The Z System Wish List

I'm going to try to accumulate the collective wish list of the user base, with commentary, here.

  • FTZ-S — An FTZ adapter that contains the screw drive motor for older D-type lenses. Bonus points for adding the AI-indexing levers back. Most people don't really need this item, but it's a "legacy liability" point for enough of the Nikon faithful that we've got people still clinging to their Nikon DSLRs because of this. Nikon has a unique position in the camera market, and they'd best serve that 100%. No other maker can claim that have such far-back-reaching legacy support as Nikon does, and anything Nikon does to enhance that status is a competitive win.
  • Return of the real MBs — There's little doubt that a subset of the enthusiast marketplace wants the add-on capability of a vertical grip, with complete controls as well as additional battery capabilities (the pro market would require this). Nikon needs to make sure that they hear the users on this. Even though I'm not a fan of the MB grips, I would not ignore the marketing check box liability that comes with not making real MB grips. Of course, doesn't apply to the original Z6/Z7, Z5, or Z30/Z50/Zfc.
  • Pixel shift — Panasonic and Sony have it in their full frame cameras. Nikon needed it on the Z6 II, Z7 II, and Z9. It absolutely needs it on future higher-end cameras.
  • USB camera power — The Z5 adds this capability, but it really needs to be system wide: all the Nikon Z cameras need to get this function on their next hardware update.
  • Dual slots — Again, the Z5 adds this capability. You really don't want higher level cameras without a capability that an entry camera has, so any follow up to the Z6 and Z7 models needs dual slots, too. Any Z8 or Z9 would, as well. I'm comfortable with any Z DX cameras being single slot. Indeed, that would be a distinguishing marketing trait between crop sensor and full sensor, I think.
  • Higher Video specs — This is a bit of a catch-all category. Quite a few things fall into this category: (1) 4K/60P; (2) 10-bit 4:2:0 or better internal recording; (3) higher bitrates; (4) less rolling shutter; (5) newer compression schemes (yes, H.266 is now documented); (6) some will say 8K (or 5K/6K raw), so I'll add it here, too. The Z9 has all these things.
  • Built-in GPS — Yes, SnapBridge can provide GPS data, but in practice, it's not particularly accurate due to the handoffs used between camera and mobile device (let alone how the mobile device is determining position in some cases). As the smartphone makers have discovered, incorporating more sensors enables more things. I won't go into what the things other than just geocoding images might be, but there are plenty of ways that the camera makers are simply not keeping up with the mobile world, and they all devolve to not having the right on-board sensors, or not using the ones they do have. The Z9 adds this.
  • Flash update — If there's an Achilles heel to mirrorless, it has to do with flash. For instance, silent shooting is incompatible with the old DSLR-style flashes, for a number of reasons. We need the mirrorless generation flash breakthrough, something that is better synced to the image sensor usage. Autofocus assist on the flash needs to be reconfigured for the mirrorless cameras. In terms of flash units themselves, scaled down bodies also need scaled down Speedlights. The SB-500 is appropriately sized to the current Z cameras; we need more options like that.
  • Silent flash — We need image sensors that can enable shutter-less flash with no real downside, ala Sony A1. The Z9 takes photos silently with flash.
  • Better EVFs — Nikon's EVFs aren't terrible, but at the moment, Nikon is one EVF size behind the competition, I'd say. The lower end cameras really will need 3.7m dot EVFs soon, the higher end cameras 5.8m dot, plus it wouldn't hurt to have a higher refresh rate.
  • 900s Shutter Speed — The D6 and D780 got the D810A's longer shutter speeds. There's no reason why this can't be added to all Nikon cameras, particularly the way they've made this an option via Custom Settings. New cameras seem to get this now. Even the Zfc got it, though the Z30 didn't.
  • Restore RGB Channel Highlights — These went away with the Z system cameras, but re-appeared in a new form on the D780, but didn't appear in the Z's. Let's add that back to the Z's!
  • Override DX crop — The full frame DSLRs allow you to override the DX crop when you mount DX lenses, but the Z's don't. 
  • Reposition the focus cursor via touchscreen — A number of other cameras allow you to quickly reposition the focus area being used by dragging your thumb on the LCD. 
  • Rethink focus stacking — Because you're typically on a tripod when you perform this action, a simple way to set up focus stack would be via the rear LCD: touch the nearest area you want to have the focal plane, touch the furthest area you want to have the focal plane, go. The camera can do the calculations necessary from that data, and the camera can also detect when the lens hits that far point and stop. 
