I’ve had my Nikon Z7ii for a little over a month now, and although I still have not been able to get out and shoot some of the things I want to shoot with it, I have been shooting. Mostly Wildlife, but there are a few other things mixed in. Remember — my observations are not at all scientific. I just go shoot whatever tickles my fancy at the moment.
AF modes — Auto-area AF (Animals)
The Auto-area AF (Animals) works pretty good, on both larger mammals, like deer, and birds, including birds-in-flight (BIF). I have noticed that with the mammals, it will pick up an eye, provided the animal is looking right at the camera, and fairly large in the frame. However, I have had instances were it locked in on the deer’s nose, thinking it was an eye. If the animal turns its head even a little, it loses the eye. As long as the animal is turned away less than 45°, it will pick up the face, but once the animal turns its head away from the camera 45° or more, it loses the face. If the animal turns back toward the camera, it will pick it back up. Likewise, if the animal doesn’t present a fairly large image in the frame, it won’t lock on, either. I know — it all says “dogs and cats.” I don’t like cats, and don’t have a dog. I would get tired of shooting the same two all the time anyway. I prefer deer, elk, moose, bison, lions, tigers, and bears (oh, myyyy).
In situations where the eye detect or face detect loose their targets, the regular focus points will try to lock onto some part of the animal’s body. Again, it does a pretty good job — provided there’s nothing between the camera and the animal, which is when it starts hunting, or not locking on at all. And the larger the things between the animal and the camera, or the more of them there are (as in the image above left), the less likely it is to achieve focus. In those cases, I activate Tracking (I have one of the FN buttons programmed to turn Tracking on and off), and put the tracking box right on the animal’s face, then hit the AF button (I use back button focus exclusively). The problem with that is that in my admittedly limited experience, the Tracking doesn’t. Track, I mean. I have experienced way too many instances where, while holding the back AF button down, and the deer can still walk right out of the Tracking box and out of focus. And don’t talk to me about BIF — I just cannot get the Tracking to follow them at all.
All in all, though, the Auto-area AF (Animals) lives up to its hype, although I also find the Wide-area AF (L-animals) not nearly as accurate. Maybe I just need more practice with it.
Can’t Assign Focus Modes To Buttons
I skipped the D850, as the D810’s were giving me everything I needed. But there is one feature my fellow wildlife photographers get from their D850’s that I wish I had on the D810 — the ability to program a button so one can switch between 2 focus modes. (I’m not talking about meter modes, I’m talking about focus modes.) They find it very handy when tracking BIF.
Sadly, this feature has been left off the Z7ii and the Z6ii. Surely wish I could do that . . . Bet sports photographers would love that, too.
Locking Down Settings
Another thing I’ve noticed about the Z7ii is that there are still things that I can’t lock down in the User setting modes, which I just don’t understand. For example, I have certain settings that are common to several of my favorite subjects — wildlife, aircraft in flight, sports, etc, are all shot in manual mode, with my aperture and shutter speed set to certain levels, while the ISO is set to Auto, thereby giving me that fourth auto exposure mode I so enjoy. Another setting I almost always employ when shooting those subjects is burst mode, so the camera is set to Continuous High.
But for other subjects, such as architecture and landscapes, burst mode is silly, and for me at least, shooting portraits just doesn’t require burst mode, especially with flash. Yet, I cannot lock burst mode to my wildlife/sports User setting and have single frame automatically kick back in when I switch away from that User setting.
The inability to do this makes absolutely no sense to me. Every command I send to the camera is electronic. Even turning the mode dial is not giving the camera mechanical instructions. There may be electrical contacts down there the dial is connecting with, but what goes with those contacts are certain pre-determined commands. So why can’t I save Continuous High to the U1 user setting, but have it revert to single frame mode when I switch to my portrait U2 user setting? Or when I switch back to Aperture Priority? It isn’t a mechanical thing, witnessed by the dedicated button on the back of the camera. Just makes no sense to me. I should be able to save every setting to the User settings, and have them all change/revert when I change to another User setting.
I got an eyecup for the Z7ii. I’ve had them on all of my digital cameras going all the way back to the D2h bodies. Of course, since every camera I’ve owned since the D2h has had the same round eye piece, I was able to just move the eyecup to the new camera. But the Z7ii has one of the rectangular eye pieces, so the old eyecups won’t work. Besides, I still use the D810’s (where the eyecups have been residing for the last several years).
I finally saw one on a video by a west coast photographer, and he was kind enough to include a link to where he got it with that video. It was from Amazon, and I must have gotten the last one, because the page now says “unavailable.” In case you’re interested, and in case they come back into stock, here’s the link:
However, as of this writing, it is available from this seller at Amazon:
Unfortunately, not any eyecup that is designed to replace the DK-29 that comes with so many Nikon cameras will work. The reason is that the Z cameras have that eye sensor just above the EVF that detects the presence of the photographer’s head (or finger, or hand, or anything else) near the viewfinder, and turned it on and the monitor off. The two eyecups listed above have a notch in them that exposes that sensor, allowing it to function. Without that notch, the monitor won’t work.
I’ve also run into something else recently, although this is not at all specific to the Z7ii — a little experimenting shows it happens with the D810, as well.
As I’ve mentioned before, the main thing that stopped me from getting one of the original Z cameras was the lack of a second card slot. I am a fanatic about shooting with automatic backup, which requires a second card in a second slot. It doesn’t matter if it’s a job or a personal shoot, back, up, back up, back up. (And yes, things are backed up after the shoot, too.)
Well, if you are set up to do that too, you pretty much have to pull a card and use a card reader to upload your images to Lightroom, because if you try to upload directly from the camera with a USB cable, you’ll end up with random duplicate images when Lightroom tries to read both cards. And I do mean random. It makes absolutely no sense.
I discovered this when I noticed that some of the original file names were duplicated with a ‘-2” after them. The images and all the other metadata were identical. Of 150 images, 40 or more may be duplicated, meaning Lightroom just imported those 40 twice. That’s a lot of extra hard drive space.
So even though I find it much faster to upload images directly from the camera rather than through a card reader, I’m going to have to use the card reader. Finding and deleting the duplicates negates the time savings.
I still love this camera. I’m sure whatever problems I’m having with the Auto-area AF (Animals) is lack of experience. Virtually every camera I’ve owned since going digital in 2004 has had learning curve, and this one is no different in that regard.
Having said that, I would love to see a firmware update that would:
1. Allow me to assign absolutely anything to a User setting and have it not affect other User settings or other modes.
2. Allow me to change focus modes by pressing a single button assigned to that purpose. I.e., Pushing a button allows one to go from Single-point AF to Wide-are AF, or whatever.
All in all, a great camera. I’d buy another in a heartbeat.
When I have the cash . . .
And assuming I can get an eyecup for it . . . ;-)