Nikon Z9 Review

Camera Reviews / Nikon Cameras / Nikon Z i Now Shooting!
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon Z9
Resolution: 45.70 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(35.9mm x 23.9mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 64 - 25,600
Extended ISO: 32 - 102,400
Shutter: 1/32000 - 900 sec
Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 3.6 in.
(149 x 150 x 91 mm)
Weight: 47.3 oz (1,340 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $5,500
Availability: TBD
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon Z9 specifications

Your purchases support this site

Buy the Nikon Z9
Nikon Z 35mm
size sensor
image of Nikon Z9
Front side of Nikon Z9 digital camera Front side of Nikon Z9 digital camera Front side of Nikon Z9 digital camera Front side of Nikon Z9 digital camera Front side of Nikon Z9 digital camera

Nikon Z9 Preview - Now Shooting!

by Jeremy Gray | Originally published: 10/28/2021

01/ 04/2022: Gallery Images added
01/14/2022: Hands-on Review added

Click here to jump down to our in-depth Nikon Z9 Product Overview


Nikon Z9 Hands-on Review

Is this Nikon's most impressive camera ever?

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 01/14/2022

The Nikon Z 9, known hereafter as the Nikon Z9 for naming convention consistency on our site, has been a long time coming. Nikon announced the development of the camera nearly a year ago now, back in March 2021. Since that initial announcement, details have been drip-fed. At times, this helped build the hype. At other times, it felt a bit tiring. We just wanted the camera! But the camera is finally here, and wow, was it ever worth the wait!

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F6.3, 1/125s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon says the camera is 'revolutionary,' and it's hard to argue against the claim. It is an expensive, pro-oriented camera body, so it likely won't sell as much as the more affordable Z5, Z6, Z7, Z fc or Z50 series cameras. However, the Z9 is Nikon's most important camera to date. Recently, Nikon has struggled somewhat, losing valuable market share to Sony and Canon in the mirrorless segment. The Z9 is Nikon's attempt to satisfy its core pro audience and reinforce its commitment to producing the best cameras. And after going hands-on with the new flagship camera, I think that pros will be very satisfied and that Nikon has made very clear how serious the company is about making amazing cameras.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 40mm, F11, 1.3s, ISO 32.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon Z9 Key Features and Specs

  • Nikon full-frame Z-mount mirrorless camera with dual-grip design
  • Newly-designed 45.7-megapixel stacked backside-illuminated full-frame CMOS image sensor
  • New EXPEED 7 image processor
  • 20 frames per second continuous shooting RAW
  • 1000+ RAW buffer with Nikon's new compressed RAW format
  • 30 fps continuous shooting JPEG
  • 120 fps continuous shooting 11-megapixel JPEG
  • Electronic shutter only
  • Fast scan rate image sensor to minimize rolling shutter
  • Blackout-free EVF
  • 4-axis tilt touchscreen display
  • Eye-AF for people and animals
  • Vehicle detection AF
  • 8K/30p and 4K/120p at launch, 8K/60p via firmware update in 2022
  • Dual TypeB CFexpress slots (XQD supported)
  • Built-in GPS and Wi-Fi (plus 1000Base-T ethernet)
  • $5,500 body only
The Nikon Z9 is a very nice-looking camera. It blends the styling of Nikon's pro DSLRs and the more recent Z cameras.

Nikon Z9 design and handling: The Z9 feels like a modern and improved take on Nikon's best DSLR cameras

I enjoy using the Nikon Z6 and Z7 series cameras for many reasons, not the least of which is that the cameras feel good. However, after going hands-on with the Nikon Z9, it's clear that the Z9 is the best-feeling Z series camera yet. And frankly, it's not a close contest. The Z9 feels like it's perfectly molded to my hand.

Without a mechanical shutter to protect the sensor, the Z9 includes a shutter guard that you can enable to protect the sensor when the camera is powered off.

The front grip is excellent. It feels a lot like the D5's grip (I didn't use the D6), which is high praise. The shutter release is easy to reach and feels very good in use. The integrated vertical grip also feels excellent without adding much size to the camera. The Z9 is larger than a Z7 II, although smaller than a Z7 II with an add-on grip. The Z9 is also smaller than a Nikon D6 without sacrificing usability or overall comfort. Specifically, the Z9 is 11mm shorter and about 13mm narrower than the D6.

The weight of the Z9 surprised me a bit when I first picked it up. There's no question that the Z9 is a robust camera with excellent build quality worthy of Nikon's heritage. Although, at 1,340g with its battery and a memory card inserted, the Z9 isn't overly heavy.

The Z9 has a fantastic button and control layout. You can control almost every key setting with just your right hand while shooting. You can also customize the controls to your preference.

Concerning button layout, the Z9 will look and feel familiar to Z6/Z7 users and Nikon DSLR users, although it's certainly more like the Z6/Z7 cameras than the D6. Whereas the D6 has numerous buttons, like the Menu, zoom in, zoom out and OK buttons to the left of its fixed display, most of the Z9's buttons are to the right of its four-axis tilting display. I like the Z9's arrangement better because you can access most controls with your right thumb while shooting. You don't need to use two hands to operate the camera unless you want to delete images or access the quality and white balance buttons underneath the rear display.

Speaking of the rear display, the four-axis tilting display works well. It works as well in landscape orientation as it does in portrait orientation. I shoot in vertical orientation a lot, so the combination of the built-in grip and four-axis tilting display is fantastic. The mechanism itself feels rugged, too. It's the first time Nikon has put a tilting display in a flagship camera, but it is a refined design. I hope it makes its way into the next Z7 camera.

The four-axis tilting display is very useful when in the field. Being able to tilt it vertically is especially useful when working in portrait orientation.

