When I first heard earlier this year that Nikon was going to offer RAW (raw?) video in conjunction with Atomos, I was totally surprised. That would be a very bold move for Nikon, and would undoubtedly be a massive boost to their presence in the cinema/video realm of cameras, indeed. That was in January 2019, to be precise.

A few times in recent months, I wondered when that RAW video update would come to fruition. In August of this year, Nikon mentioned it again, announcing that the RAW video update would not be free. Seems fair, considering that most of the other video cameras capable of RAW capture are, well, extremely expensive! To have a camera as affordable as the Nikon Z6 offer RAW video of any kind, (ProRes, in this case) would put in a very exclusive group of dual-purpose stills+video cameras.

Today, the wait is over! Nikon has officially announced that RAW video output to an Atomos device, as well as CFexpress memory card support, will now be available via firmware updates. The CFexpress memory card support is free, available HERE, and the ProRes RAW video support will cost $199.95 as a stand-alone upgrade, or will be included for free to customers of Nikon’s Filmmakers’ Bundle/kit.

Official Press Release Text

MELVILLE, NY (December 16, 2019 at 11:00 P.M. EST) – Nikon Inc. is pleased to announce the release of firmware Ver. 2.20 for the Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 full-frame mirrorless cameras. This firmware update offers several improvements that make these cameras even more powerful, including the addition of support for the next generation memory card, CFexpress. Additionally, Nikon has announced that beginning today, service to install RAW video output functionality will be available for those wishing to add enhanced professional video capabilities.

Support for CFexpress, the New Standard for Speed and Durability

Sony CFexpress memory card

Updating Z 7 and Z 6 firmware to Ver. 2.20 enables the use of CFexpress 2 cards. CFexpress cards are robust and reliable, and support even faster data transfer than XQD cards for a smoother and more efficient photographic workflow.

CFexpress cards use a similar form factor to XQD, eliminating the need to physically modify the camera’s memory card slot. After upgrading, users will be able to use CFexpress as well as XQD cards in their camera interchangeably. In addition to the Z 7 and Z 6, CFexpress memory card support will be added to the Nikon D5 (XQD-Type), Nikon D850 and Nikon D500 digital SLR cameras in the future.

Initially, only limited CFexpress card types are fully supported and the number of supported cards will continue to expand as additional cards are tested and certified (Type B CFexpress cards manufactured only by Sony Corp. Availability date for the cards may vary by market).

RAW video output function (4K UHD and Full HD)

Nikon Z6 Filmmakers Kit

Developed in conjunction with Atomos, this capability enables recording of RAW video, which has
greater flexibility for color grading compared to other video formats.

With this upgrade, 12-bit 4K UHD or full-HD RAW video can be recorded to select models of Atomos video recorders connected to a Z 7 or Z 6 camera via a HDMI connector.

(NOTE: The Z6 can record 4K RAW video in both FX and DX modes; the Z7 can record 1080p HD RAW in FX mode, and 4K UHD RAW video in DX mode.)

As RAW video is not subjected to in-camera processing, all information that is outputted from the image sensor is preserved. This abundance of information can later be used in post-production.

The RAW video output capability upgrade can be installed at a Nikon service center and will incur a fee but will be included free of charge as part of Nikon Z 6 Filmmaker’s kit bundles. Those customers in the United States who have already purchased a Nikon Z 6 Filmmaker’s kit (Product #13545) will be eligible to have the fee waived (proof of purchase required). For more details about the Nikon Z 6 Filmmaker’s kit, please visit here.

For additional technical information, equipment requirements and instructions on requesting the RAW video output upgrade, please visit: www.nikonusa.com/RAWvideo.

Price and Availability

The firmware update Ver. 2.20 which enables CFexpress functionality is available now, free of charge.

Please visit The Nikon Z series Firmware update page to download and find more information.
The RAW video output upgrade is available starting today and will require installation by a Nikon Service Center. A $199.95 fee will apply.

For more information on the latest Nikon products, including the Nikon Z mount system, please
visit www.nikonusa.com.

Nikon Z6 Filmmakers Kit
Nikon Z6 Filmmakers Kit

Our Initial Gut Reaction

The first thing that comes to mind is, just how big of a move this is for a FIRMWARE update. The RAW video, that is. It really shows that Nikon is committed to joining the ranks of brands that are offering major upgrades to customers’ existing cameras. Gone are the days when a camera company could just save such major upgrades for a whole new camera, it seems. Buyers are expecting the camera they buy to stay as cutting-edge as any other camera that gets released within the 1-2 years after their camera was released, at least.

At the same time, it comes as no surprise, to me at least. Not just because the RAW video possibility was already announced months ago, but because Nikon has spent the last year working hard to offer significant upgrades to its brand-new mirrorless autofocus system, in an effort to become more competitive with Sony’s fourth-generation AF systems.

If anything, the fact that Nikon’st 1st-gen full-frame mirrorless AF system is hot on the heels of a competing 3rd-generation AF system, AND is still receiving firmware improvements to cutting-edge things like Eye AF, is a good indicator.

I’m not sure why the Z7 isn’t capable of full-sensor 4K UHD RAW video, but I assume it has something to do with scaling down such a massive resolution as 45 megapixels. Simply put, if you want the best video camera, historically speaking, that has often also been the lower-resolution camera, so this is nothing new. We’ll have to get our hands on one of these kits in 2020 and see how the footage looks in FX and/or DX mode on both the Z6 and Z7, and let you know what we find!

Some will probably balk at having to pay for the RAW video firmware upgrade, but again, just remember, some filmmakers are still paying $10,000 or more for a camera that could shoot RAW video.

Either way, one thing is for sure- 2020 is going to be an interesting year for photographers and videographers alike!