Miscellaneous Z6/7 tips

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Here are some notes made when I first got my Z6. I think these may be from Thom Hogan's guide, but they could be from various sites that I learned about. Hope they can help.

Use Video mode for accurate DoF prefview
Here’s one Nikon didn’t tell you: flip the shooting mode switch to VIDEO. When configured for video, all apertures are respected, even ones beyond f/5.6, so you essentially see the actual DOF. Just do a quick switch to video (make sure it is set to the same aperture), check your DOF, then switch back to stills.

Using a circular polarizer or ND filters
One throwaway note in the Nikon literature should be called out: if you’re using a filter that has an exposure factor of one stop or more, use Center-weighted metering instead of matrix metering. That would, for instance, apply to neutral density and polarizing filters.

The reasoning behind switching metering types with strong filters is simple: the matrix patterns were created using no filtration. Strong filters can greatly alter what the matrix sees in two ways: they reduce the overall brightness level, which is something that the matrix system uses to determine which pattern to apply; and some types of filters have variable impacts on different areas of the frame, altering the pattern the matrix meter sees.

For example, a polarizing filter can bring down a bright sky value quite a bit without affecting foregrounds at the same intensity. That means that the matrix pattern for “landscapes with sky” might not be recognized as easily. Moreover, circular polarizers on wide angle lenses will have a highly variable impact across the frame.

Use 14 bit NEFs below 800 ISO
Indeed, for the Z6 and Z7, I suggest that you stay in 14-bit space at lower ISO values when shooting NEF. That’s because deep shadow recovery is entirely possible on the Z series cameras, but if you record with only 12-bits you can generate noise and artifacts due to rounding errors when you perform gross exposure corrections after the fact. 14-bit recording has a little more data integrity in the shadows.

Tip: The cross-over point is near ISO 400 for the Z7, and near ISO 800 for the Z6. In other words, below those ISO values, it’s useful to shoot in 14-bit. Above those ISO values it isn’t.

Metering
The Highlight-weighted metering system assumes that highlights are at a reflectivity of middle gray (this is different than in the DSLRs).
 

Pat

Joined
Jun 8, 2020
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Here are some notes made when I first got my Z6. I think these may be from Thom Hogan's guide, but they could be from various sites that I learned about. Hope they can help.

Use Video mode for accurate DoF prefview
Here’s one Nikon didn’t tell you: flip the shooting mode switch to VIDEO. When configured for video, all apertures are respected, even ones beyond f/5.6, so you essentially see the actual DOF. Just do a quick switch to video (make sure it is set to the same aperture), check your DOF, then switch back to stills.

Using a circular polarizer or ND filters
One throwaway note in the Nikon literature should be called out: if you’re using a filter that has an exposure factor of one stop or more, use Center-weighted metering instead of matrix metering. That would, for instance, apply to neutral density and polarizing filters.

The reasoning behind switching metering types with strong filters is simple: the matrix patterns were created using no filtration. Strong filters can greatly alter what the matrix sees in two ways: they reduce the overall brightness level, which is something that the matrix system uses to determine which pattern to apply; and some types of filters have variable impacts on different areas of the frame, altering the pattern the matrix meter sees.

For example, a polarizing filter can bring down a bright sky value quite a bit without affecting foregrounds at the same intensity. That means that the matrix pattern for “landscapes with sky” might not be recognized as easily. Moreover, circular polarizers on wide angle lenses will have a highly variable impact across the frame.

Use 14 bit NEFs below 800 ISO
Indeed, for the Z6 and Z7, I suggest that you stay in 14-bit space at lower ISO values when shooting NEF. That’s because deep shadow recovery is entirely possible on the Z series cameras, but if you record with only 12-bits you can generate noise and artifacts due to rounding errors when you perform gross exposure corrections after the fact. 14-bit recording has a little more data integrity in the shadows.

Tip: The cross-over point is near ISO 400 for the Z7, and near ISO 800 for the Z6. In other words, below those ISO values, it’s useful to shoot in 14-bit. Above those ISO values it isn’t.

Metering
The Highlight-weighted metering system assumes that highlights are at a reflectivity of middle gray (this is different than in the DSLRs).

Useful tips Nick, thanks but pardon my ignorance, re. highlight metering what do DSLRs assume then?
 
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I've never used anything other than matrix metering on DSLRs or my Z6, though I've taken few photos with my Z6 and most of them have been in my makeshift studio. I wonder if the comments about using matrix metering and a polarizer have to do mostly when the image includes the sky. Even then, when you're keeping your eye on the histogram and making exposure adjustments accordingly, why would using one metering method be better than any other metering method; it's possible to get the same exposure using all metering methods.
 