The Z9's electronic viewfinder is excellent as well. Before diving into the specifics, it's worth pointing out that it's extremely bright. At default settings, it looks somewhat typical, but if you dive into the Setup Menu, then select Viewfinder brightness, you can set it to Hi.2, which at about 3,000 nits is brighter than the maximum brightness of my HDR television and MacBook Pro's HDR display (1,600 nits). The black levels are quite good even at the maximum brightness, which is impressive, although perhaps unsurprising since it's an OLED panel. It's not as sharp as the EVF in the A1 (3,690K dots versus 9,437K dots), nor does it have as much magnification (0.8x versus 0.9x), but the Z9's EVF is nonetheless extremely impressive.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F5.6, 1/10s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The Z9's EVF – and LCD – has a trick up its sleeve that sets it apart from the competition. The EVF, dubbed a 'Real-Live viewfinder' by Nikon, is blackout-free. And that's not just marketing speak. It truly is blackout-free. The Z9 uses only an electronic shutter, more on that later, and packs a lot of processing power to achieve this feat. In use, it's amazing.

Despite not having the highest resolution nor the most magnification, the Z9's EVF is among my favorite to use. The blackout-free shooting experience feels so natural that it's a bit tough to go back to using other cameras after using the Z9. The rounded eyepiece and included optics are also very impressive. It's a comfortable EVF to use.

I know this is the fourth paragraph I've spent on the electronic viewfinder, but it's a supremely impressive aspect of the Z9 and an integral part of the user experience. The EVF looks so natural in use. The Z9's EVF is super stable when shooting, focusing, and playing back images. It's like it isn't even there. If you want, you can tap the Fn3 button and clear the display text overlays, and it's like you aren't looking through something digital or electronic at all, but it's like you're just looking through your lens. That may sound hyperbolic, but the Z9's EVF feels perfect.

Concerning the user interface, it's familiar. It's well organized, with photo and video settings separated in their own tabs, although the menus feel a bit long. There's a lot of vertical scrolling in some cases. You can save specific settings from any of the menus to the My Menu, which is convenient. You'll likely only adjust a handful of settings through the menu most of the time, so the My Menu can save you a lot of scrolling. The menu text is also easy to read, which is nice.

You can use the buttons on the camera to easily adjust critical settings like ISO, exposure compensation, image quality, white balance and focus modes and settings. The 'i' menu, which is where you'll find more nuanced camera settings, is customizable and can be navigated with touch, the directional button and the command dials.

At default settings, the controls are excellent. The Fn1, Fn2 and Fn3 buttons on the front of the camera control custom shooting modes, shooting image area, and display modes. Regarding Fn3, pressing it will clear all information from the LCD/EVF, giving you a totally clean viewfinder experience. The Fn2 button in the middle has a recessed design, too, so it feels different from the Fn1 and Fn3 buttons that flank it, making it easy to identify which button you're touching. There's also a function (Fn) button to the left of the lens mount. This one has dots sticking up from it, so it's also easy to find. This is also a very useful button; you can cycle through the autofocus drive mode when holding it down and using the rear command dial. When holding it down and using the front command dial, you can cycle through the autofocus area mode.

The Z9's buttons are highly customizable. You can adjust Fn buttons to control settings such as image quality/size, Picture Control, Active D-Lighting, Metering, Focus mode, AF area mode, Auto Bracket, Multiple Exposure mode, HDR Overlay, Control Lock and more. You can also customize the 'i' menu independently for stills and video. After adjusting the camera's controls to your preference, there'll be very little reason to ever dive into the camera's menus.

The mode dial is great, too, by the way. The top buttons control bracketing, flash mode, burst mode and camera shooting mode. Underneath these buttons is a rotating drive mode dial with single shot, low, high-speed, self-timer and burst mode options. You can cycle through different settings within each of these modes, too, such as different burst speeds.

Ultimately, the Nikon Z9 is a very intelligently designed camera. With camera specs and performance seemingly getting more homogenous all the time, a great differentiating factor between cameras is their design and ergonomics. The 'feel' of a camera matters perhaps more now than ever before. To me, the Nikon Z9 feels fantastic.

Image quality: In a word, excellent

Before diving into this section, it's worth pointing out that although Adobe software supports the Z9's .NEF files, support is still preliminary and may be changed in future Adobe Camera Raw releases. When comparing images in Nikon NX Studio versus Adobe software, RAW files do look different. However, that's partly due to Nikon NX Studio automatically applying strong noise reduction to RAW files. RAW files, particularly high ISO ones, look better in NX Studio than Adobe Camera Raw. If you'd like to test this out for yourself, I recommend downloading full-size RAW files from our Gallery and editing them as you please in the software of your choice. If you'd like to try Nikon's NX Studio software, it's free to download. I still felt comfortable using Adobe Camera Raw to perform basic edits to my Z9 RAW files, but NX Studio offers better results with less work if you don't want to do much editing.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 38mm, F8, 25s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Alright, with that out of the way, let's dive in. The Nikon Z9 has a newly designed 45.7-megapixel stacked backside-illuminated full-frame CMOS image sensor. You may notice that 45.7 megapixels are the same as the Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z7 II. However, Nikon has been adamant that the Z9 sensor is new and different from the Z7 series image sensor. How different? Well, it's a stacked sensor, so that's a big difference, but whether there's any foundational overlap between the two sensors remains to be seen. We hope to discuss this topic with Nikon soon and get further insight. What I do know, after having shot with the Nikon Z7, Nikon Z7 II and now the Z9, is that the Z9's image quality is excellent.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F2.8, 1/400s, ISO 800.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The Z9's 14-bit RAW files look excellent. The camera produces images with excellent detail, colors and tonality, especially at the base ISO of 64. When considering dynamic range, the Z9 impresses. However, if we refer to Photons to Photos, one of our favorite resources for dynamic range measurements, it appears that the Z9 offers a bit less dynamic range than the Z7/Z7 II at base ISO and up through ISO 800. The difference is slight, about 0.4 EV, but the difference is there. Once you get to ISO 800, however, all three cameras deliver nearly identical dynamic range performance, which makes me wonder again what sort of overlap there is between the Z7 series sensor and the Z9's sensor. They seem similar, yet different.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F8, 2.5s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Speaking of higher ISO performance, the Z9 also offers impressive performance in this area. I've already discussed how high ISO files look better, as of now, in NX Studio than Adobe Camera Raw. However, that aside, the camera has good in-camera JPEG noise reduction at default settings. For my tastes, it's perhaps slightly aggressive, but it does a good job. In my opinion, NX Studio is also heavy-handed with RAW files, but images look good and pop just a bit better than the same file in Adobe Camera Raw with default settings. Of course, it's easy enough to tweak settings in ACR, and there are more options than there are in NX Studio for making precise, selective adjustments to a wider range of image parameters. Nonetheless, the Z9 performs well at high ISO.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 5000.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Speaking of RAW images and software, just how far can you push the Z9's files during processing? Take, for example, the image below. The scene is heavily backlit, the air is full of mist and ice, and the foreground is in deep shadows. In the original file, the area surrounding the bridge is blown out. However, you can rescue some detail from the highlights and bring detail back from the shadows when processing the RAW files without degrading the overall image quality.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 39mm, F13, 1/50s, ISO 64.
Original JPEG image. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 39mm, F13, 1/50s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

