Can the Z6 autofocus become as good as the A7m3 autofocus with the upcoming firmware update ? Locked

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Alex Permit
Alex Permit Senior Member • Posts: 2,338
Re: Can the Z6 autofocus become as good as the A7m3 autofocus with the upcoming firmware update ?

JPD2 wrote:

commiebiker wrote:

JPD2 wrote:

I like the Z6 a lot, but the Sony A7m3 has considerably better autofocus in lower light. I don't know much really about mirrorless cameras, and I am wondering if the firmware upgrade coming on May 18th will allow the Nikon Z6 to match the low light autofocus abilities of the Sony ?

No offence, but if by your own admission you "don't know much about mirrorless cameras" you should be careful making any assumptions about either system.

I've been using the Z cameras since day one and don't have any issues focusing in challenging light. I used the Sony A7 system (Mark ii) extensively before that. Nikon is already ahead of the Sony generation 1 and 2. I won't speak to the latest versions because I don't have personal knowledge.

Here is my point though. Go to my web site and tell me if you can see the difference between shots taken with the Nikon Z6 /7, the Sony A7s/Rii, or the Nikon D4 / 700 /3s.

All these cameras are highly capable if people take the time to learn how to use them. All these people niggling about features like eye AF make me want to laugh..or maybe cry

I read quite a bit, and this video seems to show quite some difference between the 2 cameras autofocus abilities https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD6uvvXzUT0

In your original post, you were concerned about low light performance. The posted video is demonstrating tracking. Are you concerned about low light single point focus, or tracking?

My z7 focuses well in low light. The biggest issue with AF-S vrs my D500 or D5 is it, like most other milc cameras including the Sony's, does not have cross hair AF points. So with low contrast objects in low light it hunts when the DSLR's don't. This is no different then every other milc camera I have owned or tried.

AF-C tracking is inferior to my D5 and D500. But that is a high bar. From what I have gathered, the latest generation of Sony cameras have better tracking . I have no extensive experience with them, but I can say my Z7 is certainly no worse then my a7rii.

Hope this helps.

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rokoko
rokoko Contributing Member • Posts: 961
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

Good to know, thank you!

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Alex Permit
Alex Permit Senior Member • Posts: 2,338
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

Marianne Oelund wrote:

Matsu wrote:

Marianne Oelund wrote:

Gabriele Sartori wrote:

michaeladawson wrote:

No. It won’t.

but I don’t care about low light AF. What it won’t have is a revamped AF-C tracking system.

Mike, why are you so sure about that?

The sensor is virtually the same, the rest is all math.

Mike isn't confident that Nikon engineers do math as well as Sony engineers - or that they have as much budget.

Hi Marianne, I’m curious if you’ve been using a z camera, and if so, how you’re making out with it, particularly in the case continuous AF and perhaps as compared to Nikon’s 51 pt PDAF DSLRs in that regard.

I was photographing a skating competition today, so I brought the Z7 along, with a 70-200/2.8 VR II mounted, to try out during the warmup periods.

I started off with AF-C single point, and I have to say it was just a joke. Couldn't stay with my subject and I was spending more time fighting to keep my subject in focus, than watching for moments to photograph.

But then I switched to Dynamic Area, and that made all the difference. Snappy acquisition and no problems tracking skaters without jumping off to the background. I was frankly surprised at how well it worked, and I would rate it good enough to use for customers' photos. It's still not quite a D5, but it could certainly compete with a D3.

I was going to try the AF wide area modes also, but it was a short competition and I ran out of opportunities. In the second half of May I have several major competitions to photograph, so I'll bring the Z7 along again for more practice.

I prefer dynamic area as well.  Tracking is useless to me because of the clumsy interface.

Thank you for your comparison to the D3. In some tests I ran a while back, I found my D3s was maybe better then my z7. I guess the z7 is somewhere between a D3 and D3s. Based on your old post comparing the D3 to the D3s, I now have a good point of reference.

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/2706849

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incoherent1 Regular Member • Posts: 444
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

Marianne Oelund wrote:

<snip>

But then I switched to Dynamic Area, and that made all the difference. Snappy acquisition and no problems tracking skaters without jumping off to the background.

