This is one in a series of posts on the Nikon Z6 and Z7. You should be able to find all the posts about that camera in the Category List on the right sidebar, below the Articles widget. There’s a drop-down menu there that you can use to get to all the posts in this series; just look for “Nikon Z6/7”.
The Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras are the first MILC experience for many folks, and there has been confusion and consternation about some of their vicissitudes. Those cameras aren’t all that different from MILCs from Sony and Fuji that I’ve used, so I’ve not been often surprised by their behavior. That had led to unwarranted complacency my part, so I am late in creating this post. I think it will be useful to many people coming to the Z cameras from DSLRs.
What I’m going to do here is enumerate some of the unpleasant surprises (aka gotchas) that new Z6 or Z7 users may experience, discuss why they happen, and suggest workarounds. As more of these issues occur to me, I’ll add to this post.
SLRs have mirror slap. MILCs have shutter shock. Both are caused by vibrations induced by mechanical activity just prior to the exposure. With SLRs, it’s getting that darn mirror out of the way. With MILCs, it’s closing the shutter and tensioning the spring that drives it. The result is fuzzy images, particularly with longer lenses and exposures in the 1/30 to 1/250 second range, although the issue can occur outside that span.
The fix: Invoke the electronic first curtain shutter (EFCS). This is setting d5 in the menu system. This is set off by default, so it is a trap for the unwary. Once EFCS is set to on. The camera will not close the shutter before the exposure, and vibration blur will be reduced. There are some times when EFCS is not a good idea, but they are very rare with the Zx cameras, and most people shouldn’t worry about them.
High shutter speeds missing
Let’s say you read the above, and turned EFCS on. You’re outside with an f/1.4 lens wide open and the camera says it can’t set the shutter speed fast enough.
When the Zx is in EFCS mode, it won’t let you use a shutter speed faster then 1/2000 second. That’s because there are possible exposure uniformity and Bokeh issues with EFCS at high shutter speeds. Sony lets you use those dangerous speeds. Fuji, in the GFX, switched to all mechanical shutter at 1/640 second and faster.
The fix: Switch to all-mechanical shutter. Put that control in your quick menu to make it easy to find, because you’ll want your default shutter mode to be EFCS.
I can’t see anything when using strobes
There is a control, d8, apply settings to live view. The default is on. When the camera is set thusly, the viewfinder brightness is scaled to match that of the anticipated capture. In the studio, you might set the camera to f/8, 1/200 second, ISO 64, and be framing the scene with just your modeling light for illumination. The camera doesn’t know about the strobe, thinks your image will be greatly underexposed, and shows you what it thinks it will look like: black cat in a coalbin at midnight.
The fix: set d8 to off. Now the brightness of the finder is decoupled from your exposure settings. When some flashes are attached, Nikon helpfully does this for you.
Camera won’t focus using strobes
The Zx cameras autofocusing ability, both speed and accuracy, are affected by finder brightness. If the image in the finder is too dark, the camera’s AF will struggle. This is to some extent true of other MILCs, but not so much as in the Zx cameras.
The fix: as above, set d8 to off.
Camera won’t focus in dim light
Same issue as above if you’re underexposing much at all, which you are likely to do, especially at high ISOs, since the Zx cameras are essentially ISOless there.
The fix: as above, set d8 to off.
The all-electronic shutter of the Z7 takes about 1/16 second to make it all the way across the sensor. If your lighting source varies during that time you may see stripes or bands across the image, running in the long direction. The Z6 silent shutter is a bit faster. But in either case, you are likely to see the bands unless you take some precautions.
The fix: If you’re not doing stage photography, it is likely that the flicker of your lights occurs at twice your mains frequency (60 Hz in the States, 50 Hz in Europe. Elsewhere, consult this table: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mains_electricity_by_country). If you’re in a 60 Hz country, set your camera to 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, or slower, and you’ll probably be OK. If you’re in a 50 Hz country, set your camera to 1/100, 1/50, 1/25 or slower, and things will likely work out well. Test before committing yourself to a shutter speed.
