Follow-On to Z9 Does Blue Angels (No Photos)

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Roy Kikuta Senior Member • Posts: 2,113
Follow-On to Z9 Does Blue Angels (No Photos)
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I'm going to try to answer some questions posed by PHXAZCRAIG - and in the interest of saving bandwidth, I've started a new thread.

I’ve encountered some difficulty trying to answer your questions – largely because I wasn’t paying much attention to what the little AF/tracking boxes were doing as I shot the airshow. So I decided I needed a tool to help me see where the Z9 focus point was – and to this end, I thought maybe the “Show focus point” in NX Studio might be the tool – I say “might be” because I’ve seen varying comments about the accuracy of correlation between what is displayed in the EVF during live shooting – and what NX Studio displays. I don’t think I can answer your questions with any degree of clarity or accuracy – my impressions will be just that: impressions (and subjective).

If you look at the first screen capture, you see a large red focus rectangle that pretty much covers the entire formation. Then, in the next screen capture, you see the very next image capture by the Z9 – with a small focus box on one aircraft. My interpretation of this change in focus box is that the Z9 initially knew there was a subject(s) to be tracked, but was not able to separate out the individual planes – so it made a focus box around the entire formation. Then in the next frame, the Z9 made a decision to narrow the focus box down to one object. If CSP was in fact applied in that decision – then it chose the correct plane. In reality, I question whether there is sufficient detail information at that range for the Z9 to recognize which plane was closest.

This was a pattern that seems to repeat throughout the show – another example follows:

But a few frames ahead, the focus point moved to the middle plane.

Then more frames ahead, the point moved to a different plane

This movement of the focus point continues in further frames – seemingly at random – and seemingly not based on CSP.

Now let’s look at a single plane that occupies a significant portion of the frame

I see no evidence that the camera has recognized – and focused on the cockpit. I also see no evidence that the camera applied CSP, and focused on the wingtip… looking at multiple frames, there is no clear preference one way or the other – if you trust the NX studio display. [Edit:  I did pixel-peep frames to look closely at the cockpit vs. wingtip areas - and found no consistency in focus.]

I shot over 7K frames at the airshow – I have a lot more frames to look at. I've been shooting birds, planes, helicopters, butterflies, and a gecko from my front yard for practice - and I feel good that the Z9 is quick to recognize even small objects inside the wide-area(L) box and then track the subject. This has been mentioned before by early Youtube reviews but the automation (i.e., initial acquisition and tracking) lets me concentrate more on keeping the moving subject framed in the EVF. In my mind, the automation is not even close to 100%, but it does make a significant difference in the kinds of fast-paced action that can be captured. In the words of Thom Hogan - which kind of photographer are you? Thinking kind, or do you expect 100% automation? I'm very happy with my Z9! I may have more to say later - I'll either eat my words, or have more to contribute.

Nikon Z9
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