Learn & Explore - Z Series

Capture eye-catching moments with the Eye Detection AF

New with Firmware 2.00 on the Z 6 and Z 7

With firmware version 2.00 and above, enjoy enhanced autofocus (AF) performance on the Z 6 and Z 7. These include a lower low light focusing limit, support for AE tracking during expanded high-speed continuous shooting, and Eye-Detection AF, which automatically detects and tracks the eyes of human subjects. In particular, Eye-Detection AF promises to make it easier than ever to ensure that your main subject is tack sharp, which is crucial for portrait photography. In this article, we test it out on the Z 7. (Report by Yuriko Omura)

You can choose which eye to set focus on using the multi selector or sub-selector.

Eye-Detection AF:The new function that automatically achieves sharp focus on the eyes

While Face-Detection has always been available on the Z 6 and Z 7 as part of the Auto-area AF, with the new firmware update, it is now possible to select Eye-Detection AF, which detects and eases focusing on human eyes. When both the left and right eyes are detected, you can also use the multi selector to choose which one you want to set focus on.

When Auto-area AF is enabled, Face-Detection is active when a human subject appears small in the image. When the subject is sufficiently close, the camera automatically switches to Eye-Detection AF.

Eye-Detection AF can be used for still photo shooting in either the AF-S or AF-C mode. This ensures highly precise focusing regardless of whether the subject is stationary or moving, whenever s/he is facing the front and most of the time when s/he is facing sideways. This function works whether you are using the NIKKOR Z mount lens or the NIKKOR F mount lens with the Mount Adapter FTZ.

Turn on Eye-Detection AF

In the Custom Settings menu, select “Face and eye detection on” in “a4: Auto-Area AF Face/Eye Detection”.

Notable feature #1

The AF area automatically switches from Face-Detection to Eye-Detection seamlessly

So, how close must the face of the subject be to the camera before it can be detected automatically? I checked this by taking shots while gradually approaching the model.

From a distance (full-body to above-knee shots), Face-Detection AF was activated, with the focus area covering the entire face. When I moved closer so that the model was captured from waist up or nearer, the camera switched to Eye-Detection and focused only on the eye.

Notable feature #2

It also tracks the eyes of a moving subject

Nikon Z 7/ NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S/ FL: 50mm /Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/640 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

When using the continuous high-speed shooting mode to photograph my model as she sat on a swing, AF tracking was seamless, switching between Face-Detection AF when the model was further away from the camera and Eye-Detection AF whenever she moved closer.

Notable feature #3

Subject facing sideways? Not an issue.

Eye-Detection AF also works when the subject is facing sideways, which comes in handy for scenes where the subjects change their pose.

During my test shoot, the camera was able to detect the eye whenever the subject was facing directly at the camera or away at a certain angle.

Note: When the point of focus does not fall within the area of face recognition or when the face is obscured by the hair, the camera sometimes switches from Eye-Detection AF back to the usual Closest Subject Priority mode.

Nikon Z 7/ NIKKOR Z 20mm f/1.8 S/ FL: 20mm/ Manual exposure (f/13, 25 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Natural light auto

For side profile shots, Eye-Detection AF usually detects the eye that is closer to the camera. However, it might also switch to select a wider area with Face-Detection or Closest Subject Priority AF mode.

Notable feature #4

It tracks the eyes of moving subject even at f/1.8

One of the most challenging situations in portrait photography is when we need to establish focus on the eyes of a moving model while using the maximum aperture. When I tried continuous high-speed shooting with the maximum aperture on the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S, I found that Eye-Detection AF was able to achieve focus most of the time. This suggests that it is a reliable feature, even in challenging situations such as when shooting with an extremely shallow depth-of-field.

I took continuous shots of the model while she was moving away from the camera from the right toward the left end of the frame. The camera was able to maintain focus on the eye most of the time.

Notable feature #5

It is compatible with F-mount lenses too

Nikon Z 7/ NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S/ FL: 50mm /Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/640 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

Eye-Detection also functions smoothly when I am using the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G F mount lens with the Mount Adapter FTZ. The Mount Adapter FTZ works with approx. 360 lenses in total, and this really helps a lot for me to leverage on my lens investments, providing me with so many possibilities.

Notable feature #6

It locks focus confidently on the subject’s eye

Nikon Z 7/ NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8S/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/40 sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto

In such a scene, it is quite normal for the AF to lock its focus on the glass of soda instead because of its larger surface area and proximity to the camera. I was pleasantly surprised that the Eye-Detection AF detected the model’s eye without any problem. This will come in handy for scenes where you want to make use of foreground bokeh.

Q&A with Nikon: Burning questions about Eye-Detection AF

Q1: How will Eye-Detection AF behave when there is more than one person in the frame?

A1: Regardless of whether there is one person or a few people in the frame, Eye-Detection AF will function in the same way. You will see an arrow appearing at the side of the focus area, and you can use the multi selector or sub-selector to choose which eye you want to set focus on.

Q2: Is there anything users should be aware of when using Eye-Detection AF?

A2: Eye-Detection AF is currently exclusive to the still shooting mode. Its function might not be optimal in certain situations such as when the face is overly bright or dark, when the subject is wearing glasses or shades, or when the eyes are obscured by the hair.

Yuriko Omura

Born in 1983 in Tokyo. Previously a shop assistant at a camera store, Omura currently engages mostly in photo shoots for artists and photo albums.

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