Mirrorless Cameras

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As with all new mirrorless and dSLR cameras, the lists of specifications don’t tell the entire story. Many of the important functions, options, and additions of a new camera can be found in the menus and Custom Settings. These are the types of options that can really differentiate a camera, from a user-experience perspective, and yet these options are often over-looked by reviewers and spec comparison posts. For example, two cameras may share the same autofocus AF Modes and AF Area Modes, and thus look equal on a spec comparison sheet. But one will be much better suited for photographing action and movement because it has additional menu options and Custom Settings which allow the user to tweak and customize the AF system for their specific needs and shooting style.

Nikon Z 7 Nikon Z 6 Custom Settings

Some of the Custom Settings options of the Nikon Z 7

A video of all the Nikon Z 7 menu items has been posted on YouTube by Jeff Curtner. You can find the video here. It is simply a video of someone navigating all the Z 7 menu items, the i Menu, and the Live View display, but lots of information can be gathered from this, including a few menu options that have not been mentioned in Nikon’s materials or by other reviews of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6. All of the screenshots in this post have been taken from this video.

Despite being a mirrorless camera, and thus differing from a Nikon dSLR, a large number of the menu items and options are similar to the Nikon D850 and other recent Nikon models. I will not go into detail about any of those items, since if you are currently using a D850, D500, D7500, D750, etc, you will already be familiar with those menu items and their options. You can consult one of my Menu Setup Spreadsheets to learn about suggested settings for those menu items, or have a look at my comprehensive user-guides for these cameras, such as Nikon D850 Experience. A comprehensive user-guide for the Z 7 and Z 6, Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Experience, will be available in November or December 2018. You can learn more about it here:

http://www.fullstopbooks.com/nikon-z-7-z-6-experience/

Menu Setup Spreadsheets:

http://www.fullstopbooks.com/setup-guides/

Comprehensive User Guides for most Nikon dSLR models:

http://www.fullstopbooks.com

And now a look at some of the Menu and Custom Setting options of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6 that have not been discussed in many recent Z 7 and Z 6 camera reviews. Some of the most important ones are in the Custom Settings items, but we will start at the top of the Menu tabs, with the Photo Shooting Menu:

Photo Shooting Menu

The Expeed 6 processor of the Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 offers processing speed that allows for some new features, including Diffraction Compensation, a Mid-Range Sharpening Picture Control parameter in addition to the Sharpening and Clarity parameters, and the new Creative Picture Controls. As an in-camera processing feature, Diffraction Compensation may potentially slow down the maximum continuous frame rate a tiny bit, though perhaps not – we will have to read the fine-print of the Nikon Z 7 User’s Manual when it is available. The Creative Picture Controls are found in the Set Picture Control menu, and listed after all the typical Picture Controls. If you don’t wish to separately set the three Picture Control sharpening parameters, you can use the new Quick Sharp option to adjust these sharpening-related parameters together.

Nikon Z 7 Z 6 menu

Diffraction Compensation menu item (left), and the Creative Picture Controls as found in the Set Picture Control menu (right). The Movie Picture Control option is shown here, but a similar menu is also found in the Photo Shooting Menu, for still image shooting.

The White Balance menu item is located in the Photo Shooting Menu, though for quick access it can also be assigned to one of the Function Buttons, or changed via the i Button Menu on the rear Monitor or in the Viewfinder. As with recent Nikon models, the Z 7 and Z 6 offer three different Auto White Balance options, Keep White, Normal, and Keep Warm Lighting Colors. The cameras also offer the recently added Natural Light Auto option, designed to reproduce colors as the eye sees them in natural light. And there are the other standard Nikon WB options, including multiple Fluorescent sub-options such as Day White and Cool-White. To access these options quickly while shooting, you can assign WB to one of the customizable buttons, and then press that button and change the WB setting as you view it in the electronic Viewfinder or on the rear Monitor, as shown in the figure below.

Nikon Z 7 Z 6 menu setup

Left: Photo Shooting Menu – White Balance options, including three Auto WB options, and the Natural Light Auto option. Right: If WB is assigned to one of the camera  buttons, you can also quickly access and change this setting in the Viewfinder or on the rear Monitor.

The Z 7 and Z 6 offer in-camera, 5-axis Vibration Reduction, for both still image and video shooting. This image stabilization also works with F-mount lenses, including non-VR lenses, via the Nikon FTZ Adapter. (Image stabilization will be limited to 3-axis VR with non-VR lenses.) I’m not sure if this menu item shown below is for enabling the in-body electronic image stabilization, or if it is an option that is used with newer Nikon lenses that have VR, but don’t have the VR and VR Mode switches on the lens itself. I will update when more information is known.

Nikon Z 7 Z 6 menu settings setup

Left: Vibration Reduction menu item, to enable VR and to set the VR Mode. It is possible that this is not the in-camera Electronic Vibration Reduction menu item, but rather it is possibly for enabling VR on newer lenses that don’t have the VR and VR Mode switches on the lens itself. Right: Focus Shift Shooting options (Focus stacking), including the Peaking Stack Image preview image option.

