Nikon Z 9 Announcement & Two New Z Lenses

It’s been a rough go for Nikon recently. Lay-offs, disappointing sale numbers, and more. They’ve taken a back seat to huge industry releases, like the Sony a1 and Canon EOS R3. Nikon needed something big.

In March, we got win that Nikon was developing a new mirrorless camera, the Z 9. But little information was divulged. Nikon took a new marketing direction with the Z 9 release. Instead of laying low like usual, they’ve slowly been building up hype for the camera via teasers and spec leaks.

Nikon set the bar quite high for themselves and many were wondering if the camera being hyped, was even plausible.

Yesterday, the official announcement of the Nikon Z 9 took place, and…and well, wow. What a camera. Nikon has finally hit a home run with the Z 9. It seems Nikon took all of the Z systems faults to heart, and made massive improvements to propel the Z 9 to class-leading specifications and performance.

For a camera offering 45.7 MP, the Z 9 has the world’s fastest still image frame rate of 120 fps, the world’s fastest scanning speed, best in-class 8K video capabilities, and the world’s first truly blackout free electronic viewfinder. And the best part, it’s only $5,500.

On top of that, Nikon also released two new lenses and announced the development of another. The Z 24-120mm f/4 S and Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S were released. The development of the Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S was announced. A new FTZ II adapter was released with these new lenses too.

This is a massive release for Nikon in every way. I’ve shot Nikon my entire career, but I’ve spent a lot of time shooting other systems. A huge flaw for the Z system was the lack of a native telephoto option beyond 200mm. Nikon users can now welcome a native Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. The 24-120mm f/4 S offers a fantastic range too for many photography applications. The system is finally much more complete and enticing.

Nikon Z 9

Price: $5,499

Shipping ETA: Mid-December

Key Specifications

  • 7MP FX-Format Stacked CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 7 Image Processor
  • 8K30p and 4K120p Video, 10-Bit Internal
  • Up to 20 fps Raw, 30 fps JPEG Shooting
  • 493-Point Phase-Detection AF System
  • AI-Based Subject Detection and Tracking
  • Blackout-Free Real Live Viewfinder
  • 2″ 4-Axis Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Vertical Grip, 2x CFexpress Type B Slots
  • 5 GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GNSS

New Sensor & Processor

The Z 9 features a newly developed Nikon sensor and a EXPEED 7 Image Processor. A 45.7 MP BSI-stacked CMOS sensor. The stacking design is new for Nikon, and similar to what we see in the Sony a1. The stacked design enables the Z 9 to achieve lightning-fast readout speeds and minimal rolling shutter. These speeds don’t come at a cost, as the BSI design still allows for excellent detail, clarity, and noise performance.

The new sensor allows for high-data 8K video recording too, thanks to those fast-processing speeds – video can be captured internally at 10-bit, 4:2:2 using ProRes codecs at up to 8K30 and 4K120.

Here are some highlights:

  • 10x Faster than a Z7 II
  • Shooting speeds of 20 fps in RAW, 30 fps in JPEG, and 120 fps for 11 MP stills, full AF/AE performance at every speed.
  • Able to buffer over 1000 raw images in a burst, meaning raw image sequences can be recorded for approximately 50 seconds continuously.
  • New High Efficiency RAW file format – 30% smaller for faster speeds.

Body

The body of the Z 9 is different from any other Z camera. Inside the actual body, we see a drastic change too – an electronic-only shutter.

The Z 9 has exceptional ergonomics, much like the other Z cameras. The Z 9 gets an integrated vertical grip, which is great for switching orientation. It’s a similar to design to Nikon’s D6, except the Z 9 is 20% smaller (with weather sealing and all).

The new LCD on the Z 9 stands out to me. It’s a 3.2″ 2.1m-dot four-axis tilting touchscreen LCD. It’s Nikon’s first camera that has a four-axis tilting LCD, and I can’t wait to test it out. The four-way tilting design should make it easy to view the LCD no matter how you have your camera setup.

The Z has dual CFexpress Type B memory card slots that allow for the high read/write speeds required for continuous shooting and 8K video recording.

