Nikon Zf AF not state of the art

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Laqup Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Nikon Zf AF not state of the art

Ahoi girls and guys,

this will not be a popular thread, nevertheless it has to be said:

Now that I have spent some time with the camera, I am actually somewhat disappointed with the much hyped AF system. In practical use I see many of the same issues that the Z6/Z7 were known for and especially in low light the AF is not reliable /fast at all. I am a multi system user and always have the direct comparison with Canon gear and sadly Nikon still has some catching up to do.

Additional disclaimer: Don't get me wrong: You can get fantastic images with the Zf, but overall keeper rate in some situations (!) is too low in direct comparison with the competition.

I used the Zf for some family events, especially shooting my own kids and my newphews and as we have terrible weather most of it was indoors under pretty bad lighting conditions. I am not comfortable with sharing the full images of the kids, therefore I blurred most of the image, but I always try to show the crucial parts. All shown issues were not singular ocurances but happened regularly. I just picked some examples. Furthermore I will not go into all details of the settings, as I know that someone always has "a better idea", just as much: Subject Detection, AF-C and ISOs in the range of 5000-10000 and various lenses were used. Shutter speed was sufficient to prevent motion blur. Lenses were used wide open. Sometimes I used continuous shooting (5pfs) sometimes I dictated the pace with the shutter myself.

I even downloaded Nikon NX studio to show you were the focus points were. Subject detection worked very well and the subject detection / 3d tracking on button press setup is a joy to use. I only show examples were the eye / face has been detected.

Images have not been edited at all, so don't focus on potential noise or other issues present.

Example 1:

Example 1

Image 1: Nailed it
Image 2: Jump to the right eye, but nailed it
Image 3: "Ok" (not critically sharp) (I included the hand for reference, see image 4)
Image 4: Suddenly jumped to the hand, focus point is on the eye
Image 5: Back to the eye

Example 2:

Example 2

Image 1: Nailed it
Image 2: Nailed it
Image 3: Jump to the hand, even if focus point is on the eye

Examples 1 & 2 show the tendency to jump to foreground objects, even if the focus point is correctly placed. Example 3 shows "lack of AF speed".
Example 3, just the 100% crops in this case because this is tedious:

Example 3

Image 1: Nailed it
Image 2: In between eye and ear
Image 3: Ear
Image 4: Ear
Image 5: Back to the eye, but the other one than in image 1

All of this reminds me of the Z6/Z7 that often was not able to keep up with any kind of action and showed the same tendency to jump to foregroud objects:
Example 4 (Z6):

Example 4 (Z6)

Image 1: Focus on hand / wooden pole
Image 2: Nailed it

My conclusion: Don't believe all the hype, Zf overall works better than Z6 / Z7 (II), especially subject detection is great and more static scenes are a joy to shoot, but the actual AF when some motion is present is not that different from the first gen bodies.
I really hope that the Z9 and Z8 can do better than this and "pray" that the Z6 III will finally be able to deliver proper AF in a "small" body.
Currently in somewhat complex scenario where the Zf will achieve something like a 70% keeper the Canon R8/R5 will deliver 90% keepers in the same situation.

That being said: I would no go back to the Z6/Z7 either. Performance wise the Zf is an improvement, allthough it still has some room for tweaks.

 Laqup's gear list:Laqup's gear list
Nikon Z7 Nikon Z6 Canon EOS R5 Canon EOS R10 Canon EOS R8 +32 more
Nikon Z6 Nikon Z7 Nikon Z8 Nikon Z9
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