The focus stacking feature of the Z 7 and Z 6 is called Focus Shift Shooting, and is accessed in the Photo Shooting Menu. You will use this menu to set the Number of Shots, Focus Step Width, and Interval between shots. It will also allow you to lock the exposure on the first frame, enable completely Silent Photography for the process, and create a new storage folder to save the focus stack images where you can quickly locate them. The new Peaking Stack Image option will display a monochrome preview of the final focus-stacked images, which can be viewed after the focus stacking function is performed. Beware that the Silent Photography option can result in banding in the images, particularly under artificial lighting that cycles. So if you are using this option, it is best to verify that your images are clean before initiating the Focus Shift process.

Custom Settings Menu

Many of the importation functions, options, and customizations for the Z 7 and Z 6 can be found in the Custom Settings Menu. These menu items are often where the important, powerful functions of a Nikon camera are found. For example, the on-camera, phase-detection aspect of the hybrid autofocus system of the Z 7 and Z 6 allows for Face-Detection autofocusing, with both Viewfinder shooting and Live View shooting. This feature can only be used with the Auto-Area AF area mode, and is enabled with Custom Setting a4. The Custom Setting a5 – Focus Points Used, can be used to limit the number of selectable focus points. The Z 7 has 493 AF Points, and the the Z 6 has 273 AF Points, so that is a ridiculous number of focus points to have to click across in order to locate the active AF Point where you want it to be. I will have to confirm this, but I believe that this menu item will be used to limit the number of selectable points, so that you can more quickly and easily select the AF Point you desire. I am going to speculate that all the the AF Points will actually be used by the camera when automatically tracking a moving subject.

Nikon Z 7 Z 6 Custom Setting menu setup

Left: Custom Setting a4, to enable AF Face Detection when working in Auto-Area AF area mode. Right: Custom Setting a5, to limit the number of selectable AF Points.

The Z 7 and Z 6 also offer a Dynamic Area AF area mode, where the selected AF Point is used to focus on the subject, but the immediate surrounding points will help retain focus on the subject if it momentarily strays from the initial point. This is similar to the 9-Point Dynamic-Area AF of previous Nikon dSLR models. The Custom Setting a10 – Focus Point Options offers the Dynamic-Area AF Assist item, which applies to this area mode. If enabled, you will be able to also view the active surrounding AF Points, in the Viewfinder when shooting, and not just see the single selected AF Point. The Custom Setting a11 – Low-Light AF is a new option for the Z 7 and Z 6, and is used to make the autofocusing system even more sensitive when working in low light. However, enabling this option may cause a slight lag in autofocusing.

Nikon Z 7 Z 6 Custom Settings menu setup

Left: Custom Setting a10, to enable the Dynamic-Area AF Assist option in order to view all the active AF Points when using that AF Area Mode. Right: Low-Light AF, to assist with focusing in low light situations.

The Z 7 and Z 6 offer an Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter option, found in Custom Setting d5. This feature makes use of an electronic shutter, using the sensor itself as the shutter, and thus eliminates the sound and the motion of the first curtain of the mechanical shutter. This can help to eliminate slight internal camera movements and vibrations when capturing an image, and is useful for tripod shooting such as landscape and macro shots. The cameras also offer a Silent Shutter option, which will be completely silent. However, that can cause banding when used with artificial lighting that cycles. When Custom Setting d8 – Apply Settings to Live View is enabled, all of the various camera settings and exposure settings will be applied to the scene as viewed on the rear Monitor during Live View. This will include the White Balance setting, Picture Control, and Exposure Compensation amount. Thus you will better be able to preview the appearance of the final image.

Nikon Z 7 Z 6 Custom Settings menu setup options

Left: Custom Setting d5, to enable the Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter. Right: Custom Setting d8 – Apply Settings to Live View, where the scene on the rear Monitor will reflect the current camera settings and exposure settings.

The cameras offer a newly designed i Menu, which will allow you to quickly access and change various settings. This menu can be accessed on the rear Monitor, and also in the electronic Viewfinder. This offers the advantage of changing various camera settings, while shooting, without taking the camera down from your eye. Custom Setting f1 enables you to Customize i Menu, so that you will be able to access the settings and functions you use most frequently. For example, if you often use the in-camera HDR or Bracketing features, you can add them to this menu. Custom Setting f2 – Custom Control Assignment allows you to customize various buttons and controls on the camera, including the Fn1 and Fn2 Button, and the Movie-Record Button. For example, you can assign WB or AF Modes to the Fn Buttons, and then press the button and turn the dials to quickly adjust those settings. The Multi-Selector Center Press can be assigned to a function such as AE/AF Lock, or I believe it will be able to be used to quickly, temporarily switch to a different AF Mode / AF Area Mode. This is useful if you need to quickly switch between shooting a still subject and a moving subject, while shooting.

Nikon Z 7 Z 6 Custom Settings menu suggested setting setup

Left: Custom Setting f1, used to customize the functions available on the i Menu. Right: Custom Setting f2 – Custom Control Assignment, to customize the various camera buttons.

Setup Menu

There are a few additional notable new features located in the Setup Menu, including the ability to adjust the Brightness and the Color Balance of both the rear Monitor and the electronic Viewfinder. The HDMI menu item allows you to adjust the video settings when recording to an optional external device, including 8-bit or 10-bit, and enabling N-Log, and View Assist to preview the appearance of the final image.

Nikon Z 7 Z 6 Custom Setting menu setup options

Setup Menu options for adjusting Monitor Color Balance (left), and the advanced HDMI settings for recording video to an optional external device (right).

