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Nikon Z6/Z7 Firmware 3.0 – First Impressions

UPDATE (October 2020): Nikon has followed up on the 3.0 firmware release with two new smaller updates. In addition to various bug and stability fixes, the 3.10 and 3.11 updates have added the following:

  • Support for Nikon Z mount TC-1.4x/TC-2.0x teleconverters.
  • Support for F mount lens firmware updates. F mount lens firmware updates are supported from FTZ mount adapter firmware version 1.10.

This week, Nikon released a 3.0 firmware release for their Z series mirrorless cameras. The first impressions have been very positive.

With the third major firmware upgrade in roughly and year and a half, Nikon has shown a commitment to the Z series, not only in fixing bugs and adding lens support, but adding new major features. This is something that we had previously seen from other manufacturers like Olympus, but not something that Nikon was particularly known for.

New firmware 3.0 features (via Nikon):

  • Added support for ProGrade and Lexar CFexpress memory cards (Type B). For more information, see the Nikon website for your country or region.
  • Custom Setting a4 (Auto-area AF face/eye detection) now offers an Animal detection option that adds dogs and cats to the subjects supported by face- and eye-detection autofocus. As a result, the camera can now detect and focus on the faces and eyes of dogs and cats. Animal face detection (but not eye detection) is also available in movie mode.
  • Improved the functionality of subject-tracking AF (available when Auto-area AF is selected for AF-area mode) as follows:
    • Subject-tracking AF can now be initiated via the Fn1 or Fn2 button on the camera or the Fn1 or Fn2 button on the lens. Subject-tracking AF must first be assigned to the control using Custom Setting f2 (Custom control assignment) in Group f (Controls) of the CUSTOM SETTING MENU or Custom Setting g2 (Custom control assignment).
    • The behavior of the camera when tracking is end by pressing the AF-ON button or by pressing the shutter-release button halfway with AF-C (continuous-servo autofocus) and subject-tracking AF enabled in photo mode has been changed to more closely resemble that of the 3D-tracking option for digital SLR cameras.
  • Custom Setting f2 (Custom control assignment) in Group f (Controls) of the CUSTOM SETTING MENU now offers a Lens Fn2 button option, which can be used to choose the role played by the L-Fn2 button available on certain Z mount lenses (as of February 12, 2020, only the NIKKOR Z 70–200mm f/2.8 VR S).
  • Added support for the focus limit switch available on certain Z mount lenses (as of February 12, 2020, only the NIKKOR Z 70–200mm f/2.8 VR S).
  • Optimized the responsiveness of the switch to manual focus when the focus or control ring on a Z mount lens is rotated during autofocus. Note that the control ring only functions in this capacity when assigned the Focus (M/A) role.
  • Fixed the following issues:
    • When Viewfinder brightness was adjusted manually, brightness would sometimes change when the standby timer was restarted.
    • iOS devices running iOS 13 would sometimes display a Bluetooth pairing request when pairing was complete.
    • Horizontal lines would sometimes appear in photographs.

Even if you don’t care about animal eye AF or support for Type B CFexpress cards made by ProGrade® and Lexar®, the improved focus tracking operation and better overall autofocus performance makes this not only a must-have upgrade for Z6 and Z7 shooters, but it makes the Z system much more compelling overall.

It would appear that Nikon has significantly closed the gap between the autofocus capabilities in their own mirrorless system, and the highly vaunted AF in Sony’s A7 and A9 series.

Tests and First Impressions Videos

Performance test from The Monochrome Memoirs
AF tracking demo from Hooked on Photography
1st hand review of Nikon animal detection feature from Studio Rays
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