<snip>

'tracking':

across the frame and activating different focus points; or

refocusing as the subject moved closer or farther?

TIA

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chambeshi Senior Member • Posts: 2,094
Re: Is there actually an objective test for AF performance?

Good points.

To expand on an earlier post... In one of his videos, Steve Perry had a crack at comparing AF on a moving cyclist and swinging targets for the D5 vs D850 (albeit Tester, n= 1).

Perhaps a lab with the credentials of Lensrentals invents a standardized AF testing protocol eg bikers off ramps; perhaps launching aerial targets along a set trajectory. Perhaps a gadget like a clay-pigeon Launcher used for skeet shooting? But not as fast?! Then the comparisons based on 50 trials/apparatus give a "AF-Rating" for a camera + lens. Getting such a metric might need some automated sensors and logging software, but this might be too challenging.

Companies such as Nikon and Sony probably do have their propriety AF testing protocols. They should publish these as it can only highlight the top performing cameras.

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thaddak Regular Member • Posts: 350
Re: Can the Z6 autofocus become as good as the A7m3 autofocus with the upcoming firmware update ?

The Davinator wrote:

commiebiker wrote:

JPD2 wrote:

I like the Z6 a lot, but the Sony A7m3 has considerably better autofocus in lower light. I don't know much really about mirrorless cameras, and I am wondering if the firmware upgrade coming on May 18th will allow the Nikon Z6 to match the low light autofocus abilities of the Sony ?

No offence, but if by your own admission you "don't know much about mirrorless cameras" you should be careful making any assumptions about either system.

I've been using the Z cameras since day one and don't have any issues focusing in challenging light. I used the Sony A7 system (Mark ii) extensively before that. Nikon is already ahead of the Sony generation 1 and 2. I won't speak to the latest versions because I don't have personal knowledge.

Here is my point though. Go to my web site and tell me if you can see the difference between shots taken with the Nikon Z6 /7, the Sony A7s/Rii, or the Nikon D4 / 700 /3s.

All these cameras are highly capable if people take the time to learn how to use them. All these people niggling about features like eye AF make me want to laugh..or maybe cry

The way some Sony users have been going on about how they now need eye AF and animal eye AF...you'd think they could never focus a camera before.

The way Nikon and Sony users carry on about IBIS, you'll think they can't hold a camera steady.

Eye-AF is a good feature to have, and I'm sure when the Z systems get it a lot of users will be happy.

Jared Polin's latest video has his thoughts on Eye-AF. We know he's a Nikon shooter, and I predict he'll be head over heels when the Z 7 gets Eye-AF.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LtQ6pFOlNM

HeavyDuty Senior Member • Posts: 1,872
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

Thanks for documenting your experience with the skaters, Marianne.  One of the things I’m (probably futilely) hoping for in the FW update is a way of doing away with the OK button to initiate dynamic tracking.  I know it’s currently done the Nikon 1 way (I have those, too) but I’d much prefer having tracking start and stop with the AF-ON button, and not need to turn it off with the minus button either.

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Matsu Senior Member • Posts: 2,302
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

Marianne Oelund wrote:

Matsu wrote:

Marianne Oelund wrote:

Gabriele Sartori wrote:

michaeladawson wrote:

No. It won’t.

but I don’t care about low light AF. What it won’t have is a revamped AF-C tracking system.

Mike, why are you so sure about that?

The sensor is virtually the same, the rest is all math.

Mike isn't confident that Nikon engineers do math as well as Sony engineers - or that they have as much budget.

Hi Marianne, I’m curious if you’ve been using a z camera, and if so, how you’re making out with it, particularly in the case continuous AF and perhaps as compared to Nikon’s 51 pt PDAF DSLRs in that regard.

I was photographing a skating competition today, so I brought the Z7 along, with a 70-200/2.8 VR II mounted, to try out during the warmup periods.

I started off with AF-C single point, and I have to say it was just a joke. Couldn't stay with my subject and I was spending more time fighting to keep my subject in focus, than watching for moments to photograph.