Other cool features are a sensor shield that protects the sensor when changing lenses and backlit buttons. The other Z cameras do not have backlit buttons and I wish they did, many of Nikon’s DSLRs do. It’s nice to see this update with the Z 9.

Autofocus

Nikon was going to live or die on the AF system of the Z 9. And I mean that literally. If they couldn’t produce a class-leading system to compete with Sony and Canon, they were going to be in serios trouble.

Well, it appears they were able to, and Nikon says performance is better than other in-class cameras.

The Z 9 uses a 493-point phase-detection AF system that covers the entire sensor. The high speeds of the Z 9 benefit the system, as AF readings occur at up to 120 fps. T

Low-light focusing on the Z 9 is possible own to -8.5 EV and a new Starlight mode is introduced, making it much easier to acquire focus in dark environments.

The biggest step forward for the Z 9 and Z series are the new algorithms.

Nikon states that the new Subject Detection Algorithm allows the Z 9 to automatically detect and track the world’s largest range of subjects—people, dogs, cats, birds, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trains and planes—in stills and video with no menu changes. The Z 9 also features enhanced Eye-AF features. Additionally, the Z 9 is the first Z series camera to get 3D Tracking. This is a mode seen on Nikon DSLRs, but it will debut with the Z 9.

In early comparisons and reviews, the Z 9 appears to have an incredible AF system, definitely on par or beyond what Sony and Canon have implemented. A huge success for Nikon, and their crux.

New Nikon Lenses

Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S

[100-400 pic]

Price: $2,699

Key Specifications

  • Z-Mount Lens/FX Format
  • Aperture Range: f/4.5 to f/40
  • Six Super ED and Two ED Glass Elements
  • ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coatings
  • Multi-Focus Stepping Motor AF System
  • Vibration Reduction Image Stabilization
  • Programmable Control Ring
  • Inner Balance Technology
  • Information OLED Panel and L.Fn Button
  • Weather-Sealed Design, Fluorine Coating

Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S Lens

[24-120 pic]

Price: $1,099

Key Specifications

  • Z-Mount Lens/FX Format
  • Aperture Range: f/4 to f/22
  • Three ED and Three Aspherical Elements
  • One Aspherical ED Glass Element
  • ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coatings
  • Multi-Focus Stepping Motor AF System
  • Programmable Control Ring & L.Fn Button
  • Weather-Sealed Design, Fluorine Coating

Final Thoughts

Today’s release is a major success for Nikon. I’ve always enjoyed Nikon’s camera offering, but I was getting disheartened with the lack of new releases and native lenses. The Z 9 and new lenses are exactly what Nikon needed to get back into the mirrorless game.

The Z 9 is Nikon’s new flagship camera. The AF system seems incredible and finally on par with Canon and Sony. Going beyond that, the Z 9 is the fastest camera out there with the new processor and sensor. It has excellent burst rates and the video features are incredible.

It’s a home run for Nikon and Nikon finally has some momentum in the mirrorless realm. I think the Z 9 is best for the wildlife/action photographer. There’s no doubt it would make a great landscape camera as well.

I think we can start to wonder what’s next for Nikon too – perhaps an ultra-high-resolution Z 8?

The lens announcements are extremely exciting too, especially the Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6

The Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 finally gives Nikon a pro-grade 100-400mm offering, that was much needed. 100-400mm is a great focal length for landscape and wildlife photographers. I think wildlife photographers can look forward to the new 400mm, 600mm, and 800mm primes that are on their way too.

The Z system is complete in my opinion. I think Nikon offers some of the best bodies and files. And now Nikon has native Z lens offerings from 14-400mm. Nikon users can now look forward to what the future has in store.

I also think it’s an all-out battle amongst Canon, Sony, and Nikon now. You can’t go wrong with any of the three systems, all three have pros/cons. The competition is sure making it awesome for us photographers. We are seeing innovative cameras and lenses, and features that make it easier for us to be more creative in the field and capture incredible images.

Matt Meisenheimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin.  His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.

Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.

As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.

You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com


Don’t miss the next session of BCJ Live!

Managing Your Photo Library
with Russell Graves 

Thursday, December 9th, 2021
11 am – 12 pm Mountain Time

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