We hope to go hands-on with the Z9 again soon so that we can put the camera through our standard First Shots process. Only then can we truly compare the Z9's image quality against the Nikon Z7 II and Sony A1, but my immediate takeaway is that the Z9 performs very well. I think the loss in dynamic range at low ISO settings compared to the Z7 II is interesting, but I also think that the gap is small enough that it's barely noticeable. I certainly have no issues with the dynamic range of the Z9. It's important to consider that the Z9 is tuned for performance and speed, too, so there's a balancing act taking place that is fundamentally different from the situation Nikon's engineers faced when working on the Z7 series. I'm pleased with the Z9's image quality, so it seems like a situation where photographers can have their cake and eat it, too.

Autofocus and performance: Pro-level performance across the board

Autofocus: The Z9 stays glued to even challenging subjects

The Nikon Z9 features a new autofocus system, and wow, is it ever good! Nikon's 3D tracking is back, last seen in the Nikon D6, and it's better than ever, per Nikon. I've personally never shot with the D6. However, I did shoot with the D5. I found that the previous Nikon Z cameras couldn't quite match the speed and 'stickiness' of the D5's autofocus system, even though Z cameras have better autofocus area coverage and some other neat bells and whistles. The Nikon Z9 combines the best of both worlds to great effect.

Nikon Z 28mm F2.8 SE lens, F2.8, 1/30s, ISO 400.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Let's get some specs out of the way. The Z9 has 493 total autofocus points, and 405 are available in Auto-area AF. That's a five times increase compared to the Auto-area AF mode in the Z7 II. That's a big deal in part because Auto-area AF with the automatic subject detection technology works very well, so having more than 400 points and excellent coverage in that mode makes the Z9 a more versatile camera for a wide range of moving subjects. The camera can detect and track various subjects, including humans, non-human animals (dogs, cats and birds are listed, although I suspect it'd work for some others as well), and vehicles (cars, motorcycles, bicycles, planes, and trains).

You can set the camera to detect a subject from that group automatically, and it works very well. For example, when photographing a dog in heavy snow, the camera easily found the face and eyes, even when they were small in the frame, and stayed pretty well stuck to the subject. I think that the 24-70mm F2.8 S lens I was using perhaps was the limiting factor in achieving nearly-perfect autofocus because the camera's autofocus area was essentially glued to the subject as he moved through the frame, and the lens had to try to keep up.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 3200.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

When considering low-light autofocus, the Z9 is Nikon's best camera yet, too. The camera can focus down to -8.5 EV with the newly-branded Starlight View mode. Without that mode, the camera is rated to focus down to -6.5 EV, which is still 2.5 EV better than the Z7 II in its Low-Light AF mode. Low-light AF performance was excellent during my time with the camera. Unfortunately, I couldn't do any night sky photography as the weather didn't cooperate, but I hope to test the 'Starlight' view autofocus feature another time.

As an aside, speaking of night sky photography, the Z9 has illuminated buttons and a special mode to give a red tint to the display and EVF, which will help preserve night vision. Great features for night sky photography!

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F2.8, 1/100s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Alright, back to autofocus: the Z9 excels. The included autofocus area modes work well for a wide variety of subjects. When using eye-detect technology, Auto-area AF works well. The dynamic-area and spot AF modes are great options for more predictable subjects. The joystick works well for moving the autofocus point or switching between eyes when using automatic subject-detection modes.

Continuous autofocus performance is very fast. I recently shot with the Sony A1, so while I was shooting with the Z9, I was trying to perform a mental comparison. Honestly, I can't tell which is better without having them both simultaneously. Both the Sony A1 and the Nikon Z9 are extremely impressive. However, what's immediately obvious when using the Z9 is that it's much faster than the Z6 and Z7 cameras and offers a more impressive suite of autofocus modes and technology.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F2.8, 1/500s, ISO 640.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Overall, the Nikon Z9's autofocus performance is outstanding. The camera's new autofocus system feels more mature and refined than the already impressive autofocus we saw with the Z6 II and Z7 II cameras. Much like the Z9's EVF gets out of your way while shooting, as does the autofocus system, because it just works, and there's not much to think about when shooting.

Performance: Speed is the name of the game

Performance is the Z9's bread and butter. From the blackout-free EVF to continuous shooting speeds, performance is a pillar of the Z9's design. Performance is also a large component of what makes the Z9 such a valuable photographic tool. The EXPEED 7-powered camera can record full-size RAW images at up to 20 frames per second. Let's address the elephant in the room now. That 20fps spec is 10fps slower than the Sony A1 and its 50MP RAW files. However, the Z9 can match the A1's speed by using full-size JPEG images instead. Unfortunately, there's a caveat: the JPEG images in this mode are locked to 'Normal' quality.

The Z9 may not be able to match the A1 in straight-up speed when shooting RAW images, but the Z9 can shoot a RAW burst of more than 1,000 frames. Unfortunately, that wasn't my personal experience since I have a Sony XQD G memory card with 440MB/s read and 400MB/s write speed, rather than the fastest available CFexpress Type B cards, which can eclipse 1,700MB/s speeds. My RAW-only bursts with my card were under 60 frames, and the buffer cleared in around four seconds. When shooting RAW the new High Efficiency (Star) RAW setting, plus JPEG (highest quality), the buffer was 34 frames and cleared in around 5 seconds.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 4000.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

We weren't sent a fast CFexpress Type B card, so I can't personally verify Nikon's performance claims. That said, I have every confidence that the Z9 meets spec, but we'll have to wait until we can test further before making a final verdict. Memory card speed is as important as it ever has been when getting the most from high-performance cameras like the Z9. The difference between my XQD card from a few years ago and the latest CFexpress Type B cards is massive in a way that you simply don't see with SD cards. If you want the Z9 and intend to use it for high-speed photography, be prepared to buy some high-end, expensive CFexpress cards. We hope to test the Z9 in our lab with a properly-quick card soon.