But then I switched to Dynamic Area, and that made all the difference. Snappy acquisition and no problems tracking skaters without jumping off to the background. I was frankly surprised at how well it worked, and I would rate it good enough to use for customers' photos. It's still not quite a D5, but it could certainly compete with a D3.

I was going to try the AF wide area modes also, but it was a short competition and I ran out of opportunities. In the second half of May I have several major competitions to photograph, so I'll bring the Z7 along again for more practice.

Though I have a rudimentary understanding of human perception, I lack the scientific background/lingo to explain the magic of engineering sensors and/or AF. Still it seems that if a single point (pixel) from the image plane is used, what is gained in precision is sacrificed in sensitivity? Compared to discrete PDAF modules in DSLRs, individual AF pixels on MILC would appear significantly smaller, so to achieve the same apparent responsiveness to the user behind the camera, different mathematics is required, perhaps aided with as info from adjacent pixels as possible - creating by some form of summation (spatial and temporal) a larger sensing area?  Pardon the imprecision of my wording here.  Certainly, even a small cluster of pixels is a very small area from which to judge focus.  I wonder how many pixels are recruited to create the focus point on a sensor?  Just one?  Some small group representing a fixed area of the sensor but larger than just a single pixel?

It sort of superficially makes sense that wider area modes should work better at tracking.  It will be interesting to see how much the math can be improved via firmware to get to results quicker more reliably constrained by the age at which data can both be read from the sensor, and the DSP in the camera.

I guess we could know theoretically how much either Nikon or Sony performance could be changed relative to the other if we had information about the throughput of the sensors and processing power of each cameras chipset?

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Alex Permit
Alex Permit Senior Member • Posts: 2,338
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

Matsu wrote:

Marianne Oelund wrote:

Matsu wrote:

Marianne Oelund wrote:

Gabriele Sartori wrote:

michaeladawson wrote:

No. It won’t.

but I don’t care about low light AF. What it won’t have is a revamped AF-C tracking system.

Mike, why are you so sure about that?

The sensor is virtually the same, the rest is all math.

Mike isn't confident that Nikon engineers do math as well as Sony engineers - or that they have as much budget.

Hi Marianne, I’m curious if you’ve been using a z camera, and if so, how you’re making out with it, particularly in the case continuous AF and perhaps as compared to Nikon’s 51 pt PDAF DSLRs in that regard.

I was photographing a skating competition today, so I brought the Z7 along, with a 70-200/2.8 VR II mounted, to try out during the warmup periods.

I started off with AF-C single point, and I have to say it was just a joke. Couldn't stay with my subject and I was spending more time fighting to keep my subject in focus, than watching for moments to photograph.

But then I switched to Dynamic Area, and that made all the difference. Snappy acquisition and no problems tracking skaters without jumping off to the background. I was frankly surprised at how well it worked, and I would rate it good enough to use for customers' photos. It's still not quite a D5, but it could certainly compete with a D3.

I was going to try the AF wide area modes also, but it was a short competition and I ran out of opportunities. In the second half of May I have several major competitions to photograph, so I'll bring the Z7 along again for more practice.

Though I have a rudimentary understanding of human perception, I lack the scientific background/lingo to explain the magic of engineering sensors and/or AF. Still it seems that if a single point (pixel) from the image plane is used, what is gained in precision is sacrificed in sensitivity? Compared to discrete PDAF modules in DSLRs, individual AF pixels on MILC would appear significantly smaller, so to achieve the same apparent responsiveness to the user behind the camera, different mathematics is required, perhaps aided with as info from adjacent pixels as possible - creating by some form of summation (spatial and temporal) a larger sensing area? Pardon the imprecision of my wording here. Certainly, even a small cluster of pixels is a very small area from which to judge focus. I wonder how many pixels are recruited to create the focus point on a sensor? Just one? Some small group representing a fixed area of the sensor but larger than just a single pixel?

It sort of superficially makes sense that wider area modes should work better at tracking. It will be interesting to see how much the math can be improved via firmware to get to results quicker more reliably constrained by the age at which data can both be read from the sensor, and the DSP in the camera.

