Nikon Z9 Announcement: The Peak of Nikon Mirrorless

Tips & Techniques

Nikon Z9 Product Image Black Background

On March 10, 2021, Nikon announced they were developing a flagship mirrorless camera. More than seven months later – after wild speculation, occasional leaks, and a handful of official teasers – the Z9 has been formally announced. And judging by what we know so far, this is a beast of a camera.

Let me start with a brief list of the most important specifications:

  • Sensor Resolution: 45.7 megapixels
  • Native ISO Sensitivity: ISO 64-25,600
  • Sensor Type: Stacked CMOS
  • Sensor Size: 35.9 × 23.9 mm full-frame sensor
  • In-Body Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Image Processor: EXPEED 7
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 100% coverage, 0.80× magnification, 3.69 million dots
  • Built-in Flash: No
  • Storage Media: Two CF Express B card slots with XQD backwards compatibility
  • Max Continuous Shooting Speed: 20 FPS at full resolution; 30 FPS in JPEG at full resolution; 120 FPS at 11 megapixels in JPEG
  • Blackout-Free Continuous Shooting: Yes
  • Buffer Capacity: Over 1000 frames (including NEF + JPEG)
  • Electronic Shutter: Yes
  • Mechanical Shutter: No
  • Shutter Life: Unlimited
  • Shutter Speed Range: 1/32,000 to 900 seconds
  • Focus System: 493 points; 9-subject classification and deep learning algorithms; eye AF
  • Focusing Range (f/2, ISO 100 standardized): -5 to 21.5 EV; -7 to 21.5 EV when Low-Light AF is enabled
  • Video Maximum Resolution: 8K at 30p, no crop
  • Slow Motion Video: 4K at 120p, no crop (and eventually 8K at 60p with firmware update)
  • Video Quality: 10-bit N-log internal recording, 4:2:2 (and eventually 12-bit raw internal recording with firmware update)
  • Rear LCD: 3.2″ touchscreen, dual axis tilt, 2.1 million dots
  • Battery Life: 700 shots
  • Weight (with battery and card): 1340g (2.95 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 149 × 149.5 × 90.5 mm (5.87 × 5.89 × 3.56 inches)
  • MSRP, Body Only: $5500 (pre-order here)

The headline features are the 45 megapixel sensor and 20 FPS shooting at full resolution – plus up to 120 FPS at 11 megapixels – making this Nikon’s fastest camera ever. It also stands as Nikon’s first-ever camera with 8K 30p video recording, as well as 4K 120p. Much of that is thanks to the new EXPEED 7 processor, when previously the highest we saw on a Nikon camera was dual EXPEED 6.

You’ll also note a pretty shocking answer to one of the specifications above: “Mechanical Shutter: No.” This is one of the first cameras on the market without a mechanical shutter, and Nikon says they’ve gone to great lengths to minimize some of the issues that could arise from that (such as greater propensity for rolling shutter on fast subjects) – including going with a stacked CMOS sensor for fast readout speeds. The result is a camera with fewer moving parts and less chance of failure, as illustrated by Nikon’s claim of “unlimited” shutter life.

The other thing that stands out to me is the price. Rather than $6500 or even $6000, Nikon announced the Z9 at a surprisingly low $5500.

As you can see from the Z9’s design, it has the integrated grip found on Nikon’s top-end D1 through D6 series DSLRs, as well as a third function button on the front:

Nikon Z9 Front View

The rest of the Z9’s ergonomics are inherited from other Z-series cameras so far, although there are some nice additions made possible by the larger form factor. Take a look at the back of the Nikon Z9, which adds several buttons not found on prior Nikon Z cameras – voice memo, white balance, quality, and Fn4:

Nikon Z9 Rear Controls

And the top panel continues this trend, with dedicated buttons for flash control and bracketing:

Nikon Z9 Top View

While clearly a camera oriented for sports and wildlife photography, the Z9 has plenty of features that slower-paced landscape and architectural photographers will find useful as well. It has Nikon’s best low-light focusing yet, illuminated buttons (helpful for Milky Way shooting), a multi-axis tilting LCD, long battery life, and, of course, Nikon’s best 45.7-megapixel sensor with base ISO 64.

For video shooters, Nikon is really advertising the 8K shooting (and has been since the development announcement in March), and it’s indeed an amazing achievement. But for many videographers, 8K video is beyond a typical client’s needs even when you take cropping into account. Instead, I think that other changes like internal N-log and uncropped 4K 120p will be the features that lots of video shooters rely upon day-to-day. Either way, the sum is a camera that easily claims the title of Nikon’s best video system.

