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Nikon Z 9 Camera Review

John Riley has been testing the Nikon Z 9 mirrorless camera, accompanied by the recently reviewed Nikkor Z 28-75mm f/2.8 zoom lens, to find out how this flagship from the Z series performs.

| Nikon Z 9 in Mirrorless Cameras

Nikon Z 9 Camera Review: Nikon Z9

Quick Verdict

This could be the point where the Nikon Z series comes of age, with an extraordinarily versatile professional workhorse in the new Z 9. It's big and heavy, but well balanced and ergonomically very comfortable to use. The second, vertical, grip is built-in and aids handling for portrait format shots. This builds on the already great Z 7 and Z 7 II bodies, offering superb quality and supported by some incredible Z series lenses. Even the price, although inevitably high, is actually very keenly pitched in its market slot.

There is a lot to like about the Nikon Z 9.

+ Pros

  • Top class quality throughout
  • Superb range of lenses
  • Bristling with features for every eventuality
  • Weather sealing
  • VR (Vibration Reduction)
  • Extensive video capability
  • Vertical grip built-in
  • Excellent EVF
  • Fast and responsive
  • Vibration-free electronic shutter

- Cons

  • Quite bulky and heavy
  • XQD cards expensive
  • CF Express cards are very expensive


Nikon and Canon have been vying for the top spot in professional photography for some time, but now the game is afoot in earnest as we enter the world of mirrorless cameras. New heights of excellence are being achieved in both cameras and lenses, and there is no better example than the rise of the Nikon Z series. From slow beginnings, the pace has crept up and the range of lenses has increased to support the growing range of Z series bodies. The new flagship model, the Z 9, is quite a beast, so let's look at it closely, coupled up with the newly reviewed Nikkor Z 28-75mm f/2.8 zoom lens.


Nikon Z 9 Features

Nikon Z 9 Camera Review: Nikon Z9

This camera is pure traditional Nikon in its layout and handling, but under the skin is no DSLR as this is the new flagship to the Z series mirrorless range. The overall appearance has all the look of a DSLR with motor drive attached, but in this case, there is no pentaprism, rather a superb 0.5 inch (1.27cm) OLED EVF of 3.69 million dots. The viewfinder image is very easy on the eye and, apart from needing battery power to run it, is not that much different from a traditional pentaprism. The camera can be gripped either horizontally or vertically and in both cases, we have a suitably placed shutter release. The only difference is that there is no tripod socket for the vertical orientation, nor would one be possible because of the placement of all the various connections. To cater for the vertical shots there is, however, a well designed double articulated monitor. This monitor is a 3.2 inch Touch LCD of 2.1 million dots.

Another reason for the large grip is to house the gigantic battery, which is impressive in its own right. In another clever bit of design, the detachable battery cover can be clicked onto the battery itself, making it one unit. This avoids losing the cover in the field and rendering the camera useless at a critical moment. The capacity of the battery is claimed to be 740 shots, according to CIPA standards. It would be good to have a second battery cover to fit to any second battery to make changing quicker and more secure.

The CMOS sensor has a resolution of 45.7MP, the same as the Z7 II. This is enough to offer image quality of the highest level. The ISO range is from 64-25600, but it can be extended to ISO 32-102400.

Nikon Z 9 Camera Review: Nikon Z9

Built-in are GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth, so plenty of options for connectivity. There is even room for a wired LAN connection via an FJ-45 connector. Also included is a full-size HDMI socket, as well as the usual USB-C.

Focusing is a hybrid phase-detection/contrast-detection AF and this locks on quickly, accurately and silently. If needed, the frame rate can be up to 120fps, but at that point with a reduced resolution of 11MP.

Videographers have a whole host of features available, such as full HD, 4K UHD to 120p and 8K to 30p. A firmware upgrade is on the schedule to provide 8K up to 60p and this is expected in the spring.

5 axis VR (Vibration Reduction) is a huge asset and makes much slower shutter speeds viable than would have otherwise been the case. This will always vary from person to person and even day-to-day, but on this day for this photographer, a 2 stop advantage was found with crisp sharpness, a four-stop advantage if a lower level of sharpness is accepted. The difference is between critical sharpness that would make excellent giant posters and sharpness for the web or for smaller prints that would certainly be good, but not with that extra “bite”.

