Nikon Z9 Announced | Is This The Best Mirrorless Flagship Yet?
The Nikon Z9 could be the best full-frame mirrorless flagship camera we’ve seen, and yet, it is also the most affordable, at $5.5K. How is this possible? With 45 megapixels, 20-30 FPS stills, and 8K30p or 4K/120p video, there don’t seem to be any shortcomings whatsoever on the Z9’s spec sheet.
We are also seeing the appearance of Nikon’s legendary 3D AF tracking, with machine learning that can specially focus on human, animal, or vehicle detection. Plus, Nikon has delivered an in-body stabilization system that works together with lens-based optical stabilization, dubbed “Synchro-VR”.
Indeed, the camera as a whole sounds incredibly attractive, and costs a whole thousand dollars less than the Sony A1, despite having what at a glance appear to be slightly better specifications in terms of 4K and 8K video, especially if you consider that RAW 8K/60p video will be coming via firmware.
Nikon’s RAW Format Options Are The Best
Speaking of raw, (we title it “RAW” sometimes because that is usually its official label on cameras; it is not an acronym!) …Nikon has had a long history of offering the absolute best options for its .NEF files, and the Z9 seems to be no exception,with a whole set of new raw formats.
Nikon previously pioneered incredible filesize savings options; they had both lossy and lossless compressed (as well as uncompressed) raw formats long before Canon or Sony, and their 12-bit compressed (lossy) .NEF files were actually far cleaner than both Canon and Sony’s attempts at any sort of raw compression, even though the Nikon files offered a better megabytes-per-megapixel savings!
Now, Nikon has done away with 12-bit files; the Z9 only shoots 14-bit .NEF files; however, there are now two new “high-efficiency” compression options, the “best” of which is an impressive 1/3 the file size. Of course, we’ll need to test the different .NEF file types, but considering Nikon’s track record, we have high expectations.
Then again, it is important to note that if you want to shoot at the Z9’s highest framerates, such as 30 FPS at full-resolution, you’ll need to actually switch to JPG. Or, if you’ve got a real need for speed, you can shoot 11-megapixel JPG stills at 120 FPS!
Nikon Z9 VS Sony A1 VS Canon EOS R3
There are only a couple other minor notes we found on the spec sheet that could possibly be seen as shortcomings, and even then, they deserve an asterisk/caveat because Nikon is doing something unique that could actually give them an advantage. For example, the Nikon Z9’s viewfinder is “only” 3.68M dots and 60 fps, while the Sony A1 is 9.4M-dot/240 fps and the Canon EOS R3 is 5.76M-dot/120 fps.
However, the Nikon viewfinder never lowers its resolution or refresh rate, which appears to give a much more seamless overall experience, whereas the other cameras drop the resolution and/or the refresh rate for functions like autofocusing or high-burst shooting. It is also the brightest viewfinder around, at 3000 cd/m2.
Suffice it to say, the Nikon Z9 appears to be almost perfect. And yet, again, it is also the most affordable flagship full-frame mirrorless camera on the market, at $500 less than the 24-megapixel Canon EOS R3, and a whole $1,000 less than the 50-megapixel Sony A1. Well done, Nikon!
We will get our hands on a Z9 soon to publish an in-depth, real-world review, but in the meantime, it really looks like the most promising digital camera we have seen in years.
Nikon Z9 Specifications
- SENSOR: 45-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor (full-frame, 23.9×35.9mm)
- LENS MOUNT: Nikon Z-mount (full-frame)
- STILL IMAGES: 45 megapixels, (lossless & high-efficiency compressed) 8256 x 5504
- VIDEO: 8K/30p, (8K60p 12-bit raw coming via firmware) 4K/30p, (oversampled from 8K) 4K/120p (binned/skipped)
10-bit, N-Log, HLG (ProRes RAW HQ coming via firmware)
- ISO: 64-51200 (Extends to ISO 32-102400)
- AUTOFOCUS: Hybrid contrast & phase-detect, 493-point, face, eye, animal, & vehicle subjects tracking modes with machine learning, 3D-Tracking, -5 EV low-light sensitivity
- SHOOTING SPEED (FPS): 20 FPS raw, 30 FPS JPG, (full-resolution) 120 FPS JPG (11-MP resolution)
- SHUTTER: Fully electronic, 900 sec to1/32000 sec, 1/200 sec flash sync
- STABILIZATION: Yes, 5-axis, up to 6 stops, Synchro-VR capable (combines with optical lens VR)
- VIEWFINDER: 3.69M dot OLED electronic viewfinder, 60 FPS refresh rate
- LCD: 3.2-inch multi-angle articulated TFT LCD touchscreen, 2.1M dot
- CONNECTIONS: USB-C/PD 3.2, Bluetooth, Wifi, LAN, HDMI (full-size w/lock screw) GNSS GPS
- STORAGE: Dual slots, CFe, (type B) XQD
- BATTERY: Nikon EN-EL-18D, CIPA rated to 740 clicks (Nikon claims up to 5K clicks when shooting bursts)
- BODY CONSTRUCTION: Metal alloy, fully weather-sealed
- SIZE: 149 x 150 x 91 mm (5.87 x 5.91 x 3.58 in)
- WEIGHT: 1340 g (2.95 lb / 47.27 oz)
- PRICE: $5,496
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Nikon Z9 Press Release
Nikon’s First Mirrorless Flagship Defies Conventional, Debuts with a Series of Industry-Firsts for Still & Video Creators
MELVILLE, NY (October 28, 2021) – 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.
- 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 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.
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.
- Among mirrorless cameras available as of October 28, 2021, based on Nikon research.
- Among mirrorless cameras incorporating an image sensor of 30 megapixels or larger, available as of October 28, 2021, based on Nikon research.
- 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.
- 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
- Smoothness of the viewfinder image will differ depending on settings such as shutter speed, etc.
- In High Efficiency RAW★, the file size is approx. 1/2 of the conventional uncompressed RAW.
- 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.
- Among interchangeable lens digital cameras adopting a full-frame image sensor, available as of October 28, 2021, based on Nikon research.
- Available only when [H.265 10-bit (MOV)] is selected for [Video file type].
- Compatible with up to 4K/60p, except for Full HD/24p, 25p and 30p.
- 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
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