I just cannot get my Z to focus if the subject is even slightly moving

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Lazer42 Forum Member • Posts: 72
I just cannot get my Z to focus if the subject is even slightly moving
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I have recently upgraded my D5600 to a Z7ii (with firmware 1.2), though I am not unfamiliar with the use of mirrorless cameras as I've spent quite a lot of time using a Canon mirrorless. For so many reasons, I really like the Z7ii. The IBIS is nice as I have shaky hands. The dynamic range is remarkable to me, and some of the photos I've "brought back" tweaking highlights an shadows have really amazed me. The low light performance is also awesome.

The problem is that I can't get most shots in focus if the subject is moving. I generally photograph my kids and wildlife. In upgrading, I was deciding between a D500 and the Z7ii. I ultimately decided that although I know the Z7ii's motion capabilities are supposed to be lagging at least a bit, I'd be happy with "less than perfect" in that department for the other benefits.

The problem has been that I'm getting not simply "less than perfect" AF for moving subjects, but nearly 100% miss rates. I've read and watched a great deal on the subject, both before and after the purchase: a *lot* of threads on this forum discussing it in detail and offering advice on the AF, articles elsewhere like the ones from Thom Hogan, countless videos from people who are really positive on the AF capabilities like Ricci, Hudson Henry, and others, including those who are less positive but still give good advice like Steve Perry.

I'm still having very little success. Subject tracking is the most controversial option in all the stuff I've looked at: some say it just doesn't work, others say it does but only in a given circumstance. Either way, I've yet to manage to get a single in focus shot using it.
I've tried using the Dynamic Area, but it just seems to want to latch onto the background. I know that user beatboxa has helpfully commented on this (for example, here: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64892248) and suggested that most cases of the camera focusing on the background are because of people not understanding how Dynamic Area works, but I don't think that's the problem. If I get a target under that center point and press and hold AF-On, and neither the camera nor the subject moves (so the center point remains on top of the subject without ever moving) the camera *still* starts shifting focus to the background, and then it comes back to the subject, then to the background, and so on. Moreover, the Dynamic Area doesn't even seem to work the way it is described: if a subject is under that center box and then moves to one of the outer boxes, even if it never leaves that 9x9 area, the camera still focuses on whatever is behind the center point, not the subject it was supposed to be following.
The worst thing is that even if Dynamic Area worked great, I can't see how I'd use it for any kind of burst sequences because with the mirrorless system the blackout during bursts prevents any kind of manual tracking.

I've also tried the small and large wide area, and these also seem focused on the background. If I can get a subject to entirely fill the box, it will focus, but even if the subject fills 75% of the box the camera is focusing on whatever background is in that 25% of the box.

The only way I've managed to get any in focus shots has been to either use AF-S or, if using AF-C, to basically hold down the AF-On button until the camera has focus and then immediately let go before it loses it: in other words, to basically treat AF-C like a modified version of AF-S.

I really want to like this camera, and I have such a hard time imagining that it can really work as badly as it is for me, especially given the positive comments so many have offered and the shots people have showcased. To be clear, this is not a knee-jerk reaction: I've spent somewhere between 12 - 20 hours working, practicing, and giving the camera the benefit of the doubt over several days. I've also experimented with the various settings people point to: turning off "Apply to live view," setting the AF blocked shot slider all the way to 5 (I've also tried 1), and some of the other settings in movie mode that some have suggested are actually applying to photo mode.

It's just been bad. Before I go ahead and return it, is there anything anyone might suggest?

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Nikon D500 Nikon D5600
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