Nikon Z 9 Camera Review: Nikon Z9

The shutter is something new, as in the Z 9 it is purely electronic. The readout is fast enough to provide some incredible shutter speeds, up to 1/32000s and some equally incredible frame rates. One immediate advantage is that shutter release is of course totally vibration-free – no moving parts. Nikon claim that rolling shutter distortion is as low as any mechanical shutter and certainly no problem was seen during the review period. It is quite refreshing to feel no clunk of a mirror or even after the vibration of a focal plane shutter.

Fast images and high frame rates demand fast cards and Nikon have now opted to ditch SD cards for this new camera. The choice is between Sony's XQD card and the CFExpress card. Both are currently expensive choices but the CFExpress especially so. For the purposes of the review, a Sony G XQD card was used and it was absolutely fine in every respect.


Key Features

  • 45.7MP full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Media: XQD and CFExpress (Type B)
  • Shutter speeds 30 seconds to 1/32000s (Electronic shutter)
  • ISO 64-102400
  • Metering range: -6.5EV to +19EV
  • 5 axis VR
  • 20fps RAW shooting
  • 30fps JPEG shooting
  • Hybrid phase-detection/contrast-detection AF
  • Eye Detection AF for People, Animals and Birds
  • Standard and vertical grip built-in
  • Full HD and 4K UHD to 120p
  • 8K to 30p (60p to follow via firmware update soon)
  • Apple ProRes 422 HQ (10 bit)
  • H.264/AAC (8 bit)
  • H.265/HEVC (8/10 bit)
  • ISO 32-102400
  • OLED EVF with 3.69 million dots, 0.5” (1.27cm)
  • Viewfinder magnification 0.8x
  • Tilting Touch 3.2” LCD with 2.1 million dots
  • GPS
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth v5.0
  • Wired LAN via RJ-45 connector
  • 1340g incl battery
  • Battery capacity 740 shots (CIPA)
  • 9 Preset white balance choices
  • 8 Picture Control settings – Auto, Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landcape, Flat
  • 20 Creative Picture Control settings – Dream, Morning, Pop, Sunday, Somber, Dramatic, Silence, Bleached, Melancholic, Pure, Denim, Toy, Sepia, Blue, Red, Pink, Charcoal, Graphite, Binary, Carbon


Nikon Z 9 Handling

Nikon Z 9 Camera Review: Nikon Z9

This is a big and relatively heavy camera in mirrorless terms, but more compact by a good margin than previous DSLR and film SLR cameras with a similar form factor. It fits the hand beautifully, is obviously well made and all the controls are clearly of high quality. The size of the camera means that buttons are widely spaced enough not to be likely to be nudged accidentally whilst being carried. This becomes significant for this reviewer who tends to carry a camera in the right hand, without a strap and ready to raise to the eye. The suspect control tends to be the small joystick that controls the focus point and this can result in an accidental shift of that position. That is not the case with the Z 9, whereas it can be with, for example, the smaller Z bodies.

Not all controls are used all the time, many being just for setting up the camera to our own personal choices, but those that are can be rapidly accessed via a customisable i menu. There are also dedicated buttons for ISO and exposure compensation, as well as the choices available on the lens via the silent control ring.

Nikon Z 9 Camera Review: Nikon Z9

The grip on the camera is deep and comfortable and when used in the vertical orientation this is nicely duplicated, making vertical hand held shots much more stable. There is only a tripod bush for horizontal shooting, which is a pity, but it is difficult to see how the designers could have incorporated one whilst still including the large number of sockets needed for the various forms of connectivity. Both battery and cards are easily accessible with the camera on a tripod, which will be useful for studio work as well as location shooting.

The OLED viewfinder is fantastic, without a sign of flickering or distortion. As mentioned, the image is very easy on the eye and it could be used for extended periods quite comfortably. The only downside is that it needs power to look through, unlike an optical pentaprism finder. The monitor is crisp and clear and makes an easy job of using LiveView.


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Photographs taken using the Nikon Z 9

Sit !!Barn OwlGrey WagtailFossaDipper with MayflyKunoy StormDipper with catchTindholmur and DranganirShoreditch - 25 May 23 - CharlotteShoreditch - 25 May 23 - CortneyClouds on KolturLondon Colour Walk - 18 May 23 - Part 3 (Finale)Common TernLondon Colour Walk - 18 May 23 - Part 2

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11 Feb 2022 11:09AM
Having had my Z9 for a few weeks now I completely agree with the conclusion. An outstanding body to fit those outstanding Z-Mount Nikon lenses to.
sully 16 4 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2022 7:06PM
im still waiting for my z9 to turn up i keep ringing wex once a week but theirs no sign soon Sad

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