Understanding the Nikon Z6 and Z7 Monitor Modes

The Monitor modes in the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras govern the relationship between the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and the rear Monitor, and when each is used. These modes are selected by pressing the Monitor mode button and watching the mode notifications display on the Monitor or in the EVF.

The Setup Menu function named Limit monitor mode selection allows you to choose which of these modes will be available when you press the Monitor mode button on the side of the camera’s Viewfinder bump (figure 10.12, image 3, red arrow).

The camera has four Monitor modes available. You can limit these modes so that they are not available when you press the Monitor mode button, or you can leave them all available. Here is a description of the four modes, followed by how to enable or disable individual modes:

  • Automatic display switch: When this mode is selected the camera will use its Eye sensor to detect when your eye is at the Viewfinder and switch the display output to the EVF. If nothing is near the Eye sensor, the camera uses the rear Monitor instead. (See the upcoming subsection: “Cautionary Note on Using the Eye Sensor.”)
  • Viewfinder only: The camera uses the EVF only and leaves the Monitor turned off. Nothing will display on the Monitor, even if you try to use a function that normally shows on the Monitor. The EVF is the camera’s main display in this mode.
  • Monitor only: The camera uses the Monitor only and leaves the EVF turned off. Nothing will display on the EVF, even if you put your eye up to the Viewfinder. The Monitor is the camera’s main display in this mode.
  • Prioritize viewfinder: This mode makes the camera act more like a DSLR. The monitor stays off until it needs to display a just-captured image or video—and your eye is not peering into the EVF. In effect, the EVF is prioritized, with the camera using the Monitor only when required by you, such as for image or video playback (i.e., you press the Playback button or the MENU button with your eye away from the Viewfinder).

Figure 10.12A: Choosing which Monitor/EVF modes are available

Use the following steps to limit which Monitor modes your camera will offer you:

  1. Choose Limit monitor mode selection from the Setup Menu and scroll to the right (figure 10.12A, image 1).
  2. To enable or disable one or more of the Monitor modes, you must check or uncheck the mode (figure 10.12A, image 2). Highlight one of the Monitor modes and scroll to the right to check or uncheck that mode. You can also touch a checkbox with a fingertip to add or remove a checkmark. When you’ve checked only the modes you want to use, press or touch OK to lock in your choices.
  3. Only modes that have check marks to the left of the name will be available when you press the Monitor mode button (figure 10.12A, image 3, red arrow). As you press the button repeatedly, the camera will present a different mode on the Monitor or in the EVF with each press—such as you see in figure 10.12A, image 4 (e.g., Automatic display switch). To select a Monitor mode, press the Monitor mode button (image 3) until the mode you desire to use shows on the Monitor or in the EVF.

Settings Recommendation: I normally leave the mode set to Automatic display switch for convenience. When I am out doing a walk about, I may use Prioritize viewfinder, which makes the monitor stay off except for displaying an image after I take it. I rarely use the Monitor only or Viewfinder only settings. However, I leave them available in case I need them.

Cautionary Note on Using the Eye Sensor

The Eye sensor is very sensitive. I was taking pictures on a rainy day in the mountains and a pinhead-sized rain droplet got on the sensor. The camera refused to use the rear Monitor. I thought my new Z7 was ruined from being too wet, but then I noticed the tiny droplet, removed it, and all was well.

Figure 10.12B: Results from shooting all day in the rain in Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA. (Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 24-70mm F/4 S lens at 24mm, 1.6 seconds at f/8, ISO 64, Matrix metering, on tripod)

I shot for several hours in a light rain, occasionally wiping the camera off with a lens cleaning cloth. The camera performed flawlessly (see figure 10.12B). Just keep dust and water droplets off of the little dark rectangle at the top of the Viewfinder opening. That’s the Eye sensor location.

iPhone shot of my Z7 in the rain. I shot all day like this!

(This is a snippet from my upcoming book, Mastering the Nikon Z7 and my followup book, Mastering the Nikon Z6. I hope you will preorder one of my books, due out in spring 2019. You will receive the lowest price when the book is released, even if it is higher when you first order it. Your card is not charged until the book actually ships. Preordering helps me a lot, because I need to know how many books to print. Thank you in advance!)

Keep on capturing time…

Darrell Young

Darrell Young

Darrell Young is an active member of the Nikonians User Community, Nikon Professional Services (NPS), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), and the author of 24 photography books from NikoniansPress and Picture and Pen Press, through Rocky Nook. You may review a few of Darrell’s Nikon books here. He has been an avid photographer since 1968 when his mother gave him a Brownie Hawkeye camera.

This website was created to support the readers of his educational books, photography students, and clients. Visitors to this website will find articles and reviews designed to inform, teach, and help you enjoy your photographic journey.

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  1. Darrell,
    Love your ‘Mastering..’ books. Just included my copy of ‘Mastering the D810’ with the sale of my body. Purchased the Z6 and see the release date for your book. Will you be suggesting different camera setups for all of the options? And do the U1-U3 ‘banks’ actually retain the settings, even if something is changed on the fly? Or do they operate the same as those for the D810?
    Thanks again.

  2. Hi Darrell,

    I just switched to the Z6 from Oly OM-D EM5II. My first digital camera was a D70s. I have to say that the learning curve on this one is much steeper than either of those, so your blog is very helpful. I’m trying to figure out how to display detailed exposure info and the histogram when I’m reviewing images on the camera. The DISP button does nothing. (Before I updated the FW to 2.00, the DISP button also did nothing in the live view of shooting mode.)

    Thanks so much.


  3. Haven’t figured out the z6 monitor. At times When I take a photo I like to look at the monitor to check the photo right away without using the playback arrow like I have to now or do I have to re-learn? Anyway around that?

  4. I almost returned my camera. Your article helps me to know that my display has no issue, I just need to reset my monitor mode. I particularly like that you have a photo of the location on the camera. I read the manual but couldn’t figure it out immediately. Thanks. I will buy your book.

  5. Thank you for the article. The problem we are having with display options using an external monitor on the Z6 for video recording. The external monitor shows the normal monitor data if we have the Z in photo mode, but once switching to video it loses all of it. The external monitor then does not show any of the camera display data such as record status, focus point, or focus peaking, that we like to have, and which is still visible on the camera’s monitor. I have been having a hard time finding an answer for this and perhaps I just need a more expensive monitor, but I would like to find out for sure. Thank you very much.

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