Nikon Z9 update propels it ahead of major Sony and Canon rivals

Nikon Z9 update propels it ahead of major Sony and Canon rivals

The Nikon Z9 was already one of the best cameras for photography, and now a major firmware update has made it, on paper, the most powerful flagship for video as well.

Firmware update v.2.0, which will be available as a free update from April 20, brings an impressive list of new features, including video enhancements that (on paper) take it ahead of the Sony A1, the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon EOS. . A3.

The update includes a new raw video format, called N-Raw, which means the Nikon Z9 can record up to 8-bit raw 60K/12p internally, without completely destroying your workflow with storage demands.

In fact, N-Raw files apparently compress all of this information into a file that is roughly half the size of an equivalent ProRes Raw HQ file. If you prefer to edit in Final Cut Pro, you also have the option to record in ProRes Raw HQ, but only up to 4K/60p.

Perhaps more useful for shooting everyday video is the new ability to shoot 4K/60p oversampled video. Upsampling takes the native resolution of a sensor (in this case 45,7 MP) and uses that extra data to produce a 4K image with more detail (and less noise) than a cropped 4K image.

The Nikon MC-N10 remote control on a green background

Nikon is also developing the MC-N10 grip (above) for Z-mount cameras, including the Nikon Z9. (Image credit: Nikon)

Other benefits for filmmakers include new waveforms (which, like histograms, help you check your exposure in real time) and a red recording frame indicator around the edge of the screen to confirm when you're actually shooting. But the update also contains some treats for photographers.

One of the most useful for action shooters is the "burst before the exit". This allows you to anticipate important moments by pressing the shutter halfway, which will see the Nikon Z9 buffer frames for up to a second; then if a big moment happens, you can press the shutter all the way down and it'll capture a burst up to four seconds later. , also.

Interestingly, Nikon has also managed to improve the Z9's EVF (electronic viewfinder) refresh rate, which is usually only possible through a hardware upgrade. You can now bump it up to 120fps, which puts it on par with the Canon EOS R5 and Sony A1, and should make previewing smoother when training with fast-moving subjects.

The only downside is that this EVF upgrade will apparently take a toll on battery life, so it's best reserved for special occasions. Still, there's no question that these improvements, along with Nikon's announcement that it's developing a new wired Remote Grip MC-N10 accessory to control the Z9 from the outside, are big boosts in its quest to win its flagship battle. mirrorless with Sony and Canon.

Analysis: Nikon's response continues

Nikon Z9 camera perched on a tree trunk

(Image credit: Nikon)

The Nikon Z9 ($5,499 / £5,299 / AU$8,999) is a niche pro camera and many of these upgrades, especially the 8K/60p raw video, are likely to appeal to only a small subset of this niche. Considering the Z9 is only a few months old, you can also argue that the features should have been included from the start and may even have been withheld as part of its launch strategy.

Still, Nikon would be a long way from being able to do that, and the size of the upgrade matters in its battle for the flagship mirrorless crown with the Sony A1, Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R3. On paper, it's the most powerful non-film video camera and also one of the most powerful for stills.

That's partly because Nikon has chosen to make the Z9 a big, bulky professional tool that's significantly heavier than rivals Sony and Canon. It's also newer than the Sony A1, Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R3, so we can expect these two camera giants to do battle soon, either with new firmware or new camera housings.

For example, Canon is arguably yet to launch its direct rival Nikon Z9, and rumors suggest it could launch a Canon EOS R1 later this year. So the main mirrorless camera battle is probably more about the halo effect it can create around a lens system, as much as the specific tools that firmware updates like this give professionals.

However, there is no doubt that Nikon has once again shown that it is at the forefront of mirrorless camera technology with the Nikon Z9, and its fight against Sony and Canon is only good news for photographers and videographers.