Nikon Z9 Update is So Big, It Could Have Been a Whole New Camera

A free firmware update to the Nikon Z9 will make it even more powerful. It adds 12-bit RAW video at up-to 8K at 60 frames/second, oversampled 4K @ 60 frames/second, and a pre-release button for photo capture.

These updates to Z9 are so significant that they could have easily been a Z9 Mark II. Just look at the differences between Alpha 9 II and Sony Alpha 9. Nikon will instead send them out to Z9 owners free of charge later in the month.

Take Video Capture seriously

Nikon’s flagship camera, the Z9, has been updated to make it a serious video powerhouse. The Firmware 2.0 update allows the camera to capture 12-bit internal raw video at a variety of frame rates and resolutions. It also includes interface adjustments and functions that are tailored for videographers.

You can capture footage at up to 8.3K frames per second using Nikon’s N-RAW format. Or at up to 4.1K frames per second using ProRes RAWHQ. N-RAW footage can be captured at 8.3K (8256×4644 Pixels) and exported in UHD or DCI-8K aspect ratios. Nikon claims that N-RAW, which appears as a.NEV file, contains all the detail and depth of a 12-bit RAW footage and compresses it into a file half the size of the equivalent ProRes RAWHQ files. Nikon’s integration TicoRAW is believed to have enabled this capability.

Nikon claims that the Z9 has the ability to capture more colors (with a range greater than 68 million colors) and an enormous dynamic range. This is a great benefit for colorists and editors. N-RAW footage is available in 8.3K 60p and 24p. Alternatively, it can be recorded in 4.1K 120p. 60p. 30p. 24p. While in full-frame/FX mode at 3.8K 120p. A 2.3x crop or 5.3K 60p. 30p. 24p. with a DX (1.5x). crop. An MP4 proxy file is required for any N-RAW footage.

4K footage will also be improved. 4K 60 frames per seconds footage can now oversampled from 8K footage. Nikon will also release a number of upgrades to the flagship camera.

Firstly, a red “REC” frame indicator will be placed on the monitor and viewfinder during recording. This allows you to quickly identify when a video has been captured.

New recording indicator

Waveform monitors are coming soon that allow shooters to verify the brightness levels and the position of their subject while they record.

Nikon Z9 Waveform

The new dedicated video info screen displays various settings for video recording at a glance. This includes frame size and rates, audio settings and codec settings. Bit depth and HDMI output settings can all be checked on one screen. A frame rate/size display is located on the top control panel to help confirm that the rear monitor is visible.

New video record info screen

The Z9 will also have four additional video features:

  • For extremely precise and smooth exposure changes, a “Fine ISO Control (Mode M”)” allows exposure adjustment in increments up to 1/6 EV.
  • Fast AF-ON allows users to set different AF speeds for separate controls. Two speeds can be assigned to buttons that are customizable to increase video shooting efficiency, from a slow rack focus or a fast transition.
  • You can set the shutter speed to a lower than 1/frame rate to enable slow shutter video recording in extremely dark scenes, or to intentionally blur video in M mode.
  • You can now save successive frames from a section of video footage at different frame rates and resolutions. This allows you to pause playback while saving JPEG images.

Software improvements are not the only thing that Nikon is working on. Nikon also announced that it will release a new grip styled after the camcorder for its Z9 as well as a first-party CFexpress card.

Nikon Camcorder Grip

The MC-N10 Remote grip, developed by the company, allows for remote control of Nikon Z-mount mirrorless cameras via a wired link. Nikon shows the grip attached with a fluid arm that provides many buttons on the camera, but is in a better location to be used in professional video workflows. Nikon states that the grip is intended for video shooters but can also be used for still photography.

Nikon Camcorder Grip

The Nikon MC-CF660G CFexpress Type B card has a capacity of 660 GB. It promises a maximum speed of approximately 1700 MB/s, and a maximum writing speed of approximately 1500 MB/s. It is compatible with the Z9 camera, which is not surprising.

Nikon CFexpress type B card

Nikon has not yet provided pricing information or availability for the MC-10 Remote Grip. However, the MCCF660G CFexpress Type A memory card is due to be released in June for $730.

We have updates for photographers too

Nikon’s Z9 update features huge performance improvements for video shooters. But photographers aren’t forgotten. Nikon has added a Pre Release Capture feature to make it easier to capture fast-moving subjects. This feature allows the Z9’s to take a series of images in a fraction of a second before the shutter opens fully.

Nikon Z9 firmware update 2.0

Nikon says, “Imagine trying predict the most crucial moment in a game or action sequence.” Nikon explains that High-Speed Frame Capture+ captures 30 to 120 frames per second. This gives the photographer more time to trigger the camera while still capturing the most memorable shot. The fastest frames are captured from the moment a receiver jumps to make a pass in an end zone or a bird dives into water for food. The camera can record frames as fast as one second before the shutter is fully opened and four seconds after it closes. This happens without any distractions or viewfinder blackout.

Nikon also introduced Motion Blend, a new menu option. This new feature can be found in the Retouch menu and creates an overlay in-camera from a series subject movements taken continuously. It then produces a single image in-camera.

Nikon Z9 Motion Blend
Nikon Z9 Motion Blend

Nikon has also added 20 Custom Wide-Area Affinity AF selection patterns. This gives photographers more control over which part of the frame to focus on. This is great for many sports, such as volleyball and finishing lines. These patterns can be filmed in 12 different ways.

Autofocus box custom parameters

Firmware 2.0 improves AF stability, tracking performance and subject detection in low light situations. Users now have the ability to skip to the first shot of a particular burst when viewing images. Firmware 2.0 also includes a live count of exposure time for Z9 users who want to capture star trails or long exposures. To preserve power and night vision, users can now dimm the viewfinder with greater precision and further refinement.

Nikon offers a wide range of general functionality updates to round out the many changes that are coming to the Z9.

  • Optional 120 frames per second increase on the electronic visionfinder
  • Auto Exposure (AE), has been improved to provide a more stable exposure for human faces. This includes when a subject faces the camera from one side and then turns towards it from the other, or when the composition changes.
  • The new “Prioritize Viewfinder” monitor mode provides a familiar shooting experience and allows for easy review.
  • The custom menu now includes “Prefer subselector centre”, which improves the operation of the subselector.
  • Improvements in AWB, even in fast-changing scenes. Adjustments to “Choose a color temperature” or preset manual WB.
  • Focus Point Selection Speed is a new setting that allows users to control the speed at which AF points are moved around the frame.
  • Visual shutter release indicators and the Real Live Viewfinder are clearly visible to confirm high-speed shooting.
  • The enhanced memory set/recall function allows for instant recall of multiple focus positions.
  • The “Recalling Shooting Functions (hold)” feature has been added to the existing “Recalling Shooting Functions”, allowing users to retain the recalled function without pressing a button.
  • Photographers who don’t require manual focus can switch between control and focus ring roles with the control ring.

Pricing and availability

Nikon’s Firmware 2.0, a major update for photographers and filmmakers, offers a lot of new features as well as notable improvements to the existing ones. Nikon’s website offers the firmware update for free. It can be downloaded starting April 20.

Nikon will also update the Z7 II as well as Z6 II with improved autofocus performance in firmware 1.40. This firmware version is available simultaneously. It improves stability and prevents the focus from accidentally moving into the background.

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