Of course there are additional menu items and functions that have not been discussed here, including many of the features found on previous models such as the D850. You can learn more about many of the new features and functions of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6 in my previous blog post Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 – Beyond the Specifications:

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2018/08/24/nikon-z-7-and-z-6-specifications/

And be sure to join the Nikon Z6 and Z7 Setup and User Tips Facebook page, to learn, share, and ask more about using your Z 6 / Z 7.

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To learn about all the features, functions, controls, and customizations of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6, be sure to have a look at my Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Experience user guide, to be available in November or December 2018. It is a comprehensive 350+ page guide, to help you take control of your camera, and the images you create.

Nikon Z 7 Nikon Z 6 book manual guide how to use recommend settings setup

My Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Menu Setup Spreadsheet Excel document will be available in October 2018. It will be free for a limited time after the introduction of the camera, and will be available for download here:

http://www.fullstopbooks.com/setup-guides/

If you want to pre-order or order the Nikon Z 7 or Nikon Z 6, please consider using my affiliate links below. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small commission – thanks!

Nikon Z 7 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MPaiU5 – $3396.95

Nikon Z 7 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

Nikon Z 6 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MKHSe0$1996.95

Nikon Z 6 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

After years of speculation and anticipation, Nikon has finally introduced the new Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6 full-frame mirrorless cameras. Initial reactions have been heated and emotional, as people debate whether or not the single XQD memory card slot will be its downfall, or whether the autofocusing system will be up to the needs and expectations of Nikon dSLR users. And of course there are endless comparisons of whether they live up to the offerings of the comparable Sony a7R III and a7 III full-frame mirrorless models.

Comparing the specifications, the two sets of cameras are similar on many points. The Z 7 and the a7R III are the high resolution models, while the Z 6 and the a7 III are the little brothers, with most all of the same features as their big brothers, but with a lower mega-pixel count. With some features, such as eye-detection autofocus, burst rates, and buffer rates, the Sonys appear to come out ahead, and with many other features the Nikons seem equal or better.

Detail of an official Nikon Press Photo of the Nikon Z7 body.

But I contend that, while Nikon certainly considered the Sony models when designing the new Z series, this Nikon vs. Sony comparison is not their primary concern. Nikon put that aside, and concentrated on Nikon. They designed a “future-proof” lens system with the new Z-mount, which will begin to make a large difference with the introduction of future wide-angle and fast lenses. There is already an f/0.95 lens that has been announced, the 58mm f/ 0.95 S Noct Lens. Most importantly, they designed a mirrorless camera that looks like a Nikon, feels like a Nikon, and functions like a Nikon. The camera buttons will all be familiar to a Nikon dSLR user, and just as important, the camera menus and navigation will be the same.

As anyone who has used a Sony a7 model will tell you, navigating the menus, finding the setting you are seeking, then interpreting a setting and its options can be painful. I can attest to that, I wrote the book on it! (Sony a7R III Menu Setup Guide and Sony a7 III Menu Setup Guide). It is a very different experience from using a Nikon or Canon menu, and it takes a bit of getting used to. Some of the Sony buttons, controls, and functions offer the same issue, and are not necessarily intuitive to either a new user or to a user coming from Nikon. And that is where Nikon wins… with existing Nikon users.

The Z cameras are not necessarily designed for camera users trying to decide between the Sony a7 and the Nikon Z. If a dedicated Nikon user wanted to try out or to jump to a mirrorless system, a Nikon user would have already bought a Sony a7 camera (or a Fuji or one of the other offerings). Instead, the Z cameras are designed for Nikon users trying to decide between buying a mirrorless camera or not buying a mirrorless camera. If they are going to buy a mirrorless camera, there is a high likelihood they will now be buying a Z 7 or Z 6. Nikon has greatly reduced the friction of converting to mirrorless, by offering a familiar camera. And in addition to the camera body, buttons, menus, options, functions, and features being similar to their current Nikon dSLR, Nikon users can painlessly bring along all their F-mount lenses, with the simple addition of the FTZ Lens Adapter. And Nikon users can expect that the image quality is going to be there.

Beyond the hype and chatter, the pre-orders for the Z cameras appear to be happening, and I believe that these cameras are going to be a success. Nikon has finally entered the full-frame mirrorless camera market, and they are here to stay.

If you want help setting up the Menus and Custom Settings of the Nikon Z 7, Nikon Z 6, Sony a7R III, or Sony a7 III, have a look at my comprehensive Menu Setup Spreadsheets, which are all free for a limited time after the introduction of each of the cameras. Or they are always free with a link included within the text guides for each of the cameras, which can be found at my FullStopBooks website, including the new Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Experience comprehensive user guide to the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6.

And if you want to continue to learn, discuss, and ask questions about the settings, features, and functions of the Z 7 and Z 6 from a user-standpoint, please join the Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Setup and User Tips Facebook group!

Nikon Z 7 Nikon Z 6 book manual guide how to use recommend settings setup

If you want to learn more about some of the features and specifications of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6, have a look at my blog post Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 – Beyond the Specifications.

If you want to pre-order or order the Nikon Z 7 or Nikon Z 6, please consider using my affiliate links below. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small commission – thanks!

