TALKING IMAGES 49 – MORE ON THE NIKON Z 6, THE FUJIFILM X-T2, AND WAYS OF WORKING

 

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THE NIKON Z 6

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What needs to be said here is quite brief.  This is an extremely pleasant and capable camera to use, and it looks to be a highly creative tool.  It seems very likely that this is going to be my main camera – lol! my primary weapon! – for quite a long time.  I’m posting the above image again, because I still can’t quite get over just how small and compact this full frame camera is – on the left is the much larger Nikon D800; but the Z 6 in the centre doesn’t look that much larger than the APS-C format Fujifilm X-T2 (now superseded by the X-T3) on the right.  In terms of bare numbers (and in both cases including the weight of battery and memory card), the Z 6 weighs 657gm, as against the X-T2 at 507gm – I find this difference both negligible and really quite astounding.

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The large electronic viewfinder (EVF) is so good that, most of the time, I forget its electronic, its just like looking through an optical viewfinder.  One of my aims is to find out how good the Z 6 is at photographing birds in flight, and last week on the Somerset Levels I had my first opportunity.  The wings of Mute Swans make an entirely beautiful singing noise in flight, and I was suddenly aware of this noise behind me.  The Z 6 was set to continuous autofocus (more on that below) and, instantaneously,  I just turned on my heel, jammed my thumb onto the large AF-ON button and managed to get three shots of the birds before they were out of range.  The first two shots were out of focus as I struggled the get the camera onto the fast moving shapes, but the third exposure caught them – here it is:
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This all happened so quickly that I had no time to change any of the camera settings – hence my telephoto was on on 220mm; 800 ISO; 1/1250sec f7.1; the size of the full frame image is 6048×4024 pixels, and this is a crop to 1332×1323 pixels.  As I fired, there was a very brief (a split second) “hiccup” in the EVF after the first two frames, i.e. prior to this frame.  I’m going to try more such tests – hopefully with more time to prepare than for this one!  I have a feeling that the Z 6’s autofocus is not going to be quite as good as that on the D800, but time will tell.

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The other thing about the Z 6 that is really getting to me is the ease of switching between full frame and APS-C format, which increases the focal length of lenses by 1.5, so that my 300mm becomes 450mm.  By configuring the camera to how I want it to work, I simply have to press the Movie-record Button and turn the Main Command Dial a single click: this takes about a second, and being able to extend the reach of a telephoto almost instantaneously like this is extremely useful.

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WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THE NIKON Z 6, WITH REMARKS ON THE X-T2 TOO

Having said, above, that the Z 6’s EVF is so lifelike that it mostly seems like an optical viewfinder, this can’t be said of the EVF in the Fujifilm X-T2, which sometimes shows colours that are not accurate.  However, my experience is that the colours of the resulting images are always accurate – and often gorgeous!  The X-T2’s film simulations are more subtle and gorgeous that the Z 6’s picture controls, but the latter are still very usable, and can be edited to suit personal tastes if necessary.

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BUT the virtual level in the Z 6 is to me far more poorly designed and difficult than the very simple and eminently usable one on the X-T2 – I really don’t know what Nikon were thinking of when they designed theirs’!  And FURTHERMORE, the X-T2 has its virtual level and live histogram viewable simultaneously, whereas those on the Z 6 cannot be viewed on the same screen – the X-T2 is clearly superior in these (albeit fairly limited) respects.

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WAYS OF WORKING >>> CAVEATE … DISCLAIMER … A POLITICALLY CORRECT STATEMENT …

If eight years of blogging have taught me anything at all, its that we are all individuals, all different in our likes and dislikes – with this applying to just about any aspect of life that you care to mention.  With this in mind, its very clear that the two ways of working I’m about to describe many not be right for you, for any number of reasons.  However, they may strike a chord for someone, and they certainly are useful for me, so I’m going to describe them.

