual mode; just remember that the Z cameras, at least as of this writing, can not change the shooting mode for U1, U2, or U3 once saved. I would encourage learning how to use your camera in Manual mode as it is the most versatile method and is least likely to get you stuck with settings you can’t change in a pinch when you really need to.

We will begin in M mode with all of the settings that are the same for all shooting modes before getting into U1, U2, and U3.

Photo Shooting Menu

Choose image area: FX

Image Quality: RAW

White balance: AUTO1

Set Picture Control: NL

Color space: sRGB

Active D-Lighting: OFF

Long exposure NR: OFF (this is dark frame subtraction for hot pixels which can be useful in some very warm situations; you be the judge)

High ISO NR: OFF (this is noise reduction to try to make up for a lack of light collection due to not enough exposure, usually caused by using high ISO values; I will use software noise reduction as it does a better job)

Vignette control: N

Diffraction Compensation: ON

Metering: Matrix metering (I rarely use other metering modes, preferring to nudge the exposure compensation while watching my viewfinder and live histogram)

Movie Shooting Menu

Choose image area: FX

Move quality: HIGH

Movie file type: MOV

ISO sensitivity settings:

  • Maximum sensitivity: 6400
  • Auto ISO control (mode M): ON
  • ISO sensitivity (mode M): 100
  • White balance: AUTO1

Set Picture Control: NL

Active D-Lighting: OFF

High ISO NR: OFF (assuming you will post-process with better NR)

Vignette control: N

Diffraction Compensation: ON

Auto distortion control: ON

Flicker reduction: AUTO

Metering: Matrix metering

Focus mode: AF-C (change to AF-F for hands-free recording)

AF-area mode: Auto-area AF (people)

Vibration reduction: ON (Normal)

Electronic VR: OFF (use in a pinch in place of gimbal)

Custom Setting Menu

a Autofocus

a1 AF-C priority selection: Release

a2 AF-S priority selection: Focus

a3 Focus tracking with lock-on:

  • Blocked shot AF response: 5 Delayed (when subject is blocked, release the focus button and re-engage)

a4 Focus points used: ALL

a5 Store points by orientation: ON when doing portrait photography and OFF for product photography (this was getting triggered when pointing the camera downward for an overhead shot of a product and it kept moving my AF point, even when centered)

a6 AF activation: Shutter/AF-ON (read below)

a8 Focus point wrap-around: Wrap (preference)

a9 9 Focus point options:

  • Manual focus mode: ON
  • Dynamic-area AF assist: ON

a10 Low-light AF: ON

a11 Built-in AF-assist illuminator: OFF

b Metering/exposure

b1 EV steps for exposure cntrl: 1/3

b2 Easy exposure compensation: OFF (not functional in M mode, but see custom controls)

b3 Center-weighted area: 12

b4 Fine-tune optimal exposure: Defaults

c Timers/AE lock

c1 Shutter-release button AE-L: Not used in M mode except with Auto ISO. In a situation where I want to lock the only camera-controlled exposure variable, ISO, such as with rapidly changing stage lighting, I would rather just turn off Auto ISO and maintain manual control.

c2 Self-timer: Adjust as-needed

c3 Power off delay: Until you are done shooting and to keep the camera snappy, hit Playback and let it go into standby rather than turning off the power switch.

  • Playback: 10s
  • Menus: 1m
  • Image review: 10s
  • Standby timer: 1m

d Shooting/display

d1 CL mode shooting speed: 3fps

d2 Max. continuous release: 200

d3 Sync. release mode options: Default

d6 Extended shutter speeds (M): On

d7 Limit selectable image area: Default

d8 File number sequence: On

d10 Framing grid display: OFF (assigned to custom button)

d11 Focus peaking: Preference (I use Level 3 and Red)

d12 View all in continuous mode: ON (without this, you’re blind)

e Bracketing/flash

e1 Flash sync speed: 1/200 (adjust based on your uses)

e2 Flash shutter speed: 1/60 (this works like a minimum; not used in M mode)

e3 Exposure comp. for flash: (adjust based on your uses)

e4 Auto flash ISO sensitivity control: (adjust based on your uses)

e5 Modeling flash: ON

e6 Auto bracketing (mode M): Flash/speed

e7 Bracketing order: MTR > under > over

f Controls

f1 Customize i menu: Many of these settings can be adjusted by simply hitting i, highlighting the item, turning the dials, then focusing to confirm and exit.