  • Pre-capture mode— Maintain an image buffer prior to pushing the shutter release, and record the buffer if the shutter release is pressed. While buffers have gotten bigger, we’d also want to “tune” the amount of pre-capture. For instance, only if focused, and with user selectable pre-capture timing (e.g. .3 second, .5 second, 1 second). The Z9 adds this.
  • 4:3 aspect ratio — It’s the one aspect ratio Nikon hasn’t provided that’s common. But 2:1 and others should be considered. And why does 5:4 keep appearing and disappearing?
  • 9:16 aspect ratio — I hate this one, but it’s a thing due to smartphone users not bothering to hold their phones horizontal. If you want to integrate ILC stills or video with smartphone video seamlessly, you’d need this aspect ratio.
  • Real-time highlight and shadow clipping — Olympus did it, why can’t Nikon (and others) do it?
  • Auto VR — like Auto ISO, but user sets a maximum shutter speed at which VR is active. 
  • Dampen the control rings — Right now the control rings on the lenses (including the focus ring) are typically too sensitive, and they have no adjustable hysteresis. Which means things like Exposure Compensation, when set as a ring function, is just too easy to accidentally set wrong. Personally, I’d like Nikon to add sensitivity options to the focus ring and make the third wheel on some lenses “clicky” so that they don’t get reset accidentally. Being done with firmware updates for some lenses.
  • Nameable and multiple camera settings files (ala Sony). Nikon has been passed on this one by a key rival, and it's long overdue that we get something better than a single awkwardly named settings file (singular). Bonus points for extending the camera settings system so that cameras can recognize things that they can set in a file, even if the file wasn’t made on that model of camera. 
  • Fix U1/U2/U3 and restore Banks. Again, Sony's MR ability has now passed by Nikon's U# ability. Personally, I've never been a fan of U# on a Mode dial, because that immediately has implications on exposure mode changeability. We had a similar problem with Banks on the pro cameras, where Nikon had to add Extended photo menu banks to get around the problem. Still, both U# and Banks, if combined correctly, can save the day.
  • Return AF-ON+AF-area mode. Probably the most conspicuous of the D5 generation features that Nikon removed from the Z System. The problem is that there's so little flexibility to immediately switch the focus system to use a different tactic now (we did eventually get Subject tracking added to a button customization). We end up using one of the button customizations—and some of the cameras such as the Zfc have few of those to start with—to do quick-but-not-immediate changes to focus configuration. The Z9 has this.
  • Better grid options. It took awhile before we got Rule of Thirds grids—not that I'm particularly interested in that—but we still only have 3x3 and 4x4. When doing landscape and architectural work, a finer grid would be useful, and why can't we have a symmetrical grid (2x2)?  The Z9 has this.
  • Focus sensor lock. The DSLRs had this essentially with a physical lever (L) on the Direction pad. But I've found over and over that I also really want a virtual focus sensor lock I can apply (button customizations again?). I can't tell you how many times I end up resetting the focus sensor position, because it’s moved from where I want it. The Z9 has a variation where you can assign a key to lock/unlock focus position.
  • F-mount exotic to Z-mount lens conversions. The 200mm f/2, 300mm f/2.8, 400mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4, 600mm f/4, 800mm f/5.6, 120-300mm f/2.8, and 180-400mm f/4 all are great F-mount lenses, and all work on the Z System with the FTZ adapter. Unfortunately, the FTZ adapter introduces another mount and makes all that weight up front a little more prone to problems. A service that for a fee changed these lenses to the Z mount would be highly welcome. It would also give DSLR users more confidence that more of their current kit will not need to be replaced when they move to mirrorless.
  • Z Speedlights. The big missing element is proper AF Assist Light, as the red system of the current Speedlights doesn't correspond with the focus rows on the Z cameras (which are on blue rows). But there's so much more that could be done, including flash preview (test fire the flash with a camera button and provide instant image preview for a few seconds in the viewfinder to assess the result). Given that the live view can recognize subjects, automatic portrait flash zooming is another possibility. It seems that the Japanese camera companies have given up on flash, as the low-cost Chinese clones destroyed product margins. But the way you fight knockoffs is with innovation, and we're not seeing that. With the Z9, Nikon has announced a collaborative partnership with Nissin and ProFoto. But what that means we don’t know yet.
  • Bluetooth remote. Yes, I know SnapBridge can fire the camera remotely from a mobile device with the right software and a lot of touching of screen. But why don't we have a "dumb" Bluetooth remote (just a remote fire button on a very small, pocketable device)?  Oh, right, the camera companies think they'd be cloned and lose their margin. Again, a little thinking and innovation can go a long way (i.e. maybe it isn't just a button ;~). The Z30, Z50, and Zfc support the ML-L7 remote, the Z6 II and Z7 II got this in a firmware update.