Nikon Z 7 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MPaiU5 – $3396.95

Nikon Z 7 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

Nikon Z 6 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MKHSe0$1996.95

Nikon Z 6 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

Nikon FTZ Lens Adapter

After several years of speculation and anticipation, Nikon has just introduced their first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Nikon Z 7 and the Nikon Z 6. The Z 7 is a high-resolution model boasting 45.7 MP, and the Z 6 is nearly the same camera, but has 24.5 MP, and costs $1996 vs. $3396 for the Z 7. There are some additional differences such as the number of autofocus points, and the ISO ranges.

Nikon Z 7 body detail

Detail of the Nikon Z 7 full-frame mirrorless camera, including the 3.2″ tilting touch-screen monitor. Official Nikon image.

If you have been reading about these models, you have likely found numerous comparison posts between the two cameras, the Nikon D850 dSLR, plus the competing Sony a7R III and Sony a7 III mirrorless models. Simply comparing the specifications on the surface can be a helpful starting point, but we need to dig a little deeper in order to make true, user experience comparisons.

Continuous Frame Rate and Buffer

For example, the Nikon D850 dSLR lists a 9fps maximum burst rate, but users quickly discovered that this was based on the use of the optional MB-D18 battery grip and EN-EL18a/b battery. The maximum frame rate without the battery grip is 7 fps, and even then that rate is not achievable without the use of specific settings including AF-S, M or S shooting mode with a 1/250 or faster shutter speed, and various settings like VR and auto ISO turned off.

The Nikon Z 7 has a similar situation, with the maximum frame rate listed as 9 fps. However, this is rate can only be attained when capturing JPEG or 12-bit RAW files, and the exposure will be locked at the first frame of the burst. The camera will continue to update focus for each shot, when using AF-C focus mode, but not the exposure settings. When using Silent Mode, where shutter sound is completely eliminated, the maximum fps will be 8 fps. When capturing 14-bit RAW files, the maximum frame rate is reduced to 5.5 fps, however this will enable continuous focus, and exposure will be determined for each shot in the burst, and not just locked at the first shot. The maximum rate can be maintained for up to 18 continuous 14-bit compressed RAW images,or 23 12-bit lossless compressed images. Note that the Sony a7R III achieves up to 10 fps (with viewfinder blackout), or 8 fps without blackout, and exposure is not locked on the first exposure with either frame rate, unless desired. The Sony maximum rate can be attained for 40 RAW images, or 89 compressed RAW images. That is a significant difference, which Nikon will need to improve in future models.

Detail of the Nikon Z 7 full-frame mirrorless camera, including the new Z-mount lens mount. Official Nikon image.

Electronic Viewfinder and Touch Screen

Compared to a dSLR, mirrorless cameras such as the Z 7 and Z 6 make use of an electronic viewfinder (3690K dots) rather than an optical viewfinder. An electronic viewfinder can take a little bit to get accustomed to if you are used to working with the optical viewfinder of a dSLR, as there can be a little lag, the brightness changes with the scene and exposure, and it consumes battery life. However it has its advantages. An electronic viewfinder will reflect many of the actual camera settings, such as exposure, white balance, and Picture Control. This not only helps you envision the final image, but can save you in situations where you may have the wrong WB set. It also allows you to see and change certain camera settings, such as metering mode and autofocus modes, while looking through the viewfinder (by pressing the i Button to access a customizable settings screen). It also allows you to review images and movies in the viewfinder, without taking your eye away to view the rear screen.

The Z 7 and Z 6 provide a couple different ways to confirm focus, when manual focusing through the Viewfinder or on the rear Monitor. There is a Rangefinder feature, as found on many Nikon dSLR models, where you place the AF Point on your desired subject or detail, and as you manually focus, the AF Point will illuminate when that detail comes into focus. You can also enable Focus Peaking, where high-contrast edges of the actual subject or detail in the scene will illuminate when that distance is in focus. You can select which color is used to indicate focus. Focus Peaking is often used when manually focusing when shooting video, and still photographers have adapted the use of the feature as well.

The 3.2″ rear monitor has touch-screen capabilities for Live View, navigating menus, changing settings, and for locating your AF Point and autofocusing. This differs from the Sony a7R III, where the touch-screen is only used for Live View and for autofocusing.

Nikon Z 7 body

Detail of the Nikon Z 7 full-frame mirrorless camera, including the rear monitor and controls. Official Nikon image.

Autofocus System

The AF system of the Z 7 and Z 6 is going to be slightly different than you may be used to with a Nikon dSLR. The hybrid AF system (phase-detection and contrast-detection) of the Z 7 has 493 AF points, and the Z 6 has 273 points, both covering 90% of the frame. That means you will be able to focus on and track subjects throughout almost the entire frame, without necessarily having to lock focus and recompose. The on-sensor phase-detection AF system is similar to Live View autofocusing, and thus should be spot-on without having to calibrate lenses (except for lenses that can’t take full advantage of the hybrid AF system, and instead rely on the contrast-detection system).

You will be able to use AF-S Focus Mode for still subjects, and AF-C for tracking moving subjects. The AF Area Modes differ slightly from a Nikon dSLR. You will be able to choose from Pinpoint AF for very precise AF Point positioning (in AF-S mode only), Single-Point AF, 9-point Dynamic-Area AF (in AF-C mode), Wide-Area AF, and Auto-Area AF. If you wish to take advantage of face detection, you will have to set for Auto-Area AF, and enable the Auto-Area AF Face Detection item of the menu. Nikon says that the face-detection will also look at the upper body of the subject, and thus will continue to track it even if the face is momentarily out of view.

