Amid the usual fanfare, Nikon has released its latest flagship full-frame mirrorless camera, the 47.7-megapixel Z9.
Billed as a revolutionary upgrade, Nikon describes the new camera as “designed to surpass expectations with breakthrough features that are firsts for both in the mirrorless category and in Nikon.”
If looks were anything to go by however, the camera appears anything but revolutionary. Its conventional body design and style, means you might be forgiven for mistaking the Z9 for its more traditional ancestor, the D6.
Here we go again, I hear you groan. Another camera designed to make my current body obsolete. Another ‘new standard’, another assault on my already battered bank balance (a Z9 body will set you back a tidy US$ 5,500).
Reassuringly however, the Z9 offers some serious bang for your buck, featuring an impressive range of features and innovations.
First off, the Z9 is Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera built without a mechanical shutter, drastically reducing rolling shutter distortion when shooting video. An in-camera VR safety lock, dual coating to strengthen dust prevention and a brand-new sensor shield together help protect the Z9’s precious sensor from dust and damage.
Nikon also claims the Z9 can continue to operate in temperatures down to -10C°. Not bad for a fancy computer with an image sensor at its heart.
The Z9 is zippy too. Featuring a new EXPEED-7 processor, the Z9 is able to shoot bursts of up to 30 frames per second in JPG and 20 frames per second in RAW, making it an ideal camera for pro sports photographers.
Nikon is clearly determined to make its mark in the DSLR video market, a sector hitherto dominated by rivals Sony, Panasonic and Canon. The Z9 is able to record up to 125 minutes of 8K video (8K at 30p and 4K at 30p,60p and120p), in camera. The inclusion of twin CFexpress Type B card slots in the Z9, underscores the professional pedigree of Nikon’s latest video-empowered offering.
AI, smart focusing and 3D tracking
Smart focus is definitely one of the Z9’s hottest features. Driven by algorithms that are enriched through machine learning, the Z9’s smart focusing tools can recognize not only human features like eyes, faces and torsos, but also animals and even vehicles like cars, planes and trains.
Gains in processing power and AI (artificial intelligence) are allowing the latest generation of cameras to become ever faster and smarter at identifying the world around us. Unlike solutions from competitors (Canon and Sony), the Z9 doesn’t require its user to choose the type of subject. Its ‘Auto’ subject mode recognizes subjects and objects on its own. As machine learning deepens, we can expect more smart focusing improvements in subsequent firmware updates.
The Z9 also boasts a 405-point auto-area AF and 3D-tracking all of which work even during video recording. 3D-tracking is another first in a Nikon mirrorless camera, allowing users to seamlessly capture the split-second moments, from the fastest sprinters to race cars.
Underscoring a desire to ensure flexibility in the field, the Z9 boast Nikon’s first four-axis vertical and horizontal tilting image monitor. Another Nikon-first is the i-TTL balanced fill-flash, where face information is applied for flash control. This technology takes the human subject’s face into consideration and controls the volume of light to be fired appropriately when flash is used. This helps to avoid overexposure in your shots.
In a push to make low light shooting even easier and more reliable, Nikon have begun linking their in-camera with their internal lens system vibration reduction (VR) systems. This is providing up to 6 stops of compensation for handheld shooting.
The Z9 might not exactly be a revolution, but it is further evidence of how quickly camera technology is advancing. This latest camera body places Nikon firmly amongst the leaders of the pack in the professional camera world and will undoubtedly be an object of desire for many a Nikon shooter.
Written by Yvan Cohen | Yvan’s been shooting documentary photography for over 30 years. He’s a co-founder of LightRocket and continues to shoot photo projects around South East Asia.
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