Nikon Z9 for Video

I’m particularly excited about testing the Z9’s autofocus system to see how it holds up against today’s best cameras, both DSLR and mirrorless. Even though mirrorless cameras from every brand have improved their focusing performance in recent years – and are now about on par with DSLRs at a given price point – the message has yet to sink in for a lot of consumers. The Z9 is Nikon’s opportunity to shift the messaging so that photographers see mirrorless as the future of the sports/wildlife sector.

Nikon Z9 for Wildlife Photography

One concern that photographers may have is that the Z9 is third in line to the party, behind the Sony A1 and Canon EOS R3. Did that cost Nikon some sales in the meantime? Almost certainly – and it won’t be until later this year that the first copies of the Nikon Z9 start officially shipping, and probably early 2022 until they’re more widespread.

There is also a lack of native supertelephoto lenses for the Z9 at the moment, especially since the camera wasn’t announced alongside a 400mm or 600mm prime. Canon and Sony both already have a 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 among other options, while Nikon users will need to come up with another solution. Some may be choose to adapt Nikon F-mount glass in the meantime using the FTZ or FTZII adapters. Others will need to be content with a narrower maximum aperture of f/5.6, which is achievable either through the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 2x teleconverter or the upcoming Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6.

But when it comes to the camera itself, the Nikon Z9 is looking like a very promising high-end release. The launch price of $5500 is amazingly low, and if everything works to the standards we’ve grown to expect from the Z system, it will be a formidable camera for almost any type of photography.

(Note: I’m trying to publish our Nikon Z9 coverage with as much detailed information as quickly as possible. There may be a few typos, and any corrections in the comments section are very much appreciated!)

Nikon’s full press release for the Z9 is below:

THE NIKON Z 9: UNSTOPPABLE PERFORMANCE, REVOLUTIONARY INNOVATION

Nikon’s First Mirrorless Flagship Defies Conventional, Debuts with a Series of Industry-Firsts for Still & Video Creators

MELVILLE, NY – Today, Nikon announced the Z 9, the most advanced Z series mirrorless camera to date. Powered by a completely new, Nikon-developed 45.7 megapixel stacked CMOS sensor and next generation EXPEED 7 image processing engine, the full-frame Z 9 renders ultra-high resolution images and offers unparalleled AF performance using a revolutionary new scene detection system built on deep learning technology. Additionally, the camera is capable of sustained fast continuous shooting bursts, in-camera 8K video recordings for extended periods, truly blackout-free Real-Live visibility in the viewfinder and a sensor scan rate so fast that it completely eliminates the need for a traditional mechanical shutter.

“The Z 9 is the complete package, offering an unprecedented balance of speed, resolution, reliability and performance that will exceed expectations for any type of shoot, including fast action sports, commercial fashion, low light, landscapes and more,” said Jay Vannatter, Executive Vice President, Nikon Inc. “The Z 9 looks to the future, with innovations and features that give all types of imaging professionals and content creators the advantage when it matters most and the confidence to create in nearly any conditions.”

A New Kind of Pro Mirrorless
At the core of the Z 9 is the Nikon-developed 45.7MP BSI stacked CMOS sensor, coupled with the new EXPEED 7, Nikon’s most powerful engine yet, which is approximately 10x faster than the Z 7II. This combination brings significant increases in AF speed, burst rate, buffer capacity, video resolution and so much more. The Z 9 is the camera that can be trusted on the sidelines, in the field or in the studio, with the high-speed capture capability needed for the fastest action and the immense resolution to reveal the most subtle details.

  • With the world’s fastest1 image scan rate, the Z 9 achieves the world’s smallest2 rolling shutter distortion, equaling that of a mechanical shutter. This means actions like a fast-moving golf swing that would typically distort the club can be captured confidently with the electronic shutter, even at 1/32,000 second. It also allows users to shoot massive quantities of silent frames without worrying about shutter wear or breakdown.
  • The Z 9 achieves fast and accurate AF calculations at up to 120 cycles per second, even between frames during continuous shooting.
  • Beyond the benefits of high-speed performance, the high resolution 45.7-megapixel sensor delivers immense resolution with exquisite colors, broad dynamic range and stellar low light performance, with a native ISO Range from 64-25,600 (Expandable from 32 to 102,400 ISO).

Rely on the Fastest, Most Intelligent AF System Yet
The Z 9 features Nikon’s fastest, most sophisticated and reliable AF tracking performance ever, utilizing a new Subject Detection algorithm developed with deep learning technology, as well as 3D-tracking.

