Nikon Z9 preliminary assessment: We take an in depth have a look at Nikon’s new professional mirrorless digicam: Digital Pictures Assessment

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The Nikon Z9 is a forty five.7MP full-frame professional sports activities mirrorless digicam: a excessive velocity, 8K-shooting assertion of intent from one of many trade’s largest gamers.
Nikon turns into the third model to construct a pro-grade mirrorless digicam round a fast-readout, stacked CMOS sensor, and appears decided to point out that has no intention of being an also-ran because the market strikes to mirrorless.
The Z9 is the primary digicam on this class to desert the mechanical shutter completely and, notably by way of video, it is by far Nikon’s most bold digicam but.
Key Specs

45.7MP Stacked CMOS sensor
30 fps JPEG capturing
20 fps Uncooked capturing (for over 1000 compressed Raws)
120 fps JPEG capturing at 11MP decision
8K/30p seize and 4K-from-8K, with ProRes 422 HQ choice
8K/60p, 12-bit 8K N-Uncooked and 4K ProRes RAW to be added with f/w
Inside 10-bit N-Log and HLG seize
3.69M dot OLED EVF with lowered lag and larger brightness
XM dot rear LCD with multi-directional tilt
Twin CFexpress Kind B card slots
Full-time digital shutter digicam
Sensor defend to guard sensor

The Nikon Z9 will probably be accessible earlier than the top of 2021 (within the US, at the very least), with a advisable value of $5500, physique solely.

Leap to:What’s new | The way it compares | Physique & controls | Preliminary impressions Pattern gallery | Specs

What’s new
Stacked CMOS sensor

Nikon had stated a while in the past that the Z9 could be constructed round a Stacked CMOS sensor, with all of the velocity advantages that brings for burst fee, readout velocity, AF updates and video efficiency. However that preliminary reveal did not clarify how bold a sensor it might grow to be.
The sensor delivers the quickest readout fee of any full-frame digicam we are able to consider, leading to a flash sync of 1/200 sec (as quick as many mechanical shutters can handle). However, simply as excitingly, it has exactly the identical pixel rely because the sensor used within the Z7 cameras, together with the identical base ISO of 64. This makes it possible that the design of the photodiodes themselves could be very comparable, however with extra refined readout circuitry. Our early impressions point out that dynamic vary is slightly below a cease behind the Z7 II.
Autofocus
Simply as ‘Stacked CMOS’ has change into the important thing {hardware} change underpinning the newest technology of pro-grade mirrorless cameras, topic recognition algorithms skilled by machine studying is proving to be the defining software program advance.
The Z9 has been skilled to acknowledge the same vary of topics to that of the Canon EOS R3, with people, animals and automobiles all able to being prioritized by the digicam. Just like the Canon, the Nikon has been skilled to acknowledge eyes, faces and torsos, in order that it might keep concentrate on the identical individual, and focus in on essentially the most related element. By way of animals, the algorithm can acknowledge cats, canine and birds, whereas the automobiles setting is aware of tips on how to home-in on planes, trains, bicycles and motorbikes.
Nikon says the mixture of the Stacked CMOS sensor and the quicker knowledge throughput of the Z mount permits the digicam to course of and talk 120 AF calculations per second.

Auto

Individuals
Animals
Automobiles
Off

Eyes
Canine
Planes
Tracks topics primarily based on distance and coloration.

Faces
Cats
Trains

Torsos
Birds

Motorbikes / Bicycles

Not like the comparable multi-subject programs from Olympus, Canon and Sony, the Nikon system would not demand that you simply specify which sort of topic you are capturing. It supplies an ‘Auto’ topic mode that may assess the scene for any of the varieties of topic it might acknowledge. There are particular person Individuals, Animal and Automobiles settings if you wish to make sure the digicam would not decide the fallacious topic, however for a lot of the time, it is prepared to trace no matter you level it at. There’s additionally an ‘Off’ choice to disengage the digicam’s topic recognition system.

