Nikon Z6 and Z7 Eye-Detection AF firmware: what to expect

Nikon Z7
Nikon Z7. Image credit: TechRadar

Nikon's Z6 and Z7 full-frame mirrorless cameras have already proved to be huge hits, and the company is clearly keen to keep both cameras at the cutting edge in terms of features and performance.

To that end, it's announced that fresh firmware will bring a host of improvements to both models. So what are these improvements, and how will they change the way you use your camera? Here we'll run through everything you need to know.

Eye Detection AF

The much sought-after Eye Detection AF feature appears to be the main focus of the update, and the similar and very impressive Eye AF system on Sony's models is no doubt part of the reason we're seeing Nikon roll it out.

The company has confirmed that this will work in both single-shot (AF-S) and continuous (C-AF) modes, which is welcome news, as it means eye detection should still work if the subject (or the photographer) moves while the image is being composed.

It doesn't stop there, though. The new firmware will also enable the cameras to detect multiple eyes, and the user will be able to choose which one to focus on – you can see this in action in the image above. 

Will it work for video? Nikon hasn't stated that it will, so right now it looks unlikely.

Better low-light AF performance

Both cameras can focus pretty well when lighting conditions dip, but many users have noted that performance here could be better – and the fact that the update also brings improved low-light AF operation to both cameras suggests that Nikon has been aware of this too.

Nikon says the update will enable "faster autofocusing in dark or dimly lit surroundings", and has confirmed that this will also be effective regardless of whether you're shooting still images or videos. 

Better auto-exposure when tracking

Currently, when you're using the Extended burst setting on the Z6 and Z7, autofocus tracking works but auto-exposure doesn't. This update will ensure that both can work together.

This means the camera can meter the scene between frames and adjust exposure accordingly, which in turn means you should end up with a more consistent burst of images.

What about raw video? And support for CFexpress?

Nikon also mentioned that it was working on firmware that would allow for 12-bit raw video data from both 4K and Full HD footage to be output from the two cameras, which will be of particular interest to videographers looking to have a better starting point for grading their footage. 

Raw video output is coming to both models – but not just yet, it seems. Image credit: TechRadar

Raw video output is coming to both models – but not just yet, it seems. Image credit: TechRadar

Nikon also stated that it would ensure both cameras would support the incoming CFexpress format that will ultimately succeed XQD cards. It claims to have tested these CFexpress cards so that they can withstand being inserted into and removed from a camera body 12,000 times, but has assured users that they'll still be able to use XQD cards once the camera has been updated.

However, it looks like we may have to wait a little longer for these two updates, with Nikon saying release dates for these features will be announced at a later date – although that was back in February, so there's every possibility that it's been working overtime, and has managed to shoehorn them into this coming update.

Will this firmware be available for other Nikon cameras?

Nikon hasn't stated that Eye-Detection AF will be coming to any other cameras, and presumably such a system wouldn't be able to work in the same way on a DSLR. But support for CFexpress cards is set to arrive for models that currently support the XQD format – right now that's the XQD variant of the Nikon D5, as well as the D850 and D500.

When is Nikon's new Z6 and Z7 firmware available?

The firmware update is scheduled for release on May 16. Users will be able to download the update from the Download Center at Nikon's website.