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Our Nikon z5 Review Is Updated with a New Autofocus Test

We’ve updated our Nikon z5 review once again with findings from the latest firmware issued. This new firmware update mostly gives “improved performance” when using a flash and autofocusing in low light. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. In our findings, something is amiss here. You can head to our Nikon z5 Review or scroll down to see our findings.

Update February 2022

According to Nikon’s Website, the latest Firmware update as of February 2022 does the following:

• Added support for:

  • FTZ II mount adapters
  • NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f4 S lenses
  • NIKKOR Z 28-75mm f2.8 lenses
  • Improved face/eye detection performance and the visibility of subjects in pictures taken using an optional flash unit.

This test, quite honestly, was one of the most frustrating and inconclusive tests I’ve conducted with a Nikon camera. I called the Nikon z5 back in after we reviewed the Nikon z9. Comparatively speaking, the Nikon z5’s autofocus feels archaic.

In a call with two Nikon representatives, we got clarification on what this firmware does. It’s supposed to affect the “Apply Settings to Live View” feature. Nikon customers can go about shooting with their cameras with the Live View setting effect activated. For more common terms, we just call this exposure preview. And for years, manufacturers across the board have said it affects autofocus performance. But when a flash is attached to the Nikon z5, the Live View effect setting will be disabled.

This means you can go from shooting with flash and without flash with ease when shooting a wedding or something. Your exposure preview will be enabled when you need it and disabled when you need it. Overall, it’s a great feature to have and a fantastic idea!

However, the problem occurs with autofocus performance in low light. Nikon sent us the 28mm f2.8 Z lens with the Nikon z5. In many instances, the two couldn’t autofocus well in low light together. It especially had issues if someone were wearing glasses or a hat that shrouded their eyes a bit in shadow.

I originally tried this test at a local bar using the Godox TT685 II N. (And before I go on, no, the flash brand wasn’t the problem because the Nikon Z5 thought it was a Nikon flash.) But then I moved it into my office and my own apartment. To get this functionality to work, you have to set your camera to AF-S or AF-C mode, and then set it to all-area autofocus. Face and eye detection need to be enabled. The photo above was shot using a single-point autofocus selection, and that’s the only way I was able to get it to work.

Once you do that, you run into another potential issue: manual focus override. To get rid of it with the Nikon Z5, you need to literally disable it on the lens within the menu system. With the Nikon z6 and Nikon z7, you can go to a13 and turn it off. But that’s not available with the z5. This will prevent you from accidentally turning the focusing ring.

After that’s done, the Nikon z5 will still have issues focusing on your face in low light. For the record, I’m turning off the autofocus assist lamp. Most photographers wouldn’t use it anyway because it would annoy the heck out of your subject. Nor would we use AF-Assist from the flash’s infrared beam.

However, the Nikon z5 and the Nikon 35mm f1.8 Z S did a better job focusing in low light together than the 28mm f2.8 did. But overall, it was still pretty awful. The new OM-System OM1 did a better job in a comparative situation and even with disadvantages thrown at it. The Fujifilm X Pro 3 with the original 23mm f1.4 R lens far outpaced the Nikon z5 and the new Nikon 28mm f2.8 Z. For comparison, the X Pro 3 is older than the Nikon Z5 and the 23mm f1.4 was one of the first Fujifilm lenses to come to market.

To make sure I wasn’t going nuts, I checked it by a reader, who agreed that I wasn’t wrong about the autofocus performance.

I’ve also realized Nikon does not have body detection and this is a big flaw. In the end, the Nikon z5 has a problem with glasses and overall it still isn’t as good as Canon, Leica, or Sony.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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