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WAYS OF WORKING 1

In the (good old?) days of film, I whipped lenses on and off my SLRs like there was no tomorrow, often changing the lens for each shot.  There were no worries then about getting dirt in the sensor >>> because the FILM was the sensor and you changed the sensor after every 36 pictures.  But now I change the lenses in my digital cameras far less.  This is partly because of the dirty sensor issue, but also because I take minimal kit with me when going out photographing, often taking just a camera and one (zoom) lens.  This makes for less weight to cart around – and I’m fully at one with the possibility of not being able to take certain types of shot because I don’t have the right type of lens with me.  I am certainly NOT someone who carries all my gear about with me, so as not to miss any shots at all.  In my philosophy, there will always be other chances another time.

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However, having said all that, for my last two visits to the Somerset Levels (which are all via my thoroughly disreputable car), I have taken two cameras and two lenses and this has worked extremely well.  The equipment in question is the Nikon Z 6 with the lens that I’m married to, the 70-300 Nikkor telezoom.  And the Fujifilm X-T2, with the Fujinon 10-24 wide angle zoom.

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Four points to make about this way or working.  First, no lens changes are involved.  Second, bulk is cut down because the Z 6 is so compact, really not that much bulkier than the X-T2 (see above).

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Third, this gear gives me two very different ways of looking at everywhere I visit, telephoto and wide angle.  So when I haul up somewhere, I walk about with first one camera and then the other, and very different photographic potentials are revealed.

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And lastly, carrying this gear gives me a very wide range of focal lengths to play with.  Since the Fujinon lens is APS-C format, its focal lengths must be multiplied by 1.5 to give their full-frame equivalents.  So that 10-24 becomes 15-36.  15mm is really quite a serious wide angle, whereas 36mm is not too far from the angle of view seen by the human eye.

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The 70-300 is a useful full-frame telezoom, and I “see” many images at 300mm, which is x6 magnification.  But because the Z 6 can be used in APS-C mode, the 300mm fetch of this telephoto can also be magnified by 1.5 to become 450mm = x9 magnification, and so to a 70-450 lens, which is a very significant extension.

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And so the availability of a very wide ranging and very flexible 15-36mm and 70-450mm lens choice.

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WAYS OF WORKING 2

Three things about focusing the Z 6.  First, just as I do with Nikon’s D700 and D800 DSLRs, I have taken all focusing functions away from the shutter button, preferring instead to use the large AF-ON button on the back of the Z 6 >>> this is back button focusing.  So now the shutter button only does exactly what it says on the tin:  when I want to take a picture I press it.

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Second, the Z 6 has two basic types of autofocus.  AF-S (Single AF) is for stationary subjects: use this to focus on a subject, and the autofocus point very helpfully turns from red to green when focus is achieved.  So, when faced with a stationary subject, I can use the AF-ON button to focus on whatever part of the image I want to be in focus >>> and then leave the AF-ON button alone, and concentrate on framing/composing the picture – and perhaps measuring the exposure from a different part of the picture.  AF-C (Continuous AF) is for moving subjects, and the camera focuses continuously as long as the AF-ON button is pressed – but does NOT change colour when focus is achieved.

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But third, HOWEVER, although the Z 6 can be toggled between AF-S and AF-C quite quickly, in the flurry of a really urgent moment  – like trying frantically to photograph the two flying swans (above) – there really isn’t the time >>> and so I do the following.  As with the D700 and D800, the Z 6 is kept in AF-C Continuous autofocus at all times.  For stationary subjects, I just give the AF-ON button a quick tap to achieve focus, and then leave the AF-ON button alone.  But if AF-C is ever needed, well its already set, and so holding down the AF-ON button gives continuous AF in an instant.

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I suspect that many photographers use the shutter button to initiate autofocus, and this is obviously a matter of personal choice.  However, personally, I can’t recommend back button focusing too highly.

