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Nikon adds Linear Focus ring capability to some Z lenses with new firmware updates


If there’s one thing that pretty much all mirrorless filmmakers agree on, it’s that focus by wire lenses absolutely suck when it comes to manually focusing. And pretty much all mirrorless lenses these days are focus by wire instead of mechanical focus. It has its advantages, of course, but for filmmakers, it’s terrible.

Nikon has released new firmware updates for three of its more popular Z mount lenses, though the 50mm f/1.2 S, 24-70mm f/2.8 S and 105mm f/2.8 VR S Macro, to add a Linear Focus mode for the focus ring. It’s still essentially focused by wire because there’s no mechanical interaction, but now the amount you spin the focus ring should be directly proportional to the focus distance change, regardless of the sped at which you rotate it.

If you’re not familiar, focus by wire is a way for manufacturers to cut down on the size and weight of lenses. When you rotate the ring, instead of directly focusing the lense, you’re sending a signal to the camera’s processor and it’s sending signals to a motor. The slower you spin the ring, the slower the motor adjusts the focus. The faster you spin the ring, the faster the motor adjusts the focus.

This basically means that rotating the ring a specific distance doesn’t necessarily adjust your focus by the same amount. Rotate it slowly and the focus shifts a little bit. Rotate it quickly and it shifts a lot. This is great for photographers who want to switch from near to far focusing quickly or really dial in the focus on static subjects, but not so great for filmmakers who need to rack focus from one specific point to another.

The new firmware updates are essentially identical for all three lenses and does require your camera be running certain firmware versions in order to be able to utilise the new Linear Focus mode feature:

NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S lens firmware version 1.10:

  • Added support for linear focus ring rotation during manual focus: when an option other than [Non-linear] is selected for [Focus ring rotation range] * in the camera [CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU], rotating the ring the selected amount takes focus from the minimum distance to infinity regardless of rotation speed.
  • Added support for [Switch focus/control ring roles] * in the camera [CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU].

NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens firmware version 1.20:

  • Added support for linear focus ring rotation during manual focus: when an option other than [Non-linear] is selected for [Focus ring rotation range] * in the camera [CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU], rotating the ring the selected amount takes focus from the minimum distance to infinity regardless of rotation speed.
  • Added support for [Switch focus/control ring roles] * in the camera [CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU].

NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S lens firmware version 1.10:

  • Added support for linear focus ring rotation during manual focus: when an option other than [Non-linear] is selected for [Focus ring rotation range] * in the camera [CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU], rotating the ring the selected amount takes focus from the minimum distance to infinity regardless of rotation speed.
  • Added support for [Switch focus/control ring roles] * in the camera [CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU].

* As of August 2022, this feature is available with the Z 9 (from camera “C” firmware version 2.00), the Z 7II (from camera “C” firmware version 1.40), and the Z 6II (from camera “C” firmware version 1.40).

Hopefully, we’ll start to see more manufacturers adding this capability to their lenses because when you want to use a follow focus unit for shooting video, it’s pretty much impossible with standard focus by wire modes. This would make them useful.

[via Nikon Rumors]





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