I have had so many questions on Z9 settings that I decided to do a blog post on it. The Z9 menu system is the most extensive on any Nikon camera, so there are a ton of options. Also, because you can customize so many buttons and modes there are lots of ways of setting things up for your particular style of photography….wildlife, travel, portraits… I will show you settings that are most important to my photography…. but not every setting in the menu system. There are some brand new settings in the Z9 that are important to discuss. So, here is an overview of my settings in each menu category…but not everything in the menu!
Photo Shooting Menu
-Role Played by card in Slot 2. Currently I am set to ‘overflow’ so if I am using two cards and fill one up, the camera will switch to the card in slot 2. Another good choice is ‘backup’ for slot 2. I might use this option on important assignments to be safe. I have never had an XQD or CFExpress fail. But if I am shooting a commercial assignment I will use the backup choice.
-Image Area…FX (full frame). Turn on the DX crop alert if you might be using a DX lens.
-Image Quality. Right now I am at JPEG Fine* to get the best file I can use in my computer. As soon as Photoshop can read the RAW files, I will switch this to RAW.
-RAW recording. I use (will use) High Efficiency*. This is a new compression format that gives you the same results as lossless compression, except the file size is 30 percent smaller. This is HUGE! Your 256GB cards give you a ton more images using this RAW format, so you don’t have to keep buying new cards for the 45MP files shot at 20FPS! Initial reviews are not seeing much difference in High Efficiency* versus Lossless compressed.
-White Balance. I use Cloudy for a lot of my wilidife and landscapes, while I use sunny or flash for portraits, and I use Auto0 for tricky interior lighting. Natural Light Auto does work nicely outside, but it can change white balance from image to image. I like consistency here, and then will tweak this in Photoshop later.
-Set Picture Control. I use Standard for a neutral preview on my LCD. If you like saturated look (landscapes), try Vivid.
-Color Space. Currently I am using sRGB since much of my end uses are better matched to the sRGB color space (think computer monitors, iPhone displays, digital projection). However, if I am shooting an editorial or commercial job I switch back to Adobe RGB since many clients prefer this wider color gamut for their uses.
-Active D Lighting. Normal
-Long Exposure NR. Turn on only when I am doing long exposure photography…1 minute or longer. I don’t want this engaging every time since it doubles the in-camera processing time…so I turn it on only when I am shooting really long exposures.
-High ISO NR. Normal
Vignette control. Normal
-Diffraction compensation. ON
-Auto Distortion Control. ON
-Photo Flicker reduction. ON
-Focus Mode. AF-C. Continuous autofocus. The Z9 will now show an in-focus green color using this mode.
-AF-area Mode. I use three modes. Currently I have my default mode as 3D when I hit the shutter, and my front F1 function button set to Auto-area AF (see this post.). I am also using shutter release to focus, not back button focus, with the Z9 (see this post). I still like to use single point from time to time, but I am using it less with the Z9…3D just does everything great.
-Af Subject Detection. I am either using Auto for general photography, or switching to animal for animals/birds and people for portraits. Auto does work well for most any subject, but I feel I get the best performance when I choose the specific subject type.
-Vibration Reduction. For hand holding I use Sport, and when I am on a tripod I turn it off. Normal mode applies the most vibration reduction, but the image can shake in the viewfinder sometimes. This doesn’t happen in Sport mode.
Video Recording Menu.
-I don’t shoot video for the most part, so I won’t comment here…plenty of online videos to help you set up your video settings.
Custom Settings Menu.
a3 Focus Tracking with Lock On. I chose Erratic and set to 5 Delayed. This means the focus is more sticky…and works well for fast moving subjects. Other setting may work better depending on your subject.
a4. Focus Points Used. I leave mine set normally to All so I can precisely put the focus point where I want it. But to move the focus point faster in the viewfinder, try Alternating Points. This eliminates some focus points, but speeds up how fast the point moves in the viewfinder…nice for wildlife.
a5 Store Points by Orientation. I leave this off. With it on the autofocus point will change depending on your camera orientation…but I like to keep my point where I set it no matter how I hold the camera. Some folks like it to move when they change camera orientation…do what works for you.
a6 AF activation. If you focus using the shutter, choose Shutter/AF-On. If you back button focus, choose AF-ON only.
a7 Focus Point Persistence. Auto. Camera will keep the autofocus point while you are switching AF modes.
a11 Focus Point Display. I turn all these on, including AF-C in-focus display so I the box turns green when in focus.
a13 Focus Peaking. On. Handy to use in manual mode to check what is in focus.