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

22 Responses to TALKING IMAGES 49 – MORE ON THE NIKON Z 6, THE FUJIFILM X-T2, AND WAYS OF WORKING

  1. bluebrightly says:

    OK, I have to scold you a little first – it wasn’t really all that brief. That being said, it WAS useful, and I want to tell you something about the general tone first. There are many people out there giving technical advice, or discussing technical points of photography. There’s a certain tone people tend to take that I can’t describe, but you don’t have it, and I’m glad. Yours is a friendly voice out there. Not only do you not want to intimidate, but you don’t want to obfuscate. Rather it’s about sharing something you are enthusiastic about. I appreciate that.
    As for the content, first, I can relate to the idea of having two cameras, one basically set up for wide angle views and the other for a longer distance. I don’t have a good second camera so I often use my phone for the wide views! It’s not great, but I’ve learned it does certain types of shots really well, so it can be useful (and boy is it convenient!). I often put a longer lens on the camera and carry a wider angle one in my pocket (one that’s light and small) with a plan to walk out with the longer lens and back with the wide angle. But I might not bother to change lenses at all. It depends. 🙂
    Re back button focusing – I just found a video explaining how to assign that function to any button on the Olympus that you want, and I’m going to try it. I have been meaning to deal with the annoyance of pressing the shutter halfway for focus but wanting a different exposure point (using spot metering, which you know I like) for ages. So you’ve booted me into action. Thank you! (Well, maybe tomorrow.).

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Great stuff!!! No, it wasn’t all that brief, but in exoneration (have been wanting to use that word for ages!), I think I was referring to the first two paragraphs.

      BUT I do want to thank you for what you say about my general tone, I’m so glad and buoyed up to hear that I come over like that! No no, certainly, no intimidation, no obfuscation, >>> its just me talking, rambling on. And, yes, I think it valuable to share indo, and I like doing that.

      Good to hear you’re in Two Camera Land too. And walking out with one lens and back with another is a good and novel idea.

      Yes, take all focusing away from the shutter button >>> BUT it can depend on the quality of the AF-ON button. The Z 6’s is big, positive and solid, like Nikon’s DSLRs before it; but I was just never able to get such assurance with the X-T2’s much smaller button and less sure autofocus. Will be very interested to hear how you get on!!!!! A 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • bluebrightly says:

        OK, you’re exonerated….I get to use it, too. Try the out and back sometime – I wish I would do it more often. 🙂
        And guess what – I programmed a back button for focus! It takes a little getting used to – the shutter is quicker and more sensitive, but the advantage is more control, far more control, and as long as I’m taking the time, that is a very good thing. With the Oly you can program lots of different buttons, so I might switch to a different one – the comfort is important too – the location of the button I programmed is best for my thumb, which isn’t ideal. There’s a button on the corner, and some on the top I could try….anyway, thank you very much for encouraging us to do this. Like spot metering (which you’ll remember I also started thanks to you), it is changing everything for the better.

        Like

  2. Since I’m still lusting after a Nikon Z camera, I am saving this post, which I hope will have practical application some day. Thanks, Adrian.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Linda, I’ve posted before about the Nikon Z 6 and clean forgot to put a link in to the earlier posts – here it is:

      https://wp.me/p1wq8h-dVc

      I must say that I’m very impressed with the Z 6 – even rather excited in some ways, which is quite unusual for me. The range of new Z-mount lenses is quite restricted at present (at least for my needs) but more are coming, and I’m finding that the adaptor for F-mount lenses works very well. A 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. oneowner says:

    I remember carrying two cameras; one for color and one for black and white. I am happy to say that I am not in the market for a new camera but the new Nikons look very tempting. But I was always tempted when the new cameras came out. I hope you have good luck with yours. Go make some brilliant images!

