My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

Started Dec 27, 2019 | Discussions
Diswantsho
Diswantsho Regular Member • Posts: 340
My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues
5

I am no sports photographer. My previous Nikon was (is - still have it) a D800E. I usually shoot macro, landscapes, portraits and travel. Hardly anything requiring ultra fast focus, and the 800E did well, even for an odd air show, bird in flight, or rugby game.

I purchased the Z7 with the same use in mind: manual or AF-S mostly, with occasional AF-C use. The test below was no scientific test. More like: the dog seems full of adrenalin, let's try and see what the guys are complaining about.

1. As a decades-long Nikon user, I had to swallow my pride and go back to the manual. I was unable to figure out focus tracking with previous Nikon experience. Intuitively, I switched to AF-C, and pressed the back button to focus. None of the focus areas tracked as I expected, until I read the manual.

2. The next day, with the dog willing to run again, and with the Auto area enabled, and using the OK button to lock on the subject, the focus performed as well as or perhaps a little better than the D800.

3. The OK button slowed me down. I missed several times where I saw the dog taking off, but by the time my finger located the OK, got the frame on the dog, and press the focus button, the dog's run had already ended and I missed the entire action. It is my greatest gripe with the implementation of the focus.

4. It is a pity I could only use tracking with the auto-area AF. The square sometimes locked onto an object in the background, or halfway in the doggie's run, it would decide the dog is no longer the subject, and start jumping elsewhere in the frame. Then focus was lost. I tried, but could not get tracking with the wide-area, dynamic area or single-point AF. With these, my first two photos were in focus, and as the dog comes closer, it goes more and more out of focus.

Here's one of the best series I could manage with Dynamic Area and tracking:

M mode, ISO200, 1/1600, f8. AF-C [Dynamic] 70-200G + ftz + 1.4 III.

Below is a series of the unprocessed raw files.

Below the same series, 100% crops from Capture 1.

Image 450 is part of the ear - face was completely blurred. Focus shifted to the body, and DOF could no longer keep the entire dog sharp. All in all, I think the D800E would have battled to get so many right, as well.

 Diswantsho's gear list:Diswantsho's gear list
Nikon D800E Olympus PEN-F Nikon Z7 +3 more
Nikon D800 Nikon D800E Nikon Z7
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Danl760 New Member • Posts: 1
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

I have similar application as you and occasionally do some sports photography eg cycling and track and field with my D800E. Now that my DSLR rip and was contemplating to get Z6. I read lots of review but not much sharing especially action photography with Z6 or Z7. I wonder whether it is still very much usable for action and is panning still works well. Any advice?

fpessolano
fpessolano Veteran Member • Posts: 3,974
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues
2

Do you actually know you can lock by half pressing the shutter?

The issue is that to unlock you need the use the zoom out button. If they would les us use the shutter of AfOn to controll the lock, it would be all much easier.

 fpessolano's gear list:fpessolano's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30 Fujifilm X-T3 Nikon Z7 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon Z50 +2 more
beatboxa Veteran Member • Posts: 7,687
Custom Setting A3
1

Diswantsho wrote:

I am no sports photographer. My previous Nikon was (is - still have it) a D800E. I usually shoot macro, landscapes, portraits and travel. Hardly anything requiring ultra fast focus, and the 800E did well, even for an odd air show, bird in flight, or rugby game.

I purchased the Z7 with the same use in mind: manual or AF-S mostly, with occasional AF-C use. The test below was no scientific test. More like: the dog seems full of adrenalin, let's try and see what the guys are complaining about.

1. As a decades-long Nikon user, I had to swallow my pride and go back to the manual. I was unable to figure out focus tracking with previous Nikon experience. Intuitively, I switched to AF-C, and pressed the back button to focus. None of the focus areas tracked as I expected, until I read the manual.

2. The next day, with the dog willing to run again, and with the Auto area enabled, and using the OK button to lock on the subject, the focus performed as well as or perhaps a little better than the D800.

