Professional photographers specializing in wildlife and sports photography have eagerly anticipated the release of the Nikon Z9, the company’s first mirrorless camera. A full-frame flagship that takes the baton from the Nikon D6 and represents the end of pro-Nikon DSLRs, the Z9 sees Nikon’s mirrorless technology take a significant leap ahead and match the advancements achieved by Canon and Sony. The Z9 is a full-frame flagship that symbolizes the end of pro-Nikon DSLRs.
The Nikon Z9 is a significant milestone in the history of professional photography since it is the first camera to be released without a mechanical shutter. When you snap a picture, there is no physical curtain that moves up and down in front of the sensor like in some other cameras.
This indicates that the Z9 depends entirely on its electronic shutter, which is a strong statement of purpose that demonstrates Nikon’s trust in its new stacked 45.7MP full-frame CMOS sensor and Expeed 7 engine.
Together, these two aspects serve as the foundation of the Z9 and produce what Nikon claims to be the “world’s fastest sensor scan rate” (twelve times quicker than the Z7 II), which has ramifications for both video and still photography.
Nikon Z9 Build Quality
The Nikon Z9 is a traditional-looking mirrorless camera that, like the Canon EOS R3, is meant to appeal to people considering switching from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera.
It has the feel of a flagship Nikon camera when held in hand, which is to say that it is rock-solid and ergonomically tuned. It has an outdated look, especially considering that it weighs 1.34 kg. Still, the body of the Z9 is 20% smaller than the hefty Nikon D6, and the comfortable and deep grip makes it suitable for horizontal and vertical photography.
It is constructed similarly to bulldozers from the 1980s, like the Nikon F4, and has a magnesium alloy body that is entirely weather-sealed. In this way, it is similar to the Nikon F4. In mirrorless cameras, only the Canon EOS R3 can claim that it offers this level of toughness.
The Z9’s rear buttons, like those on the D6, can be illuminated to make them easier to find in the dark. However, this feature can be disabled if you want to be a little less obvious about your camera use. Another feature inherited from Nikon’s DSLRs is an AF mode button that allows for a speedy transition between manual and autofocus.
We particularly love the large number of function buttons, notably the three on the front of the camera. These buttons allow for a great deal of customization of the camera, such as a speedy transition between the FX and DX crop settings.
Nikon Z9 Autofocus
The Nikon Z9 needed to significantly improve focusing and burst shooting performance to compete with other flagship mirrorless cameras, such as the Canon EOS R3 and the Sony A1. It has mainly achieved that goal.
Even though specific cameras, like the Nikon Z6 II, have good focusing capabilities, they have never been as sophisticated as their competitors regarding tracking faces, eyes, and animals.
The Nikon Z9, however, not only keeps up with the competition but even surpasses it — Not only does it track people (including faces, eyes, heads, and upper bodies), animals (bodies, eyes, and heads), and vehicles (cars, motorbikes, planes, and trains), but it also performs simultaneous subject recognition. 3D tracking makes its debut in a mirrorless camera (only in photos), and it does so exclusively.
This enables the Nikon Z9 to distinguish up to 10 distinct types of subjects within a single picture and track each of them independently, making it a beneficial tool for professionals who photograph scenarios with various topics.
In addition, the camera decides between the different types of subjects for you automatically; however, with the EOS R3 or A1, you will have to make this decision manually. You will find that utilizing the joystick to switch to tracking another topic in the scene is a straightforward process if you want to do so.
Nikon Z9 Features
The Nikon Z9 is a more powerful version of the Nikon Z7 II due to its stacked 45.7-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor. The Nikon Z7 II has a resolution of 45.7 megapixels, but it does not have a stacked chip for faster read-out rates.
This resolution provides a cropping capability that is substantially more than the 24MP Canon EOS R3. The disadvantage is that it has maximum burst speeds that are somewhat lower than those of the EOS R3 and EOS R5, which can reach 30 frames per second while taking raw photographs.
However, the Z9 is one of only a few mirrorless cameras capable of shooting video at 8K resolution. According to Nikon, it can continuously record 8K video at 30 frames per second for up to 125 minutes, even without an internal fan. This capability partly shames the overheating limits of the more negligible Canon EOS R5.