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Thank you very much, my friend! Yes, I can remember the two cameras/colour/mono days too >>> and we had to set the ISO before we got started with a film and stick to it – things are so much easier now! A

      Like

  4. Sherry Felix says:

    I would love to try the Nikon Z6. I wonder how much better it is than the Sony DSC-RX10M4 which I have.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Well, three possibilities, Sherry:

      1 – I have done a lot of business with a local camera shop, and their manager came out with me while I tried the Z 6 out around Bristol.

      2 – do any of your friends have one you might try?

      3 – these days there are companies that hire cameras out, say for a day or week, which would allow you to give the camera a really good test.

      Adrian

      Like

  5. Thank you Adrian. Beautiful shot. About a year before the Z 6 and Z 7 came out I bought a D850 and a D500 and lots of optics. I kind of want to kick myself. These two DSLRs are about as close to perfect as you can get, but they certainly are big and heavy, as are the optics. It’s not economically feasible to simply switch. So, for a while, I will just drool. I am however a huge fan of back-button focusing. Once you get used to it, you’ll never go back to the inefficient shutter button method.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Hello Michael, well this is interesting to hear! I suspect that quite a few may have gone down the D850 route, only to be taken by surprise when the Z 6 and Z 7 appeared. However, two points to make.

      First, if you photograph moving things eg birds a lot, then the Z 6 won’t match the D850’s autofocus, and I think the D500 is similarly superb too. Using Z-mount lenses may help here.

      Second, although Nikon are bringing out Z-mount lenses, only a few have appeared so far; a 70-200 is due soon, but no other long focal lengths have been mentioned so far, so Amateur Photographer says. However, Nikon has an adaptor that allows the Z 6 to use F-mount lenses, and I’m using my 70-300 AFS Nikkor with excellent results. D Nikkors and all lenses lacking their own internal focusing motors can only be used for manual focus NB.

      Of course you could trade your DSLRs in for a Z camera. For me, the Z 7 has far too many pixels, but the Z 6 is just right.

      Finally, EXCELLENT to hear you’re a fan of back button focusing!!! I wouldn’t be without it!!! A 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. If you dive deep into my blog you will see quite a few action wildlife shots. Most done with the D500, a few done with the D850. They both use the same auto-focus system. I have a Nikon 200–500 F5.6 zoom. I call it “the beast.” It is extremely heavy. But it is also extremely capable especially for the price. When I go out for a day-long shoot, the upper body exercise is a no-cost add-on. My new favorite for travel is the Tamron 100-400 zoom. Tack sharp and very lightweight. I got the D850 because I do seascape horizons and floral macros that are intended to be huge almost mural size presentations. So I need all the resolution I can get for the blowups. http://www.amagaphoto.com has examples.

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        • Adrian Lewis says:

          I’ve had a look at your blog, Michael, and am very impressed by your photography. I’ve seen the 200-500 lens, and wow! carrying that and the D850 must be quite something – as you say, upper body exercise! So, from what you say about large presentations, if you did get a Z Nikon, it would be the Z 7, with all those pixels. A 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you, Adrian. Yes, it would be the Z7 with all those pixels.

            Like

            • Adrian Lewis says:

              Yes, and the Z 7 has more autofocus points too, and I think slicker autofocus, than the Z 6.

              I hope very much that Nikon cracks on with producing more Z lenses, especially longer focal lengths, but the recent 14-30 zoom, in terms of sharpness (which is something I’m not always insistent upon), does not quite come up to what I would expect from such a lens.

              Also, I wonder if further Z cameras are in the pipeline??? LOL! an interesting time for Nikon users!!! 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  6. paula graham says:

    Such an interesting article and Yes, when my bulky Nikon dies I get the Z6/7/8/…or in case it does not die…when I cannot carry it anymore! Thank you for posting this very useful post.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Its a pleasure, my friend, its very good to hear that this post is of use. I think we need to get together again, have lunch and do some photography – I could bring the Z 6 for you to see/use. I’ll email you. A 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jörg Kruth says:

    Great motion!

    Like

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