A step by step complete menu settings quick start guide for the Nikon Z9.  How to set every menu setting so it is optimized for shooting birds in flight and other wildlife.  The Nikon Z9 user manual is 914 pages long and I recommend you read it cover to cover to understand every facet of this camera. You don’t receive a printed manual with the Nikon Z9 so you’ll need to pull the pdf down online.  This link is where you can access the Nikon Z9 full pdf manual.

But let’s face it, when you get your new Z9 all you want to do is charge the battery and get out in the field shooting.  If you’ve shot with a Nikon camera before, many of these menu settings will be familiar to you.  Many others are new, which is why I wanted to share my settings so you could get off to a fast start.

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Disclaimer:  These are the settings that I have found are best for the type of shooting that I do.  This is primarily birds in flight and other wildlife.  You may find that some of these settings are not best for the type of shooting that you do.  Consider this a starting point and make changes along the way.

PRO TIP #1: For large birds in flight, I have had the most success with Wide Area Large and Eye Detect.  Secondarily, I have been using 3D Tracking with Eye Detect.

I set Fn1 and Fn3 to Single Point so I can easily switch from Wide Area or 3D to single point focus for situations when the subject is static and the background is messy.  This allows me to quickly focus on the eye whether I am in horizontal or vertical shooting.

I set fn4 to playback for reviewing images, I just can’t get used to hunting for the playback button on the bottom right hand side.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks:))

PRO TIP #2: You owe it to yourself if you shoot sports or wildlife to read my field test review and pixel peep the sample images taken with the Nikon Z 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 with both the Z TC-1.4 and Z TC-2.0 teleconverters.  Spoiler Alert: This lens is AMAZING!!!

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Let’s get started on the menu settings shall we.  Below are the menu settings I have in my Nikon Z9 from top to bottom.  I cover every element that requires your input.  Remember, my settings are not necessarily what you should choose.  To configure these settings, I had the Nikon Z9 Manual pdf up and used the search function to lookup any menu setting that I was not already familiar with.  This exercise really helped me to know my way around the camera.


Shooting menu bank – A
Extended menu banks – OFF
Storage folder – NCZ_9
File naming – CWL (CoolWildLife) Change For Your Name
Role played by card in Slot 2 – Overflow (I use slot 2 for overflow & video recording)
Image area > FX
Image quality – RAW
Image size – L
RAW recording > ON > Lossless compression (High Efficiency Star if buffer too slow)
ISO sensitivity settings > 100
> Auto ISO sensitivity control – ON
Maximum Sensitivity – 12,800 (Go To Z9 High ISO Field Test to see sample images @ 12,800)
White balance > Auto > A Natural light auto
Set Picture Control > Standard
> Standard > Sharpening +5 > Mid-range sharpening +5 > Clarity 0
Manage Picture Control
Color Space > Adobe
Active D-Lighting – OFF
Long exposure NR – OFF
Vignette control – N
Diffraction compensation – ON
Auto distortion control – OFF (turning this on reduces shots per burst)
Photo flicker reduction – OFF
Metering – Matrix
Flash control (grayed out unless WR-R11a connected) (I do not flash wildlife)
Focus mode AF-C
AF-area mode – Wide Area Large or 3D Tracking]
AF subject detection options – Animal
Vibration reduction ON > Sport
Auto bracketing set > AE
Multiple exposure – (Grayed Out)
HDR overlay – OFF
Interval timer shooting – OFF
Time-lapse video – OFF
Focus shift shooting – OFF


