OK, now I'm impressed. Z9 + 100-400

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PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 19,052
OK, now I'm impressed. Z9 + 100-400

I'm just getting familiar with my Z9 and its myriad combinations of autofocus settings.  Had it a few weeks.  So far, subject detection hasn't been impressive - except when it is - and I've been mostly falling back on 3d Tracking using focus-and-recompose.  Which is how I use my D850 and several cameras before that.

Today I went out in the desert to try some initial testing of my brand new 100-400 in the hopes of finding a local kestrel I see in the area a lot.   I found one recently with my 500pf mounted in the FTZ ii, and it was ... OK, at least as good as on the D850 so far.

The 100-400 replaces my 80-400g in the lens lineup.   That lens is weakest at 400mm, but it's pretty good overall, with fast autofocus, a good zoom rate and excellent VR.   The 100-400 should be similar, but overall up a notch from what I've read.

So I did find a little kestrel today, and it gave me a bit more practice trying subject detection.   I have subject detection (auto) enabled on my 3d Tracking, which is assigned to my AF-ON button.  I also have Auto AF assigned to Fn3 and Wide-Large set to Fn1.  With a non-moving subject (bird on stick) I can see just when the camera finds the body, and the head, and sometimes the eyes.

What I've found is that with most birds I cannot get close enough with 400 or 500mm for the eye detect to work.   About the time I get that close, the birds flush, if they haven't already.   I can get close enough for face/body, but for all the magic I hear about with subject detection, I think I need an 800mm lens.

That said, the autofocus accuracy of the camera is awesome as is the focus speed of the 100-400.   And the IQ of the 100-400 easily outclasses my aging 80-400g.   Here are some test shots from today.

Lens test for subjects off center.   The focus was on the center bird, but the one in the lower corner is in the focus plane and seems amazingly sharp for being that close to the edge of the frame.  Birds were too small in the frame for subject detection.

100-400, z9, uncropped.

Top to bottom sharpness test for lens.  This cactus appears again later with a kestrel on top, but here I was looking for sharpness variations from center to top and bottom.  This is the type of shot that tends not to look good on a 200-500 because that lens softens a lot outside the DX frame.

Kestrel!  I wish I could find its nest site.  Probably in one of the saguaro cacti around.

Subject too small for subject detection to work.  3D Tracking.

As close as I could get before he flushed.

Subject detect picked up the body here.

As I approached the Kestrel, it flushed and flew a couple hundred meters away.  I tried hitting the Fn1 or Fn3 buttons to try to pick it up in flight but was too slow.   At this point I started walking toward the bird again, stopping every few feet to try another shot.

A magnificent scene!   Setting sun on bird and cactus.   The 100-400 is impressively sharp across the frame.

As close as I could get.  (Cropped image)

Straightened, and cropped.   Nice Kestrel, just need 800mm.

So far, all the images were impressively sharp, but I didn't catch anything in motion.   Then the bird flushed, and I was just able to catch him using the Fn3 (Auto AF) button.   I kept the focus on him as he flew away, and took shots at 15/second.   I was very impressed that the camera actually did get focus on almost all of those shots, though the bird was too far away for a good shot.   But it gives me hope I'll be able to get some decent bird-in-flight shots with more practice.  I have to say the 100-400 delivers.

Here is the first of a bunch of shots as the bird flew away. This is actually the first shot in the sequence, and 9 out of 10 shots were about this good.

Here is the whole scene:


And here is an extreme crop, useful only to see that focus was pretty good.

extreme crop

These images are almost right out of camera with minimal processing in Lightroom.

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Phoenix Arizona Craig
"I miss the days when I was nostalgic."

 PHXAZCRAIG's gear list:PHXAZCRAIG's gear list
Nikon D80 Nikon D200 Nikon D300 Nikon D700 Nikon 1 V1 +45 more
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