Like with full-size JPEG images at 30fps, 12MP JPEG images shot at 120 frames per second is very impressive in terms of speed, but the JPEG quality is again locked to 'Normal,' which is a bit disappointing. Nonetheless, if you're looking for that type of speed, you're likely willing to trade a bit of quality anyways. It's poised to be a very exciting feature for sports photographers, and that's a type of photography that typically prioritizes capturing the perfect moment over sheer image quality specs. By the way, the 120fps mode is locked to the FX image area, whereas the 30fps mode can be used with a DX crop, although without a gain in speed.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F11, 1s, ISO 32.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

While I'm unfortunately not qualified to fully address shooting performance due to a lackluster XQD card, I can talk about other aspects of the Z9 that are very impressive. I've talked quite a bit about the EVF, but it's worth discussing again within the context of continuous shooting. The EVF is so good when shooting high-speed bursts. It's never been so easy to track a moving subject while shooting at 20 frames per second. At 120fps, it's great too, although the EVF itself refreshes at 60fps. What's somewhat interesting about the EVF, though, is that even if other EVFs offer faster refresh rates or more resolution, the Z9's felt smoother and sharper in use. I think this is because it's just so steady, no matter what you're doing. In contrast, other EVFs can sometimes be jarring with changes in resolution during autofocus, surprising brightness shifts when metering or just other quirks that never bothered me before but might bother me now after using the Z9.

The Z9's Real-Live viewfinder is possible thanks to the camera's unique Dual-Stream technology. Because the camera uses an electronic shutter and the stacked sensor offers fast sensor readout speeds, the EXPEED 7 processor simultaneously works through the image feed, sending one data stream to the memory card and another to the display/EVF. It's a lot of fancy terminology to describe what feels incredibly straightforward in use. The EVF is smooth and blackout-free. There's just nothing standing in the way of seeing what your lens is pointed at, no matter how fast you're shooting, and it's liberating.

Nikon Z 28mm F2.8 SE lens, F2.8, 1/4s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Another important performance aspect is startup speed and overall responsiveness in use. The Z9 starts up nearly instantly. It goes from powered on to ready to shoot in a blink of an eye. The camera's menus and touchscreen are also responsive in use.

Battery life is rated for 'only' 770 shots. However, I genuinely can't believe the Z9's battery life is that low in real-world situations. I don't think the battery meter ever got below 60% during my time with the camera, even after not charging it for days at a time. I'm curious if the lack of a mechanical shutter dramatically impacts battery life, especially when shooting huge bursts. Regardless, the battery life is way better than the CIPA rating suggests, at least when shooting stills. I never shot enough video at once to know how much that affects battery life but reports from others suggest that the battery life impresses there as well.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F5.6, 1/15s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

While during my short time with the Z9, I lacked a telephoto lens and fast memory card to really put the camera through its performance paces, the Z9 is a stellar performer. I'm excited to see how the camera performs in our laboratory because I suspect it'll be right up there among the very best performers we've tested.

Video: 8K/30p highlights an impressive suite of video features

Nikon has made significant strides in video capabilities and performance over the last few years. Nikon's latest DSLR cameras showed improvements, but I'd argue that Nikon became much more serious about video with the advent of the Nikon Z system. The Z6 and Z7 series cameras have impressive 4K video features and performance, but the Z9 takes it to the next level with the introduction of 8K/30p video.

The 8K/30p video is very sharp and offers impressive quality. Of course, 8K video may be overkill for many applications, so what 8K video also allows for is a lot of cropping options for either 1080p or 4K final output. In the compilation below, you can see various 8K/30p clips shot with 1/60s shutter speed and a range of ISO settings. At the 0'45" mark below, there's a clip shot at ISO 12,000, which is the highest ISO in the video. Even at this high ISO, the quality isn't bad. The dynamic range is visibly reduced, and you can't make out all the fine detail in the scene, but it still looks good. The next clip at 0'55" is shot at ISO 5400 and shows quite a bit better detail. Nonetheless, the 8K video has good colors, excellent detail and impressive tonality. If you shoot N-Log video, you can push the camera quite far.

Nikon Z9 8K/30p video compilation - 7680 x 4320 at 30 frames per second.
Download edited video (1.08GB .MP4 File)

At 4K resolution, which I imagine is how many people will be shooting, the Z9 delivers great performance. You can record 4K/30p video like I did in the compilation below, or 4K/24, 4K/60 or even 4K/120. The 4K video quality is excellent at 24p and 30p. To my eyes, 4K footage is a bit softer at 120p than it is at 30p, although the 4K/120p footage is still sharp and detailed. See if you can notice a difference between the next two videos (although YouTube isn't the best way to compare videos, unfortunately).

Nikon Z9 4K/30p video compilation - 3840 x 2160 at 30 frames per second.
Download edited video (301.3MB .MP4 File)

The 4K/120p shooting mode is interesting. The camera records all 120 frames per second. It's not a special slow-motion mode. However, what makes 4K/120p video useful is that you can slow it down to 5x slow-motion with a 24fps presentation, which I did for the compilation below. You can see a different version with original (slowed down) audio, if you'd like, by clicking here.

Nikon Z9 4K/120p video compilation - 3840 x 2160 at 24 frames per second.
Download edited video (489.9MB .MP4 File)

The camera can record Full HD video, too, of course. The quality is pretty good, although it's hard not to miss the detail of the 4K or 8K recording.

Nikon Z9 1080p video compilation - 1920 x 1080 at 30 frames per second.
Download edited video (96.7MB .MP4 File)

Overall, while video is outside of my wheelhouse, it's easy to be excited about what the Nikon Z9 can do. It's Nikon's best video camera yet, and it's not even close. But not only that, the Z9 is competitive with other high-end cameras on the market, including those from Canon and Sony.

