Nikon has released the Nikon Z9, their flagship mirrorless camera. They have put a ton of video features into this camera, but is it worth $5,500?
In this in-depth review of the Nikon Z9, you’re going to learn about all of the video features and functions of this camera. We evaluate the pros and cons, what we liked and what we didn’t like. Plus, we explore the high-level overview of the specs.
Additionally, we tested the dynamic range, autofocus and low light performance. Then we’re going to move on to the marketplace. What other cameras are out there that you should be considering as well? And then we’re going to end by answering the question: Should you buy this camera or not?
The Nikon Z9 can shoot up to 10-bit 4:2:2 H.265 in 8K its top resolution is 7680 X 4320. It’s capable of shooting 4K video up to 120 frames per second. Its HMDI output is UHD 8K (7680 x 4320) up to 29.97p or UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) up to 119.88p.
Weight and size
The Z9 weighs in at 2.9 lb / 1340 g with 5.9 x 5.9 x 3.6-inch body measurements. Compared to the Nikon D9, it’s a bit larger in every direction and heavier. If you were expecting the mirrorless camera to be lighter than a DSLR you’d be wrong in this case.
This camera has no shortage of assignable buttons on the Z9. There are buttons everywhere. No matter if you’re shooting vertically or horizontally, there’s going to be buttons and triggers and everything you need right there at your fingertips.
Rear monitor screen
The rear monitor has a weird screen rotation mechanism we don’t care for. However, it is a nice monitor that functions great. It has a 2,100,000-dot resolution with full touch function through the menu and for assigning focus. The brightness of the screen is bright enough to compete with the sun. Though, it definitely would be nicer if we could fully articulate the screen for monitoring or self recordings. They seem to favor this mechanism to account for the increasing trend of shooting vertical video.
It has all the typical shoot assists you would expect; focus peaking, zebras, even with tonal range, audio meters and a histogram. But that’s it, which is where it’s limited. But those are enough to get you by.
The camera has two CFExpress card slots that are backward compatible with XQD. Currently, every resolution can be captured on XQD or CFExpress. XQD is fast enough, but we imagine by the time they get to RAW, the XQD slot likely won’t be able to capture RAW. However, We won’t know until we see it.
You can capture up to 125 minutes in UHD 8K (7680 x 4320) at 29.97p (4:2:2 10-bit).
When testing autofocus we tried a lot of different settings. We had difficulty getting the right setting for shooting video. We found that the shooter would need to tap the screen to tell the camera where to focus. After talking to Nikon, we were able to change those settings to get autofocus to work the way we’d expect it to. However, we did notice that it struggled with the fast movement of the tracking subject when they went out of frame.
The Z9 shoots up to 120 fps in 10-bit. You can also shoot UHD 4K H.265 10-bit with N-Log as well as ProRes 10-bit up to 60fps also in N-Log on or off.
For dynamic range, we saw 13 stops. Though we would have liked to see a little bit more, but compared to the days of getting six and seven stops, 13 stops are nothing to scoff at.
To test the Z9’s low light capabilities, we performed an ISO ramp from ISO 100 all the way up to its highest ISO to see at what point noise was introduced into the picture.
When shooting in 4K, noise begins at ISO 800 but isn’t an issue until ISO 6400. We would use ISO 12,800 in a pinch, but we wouldn’t make a habit of it.
Now, at 8K, there was far less noise and the noise starts at ISO 6,400. It’s workable all the way up to ISO 25,006. This is a huge benefit, especially if you’re shooting that 8K to be downscaled into 4k. That means the noise there is going to be made four times smaller, and it’s going to be far less noticeable.
There are three cameras we should consider outside of the Nikon Z9.
The Nikon D6 at $6500 is a full-body, full-frame DSLR. It has a 20.8 megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor and can shoot up to UHD 4k at 30fps. It has no IBIS and very limited video features.
The Canon EOS R3 is $6,000. It’s a full-body, full-frame camera with a 24-megapixel Stacked BSI CMOS sensor. It can shoot up to 6K 60 RAW or up to 120 frames per second, and DCI 4K in 10-bit internal. It has IBIS and it can shoot in C-Log.
Sony A1 comes in at $6,500. It has a 50MP full-frame, Exmore RS, BSI, CMOS sensor. Unlike our previous recommendations, the A1 is not a full-body camera. It is a smaller mirrorless camera. It can shoot up to 8K 30p, 120 frames in 4k in 10 bit, and can shoot S-log.
