This is one in a series of posts on the Nikon Z9. 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 “Z9”.
One of the most disappointing things about the Z system as embodied in the Z6 and Z7 was the way that manual focus worked with native lenses. Those lenses were all focus by wire lenses (FBW), which means that, when you’re rotating the focusing ring, you’re telling the camera that you want to change focus distance. The camera them decides where to focus the lens. When FBW works well, it can provide both 1) fast slewing of the focus point and 2) extremely precise manipulation of the plane of focus. However, many FBW implementations are flawed in ways that provide 1) and don’t deliver on 2). The early Sony NEX cameras had those problems. Over the years, Sony pretty much solved them. When the Z7 came out I found a lot of finder latency in magnified view, enough to make focusing with lenses with mechanical helicoids a bit tricky. Focusing with the native FBW lenses was much worse. It reminded me of the early Sony attempts at FBW.
Today I mounted the 70-200/2.8 S Nikkor to my Z9, clipped it onto a tripod, set it to 200mm, and aimed it at a Siemens Star about 30 feet away. I set the focus peaking to 2, the color to red, and the magnification to the maximum possible. A Siemens star provides some fairly precise feedback if you’re off in focusing.
To my great pleasure, and somewhat to my surprise, the FBW algorithm on the Z9 appeared to work well. The focusing ring was a lot twitchier than I would have liked it, but there wasn’t the frustrating movement of the focal plane after you stop turning the ring and the accompanying overshoot that I saw in the Z7 and Z6.
Way to go, Nikon! Makes me wonder about the Z6II and Z7II cameras. Unfortunately I don’t have either to test.
Today I finally got around to testing the Z7 with firmware 3.4. I am pleased to report that the Z7 FBW precision is much improved, and that the overshoot which plagued the earlier versions is essentially gone. I haven’t been testing this with every firmware release, so I don’t know when the change happened, but the FBW performance appears to be fine now.