Better yet, 8K/60p video is coming soon via a free firmware update. Further, a new 12-bit N-RAW high-efficiency format and 12-bit ProRes RAW will also be coming via firmware, in addition to other video-oriented new features. The camera is excellent for video now but will be even better soon.

Nikon Z 28mm F2.8 SE lens, F11, 1.3s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon Z9 Hands-on Review Summary

The Nikon Z9 is Nikon's best camera ever

What I like most about the Nikon Z9

  • Brilliant ergonomics and design
  • With smart button placement and good controls, you almost never need to use the menus for anything while shooting
  • Sensor shield is a smart inclusion since the camera lacks a mechanical shutter
  • Very useful 4-axis tilting display
  • Outstanding EVF that is the most natural, realistic-looking EVF I've used
  • Impressive autofocus performance
  • Automatic subject detection works well
  • Fast shooting speed options in most cases
  • Very good image quality
  • 120fps 12MP JPEG images is a cool feature
  • I miss the days of DSLR battery life, but the Z9's battery life is much better in use than its 770-shot rating
  • Nikon's best video camera
Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F4, 1/100s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

What I like less about the Nikon Z9

  • While not a big deal, there's no uncompressed RAW shooting option
  • Not being able to shoot 30fps with RAW images keeps the Z9 from matching the Sony A1

What I dislike about the Nikon Z9

  • The 30fps full-size JPEG and 120fps 12MP JPEG options are great, but they're limited to "Normal" JPEG quality
Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 40mm, F9, 1s, ISO 32.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

To borrow terminology from industry colleagues, the Nikon Z9 is providing us, and Nikon, with another 'D3 moment.' While I wasn't in the industry when the D3 launched, I distinctly remember the camera being announced. It was all anyone talked about in my favorite photography magazines at the time. I had a fold-out Nikon D3 advert hung on my wall for years following the camera's marketing buzz. I still have that poster somewhere.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 70mm, F8, 1/5s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Anyways, the 'D3 moment' was essentially Nikon announcing to its supporters and its competitors that the D3 was here, and it was a revolution in DSLR technology. It changed the game. The D3, along with the Nikon 14-24mm F2.8 lens announced simultaneously, even got longtime Canon shooters to convert. Nikon wasn't exactly failing before the D3, but it wasn't succeeding in a grand way either. The D3 changed that. The Nikon D3 changed the perception of Nikon throughout the photography world.

Is the Z9 going to have the same impact? I don't know. The industry is different now. But what I do know is that the Z9 is a revolution in mirrorless camera technology. Sure, some cameras do things better than the Z9, but there's something exceptional about the combination of all that the Z9 can achieve. The EVF is incredible, the camera is fast, the autofocus is Nikon's best, it is built like a tank, it offers amazing ergonomics, and it produces great images and video.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 31mm, F7.1, 10s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

The Nikon Z9 may not lead to Nikon carving out a significantly larger market share in 2022 than in 2021. But what the camera does is signal to everyone that Nikon is back (if it ever truly left). The Z9 is a testament to Nikon's rich heritage and willingness to push technological boundaries. The Nikon Z9 is an outstanding camera and Nikon's best. If anyone has felt comfortable ignoring what Nikon is doing with its Z system, the Z9 is a clear signal that it's time to pay attention.


• • •


Nikon Z9 Product Overview

by Jeremy Gray

After first announcing the development of the Nikon Z9 back in March, Nikon has now fully unveiled its new flagship full-frame mirrorless camera. Since then, we have known that the Z9 would include a newly designed stacked image sensor, a next-generation processor, and record 8K video. But now we know all the details, including the Z9's megapixel count, autofocus system, video specs and much more.

Nikon states that the Z9 is 'Revolutionary,' and its features and specs certainly promise to live up to the hype. We haven't yet gone hands-on with the camera, so we can't speak to how it performs, but Nikon is making some very lofty promises, and the Z9 looks impressive. Let's dive right into it.

The Nikon Z9 blends the style and designs of the Nikon D6 DSLR and the Nikon Z6/Z7 series mirrorless cameras.

Nikon Z9 key features and specs

  • Full-frame mirrorless camera with dual-grip design
  • Nikon Z mount
  • Newly-designed 45.7-megapixel stacked backside-illuminated full-frame CMOS image sensor
  • New EXPEED 7 image processor
  • 20 frames per second continuous shooting RAW
  • 1000+ RAW buffer with Nikon's new compressed RAW format
  • 30 fps continuous shooting, full-res JPEG
  • 120 fps continuous shooting, 11-megapixel JPEG
  • Electronic shutter only
  • Fast scan rate image sensor to minimize rolling shutter
  • Blackout-free EVF
  • 4-axis tilt touchscreen display
  • Eye-AF for people and animals
  • Vehicle detection AF
  • 8K/30p and 4K/120p at launch, 8K/60p via firmware update in 2022
  • Dual Type-B CFexpress slots (XQD supported)
  • Built-in GPS and Wi-Fi (plus 1000Base-T Ethernet)
  • $5,500 body only

Nikon Z9 camera body and design: Pro-oriented camera with rugged build quality

The Nikon Z9 has a pro-oriented design. Much like the Nikon D6, the Z9 has a vertical grip built-in. However, the Z9 is quite a bit smaller than the D6 DSLR. The Z9 is approximately 20% smaller than the D6 in volume.

This isn't a pixel-perfect comparison, but it's illustrative of the Z9's 20% less volume compared to the D6.

The Z9's dimensions (width x height x depth) are 149 x 149.5 x 90.5 mm (5.9 x 5.9 x 3.6 inches). The camera weighs 1,340 grams (2lb., 15.3 oz.) with battery and memory card inserted. The body only weighs 1,160g (2lb., 9 oz.). For comparison, the Nikon D6 is 160 x 163 x 92 mm (6.3 x 6.42 x 3.62") and weighs 1,270g (body only). The Nikon Z7 II is 134 x 100.5 x 69.5 mm (5.3 x 4 x 2.7") and weighs 615g without its optional vertical battery grip, which adds a significant amount of height to the camera.

Looking closer at the Z9, the front of the camera includes three function buttons, Fn1, Fn2 and Fn3. Fn2 is in the middle of the vertical arrangement and is concave, unlike the other two buttons, so you can tell the buttons apart by feel. At the top of the grip is a front command dial.