Tracking a subject throughout the frame, similar to Nikon’s 3D-Tracking on a dSLR, will be done in Auto-Area AF and AF-C. The implementation of it is a bit different, however, and DP Review goes into detail about the new process. It is a bit more cumbersome than how it is done on a dSLR:

https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikon-z7-first-impressions-review/5

Nikon Z 7 mirrorless autofocus AF 493 point

The 493 AF Points of the Nikon Z 7, covering 90% of the frame. Official Nikon image.

Other Features and Functions

The ISO range of the Z 7 is 64 – 25,600, expandable to 32 – 102,400. With its different sensor, the Z 6 has a wider ISO range on the high end, of 100 – 51,200, expandable to 50 – 204,800.

New Z-mount lens mount – Wider, which will allow for lenses such as the 52mm f/0.9 NOCT lens, coming from Nikon. Three lenses will be available at first, along with a Z to F ZTF Adapter to use Nikon F-mount lenses.

EXPEED 6 processor, new mid-range sharpening parameter, new Creative Picture Controls to create dramatically processed images, such as Dream, Bleached, and Graphite.

5-axis in-camera image stabilization, which will work with both lenses without VR, and lenses with VR.

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To learn about all the features, functions, controls, and customizations of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6, be sure to have a look at my Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Experience. user guide, to be available in November or December 2018. It is a comprehensive 350+ page guide, to help you take control of your camera, and the images you create.

Nikon Z 7 Nikon Z 6 book manual guide how to use recommend settings setup

 

If you want to pre-order or order the Nikon Z 7 or Nikon Z 6, please consider using my affiliate links below. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small commission – thanks!

Nikon Z 7 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MPaiU5 – $3396.95

Nikon Z 7 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

Nikon Z 6 at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MKHSe0$1996.95

Nikon Z 6 at B and H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Mirrorless_System_Cameras/ci/16158/N/4288586281/BI/7364/KBID/7886/kwid/000/DFF/d10-v1-t3-z4288586281

Both the Sony a7R III and the Sony a7 III mirrorless cameras have provided exciting upgrades to their predecessors. Important improvements and new features included improved hybrid autofocus systems with AF points positioned widely across the entire frame, faster continuous shooting frame rates, and the addition of the Multi Selector joystick to quickly select the desired AF Point while shooting.

Sony a7R III tips tricks recommended settings

Detail of the Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera

However, they both make use of a complex menu system that can be a challenge to navigate. While the numerous menu options allow for a tremendous amount of control and customization of the cameras, they can also cause confusion with similarly named items, or with items whose functions are unclear at first. To help you better understand all of the menu items and functions of the camera, I have created quick-start Menu Setup Guides, which explain every menu item along with suggested starting points. There are the two separate books, Sony Alpha a7R III Menu Setup Guide and Sony Alpha a7 III Menu Setup Guide, both of which can be purchased at my FullStopBooks.com website. I have also created a Menu Setup Spreadsheet for these cameras, which list suggested settings for each menu item, with different listing for various shooting situations such as Landscape, Portrait, Action, Studio, Birds, etc. The spreadsheets can be downloaded from my website here: www.fullstopbooks.com/setup-guides/.

Information from these guides is excerpted here, to explain some of the tips, tricks, and “hidden” features of the cameras. While none of the camera features are actually hidden if you read through the manual or help guide, or explore the menu items, some of them can be a bit challenging to find or to make use of if you don’t know they exist, and so I will explain them here.

Attach the Spot Metering Point to the Active AF Point

When making use of Spot Metering Mode, the actual spot that is used to determine the exposure settings can either be located in the center of the frame, or it can surround the active AF Point. Often it is more useful to have this point surround the active AF Point, because for example, you may be focusing on a specific face, and you would also like that face to be used to determine the exposure settings. If the Spot Metering circle is located in the center of the frame, you would have to first meter on the face using the center of the frame, lock the exposure settings (AEL), and then recompose, focus, and capture the image. If the Spot Metering circle is located surrounding the active AF Point, then you simply need to autofocus and capture the image, and the camera will simultaneously use the area of the active AF Point to also determine the exposure.

If this is how you wish to work, I suggest setting the Spot Metering Point item of the Camera Settings 1 Menu to “Focus Point Link” in order to have the spot metering point surround the active AF Point.

Know that you can also select the size of the Spot Metering point. When selecting Spot Metering in the Metering Mode menu item of the Camera Settings 1 Menu, or via the Fn Button and Function Menu, be sure to press left or right to choose Spot Large, Medium, or Small.

You can also use the Custom Key settings of the Camera Settings 2 Menu to assign a button to temporarily make use of Spot Metering when that button is pressed, so that you can quickly meter for a precise or specific area without having to take your eye from the Viewfinder as you change the Metering Mode.

