The Nikon Z9 is getting a lot more powerful thanks to a free firmware update that adds 12-bit RAW video to the camera at up to 8K at 60 frames per second, oversampled 4K at 60 frames per second, a pre-release image capture button and much more.
The updates to the Z9 are so comprehensive that it could easily have made up a Z9 Mark II (just look at the minor differences between the Sony Alpha 9 and the Alpha 9 II). Instead, Nikon will ship them for free to all Z9 owners later this month.
Takes video recording seriously
The updates to the Z9 make Nikon’s flagship camera a serious video powerhouse. With the new Firmware 2.0 update, the camera can record 12-bit internal RAW video at a variety of frame rates and resolutions, as well as add features and interface adjustments tailored specifically to videographers.
Recordings can now be recorded at up to 8.3K at 60 frames per second in Nikon’s new N-RAW format or up to 4.1K at 60 frames per second in ProRes RAW HQ. N-RAW recordings are recorded at up to 8.3K (8256 × 4644 pixels), allowing for export in UHD or DCI 8K aspect ratio. Nikon says that N-RAW (which appears as a .NEV file) contains all the depth and detail of a 12-bit RAW video and plugs it into a file half the size of equivalent ProRes RAW HQ files . This feature is probably made possible thanks to Nikon’s integration with TicoRAW.
Nikon says that this upgrade allows the Z9 to capture the greatest possible color depth (with a range of more than 68 billion colors) and a huge amount of dynamic range, which is extremely useful for colorists and editors. N-RAW recordings can be recorded in 8.3K 60p, 24p or 4.1K 120p, 60p, 30p, 24p in full-frame / FX mode, 3.8K 120p with a 2.3x crop or 5.3K 60p, 230p with a DX (1.5x) crop. Everything recorded in N-RAW is accompanied by an MP4 proxy file.
4K shooting is also improved, and 4K 60 frames per second. second footage can now be oversampled from 8K footage. In addition to these enhancements, Nikon is releasing a set of other upgrades to the flagship camera.
First, a red “REC” frame indicator on the screen and the viewfinder will be added during recording to easily identify when a video is being recorded.
A Waveform monitor comes that allows the shooter to confirm the brightness levels and the position of the subject during shooting.
A new dedicated video info display provides various video recording settings at a glance, such as image size and speed, audio settings, codec, bit depth and HDMI output settings, all of which can be confirmed on a single screen. In addition, a frame rate / size display on the top control panel helps confirm when the rear screen is difficult to see.
Four other video features also come to the Z9:
- A “Fine ISO control (Mode M)” enables exposure adjustment in steps of 1/6 EV for ultra-precise and smooth changes in the exposure.
- The Fixed AF-ON function allows a user to assign different AF speeds to separate controls. From a slow rack focus to a fast transition, two speeds can now be assigned to custom buttons to improve video recording efficiency.
- To enable slow-motion video recording of extremely dark scenes or to intentionally introduce blur when recording video in M mode, the shutter speed can be set to a slower than 1 / frame rate.
- With selected frame rates and resolution settings, the user now has the option to save consecutive images in a selected section of video recordings as a series of JPEG images while playback is paused.
But that does not stop with software improvements. Nikon has also revealed that it plans to release a new camcorder-style grip for the Z9 and a new first-party CFexpress card.
The company is developing the MC-N10 Remote Grip, which controls Nikon Z-mounted mirrorless cameras via a wired connection. Nikon shows the handle attached to a floating main arm, which provides many of the buttons found on the camera itself, but is located in a more advantageous place for use in professional video workflows. Although it’s primarily for video recording, Nikon states that it will also work for still images.
Nikon’s MC-CF660G CFexpress Type B memory card comes in the unconventional capacity of 660 GB and promises a maximum read speed of approximately 1700 MB / s and a maximum write speed of approximately 1500 MB / s. The card is, not surprisingly, designed to work well with the Z9 camera.
Nikon did not provide pricing or availability for the MC-N10 Remote Grip as it is still under development, but the MC-CF660G CFexpress Type B memory card is slated for release in June for $ 730.
Updates for photographers too
Nikon’s Z9 updates offer huge performance gains for video recorders, but photographers have not been forgotten. To begin with, Nikon is adding a Pre-Release Capture feature, which it says will make it easier for photographers to find fast-moving subjects that are difficult to predict. This feature allows the Z9 to take a series of pictures up to a second before the shutter-release button is pressed all the way down.
“Imagine trying to predict the most crucial moment in a game or action sequence,” Nikon explains. “When shooting at 30 or 120 frames per second in High-Speed Frame Capture +, the camera starts recording for up to a full second before the shutter is fully pressed, giving the photographer extra time to release the camera and still take the most From the moment a receiver jumps for a pass in the end zone, or a bird dives into the water for a meal, the fastest volatile images will be captured before a human can react physically. capture images up to a full second before and up to four seconds after the shutter-release button is pressed all the way down, without any blackout in the viewfinder or interference that would otherwise interrupt the operation. “
Nikon has also added a new menu feature called Motion Blend. This feature, found in the Retouch menu, creates an overlay in the camera from a range of subject movements from continuous shooting to a single image in the camera.
Nikon also adds 20 types of Custom Wide-Area AF selection patterns, which give photographers more control over which part of the frame they want to focus on. As shown below, this is useful for a variety of sports and situations, such as volleyball or a goal line. 12 of these patterns are available for video recording.
Firmware 2.0 also improves AF stability, tracking performance, and subject detection in low light situations. In addition, users now have the option to skip to the first image in a given series when reviewing images. Finally, to capture star traces and long exposures, Firmware 2.0 enhances the Z9’s Long Exposure screen to include a live count of exposure time. Users can now also dim the viewfinder further and with greater precision to maintain power and their night vision.
Nikon has a host of other general feature updates that round out the sheer number of changes coming to the Z9:
- Optional increment to 120 frames per second on the electronic viewfinder
- Auto Exposure (AE) has been improved to have more stable exposure with human faces, such as when a subject turns away from the camera and then faces it again, or when the composition changes.
- Enhanced “Prioritize Search” screen mode provides a familiar recording and review flow.
- “Prefer Selector Center” has been added to the custom menu, which improves the operation of the selector.
- Improvements in AWB, even when the scene changes quickly, and adjustments to “Select color temperature” and preset manual WB.
- A new custom setting: Focus point selection speed allows users to adjust the speed at which AF points can be moved through the frame.
- For confirmation of high-speed shooting, visual shutter indicators are clearly shown on the display and Real Live Viewfinder.
- Improved memory setting / recall function enables instant recall of multiple focus positions.
- “Recall Recording Functions (Hold)” has been added to the conventional “Recall Recording Functions”, allowing users to retain the recalled function without constantly pressing a button.
- The ability to change focus / control ring roles helps photographers who do not need manual focus use the control ring.
Price and availability
All in all, Nikon’s Firmware 2.0 is a huge update for photographers and filmmakers with a host of new features and several notable improvements over existing ones. The firmware update is free and can be downloaded on April 20 from Nikon’s website.
Nikon also updates both the Z7 II and Z6 II with better autofocus performance in firmware version 1.40, available same day, which improves the stability of autofocus and prevents the focus point from accidentally moving to the background.
Image credit: All photos lent by Nikon.