3. The OK button slowed me down. I missed several times where I saw the dog taking off, but by the time my finger located the OK, got the frame on the dog, and press the focus button, the dog's run had already ended and I missed the entire action. It is my greatest gripe with the implementation of the focus.

4. It is a pity I could only use tracking with the auto-area AF. The square sometimes locked onto an object in the background, or halfway in the doggie's run, it would decide the dog is no longer the subject, and start jumping elsewhere in the frame. Then focus was lost. I tried, but could not get tracking with the wide-area, dynamic area or single-point AF. With these, my first two photos were in focus, and as the dog comes closer, it goes more and more out of focus.

Here's one of the best series I could manage with Dynamic Area and tracking:

M mode, ISO200, 1/1600, f8. AF-C [Dynamic] 70-200G + ftz + 1.4 III.

Below is a series of the unprocessed raw files.

Below the same series, 100% crops from Capture 1.

Image 450 is part of the ear - face was completely blurred. Focus shifted to the body, and DOF could no longer keep the entire dog sharp. All in all, I think the D800E would have battled to get so many right, as well.

What value did you have for Custom Setting A3?

Diswantsho
OP Diswantsho Regular Member • Posts: 340
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

Danl760 wrote:

I have similar application as you and occasionally do some sports photography eg cycling and track and field with my D800E. Now that my DSLR rip and was contemplating to get Z6. I read lots of review but not much sharing especially action photography with Z6 or Z7. I wonder whether it is still very much usable for action and is panning still works well. Any advice?

I am Ok with the camera for occasional action. But this is not an ideal camera for  exclusive action use, like a D5. I think focusing during panning wiĺl be fine.

 Diswantsho's gear list:Diswantsho's gear list
Nikon D800E Olympus PEN-F Nikon Z7 +3 more
SaltyPeanut
SaltyPeanut Senior Member • Posts: 1,464
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues
1

Diswantsho wrote:

Danl760 wrote:

I have similar application as you and occasionally do some sports photography eg cycling and track and field with my D800E. Now that my DSLR rip and was contemplating to get Z6. I read lots of review but not much sharing especially action photography with Z6 or Z7. I wonder whether it is still very much usable for action and is panning still works well. Any advice?

I am Ok with the camera for occasional action. But this is not an ideal camera for exclusive action use, like a D5. I think focusing during panning wiĺl be fine.

Try setting a3 to 1, use AF-C wide-S or L and just keep the box over the dog. Use single frame mode and snap away at your heart's content, or continuous low/high. Note if trying H* (continuous extended) it might be difficult as the camera shows you a slideshow of the shots taken, not a live view.

H* is better for things that are moving but not moving from point a to b. Example: a baseball player swinging a bat.

Repeat with a3 set to 3-5. See which works best for you.

Dynamic tends to hunt around a bit vs the wide modes. Try the wide modes.

Someone a while back mentioned changing video settings g4 to max speed and g5 to max sensitivity helps with AF-C tracking moving subjects in photo mode. I didn't notice any difference but give it a try.

Make sure you have enough shutter speed and DoF for dogs to avoid motion blur. Make sure IBIS is on.

Lastly, set your shutter to AUTO (custom setting d5) to avoid shutter shock in general (you should be at high shutter speeds here anyways).

 SaltyPeanut's gear list:SaltyPeanut's gear list
Nikon Z6 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR
tclardy Forum Member • Posts: 52
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

This is so frustrating and typical Nikon crap.   All they have to do is have a mode or a submode where an indicator comes up, like the focus point in single point which you then put on what you want to track and press focus and you are done.   This is a UI issue and is totally doable by firmware/software, but they just won't do it.  No excuse for this other than Nikon's arrogance.

I worked in a camera shop in Fort Worth in the early 80's.    We sold a lot of Nikon equipment and the company was frustrating in their arrogance and tone deafness to their customers and they are still that way.   I love their equipment, lenses and colors but they are very frustrating in this regard.

