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Bird Photography with Nikon Z mirrorless cameras

Autofocus settings for birds in flight with Nikon Z cameras

Brown pelican in flight, captured with a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera and 200-500mm f/5.6E VR zoom Nikkor lens.

I’m back from my third annual San Diego Birding & Wildlife photo workshop, and this year I decided to use the workshop as a testing ground for the Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. Ever since the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras were released, the general consensus seems to be that their hybrid phase/contrast autofocus system was great for everything except fast moving subjects, like flying birds. I decided to test the Z6 myself and see how well it could perform in the field in real-world conditions.

For four days I put the Z6 through its paces, and came away with the conclusion that by tweaking the autofocus settings, you can nail BIFs with this camera almost as well as I could with my tried and true Nikon D850 DSLR. The trick is to customize your autofocus settings to something other than the defaults, and the settings I chose will actually seem counter-intuitive. More on that in a moment.

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