  • Column 1
    • Set Picture Control (use when you plan to send to SnapBridge or shoot .jpg)
    • Active D-Lighting (use when you plan to send to SnapBridge or shoot .jpg)
  • Column 2
    • HDR (for a quick in-camera high dynamic range capture for SnapBridge)
    • Auto bracketing (for developing your own bracket in post)
  • Column 3
    • Metering
    • White balance
  • Column 4
    • Vibration Reduction
    • Shutter type
  • Column 5
    • Monitor/viewfinder brightness
    • Apply settings to live view
  • Column 6
    • Flash mode
    • Split-screen display zoom (I couldn’t find anything else useful, maybe this will be)

f2 Custom controls: Refer to page 409 of the Z 6II manual for what functions can be set and to which buttons. My philosophy is these buttons should be set to things that I need to access quickly as the situation dictates. If it’s a setting I don’t change often or I can take my time, it goes somewhere else like My Menu or the i menu. And because Nikon only allows certain selections, I’ve chosen what gets me the most functionality from the available buttons.

  • Fn1: Silent photography (use when scene is still and you need to be quiet – when things start moving, one click and you’re back to Auto/Mechanical)
  • Fn2: Subject tracking
  • AF-ON: Zoom on/off (100%) – ergonomically this is way better than hitting OK to zoom. Also, at this time I do not use back-button focus. Full-sensor AF + AF-C + Subject tracking has replaced focus & recompose, and I am generally focusing while shooting so I don’t need the two separated. For the scenarios where I would like to set my focus then disable focusing, I will use f6 Release button to use dial: ON with the movie record button assigned to focus mode. If Nikon gave us an AF lock (hold) I would set this to the AF-ON button because it would give me the functionality of the old focus switch we used to have by the lens mount. Then, I would change several other buttons and my i menu around. They already have an AE lock (hold) that’s useless in Manual mode so that’s an easy one – come on, Nikon! I also just find shutter button focus to be easier and less fatiguing over long periods. In summary, I’d rather press AF-ON to lock focus like the old focus switch by the lens mount than have to hold it all the time in order to engage focus, but we can’t yet do that, so this will suffice.
  • Sub-selector: Same as multi selector (enables joystick use in menus)
    • Playback zoom: Scroll (enables joystick use on image playback)
  • Sub-selector center: Depth of Field Preview (not my preferred location for this function but I’m out of buttons! We need a Fn3!)
  • Movie record button: Focus mode/AF-area mode
  • Lens Fn button: N/A for now (AF, Preview, Zoom, and Subject tracking would be good candidates)
  • Lens Fn2 button: N/A for now (AF, Preview, Zoom, and Subject tracking would be good candidates)
  • Lens control ring: N/A for now (Exposure compensation would seem nice)

f3 OK button:

  • Shooting mode: RESET
  • Playback mode: Zoom on/off (100%)

f4 Shutter spd & aperture lock: All OFF

f5 Customize command dials:

  • Reverse rotation: OFF
  • Change main/sub: OFF
  • Menus and playback: ON
  • Sub-dial frame advance: 10

f6 Release button to use dial: ON (this makes the camera much easier to operate. Here’s your Easy Exposure Compensation in M mode – press exposure compensation button, then use rear dial to adjust ISO in EV steps, then focus to return to shooting; also works with other controls such as the movie record button when assigned to focus mode)

f7 Reverse indicators: -/+

f8 Reverse ring for focus: OFF

f9 Assign MB-N11 buttons: N/A

g Movie

g1 Customize i menu (Movie):

  • Column 1
    • Microphone sensitivity
    • Attenuator
  • Column 2
    • Headphone volume
    • Wind noise reduction
  • Column 3
    • Metering
    • White balance
  • Column 4
    • Vibration Reduction
    • Electronic VR
  • Column 5
    • Monitor/viewfinder brightness
    • Highlight display
  • Column 6
    • AF-area mode
    • Focus mode

g2 Custom controls (Movie):

  • Fn1: Power aperture (open)
  • Fn2: Power aperture (close)
  • AF-ON: Zoom on/off (100%)
  • Sub-selector center: Live view info display off
  • Shutter-release button: Take photos
  • Lens control ring: Focus (M/A)

g3 OK button:

  • Shooting mode: RESET

g4 AF speed: +1

  • When to apply: ALWAYS

g5 AF tracking sensitivity: 3

g6 Highlight display:

  • Display pattern: ON
  • Highlight display threshold: 248

g9 Assign MB-N11 buttons: N/A

Setup Menu

All defaults except:

Save focus position: ON

USB power delivery: ON

My Menu

a3 Focus tracking with lock-on

d4 Exposure delay mode

d10 Framing grid display

e1 Flash sync speed

e3 Exposure comp. for flash

e4 Auto flash ISO sensitivity control

g4 AF speed

g5 AF tracking sensitivity

Long exposure NR

High ISO NR

Connect to smart device

Airplane mode

ISO sensitivity settings (Photo)

ISO sensitivity settings (Movie)

NEF (RAW) recording

Frame size/frame rate (Movie)

Interval timer shooting

Time-lapse movie

Focus shift shooting

Format memory card

User Settings (continue to make these changes in M mode before saving to U1/U2/U3)

U1 (Photo) (M)

Used for: General Photography, including people, walkaround, macro, and flash

Method of operation: Face and Eye detection will take care of people, while hitting your subject tracking button will enable focus on non-human subjects. I will switch to single-point AF if I need a smaller focus point and am not working with people, or if I am shooting by touch with the LCD.

