NIKON Z Series Firmware Updates

The latest series of NIKON Z series firmware updates (Z6/7 3.3, Z6ll 1.2) have finally convinced me to try 3D Tracking autofocus. The new firmware has made this much more precise and therefore more interesting to me, particularly with circus performers hurling themselves all over the place in front of my lens…

These settings were available from the previous firmware update – this update has just made them more accurate.

The 3D Tracking works very differently depending on which Focus Mode has been selected, and this can make a huge difference to the way you capture your images.

AF-S Single AF – once you have identified/selected the area/object to track, the camera will automatically follow the selection until you press the button to which you have assigned the 3D Tracking, turning it off – turning it again on allows you to change your selection.

AF-C Continuous AF – you must keep your finger on the AF-ON button to ‘force’ the 3D Tracking to follow the subject. Releasing the AF-ON button effectively resets the selection and you can select another area.

There are just three steps to setting up 3D Tracking autofocus.

Step 1 – In the Custom Setting Menu, select A7 – AF Activation and select AF-ON only. This will turn on the AF-ON button for focusing.(This should ALWAYS be activated, IMHO)

Step 2 – Still in the Custom Setting Menu, select F2 – Custom control assignment and set one of the buttons to Subject Tracking – I’ve chosen the Fn2 button by the lens

Step 3 – change the Focus mode to Auto-area AF – this is done by clicking the ‘I’ (info) button and using the joystick to navigate to the Focus mode logo – click on that and the choice of focus modes is displayed – select Auto-Area AF (at the right)

Using 3D tracking is relatively simple, but takes a bit of getting used to. When the Fn2 (in my example) button is pressed a large white square outline lights up in the middle of the viewfinder – point the camera to the area/object you wish to track and press the AF-ON button. Depending on the Focus Mode selected (AF-S Single point or AF-C Continuous) the camera will react differently.

As previously stated, in AF-S mode, once you have identified/selected the area/object to track, the camera will automatically follow the selection until you press the button to which you have assigned the 3D Tracking, turning it off – turning it again on allows you to change your selection.

In AF-C mode, you must keep your finger on the AF-ON button to ‘force’ the 3D Tracking to follow the subject. Releasing the AF-ON button effectively resets the selection and you can select another area.

The nice thing is that all of this can be saved to one of the ‘U’ settings – you could, for example, set U2 to Auto ISO, normal (spot) AF and U3 to the same Auto ISO but with 3D tracking – that way if the movement was too rapid for the camera using 3D tracking, you can quickly change back to ‘regular’ continuous AF with the U2 setting.

At my next circus residence I’ll be able to do some real-world testing of these two options – I’ll let you know how I get on.

Inital Setup

With the arrival of any new camera body, the first thing that has to be done is the initial setup. Camera settings are vital to making the camera useful and easy to use, and once you’ve fine tuned your camera, it’s handy to be able to recall these settings if need be.

Nikon, for instance, allow the camera settings to be saved to the memory card. This is very convenient if you have more than one camera body of the same type, as ‘cloning’ the original settings on to a new body is very easy.

This said, Nikon in their wisdom have decided that the second generation ‘Z’ series mirrorless bodies are NOT the same as the first series. This is frustrating as I have three setups which I use as ‘User’ settings, and instead of just copying these to a memory card and reloading them on the new body, I have to go through every setting, one by one.

With the arrival of the second generation Z6 camera body, I have setup the camera to use my ‘go to’ work settings as the ‘U2’ user defined function. ‘U1’ is for basic day-to-day settings (100 ISO, AF-C etc.) with the work settings on Auto-ISO (6400 ISO), exposure correction -1 etc.

NIKON Z6ll 24-70mm f/2.8

Bear in mind there are a couple of possible errors that can occur when you’re programming the ‘U’ buttons. One of these is that certain camera settings cannot be modified between the ‘U’ numbers – the top screen, for example – if you decide, like me, to turn off the top screen for my U2 value, it’ll be off for ALL of the User settings – so double check after having selected or deselected values.

