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Nikon Z system -Tips and Tricks for the Z5

This is a collection of tips that I found while using the Nikon Z5. Most are from my perspective and support my workflow. Some are a backup reminder for me, since it is so easy to forget how a rarely changed setting works. I hope you find something here you had not yet discovered before.

Note, that this posting will be growing over time, as I plan to add more tips to the list. Let us start with some settings for buttons and displays.

  • The monitor mode button on the left side of the EVF cycles through the modes of the monitor and the EVF. You should take a look at the settings option "limit monitor mode selection". I have only "automatic display switch" and "monitor only" active. This limit makes it easier to use this button. 
  • I found that the automatic monitor switch stops working sometimes. In this case, you need to fix the eye approximation sensor above the ocular. In most cases, pulling the rubber eye piece to the sides helps so that it stretches above the ocular. This removes a bulge of rubber forming in the gap. If it does not help, push the rubber upwards to remove it from the eye piece and clean the whole area. Click it back in place.
  • You should also visit the "playback display options" in the playback menu. It determines the different displays that show when you view an image on replay. I have selected "focus point", "exposure info" which shows the histogram, "overview" for a good balance between image and information, and "none" for the full image. The image review I had on "monitor only" in the playback menu. I did not like to review the image when using the view finder. But I found now that is is not such a good idea. By the way, you can turn "image review" off if you prefer. I have "rotate tall" to OFF. This prevents the camera from showing a tiny preview of a portrait image when it is hold in landscape mode.
  • The red video button can be used to go to the user menu in picture shooting mode (selected with the lever behind the DISP button). This is done in the custom settings menu at f2. You should then configure the user menu and add the things you want to access instantly, or fill it as needed. My user menu contains things like "ISO sensitivity settings", "connect to smart device", "format memory card", "focus shift shooting", "time lap movie". The user menu can also be used in the "recent settings" mode displaying the recently used menu items. I do not like that.
  • The F1 front button can be configured to start tracking. This works better than the default OK button. It releases the track if you press the button once more. Tracking is very useful and can work together with the big autofocus area and eye detection. Just put the tracking rectangle on your subject, focus and recompose. In AF-C mode, you will have to keep the shutter halfway down while tracking, or use the AF-ON button if it is configured to start focussing (see custom settings f2). The tracking rectangle will always appear in the center every time you press F1.
  • I use the F2 front button to set the AF mode. This is far easier than going via the i-menu. The other button that works like this is the release mode in the lower-right corner. For the AE exposure area, you have to use the i-menu. All you can set is a button to toggle to center AE.
  • I also have "release button to use dial" ON (custom settings f6). This allows for a more relaxed handling of all settings. You do not have to keep the settings button pressed down and turn wheels at the same time. Pressing the button once more or focussing releases the settings mode.
  • The AF-ON button is configured to start focussing by default. Using this button may be easier than pressing the shutter halfway down. If you hold the AF-ON button after the shot, the focus point remains fixed.
  • You can also disable the AF for the shutter completely in the settings menu at a7. This is called back button focus. Some prefer this technique. Now you can fix the focus and let all buttons go, even in AF-C.
  • It is a good idea to use the easy exposure compensation on this camera. I have it on RESET. What that means is that you can use the other dial in A or S mode to correct the exposure. If you switch the camera on or off, it will reset the exposure to zero. Note, that the exposure "+/-" button does not work this way. It will remember the setting if you turn the camera on and off. It does also work in M mode, however.

Some tips concerning the touch screen.

  • You already noticed that the AF point can be set by touching the screen. The small icon on the left shows what this is doing. You can set it to release the shutter, to focus only, or to do nothing. In the wide area mode, touching will enable tracking if AF only is selected. Now you can touch the delete icon to remove the track, or press the "-" key.
  • You can set all framed data on the display by touching it. E.g. in A mode, you can set the F-stop and the ISO. You can also call the i-menu by touch.
  • In replay mode, you can scroll with your finger along the lower edge of the display through the images on the card. You can also pinch to zoom in and out, and, of course, move the zoomed area with the finger.

Some tips for shooting.

  • You can use two SD cards. That's one of the nice points of the Z5. There is no need for the expensive XQD cards. You can use the second one for overflow, backup or JPEG, if you are shooting RAW+JPEG. One of the problems with backup is that you see the images on the second card too. This might be confusing. You can simply remove the second card if you do not need a backup, and insert it it if you do.
  • The matrix metering is usually good enough for almost everything. The exposure on this camera is meant to be corrected using the preview image. See above for using a dial (easy exposure compensation). You can press DISP until you see a histogram. This might help you to nail the best exposure and not blow out highlights. The matrix metering with highlight protection should be used only for dark scenes with bright objects that you need to expose correctly, e.g. on a stage. 
  • You can set a button to lock the auto exposure (AEL) (in custom settings f2). Some have it on the AF-ON button. If you never use back button focus, this is a good idea. This is necessary for panoramas or other stacked shots. It is also possible to lock exposure by pressing the shutter halfway (custom settings c1). In this setting, burst shots can also set to lock exposure. A simple alternative is to use manual mode M. 
  • The autofocus of this camera is very advanced (although the Z6 and Z7 have an even better AF in low light). You can set it via the i-menu or a button if you have set one (see above). You should start learning with AF-S and the wide area mode. In principle this will focus once if you press the shutter halfway (or press AF-ON if it is set so), and select focus points in the focus area automatically. The set focus points will turn green if the focus was successful. In insufficient light, the camera will display a message. If set (a12), a focus assist lamp will illuminate the scene. That works only for close objects, of course.
  • In wide area mode, the camera can use eye and face detection (a4), even for dogs and cats. You can use the joystick to switch between eyes or faces. Note, that the camera has only face detection in movie mode.
  • In wide area mode, the camera can also track subjects. I explained above how to use the F1 front button for the tracking. In principle, you press your track button, position the square on your subject, and focus.
  • Continuous autofocus (AF-C) is good for objects that might change the distance while you focus. The camera is trying to predict the focus position. You do not get feedback by a green rectangle in this mode. The mode should be used for sports or and fast acting. But you should also use it for handheld macro shots. The DOF might be so tiny that even a small move of the camera changes the focus. Tracking can be used in AF-C too, but you need to hold down the shutter halfway to track (or use back button focus).
  • Other modes use smaller focus areas, including a slow pinpoint area. In AF-C, there is a mode which takes into account surrounding points. Some use it for birds and other fast-moving subjects. You can move the focus areas with the joystick. You can set the center of the stick to reset the focus point to the center of the image, or the OK button.

For far for now. Have fun! In case of questions, please comment.

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