Shooting menu bank – A
Extended menu banks – OFF
Storage folder – NCZ_9
File naming > CWL (CoolWildLife) Change For Your Name
Destination – 2
Video file type – H.265/10 bit
Frame size/frame rate – 4320/30 or 2160/120
Image area > FX
ISO sensitivity settings > Maximum sensitivity > 12,800
> Auto ISO control (mode M) > ON
> ISO sensitivity (mode M) > 100
White balance > Natural light auto
Set Picture Control > Same as photo settings
Manage Picture Control >
HLG quality (grayed out)
Active D-Lighting > OFF
Vignette control OFF
Diffraction compensation OFF
Auto distortion control – ON
Video flicker reduction > Auto
Metering – Matrix
Focus Mode – AF-F
AF-area mode – Subject-tracking AF
AF subject detection options – Animal
AF when subject not detected – On
Vibration reduction – SPT
Electronic VR – (Grayed out)
Microphone sensitivity > Manual sensitivity > 10
Attenuator > ON
Frequency response > Wide Range
Wind noise reduction > ON
Mic jack plug-in power > ON
Headphone volume > Manual sensitivity >15
Timecode – Record Timecodes > Off
External rec. cntrl (HDMI) – OFF


a Focus

Custom Settings Bank – A
a1* AF-C priority selection > Release
a2 AF-S priority selection > Focus
a3* Focus tracking with lock-on > Blocked shot AF response > 5 (Changes with what I am shooting.  Use 5 to stay on subject longer)
Subject motion > Erratic
a4 Focus points used > ALL
a5 Store by orientation > Focus point
a6* AF activation > OFF (AF ON Only Sets Back Button Focus)
a7 Focus point persistence – AUTO
a8 Limit AF-area mode selection – Choose those AF Area that work best for you, uncheck the rest)
a9 Focus mode restrictions > no restrictions
a10* Focus point wrap-around > ON
a11* Focus point display > Manual focus mode > ON
> Dynamic-area assist > ON
>AF-C in-focus display > ON
a12 Built-in AF-assist illuminator – ON
a13* Focus peaking > Focus peaking display > ON
> Focus peaking sensitivity > PEAK 2
> Focus peaking highlight color > R
a14 Manual focus ring in AF mode – ON (only appears in Menu when Z lens with focusing ring is attached)

b Metering/exposure

b1* ISO sensitivity step value > 1
b2 EV steps for exposure cntrl > 1/3
b3 Easy exposure compensation – OFF
b4 Matrix metering face detection – ON
b5 Center-weighted area – STNDRD
b6 Fine-tune optimal exposure > NO
b7 Keep exp. when f/changes > OFF

c Timers/AE lock

c1 Shutter-release button AE-L > OFF
c2 Self-timer – –
c3* Power off delay > Playback 20s
> Menus 1m
>Picture Review > 20s
>Image review 10s
>Standby timer > 30 s

d Shooting/display

d1 Continuous shooting speed > Continuous high-speed > 20
> Continuous low-speed > 5
d2 Maximum shots per burst > infinite
d3 Limit release mode selection > all defaults
d4 Sync. release mode options – (I do not use remote cameras)
d5* Extended shutter speeds (M) – ON (For long exposures)
d6* Limit selectable image area >FX & DX checked
d7 File number sequence > ON
d8* View mode (photo Lv) > Show effects of settings
d9 Starlight view (photo Lv) – OFF
d10 Warm display colors – OFF
d11* LCD illumination – ON
d12 View all in continuous mode > ON (If OFF display goes blank during bursts)
d13 Release timing indicator > OFF
d14 Image frame – ON (Places white border around the shooting display in the EVF)
d15* Grid type – 3×3 (For rule of thirds)
d16* Virtual horizon type – Type B (bottom and side levels NOT line across screen)
d17* Custom monitor shooting display > Display 1
> Display 3 For Video
D18* Custom viewfinder shooting display > Display 1
> Display 3 For Video

e Bracketing/flash

I do  NOT FLASH so these settings are left at default values

1*Flash sync speed > 1/200
e2*Flash shutter speed > 1/60
e3* Exposure comp. for flash > Entire Frame
e4* Auto d ISO sensitivity control > Subject and background
e5 Modeling flash > ON
e6 Auto bracketing (mode M) > Flash/speed
e7*Bracketing order > MTR>under>over
e8 Flash burst priority > Prioritize precise flash control

f Controls

f1* Customize i menu
>AF-area mode/subj. detection>ISO Sensitivity>Silent Mode
>Metering>Vibration Reduction>Focus mode