Take Advantage of Face Priority and Eye Priority Autofocus

The a7R III and the a7 III both have excellent autofocus systems, which are able to identify and lock onto faces and subject’s eyes found in the scene. In the Camera Settings 1 Menu, you will want to access the Set Face Priority in AF menu item, where you will enable the Face Priority in AF sub-option, in order to take advantage of the autofocusing face detection feature. If the camera detects a face at or near the area of the active AF Point or Zone, the camera will automatically detect, track, and focus on the face. You will still need to use the Multi-Selector to position the active AF Point or Zone at the desired face before focusing, so that the camera knows which part of the scene to look at and locate your desired subject. Then half-press the Shutter Button, and the active face detection frame will turn white.

When working in Single-shot AF (AF-S) Focus Mode, the camera will also automatically detect and focus on the subject’s eyes. When working in Continuous AF (AF-C) Focus Mode, the camera will only detect, focus, and track faces unless you press the center button of the Control Wheel, and then eye detection and tracking will become active as well.

This Face Priority and eye detection feature works extremely well, and thus you may wish to take advantage of it for various shooting situations that involve faces, whether for still subjects or moving subjects. You are even able to register and rank specific faces (in the Face Registration setting later in the Camera Settings 1 Menu), so that the camera will prioritize them in a scene with multiple faces.

Sony a7R III tips tricks recommended settings

Detail of the Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera

Quickly Switch to a Different Group of Shooting Settings with the Press of a Button

The Register Custom Shooting Settings of the Camera Settings 1 Menu is a powerful option that will let you assign a group of exposure, shooting, and autofocus settings to one of the camera’s custom buttons (C1, C2, or C3 Button). You can then press and hold that button while shooting to temporarily switch to an entirely different group of camera settings.

To make use of this feature, access this menu item, then select which button you wish to register (such as Recall Custom hold 1), then go through the next menu screen and select and set all of the available settings, such as Shooting Mode, Aperture, Drive Mode, Metering Mode, Focus Mode, and Focus Area. Then select Register. Or if you wish, you can set your camera in advance to all of your desired settings, access this menu, and then select Import Current Setting.

In this menu, you can enable or disable the check-mark next to the settings to choose if they will be registered or not. For example, you may wish to register various autofocus and camera settings, but not register specific exposure settings. Then when you make use of this feature during shooting by pressing and holding the C1, C2, or C3 Button, the enabled settings will temporarily change, but the camera’s exposure settings will remain as you currently have them set.

This customization might be used if you are shooting a still situation that might suddenly change to an action situation, such as a standing bird suddenly taking flight. Or it can be used in an action type of situation where you immediately wish to switch to different shooting parameters for a completely different type of action, such as a baseball batting situation vs. a running situation. Or if you are shooting a subject that is actively moving between sun and shade, the various shooting settings (such as the ISO, Metering Mode, and White Balance) can be set up to instantly accommodate the shade situation.

Use the Focus Magnifier to Zoom in on the Live View Scene

The Sony a7 cameras don’t have the same zoom-in and zoom-out buttons for viewing the Live View scene that you may be used to with a Canon or Nikon camera. Instead you will need to make use of the Focus Magnifier of the Camera Settings 1 Menu. You can also assign the Focus Magnifier to a button of your choice, such as the down button on the Control Wheel. The menu items that come after Focus Magnifier are used to customize exactly how the feature will work.

Focus MagnifierAccess this menu item, then press the center of the Multi-Selector to zoom-in on the scene while viewing either the rear Monitor or the Viewfinder. Use the Multi-Selector to move the magnified area about the screen, or press the Delete Button to move it to the center of the screen. You can continue to press the Multi-Selector Center to zoom-in closer. If using manual focus, this can assist you in focusing more precisely on the desired detail. Turn the manual focus ring on the lens to focus. If Touch Operation is set for On, then you can double-tap on the rear Monitor to magnify the desired area. Note that you cannot access this function when using AF-C Focus Mode.

If set for autofocus, you will need to set the AF in Focus Magnification item, just below, to determine how autofocus works with focus magnification. If set for On, the camera will autofocus when half-pressing the Shutter Button. If set for Off, the Focus Magnifier is cancelled and the view returns to the full scene, when the Shutter Button is half-pressed. The next two menu items will determine the time that the Focus Magnifier remains active, and the amount of magnification of the focus magnifier.

Focus Magnifier TimeWhen making use of the Focus Magnifier, this setting will determine how long the magnification remains active, so that you can view and focus on the desired detail. You can select 2 seconds, 5 seconds, or No Limit. With the No Limit setting, magnification will end when you half-press or fully-press the Shutter Button (based on the AF in Focus Magnification setting below). I suggest you set this for No Limit, so that you can examine the area and make your manual focus or autofocus adjustments.

Initial Focus Magnification (still image) – When making use of the Focus Magnifier, this setting will specify the initial amount of magnification. The x1.0 setting will activate the Focus Magnifier, but you will still view the entire scene. Continue to press the Multi-Selector Center to zoom-in closer. The x6.2 (a7R III) or x5.9 (a7 III) setting will immediately enlarge the image by about 6 times, when Focus Magnifier is used. I suggest you set if for x1.0, then activate the Focus Magnifier, adjust the area of focus with the Multi-Selector, then continue to zoom, by pressing the Multi-Selector Center or the Control Wheel Center Button.

