Nikon Z9 Evaluate: It Makes Different Cameras Really feel Like Antiques


The Z9 takes a large leap ahead in know-how and ranges the taking part in subject between Canon and Sony each in its development and capabilities. Whereas Nikon might have been late delivering an expert mirrorless system, the 120 frames per second (FPS) burst, 8K video, spectacular battery life, and “always-on” EVF greater than make the wait price it.

In case you have been to learn instantly from the specs sheet, the Nikon Z9 blows the Sony A1 and Canon EOS R3 out of the water with its FPS capturing pace and 8k video capabilities (to not point out its a lot lower cost). Even when it falls behind barely for top ISO capturing (in comparison with the R3) and backbone (in comparison with the Alpha 1), there are lots of different spectacular options crammed into the Z9 bundle that these shortcomings turn into fairly negligible once you have a look at the general bundle.

The brand new Z9 leverages a brand new EXPEED 7 processor for picture captures and steady stay view speeds which were exceptional prior to now with subsequent to no rolling shutter distortion. Having examined this part of this evaluation, I can verify this to be insanely correct. Added to those enhancements is an autofocus system that’s in all probability the quickest I’ve ever had the pleasure of capturing with that’s able to monitoring high-speed movement in sports activities like hockey, a hawk chasing its prey, and automobiles zooming in the direction of the digital camera on the freeway.

Because of Lensrentals for offering among the optics used on this evaluation. The corporate’s full record of accessible lenses could be perused on its web site.

Nikon Z9 vs Z6 Front

Nikon Z9 vs Z6 rear

After getting used to the brand new system and spending a number of days with it within the subject together with the the Z 70-200mm f/2.8VR S and Z TC-2x Teleconverter, returning it to Nikon and going again to utilizing my Z6 and Z6 II cameras has been type of painful and legitimately introduced a tear to my eye.

Earlier than we dive in, I wish to level out that whereas I examined the 8K and ProRes video features of the Z9 a number of instances, we are inclined to concentrate on nonetheless images right here at PetaPixel, this evaluation will concentrate on these options primarily.

Design and Usability

Nikon Z9 Front View

The design of the Z9 is pretty per what we now have come to count on from the skilled our bodies from Nikon like its D6 and D5 predecessors. In comparison with the Z6, the digital camera is sort of a bit bigger and heavier and weighs in at about 1,340 grams (about 2.95 kilos), despite the fact that it’s not geared up with a conventional mechanical shutter mechanism.

Nikon Z9 Rear View

With the built-in battery and vertical grip, the digital camera feels fairly good and comfy when held in both portrait or panorama orientation, with entry to all of the controls and buttons you might want to shoot naturally in each positions. Anybody who has used the brand new Z mirrorless cameras or D5 and D6 will discover the situation of every of the controls the place they might count on to with only some exceptions. For instance, the playback button has moved under the “MENU” button for simpler picture evaluation with out having to look away from the EVF.

Nikon Z9 Pivot Display

Nikon Z9 Pivot Display 2

A welcome change with the Z9 is the improved 3.2-inch LCD show that may be tilted throughout four-axis (lastly) making it potential to see pictures in awkward angles in each horizontal and vertical orientations. Along with the brand new versatile mounts, the small print on the show which might be energetic will robotically shift and alter positions for straightforward studying because the orientation of the digital camera adjustments.

One thing I discovered amusing in regards to the digital shutter with the Z9 is as a result of it has no bodily shutter, any sound you’ll hear is fully synthetic. You can also make changes to the “shutter sound” that may be enabled or disabled at will. Whereas silent capturing is an incredible function (particularly in situations like press conferences, stay broadcasts, and weddings), I think about a close to future the place a sensible and industrious fan manages to discover a solution to hack and customise the shutter sounds and add the choice to make use of historic and nostalgic digital camera clicks from Nikon’s previous. Or, you understand, Nikon may launch it as a firmware replace — fingers crossed.

Nikon Z9 Grip View

Nikon z9 Sensor Shield

A brand new function that’s lastly obtainable with this flagship digital camera is the addition of a sensor display screen defend that may be set to robotically deploy each time the facility is turned off and provides an additional layer of safety from mud and the weather of the mirrorless sensor everytime you wish to change lenses. Canon has had this function for some time, however Nikon’s iteration feels extra strong because it’s an element particularly designed for this objective and doesn’t simply make use of the mechanical shutter (which to reiterate, the Z9 doesn’t have). As somebody who principally shoots outdoors for environmental portraits and motion, that is an thrilling and really welcome addition that I hope makes its manner into future generations of the remainder of the mirrorless lineup from Nikon.