3D Monitoring works together with the topic recognition system, drawing a grey field round acknowledged topics close to your AF level. The most recent algorithms can detect eyes and faces which might be smaller within the scene than any digicam we have but examined.

The opposite main addition to the Z9 is one thing we have requested for since Nikon first launched the Z collection: the arrival of ‘3D Monitoring’ on a mirrorless Nikon. The Z9’s implementation seems to be and behaves precisely prefer it did on the corporate’s DSLRs: presenting you with a small sq. field that may tenaciously monitor something that is beneath it while you provoke C-AF. The one variations you are prone to expertise are that the AF level can now vary throughout the whole scene, relatively than inside the confines of a central AF array, and that it is extra reliable, now it is underpinned by your alternative of topic recognition. You probably have topic recognition disabled, the system will nonetheless monitor your chosen topic utilizing distance and coloration info.
Synchro VR
Not like earlier Z-series our bodies, the Z9 good points the power to mix its in-body stabilization with the stabilization in its VR lenses. Beforehand the digicam would go duty for pitch and yaw movement off to the lens, however the Z9 is ready to use each programs in a synchronized trend (as completed by Panasonic, Olympus, Canon and Fujifilm).
Initially, this ‘Sychro VR’ mode will solely be accessible when utilizing the Z MC 105mm F2.8 VR and the just-announced Z 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 VR S, with Nikkor Z 70-200mm F2.8 VR S help coming after a pending FW replace.
Burst capturing
The Nikon Z9 can shoot bursts of JPEGs at as much as 30 frames per second, placing it degree with the likes of Sony’s a1 and the (decrease decision) Canon EOS R3. Nevertheless, if you wish to shoot Uncooked, the utmost body fee drops to a nonetheless appreciable 20 frames per second. As you’d count on of a Stacked CMOS digicam, there is no blackout whereas the digicam takes a picture, so as an alternative there is a number of show and audio indicators which you could have interaction to let you recognize while you’re capturing.
The digicam’s buffer is deep sufficient to let the digicam shoot at this fee for over 1000 frames, when you’re capturing JPEG or utilizing the brand new HE Uncooked compression choice. On which topic…
Uncooked compression choices
To deal with the massive variety of massive information the Z9 will so readily produce, Nikon has added two new Uncooked compression choices. The default choice is a lossless compression mode, however alongside this are two ‘Excessive Effectivity’ compression choices. The ‘HE*’ mode delivers information round 1/2 the scale of the uncompressed knowledge, and the extra compressed ‘HE’ information are sometimes round 1/third the scale.
Nikon hasn’t given us any particulars of how the compression works, or the place it might need affect on the information, in order that’s one thing we’ll have a look at as soon as we now have Uncooked help.
Video

The quick readout sensor was all the time possible to assist the Z9’s video efficiency however Nikon has clearly put a whole lot of effort into ensuring it affords modes which might be usable, relatively than simply wanting good on the spec sheet. As an example, it turns into the primary Nikon digicam to have the ability to seize Log footage internally.
At launch the digicam will provide 8K/30p, oversampled 4K (from 8K seize) at as much as 30p or much less detailed 4K at as much as 120p taken from the complete width of the sensor (both binned or line-skipped). These capabilities will probably be expanded with a promised firmware replace in 2022. At first, you may have the selection of 8 or 10-bit information with H.264, H.265 or huge, delivery-ready ProRes 422 HQ compression. However these choices too will probably be expanded at a later date.

Video rolling shutter charges

Video mode
Rolling shutter time

8K/30/24
~14.3ms

4K/30/24 oversampled (from 8K)
~14.3ms

4K/120/60 subsampled
~4.8ms

The firmware replace will allow inner Uncooked video seize at as much as 60p. Nikon says it will embody a 12-bit 8K/60 choice in a brand new, proprietary ‘N-Uncooked’ format or inner ProRes Uncooked HQ seize at as much as 4K/60.
Nikon says the digicam will have the ability to shoot its oversampled 4K/30 for greater than 2 hours (at ‘regular’ temperatures). It additionally says the latency over HDMI has been halved, in contrast with the Z6 II and former Nikon cameras, which means it is rather more sensible to observe the digicam’s output.
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Physique and controls