  • The camera’s Subject Detection capability detects the world’s largest range1 of nine subject types including humans, pets, birds, airplanes, trains, cars, motorbikes and bicycles. When in Auto-Area AF, any of these subjects will automatically be detected and focused on, without the need to change settings.
  • With Eye-Detection AF, the camera can detect and focus on a subject’s eye more effectively than ever, even when eyes are smaller or further away.  Additionally, a custom function will now also let users change the color of the focus point to green to confirm focus.
  • The highly praised 3D-tracking mode from Nikon DSLRs debuts for the first time in a mirrorless camera. It is now coupled with subject detection to track fast and erratically moving subjects such as a racing car that approaches close and then moves away quickly, or a swiftly moving athlete.
  • The Z 9 also brings more flexibility by offering three Dynamic-area AF modes with a new range of focus-area sizes (S/M/L) for capturing a wider variety of moving subjects throughout the frame.
  • The AF system is faster than ever, taking advantage of the Z mount’s high-speed communication capabilities with frame-by-frame sharing of distance information.

Unstoppable Performance and Speed
This is the fastest, most powerful Nikon flagship ever. Users can capture amazing images at unbelievably fast burst speeds, all with full AF/AE performance. Whether shooting full-resolution fashion or delivering a sports sequence when a split-second matters, the Z 9 is the versatile solution.

  • For the ultimate combination of speed and intense image quality, photographers can shoot 20-fps RAW images with an unprecedented 1000+ image buffer.3
  • When a balance of quality and burst rate is needed, never miss a vital moment with 30 fps full resolution JPEG capture.
  • For extreme speed, High Speed Frame Capture+4 enables up to 120 fps with full AF/AE at a very manageable file size of 11 megapixels, freezing a moment that cannot even be seen with the naked eye (higher resolution than 4K video).
  • Truly blackout-free shooting is possible thanks to Dual-Stream technology which simultaneously feeds information to the Real-Live viewfinder/LCD and memory card, resulting in reliable confirmation of a subject’s movement without skipping or repeating frames in the viewfinder5.
  • The Z 9 introduces High Efficiency RAW, which retains the same level of high image quality as the conventional uncompressed RAW in an approximately 1/3 smaller6 file size, making RAW files easier to handle than ever.
  • Speeds of up to 1/32,000 are possible with the electronic shutter, expanding the opportunities to use fast lenses, letting photographers shoot wide open in brighter light, even at f/0.95.

Nikon’s Most Capable 8K UHD Video Camera
The Z 9 offers an extensive suite of advanced video features to elevate any kind of production. Combined with the astonishing resolving power of NIKKOR Z S-Line lenses, video is rendered with absolute clarity and sharpness from edge to edge.

  • Supports a variety of frame rates and resolutions, including in-camera recording at 8K UHD 24p/30p and 4K UHD 24p/30p/60p/120p (FX-format).
  • The world’s longest record time 7 at 8K UHD 30p for more than 2 hours consecutively (up to approximately 125 minutes)8.
  • For more latitude when color grading in post, tone mode profile options are available in-camera, including 10-bit N-Log and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma9), as well as the Flat color profile.
  • Supports multiple codecs including H.265 (HEVC), ProRes 422 HQ10, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC for a variety of production workflows.
  • Users can create 33MP/8MP frame grabs in camera from 8K /4K videos.
  • Full-size HDMI connection, with output latency significantly reduced.
  • High-resolution 24-bit linear PCM audio allows for cleaner sound quality with greater range.
  • A free firmware upgrade in 2022 will enable internal 8K 60p capture in the new 12-bit N-RAW high efficiency video format, 12-bit ProRes RAW and other pro level video features.

Built for the Toughest Assignments
The rugged body of the Z 9 is optimized for a professional workflow, thoughtfully engineered for a superb balance of reliability and usability. The body features an integrated vertical grip and controls, while the durable magnesium alloy chassis has drip and dust-resistance equivalent to the D6, yet is 20% smaller than its DSLR counterpart.

  • The new four-axis 3.2” touchscreen LCD frees the monitor to tilt both horizontally and vertically for shooting at any angle in any orientation. The interface will also adjust automatically to the appropriate orientation while shooting stills.
  • For better visibility through the viewfinder in bright sunlight, the Z 9 is equipped with the world’s brightest Quad-VGA panel adjustable to 3000cd/m2 (nits)1, revealing the most subtle details in the shadows.
  • Vibration Reduction image stabilization has been enhanced with new Synchro VR to achieve up to 6 stops of compensation with compatible lenses. 11
  • For powerful dust prevention, the Z 9 includes the world’s first1 dual coating on the optical filter with an electro-conductive coating and fluorine coating to repel dust in front of the sensor, in addition to a sensor shield that protects the sensor when changing lenses.
  • VR safety lock protects the sensor from the risk of damage caused by unintentional movement when the camera’s power is off while in a bag or during bumpy off-road travel.
  • For work in low light, the new “starlight” mode enhances the camera’s ability to focus down to a faint   -8.5 EV, while illuminated buttons help astrophotographers and event or concert photographers change settings in the dark.
  • Adjustable shutter release volume, which can be totally silent in sensitive situations or serve as an audible cue for a subject.
  • New network options are organized under a new menu tab for fast access and include; in-camera Bluetooth and WiFi (2.4/5Ghz), 1000BASE-T wired LAN connection, direct transfer to FTP without the need for a wireless accessory, multiple camera sync and built-in GNSS GPS for precise location data.