Nikon Z9 Remote Connection

A minor function I used to be personally enthusiastic about was the 10-pin distant controller connection on the entrance of the digital camera physique, which makes it potential for me to make use of my previous intervalometers from the DSLR days as soon as once more and due to this fact makes it simpler to shoot regular whereas utilizing the 400mm efficient view with the teleconverter related.

The grip feels implausible and is an ideal slot in my hand and the steadiness of the digital camera felt very even whatever the lens or orientation of the system when held.

The buttons on the again and the small show on the highest could be illuminated by pulling the on-switch over an additional notch, making it simpler to see the place the whole lot is in decrease mild conditions. This features a evening mode that may change the show from its regular shiny state to a subdued pink for “astro” viewing.

Nikon Z9 Top View

Nikon Z9 Side Port Connection options

Lastly, let’s speak in regards to the pace that’s obtainable on this digital camera. Once I reviewed the Alpha 1 final yr, it blew me away the way it was potential to only hold capturing and capturing in a burst mode, to the purpose the place it felt as if my palms have been going to cramp up earlier than the buffer would fill. I acquired that very same feeling once more after which some when capturing with the Z9.

Out of the field, the digital camera can shoot at 20 FPS RAW in high-speed mode and 10 FPS on low with a number of choices in between these two settings. As well as, the digital camera is able to capturing as much as 120 FPS when capturing 11-megapixel JPEGS solely, making it a fully insane sport changer for capturing high-speed movement like sports activities, wildlife, and auto racing for the needs of web-resolution completed photographs. After the newest firmware was added, it’s potential to get upwards of 1,000 frames in a burst (compressed RAW/JPEG/HEIF format) with out hitting filling the buffer.

Battery Life

A fast observe on battery life: we’ve talked about this earlier than, however no matter technique CIPA is utilizing to calculate battery life in cameras must be utterly overhauled as a result of the 800 pictures they rated this new 3,300mAh battery to final per cost is woefully inaccurate. It’d really be probably the most inaccurate ranking but.

On the day I examined the digital camera’s autofocus system on automobiles, I shot effectively over 1,200 frames in bursts, after which a number of different auxiliary pictures, and the battery was listed as having an 88% cost on the finish of the day. To me, that’s wildly spectacular battery life in comparison with the earlier generations of mirrorless cameras from Nikon (or every other producer).

Autofocus Efficiency


To name the Z9’s autofocus (AF) an upgraded system from the earlier technology of Nikon cameras can be a large understatement. There are all kinds of AF modes and settings obtainable, every that may be advantageous tuned and have supplied suggestions primarily based on what kind of topics are being shot.

Like the opposite latest Nikon cameras, the Z9 comes with the attention and physique detection AF for people and animals, even from a formidable distance away (as confirmed with the 400mm pictures of some hawks under). In keeping with Nikon, the AF system within the digital camera can acknowledge as much as 9 completely different topics in a body, permitting for fast switching of the attention focus utilizing the joystick to maneuver left or proper in a shot.

Remember, nevertheless, that this performance shouldn’t be current when utilizing the 3D AF monitoring mode. Whereas it will possibly discover and lock onto a topic’s eye, it will possibly shift to a different half if the topic strikes round within the body or is blocked by one other. There’s a fairly spectacular collection of AF and monitoring modes obtainable with the Z9 and you may get much more element on every in Nikon’s Sports activities AF suggestion information.

Nikon Z9 AF mode button

With the addition of the AF button on the aspect of the digital camera, it is vitally simple to rapidly change AF modes on the fly ought to the necessity come up. I introduced the digital camera out to a charity hockey sport, tried some impromptu fowl watching, and tracked fast-moving automobiles on a winding street within the hills of Los Angeles as a part of this evaluation, and located in all conditions the digital camera gave me spectacular outcomes.

To check the automotive monitoring mode (and burst hearth in RAW), I locked the digital camera down on a tripod and fired it through a distant controlle as soon as a automotive got here across the bend, chosen utilizing the contact display screen on the again of the digital camera. From there I simply held the set off down till the autos have been out of the body (coming and going). For the GIF under, as soon as the primary automotive was nabbed, I shot in low (10 FPS) mode for 241 frames at 400mm (70-200mm f/2.8 VR S with 2x TC) 1/320 at f/5.6 (and ISO 80 for these ).