The Z9 has an angular design that is per the opposite Z cameras however has some particulars that will probably be acquainted to customers of the corporate’s DSLRs. Nikon hadn’t maintained the identical degree of ergonomic consistency that Canon likes to, in its high-end cameras, however the expertise is not going to be totally alien to present D5 and D6 shooters.
The design change you are almost certainly to note, as an present Nikon consumer, is the repositioning of the playback button from the highest left to decrease proper of the digicam physique. In case you discover you possibly can’t adapt, after a interval of inadvertently urgent the fallacious button, you possibly can customise the ‘Shield’ button on the prime left to be playback as an alternative.

One factor the Z9 has in widespread with present high-end Nikon DSLRs is that almost all of its buttons are back-lit, so will be illuminated while you’re attempting to function the digicam in darkish circumstances, and have to shortly examine your hand positioning on the physique.
AF Button

It could not look the identical because the one in your Nikon DSLR, however as quickly as you decide up the Z9, you may discover the AF mode button is strictly the place you count on it to be.

Making a welcome return on the Z9 is a devoted AF mode button on decrease left of the entrance of the digicam. There is not any AF-C/AF-S/MF change round it, however a mix of the AF button and two management dials means it is potential to vary AF drive mode and AF space mode shortly, in a manner that Nikon’s DSLR shooters will probably be used to.
Like Nikon’s DSLRs, you could have the choice to assign AF space modes (with or with out AF-On then being activated) to the digicam’s Fn buttons, to offer fast entry in fast-changing circumstances. You possibly can’t assign completely different topic recognition modes to those mixtures, although.
Matched CFexpress slots
The Z9’s high-speed options are supported by the presence of a pair of CFexpress Kind B slots. These are backwards-compatible with any of the older XQD playing cards a the consumer might need, however the newer, quicker playing cards are advisable to get the longest bursts and for sustaining the best knowledge charges the digicam will put out.
Viewfinder

The Z9’s viewfinder can run round twice as vivid as most earlier OLED finders, attaining round 760 nits for a completely white show. There is not any more-lifelike HDR viewfinder mode to use this, although.

The viewfinder specs are the realm by which the Z9 most clearly falls behind its opponents. It is a 3.69M dot panel, which is comparatively low decision, in contrast with its fast rivals. Nevertheless, it does seem that Nikon makes full use of this decision for the digicam’s liveview, even whereas focusing repeatedly, relatively than solely using the complete element degree in playback. This implies it offers a significantly better, and extra constant, expertise than the naked specs indicate.
The corporate additionally stresses that it by no means makes use of body interpolation to offer the impression of quicker refresh.
Multi-directional rear LCD

With the Z9, Nikon has resisted the urge to easily match a fully-articulating display, and has opted as an alternative for one thing that will probably be a greater match for some photographers. It is primarily a traditional pull-out up/down tilting cradle, however which has then been fitted on one other hinge that lets it tilt horizontally.
The result’s a someplace between the vertical/horizontal tilting screens we like a lot on a number of Fujifilm and Panasonic fashions, and the relatively extra elaborate telescopic workbench design of the Pentax Ok-1.
The necessary factor is that it helps you to tilt the display as much as face you, whether or not you are capturing within the panorama or portrait orientation, and does so whereas maintaining the display centered over the optical axis, making it simpler to border your photographs.
Sensor defend

The Z9’s digital shutter is so quick that there is no want for a mechanical one. Which, in flip, means the digicam can have a devoted sensor protector as an alternative. The protecting curtains come down when the Z9 is turned off.

