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  • Cheryl Tan

Nikon Z9 First Look: You Can Shoot PHOTOS At 120 FPS!

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

This highly anticipated camera from Nikon, the Nikon Z9, comes with a bunch of new features and the one that has to be the most jaw-dropping is the ability to shoot photographs at 120 FPS continuous.

Do take note that the unit we tested is a preproduction unit, so between the time of the video's filming and the release, the design and other specs might be changed.

The body of this full-frame 45.7MP camera weighs 1.1kg without the battery, and 1.4kg with the battery and two cards. There's support for dual XQD and/or CFexpress Type B cards here, and the Z9 is actually the first camera in the Z series from Nikon that has a sensor shield to protect the sensor when you're changing lenses on the go and such, which is nice.

The weather sealing is similar to the Z6, but despite that, the Z9 is 20% smaller and lighter than the Z6. The button layout on the back of the camera is pretty in-line with what you get on other Nikon cameras, but what's interesting is the display. Nikon calls it the four-axis tilting monitor, and it's not like other articulating screens. The construction is really rugged and rigid and it doesn't seem like it'll spoil easily, although it does take some getting used to.

The camera itself feels great in the hand, and the Z9 is made for professionals who are doing wildlife photography, journalism and sports. With three auto-focus systems (Human, Animal and Vehicle), the Z9 actually also has an Upper Body Autofocusing System. Therefore, we tested the systems out with both a dog and a cyclist.

With the subject being an animal, we set the camera to burst mode at 20 FPS in JPG Fine and shot away. The camera's autofocus system was really fast and accurate, and when switching to portrait orientation, the Z9 automatically recognised it and the UI elements were also rotated conveniently.

With the aid of a yellow box around the subject, it was super easy to make sure that the camera was tracking perfectly.

There are also three different frame rates to choose from in the Z9. At 20 FPS you can opt to shoot in either JPG or RAW, while 30 FPS is limited to JPG only. The third option is the most interesting of the bunch, though, at 120 FPS. It does limit the camera to shooting at just 11MP in JPG, but considering the speed, it might be an acceptable trade-off.

We tested out the 120 FPS photo mode with a subject on a bicycle at a few different speeds. One thing that we did notice at the start was that when the subject was further away, the Z9 had a bit of a problem tracking him properly, although it could also be chalked up to us using this camera for the first time.

Next, we tried getting the cyclist to go at a faster pace while also changing up some of our auto-focus settings. The camera performed great, with even better autofocus tracking even when the cyclist was slightly further away. Once the subject got closer, the camera switched to eye-tracking and the photos were extremely sharp.

Moving on to video, the Z9 can shoot 8K at 30 FPS in H.265 as well as 4:2:2 ProRes 10-bit up to 4K. We did a few tests with the camera in 8K 30 FPS, 4K, N-log and SDR. As for colour profiles, there are three to choose from: HLG, Standard and N-Log.

There are some limitations to shooting in 8K though. Provided you have a fast and large enough card, you can shoot up to 125 minutes of footage only when the ambient temperature is 23 degrees Celcius.

While panning from side to side, we did notice that there was barely any rolling shutter or jagged movements, which is nice. Nikon is definitely keeping videographers in mind.

Moving on to battery life though, after around two hours of shooting with the camera in plenty of different situations, we were actually pretty amazed at how well the Z9's battery stood up. After all that, the display was showing only 1 bar down from full charge. The CIPA rating for the Z9 is 700 shots on a full charge, but Nikon Singapore informed us they tested it out over two days and got up to 2000 photos with 30% battery remaining, which is incredible.

If the battery runs out halfway though, there's the option to charge it through the USB-C port. Owners of the D4, D5 and D6 can use their cameras' batteries in the Z9 as well, even though the batteries aren't the exact same ones that the Z9 comes with. The battery in the Z9 is an improved version of the one found in the D4, D5 and D6 cameras, but the older ones will fit into the Z9 just fine.

As of right now, we don't have information on the pricing and availability for the Z9.

After using the camera for around two hours, we didn't encounter any issues with it. The autofocusing is great, being able to shoot in 8K is a nice plus and even though we were concerned about how heavy the Z9 would be at the start, the 1.4kg weight is perfectly fine.

Our one quibble with the camera would be that there are just too many buttons. Even switching ISO settings and navigating through the new revamped menu system did take some getting used to, and we found ourselves fumbling from time to time. That being said, that clearly wouldn't be a problem for users who are using these as their main camera once they familiarise themselves with it.

All in all, it's a great product by Nikon and we're definitely looking forward to doing a full review on the Z9.


Content by Ryan Mamba

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