Nikon Z9 Image & Video Quality
You’re lucky to be shooting on a day with good weather or even during the daylight when you’re trying to get action photos, which generally take place in shifting light. This is especially true for photographers who focus on sports and animals. When low-contrast light is combined with the high shutter speeds required to freeze motion, the Z9 is precisely pushed to the boundaries of its image-quality capabilities.
Undoubtedly, the stacked 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor of the Z9 has a great deal of untapped potential. It has a native ISO range that extends from 64 to 25,600 and can increase it to 32 and 102,400. Nikon claims that the Z9 is equipped with new algorithms that can handle noise more effectively in low-light settings.
To get the highest possible image quality, we try to avoid using the highest two ISO settings as much as possible. If you followed this approach, the Z9 would be a crisp shooter up to ISO 6400, which is the point at which photographs appear to be sufficiently clean. If you use pixel peeping, you’ll see a small grain beginning at ISO 1600, but because the pictures are so large, it’s not immediately noticeable.
In terms of video, the introduction of 8K recording is welcome, not the least, because of the cropping potential it offers. Additionally, it is welcome because of the positive impact it has on 4K videos, where data is taken from the entire width of the sensor and then “oversampled” to produce results that appear to be very crisp.
Nikon Z9 Specs
|Body type||SLR-style mirrorless|
|Body material||Magnesium Alloy|
|Max resolution||8256 x 5504|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 3:2, 16:9|
|Effective pixels||46 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||52 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Full frame (35.9 x 23.9 mm)|
|Sensor type||Stacked CMOS|
|Color space||sRGB, AdobeRGB|
|Color filter array||Bayer|
|Boosted ISO (minimum)||32|
|Boosted ISO (maximum)||102400|
|White balance presets||9|
|Custom white balance||Yes (6 slots)|
|Image stabilization notes||Synchro VR with select lenses|
|CIPA image stabilization rating||6 stop(s)|
|File format||JPEGNEF Raw 14-bit (Lossless, HE*, HE)|
|Image parameters||Auto, Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, Flat. Selected Picture Control can be modified, Storage for custom Picture Controls|
|Optics & Focus|
|Autofocus||Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View|
|Autofocus assist lamp||Yes|
|Number of focus points||493|
|Lens mount||Nikon Z|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Minimum shutter speed||900 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/32000 sec|
|Flash modes||Front-curtain sync, Rear-curtain sync, Red-eye reduction, Red-eye reduction with slow sync, Slow sync Off|
|Flash X sync speed||1/200 sec|
|Drive modes||Single frame, Continuous L, Continuous H, High-speed frame capture, Self-timer|
|Continuous drive||30.0 fps|
|Metering modes||MultiCenter-weightedHighlight-weightedSpotSpot AF-area|
|Exposure compensation||±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|Modes||7680 x 4320 @ 30p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM7680 x 4320 @ 25p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM7680 x 4320 @ 23.98p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 120p, MOV, ProRes, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 120p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 120p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 100p, MOV, ProRes, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 100p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 100p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 60p, MOV, ProRes, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 60p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 60p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 50p, MOV, ProRes, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 50p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 50p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 30p, MOV, ProRes, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 30p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 30p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 25p, MOV, ProRes, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 25p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 25p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 23.98p, MOV, ProRes, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 23.98p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 23.98p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 120p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 120p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 100p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 100p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 60p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 60p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 50p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 50p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 30p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 30p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 25p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 25p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 23.98p, MOV, H.265, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 23.98p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM|
|USB||USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 GBit/sec)|
|Wireless notes||2.4, 5Ghz|
|Remote control||Yes (Via app)|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||740|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||1340 g (2.95 lb / 47.27 oz)|
|Dimensions||149 x 150 x 91 mm (5.87 x 5.91 x 3.58″)|
|GPS notes||GPS, GLONASS, QZSS|
Nikon Z9 Verdict
The Nikon Z9 represents a significant leap forward for Nikon’s line of mirrorless cameras, bringing them up to par with the company’s flagship competitors, Canon and Sony. The outside of the Z9 gives the impression of a durable DSLR. Still, on the inside, you’ll find cutting-edge technologies like sophisticated autofocus tracking, 20 frames per second raw burst shooting, 8K video, and an electronic shutter only. Additionally, we enjoy how the screen can swivel in both directions.
Although it is a shame that essential video functions won’t be accessible until a firmware upgrade in 2022, the Z9’s video ability impresses instantly. We might be looking at a modern-day Nikon classic.