I am switching back to Nikon from Fujifilm and an X-T3.   The Nikon is much better in some important areas for me but Fuji sure seems to be more willing to listen to their customers and update firmware to try and please their customers.  The X-T3 had multiple modes that you could track in and had custom settings/presets that allowed you to tune the tracking.  I don't shoot sports so this was not the top concern but Nikon can and should do better here.

With them losing market share you would think they would be bending over backward but their arrogance seems to still be affecting their actions.

 tclardy's gear list:tclardy's gear list
Nikon Z6 Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D Nikon Z 24-70mm F4 Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 Nikon 85mm F1.8G +1 more
SaltyPeanut
SaltyPeanut Senior Member • Posts: 1,464
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues
1

tclardy wrote:

This is so frustrating and typical Nikon crap. All they have to do is have a mode or a submode where an indicator comes up, like the focus point in single point which you then put on what you want to track and press focus and you are done. This is a UI issue and is totally doable by firmware/software, but they just won't do it. No excuse for this other than Nikon's arrogance.

Yup. They just need to tie AF with tracking and into its own mode vs within AUTO mode. Separating AF from tracking, and putting it within AUTO mode was a dumb idea. It's cumbersome.

I worked in a camera shop in Fort Worth in the early 80's. We sold a lot of Nikon equipment and the company was frustrating in their arrogance and tone deafness to their customers and they are still that way. I love their equipment, lenses and colors but they are very frustrating in this regard.

I am switching back to Nikon from Fujifilm and an X-T3. The Nikon is much better in some important areas for me but Fuji sure seems to be more willing to listen to their customers and update firmware to try and please their customers. The X-T3 had multiple modes that you could track in and had custom settings/presets that allowed you to tune the tracking. I don't shoot sports so this was not the top concern but Nikon can and should do better here.

With them losing market share you would think they would be bending over backward but their arrogance seems to still be affecting their actions.

They have been busy. Fingers crossed that they're getting better at listening. They have released several FW updates already, including general AF improvements, eye AF, bug fixes, CFExpress, etc. I'm sure they're aware of people's complaints. Let's see what they do about it. The AF system is actually quite capable, it's the UI that needs tweaking.

It's also a learning curve on our end, as it's different than a dslr. Once you get the hang of it, it can deliver. It can track things like people, cars, pets, etc. BIF with H* is the challenge due to how H* works.

 SaltyPeanut's gear list:SaltyPeanut's gear list
Nikon Z6 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR
SaltyPeanut
SaltyPeanut Senior Member • Posts: 1,464
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

SaltyPeanut wrote:

Diswantsho wrote:

Danl760 wrote:

I have similar application as you and occasionally do some sports photography eg cycling and track and field with my D800E. Now that my DSLR rip and was contemplating to get Z6. I read lots of review but not much sharing especially action photography with Z6 or Z7. I wonder whether it is still very much usable for action and is panning still works well. Any advice?

I am Ok with the camera for occasional action. But this is not an ideal camera for exclusive action use, like a D5. I think focusing during panning wiĺl be fine.

Try setting a3 to 1, use AF-C wide-S or L and just keep the box over the dog. Use single frame mode and snap away at your heart's content, or continuous low/high. Note if trying H* (continuous extended) it might be difficult as the camera shows you a slideshow of the shots taken, not a live view.

H* is better for things that are moving but not moving from point a to b. Example: a baseball player swinging a bat.

Repeat with a3 set to 3-5. See which works best for you.

Dynamic tends to hunt around a bit vs the wide modes. Try the wide modes.

Someone a while back mentioned changing video settings g4 to max speed and g5 to max sensitivity helps with AF-C tracking moving subjects in photo mode. I didn't notice any difference but give it a try.

Make sure you have enough shutter speed and DoF for dogs to avoid motion blur. Make sure IBIS is on.

