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Hands on: Nikon Z 9 Review

First Impressions

Availability

  • UKRRP: £5299
  • USARRP: $5499
  • EuropeRRP: €5999

Key Features

  • New sensor The Z 9 features a stacked 45.7-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and EXPEED 7 processor
  • Large and robust buildThe camera features grips along two sides so you can move comfortably between orientations and weighs 1340g
  • Fast speeds The Z 9 is capable of capturing RAW images at 20fps and standard JPEGs at up to 120fps
  • Advanced autofocus systemThe camera features a 493-point AF system with animal, bird, vehicle and eye tracking and 3D tracking

Introduction 

Nikon unveiled the Z 9 toward the end of 2021, naming the mirrorless shooter its most advanced flagship camera ever and “a significant step forward for both Nikon and professional imaging”. 

Wildlife photographers, sports photographers, photojournalists, fashion and commercial professionals and video creators are just a few of the areas Nikon is targeting with this launch. 

I got the opportunity to try out the Z 9 in person at Nikon’s Experience Day this month. Read on to learn more about my experience with the camera. 

While the camera was initially set to be released in December, the launch was subject to delays, meaning you’ll need to sign up to a pre-order list or Nikon’s own waiting list if you want to get your hands on the camera any time soon.

Design and display 

  • The Z 9 is large and heavy
  • Grips along two sides so you can shoot horizontally and vertically
  • Electronic viewfinder and tilting monitor

The Nikon Z 9 is an imposing camera with a large, almost square-shaped build and 1340g weight. The heaviness had me extra nervous about dropping the £5000 camera – especially as the heft of it began to weigh on my arms throughout the shoot – but the magnesium alloy design and firm grips helped the camera feel a bit more secure and rugged.

Taking a picture with the Nikon Z 9

The Z 9 is also 20% smaller and 110g lighter than the Nikon D6, making the mirrorless camera still a more lightweight option than Nikon’s flagship DSLR. 

The camera features grips on two of its lengths, along with two shutter-release buttons, making it possible to get a solid hold on the camera when shooting both portrait and landscape. Once I got used to moving between the two grips, It was comfortable to jump between the two orientations.

The top portion of the Nikon Z 9
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

There’s a 3000-nit electronic viewfinder offering a bright, real-time view of your subject with no risk of EVF blackout, along with a 4-axis vertical and horizontal tilting monitor. I found this addition especially useful when shooting from very high and low angles, where my view of the monitor would otherwise be impaired without straining my neck.

The Nikon Z 9's monitor and button layout
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Performance and features 

  • There’s a 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor and EXPEED 7 processor
  • The camera can capture RAW images at 20fps and JPEGs at 120fps
  • There’s also an advanced autofocus system with 3D tracking

The Nikon Z 9 uses a stacked 45.7-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and the EXPEED 7 processor to produce high quality images. Though, the advanced autofocus system and blazingly fast speeds are the standout features here. 

The Z 9 can capture more than 1000 full-resolution RAW frames at 20fps in a single burst, or 11-megapixel JPEGs at up to 120fps.

The camera’s speedy sensor-scan rates and shutter speeds cut down on rolling-shutter distortion to prevent images from becoming warped, and the camera is capable of reaching shutter speeds of 1/32000 while the ISO ranges from 64 to 25600, and is expandable to 32 to 102400. 

Nikon Z 9 sample photo
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Moving on to autofocus, Nikon says the Z 9 packs its most sophisticated AF system to date. The 493-point AF system includes 405 auto-area AF points (5 times more than the Z 7II), subject tracking across the frame and 10 AF-area modes for better optimisation. 

The camera is capable of locking onto people, animals, birds, vehicles and eyes, and 3D tracking is available for the first time on a mirrorless Nikon, allowing the camera to react to changes in subject position, orientation and velocity. 

Nikon Z 9 sample photo
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

I mostly stuck to shooting in Programmed Auto mode during my time with the camera, allowing me to focus primarily on the high Burst mode setting at 20fps. I also moved between focusing manually and experimenting with the continuous AF on the cyclists, dancers and BMX riders in the venue to test how quickly the AF was able to latch onto fast-moving subjects.

The Burst mode did an excellent job of capturing every moment of the action, and slower movements were no match for the AF which tracked eyes and faces with incredible precision. 

Nikon Z 9 sample photo including bikes
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

I did find that the AF wasn’t always capable of keeping up with faster subjects if they weren’t in the frame for a long enough period of time. Many of my images came out blurry or unusable when cyclists raced by, particularly when their faces were turned away or were concealed by hair or helmets.

Generally, I found I had the most success when faces were clearly visible in the frame and I allowed the AF a brief moment to track the subject before taking my photo. Though at times, even the blurry images did a nice job of capturing the motion in an image.

Nikon Z 9 sample photo portrait
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

As far as its video recording capabilities go, the Nikon Z 9 supports full-frame 8K video recording in up to 60p and 4K in up to 120p. There’s ProRes 422 HQ recording compatibility and AF/AE and Eye-Detection AF is supported while filming, though I didn’t get a chance to test this out during my short time with the camera.

Early Verdict

In the brief time I spent with the Nikon Z 9, I found it to be a large and capable camera with fast shutter speeds and a precise autofocus system.

Nikon Z 9 specs

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
Manufacturer
Video Recording
IP rating
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Release Date
Autofocus
Burst shooting (electronic shutter)
Viewfinder
Screen
Wi-Fi
Bluetooth
Number of Memory card slots
USB charging
Microphone port
Headphone port
Lens mount
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A 'hands on review' is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it's like to use. We call these 'hands on reviews' to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don't give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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