Nikon Z9 First Impressions Review
Is this like a full frame, digital camera obscura? I dont. What do we call this picture box picture box, nikon picture box? Bold, welcome, back dpv2 viewers. It is chris nichols here were once again coming to you guys from seattle. Weve got a very exciting product to look at. We do have a pre production. Nikon z9 to play with here today. Now were very fortunate because we actually have a couple z9s, so jordans, going to shoot the entire episode on a z9 hes going to rely on the autofocus, mostly for this episode, see how it works and shoot mostly oversampled 4k were at the shoreline. Stadium were gon na, have a couple days of shooting shoot. A lot of sports weve even got some wildlife flying around here should be a good shoot. Music. Music. All right, so carrie is still down there getting some shots, but we might as well talk about the handling right off the bat on this camera. The first thing you notice is: it definitely feels a lot and looks a lot like a classic nikon d series. Pro body i mean the grip, i do like thats a little bit skinnier its still a full size grip, but a little bit thinner a little bit more comfortable to me than maybe like a d6. You do have a vertical grip for people who are into that sort of thing, but the weight is interesting here. So with a battery and memory card were about 340 grams.
Okay and the thing about that is its its basically heavy. I mean you know when you look at something like the sony a1 or the canon eos r3 theyre really going for a pro feeling body, but definitely smaller and definitely lighter weight. This is 20 smaller than a d6, but its only 60 grams lighter basically fully loaded, and so it really does feel like a full on professional camera. Now some people are absolutely going to like the heavier weight of this camera, especially if you want to balance longer lenses, but everybody else seems to be going lighter, nikons going a different direction, thats a factor to consider. Now. I also like the fact that the controls are very reminiscent of a classic nikon d series, pro body. It should feel very similar very familiar, but i do like that. Weve got three function buttons here on the front of the body. Now that you can customize thats a nice touch, and i also like that we have this button over here now. This is very similar to what youd have on any d body like a d850, for example, autofocus control. We have it there. I can hold this down and press it and then use both my dowels to go quickly between autofocus single point, autofocus continuous or go between all my other modes like wide area pinpoint 3d tracking and so on. Now, of course, this big vertical battery grip holds our large battery.
It is an el 18 form factor, but it comes with the new d series battery. This does promise more battery life. We dont have official sepa numbers, but over the next couple days, im going to update you on that. Yes, you can, though, absolutely use all of the older enel 18 series batteries in here and the camera will usb charge anything from el18b or newer as well. So thats convenient. I am excited to see how long this thing will. Last now being the prepared traveler that i am. I brought a couple of very large, very fast sd cards, because i figure every camera planet takes an sd card somewhere, not this one. This one actually takes twin cf express cards and its a cf express b type, so you can use those or xqd. I didnt bring any of those with me, but i did steal one. So kerry rose from dp review hes, just working with our model david here and, as you can see, were using flashes, because this is an important thing, with this camera being an electronic shutter. Only no mechanical shutter, which is normally what youd use for flash exposure. Uh youre going to be concerned about the sync speed, but were getting 1 200 of a second, not bad at all, certainly puts it on par with something the sony a1 and actually slightly faster than the canon r3 Music. I like to manually meter on my scenes, like a professional.
It makes me feel like a professional Music. All right, so weve changed locations were at the jerry baker. Belladrome its been closed down for us. Weve got cyclists doing some stuff here. Very nice access, but we have a bit of a low in the action were going to talk about displays on the z9. So, first off weve got a very interesting back panel 3.2 inches just over 2 million dots touch screen, of course, but whats interesting is just how you can articulate this its very cool. I would say you kind of have like two phases. I can pull it out. Just a little bit like this, i can still get some verticality for shooting low angle stuff. I can tilt it a little bit if i then further extend it out, but even further extended out. If i want to tilt it for vertical shots, i can still do that seems robust and rugged enough i mean im not going to hang the camera from it just yet, maybe in the full review, when we dont have a nikon execs here with us, but about The only thing it wont, let you do is selfies well, the last time i checked journalists and sports photographers arent huge on selfies, but if you are this isnt the camera for you, but now lets talk about the evf worth 3.69 million dot, evf thats quite low. I mean thats like nikon z5 territory, especially when you consider what the competitions offering it is quite low.
