Nikon Z9 Firmware V2.0 Unleashes the Camera's Full Cinema Potential04/14/2022
At launch, the Nikon Z9 offered some surprising and impressive video specs. Now, with the upcoming release of firmware version 2.0, users will get to see what the Z9 is truly capable of for cinema production. This includes the addition of internal raw recording in 8.3K 60p, more video-assist functions, and better controls. Plus, Nikon made sure to release some upgrades for still imaging and to the general operation of the camera.
Cinema-Level Specs in a Mirrorless Camera
If you didn’t know I was talking about the Z9, you could be forgiven for thinking these specs refer to a brand-new cinema camera. Raw video alone used to be a major differentiator. Nikon is introducing internal raw recording using its own N-RAW format or ProRes RAW HQ—both are 12-bit options. Raw offers ultimate flexibility in post-production and the maximum quality capable from the image sensor.
N-RAW is a brand-new format and Nikon has done some work to guarantee early support from EDIUS X ver. 10.32, as well as DaVinci Resolve Studio, at launch. N-RAW offers a few benefits, including a smaller file size than traditional raw options and the ability to create an MP4 proxy for previews, dailies, or editing. The following recording modes are available:
- 8.3K at 60p or 24p
- 4.1K at 120p, 60p, 30p, or 24p
- APS-C/DX-Format (1.5x Crop)
- 5.3K at 60p, 30p, or 24p
- 2.3x Crop
- 3.8K 120p
ProRes RAW HQ is an alternative option for those who prefer or require the slightly more familiar format for their workflow, although it is limited to 4.1K at up to 60p.
Another quality change coming to the Z9’s video recording is that UHD 4K 60p content can now be oversampled from the 8K image area for improved image sharpness and clarity.
There is a plethora of other changes coming for video shooters, mainly aimed at making video production a more streamlined adventure.
- Waveform monitor option for real-time exposure analysis
- Red “Rec” frame indicator on monitor and viewfinder
- Dedicated video info display shows important settings, such as frame size, audio settings, codec, bit depth, and more on a single screen. The top control panel also will help confirm some info.
- A Fine ISO Control in manual mode that allows for exposure adjustments in 1/6 EV steps
- Fast AF-ON is assignable to custom buttons and two different AF speeds can be set to two different controls.
- Slow shutter speed video of slower than 1/frame rate for working in extreme darkness or to intentionally introduce blur
This upgrade is impressive for those looking to the Z9 for video production.
Still Imaging Upgrades
The Z9 is still a photo camera first by design and Nikon hasn’t forgotten that here. While not as groundbreaking as the video upgrades, the still photo upgrades will be notable for many photographers.
A brand-new feature is a Pre-release Capture function that will pre-record up to a second of burst images before you press the shutter to ensure you don’t miss the decisive moment. Also helping with that is the ability to select between 20 types of Custom Wide-Area AF patterns so that you can focus on a particular part of the frame. General AF performance has been improved, as well, with particular attention paid to subject detection, AF stability and tracking, and low-contrast or backlit scenes.
When reviewing images, users can now skip to the first shot in each burst to speed up navigation. Additionally, a new Retouch feature called Motion Blend will take a series of images and merge them into a single image, all in-camera. A tripod is recommended for this effect.
The Long Exposure display now shows a live count of the exposure time, and you can dim the viewfinder even more to conserve power and your night vision.
Function Over Form
Top-of-the-line specs mean little if a camera is not enjoyable to use, so Nikon continues to make some tweaks to functionality and operation. For example, the Real Live Viewfinder can now be set to a 120 fps refresh rate for ultra-smooth previews, although this does come with a slight cost to battery life.
Other changes include Auto Exposure having improved consistency with human faces, a Prioritize Viewfinder mode that mimics the experience of shooting with a DSLR, and a prefer sub-selector center option in the custom menu.
- AWB improvements with rapid scene changes and adjustments to choose color temperature and preset manual WB
- Focus Point Select Speed custom setting allows users to adjust the speed at which AF points can be moved through the frame.
- Shutter release indicators appear clearly on display and EVF during high-speed shooting.
- Enhanced memory set/recall function including instant recall of several focus positions
- Recalling shooting functions (hold) is added to conventional recalling shooting function to allow for holding the recalled function without needing to hold the button.
- Option to switch focus/control ring roles
This firmware update is providing almost as many new features as a true Mark II release would’ve brought. If you already have a Z9, please be sure to visit Nikon’s Support Page for additional details when the update becomes available on April 20, 2022.
MC-N10 Remote Grip
After the update if you are hoping to make your Z9 a little more cinema-like Nikon does have a new accessory coming that might be perfect for you: the MC-N10 Remote Grip. This grip is designed for the mirrorless Z Series and offers many of the controls you would find on a camera's normal grip. The MC-N10 connects via USB-C and has a non-locking ARRI-style rosette mount that will allow it to easily mount to cages and other rigs as well as be repositioned to different angles. Stay tuned for more news on this accessory at a later date.
Looking forward to this update? Let us know in the Comments section, below.
Please note that supply of the Nikon Z9 is highly constrained; orders placed today will likely not ship for several months.