The Nikon is not the primary digicam to cowl its sensor when the digicam is turned off, serving to to guard it and preserve mud off the sensor throughout lens adjustments, however it’s the primary the place the duvet is solely designed for that goal. So, though the mechanism seems to be like a closed shutter, it would not must be made utilizing the super-light (low inertia), doubtlessly fragile shutter blades.
Battery

The Z9 makes use of the EN-EL18d, the newest variant of the massive battery utilized by earlier pro-grade Nikons. It can work with all earlier EN-EL18 batteries however can solely cost the b, c and d variations in-camera, over USB and can ship extra photographs with the EN-EL18d. The charger provided with the Z9 additionally solely helps the three more moderen variants.
The z9 is rated as delivering 740 photographs per cost when you use the rear LCD and 700 when you use the viewfinder. These figures bounce to 770 and 740, respectively, when you use power saving mode. As all the time these numbers are usually not straight consultant of what number of photographs you are prone to obtain, partly as a result of the CIPA commonplace check calls for extra use of playback than most photographers do.
It is solely intensive capturing of stills and video collectively which might be possible ever trigger any concern for Z9 customers by way of battery life
This discrepancy is particularly acute when capturing bursts, which represents the alternative excessive of utilizing the digicam and the place the quantity of picture assessment time, per picture, is close to zero. For example this, Nikon claims the Z9 is sweet for 5310 photographs per cost when capturing bursts. Though Nikon would not specify its check technique, this determine corresponds rather more carefully to our preliminary experiences of capturing quick motion with the Z9. So, whereas we would not take this quantity actually, both, it does spotlight that CIPA numbers can appear unrealistically low.
The usual check numbers are usually broadly comparable between cameras, although, with a digicam rated at 700 photographs per cost sometimes delivering twice as many photographs as one rated at 350. We discover it arduous to think about a capturing state of affairs that may exhaust a digicam rated at over 700 photographs per cost, so it is solely intensive capturing of stills and video collectively which might be possible ever trigger any concern for Z9 customers.
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The way it compares
The Z9 matches the Sony a1’s trick of delivering each velocity and excessive decision, in order that’s essentially the most fast reference level. Nevertheless, a good chunk of its viewers are prone to be present D5 and D6 homeowners, seeing if the Z9 justifies a transfer to a world with out mirrors.
It is unlikely many individuals will probably be straight selecting between Canon’s 24MP R3 and the 45MP of the Z9, however we have included it right here to point out how every of the largest manufacturers’ present range-toppers examine. We have additionally included the smaller, cheaper Z7 II as an example the place the Z9 matches, in relation.

Nikon Z9
Sony a1
Canon EOS R3
Nikon D6
Nikon Z7 II

MSRP at launch
$5500
$6500
$6000
$6500
$3000

Sensor sort
Stacked CMOS
Stacked CMOS
Stacked CMOS
FSI CMOS
BSI CMOS

Pixel rely
45.7MP
50.1MP
24MP
21MP
45.7MP

Most body fee(Full res)

30 fps (JPEG)20 fps(Uncooked + JPEG)
30 fps (lossy Uncooked)20 fps (lossless Uncooked)
30 fps (e-shutter)12 fps (mech)
14 fps (viewfinder)
10 fps

E-shutter fee
1/270 s
1/260 s
1/200 s
N/A
~1/16 s

Picture stabilization
In physique(lens IS takes over pitch/yaw)1
In physique(lens IS takes over pitch/yaw)
In physique (lens IS combines for pitch/yaw)
In lens solely
In physique(lens IS takes over pitch/yaw)

AF sensitivity2
-5.0EV (-7.0 in Starlight AF mode)
-4 EV
-4.5 EV
-4.5 EV (heart)
-3.0EV

HDR picture format

10-bit HLG HEIF
10-bit PQ HEIF

Viewfinder
3.68M-dot0.80x
9.4M-dot0.90x
5.76M-dot0.76x
Optical0.72x
3.68M-dot0.80x

Viewfinder refresh fee
60 fps
as much as 240 fps3
as much as 120 fps
N/A
60 fps

Video
8K/30p4K/120p(8K/60 through f/w)
8K/30p4K/120p (1.12x crop)
DCI 4K/120p(6K/60p Uncooked)
4K/30p
4K/60p (1.08x crop)

