On this video wildlife and nature photographer Steve Perry (from backcountrygallery) gives some very useful tips based on his experience with the current generation of mirrorless Nikon cameras that will help you makes the most out of these cameras when it comes to action and tracking moving subjects.
First, you have to set your expectations when shooting with the current generation of Nikon Z cameras (i.e. Z50/Z6/Z7), these cameras, although improved with recent firmware updates are not a real match to Nikon DSLRs when it comes to live-action tracking and keepers rate. With that said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t produce some great action shots with these cameras and you can improve your chances by following the suggestions below.
- Use AF-C mode, Use single-point AF for stationary targets, and move to dynamic AF for slow-moving targets. Wide (wide small) is better for even faster-moving subjects this is good for somewhat larger targets but for smaller targets will still work better with dynamic. Auto-AF might also be a good option for fast-moving subjects (tracking mode doesn’t seem to work that well for birds – for sports maybe better). There is a lot of trial and error here so don’t be afraid to try and try again.
- focus tracking with lock-on – in the Autofocus menu you can play with this option. A low setting (1) and you camera will immediately stop tracking a subject if say it has a tree in front of it a high number (say 5) will wait a lot longer (but on the other hand if you intentionally want to move to a different subject – this will take much longer). if you are not sure what’s right for your style – start with the default setting (3) and see how this works for you.
- You can turn off “apply settings to live view” in the menu (under the shooting/display menu of the camera). This will improve the lock on the target. This will mean that what you are going to see in the viewfinder will not be the “real” exposure level of the image – so you have to be sure that your exposure is set correctly and lighting conditions are not changing too quickly.
- Using a high frame rate is typically better than high+ for successfully tracking moving subjects with Nikon Z cameras.
- Keep firmware up to date – Nikon released several updates to the Z cameras, specifically dealing with AF (both for video and stills) so make a habit of being informed of any updates that the company has for your camera.
- Native Z mount lenses seem to focus much better than Nikon F lenses (with an adaptor). This is especially true for many Nikon F mount telephoto zoom lenses (and even more so in their longer telephoto side). This is a shame since Nikon still doesn’t have a large variety of high-quality long telephoto Z lenses to choose from but this will surely come with time. For adapted lenses, you can try and improve things by using a focus limiter if the lens has one and it falls under the appropriate distance, also you should try as much as you can to start in the middle of the focus range – this will shorten the amount of time it takes the lens to get to where it needs to be.
- There are a few ways that you can improve the buffer on your Z camera. First, consider shooting 12bit RAW instead of 14bit – the difference is very small in IQ especially in good lighting conditions. Also, consider shooting in crop mode (on the Z6/Z7) if you really need to get the most of the buffer.