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Looks like a good set of tips that I look forward to trying, especially the first one. When using my D cameras I often used the DOF preview button and have missed it on the Z6.
 
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I thought I was seeing correct DOF in the viewfinder. Hogan confirms that in his Z6/Z7 guide:

First, in autofocus operation for stills the Z series uses the actual
aperture set up through f/5.6. So you’re probably already seeing the
depth of field in the viewfinder as long as you haven’t set f/6.3, f/8,
f/11 or any of the smaller apertures.


Of course the Video Mode trick would be useful at apertures smaller than f/5.6, but DOF is not as critical at small apertures anyway.
 
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Has anyone cleaned their sensor? I noticed some spots when I shot the sun star images at f/22. I have cleaned DSLR sensors, but have never attempted to do wet clean on mirrorless. I have blown out sensor and use Clean Sensor function but these seem determined to stick around.
 
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I thought I was seeing correct DOF in the viewfinder. Hogan confirms that in his Z6/Z7 guide:

First, in autofocus operation for stills the Z series uses the actual
aperture set up through f/5.6. So you’re probably already seeing the
depth of field in the viewfinder as long as you haven’t set f/6.3, f/8,
f/11 or any of the smaller apertures.


Of course the Video Mode trick would be useful at apertures smaller than f/5.6, but DOF is not as critical at large apertures anyway.
Truth be told, I've never used this one!
 
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Useful tips Nick, thanks but pardon my ignorance, re. highlight metering what do DSLRs assume then?
Pat, promted by your question I did some more reading (what a novel idea!)

In his Z6/7 book he says:
In the DSLRs, Highlight-weighted metering looks for bright subjects against dark backgrounds. On a DSLR, the Highlight-weighted metering method tended to preserve highlight detail on the subject and often induced a bit of underexposure.

The Z6 and Z7 perform differently: in most cases they take the non- specular highlights and place them almost exactly at middle gray (which in Nikon’s Picture Control defaults tends to be something like an 8-bit value of 134 or 135, not 128 as you might guess).
Also, whereas Matrix and Spot metering are both dependent upon the focus cursor position, highlight-weighted metering does not seem to be. It really does look for the brightest object(s) in the scene and meters them to near middle gray.


In his D850 book he says:
Highlight-weighted metering is modification to Matrix metering that looks for a brightly lit spot. The camera is still performing a form of matrix metering in Highlight-weighted metering, only it’s using the 180,000-pixel metering sensor to perform highlight and color detection. When it sees that a matrix pattern might produce a reasonably-sized group of fully saturated pixels (even in only one channel), it drops the matrix- detected exposure down to protect those highlights. The system seems to do a reasonable job of ignoring specular highlights in the background and may be using color recognition to do the actual subject detection (especially for human subjects).


Regardless, it is so much easier to use with the Z6 EVF!
 
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The Z6 and Z7 perform differently: in most cases they take the non- specular highlights and place them almost exactly at middle gray (which in Nikon’s Picture Control defaults tends to be something like an 8-bit value of 134 or 135, not 128 as you might guess).
Also, whereas Matrix and Spot metering are both dependent upon the focus cursor position, highlight-weighted metering does not seem to be. It really does look for the brightest object(s) in the scene and meters them to near middle gray.

Nick,

I am not sure that Hogan is really accurate in his statement, or maybe he based his statement on too narrow a sample? The Nikon Handbook and Darrell Young are a little more conservative in their explanations.

In my (albeit limited) experience of using the Highlight Metering Mode I would just say that it protects Highlights and ignores Specular Highlights. In a small test it placed a white object on about 200-220 and not as extreme as the 135 suggested. More testing required.

DG
 
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A rainy day, so plenty of time to read.

Steve Perry, in his exposure/metering book adds some much needed clarity:

Basically what HWM does is when the system sees a significant amount of highlight detail, it adjusts the exposure to protect those areas. It’s especially useful when you have a light subject (or spotlit subject) against a dark background.

As a very general guideline, it seems like the larger the highlight area, the more likely HWM is to drop it to mid-tone.
HWM works best when a significant area of the image contains highlights - at least 20% or so in my experience. When you only have a very tiny area (like a bald eagle head), it tends to ignore it and meter as normal.
 
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I just came upon a tip on my own that I don't see in Thom Hogan's Guide or Nikon's user manual: You can't save or load settings to or from a memory card if the camera is set to U1, U2 or U3. I have no idea why; it's certainly not intuitive to me.
One of life's eternal mysteries.
 

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