This is also called banding, but it’s different in cause and in effect. The bands occur in the long direction, but the scale is much smaller than lighting banding, repeating about every 12 rows. The current theory is that it is caused by overexuberant correction of a phenomenon in most MILCs with PDAF abilities called PDAF striping. Large extremes in brightness across the frame seem to trigger it, and it is seen as thin dark stripes in the shadow regions after pushing in postproduction.
The fix: There are many ways to deal with this. Here’s the easiest: don’t push the shadows of your images a lot. That’s probably good enough for 95-99% of the photographers out there. Are you one of the 1-5%? Then download RawTherapee – it’s free. There is a fix there that was originally created to deal with PDAF striping that also works on shadow banding.
The Live histogram is MIA
Say you took my advice above and turned d8 off. Now you can’t see the live histogram. What’s up?
The live histogram is derived from the finder preview image. If the preview image doesn’t represent the brightness of the expected capture, then the histogram will be wrong. Rather than show you a wrong histogram, Nikon — wisely IMHO — suppresses it. I think this is far better than what Sony does, which is to show you a histogram that is in every possible way bogus.
The fix: Toggle d8. Put it in your quick menu; you’re going to be switching back and forth a lot.
A few more from Horshack:
Annoying clicking sound when switching between image review and shooting
This is caused by Nikon engaging its IBIS sensor lock when you leave shooting mode. You can stop this by disabling IBIS (assuming the shooting conditions permit disabling IBIS)
Getting rangefinder to display in AF/AF-S mode
Normally the digital rangefinder is only visible in MF mode – when you switch to AF-S mode the digital rangefinder disappears. You can still override AF-S and focus manually by turning the focus ring but the rangefinder won’t be available to aid in focus. I accidentally discovered a way to get it to show in AF-S mode. Do one of the following:
- Press and hold AF-ON before turning the focus ring (downside is that it triggers AF first before you start manually focusing)
- Or, if you don’t want the AF to be triggered, start turning the focus ring first and while still turning it press and hold AF-ON button
Doing either will show both the digital rangefinder and the on-screen focus distance scale.
Lens corrections automatically applied by LR/ACR
Lightroom/ACR automatically apply lens corrections for Nikon S lenses. The profile for such corrections is embedded by Nikon in the raw files, and Adobe doesn’t provide any method to disable the corrections. However, you can disable the corrections by deleting the profile from the raw file.
Nikon embeds lens correction profiles for Z lenses in the Z7 raws. ACR automatically applies those built-in corrections, with no way to disable that behavior. However you can disable them by stripping out the profile from a raw converted to DNG before importing the DNG into ACR/LR, which can be done via exiftool -OpcodeList3= <DNG filename> (space after equal sign).
Seems Nikon could make at least some of these much easier for users in a firmware update or two. E.g., it should be trivial to add an Auto setting where EFCS switches to mechanical shutter above 1/2000 sec. This could be defeated or placed on manual for those who wished to retain full control.
When I was running a large product development shop, I once worked with a marketing manager who would tell me how trivial it was to make some change that he wanted. It used to piss me off, especially because I knew that in a former life, he’d been an engineer, and a manager of large software development efforts.
That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like some changes. I am on record saying that I want automatic transition to fully mechanical shutter at a user specified shutter speed.
“I can’t see anything when using strobes …
The fix: set d8 to off. Now the brightness of the finder is decoupled from your exposure settings. When some flashes are attached, Nikon helpfully does this for you.”
I’m trying to solve almost the opposite problem: when using a Nikon flash on camera, the finder/display brightness gets so hot that my subject is completely washed out — can’t see any detail, so can’t focus on it. I can’t seem to find a solution to this. When I turn down the display brightness adjustment, all that happens is the highlight tones become darker, but the subject is still completely washed out. I suspect it’s because the scene as a whole is very dark, and only the subject is illuminated. I tried setting the metering mode to spot on the focus point, but it doesn’t change the rendering on the display.
Any suggestions for this?
I don’t think I can help you. I haven’t see anything like that. I have not used Nikon flashes on a Zx camera, though.
Jason Lanier notes the same issue in his review. I’d be very interested to know what the solution is for this problem.