Pros and cons
Pro: 8K support
The Nikon Z9 can shoot up to 8K 30 10-bit internal capture at H.265. If you’re shooting something and you need to overshoot it or re-scale it, you want that extra resolution. The camera also has N-log for that as well. If you want to shoot ProRes you can shoot up to 4K and ProRes internal as well.
Con: Strange flip-out screen
Our first con is the rear flip-out screen. This mechanism doesn’t have all that much movement compared to a fully articulating screen that we’ve seen on other mirrorless cameras that are also weather sealed. It’s over-designed, and it’s not that functional. Though we didn’t really experience any issues with it, it seems like it’s a problem waiting to happen. We’d honestly expect more from a camera at this level.
Pro: Full-size HDMI ports
This is always welcome. It’s just a pain to have to find the right HDMI adapter. Even if you have a good cable going to an external monitor or external recorder, having to have an adapter in different sizes other than full size is just cumbersome to work with. The adapters are smaller and they just don’t stay in as well. HDMI is already a somewhat weak connector. So having it even smaller is just a pain to work with. Good on Nikon for making a full-size HDMI port. Plus it’s HDMI 2.1, so it’s ready for the future. Plus, N-log is now available internally, not just externally out the HDMI.
Con: No 8K RAW … yet
Nikon teased that in 2022 they will have 8K RAW internal recording in the Z9. Though it’s something we’re excited about, it currently doesn’t exist. If you need that now, you’re going to have to wait until that firmware comes out. It’s just not going to be available upon its release. After the firmware is released, the camera will have 8K 60p RAW in N-RAW and ProRes RAW HQ, just not yet.
Should you buy this camera?
If you’re already shooting on a Nikon camera and you’re looking for a step up, there are lots and lots of video features in this camera. The image is really nice. It has nice color rendering, skin tone is nice, and it’s not terribly hard to grade the N-Log. The N-Log LUT that Nikon offers is really quite easy.
The Z9 doesn’t necessarily have more features than other cameras in its category. It does, however, function differently in ways that might make it a lot easier for you. If you need a high-resolution sensor, it beats out Canon. But if you want to compare it with Sony’s lineup, it’s really going to be a better apples-to-apples comparison.
If you’re a Nikon user, this is likely for you. It’s unlikely you’re going to jump ship for another manufacturer when you’re ready for the flagship camera. The Z9 is definitely a really great camera to use, but it had its downsides. Its autofocus wasn’t quite perfect. And we just can’t wait for that new firmware update so we can actually see what the 8K RAW looks like coming from a Nikon camera.
- Narrative Filmmaking
- Documentary Filmmaking and Journalism
- Corporate and Event Videography
- Marketing Video Production
|Lens mount||Nikon Z mount|
|Sensor type||35.9 mm x 23.9 mm stacked CMOS sensor|
|Sensor resolution||Effective: 45.7 million pixels|
|Aspect ratio||1:1, 16:9|
|Image stabilization||5-axis sensor-shift; also has electronic stabilization|
|ISO sensitivity||Auto, 64–25600|
|Shutter speed||Electronic shutter with shutter sound and sensor shield|
1/32000 to 30 Second
|External recording modes||4:2:2 8-bit UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) up to 29.97p|
|Recording limit||Up to 125 minutes in UHD 8K (7680 x 4320) at 29.97p (4:2:2 10-bit)|
|Audio recording||Built-in microphone (stereo) external microphone input (stereo)|
|Focus mode||Autofocus (AF), single-servo AF (AF-S), continuous-servo AF (AF-C), full-time AF (AF-F; available only in movie mode), predictive focus tracking manual focus (M)|
|Autofocus points||493 (single-point AF)|
|Autofocus sensitivity||-6.5 to +19 EV|
|Monitor size||3.2 in. diagonal|
|Monitor resolution||2100 k dots|
|Display type||Vertically and horizontally tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD|
|Media/memory card slot||Dual card slots compatible with either CFexpress or XQD|
|Connectivity||3.5mm audio input, 3.5mm audio output, USB Type-C (SuperSpeed USB), HDMI (full)|
|Battery||1 x EN-EL18d rechargeable Li-ion battery (Approx. 740 Shots)|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||5.9 x 5.9 x 3.6″ / 149 x 149.5 x 90.5 mm|
|Weight||47.3 oz / 1340 g (body with battery and memory)|