AF in Focus Magnification (still image) – This setting determines how autofocus works with the Focus Magnifier. If set for On, the camera will retain the magnification of the screen and autofocus when half-pressing the Shutter Button. The camera will focus at the “+” symbol seen in the center of the screen. The camera will return to the full view of the scene once the image is captured. If set for Off, the Focus Magnifier is cancelled and the view returns to the full scene, when the Shutter Button is half-pressed. I suggest setting this for On so that you can make use of the magnified view to precisely autofocus.

Know the Difference Between AEL Hold and AEL Toggle

When using the Custom Key options of the Camera Settings 2 Menu to customize the function of various camera buttons, you can choose to assign Auto Exposure Lock (AEL) to the button of your choice. Typically you will assign the AEL Button to be used to lock the current exposure settings. For example, if you are using Center Metering or Spot Metering, you would half-press the Shutter Button to begin metering, aim the camera to position the metering area over the desired part of the scene, then press the AEL Button to lock the exposure settings that the camera determined. You will see an asterisk icon (*) on the screen to indicate that exposure lock is active. You can then recompose and fully press the Shutter Button to capture the image.

There are a few different Auto Exposure Lock options. The AEL hold option means that exposure is locked only as you hold down the button. The AEL toggle options means that you can press and release the button to activate exposure lock. The options with the Spot Metering icon, [.] AEL hold and [.] AEL toggle means that Spot Metering will temporarily be activated to determine the exposure settings, and those settings will simultaneously be locked, with either the “hold” option or the “toggle” option that was just explained. This can be a very useful option if you are shooting in a situation where you are not using Spot Metering, but you may temporarily wish to use Spot Metering to determine the exposure settings such as for a portrait.

Choose the Best Refresh Rate for the Electronic Viewfinder

The a7R III offers the Finder Frame Rate option in the Camera Settings 2 Menu. This adjusts the frame rate of the electronic Viewfinder display. The High setting will display moving subjects more smoothly, however the Viewfinder resolution will be reduced. The Standard setting will make use of the normal frame rate, and will be used automatically when the camera’s internal temperature becomes high. However with its higher resolution, you will want to use the Standard setting for situations such as still subjects, studio use, macro, and landscapes. It is recommended that you set for High for general use and moving subjects, and Standard for still subjects.

Assign the C3 Button to Rating or Protect

The Custom C3 Button, located at the upper-left on the rear of the camera, is labeled for the Protect function. This will protect an image from accidental deletion. However, know that reformatting a memory card will delete all images, including protected images. You can also use the Custom Key options of the Camera Setting 2 Menu to assign this button to another function, such as Rating. This may be a more useful feature, as you can mark an image with 1 to 5 stars. This can be used to quickly locate specific images when you later view them on your computer.

The Rating Set item of the Playback Menu can be used in conjunction with this button assignment. If you assign a Custom Button to the Rating feature, then you can select which rating amounts are available to choose from, with each subsequent button press. For example, you may only wish to make use of the 1, 3, and 5 star ratings, and thus you can disable the other rating values so that you don’t have to click through them every time. Then you would press the button one time for 1-star, two times for 3-stars, and three times for 5-stars.

There are numerous other menu options, features, and functions that are discussed in my quick-start menu guides for these cameras, Sony Alpha a7R III Menu Setup Guide and Sony Alpha a7 III Menu Setup Guide, both of which can be purchased at my FullStopBooks.com website. I have also created a Menu Setup Spreadsheet for these cameras, which list suggested settings for each menu item, with different listing for various shooting situations such as Landscape, Portrait, Action, Studio, Birds, etc. The spreadsheets can be downloaded from my website here: www.fullstopbooks.com/setup-guides/.

Updates and corrections for Sony Alpha a7R III Menu Setup Guide.

All guides available at my Full Stop website – http://www.fullstopbooks.com/

Sony Alpha a7R III menu setup guide manual tips tricks how to

2018-05-24 – Version 1.0 published in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats – No updates

2018-06-01 – Version 1.1b published in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI (Amazon Kindle) formats, including FullStopBooks, Kobo, iTunes, Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble.

There were a few mentions of “dSLR” or “digital SLR” in the guide. As the a7R III is a mirrorless camera and not an SLR, there errors have been corrected to say “mirrorless” camera.

“Future Updates to the Text” chapter, information, and links added to the guide.

2018-06-04 – Version 1.2 published in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI (Amazon Kindle) formats, including FullStopBooks, Kobo, iTunes, Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble.

To my great embarrassment, there was a typo (extra word) on the very first page of the text. That has been corrected.

 

Firmware Update: A Firmware update was made available for the a7R III, Firmware Version 1.10. You can download the firmware at the Sony Support site, under the Drivers and Software tab:

https://esupport.sony.com/US/p/model-home.pl?mdl=ILCE7RM3&template_id=1&region_id=1&tab=download#/downloadTab

The firmware update provides the following benefits:

-Adds the menu option to select Pixel Shift Multi Shooting (On: Shooting Interval 0.5sec)

Notes:

When using an A-mount lens via an adaptor (LA-EA1/ LA-EA2/ LA-EA3/ LA-EA4), the interval might be slightly longer

When the camera is connected to PC, please use the latest version of the Imaging Edge software

-Adds support for bracketing during silent shooting with uncompressed RAW

-Adds support for tuning of the peaking display level for S-Log shooting

-Makes improvements for a condition where the Eye AF does not work with certain camera settings

-Makes improvements for a condition where Viewfinder Brightness is not reflected correctly in the Manualsetting

-Improves overall stability of camera

~ ~ ~

 

Sign up to receive notices of updates to the text of Sony Alpha a7R III Menu Setup Guide, as well as to be eligible to receive free copies of the updated e-book file (for major updates):

http://blog.dojoklo.com/ebooks/sign-up-for-full-stop-e-book-updates/

The Sony Alpha a7R III mirrorless camera offers numerous improved features and updates from previous versions of the camera, including an improved autofocus system with more effective eye-detection, faster continuous shooting at up to 10 frames per second, better in-camera stabilization, and a faster processor. Boasting 42.2 megapixels, the image resolution is excellent enough to meet most any photographer’s needs.

