Nikon Z 6

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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 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