I guess we could know theoretically how much either Nikon or Sony performance could be changed relative to the other if we had information about the throughput of the sensors and processing power of each cameras chipset?

"Single point"  on a MILC uses many on sensor autofocus pixels that are aggregated to a single virtual point.  This is different from DSLR's, which use one relatively large sensor per autofocus point.

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Marianne Oelund Veteran Member • Posts: 7,779
Tracking applies to distance change

incoherent1 wrote:

Marianne Oelund wrote:

<snip>

But then I switched to Dynamic Area, and that made all the difference. Snappy acquisition and no problems tracking skaters without jumping off to the background.

<snip>

'tracking':

across the frame and activating different focus points; or

refocusing as the subject moved closer or farther?

TIA

In my discipline, AF "tracking" always means the AF system adjusting focus distance to match a changing subject distance.  The greatest challenge to the system occurs when the subject is moving fast and is close, especially when receding rather than approaching.  I haven't used the Z7 enough for action yet, to have a feel for its tracking speed limit relative to the D5.

Since I am manually following the skater's lateral movements by panning the camera, I do not make use of the AF system's capability to follow a subject to different parts of the frame - at least not beyond the small area covered by Dynamic Area on the Z7.

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Source credit: Prov 2:6
- Marianne

Geomaticsman Senior Member • Posts: 2,503
Re: Can the Z6 autofocus become as good as the A7m3 autofocus with the upcoming firmware update ?

Alex Permit wrote:

Geomaticsman wrote:

Marianne Oelund wrote:

Geomaticsman wrote:

I'm sure the updated firmware will provide some welcome improvements in AF-C performance, but I just don't see how a simple firmware update can magically close the AF performance gap between the Z and A cameras. That will require hardware/design changes.

How is the Z camera hardware inferior to the A camera hardware?

Z7 vs A7RIII? Off the top of my head...

- smaller buffer

- 3x longer shutter lag

- lower FPS (8@14bit, 9@12 bit vs 10@14bit)

No firmware tweaks are going to help these metrics.

How does a smaller buffer, longer shutter lag, or lower fps effect AF performance?

They don't. I was OT in respect to AF comparisons. My bad.

But my opinion is that Nikon will not be able to match Sony's AF technology with the Z6 or A7. At least we're not going to have to wait very long now to see if I'm right. Or not.

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Gary prefers Nikon

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incoherent1 Regular Member • Posts: 444
Re: Tracking applies to distance change

thank you

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Leonard Shepherd
Leonard Shepherd Forum Pro • Posts: 17,790
Re: Tracking applies to distance change

Marianne Oelund wrote:

I do not make use of the AF system's capability to follow a subject to different parts of the frame - at least not beyond the small area covered by Dynamic Area on the Z7.

Used in a similar way my Z7 AF is good for tracking single cyclists moving at racing speeds.

When I got one of the first Z into the UK I put in a request to Nikon for an option of larger areas to be covered by dynamic area AF - as on the D5/850/500.

In about 3 weeks time we should know what Nikon has achieved.

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Leonard Shepherd
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Matsu Senior Member • Posts: 2,302
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

HeavyDuty wrote:

Thanks for documenting your experience with the skaters, Marianne. One of the things I’m (probably futilely) hoping for in the FW update is a way of doing away with the OK button to initiate dynamic tracking. I know it’s currently done the Nikon 1 way (I have those, too) but I’d much prefer having tracking start and stop with the AF-ON button, and not need to turn it off with the minus button either.

I have to get my hands on the Z again.  I've played with it twice.  My partner has been using it largely with our F mount lenses and reports good experience.  (mostly portrait work)

I thought Dynamic was initiated simply by entering the mode and selecting the point?  While auto Area Face Detect and/or Auto Area Subject Tracking required the weird "Ok- button" to confirm subject routine?

I am I wrong?  Could be very likely.  I'm infamously stubborn about learning new camera UI - 9 times out of 10 it's my main reason for not upgrading cameras or even buying smaller casual use cameras, despite often being tempted by assorted Fuji MILC and large sensor compacts like Ricoh's GR.