Another annoying thing is that the camera settings are recorded according to the initial position of the Mode dial – so if you inadvertently leave the Mode dial on ‘P’, make the setup changes and SAVE the settings to a ‘U’ button, the selected Mode will be P – if you never use P and always use A, this means you then have to go back and start again…believe me, it’s a PITA.

Ren Kockwell?

Aside from the ‘normal’ idiots like Trump and Piers Morgan, there’s a guy who manages to rub just about every level-thinking photographer up the wrong way – drumroll….Ken Rockwell.

Aside from having invented every known photographic process and owning particularly ugly kids, this jerk runs an ‘advert’ site where you can click to supposedly get savings on photographic material, oh and headphones (see the link? No me neither…)

His most recent article concernes the non-existence of the proposed new flagship NIKON mirrorless camera, the Z9. According to Kockwell « …the Z9 is a unicorn because while we all know what it’s called, and what it looks like, it doesn’t exist. »

Here, need a laugh? Click on this to read the original article:-

« If Nikon ever does actually sell a Z9, it could be awesome – but since I can’t shoot anything today with it, I don’t care. » And in a fit of pique, he napalmed Cheltenham….The Gumbies, Monty Python

What a wanker – fairly clear to all concerned that Nikon haven’t been keeping him in the loop like in the old days because his web site is so full of shite, and so now he’s having to get all his info from the web….just like his dopey pal « The Angry Photographer » and everyone else – it’s the latest « guess-a-thon »…

The camera is slated for being available this year, which means that it obviously does exist – we’re way past pre-production, and I imagine there are a few well known Nikon ambassadors out there, with signed and sealed confidentiality agreements testing this little baby at this very moment. Visibly there have been three ‘stacked’ CMOS sensors proposed, 45, 50 and 60MP which all seem extremely high density for this kind of camera (I’m thinking shooting speed and low light sensitivity here) but with a redesigned processing engine (or two perhaps, like the Z6ll, Z7ll) and the fact that the ‘stacked’ sensor is demonstrably more sensitive/lower noise, it might work… Time will tell which sensor they finally choose.

Nikon Z9

I’m really keen to see what is finally presented when this becomes available – but I’m not going to stamp my feet and complain that it’s not available NOW.

It won’t replace my Z series bodies, for the moment at least, but if the auto-focus and low-light capabilities are indeed enhanced, this could be a VERY interesting insight how NIKON see the future of the Z mount.

A slip, an error, a lapsus?

Neither, as it turns out – although it did take them an hour to actually get going, the Company LAPSUS provided me with some interesting work to photograph last week.

« Nos Vertiges » Cie Lapsus

This was part of the sequence « Magma » and was a treat to photograph – no lighting, people moving all over the place, black background and floor…!

« Nos Vertiges » Cie Lapsus

This was another sequence – Cie Lapsus often use this triangular wing in their spectacles, and todays was no exception.

Hopefully there’ll be a presentation this coming week and I’ll be able to see the different sequences in context. More as it happens.

UPDATE Well I must have done something right – I was actually quite pleased with the album I produced for the company – visibly they were too as they’ve just purchased 6 of the shots! Thanks guys.

For the technically minded, this was lit with four tungsten floods at low intensity – the idea was to create a dark environment on stage – and it worked. The Nikon Z7 + 24-70 f/2.8 handled this very well – both the above images were at 6400 ISO – I stopped down to f/4 just in case – the extra few centimetres of depth of field are very useful when the artists are constantly moving. Aside from cooling down the white balance to round 3000°K from nearly 4000°K there really isn’t a lot of post processing.

Backing-up your camera settings

This sounds pretty obvious, and easily done – until you discover that NIKON very thoughtfully HIDE the settings to do this in the setup menus of their mirrorless cameras…

I use the three user programmable ‘U’ settings on my Z series mirrorless cameras – with a growing stable of camera bodies, I like to make sure they’re all using the same values, so I want to back up my settings to the memory card, put the card in another camera body and read and install the settings from the card.

