Nikon’s first-generation, full-frame mirrorless cameras are catching up, thanks to a firmware update. Announced late on Monday, February 17, Firmware version 3.0 for the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 brings animal eye AF and improvements to subject tracking, along with some of the previously promised CFexpress memory card support. The new crop sensor Nikon Z 50 also sees an update with improvements to video autofocus for vlogging.
Nikon’s new animal eye AF could be better described as pet AF — the new feature works on cats and dogs. Like with focusing on humans, photographers can use the left and right keys to switch between eyes or faces when photographing groups. The animal eye AF also works with video, Nikon says.
The update illustrates Nikon’s efforts at catching up with the competition, despite being on the first generation of cameras to Sony’s third and fourth. Sony added animal eye AF last year, though it’s worth noting that Sony advertises the system working on wildlife too, and not just pets. Nikon’s original people eye AF is a helpful tool, though in our tests it didn’t perform as fast as other systems.
With version 3.0, the Z 6 and Z 7 also see improved subject tracking autofocus. The update allows the AF-C tracking mode to feel more like using the system on Nikon’s DSLRs for still photos — tracking starts with a half-press of the shutter (or the AF-ON button) and when the button is released, the focus point goes back to the original location. Without the firmware update, the tracking follows the subject regardless of whether the button is half-pressed, and the focal point needs to be manually mode back to the original location if the subject leaves the composition.
The update also brings expanded support for CFexpress memory cards. Nikon promised support for the memory card type and already launched support for Sony CFexpress cards. With the firmware, that expands to select type B CFexpress cards from ProGrade Digital and Lexar.
The native XQD cards accepted by the Z 6 and Z 7 are pricey, costing around $ 130 for 64GB. The expanded support for CF cards can be a cost savings for photographers that already have the old card type.
The Nikon Z 50 also gets a new feature with firmware version 1.10. The update improves autofocus specifically while in self-portrait mode for movies. The update uses AF-F or full-time autofocus to lock on a face, which should be a helpful update for users vlogging with the camera.