Lastly, set your shutter to AUTO (custom setting d5) to avoid shutter shock in general (you should be at high shutter speeds here anyways).

Ps: make sure you're up to date on the firmware.

 SaltyPeanut's gear list:SaltyPeanut's gear list
Nikon Z6 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR
Diswantsho
OP Diswantsho Regular Member • Posts: 340
Re: Custom Setting A3

beatboxa wrote:

Diswantsho wrote:

I am no sports photographer. My previous Nikon was (is - still have it) a D800E. I usually shoot macro, landscapes, portraits and travel. Hardly anything requiring ultra fast focus, and the 800E did well, even for an odd air show, bird in flight, or rugby game.

I purchased the Z7 with the same use in mind: manual or AF-S mostly, with occasional AF-C use. The test below was no scientific test. More like: the dog seems full of adrenalin, let's try and see what the guys are complaining about.

1. As a decades-long Nikon user, I had to swallow my pride and go back to the manual. I was unable to figure out focus tracking with previous Nikon experience. Intuitively, I switched to AF-C, and pressed the back button to focus. None of the focus areas tracked as I expected, until I read the manual.

2. The next day, with the dog willing to run again, and with the Auto area enabled, and using the OK button to lock on the subject, the focus performed as well as or perhaps a little better than the D800.

3. The OK button slowed me down. I missed several times where I saw the dog taking off, but by the time my finger located the OK, got the frame on the dog, and press the focus button, the dog's run had already ended and I missed the entire action. It is my greatest gripe with the implementation of the focus.

4. It is a pity I could only use tracking with the auto-area AF. The square sometimes locked onto an object in the background, or halfway in the doggie's run, it would decide the dog is no longer the subject, and start jumping elsewhere in the frame. Then focus was lost. I tried, but could not get tracking with the wide-area, dynamic area or single-point AF. With these, my first two photos were in focus, and as the dog comes closer, it goes more and more out of focus.

Here's one of the best series I could manage with Dynamic Area and tracking:

M mode, ISO200, 1/1600, f8. AF-C [Dynamic] 70-200G + ftz + 1.4 III.

Below is a series of the unprocessed raw files.

Below the same series, 100% crops from Capture 1.

Image 450 is part of the ear - face was completely blurred. Focus shifted to the body, and DOF could no longer keep the entire dog sharp. All in all, I think the D800E would have battled to get so many right, as well.

What value did you have for Custom Setting A3?

I shot that on 3, in the middle. I have since changed it to 1, Quick.

 Diswantsho's gear list:Diswantsho's gear list
Nikon D800E Olympus PEN-F Nikon Z7 +3 more
Diswantsho
OP Diswantsho Regular Member • Posts: 340
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

SaltyPeanut wrote:

Diswantsho wrote:

Danl760 wrote:

I have similar application as you and occasionally do some sports photography eg cycling and track and field with my D800E. Now that my DSLR rip and was contemplating to get Z6. I read lots of review but not much sharing especially action photography with Z6 or Z7. I wonder whether it is still very much usable for action and is panning still works well. Any advice?

I am Ok with the camera for occasional action. But this is not an ideal camera for exclusive action use, like a D5. I think focusing during panning wiĺl be fine.

Try setting a3 to 1, use AF-C wide-S or L and just keep the box over the dog. Use single frame mode and snap away at your heart's content, or continuous low/high. Note if trying H* (continuous extended) it might be difficult as the camera shows you a slideshow of the shots taken, not a live view.

H* is better for things that are moving but not moving from point a to b. Example: a baseball player swinging a bat.

Repeat with a3 set to 3-5. See which works best for you.

Dynamic tends to hunt around a bit vs the wide modes. Try the wide modes.

Someone a while back mentioned changing video settings g4 to max speed and g5 to max sensitivity helps with AF-C tracking moving subjects in photo mode. I didn't notice any difference but give it a try.