Autofocus Tracking of fast-moving cars in a winding road

I had mess with among the settings, however it’s clear that the AF locks on the lead incoming car till it hits the sting of the body and an outgoing truck takes over. From there it follows the truck till it goes out of the road of sight and a brand new incoming automotive is now the principle AF goal. From what I’ve examined, it’s potential to regulate the monitoring speeds to stick with or shift from a goal sooner or slower. These outcomes actually impressed me, and that continued even in extremely low mild situations just like the hockey sport the place the typical ISO I had to make use of anyplace between 3,600 and 25,000.

I discovered that capturing up shut with the attention AF monitoring was nonetheless impressively quick (particularly when in comparison with my experiences with earlier Nikon mirrorless cameras) and correct. As somebody who wears glasses and contacts, I discover myself counting on the autofocus in motion conditions and the Nikon Z9 proved itself to be the quickest and most correct autofocus system I’ve ever examined.

The one factor I may say adverse in regards to the autofocus on the Z9 is that it’ll require you to decide on some fairly particular modes in fast-paced environments with a purpose to maximize its efficiency whereas the Sony Alpha 1 felt prefer it was sensible sufficient to know what you wished to concentrate on out of the field and simply go. Granted, these are very minor setting adjustments that need to be made and that is very a lot a nitpick, however that’s my job.

Human Face/Eye AF tracking on Z9 in a rapid fire burst

One thing else price mentioning right here is whereas many mirrorless programs provide steady capturing as an choice, the Nikon Z9 has zero blackouts when capturing in bursts, which places it in a really unique membership of cameras that may do that. With a number of setting tweaks within the menu, it’s potential to maintain the show absolutely energetic and unimpeded which lets you hold observe of the topic and guarantee framing is all the time precisely the way in which you need it throughout a shoot.

Picture High quality

The Nikon Z9 incorporates a 45-megapixel sensor with an improved vibration compensation mechanism for as much as six stops of shake compensation when utilized in tandem with suitable lenses.

For some reference photographs, I’ve included a number of samples captured of some hawks that simply occurred to swoop by as I used to be capturing a sundown of the Los Angeles skyline. Every picture features a 400mm f/5.6 shot with auto changes made in Adobe Lightroom Traditional and a 66% zoom crop centered on the fowl(s) for every body. I had the system mounted on a Manfrotto tripod and ball-head set to free in order that it was simple to maneuver with the hawks and comply with them across the space, however that additionally made it “tougher” for the digital camera’s autofocus and stabilization to deal with my movement.

In consequence, there have been some pictures that missed focus the place the digital camera would seize the background to concentrate on as an alternative of the animals, however I do consider that was attributable to consumer error as this occurred early on once I was nonetheless getting aware of the AF modes on the Z9. However for the sake of transparency, I felt that I ought to point out it.

The RAW information from the Z9 have supplied among the cleanest photographs I’ve ever captured with a Nikon mirrorless system, with the one limitation and hindrance of the information inside Adobe Digital camera Uncooked and Lightroom Traditional, Photoshop, and Seize One on the time of evaluation. Extra on that under.

Noise Discount and Excessive ISO

The Excessive ISO efficiency of the Nikon Z9 has been the very best of any digital camera I’ve used to this point, together with my earlier go-to Sony programs for nightlife capturing. Even only a fast export instantly from the digital camera to my smartphone utilizing Nikon’s Snapbridge app, I discovered that photographs shot at 10,000 ISO and better are extra usable than I’ve ever encountered.

However that doesn’t imply there aren’t any points. At the moment, the dealing with of the Nikon NEF uncooked information from the Z9 leaves you with a fairly considerably completely different colour profile and noise sample (grain) than Nikon really desires you to get. Evaluating the information between Adobe and Nikon’s NX Studio software program wouldn’t have actually been a standard a part of my testing routine, however because of a Excessive ISO article posted on PetaPixel previous to this evaluation, reader and photographer Reed Hoffmann found a obtrusive distinction within the RAW dealing with between the apps.

Hoffmann observed that Adobe’s interpretation of NEF information felt off, and noise was lots worse than what can be seen in the event that they have been processed thdorugh Nikon’s NX Studio software program. After he introduced this to our consideration, I needed to try it out for myself and was shocked on the distinction.

Under is an instance of a excessive (25,600) ISO picture of my canine Harley with solely the lens profile for the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens utilized and the brightness and publicity bumped up about 15 to 25%; each different management and slider was disabled.