The a7R III offers numerous menu options, features, and customizations, and you may have found that the menus can be challenging to navigate, and some options are confusing or difficult to understand. In fact there are over 180 menu items, spread across 35 menu pages, and organized under 5 separate tabs. However, it is important to properly set up the options to match your shooting needs, and essential to understand what the features are doing and how the camera is operating, so that you can take full advantage of all that that a7R III offers.

I have put together a comprehensive Sony a7R III Menu Setup Guide Spreadsheet to help walk you through all the Camera Settings and Setup Menus. The spreadsheet contains separate listings of suggested settings and starting points for various types of shooting situations, including:

General / Travel / Street
Landscape / Architecture
Action / Sports
Moving Wildlife / Birds
Studio / Portraits
Concert / Performance

Below is a small detail of the setup guide. You can download the Sony a7R III Menu Setup Guide Spreadsheet at the link below, where you will also find instructions for printing the spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is available for free for a limited time!

http://www.fullstopbooks.com/setup-guides/

Sony a7R III setup quick start guide how to manual

I also offer a companion text guide, which provides more detailed explanations of all the Sony a7R III menu items, recommendations for setting them up, and for making use of the various camera features and functions, along with some a7R III tips and tricks. This more detailed text guide, Sony a7R III Menu Setup Guide, will be available in May 2018. The text guide and the setup guide spreadsheet work hand-in-hand, to help you set up and get the most from your camera.

Take control of your a7R III and the images you create!

Sony a7R III manual menu setup guide how to use quick start

Canon EOS M Mirrorless Interchangable Lens Camera

Several weeks ago Canon announced their long anticipated entry into the mirrorless camera segment, the Canon EOS M.  While Olympus and Panasonic were early pioneers in this market, Sony soon joined them and raised the bar with their NEX line, including the current NEX-5 and NEX-7 (and upcoming NEX-6).  Nikon then came along with their Nikon 1 series, the J1 and V1, leaving Canon as the last of the major players to bring out a mirrorless offering.

Canon EOS M mirrorless camera
Canon EOS M – Image courtesy of Canon USA

Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are a sort-of hybrid of a high-end compact camera and a dSLR system – with various advantages and disadvantages born of this mix.  Then are much smaller and lighter than a dSLR, while still allowing one to change lenses.  Thus rather than a lower-quality all-purpose built-in zoom of a compact, one can use a variety of lenses to fit their needs (wide angle, telephoto zoom, etc.) and allow them greater control over aperture settings and depth of field.  However, many of the cameras require the use of smaller (and lighter) lenses specifically designed for the mirrorless body, and most manufacturers offer a very limited set of lenses at this time.  Many brands offer adapters to allow the use of dSLR lenses, but adding a larger and heavier lens may defeat the purpose of a small, light, portable mirrorless body!

Mirrorless cameras don’t have an optical viewfinder but instead use a rear LCD screen like a compact camera – plus some models offer a standard or optional electronic viewfinder (a teeny tiny LCD screen in a viewfinder).  One of the important advantages is that the mirrorless cameras contain a much larger image sensor than most compact cameras, with some of them (such as the Sony NEX models) even boasting an APS-C size sensor.  (APS-C is the same size as found in most entry level, intermediate, and pro-sumer dSLR cameras from the Canon T4i or Nikon D3200 to the Canon 7D or Nikon D7000 and D300S.  Professional dSLR cameras such as the Canon 5D line and the Nikon D700/D800 have a larger, full frame sized sensor).  These larger sensors provide much better image quality and better low light / high ISO performance than most every compact camera.

Mirrorless cameras don’t share the same phase detection autofocus system as a dSLR with a dedicated AF sensor, but instead have a contrast-detection AF system that uses the image sensor to focus, just as if using a dSLR in Live View mode.  This contrast AF system is typically slower than the dSLR system, which contributes to a bit more shutter lag than the near-instantaneous response of a dSLR shutter.  However great improvements have been made in the AF systems and shutter lag of the mirrorless cameras.

While the new Canon EOS M is not yet out there for real world use and review, many including myself are very pleasantly surprised with all that it offers, based on its specs.  The EOS M take nearly all of the great features and capabilities of the extremely competent Canon T4i dSLR, and packages it in a small, light, and portable body.  The major difference of course is of the phase detection AF system of the T4i which is not able to be fit and used inside the EOS M.  The EOS M is thus very comparable to using the T4i in Live View.

Canon EOS M mirrorless camera
Canon EOS M – Image courtesy of Canon USA

Canon EOS M mirrorless camera
Canon EOS M – Image courtesy of Canon USA