Make sure you have enough shutter speed and DoF for dogs to avoid motion blur. Make sure IBIS is on.

Lastly, set your shutter to AUTO (custom setting d5) to avoid shutter shock in general (you should be at high shutter speeds here anyways).

Thanks,

I tried the wide area as well and it was a disaster. First two shots were sharp, and as the dog came closer, the photos became increasingly more out of focus, almost as if it did not track at all.That was with A3 on 3. I have set it now to high, will try again, thanks.

D5 was on auto, and speed was set to 1600. Aperture was f8. Video settings were at default. I changed them now for next time.

 Diswantsho's gear list:Diswantsho's gear list
Nikon D800E Olympus PEN-F Nikon Z7 +3 more
beatboxa Veteran Member • Posts: 7,687
Set A3 to Delay, not Quick
8

Diswantsho wrote:

beatboxa wrote:

What value did you have for Custom Setting A3?

I shot that on 3, in the middle. I have since changed it to 1, Quick.

You should set A3 to more Delay, not quicker. This value tells the camera how quickly to pick a new subject. And what you wrote above was:

The square sometimes locked onto an object in the background, or halfway in the doggie's run, it would decide the dog is no longer the subject, and start jumping elsewhere in the frame. Then focus was lost.

This is textbook symptoms of a3 being set too fast.

It's unfortunate that so many set (& suggest setting) this to quicker, which is usually the wrong value for what one is trying to achieve. I suspect people see the word "Quick" and think "This will make my focus quicker." But that is not the case.

Setting A3 just makes your camera's subject tracking more erratic. This setting means: "How quickly do you want the camera to forget your subject?"

As I wrote in that link and above, set it to 4 or 5. Delayed keeps your intended subject in focus longer. This is even specified in the manual:

j_photo Veteran Member • Posts: 5,193
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

Diswantsho wrote:

Here's one of the best series I could manage with Dynamic Area and tracking:

M mode, ISO200, 1/1600, f8. AF-C [Dynamic] 70-200G + ftz + 1.4 III.

Below is a series of the unprocessed raw files.

You say you are using "dynamic area and tracking". There is no such thing. With Dynamic Area, you place the focus point in the frame and it is up to you to keep the dog under the focus point. Subject Tracking, in which the camera takes over focus point placement, only works in Auto Area mode.

If you are using Dynamic Area, as you say, then there is no reason to expect this series of shots to be in focus. The dog is moving all around the frame. Dynamic Area does not track this way.

 j_photo's gear list:j_photo's gear list
Nikon Df Nikon Z7 Nikon Z6 II
Diswantsho
OP Diswantsho Regular Member • Posts: 340
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

fpessolano wrote:

Do you actually know you can lock by half pressing the shutter?

No, I did not know it. When I half press, the square does not turn to yellow like with the OK button, so it seems I need to set it up for that?

The issue is that to unlock you need the use the zoom out button. If they would les us use the shutter of AfOn to controll the lock, it would be all much easier.

YES!!

 Diswantsho's gear list:Diswantsho's gear list
Nikon D800E Olympus PEN-F Nikon Z7 +3 more
Diswantsho
OP Diswantsho Regular Member • Posts: 340
Re: Set A3 to Delay, not Quick
2

beatboxa wrote:

Diswantsho wrote:

beatboxa wrote:

What value did you have for Custom Setting A3?

I shot that on 3, in the middle. I have since changed it to 1, Quick.

You should set A3 to more Delay, not quicker. This value tells the camera how quickly to pick a new subject. And what you wrote above was:

The square sometimes locked onto an object in the background, or halfway in the doggie's run, it would decide the dog is no longer the subject, and start jumping elsewhere in the frame. Then focus was lost.

This is textbook symptoms of a3 being set too fast.

It's unfortunate that so many set (& suggest setting) this to quicker, which is usually the wrong value for what one is trying to achieve. I suspect people see the word "Quick" and think "This will make my focus quicker." But that is not the case.