The Z9 has a dedicated movie record button on the top. The rear of the camera lets you quickly switch between stills and video.

Moving to the top of the Z9, let's start with the shutter release. A power switch surrounds it. Near the shutter release are video record, ISO and exposure compensation buttons. There's also a display on the top, like on the Z6 II and Z7 II, showing key shooting settings. To the left of the viewfinder prism, which has a hot shoe on top of it, there are four buttons (drive mode, mode, bracket and flash mode) on top of a rotating mode dial, which includes drive modes, like single shot, low speed continuous, high speed continuous, and self-timer.

The Z9 includes a pro-oriented control layout, including dedicated AF sub-selector joysticks for both landscape and portrait orientation shooting.

Looking at the back of the camera, there are a lot of buttons. To the left of the viewfinder are Fn4 (lock) and delete buttons. To the immediate right of the viewfinder is a DISP button surrounded by a switch from going between stills and video. Further to the right is a dedicated AF-ON button and the rear command dial. Moving down along the right side of the display is an AF sub-selector joystick, an 'i' button, an eight-way directional pad with a central OK button, zoom in and zoom out buttons, the Menu button, and the playback button. Directly beneath the display on the vertical grip are mic, quality and white balance buttons. Plus, there's an 'i' button, AF joystick, AF-ON button and rear command dial for use in vertical orientation. The vertical grip has dual command dials, a shutter release, and two buttons, including an ISO control button. All important buttons are also illuminated, which is a nice touch.

The rear display is a 3.2" LCD with approximately 2.1M dots. The monitor itself isn't different than the Z7 II, but it tilts in an all-new way. You can tilt the display along four axes, so you can tilt it up and down and to either side, making it work well for landscape and portrait orientations. Unlike a tilt/swivel display, you can tilt the Z9's display without flipping it out to the side. It looks excellent in action, and we're looking forward to trying it out.

The for the electronic viewfinder, Nikon is calling it the 'Real-Live viewfinder,' as it offers true blackout-free shooting. The Z9's EVF features the world's brightest Quad-VGA panel, which can be adjusted to 3,000 nits, which is brighter than many HDR television panels. The OLED EVF has 3,690K dots and has an approximately 0.8x magnification factor.

The Z9's EVF promises to be a sharp, bright viewfinder with a truly blackout-free shooting experience.

The Z9 is built using a rugged and lightweight magnesium alloy chassis. The body has sealing and gaskets throughout to ensure the same level of weather resistance as the Nikon D6. Since the camera doesn't include a mechanical shutter, Nikon has engineered a sensor shield to protect the sensor when the camera isn't in use. Further, the optical filter includes an electro-conductive coating to repel dust in front of the sensor, which Nikon says is the world's first. The camera also includes a VR safety lock, too, to protect the sensor. This locks the in-camera image stabilization (VR) system in place, so it's not jostling around during bumpy travel.

Without a mechanical shutter, the Z9's sensor is protected by a sensor shield. This, plus the special electro-conductive coating, should help keep dust off the sensor when the camera isn't in use or when changing lenses.

Image quality and performance: Newly designed stacked 45.7MP sensor combined with EXPEED 7 processor promises pro-level performance

The Nikon Z9 has a newly designed full-frame (FX-format) image sensor. It is Nikon designed and developed. While it has the same 45.7-megapixel count as the image sensor in the Nikon Z7 and Z7 II cameras, the Z9's sensor is described by Nikon as 'very different.' We don't yet know how different the sensors are regarding image quality, having not gone hands-on with the Z9. But we do know that the Z9's sensor utilizes a stacked design, unlike the sensor in the Z7/Z7 II. The stacked design has significant implications concerning sensor readout speed, which Nikon refers to as scanning speed. Nikon says that the Z9 has the world's fastest scanning speed, promising minimized rolling shutter.

Scanning speed is critical for the Z9, as the camera has no mechanical shutter at all. It's 100% electronic shutter. While cameras like the Sony A1 lock their fastest shooting speeds behind the electronic shutter, they still include mechanical shutters. Nikon must be very confident in the rolling shutter performance of the Z9 to eschew the mechanical shutter altogether. We're excited to test the camera out in the field. The electronic shutter tops out at 1/32,000s and the flash sync is 1/200s.

Getting back to the image sensor itself, it has a native ISO range of 64-25,600, which can be extended to ISO 32-102,400. The camera has auto ISO sensitivity available as well. Considering exposure metering, the Z9 uses a TTL metering system that uses the image sensor itself. The camera has matrix, center-weighted, spot (tied to the selected focus point) and highlight-weighted metering modes. The metering range is -3 to 17 EV.

The Z9 records RAW files in 14-bit with lossless, high-efficiency or high-efficiency compression. JPEGs are recordable in a variety of quality modes. The new high-efficiency compression mode results in file sizes about 1/3 smaller with what Nikon describes as 'the same image quality.' For JPEG files, Nikon's various Picture Control modes are available, including Auto, Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, Flat and Creative Picture Controls (many different special effects filters are available).

The image sensor itself makes up only part of the overall imaging pipeline. The processor matters too. The Nikon Z9 pairs its new sensor with a new processor, the EXPEED 7. With the EXPEED 7 processor, Nikon says the Z9 is 10x faster than the Nikon Z7 II. The Nikon Z9 promises to be Nikon's most powerful camera ever, and it's not even close thanks to the new processor.

The EXPEED 7's newfound processing power has many benefits to image quality and performance alike. Concerning image quality, Nikon says that the new processor enhances red, orange, yellow and yellowish green colors. We're curious to see the real-world impact of this in our lab test scene.

The EXPEED 7 also means that the Z9 has fast startup time and should be snappy in use. The processor is part of why the Z9 has a blackout-free viewfinder and why the camera can shoot full-size RAW images at up to 20 frames per second with a buffer depth of more than 1000 frames. The Z9 has dual CFexpress Type B (XQD) card slots so that the camera can achieve optimal speed and performance.