Bit depth
10-bit inner(12-bit Uncooked inner through f/w)
10-bit internal16-bit Uncooked over HDMI
10-bit inner(12-bit inner Uncooked)
8-bit inner
8-bit internal10-bit over HDMI

Rear display
3.2″ 2.1M dot-dual tilt touchscreen
3.0″ 1.44M- dot tilting touchscreen
3.2″ 4.2M-dot absolutely articulated touchscreen
3.2″ 2.36M-dot mounted touchscreen
3.0″ 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen

Media codecs
2x CFe Kind B / XQD
2x Twin CFe Kind A / UHS-II SD
1x CFe Kind B1x UHS-II SD
2x CFe Kind B / XQD
1x CFe Kind B / XQD1x UHS-II SD

Wi-Fi
2.4GHz and 5GHz
2.4GHz and MIMO 5GHz
2.4GHz4
2.4GHz and 5GHz
2.4GHz and 5GHz

GPS/ Glonass
Sure
No
Sure
No
No

Ethernet
Sure 1000Base-T
Sure 1000 Base-T
Sure 1000 Base-T
Sure 1000 Base-T
No

Battery life (CIPA) LCD/VF5
740 / 700
530 / 430
760 / 440
– / 3850
420 / 360

Weight
1340g
737g
1015g
1450g
675g

Dimensions
149 x 150 x 91mm
129 x 97 x 81mm
150 x 142 x 87mm
160 x 163 x 92mm
129 x 96 x 76mm

1’Synchro VR’ which mixes lens and in-body IS is initially accessible with the Z 105mm F2.8 S and the brand new Z 100-400mm F4.5-5.6, with Z 70-200mm F2.8 S following through FW. 2Lowest mild degree at which phase-detect AF features with an F2.0 lens. Canon and Nikon quote figures for F1.2 lenses, so we have adjusted by +1.5EV, for ease of comparability.3 Viewfinder decision and magnification lowered at 240 fps4 5GHz and MIMO Wi-Fi accessible utilizing WFT-E9 accessory5 OVF and EVF battery figures are usually not straight comparable

The Nikon Z9’s specs very look robust, even in comparison with essentially the most succesful mirrorless cameras available on the market. It could possibly solely shoot JPEG when matching the Sony a1 and Canon EOS R3 at their quickest charges, however that is one of many few areas it falls behind. The three.69M dot, 60 fps viewfinder may look disappointing on paper (a lot much less so in the true world), however, whereas HDR photograph functionality would have be good, the Z9’s video capabilities are considerably past these of its friends.
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Preliminary impressions
Even when you have not absolutely subscribed to the ‘the sky is falling’ theories about Nikon, it is nonetheless honest to say that the Z9 is a vital digicam for the corporate. Its Z6 and Z7 fashions have been excellent, and the Z5 supplies a really inexpensive manner into the Z system, however what’s been missing is an actual ‘halo’ product. The Z9 clearly performs that function: each to persuade skilled shooters that there is a future for them within the Z mount, and in addition to offer just a little sparkle that may shine down on the remainder of the lineup.

The Z9’s display works simply as nicely for portrait or landscape-orientation capturing, however with out the odd off-axis hinge of a fully-articulating show, that may make composition awkward.

Having used the Z9 in some fairly demanding circumstances, it makes an excellent impression in each regards. As a pro-grade sports activities digicam, it seems to carry out simply as nicely on the sidelines because it does on paper. It affords a mix of decision and velocity that is beforehand solely ever been provided by Sony’s a1. However, regardless of the favored assumption that the Z9 would merely borrow that digicam’s sensor, there’s the thrilling prospect that the Z9 may provide pro-sports velocity with D850 picture high quality (nonetheless the excessive bar for full-frame, in some regards). We’ll know extra once we can dig into the Raws a bit extra.
The digicam’s Uncooked capturing fee of 20 frames per second is slower than the a1 or the lower-res EOS R3, however was nonetheless sufficient that two afternoons of capturing left me with 3100 Uncooked/JPEG pairs (170 Gb) to work by. And, if the motion you are capturing requires 30 fps, you possibly can match the Sony and Canon’s prime velocity, if JPEGs are ample on your wants (which is prone to be the one practicable manner of capturing in some circumstances). In case you do not thoughts 11MP JPEGs, the Z9 may even shoot at as much as 120fps.