Setting A3 just makes your camera's subject tracking more erratic. This setting means: "How quickly do you want the camera to forget your subject?"

As I wrote in that link and above, set it to 4 or 5. Delayed keeps your intended subject in focus longer. This is even specified in the manual:

Thanks, I get you now. Yes even at 3 it was a bit erratic. The delayed setting makes sense now.

 Diswantsho's gear list:Diswantsho's gear list
Nikon D800E Olympus PEN-F Nikon Z7 +3 more
beatboxa Veteran Member • Posts: 7,687
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

j_photo wrote:

Diswantsho wrote:

Here's one of the best series I could manage with Dynamic Area and tracking:

M mode, ISO200, 1/1600, f8. AF-C [Dynamic] 70-200G + ftz + 1.4 III.

Below is a series of the unprocessed raw files.

You say you are using "dynamic area and tracking". There is no such thing. With Dynamic Area, you place the focus point in the frame and it is up to you to keep the dog under the focus point. Subject Tracking, in which the camera takes over focus point placement, only works in Auto Area mode.

If you are using Dynamic Area, as you say, then there is no reason to expect this series of shots to be in focus. The dog is moving all around the frame. Dynamic Area does not track this way.

This is not strictly correct. In Dynamic Area, the camera does track, but with the following restrictions:

  • The tracking is for the subject that was at the center dynamic area point (the square AF point), at the time the AF-C was initiated
  • The tracking is limited to within the 9-point area
  • The camera does not provide feedback to the user on specifically which focus point it is using during AF-C

If the subject leaves the 9-point area during AF-C, the camera will wait a bit before picking a new subject at the center--this delay is specified by custom setting a3.

If the camera loses the subject, one can immediately restart the tracking sequence by doing what they originally should have done--that is, letting go of AF-On, re-centering the subject around the center dynamic area square AF point, holding AF-On again, and keeping the subject within the 9-point dynamic area.

Diswantsho
OP Diswantsho Regular Member • Posts: 340
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues

j_photo wrote:

Diswantsho wrote:

Here's one of the best series I could manage with Dynamic Area and tracking:

M mode, ISO200, 1/1600, f8. AF-C [Dynamic] 70-200G + ftz + 1.4 III.

Below is a series of the unprocessed raw files.

You say you are using "dynamic area and tracking". There is no such thing. With Dynamic Area, you place the focus point in the frame and it is up to you to keep the dog under the focus point. Subject Tracking, in which the camera takes over focus point placement, only works in Auto Area mode.

If you are using Dynamic Area, as you say, then there is no reason to expect this series of shots to be in focus. The dog is moving all around the frame. Dynamic Area does not track this way.

Sorry, my bad. I shot the images in Auto Area with the red marks in the corners and the yellow block that tracks the subject.

It seems I had it right in my second point, but messed it up later below as you quoted.

I also tried a series with  dynamic area with the square and the dots around and only the first two or three images of the series were sharp. But the post was intended to say auto area.

 Diswantsho's gear list:Diswantsho's gear list
Nikon D800E Olympus PEN-F Nikon Z7 +3 more
commiebiker Senior Member • Posts: 2,596
Apparently its possible
7

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Nikon D800 Nikon D4 Sony Alpha NEX-7 Sony a7S Nikon D500 +19 more
JJ1983 Regular Member • Posts: 337
Re: My take on the Z6/Z7 focusing issues
6

Might be just me but coming from Fujifilm I have no issues with my Z6's AF.

Tony Bonanno
Tony Bonanno Senior Member • Posts: 1,045
Works Pretty Well When Panning with Right Settings...
6

Z7 with 500 f/5.6 PF lens. AF mode Wide (L), AF-C, Release mode H, Menu G4- +4, G5 - 2. 1/1000, f/5.6, auto ISO..

Sandhill Cranes, New Mexico

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Tony Bonanno Photography, Santa Fe, New Mexico
www.bonannophoto.com

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