Nikon Z9: 45MP BSI Sensor, 160 FPS, and More

It’s hard to believe, but Nikon first announced the development of the Nikon Z9 all the way back in March. Now, in August, we’re finally getting wind of what the Z9 will be all about, and it’s impressive, extremely impressive.

It’s been a lackluster year for Nikon. Poor financial performance and a lack of supply leading to delays has mainly been responsible for that. COVID has seriously affected the supply chain for technology, and all manufactures are feeling it. Although Canon has released many more lenses for the RF mirrorless mount, have fun trying to find stock for quite a few. So, Nikon isn’t the only one fighting, but they definitely need to make an impact as Nikon users are opting for Canon and Sony. 

The Nikon Z9 could be what many are waiting for, I personally still think Nikon needs more pro lenses, but those could be coming too. The Z9 was on showcase at the Olympics and leaked specs have slowly come out. There’s no doubt the Nikon Z9 will be Nikon’s flagship camera and one that competes for the title ‘Best camera out there’.

So, what do we know? A lot actually. And we even know we can expect its release within the next two months. See more below. 

Sensor
Rumors are saying the Nikon Z9 will feature a 45 MP stacked sensor (8256 x 5504px). Some are saying it’s BSI and others are saying CMOS. The important feature is it’s a stacked sensor. Stacked sensors allow for excellent image quality at high resolutions. They also provide capabilities for extremely fast burst shooting, an area where Nikon needs to catch up with the likes of the Sony A1 and Canon R5. 

The Z9 will be extremely fast with this new sensor. We don’t know exactly how fast, but mentions of 120-160 FPS in a low-resolution mode (6 MB) have been swirling around. It seems similar to the sensor in the Sony A1 so I think we can expect at least 30 FPS in high resolution modes, or 20 FPS shooting at the highest quality modes. 

Oh, and blackout free EVF shooting – a huge plus for wildlife photography. 

A cool new feature to be implemented with the Z9 is a multi-blade leaf protector that covers the sensor during lens changes. Seems like a simple addition, but it should be a great way to keep dust off the sensor. 

Autofocus
The Z series cameras are some of the best I have used. I think they have the best image quality out there when compared to the competition. But, their flaw is autofocus capabilities. They do not keep up with Sony or Canon when it comes to fast-moving subjects or wildlife. 

That should change with the Z9 (if it doesn’t, Nikon will be in trouble). The Z9 will have Face and Eye AF that works with people and animals, as well as a new automobile AF mode. We don’t know specifics, but it will have improved 3D tracking and low light capabilities own to -7 EV.

All these specs are impressive and if the Z9 desires to be a flagship model, it will need AF features and performance that compete at the top. All signs point to that happening, but we need to see the Z9 perform when its released.

Additional Features
The Z9 is rumored to have built-in GPS featuring GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System). GNSS is a form of GPS, but it is more accurate, robust, and reliable. The Z9 will be the first consumer camera to feature the technology. 

The Z9 is also bringing a much different body from the Z6 and Z7 series cameras. It will have an integrated vertical grip with new controls. There will also be a third joystick selector, we’ll have to wait and see what function it has. 

Nikon is also creating a new articulating screen for the Z9. We don’t know specifics though. The EVF should be excellent, probably 5.76 MP or even 9K MP. 

Subjective, but rumors are also saying the noise handling and dynamic range will be the best of any camera available. I’d expect this to be true as the Z7 II has some of the best metrics when it comes to noise and dynamic range. 

The Z9 will also be able to do 16-bit RAW files, a step up from 14-bit on the Z7 II. 16-bit files mean more leverage in post processing. The ability to push/pull highlights and shadows, as well as color will be much better than 14-bit files. 

A new menu system, or at least a menu system with additional features to fine-tune shooting is coming in the Z9. There will be two XQD/CFX type B memory card slots, no SD. I assume the speed and quality of the Z9 will require high speed cards that only XQD/CFX can offer. 

We are also going to see Nikon’s first 8K camera. It should be able to also do 4K120. I really hope that all those modes, at least the 4K modes are 4:2:2 10-bit, as Sony and Canon have done it with the A1 and R5. Nikon is behind on internal video quality so I hope they get on track with the Z9.

Price
The Z9 will be Nikon’s flagship and priced as so. The expectation is the Z9 will cost between $6,000 – $7,000. Sony’s A1 is at $6,500 and I expect Canon’s R1 to be a similar price, if not more. 

Closing Thoughts
The Z9 looks like an awesome, awesome camera. Hopefully a lot of these rumored specs are dead on. I think the camera hinges on its AF system. If it’s better or on par with the Sony A1, I think this camera will be a slam dunk.

But, there’s no doubt the Z9 is a specialist, professional camera. Priced at $6-7k, many will shy away from it, especially with the excellent Z6 II and Z7 II options. Not everyone simply has that amount of cash to spend on a camera. But, many do have money to buy a Z6 II and some lenses. And that’s what all Nikon mirrorless users are waiting for right now, lenses. Sure, we can adapt with the FTZ, but the new mount lenses are excellent, and everyone wants more of them. Nikon is desperately in need of super tele options, like the 100-400mm. That lens needs to be released, as well as a 24-105mm f/4. 

If Nikon can release the Z9 and a few other lenses soon, I think Nikon will turn things about. The Z system is excellent, it just lacks the diversity of lenses that a system like Sony has (and Canon is doing a good job with the RF line too). 

There are rumors a 400mm f/2.8 with a built-in teleconverter will be released with the Z9. That would be great, but it would also be a specialist lens with a very high price tag. So, we will just have to wait and see what happens. 

All in all, the Z9 has the makings of the best camera you can buy. Release is slated for the next two months, but I expect stock to be a nightmare with very few receiving the camera before the end of the year. 

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

 

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