  • Deepen the menu system. Nikon has long just added to menus. The result is that we now have menus with many pages to scroll through. For instance, to get to sophisticated shooting methods, such as Multiple exposure or Focus shift shooting, you have to move through three pages of other menu items. Sony got this right with their A1 menu redesign when they grouped related options and just pushed them down a level. Particularly with a touch screen, it’s now faster to drop down into level three of a menu than it is to scroll through it to find something. I vote for adding a layer in the hierarchy to cut down scrolling. As in PHOTO SHOOTING > Shooting method > Multiple exposure/HDR/Interval/Time-lapse/Focus-shift. Nothing really needs complete rework in Nikon’s menus, we just need a more deliberate reorganization that makes reaching a setting quicker. With the Z9, Nikon made some small changes to the menu system, some good, some bad. 
  • ZoomCrop (tm). Because the Z’s have an EVF and that EVF can be zoomed, use the +/- buttons to zoom, take a photo, and the resulting photo is cropped to the zoom. 
  • Real Closest Subject Priority. I’m not particular about where Nikon deploys it—though Dynamic-area AF is the logical place for migrating DSLR users—but we need a focus area mode that guarantees it will pick up on the nearest point. Right now, it’s “sometimes.” We need something closer to “always."
  • Filtered playback by date. We can delete by date, but can't select by date?
  • Focus stacking assignable to a button. Nikon assumes that you're only going to use the Focus stacking function when on a tripod with a static subject. Post processing software can align images first, and other makers allow a single button invocation of focus stacking; so should Nikon. 
  • Advanced video features. Waveforms, vectorscopes, shutter angles, false color, timecode input, open gate, some form of XLR capability, and so on. The Z9 has a simplified waveform, but plenty of other missing pro video features.
  • Depth of Field bracketing. Basically the same as exposure bracketing, but with the exposure kept constant! Would be easy to implement, though may need AutoISO at one end and shutter speed warnings at the other, depending upon situation.   
  • Tunable focus bracket color. Sometimes is difficult to see focus areas (red rock, uniforms, etc.). Let the user select the focus bracket color, ala Peaking.
  • VR toggle with button customization. With long lenses in particular, sometimes I want VR active, sometimes I don't. It would be nice to be able to have the LFn-2 button customizable to toggling VR status.
  • Selectable color on viewfinder overlays. Some people are color blind, so red and green, in particular, can prove to be unseeable for some.
  • Auto locking option of vertical controls when camera held horizontally. A custom setting is needed for this, which would prevent the vertical shutter release from interfering when you’re operating the camera horizontally, as it can be brushed against.
  • Shutter angle. This is a filmmaker’s request, where using a specific angle produces the same motion blur between frames as you change frames per second. Hollywood, for instance, has conditioned us to expect 180° shutter angle for a hundred years. In shutter speed terms, that’s typically one half the frame rate (e.g. 1/60 second shutter speed at 30 fps). Why make us calculate that if we need to make our video consistent between frame rate changes?
  • 32-bit float or similar audio range expansion. This has popped up as a choice on external audio recording systems, and needs to move into the camera now, too. The 24-bit linear audio we’re using right now most of the time can record a maximum dynamic range of 144.5 decibels. 32-bit float expands that to 1,528 decibels. Yes, I know you’re saying that you don’t record sounds that loud, but it’s a bit about noise suppression. If you set your audio levels to not produce noise for the lowest level of sound you’ll record, a sudden loud sound will get a blown out signal because it maxes out the bits used. In other words, with 32-bit float we could RTTL (record to the left) and not be afraid of what happens when a loud sound occurs.
  • Anamorphic support. Enough anamorphic lenses have appeared on the market now to suggest that we need a mode in the camera to note that they’re anamorphic, and to expand them properly on playback. 
  • Open gate. This is related to anamorphic, though not limited to it. All this means is that video could be recorded at a 3:2 aspect ratio on a 3:2 image sensor using all the photosites of said sensor. 
  • Pre-release supporting raw. The C30, C60, and C120 Pre-release modes of the Z9 all create only JPEG files. We need some sort of raw support.

This article is a work in progress. It is updated as new ideas are processed.

Looking for other photographic information? Check out our other Web sites:
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text and images © 2023 Thom Hogan — All Rights Reserved


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