New Nikon Software
The Ecosystem for the Nikon Z series continues to expand. Nikon has also released two new software solutions for professional image capture and workflow.

NX Mobile Air
NX Mobile Air is a smart device app for managing and transferring images when working in the field. The new app will be compatible with many of the most current Nikon cameras, and will allow users to have a wired connection to their phone or device from the camera for fast wireless image transfer to an FTP server over a 5G cellular signal. Additionally, the app will support the transmission of IPTC, voice memos and more. The app will be available either as a free version or as a subscription for $5/month with enhanced capabilities. For additional details and device compatibility please visit https://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Products/Imaging-Software/nx-mobileair.page.

NX Tether
Nikon NX Tether is free software to enable tethering of Nikon cameras to instantly display captured content on a computer monitor. This software is an easy way for commercial, food or studio photographers to visualize their output for client review in real time. The software will work via USB or wirelessly, and will collaborate seamlessly with the current suite of Nikon software including NX Studio. For more information, please visit https://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Products/Imaging-Software/nx-tether.page.

Pricing and Availability
The new Nikon Z 9 full-frame mirrorless camera will be available within this year (US) for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $5499.95*. For more information about the latest Nikon products, including the new Z 9, NIKKOR Z lenses and the entire collection of Nikon Z series cameras, please visit nikonusa.com.

About Nikon 
Nikon Inc. is a world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and technologies for photo and video capture; globally recognized for setting new standards in product design and performance for an award-winning array of equipment that enables visual storytelling and content creation. Nikon Inc. distributes consumer and professional Z Series mirrorless camera, digital SLR cameras, a vast array of NIKKOR and NIKKOR Z lenses, Speedlights and system accessories, Nikon COOLPIX® compact digital cameras and Nikon software products. For more information, dial (800) NIKON-US or visit www.nikonusa.com, which links all levels of photographers and visual storytellers to the Web’s most comprehensive learning and sharing communities. Connect with Nikon on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo and Flickr.

# # #

The appearance of the product may differ from the photo shown above.

Specifications, equipment, and release dates are subject to change without any notice or obligation on the part of the manufacturer.

1 . Among mirrorless cameras available as of October 28, 2021, based on Nikon research.
2.   Among mirrorless cameras incorporating an image sensor of 30 megapixels or larger, available as of October 28, 2021, based on Nikon research.
3.  In high efficiency RAW . When using NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens and ProGrade Digital Cobalt 1700R 325GB memory card; in [RAW + JPEG] or [JPEG + JPEG] recording, duration for continuous shooting is approx. 3 seconds; future firmware update within this year will further enhance this function.  With AF/AE tracking. JPEG normal image quality only. The number of frames that can be shot is less than that of high-speed continuous shooting. Use of a recommended card is advised. With C30 setting, approx. 45-megapixel images can be shot at 30 fps.
4.  With AF/AE tracking. JPEG normal image quality only. The number of frames that can be shot is lower than that of high-speed continuous shooting. Use of a recommended card is advised. With C30 setting, approx. 45-megapixel images can be shot at 30 fps
5.  Smoothness of the viewfinder image will differ depending on settings such as shutter speed, etc.
6.   In High Efficiency RAW, the file size is approx. 1/2 of the conventional uncompressed RAW.
 7.  At a temperature of 23°C/73.4°F. With an EN-EL18d Rechargeable Li-ion Battery in use. When video shoot is started after powering on. CFexpress Type B cards with fast writing speed are recommended for video recording.
8. .Among interchangeable lens digital cameras adopting a full-frame image sensor, available as of October 28, 2021, based on Nikon research.
9. Available only when [H.265 10-bit (MOV)] is selected for [Video file type].
10. Compatible with up to 4K/60p, except for Full HD/24p, 25p and 30p.
11. Synchro VR compatible lenses (As of Oct 28th include -NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S (firmware update required), -NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S, NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S

*SRP (Suggested Retail Price) listed only as a suggestion. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time.

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