ISO 25600 RAW Nikon NX
ISO 25600 RAW Nikon NX
ISO 25600 Adobe RAW
ISO 25600 Adobe Lightroom RAW
Adobe Lightroom Classic RAW Noise
Noise and Colours introduced with Adobe Lightroom Traditional (RAW)
Nikon NX Studio RAW (Noise Processing)
Nikon NX Studio Noise and Colours RAW

You possibly can see how the Nikon NX Studio software program not solely interprets the NEF colour profiles somewhat extra true to life and the quantity of grain and noise current within the photographs are wildly completely different.

We now have already reached out to Adobe with these findings and, hopefully, that results in a greater ACR profile by the point most individuals are capable of get their palms on a Z9. Till that occurs although, when you’ve got excessive ISO Z9 information, it will likely be definitely worth the time to do the bottom processing in NX studio as an alternative of Adobe earlier than shifting the information to Photoshop or different apps for continued processing.

Under are some additional examples of excessive iso photographs processed with Adobe Lightroom Traditional (click on to view the bigger decision).

Z9 at 2,000 ISO
Z9 at 2,000 ISO
Z9 at 2,000 ISO
Z9 at 2,000 ISO
Z9 at 10,000 ISO
Z9 at 10,000 ISO
Z9 at 20,000 ISO

LA Skyline at Sunset - 400mm nikon z9

Z9 Portrait Test with Petzval 55mm f/1.7

Z9 Holiday Portrait of Harley Stark with Westcott Lighting

LA Skyline - 400mm nikon z9

Charity Hockey League Z9 and 70-200mm f/2.8 with 2x TC

28mm z9 portrait Test (natural Light)

Hazy Landscape Z9 Dusk Test

Z9 Backlit Portrait Test (Dynamic Range)

Bokeh with nikon z 70-200mm and 2x TC (f/5.6) at 400mm

Sunset Supercar Photo Taken with Z9

Nikon Z9 Hockey Action

Vertical Landscape Shot at Dusk Nikon Z9

Dusk Landscape z9

The Z9 Makes Different Cameras Really feel Like Antiques

The Z9 is well probably the most addicting digital camera I’ve ever shot with. As I’ve mentioned above, and to almost each different photographer buddy I do know, going again to capturing with my Z6 II looks like stepping again in time 10 years and capturing with an vintage. There actually is nothing flawed with any of the opposite Nikon Z cameras, however there’s simply one thing so particular in regards to the Z9 that I’ll by no means be capable of neglect or transfer previous till I get one for myself. Every little thing else simply feels insufficient.

The buffer and burst hearth capability of the system is completely unimaginable and is paired with one of many quickest autofocus programs I’ve ever seen. The outcomes I communicate of are when the Z9 is paired with native Z glass. And whereas sure, utilizing the FTZ and F mount glass nonetheless works a lot better than on different Z programs, however the efficiency with native glass is simply mind-blowing by comparability.

The Eye-AF for folks and pets is loopy quick and correct, even when the themes are very small within the body. As soon as the system detects an eye fixed or face to lock on to, it’ll stick with that topic till they’re out of body or utterly blocked by one thing else.

In case you are a shooter that already has Nikon glass, an FTZ mount, or any of the present Z system cameras or lenses, on the very least, it is a system you might want to do your self a favor and hire for a weekend of motion and wildlife images. Whereas skilled sport and wildlife shooters will get probably the most profit out of the digital camera’s insane connectivity choices for on-site and speedy file supply for any publications that want “as-it-happens” photographs, for me it was the extent of consolation the Z9 afforded me. I’ve by no means been as joyful capturing Nikon as I used to be with a Z9 in my palms.

There are after all some issues that might be tweaked to make it somewhat easier to make use of out of the field or regulate whereas actively capturing, however past that little studying curve, it’s actually top-of-the-line programs for motion, sports activities, wildlife, and the whole lot in between that I’ve had the pleasure of testing and dealing with — and I’ve used the Alpha 1 extensively.

Are There Options?

The variety of true rivals to the Z9 is a brief record. The upper decision $6,896 Sony Alpha 1 (with grip) or the $5,999 higher low-light performing however far decrease decision Canon EOS R3 are choices if you wish to keep on with the newest and best in mirrorless. Lots of the advantages these cameras convey don’t exist in DSLRs, so despite the fact that the $6,499 EOS 1DX Mark III DSLR is an choice, it’s not notably aggressive.

Ought to You Purchase It?

Sure. In case you are already a Nikon photographer, the Nikon Z9 is by far, the very best system the corporate has ever made.


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