Video is well accessed, utilizing a devoted change, at which level the Z9 reveals itself as not solely Nikon’s greatest video shooter, however most likely the best-specced full-frame mirrorless stills/video digicam available on the market.

One other space the place the Z9 seems to be extraordinarily aggressive is video, which isn’t one thing we all the time affiliate with Nikon. The final time Nikon led the market in video specs for ILCs was the D90, which provided HD video from an APS-C sensor, solely to be outgunned by Canon’s full-frame, Full HD-shooting EOS 5D II, only a few weeks later. Since then it is continued to enhance each its help instruments and core video specs, however nothing on the extent of the Z9. Not solely is the Z9 the primary stills/video ILC to supply 8K/60p, however after a firmware replace, can also be the primary to supply inner ProRes RAW seize and 8K Uncooked video.

Nikkor Z 24-70mm F2.8 S | ISO 64 | 1/640 sec | F5.0 Picture: Dale Baskin

The Z9 is not nearly sheer grunt although: choices comparable to inner ProRes HQ seize and inner Log seize counsel Nikon has been listening to the wants of videographers, relatively than simply pushing to ship spectacular wanting spec figures. Promising a digicam that may shoot 8K/30p is one factor: delivering one that may accomplish that for over two hours suggests you need that function to be usable.

The Z9’s AF monitoring system is way quicker and easier to make use of than on earlier Nikon mirrorless cameras, in addition to being stickier and extra reliable. Nikkor Z 70-200mm F2.8 S | ISO 1400 | 1/2000 sec | F5.0 Picture: Richard Butler

Away from the uncooked specs, although, the factor that stunned all of us concerning the Z9 was simply how DSLR-like it’s. The viewfinder may not have the best decision or refresh fee, however it felt very responsive and constant. This DSLR-like expertise is helped tremendously by the return of Nikon’s 3D AF Monitoring: arguably the progenitor of contemporary AF monitoring programs. Pre-placing your AF level and being assured that the digicam will then observe your topic across the scene is one thing we have more and more come to take as a right, however Nikon’s DSLRs had been the primary to do it nicely. The Z9’s system is now backed-up by algorithms skilled by machine studying, however you do not actually need to consider that while you’re utilizing the digicam: it simply works like a D6 or D850 would, solely extra persistently and reliably.

The Nikon Z9 is not the primary digicam to do with out a mechanical shutter, it isn’t even the primary full-frame mirrorless digicam to attempt it, however it’s the primary the place you are not often going to note its absence. There is not any equal of Canon’s Excessive Frequency Anti-Flicker mode for moments the place the shutter fee clashes with fast-flickering panels, although.

The Z9 is not the primary mirrorless digicam to eliminate the mechanical shutter, however it’s the primary to get away with it. The ~1/270 sec rolling shutter is quicker than some mechanical shutters, which has prompted Nikon to go one stage additional than simply eradicating the mirror. And but, with little particulars such because the return of the AF mode button, the Z9 will really feel instantly acquainted to Nikon DSLR shooters.
And that brings us to the viewers for this digicam. There is a basic notion that digicam costs are going up on a regular basis (a notion not all the time borne-out by the information), however the Z9 is priced decrease than the D6 that it successfully replaces. It is $1000 decrease than the Sony a1’s launch value (extra when you add the battery grip to match the form-factor), and $500 beneath Canon’s present mirrorless flagship. This nonetheless makes it significantly costlier than the D850 was, however ought to broaden its attraction. In any case, if can ship near-D850 picture high quality solely a lot quicker, with picture stabilization, significantly better autofocus and with entry to raised lenses, it appears honest to imagine some photographers will probably be keen to pay a premium for that.
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Pattern Gallery
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