The flagship has arrived. Yes, it has. After months of speculation and weeks of teaser videos, Nikon has officially unveiled the Z 9. It’s a camera built to combine the best of pro-spec DSLRs like the D6, and the company’s top-of-the-line mirrorless bodies, the Z 7II and Z 6II, but also exceeds any camera the company has made before in lots of ways – plus it’s the first pro-level full-frame camera with a purely electronic shutter.
As expected, the Z 9 uses a newly developed, stacked 45.7 MP full-frame CMOS sensor, which Nikon says has been designed by its own engineers. This stacked design – which Nikon is calling dual stream technology – and which was previously only seen on Sony’s top-end bodies and the recent Canon R3, brings all sorts of benefits, both in shooting speed, autofocus abilities and electronic viewfinder performance.
Allied to an ultra-fast, new generation EXPEED 7 processor, the Z 9 promises blackout- and stutter-free shooting, helping photographers to frame and follow fast moving subjects like athletes, racing cars or wildlife. The EVF also claims to be the brightest on the market, and its eye cup is round, which shows the Z 9 means professional business. It has a 3690k-dot Quad VGA resolution, and a refresh rate of 60fps.
The Z 9 also claims best-in-class autofocus tracking performance with a 493-point system including 405 auto-area AF points, which is five times more than on the Z 7II. With no less than 10 AF-area modes and nine subject recognition modes users can tweak the settings for particular subjects, including humans, dogs, cats, birds, cars, bikes and more. Also very welcome is the return of Nikon’s 3D tracking AF mode, previously only seen on its DSLRs. This locks onto subjects and follows them across the frame.
The Z 9 also offers eye-watering speeds, with a headline grabbing performance of 20fps for more than 1000s full size Raws – though this depends on using the fastest CFExpress cards on the market. Not content with that, the Z 9’s new Continuous+ (C+) mode can also shoot up to 120fps with full autofocus and auto exposure, in normal quality Jpegs, with a resolution of 11Mp. Talking of speed, with the sensor promises the world’s fastest scan rate and is claimed to virtually eliminate rolling-shutter distortion – so much so that Nikon has completely dispensed with a mechanical shutter. Shutter speeds of up to 1/32,000sec and a low ISO range of ISO64 means that even the fastest lenses should be able to be used without NDs in bright light. The top end of the ISO range is 25600, expandable to 32-102400.
There’s no lack of great video features either. The Z 9 records up to 8K resolution at 24p to 60p (the latter via an upcoming firmware update), and 4K from 24p to 120p. 8K video footage at 30p can be recorded for approximately 125 minutes at a time, which Nikon says is the longest duration amongst mirrorless cameras. It also has compatibility with ProRes 422 HQ and Nikon’s own N-Raw video format.
The Z 9 also promises great build and handling. It has a four-way tilting 3.2in 2100k-dot LCD screen for easy composition, especially in vertical shooting, and in proper pro-level DSLR style, there’s an integrated battery grip with mirrored controls. The body also sports a third Fn button, independent drive mode dial, top plate buttons for exposure mode, flash, an AF control button and more. Buttons can be illuminated for low-light working, and the menu displayed in red to save your eyeballs.
Body wise, it’s 20% smaller than the D6 DSLR at 149×149.5×90.5mm, but weighs not masses less than its older brother, at 1340g with its powerful EN-EL18d battery fitted. It’s made from magnesium alloy and promises full weather sealing, and also a “conductive coating that creates a magnetic field, actively repelling dust particles from the sensor.” When switched off, there’s a shield for the sensor, too and it uses two CFExpress / XQD card slots. Finally, it’s stated as being available in winter 2021, and the Z 9 has an rrp of £5,299, which looks very competitive. Some example images from Nikon are included below.