The Buyers guide to...Which Nikon cameras have Eye-Detection AF?

These are the current Nikon cameras that feature the company's Eye-Detection AF technology for ensuring pin-sharp eyes in portraits

Nikon Z 6 vs Nikon Z 7
Buyers Guide

Nikon introduced Eye AF technology – which it calls Eye-Detection AF – to its Z series range in May 2019 via a firmware update.

Firmware version 2.0 for the Nikon Z6 and Z7 added the new feature, which automatically detects and focuses on human eyes in the cameras’ auto-area AF mode.

Eye-Detection AF works in both AF-S and AF-C focus modes, and in a group setting you can use the camera’s joystick to move across different people – and eyes – within the crowd.

Here’s a good tutorial on how to use Nikon’s Eye-Detection AF. And here is a quick guide on how to update your Nikon Z6 or Z7 firmware.

So which Nikon cameras have Eye-Detection AF? At the time of writing, just three…

Nikon Z6

Nikon Z6 review

Price when reviewed

£2079

$1996.95
Check current price
Website: Nikon
  • Camera type: Full-frame (FX) mirrorless
  • Lens mount: Nikon Z
  • Sensor: Full-frame (FX) 24.5Mp backside illuminated (BSI) sensor
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with phase and contrast detection
  • Phase detection points: 273
  • Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: 3.2-inch 2,100,000-dot tilting touch-screen
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm / 5.3 x 4 x 2.7-inches
  • Weight: 675 g / 1 lb. 7.9 oz with battery and memory card but without body cap, 85 g/1 lb. 4.7 oz. camera body only

The recently released v2.0 firmware update for Nikon Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras adds Eye-Detection autofocus and AE (Auto Exposure) tracking in continuous high-speed (extended) mode, as well as extending the low-light detection range of the autofocus.

It’s the Eye-Detection autofocus that’s got Nikon enthusiasts excited though.

Nikon Z6 and Z7 firmware version 2.0’s Eye-Detection AF feature automatically detects and focuses on human eyes in the cameras’ auto-area AF mode (AF-S, AF-C) and focuses on them.

In a group setting, the Eye-Detection AF mode will lock on one person’s eye, and then you can use the multi-selector to switch between eyes and people. We’ve used it (here’s how to use Nikon’s Eye-Detection AF) and it’s brilliant.

You can get the Nikon Z6 from Wex Photo Video and Park Cameras in the UK, and from Adorama and B&H Photo Video in the US.

Nikon Z7

Price when reviewed

£2299.00

$3399.00
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Website: Nikon

For

  • High-quality sensor
  • Excellent user interface and control layout
  • Weatherproof build

Against

  • Single XQD card port
  • Images slow to appear after shooting
  • Battery life could be better
  • Camera type: Full-frame mirrorless camera
  • Sensor: Full-frame (FX) 45.7MP backside illuminated (BSI) sensor
  • Lens mount: Nikon Z
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with phase and contrast detection
  • Phase detection points: 493
  • Storage: XQD/CFexpress
  • Viewfinder: 0.5-inch 3.69-million-dot electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: 3.2-inch 2,100,000-dot tilting touch-screen
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm / 5.3 x 4 x 2.7-inches
  • Weight: 675 g / 1 lb. 7.9 oz with battery and memory card but without body cap, 585g/1 lb. 4.7 oz. body only

Eye-detection autofocus, often referred to as Eye AF, is fast becoming a must-have feature. It works in a similar way to Face-detection-AF but of course, it homes in on a smaller target.

The big question everyone wants answering about Nikon Eye AF is does it work? Happily, the answer is yes, it does a pretty good job.

We wanted to see how a working photographer got on with it so we asked him to report back after using it.

Paul tested it in AF-C mode on his kids playing in the woods, as well as on posed-portraits in AF-S mode.

With a portrait subject quite large in the frame he found it locked on to the eye quickly and tracked accurately. Even when the subject turned a little side on, or was squinting in bright light, the focus box followed the eye well. However, the subject has to be quite close for it to find the eye.

When the subject is at around three-quarter length or further back, the Nikon Z7 usually finds the face, not the eye.

In the woods with the kids turning and dropping out of frame, it struggled a little more. Occasionally it locked onto something in the background and it was a little slow to reacquire focus when the subject can back into frame.

When it isn’t behaving you can quickly switch to normal tracking mode though. Paul found this pretty useful as it means you have a bit more control over what the camera is focusing on without having to come out of auto-area AF.

You can also switch between which eye the camera focuses on. When multiple eyes are detected, a yellow arrow appears at the side of the autofocus box. You can toggle between eyes using the camera’s joystick or D-Pad. With a single portrait this lets you select the left or right eye. With a group shots you can choose the best eye or person to focus on.

From what we’ve seen, we think that Eye-detection AF is a great additional feature for the Nikon Z series, and the Z6 and Z7 are among the best cameras with AF that you can currently buy.

You can get the Nikon Z7 from Wex Photo Video and Park Cameras in the UK, and from Adorama and B&H Photo Video in the US.

Nikon Z50

Price when reviewed

£849

$989
Check current price
Website: Nikon

For

  • Superb build and handling
  • AF fast and accurate in low light
  • Weatherproof

Against

  • No joystick
  • Can't use the screen to set the AF point while you look in the viewfinder
  • Camera type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: 20.88Mp APS-C / DX (23.5x15.7mm) CMOS
  • Processing engine: Expeed 6
  • Lens mount: Nikon Z mount
  • Sensitivity range: ISO 100-51,200; expands to 204,800
  • Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: Tilting 3.2–inch 1,040,000-dot touchscreen
  • Autofocus: Hybrid (phase and contrast detection) AF with 209 AF points, Eye AF and Subject Tracking
  • Continuous Shooting: 11fps with continuous AF and exposure metering
  • Video: 4K at 30fps and Full-HD at 120fps
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I
  • Connectivity: Snapbridge 2.6; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 126.5 x 93.5 x 60 mm / 5 x 3.7 x 2.4-inches
  • Weight: 450g / 15.9oz with battery and memory card but without body cap, 395g /14oz body only

The Nikon Z6 and Z7 are great, but not all photographers want a full-frame camera. The Nikon Z50 offers that alternative for Nikon users wanting a mirrorless camera, and it has plenty to offer experienced photographers thanks to a solid build and a comprehensive feature set.

Its autofocus system is excellent and is capable of capturing fast-moving subjects in pin-sharp focus, even in gloomy conditions. Further good news is that the Z50 has both Subject Tracking and Eye AF modes. Eye AF is a must-have feature at the moment and it’s incredibly useful for portraits and social event photography.

Subject Tracking works in Auto-area AF mode and it’s useful for subjects that move erratically. Pressing the OK button in Auto-area AF mode activates a tracking point which is visible on the screen and in the viewfinder.

You then position this box over the subject and press the OK button again to start the tracking. As the subject moves, the Z50 tracks it around the frame, keeping it sharp in Continuous AF mode.

Inside the Nikon Z50 is a new 20.88Mp APS-C format sensor which is paired with the Expeed 6 processing engine. Together, these enable a native sensitivity range for stills of ISO 100-51,200 with expansion settings going all the way up to ISO 204,800. Meanwhile, the video range is ISO 100-25,600.

Thanks to the Expeed 6 processing engine, the Z50 can shoot at up to 11 frames per second with continuous autofocusing and exposure metering. This rate is achieved in Continuous High Plus mode while the maximum rate in Continuous High mode is 5fps.

The Nikon Z50 also delivers great video, capturing 4K at 30fps and Full HD at a range of frame rates.

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