>View memory card info>White balance>Shooting Menu Bank
>Custom Controls>Choose Image Area>PEAK

f2* Custom controls (shooting)

Fn1 > Single Point AF for Horizontal
> Fn2 > 3D Tracking
> Fn3 > Single point AF for Vertical
> Fn button for vertical shooting > Exposure Compensation
>Protect/Fn4 button > Playback

f3* Custom controls (playback) > all the defaults
f4 Control lock > OFF on all three
f5* Reverse dial rotation > Default
f6 Release button to use dial – OFF
f7 Reverse indicators > – 0 +
f8 Reverse ring for focus – OFF
f9 Focus ring rotation range (grayed out)
f10 Control ring response – HIGH
f11 Full-frame playback flicks -default

g Video

g1 Customize i menu – defaults
g2* Custom control assignment > Fn1 > Focus mode/AF Area Mode (front dial required)
> Fn2 > Choose Image Area (FX/DX)
Remainder are the default settings
g3 Control lock — OFF on all three
g4 Limit AF-area mode selection – default
g5 Focus mode restrictions – No restrictions
g6 AF speed – 0 ALWAYS (faster settings increase lens noise)
g7 AF tracking sensitivity – 4
g8 View assist – OFF
g9 Zebra pattern – default
g10* Limit zebra pattern tone range > Highlights
g11 Grid type > 3×3
g12 Custom monitor shooting display – Display 1
g13 Custom viewfinder shooting display – Display 1


Playback folder – ALL
Playback display options > Focus point

Additional photo info

> Highlights
> None (picture only)
Delete pictures from both slots – OFF
Dual-format recording from both slots – 1
Filtered playback criteria >default
Picture review – OFF
After delete > Show next
After burst, show > First picture in burst
Rotate tall > OFF
Copy images(s)


Format memory card – –
Language > English
Time zone and date – (set to current location)
Monitor brightness – 0
Monitor color balance –
Viewfinder brightness
Viewfinder color balance
Finder display size (photo Lv) – STNDRD
Limit monitor mode selection –
Auto rotate info display – ON
AF fine-tuning options – OFF
Non-CPU lens data – No.1
Save focus position – ON
Sensor shield behavior at power off – ON (shield closes)
Clean image sensor > Automatic > clean at shutdown
Image Dust Off ref photo
Pixel mapping
Image comment – OFF
Copyright information – ON (Enter your name & copyright info here)
Voice memo options > Press to start/stop
Camera sounds > Shutter sound > ON
> Beep on/off > OFF
> Volume > 1
> Pitch > Low
Silent mode – OFF
Touch controls > ON > Glove mode On
HDMI > Output resolution > Auto
> Output range > Auto
> Output shooting info – ON
> Mirror camera info display – On
USB connection priority – Shooting
Location data (built-in) > Record location data > OFF
> Standby timer > OFF
> Set clock from satellite > ON
> Create log
> Log list
> Position
Wireless remote (WR) options – – (grayed out)
Assign remote (WR) Fn button > AF-ON
Conformity marking —
Battery info –
USB power delivery – ON
Energy saving (photo mode) – ON
Slot empty release lock > LOCK
Save/load menu settings – –
Reset all settings – –
Firmware version – –


All values are defaults as I do not use this functionality.

Airplane mode – OFF
Wired LAN – OFF
Connect to smart device – OFF
Connect to computer – OFF
Connect to FTP server – OFF
Connect to other cameras – OFF
Start via LAN – OFF
Router frequency band – 2.4G/5G
MAC address


My Menu is a great place to place those hard to find or often used settings so that they can be easily found in one spot.  To add items in My Menu select  “add items”.  You can also remove and place those items in order from highest to lowest importance.

Silent mode
ISO sensitivity
Format memory card
RAW recording
Limit release mode selection
Frame size/frame rate
Starlight view (photo Lv)

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