b3 Easy exposure compensation. On(auto reset). This allows you to use the back control dial to change exposure compensation when in shooting modes like Aperture Priority. Great way to quickly change exposure compensation. The reset means when you turn the camera off the exposure compensation is set back to zero. Won’t work in Manual Mode with auto ISO.
b4 Matrix metering face detection. On.
c3 Power Off Delay. The Z9 battery lasts a long time. But you can shorten display times here to conserve battery life.
d1Continuous Shooting Speed. CL-10FPs. CH-20FPS.
d5 Extended shutter speeds. On. These long shutter speeds eliminate needing a cable release all the time.
d8 View mode. Show effects of settings. I like ‘what you see is what you get’.
d9 Starlight view. Only turn this on when you need help in very very low light focusing situations. Your EVF will adjust brightness so you can easily see to focus…it will not display actual what you see is what you get in the final image….
d12 View all in continuous mode. ON. If you turn this off your viewfinder goes dark during sequence shooting.
d13 Release timing indicator. Type B. I like seeing the white lines on the edge of the frame during shooting…but you have different choices here.
d26 Virtual horizon type. Type B. I didn’t like the white line across my frame Type A) so I choose Type B.
d18 Custom Viewfinder display. You can choose different options of viewfinder displays. I like Display 1 which shows the histogram. Use you DISP switch (on camera back) to toggle through options.
e1 Flash Sync Speed. 1/250 Auto FP. This allows use of High Speed Sync.
f1 Customize ‘I’ menu. There are a lot of choices here. I did set one button on this menu to engage silent photography. I still like to hear my shutter, and since there is no actual shutter moving in the camera, I don’t have any shutter vibration with the shutter noise turned on. But those birds can be jumpy…now I can quickly switch to silent mode on the ‘I’ menu. Most of these I left at default, but change according to what you need.
f2 Custom controls. Also lots of choices. First, I set my F1 button on the front of my camera to Auto-area AF. I find I go back and forth a lot from 3D to Auto-area AF. This allows me to switch quickly (my default is 3D). I have now turned off any function of the control ring on the lens. It was set to exposure compensation, but I kept accidentally changing this all the time. As for the buttons on lenses, about the only thing I use these for are to preset focus when I am photographing certain subjects that consistently go back to the same spot. It is amazing the amount of functions you can set the lens and camera buttons for…this is going to vary a lot between photographers and what/how they photograph. One other one I set…I set the toggle autofocus switch to reset my autofocus point to center when I depress it straight down. Sometimes I can’t see my autofocus point, so one press of the toggle and it is back in the center.
-Playback Display Options. I turn on about everything here. I want to see my shooting data, histogram, highlight warning. Don’t forget to also choose None which allows you to review an image with no data overlay on it.
-Rotate Tall. On. This shows vertical images in the horizontal orientation…the images are smaller, but you don’t have to twist the camera to see the correct view of the image. Some folks go the other way here to see a larger image.
Set Up Menu.
-Monitor/Viewfinder Color Balance. I find the EVF does a great job with color balance, combined with using the correct white balance setting. You need to photograph a color checker card to set this in-camera, and it only affects the EVF/LCD…not the final image. I have not found I needed to use this function.
-Auto Rotate info Display. On. How cool, the shooting info switches position in the frame depending if you are shooting horizontal or vertical.
-AF Fine Tuning Options. Since mirrorless focuses on the sensor, you shouldn’t need to AF fine tune lenses anymore.
-Save Focus Position. Off. Every time you turn on your Z camera with a Z lenses attached, it automatically focuses to infinity. This is hugely helpful when focusing on stars and northern lights…now your camera will be on infinity when you turn it on. If you want the lens to stay where it was focused before shutting down, then turn this setting On.
-Sensor Shield behavior at power off. On. Another lifesaver!@. Turn off your camera when you change lenses, and a dedicated sensor shield closes down the front so you get a lot less dust, rain and nastiness on your sensor. Just remember to turn off your camera before switching lenses.
-Copyright Info. Set this up to eliminate a step later in your workflow. The LCD is touch sensitive, only takes about a minute.
-Camera Sounds. Okay, it did take me a minute to get used to this sound option. But just set this to what you like…I really like an audible when I shoot.
-Location Data. You have more options that ever before here. Turn it on if you want the built in GPS tagging your photos so you can use this later in Lightroom…it will use a little more battery life.
-Energy Saving. On.
Okay, that about does it. There are more options, but most of the ones I didn’t mention I probably left on default.