The Z9 also records full-size JPEG files at up to 30fps and shoots 11-megapixel JPEG images at up to 120 fps. All these shooting modes feature full-time AF/AE. The Z9 performs autofocus calculations at 120 frames per second. It should be noted that the sophisticated Z mount likely plays a role here, as well, given how Z lenses can quickly transmit electronic information back and forth between the camera and lens. It remains to be seen if adapted F-mount lenses using the FTZ adapter take full advantage of the Z9's impressive speed and AF calculations.

It's important to talk more about the blackout-free EVF because it results from numerous technologies in the Z9 and is a key part of the Z9's feature set. Relying exclusively on an electronic shutter is part of it. The new image sensor's stacked design with fast scanning speeds matters too. Further, Nikon is using what they call Dual-Stream technology. This technology simultaneously feeds sensor data to the Real-Live viewfinder/LCD and the memory card. One feed is recorded as you shoot, and the other is what you see in the EVF or on the LCD.

Autofocus: Faster autofocus with new subject detection modes and improved tracking and low-light performance

The Nikon Z9 has a new autofocus system, which Nikon says is its most sophisticated to date. The Z9 has Nikon's fastest autofocus tracking ever, too, beating out the Nikon D6.

The AF system has 493 total autofocus points, and 405 of them are available in auto-area AF, which is 5x the amount usable in that autofocus area mode on the Z7 II. The autofocus points cover nearly the entire image area.

The Z9 includes subject detection and subject tracking autofocus for a variety of subjects, including people, animals (dogs, cats and birds are listed, but it should work for additional types of animals), vehicles (cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trains and planes). When in auto-area AF, you don't need to switch between subject-detection modes, as the Z9 can detect them all automatically. For example, if you're photographing motorsports, you don't need to switch between different vehicle types. Or, if you're photographing wildlife, you don't need to change modes for the camera to track a mammal rather than a bird.

When using subject detection and tracking, the Z9 reintroduces 3D tracking from Nikon's pro-grade DSLR cameras, like the Nikon D6. The Nikon Z9 is the first mirrorless camera to include Nikon's 3D tracking technology. This works only for still images, by the way. The advantage of the Z mount is present in subject tracking autofocus, as the Z mount and Z lenses communicate depth information faster than the F mount and F mount lenses.

Regarding eye-detect autofocus and eye AF tracking, Nikon says that the autofocus system can detect very small eyes in the frame. It's unclear how improved this is over previous Nikon cameras, but the demo we saw was impressive. We're excited to go hands-on with the Z9 as soon as possible to test out the new autofocus modes, features and performance. The Z9 lets users change the color of the eye AF tracking box to green when focus is acquired, which should help users know when their subject is in focus.

As for low light autofocus, there are improvements here as well. Nikon is rebranding Low-Light AF as Starlight View. Along with the new name comes new performance. The Z9 can focus down to -8.5 EV. Without Starlight View, the AF detection range is still a very impressive -6.5 EV. For comparison, the Z7 II focuses down to -4 EV in its Low-Light AF mode.

The Z9 includes the autofocus modes users have come to expect. However, in addition to the new subject detection features, the Z9 also includes three Dynamic-area AF modes with a new range of focus-area sizes (small, medium and large) to focus on a wider variety of moving subjects throughout the frame.

Video: 8K/30p and 4K/120p at launch, 8K/60p next year

The Nikon Z9 is on track to be Nikon's most capable video camera. The company had already made significant strides with the Nikon Z6 and Z7 series, and the Z9 takes things further. At launch, the Z9 records 8K/30p video with the full width of the image sensor in camera. Nikon says that the camera can record for more than two hours under normal temperatures, and there's no 29'59" clip length limit in effect.

8K is heavy-duty resolution and beyond many people's needs, so the Z9 also records 4K video, of course. The camera records 4K video at up to 120 frames per second. 4K video uses the full width of the sensor, with 60p and 120p utilizing pixel binning and line skipping, while 4K at 30p and 24p are 8K oversampled.

The Z9 has a four-way tilting LCD, which should be very useful for both stills and video and when shooting in different orientations.

The Z9 has different modes for color grading, including an internal Flat profile, N-Log and HLG tone modes. The camera also includes Movie Active D-Lighting if you want to have a visibly expanded dynamic range in camera without the need for processing. The available ISO range when recording video is 64-25,600.

The Z9's video compression includes Apple ProRes 422 HQ (10 bit), H.265/HEVC (8 bit/10 bit), H.264/AVC (8 bit). The camera records in .MOV and .MP4 file formats. The camera has a built-in stereo mic and records 24-bit PCM linear audio. The camera is compatible with external mics, of course. The Z9 has a full-size HDMI Type A port for external recording and output. The camera also has 3.5mm stereo mini-pin jacks for audio input and output.

Additional videographer-friendly features include electronic VR, focus peaking, zebra display and time-lapse video modes. Users can also creative 8MP and 33MP stills from 4K and 8K videos, respectively.

Even more video features are coming in 2022 via a free firmware update. Nikon will add 8K/60p capture in the new 12-bit N-RAW high-efficiency video format, 12-bit ProRes RAW and other pro-level video features.

Ports, power and connectivity

We've touched on some of the Z9's various ports, including the dual CFexpress Type B (XQD) card slots, HDMI Type A and dual audio jacks. The Z9 also includes a 1000BASE-T RJ-45 Ethernet port, 10-pin accessory port (for remotes), and a USB Type C connector.

The Nikon Z9 uses a single EN-EL18d battery, which is the same lithium-ion battery as the Nikon D6. It's also compatible with the EN-EL18c, EN-EL18b and EN-EL18 batteries, however battery life will be reduced compared to the EN-EL18d. Stated battery life ranges from 700 to 770 shots depending on how you use the EVF or LCD and if power save mode is enabled. However, if you are shooting in burst mode, the battery life is rated for up to 5,310 shots. The battery should offer about 170 minutes of video recording.

In terms of wireless technology, the Z9 has built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/a/ac), Bluetooth (5.0) and GNS (GPS/GLONASS/QZSS). The camera is fully compatible with Nikon Snapbridge and new Nikon software, including NX Mobile Air for managing and transferring images in the field and NX Tether, free tethering software.

Compared against the competition (on paper)

Nikon Z9 vs Sony A1

While not a complete comparison of all features, we wanted to quickly compare some of the key aspects of the new Nikon Z9 against the Sony A1.

