With more and more folks trying out the new Nikon mirrorless system, I am getting a lot of great questions about autofocus. This is one feature that is very different than shooting your DSLR. With my D850 I use single point as my default, and use Group Area Autofocus (the diamond pattern) for moving subjects like birds in flight.
But pick up a Z, and you see 9 modes in the ‘I’ quick select menu. DSLRs also have a number of autofocus modes, but I think you only really need to use the two I mentioned above. But shooting a Z6II you need to toggle between numerous modes for the best performance. It all depends on what your subject is. Here is a breakdown of the modes I most frequently use.
Single Point: This is my default mode, and I use this for travel, landscapes and general photography. This is the mode to use when you are trying to focus on a very specific spot. There is even a ‘pinpoint’ mode for super precise focus, but I don’t find I need this. Single point gets the job done for most everything.
Wide Area Small: After trying a number of larger focus areas to track moving subjects, I’ve settled on Wide Area Small. This gives you a small square, similar to Group Area Autofocus, and does a good job of focusing on moving targets. Use this for birds in flight, or even running deer. If you subject moves into dense brush or cluttered scenes, you may need to go back to single point to get accurate focus on your subject and not another part of the scene.
Wide Area Large Face Detect: This mode is just amazing, especially after the recent firmware update. In the viewfinder you will see a large square…put your subject in that and a small yellow box will lock onto the eye of your subject. This is a completely new mode from mirrorless, and it works great. If you are shooting portraits, give this a try. This is one of the reasons we bought a Z6II.
Auto Area Focus. This mode lets the camera focus on what is closest in the viewfinder. You will see a flashing display of boxes as the camera determines what to focus on. The reason I use this mode is you need this mode to turn on Focus Tracking. With Focus Tracking engaged, a yellow square stays on your subject in the viewfinder. Right now I am not using this much, and I expect a firmware update may incorporate focus tracking into other focus modes where I might use it more.
There you go. A quick look at the focus modes I use the most on my Z6II. Autofocus is rapidly evolving in mirrorless cameras, expect more exciting modes soon! Have a great weekend!