Equipment Related Nikon Technical & Testing

Nikon Z5 v1.40 Firmware Eye AF Improvements!

Nikon released a firmware update for the Z5 that specifically says improved and expanded eye autofocus functionality. That’s a solid upgrade! Let’s take a look…

You can download the firmware update from the the Nikon USA website. Obviously if you are outside of the USA then check your country specific Nikon website for the update in case there are regional differences.

Here’s my video testing out the new firmware compared to v1.20 and a Canon EOS M6 Mark II with two lenses that have a similar field of view. Though, not a lot of those Canon testing clips got into the video…

Consider picking up a Nikon Z5 Digital Camera through my affiliate links:

Here is the official list from Nikon’s website:

  • Added support for the iOS version of NX MobileAir. Use NX MobileAir version 1.0.4 or later.
  • Added support for MC-N10 remote grips.
  • Added support for ML-L7 remote controls.
  • Eye-detection AF is now available during video recording.
  • [Save focus position] and [Recall focus position] have been added to the roles that can be assigned using Custom Setting f2 [Custom controls] in the [CUSTOM SETTING MENU]. As of February 14, 2023, these options were supported with the following lenses:
  • Improved eye-detection performance for [Auto-area AF].
  • Improved the refresh rate for the focus points displayed in live view during subject-tracking and face/eye-detection AF.
  • The behavior of autofocus during memory recall has been improved to ensure that the focus position will not change in any focus mode even if the shutter-release button is pressed halfway while focus recall is in progress.
  • Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the camera to stop responding when [Auto] was selected for [Set Picture Control] in the [PHOTO SHOOTING MENU].
Notice the difference in the yellow detection boxes. Firmware v1.40 now prioritizes eyes when it can detect them (as long as you have the camera set to that).

That’s a solid update! A few bug fixes but also new features and additional accessory support.

The Nikon MC-N10 looks pretty cool! Pretty much a gimbal accessory.

The main takeaway is that face and eye autofocus has been enhanced throughout the camera. They claim improved performance in photography. For video, eye detection was added.

I never noticed that firmware v1.21 existed so all of the pre-update tests in my video were done with v1.20. It looks like an unrelated bug fix so should not have caused any issues with the testing.

The Z5 on a day long cosplay photoshoot did well. A good ratio of correctly focused on the eyes photos.

Also, I had used the Z5 along side of the Canon M6ii on a day long cosplay photography event with successful results. Both cameras were set up to use face and eye detection autofocus.

For the Nikon Z5 I was using these settings which are important to get consistent results, at least while I was on v1.20. Sorry, I haven’t tested to see if v1.40 with default settings makes any difference for photography. That probably won’t be for a few months and will be anecdotal. Though, if I do eventually use both the M6ii and Z5 with the same lenses as any previous photoshoots I can compare the average number of keepers between each photoshoot.

Settings I went over in that video:

Custom Settings Menu Tab:
a1 = AF-C priority selection = Focus
a4 = Auto-area AF face/eye detection (selected)
‘I’ button options:
Auto-area AF and AF-C
I tend to use aperture priority with a minimum shutter speed. Menu, photo shooting menu tab, ISO sensitivity settings, minimum shutter speed 1/100th or whatever you prefer. The most important part is making sure the AF-C priority is set to focus and not release so you get more photos properly focused where they should be.

As for the v1.40 update I can clearly see the on-screen difference in video mode. I didn’t analyze the results but rather tried to get as much into the video as possible while trying to keep the video interesting, so no background music only sections of tests.

Wide-area AF (L-people) is the one feature I want added to the Nikon Z5.

At this point I will be surprised if Nikon continues to improve the camera through firmware. Hopefully they do! My main wish for the camera is the wide area people detection feature that they have in the Z7ii, Z6ii, and Z30 cameras. It seems tailor made for cameras that have comparatively less processing power like the Z5 because it limits how much of the frame needs to search for faces.

Sadly, I have low hopes we will ever see that feature added to the Z5 because I think it’s more likely Nikon would rather save that for its eventual successor. Though, the Z30 has that feature so it must not be what Nikon considers “professional”.

I don’t know if there is a specific way to toggle that setting on/off. By default the OK button is a toggle between auto area mode and subject tracking mode that gives you a box to move around on-screen. Half pressing at that point locks the camera on what you selected. Using the zoom out button exits the subject lock or exits subject tracking itself. You can assign this feature to another button as well. You can also simply touch the screen to focus where you want. It immediately tries to track what was touched on the screen. Using the zoom out button exits that touch initiated tracking.

Here are a few custom button options:

Access button setting adjustments here: Custom Setting Menu, f Controls, f2 Custom Controls, from there you pick a button, not all buttons can do everything.

  • Subject Tracking (it’s a toggle as I mentioned)
  • Access top item in MY MENU
    • You can set the top item to the face/eye detect setting, so pressing a button brings up that menu. This has face detect, face/eye detect, animal detect, and off. It’s going to be more than one button press.
  • Focus mode/AF-area mode
  • This turns the button into a hold-down and adjust with the camera’s two dials. This is a Nikon styled way of changing settings and often used to adjust two related settings through one button hold. So switching out of auto area to single point or one of the wide area focus box modes effectively removes face detection.