Easy-peasy…or so you would think. Except that when you check the SETUP Menu (the one with the spanner logo) there is no mention of the SAVE/LOAD settings option.

Nikon decided to make this visible ONLY when the mode dial is set to a PSAM (not U) setting! After this, it’s plain sailing – pretty much every setting is copied to the memory card so having duplicate bodies with duplicate settings is easy to do. Until they change it….

Holy Trinity

Nikons ‘Holy Trinity’ of f/2.8 lenses are now all finally available in ‘S’ variant form – and they’re VERY good.

I’ve specialized in photographing circus performances, and frankly these lenses make a difference to the quality of the images I can make. The mere fact that they’re all f/2.8 means three possible ways I can improve the chances of getting a shot:

1 : I can increase the shutter speed – 1/125s shoots up to 1/500s – capture movement

2 : I can increase the aperture – f/2.8 goes up to f/4- more depth of field

3 : I can decrease the ISO value – so 6400 ISO becomes 1600 ISO – less noise

As I have a tendency to shoot wide open, this is a real gain. It’s true that the current EXPEED processor and post processing can reduce noise (grain) artifacts, it’s nice not to have too much to start with…

In terms of weight, I find they are well balanced – they’re not light but I prefer a bit of weight as I find it better absorbs slight movements and is much easier to hold. The physical size doesn’t make the small body overbalance, so shooting, for me at least, is comfortable.

The tiny OLED screen showing focus point/aperture/depth of field is a bit of a gimmick, but doing a large amount of work in near total darkness I must admit that it has been handy a couple of times – the rear ring on each lens lets me change aperture easily, so seeing the value on the lens was nice…but in no ways vital.

The second lens hood (HB-97) on the 14-24mm now lets us put filters on this lens – albeit HUGE 112mm – this is useful too, particularly to be able to use a polarizing filter.

The proof is in the pudding – I’ll be posting some images soon.

Happy New Year

You’re probably lost if you’ve arrived here. Sorry about that.

A man I used to know (and who has a propensity for photographing local prostitutes) recently informed me that no-one reads this bollocks anyway, or indeed looks at any of my photographs, so what’s the point of putting a button to have access to all this dross.

In case you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll probably already know that we’re about to embark on our second year of « the » pandemic. You’ll probably be sad to know that, as yet, I have not been infected – again, my apologies.

I continue boring the rocks, sorry, socks off everyone with my photographs of circus performers. A couple of new lenses, and a new camera body (soon) but you’re not here to read about this nonsense.

If you were looking for McDonalds, it’s here – bon appetit.

Hello Jack!

Jack Bargot-Grandjean at 2 months

I’m very proud to announce the arrival of Jack, my grandson – he’s gorgeous and hairy (like his grandad) and was born on the 2nd of October 2020 – he and mummy (Leah) are doing very well and with a bit of luck we’ll get to see them at Christmas, confinement allowing….

Can’t wait!

Here’s another photo, taken by me when Jack was only 6 days old…

I need a job….

Ivanka Trump, 39, secondhand, own teeth

If you didn’t recognise her, or thought she might have been modeling tooth brushes, this is Ivanka Trump, the nearly past-Presidents daughter.

She’s not actually known for much more than being an attention-seeking bitch, but as she’ll soon be looking for a job, I’m warning LeClerc and Carrefour – don’t hire her – she’s toxic.

Remember – she’s the one back in July who suggested that people out-of-work should « Find Something Else » – well there you go darlin’ – time you looked for a real job no?

Oh, and if you do catch her filling shelves in Castorama, please let me know – I’d love to go and take a picture…

Season Two

Yes, the first season was so successful that they’ve decided to have a second one…

This is what I’ll be doing (within a mile of my house and for an hour per day, yes , yes we heard you)

Lockdown news, as it happens…watch this space…