This has been solved in the firmware update. (1.01 for Z6, I don’t know the exact version for Z7)
Many thanks for your work as a future buyer.
Just one tech question.
Do you think that AF-C performance and shadows banding are issue that a firmware update can solve/improve or it’s necessary a new Z body?
I think that there could be firmware solutions to both those issues on the horizon. Of the two, I think AF-C improvements are more likely.
Any fix on my Z6 just suddenly stopped working? Came back after my trip and the unit no longer powers on. Tried to replace with fresh batteries, re-inserted XQD card and nothing. I guess I got a bad unit. I’m within my return window since got it only 2 weeks ago.
Sounds like hardware. I’ve got no advice for you other than what you’ve already decided to do. Good luck.
Debasis Sarkar says
Hi, I am using Digicam Control software since long to control my Nikons. But Z6 is behaving erratically with DC. I am using USB connection. With DC V 2.0.0 the camera takes aperture shutter iso or other control values set in computer. But when values set or changed in camera, it does not reflect in computer. No LIVE view. Inactive exposure meter bar in computer.
IN DC V 2.1.1. 0, LIVE has come, but here, the values set in camera come to computer. But when set in computer, it does not go to Camera.
Both the versions of DC are working perfectly in those set ups with my other Nikons like D 7000 or D5100. Any advice? I am badly in need to have this connectivity.
I have no experience with that software.
Would this small niggle put you off buying a Z 6 or Z 7? And do you think Nikon will offer a fix in their forthcoming firmware updates? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Which small niggle are you talking about?
thorsten wulff says
Thank you Jim, I actually did stage last night and was amazed by the amount of strong banding that appeared. Will try to stay at 1/100
Steven Horne says
Great tips! I learned two valuable tricks. Thanks fur posting.
I just got my new long awaited) Z6, just 2 days ago. It will replace one of my legacy workhorses; the D700 that needed to retire after some years of heavy shooting. Now with the Z6 I am trying to use my legacy Nikon and Sigma glass, so I am using a FTZ adapter. So far I don’t have any S-lenses. So far I love the camera, except for one thing: After configuring Z6 menus and settings, and getting more used to the camera, every so often I will go to shoot something and there will be an annoying lag where nothing happens for a sec or more and then the shutter clicks (of course after composition is gone) so I will lose that pic. I have tried to research this but nothing I find seems to fix it. So, I am not sure if I have an issue with the camera, or if there is something not configured properly. Any thoughts? Appreciate any help. THX Jorge
I’ve never had that experience. Are you using AF? Do you have release priority selected?
JimK – BINGO!
That did it!!! (Switch to MF) Thanks for the advice!
So, the Z6 wasn’t able to properly detect and work with the lenses which aren’t able to do AF. Unfortunately an earlier Nikon lens firmware upgrade killed my SIGMA lenses AF . My 24-70 and 70-200 lenses now and until I can send them in for the needed firmware upgrade, they are MF-only in my Nikon cameras) .
Steve Solomon says
Hi James. I stumbled on your excellent site while doing research on the Nikon Z7. As a landscape and product photographer currently using the Fujifilm X- System, I am gnerally happy with my results, i.e., printing large, over 24″ x 36″. The X-T3, with some stellar sharp Fujinon XF lenses, gives me pretty nice sharpness and detail at those print sizes. That said, I do think that I would gain improvements in sharpness and detail retention if I went FF, particulary with the Z7 amd the super-sharp Nikkor S lenses. I am wondering if you have any experience using the Z7 with the Godox AD200 strobes and associated Godox X-Pro (N?) TTL Wireless Flash Trigger, in terms of the flash issues you mentioned in this article? Thank you sir!
Sorry, but I sold my AD200’s a few years ago, because of their lack of compatibility with my Bowens-mount light modifiers.
Are you able to remove all shooting info from the LCD live mode? This should be simple and I’d say it was essential.
William Mickols says
Just got the 500 mm for my Z7ii and it works intermittently. I have no problem with my 24/70 or 14/24. Is there any solution other than sending it back?
Not that I can think of based on the limited information I have.