NEF (RAW) recording

  • NEF (RAW) compression: Lossless compressed
  • NEF (RAW) bit depth: 14-bit

ISO sensitivity settings

  • ISO sensitivity: 100
  • Auto ISO sensitivity control: ON
  • Maximum sensitivity: 12800
  • Maximum sensitivity with flash: 400
  • Minimum shutter speed: 1/100 (ignored in M mode)

Focus mode: AF-C

AF-area mode: Auto-area AF (people)

Vibration reduction: ON (Normal)

Silent photography: OFF (use Fn button when needed)

d4 Exposure delay mode: OFF

d5 Shutter type: Auto (will use EFCS at 1/250 and below, mechanical above)

d9 Apply settings to live view: ON

Default shutter speed: 1/60

Default aperture: f/1.8 (feel free to save with the widest aperture lens you have so it defaults to the widest on all of your lenses)

Release mode: Single frame (NOT saved to user settings at this time!)

U2 (Photo) (M)

Used for: High-speed photography, including humans, wildlife, auto/aero, etc

Method of operation: Ricci explains it best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWIoYOv9kRg

NEF (RAW) recording:

  • NEF (RAW) compression: Lossless compressed
  • NEF (RAW) bit depth: 12-bit (enables faster continuous shooting)

ISO sensitivity settings:

  • ISO sensitivity: 100
  • Auto ISO sensitivity control: ON
  • Maximum sensitivity: 12800
  • Maximum sensitivity with flash: 400
  • Minimum shutter speed: 1/100 (ignored in M mode)

Focus mode: AF-C

AF-area mode: Dynamic-area AF (but change depending on situation)

Vibration reduction: ON (Sport)

Silent photography: OFF (use if you need to be quiet and the scene is mostly static)

d4 Exposure delay mode: OFF

d5 Shutter type: Mechanical

d9 Apply settings to live view: OFF (enhances EVF and autofocus speed)

Default shutter speed: 1/1250

Default aperture: f/1.8

Release mode: Continuous H or H extended

U3 (Photo) (M)

Used for: Landscape, nightscape, cityscape on a tripod

Method of operation: Single-point focus via touch or remote with deliberately composed and exposed scenes, with an exposure delay and silent shutter to eliminate vibrations.

NEF (RAW) recording:

  • NEF (RAW) compression: Lossless compressed
  • NEF (RAW) bit depth: 14-bit

ISO sensitivity settings

  • ISO sensitivity: 100
  • Auto ISO sensitivity control: OFF

Focus mode: AF-S

AF-area mode: Single-point AF

Vibration reduction: OFF (can cause issues on a tripod)

Silent photography: ON

d4 Exposure delay mode: ON (2 s)

d5 Shutter type: N/A

d9 Apply settings to live view: ON

Default shutter speed: 1/60

Default aperture: f/8

Release mode: Single frame

U1 (Movie) (M)

Used for: 2160p 24fps video

Frame size/frame rate: 3840x2160; 24p

Default shutter speed: 1/50 (you want to double the movie frame rate)

Default aperture: f/1.8

U2 (Movie) (M)

Used for: 2160p 30fps video (will change to 60fps with firmware update)

Frame size/frame rate: 3840x2160; 30p

Default shutter speed: 1/60

Default aperture: f/1.8

U3 (Movie) (M)

Used for: 1080p 120fps video

Frame size/frame rate: 1920x1080; 24p x5 (slow-motion)

Default shutter speed: 1/250

Default aperture: f/1.8

Bonus: we technically get a 4th user setting bank with the M mode itself, so feel free to set up your camera for up to 4 of your shooting situations. The main difference is that changes made while using U1, U2, and U3 will revert on power off, unlike P, A, S, or M modes which automatically save setting changes.

That should get you started!

I will post updates if I revise my setup.

Now get out and enjoy your camera, and post your own settings!

 1llusive's gear list:1llusive's gear list
Nikon Z6 II Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 Nikon Z 24-70mm F4 Nikon Z 85mm F1.8 +1 more
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