The most obvious difference comes by way of camera design. The Nikon Z9 has a dual-gripped design, whereas the Sony A1 doesn't. This means the A1 is more compact and weighs less, but the Z9 should deliver better ergonomics across a wider variety of situations. The A1 has an optional grip, but this adds cost to the kit. The Z9 also has a four-way tilting display, whereas the A1's display only tilts up and down, limiting its usefulness when shooting in vertical orientation.

The Sony A1 opts for a single-grip, more traditional design.

When it comes to the EVF, it's an interesting head-to-head. The A1 has a larger, higher resolution EVF with better magnification. However, the Z9 has a brighter EVF, and it is truly blackout-free. The A1 is almost blackout-free, but not quite.

Considering image quality, we'll need to test the Z9 in the lap to compare it against the A1. However, the A1 has more megapixels (50.1 versus 45.7), which results in slightly larger images. It's not a big difference in megapixels, but it may be noticeable in certain situations. The Sony A1 shoots RAW images faster than the Z9, offering up to 30fps versus the Z9's top RAW capture speed of 20fps. The Z9 can match the A1's speed by using JPEG images and outpace the camera with its 11-megapixel 120fps mode. The Z9 also promises a significantly larger buffer of 1,000+ RAW images versus between 100-250 frames, depending on RAW settings with the A1.

Both cameras promise a wide array of autofocus modes and features, including real-time tracking technology and eye-detect autofocus. The Z9's new subject detection features and promising, but the Sony A1 also offers different animal tracking features and Real-time tracking technology.

The Nikon Z9 has a magnesium alloy body with extensive weather sealing. The Sony A1 is weather-sealed too, and it'll be interesting to see if either camera feels more robust in use.

The Nikon Z9 and Sony A1 shoot 4K/120p video, although the Z9 has the A1 beat in 8K video by offering 8K/60p versus 8K/30p.

The two cameras offer similar workflow-oriented features, like a full-size HDMI port and 1000BASE-T Ethernet. The A1 has a mechanical shutter, which allows for faster flash sync. The A1 also includes sophisticated anti-flicker shooting modes. It's not clear if the Z9 has a similar mode built-in or not, but it hasn't been mentioned to us yet.

The Nikon Z9 and Sony A1 are going head-to-head. The two companies have slightly different approaches to camera design but are otherwise targeting the same audience. The Z9 seems to have the A1 beat in some ways, and the A1 wins out in others. We're very excited to go hands-on with the Nikon Z9 and see how it compares in real-world situations to the excellent Sony A1. It also helps Nikon's case that the Z9 is $5,500, whereas the A1 is $6,500.

Nikon Z9 vs Canon EOS R3

While the Nikon Z9 goes head-to-head with the Sony A1, it's not as close of a comparison against the Canon EOS R3. While both the Z9 and R3 have dual-gripped, pro-oriented build quality and design, the R3 has a much lower megapixel image sensor. The 24.1MP sensor is just not at the same level as the Z9's 45.7MP sensor when it comes to resolving power. However, the R3's sensor is also stacked and should offer similarly excellent scanning speeds and likely better low ISO performance.

The R3's lower megapixel sensor has benefits when it comes to shooting speed (30 versus 20 frames per second) but doesn't have the same positive impact on buffer depth compared to the Z9. The R3's RAW buffer is stated to be 150 frames, far below the 1000+ promised buffer of the Z9. It's worth pointing out that the Canon's fastest shutter speed, like is the case with the A1, requires the use of its electronic shutter. The mechanical shutter in the R3 can only shoot at up to 12 fps.

The 24.1MP sensor also means that the R3 cannot record 8K video. The R3 tops out at 6K/60p video. Both the Z9 and R3 record 4K/120p video. The R3 has a video-friendly fully-articulating monitor, whereas the Z9 opts for a four-way tilting LCD, which should still be useful in the field.

The EOS R3 has a similar overall shape to the Nikon Z9, albeit with smoother edges, as is typical of Canon's styling.

Both the Z9 and R3 have sophisticated subject tracking autofocus features, including tracking modes for different animals and vehicles. The Canon R3 has Eye Control AF, letting users move the focus point using their eye in the EVF. The Z9 doesn't have a feature like this. Both cameras promise good low-light AF, although the Nikon Z9 is rated slightly better (-8.5 EV vs. -7.5 EV).

The Z9, like the A1, also opts for dual card slots that are equally fast. The R3 has a single CFexpress slot and then a UHS-II SD card slot. Both the Z9 and R3 have built-in wired LAN.

It's worth noting that the Canon R3 is not positioned as the mirrorless equivalent of the 1DX series. Nikon, on the other hand, is treating the Z9 like a D6-type mirrorless camera. The R3 costs $6,000, which is well into professional territory, however. Still, it's not clear if the R3 is truly Canon's flagship mirrorless camera or if it's just the most expensive mirrorless camera in Canon's lineup. The R3 is aimed at pros, but it remains to be seen if there's a true mirrorless 1DX-type camera (think EOS R1) in the pipeline.

Both the EOS R3 and Z9 (Z9 pictured here) have magnesium alloy construction. Both cameras are built to withstand rigorous professional use in harsh environments.

The Canon R3 and Nikon Z9 share some features and promise similar speed, but the difference in megapixels means that the two cameras aren't exactly going head-to-head. However, until Canon has a fast camera with more megapixels, the R3 is probably the closest competitor to the Nikon Z9. The Z9 does come in at $500 cheaper, which makes the comparison between the Z9 and R3 all the more interesting.

Summing up the Nikon Z9 (for now)

The Nikon Z9 is a very impressive full-frame mirrorless camera on paper. However, for now, it's just on paper. The Z9 promises a lot of performance for $5,500. It will be interesting to see how the Z9's autofocus compares to the Z7 II's and how the image quality compares. We are also curious to see how the electronic shutter performs in challenging situations. That said, there's no question that the Nikon Z9 is Nikon's flagship mirrorless camera, and we are very excited to try it out soon.

Pricing and availability

The Nikon Z9 will be available within this year for $5,499.95 body-only retail price.


Buy the Nikon Z9

Your purchases support this site

Buy the Nikon Z9

Editor's Picks