Now i will say its a clear screen: nice optics absolutely, and i will also say that that resolution never drops when youre doing something like focusing, for example, thats. Nice, i do like that some of the other avfs they do drop in resolution when youre doing things like focusing now. Another issue that might be even more serious for a lot of sports and journalistic style. Photographers is actually the refresh rate on the screen. The evf. We dont have exact numbers, but it looks like its pretty close to 60 frames per second nowhere near 120 frames per second like some of the other evfs in this kind of competition class and thats unfortunate. Although theres no blackout when youre shooting, which is great, you might still want to have a higher frame rate just to find its easier to track fast action movement all right – so i know its not one of jordans most beautiful compositions, but i really asked to be In the shade, because its hot and i dont want to get heat stroke and pretty tired, so uh anyways lets talk about the internals of the camera. The sensor things like that now weve kind of alluded to already. This is quite a bold thing from nikon. This is a shutterless camera, no mechanical, shutter whatsoever, electronic shutter. Only and again jordan. I talked about how we think the industry is going, this direction, anyways uh, you know mechanical shutters on some of these cameras that have really fast scan rates are kind of in some ways redundant, but nikon just said lets get rid of it all together to protect The sensor when the cameras turned off youll notice, there is a very shutter like object.
There theres a closure, a protector in front of the sensor and its actually a very thick material im not going to poke at it, but it looks way stronger than a standard. Shutter would be something of course you never want to touch in any situation. Now, as for the sensor, weve got a 45.7 megapixel full frame sensor, backside illuminated stacked cmos. This is a unique sensor that we have not seen before, but its obviously very similar to what weve seen in the z7 2, at least as far as resolution goes, and they both share that base iso of 64 and on the z72 that gave us the best Dynamic range that weve seen out of a full frame sensor. We hope to see the same or better on this camera, but what that also gives us is a very fast scan speed, because if you dont have a mechanical shutter electronic shutter, only that is key from our limited testing so far were guessing that the scan speeds Around 1 270th of a second that gives us fast, flash sync speeds that gives us minimal, rolling, shutter im shooting here at the bellow drone weve got lots of sideways movement im, not seeing any rolling shutter on the posts and poles behind us. So so far, so good Music, Music lets talk about raw files and buffer rates on the z9 were gon na start with raw files, because things have changed on this camera. So first im gon na point out theres no more 12 bit raw format.
Options on this camera, its all 14 bit only which is good. The other thing i want to point out now is theyve dropped. The uncompressed raw format thats fine, because there was never really a reason to shoot. Uncompressed raws, so weve got lossless compressed. That is something we see on the other zed cameras. Now we also have high efficiency star and then high efficiency. Now high efficiency star is about half the file size of lossless compressed and high efficiency is a third the size now before we talk about buffer lets. Talk about burst rates, so this camera can shoot a maximum of 120 frames per second at 11 megapixels with autofocus tracking, and you can also set it for 30 frames per second in full resolution, but in jpeg normal quality. You have those options. They automatically downgrade your image quality appropriately, to give you those rates, but at full raw quality. You can shoot 20 frames per second now. We do normally show robot stapek, but i wanted to shoot raw right now to see what our buffer rates were, and this is what we found. It is very important what kind of speed of card you use were using a fairly fast cf express card here. There are faster cards out there, but this is what we found with our testing: okay, so first lossless compressed at 20 frames per second, i was getting about 40 shots before the camera slowed down a little bit.
So a couple second burst lossless compressed. Now, when we go to high efficiency star, which is only shooting on most of todays shots with now im getting about 70 shots in a row, so not bad a nice improvement when i go to the standard high efficiency setting now im getting basically 150 plus photos. Now nikon is saying with ideal card speed, you basically get an unlimited buffer if you use the lowest high efficiency raw setting, they see a thousand plus shots 50 seconds of shooting buffer rate, which would be impressive now over these two days of shooting im, primarily relying On 3d tracking, because i do like it its come back and thats really something that i want to try out heavily. There are a couple things i do want to say about it. First off how the subject detection autofocus is working is when that box gets close to something like a human face or human eyes. For example, it will then go gray, and then i know that if i engage focus thats where its going to jump to id like to be able to change the size of the box, you know try to get things even a bit more pinpoint or maybe open The field up the other thing i have is kind of a silly complaint to a lot of people. But honestly i dont love, nikons, yellow only auto, focusing box color. I do wish that we could easily change the color to something that might contrast against different color uniforms or different kind of lighting situations, and i honestly feel like that would be a very easy thing to set up.
But there is some customizability when it comes to silent. Shooting you see the shutter sound is purely synthetic, of course, on. This just gives you an auditory idea of when the cameras firing and when its not, but you do also have three visual aids that you can set up. So one is where the screen will just flash black almost like youre shooting a traditional slr with the mirror going up and down the second option. Is you get four lines around the outside of your frame and they will flash and that could be nice theyre, not colored theyre a little bit discreet, but you do notice in your peripheral vision and then the third option is to have two thicker gray bars on The left and right hand side that will flash either way. I do like that. I get some customizability in how that works. Its wrote here at the tacoma lawn tennis courts, and this gives a good opportunity to shoot not only outdoors but indoors. We havent been able to do that yet so you know we can see things like hows. The camera handle auto, focusing and image quality in low light situations to some degree, but also i wanted to see if theres any flicker problems, considering that we have electronic shutter. Only camera or shooting under artificial lights. So, given that we only have one light source here to test, i will say that uh with the first series of shots, i didnt have any sort of flicker protection turned on and the camera still handled it really.
