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Nikon Z9 Camera Focusing Speed and Hummingbird Photos

By: Brad R Lewis
Date: January 2022

How fast is the focus on the Nikon Z9 with Nikkor F-mount lenses?  My answer on day 1 is excellent. I am a wildlife photographer and these are my observations using the Nikon Z9 with the Z mount lenses 70-200mm and 100-400mm, plus the FTZ II adapter with numerous F mount lenses.

My first test was inside to test the focusing speed of the Nikon Z9 in low light. I was photographing a stuffed toy, Owl, and our dog. The Nikon Z9 was on single-point focus, Aperture Priority, f/5.3, and the ISO ranged from 16,000 to 22,800. With low light, dark colors, my question is how fast would the Z9 focus on the subject. I performed a series of tests throughout the zoom ranges, manually adjusting the focus ring to infinity and then autofocusing with the shutter button. It felt like it was less than a second (counting one thousand one) each time and would never get to the second one. I was impressed. This performance was slightly better with the Z mount 70-200mm and then the 100-400mm. The Nikkor F mount 70-200mm with the FTZ II also performed the same.

Now for an outdoors test. I waited for a hummingbird at a nearby hummingbird feeder, the Nikon Z9, FTZ II, and a Nikkor 800mm lens plus 1.25 converter. Below are the JPEG photos from the camera. I did crop so you can see the details and color.  There is one photo below that is not cropped for you to see.   I had the Picture Controls set to standard, so the colors are slightly unsaturated. The single point was very accurate. With my distance at 33', f/7.1, and a 1000mm lens, I had a DOF of about 1.5" (not much room for error). The Wide-area AF (S) also performed very well, and with the Subject Type on Auto, when the hummingbird left the focus box, the mode detection stayed with the hummingbird, very cool.

I was surprised how much I liked the digital viewfinder, especially on the indoor test with low light. It was great to see the subject bright, and in focus, whereas on the Nikon D5, it was difficult to see the stuffed toy through the viewfinder let alone get the camera to focus.

It is frustrating not to look through the viewfinder and instantly see your subject.  The Z9 wakes up quickly, but there is still a delay compared to a DSLR. I also do not like the button layouts of the multi-selector, I seem to keep touching the ok button in the center,  it just seems too sensitive compared to the D5—pretty minor complaints.

Inside test - ISO 25600 - DOF is about 1/2"

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Nikon Z9 Hummingbird Photo - Not Cropped

Nikon Z9 Hummingbird Photos - FTZ II adapter - Nikkor 800mm Lens plus 1.25 Converter

BradRLewis - Snowy Owl Photoshoot

Brad R Lewis Photography – Nature and Wildlife Photographer Brad’s dual passion for the outdoors and photography have led him to focus his work on wildlife habitats and conservation. His works are used by conservation groups and wildlife refuges to help illustrate their causes.

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