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Marianne Oelund Veteran Member • Posts: 7,779
Not just the camera

BGD300V1 wrote:

There are a lot of different metrics for testing things and relatively robust processes to do the measuring.

What is the metric for AF performance?

Keeper ratio and number of shots missed due to AF not finding the subject.  But that's a function of both photographer and camera.

I would propose that any rating for the camera alone, is not highly valuable, because the results one obtains also depend very much on user skill and experience.  I've occasionally let one of my coaches try to use my D5, set up as I use it - and the results were terrible.

The only meaningful metric is the one which you determine for yourself, by using the camera in your typical scenarios.

There are a few parameters which can be objectively measured, such as acquisition speed and tracking speed, but even then, the measurements may not apply to many working situations because they can vary with lighting and subject.

Not many users seem to appreciate how difficult subject tracking becomes for the AF system when the subject is close to the camera.  There is a huge difference in the speed required, when the subject is only 10 feet away, relative to being 20 feet or more away.

Do we have a lens chart on a metronome and a track to move to and from a camera on a bench?

You can do that, but what lighting level should be used?  What color should the chart be, or should a mannequin/doll be used instead?  Should we use spinning subjects?  (That's not a joke - my old D2Hs bodies would actually be thrown off momentarily by subject rotation.)

how do we determine uniform levels of sobriety for cyclists?

Interesting question.  I saw a statistic (from city of Bellevue, WA) regarding DUI accidents between bicyclists and motor vehicles:  50% of the time, the cyclist was the one who was drunk!

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Source credit: Prov 2:6
- Marianne

JimKasson
JimKasson Forum Pro • Posts: 26,313
Re: Is there actually an objective test for AF performance?

BGD300V1 wrote:

There are a lot of different metrics for testing things and relatively robust processes to do the measuring.

What is the metric for AF performance?

As far as I'm concerned, there is not a scalar metric for AF performance.

Do we have a lens chart on a metronome and a track to move to and from a camera on a bench?

If you have deep pockets, you can buy robot AF-testing setups.

how do we determine uniform levels of sobriety for cyclists?

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Posted as a regular forum member.
https://blog.kasson.com

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HeavyDuty Senior Member • Posts: 1,872
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

Matsu wrote:

HeavyDuty wrote:

Thanks for documenting your experience with the skaters, Marianne. One of the things I’m (probably futilely) hoping for in the FW update is a way of doing away with the OK button to initiate dynamic tracking. I know it’s currently done the Nikon 1 way (I have those, too) but I’d much prefer having tracking start and stop with the AF-ON button, and not need to turn it off with the minus button either.

I have to get my hands on the Z again. I've played with it twice. My partner has been using it largely with our F mount lenses and reports good experience. (mostly portrait work)

I thought Dynamic was initiated simply by entering the mode and selecting the point? While auto Area Face Detect and/or Auto Area Subject Tracking required the weird "Ok- button" to confirm subject routine?

I am I wrong? Could be very likely. I'm infamously stubborn about learning new camera UI - 9 times out of 10 it's my main reason for not upgrading cameras or even buying smaller casual use cameras, despite often being tempted by assorted Fuji MILC and large sensor compacts like Ricoh's GR.

You are correct - I haven’t explored the various AF modes to any great depth, but I was under the impression she was doing the mode that requires the “Ok” button to initiate.  Looking at the nomenclature in the manual I see I misunderstood what Marianne was saying.

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Leonard Shepherd
Leonard Shepherd Forum Pro • Posts: 17,790
Re: First try with skaters: I'm impressed

Matsu wrote:

I have to get my hands on the Z again. I've played with it twice. My partner has been using it largely with our F mount lenses and reports good experience. (mostly portrait work)

I thought Dynamic was initiated simply by entering the mode and selecting the point? While auto Area Face Detect and/or Auto Area Subject Tracking required the weird "Ok- button" to confirm subject routine?