Well. I didnt really notice any major exposure, changes or white balance changes and certainly no banding and thats, something that could really wreck your photo. So i was happy to see that i then turned flicker protection on its more of a classic and basic way of just seeing when the lights are at the brightest and then delaying the shot till then it worked fine. I did notice a slight delay as normal. It doesnt have sort of advanced way like the canon eos r3, where you can set your shutter speed, uh based right off of the actual hertz timings of the cycling of the lights, but it still worked very well and again with the protection off. I still didnt really have any issues now high iso, keep in mind. We can only look at the jpegs, we cannot analyze the raw and this is a preview. So all i will say is this: we got to shoot a lot of very extremely high isos in that light, and i really didnt have any issues there. It looks a lot like what wed see out of a z72 and that is to say very good. I want to talk about battery life next, first off jordans been shooting videos. Both days extensively, he hasnt been able to go below 60 ive been shooting about a thousand to 1500 images a day, albeit in burst modes, absolutely, but again, multiple shoots over the day and i havent gone below one tick on the battery life.
So i of course would love to have solid numbers, but i would say compared to something like the canon or the sony. This is probably gon na, be the best battery life that weve seen out of a flagship camera. So by far the thing that we were all most excited about when it came to autofocusing on this camera is the return of 3d tracking, and i know you know thats an slr thing originally and it was a very intuitive and effective way to start, focusing and Tracking on a subject on an slr, but you were limited by the amount of focusing points you had there here, we now have the mirrorless advantage of having far more coverage than you would ever find on slr, and now we also have the addition of the subject. Detection modes like people, animals and vehicles, and this just enhances the intelligence of that tracking system even further the face, and especially eye detection on this camera worked incredibly well. I was often amazed how small a subject could be, and yet how accurate the nikon would be. Unlocking on those eyes and really the eye detect was bang on the hit rate was incredibly high. I will say there was some situations where you know, even though you would set the camera to things like stay sticky on one subject delay before moving to another. It could still sometimes get confused by another player crossing in front or something like that, but again its pre production and those moments were few and far between.
So we shot cycling. We had a couple different issues here because of course, the riders have visors on. You cannot clearly see their eyes at all, so the camera wasnt able to pick that up when i left the subject detection in auto. It would then pick the bike, which makes a lot of sense, but it would tend to focus center mass and the riders heads were still always kind of out of focus at wide apertures. I didnt really like that. So what i found worked very well. There is having the option to turn. Subject: detection off easily that way, i could just try to get a 3d tracking box on the actual helmet. It would then just track that in a more traditional, 3d tracking way, and actually that was quite effective. The only thing im going to say there is out of the box theres, no easy or quick way to turn. Subject: detection on and off and you know in the heat of shooting. I really want to be able to do that. I dont want to have to go in the quick menu. Then go down a box then find it then choose. It then turn off. I mean its too much stuff, so i did the classic sort of nikon workaround of setting. Subject: detection as my top of my menu and then setting a custom button so that when i hit the custom button, it automatically goes there that worked very well.
But, of course, that ties up that slot id say that nikon is absolutely a strong contender in all of the sports and journalism market of having a camera that focuses very easily and very effectively. We are consistently impressed and i think the key thing is we all came away with a sense that, when shooting the z9 auto focusing is a very confidence inspiring experience. The impression im left with using the z9 pre reduction for a couple days is this. It feels like a big departure from the z6 and z7 as great as those cameras are. This really feels more like a flagship camera, a continuation of the professional d series line. Nikons really pulled out a lot of the stops here and theyre, making a camera that i think is going to compete very well with sony and canon and its going to be. An interesting battle were going to have to revisit that when we have final production of all those cameras and really kind of see, thats going to be an exciting battle, and so looking forward. This kind of leaves you with a couple questions that i want to see answered as we go into a full production camera. First off the buff rates do seem to be heavily linked to whatever kind of compression youre using for the raw file. So i really want to know what kind of image quality loss am i going to sacrifice in order to get those higher buffer rates.
We want to see how good or bad that will be, and the second thing, because this is basically the first of this kind of camera thats electronic shutter – only are there going to be any hiccups, any issues as we do more and more testing moving forward, but Otherwise, so far, this is a very impressive foray from nikon do also check out jordans video, where hes talking about all the video features of z9, so much that we couldnt just cover in one video here so youll want to check that out. That has launched. Of course, go to dpreview.com youll find our sample galleries as well as sample galleries from the other staff that were shooting at this event and therell be tons of articles about this as well.