I am I wrong? Could be very likely. I'm infamously stubborn about learning new camera UI - 9 times out of 10 it's my main reason for not upgrading cameras or even buying smaller casual use cameras,

Taking your first and last paragraphs first; if you are not keen to learn new technology I can understand if your parter keeps their Z mainly to themselves.

Put another way your partner makes Z work. Perhaps an issue is so far you do not have a desire to accept moderate technology change.

Subject tracking is fundamentally no different with Z than with most recent Nikon DSLR's

In full detail ou can select

1/ AF-C (focus tracking). Recent Nikon DSLR's have a similar option on a switch instead of in a quick and easy access menu

2/ AF-S which locks focus on first pressing the shutter. You choose between AF-C or AF-S IMO quicker in the Z menus than on a D850.

3/ manual focus, which "greys out" tracking options, in the menu instead of via a switch

You can then select

1/ single point AF to lock on a static subject or follow a subject moving toward or away from the camera. There are relatively few subject where movement can be followed with a single AF point.

2/ dynamic area AF (the best for subjects moving fast toward or away from the camera) in conjunction with AF-C - as on most recent Nikon DSLR's,

3/ wide areas AF (S) - new on Z.

4/ Wide area AF (L) with the option to track subjects across the frame for you, including while you reframe, but operation is not as fast as dynamic area AF. This is new on Z

5/ Auto area AF almost anywhere in the frame (in this respect similar to the D500) primarily based on focus on the the closest subject.

For best subject tracking toward and away from the camera with Z you need to select AF-C to follow the subject moving toward or away from the camera.

Then select dynamic area AF putting the intended subject in the centre of the group of AF points highlighted in the viewfinder and follow the subject in the viewfinder, reframing if needed to keep the intended subject under the group of AF points. This is similar to most recent Nikon DSLR's.

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Leonard Shepherd
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Spare-time photog Junior Member • Posts: 39
Re: Can the Z6 autofocus become as good as the A7m3 autofocus with the upcoming firmware update ?

Peter Guma wrote:

My Z6 focusing fine in low light, if you strugle during reception, you can turn on af light assist from camera. Its same as dj lights hiting ppls. I believe that there will be soon flash with ML compatible af assist light.

what i would like to see, AF at maximum aperture no matter what aperture is set...

If you mean with maximum aperture the widest aperture of the lens as DSLRs do, then yes, I would like to see that, too.

+1

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olyflyer
olyflyer Forum Pro • Posts: 26,685
Re: Not just the camera

Marianne Oelund wrote:

BGD300V1 wrote:

There are a lot of different metrics for testing things and relatively robust processes to do the measuring.

What is the metric for AF performance?

Keeper ratio and number of shots missed due to AF not finding the subject. But that's a function of both photographer and camera...

...and the lens. I think one reason why comparing cameras is so difficult is because you need identical lenses so that you can exclude the lens. Even if we would set up a fair test environment and even if we could measure the actual time for the lens which it takes to focus from for instance nearest focus distance to the target distance, follow focus may be impossible to compare because reversing the direction of rotation may vary too much even between individuals of the same lens.

I would propose that any rating for the camera alone, is not highly valuable, because the results one obtains also depend very much on user skill and experience. I've occasionally let one of my coaches try to use my D5, set up as I use it - and the results were terrible.

The only meaningful metric is the one which you determine for yourself, by using the camera in your typical scenarios.

Exactly. ...but questioning the skill of the photographer is a very sensitive subject here. Very few of the complainers will ever admit that they are more important part of the equation than the camera or the lens. They complain about the camera and want to improve their skills through better gear, ignoring the fact that the camera has little to do with it, especially if you compare cameras of the same generation.

Yes, for any valuable AF test the skill of the photographer must be excluded, as well as the lens.

A standardized test method would be valuable, but I guess that requires a lot of money and equipment. An industrial robot may be useful and could be programmed for the motion, direction and the speed to eliminate human error and skills. In fact, another could act as a pre-programmed target as well, but that's expensive unless you work somewhere where you could borrow one or two for a Sunday... Perhaps BAE Systems can help you out in the interest of the photography community...?

If the human and the lens is not eliminated from the test then the test is not really relevant.

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Nikon Z7
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