Nikon Inc. has announced major feature additions to the Nikon Z 9 that will soon be available through a free firmware upgrade. The upgrade is Nikon’s most comprehensive to date, significantly expanding the Z 9’s already powerful video and stills feature set. With enhancements including in-camera 12-bit RAW video at up to 8K 60p, oversampling at 4K UHD 60p, and a new Pre-Release Capture function that increases the odds of catching hard-to-predict moments, the Z 9 solidifies its role as the ultimate hybrid camera for filmmakers, videographers, photographers and creators. Additionally, Nikon has also announced AF performance enhancements and other improvements with firmware v. 1.4 for the Z 6II and Z 7II, as well as the development of the new MC-N10. The new upgrades for the Z 9, Z 7II, and Z 6II will all be available free of charge starting April 20, 2022.
“The Nikon Z 9 is considered by many to be the most powerful and versatile camera on the market. With the most extensive combination of powerful stills and advanced video capture abilities available today, it’s been our most successful flagship camera ever,” said Jay Vannatter, Executive Vice President, Nikon Inc. “Now the best is getting even better – These latest updates are just another example of the Z system’s ability to rapidly evolve and gain features and usability by using our customer’s feedback.”
At the forefront of this comprehensive firmware upgrade are enhancements for cinema and video capture, chiefly the addition of 12-bit internal RAW video recording in a variety of frame rates and resolutions, as well as functionality and interface adjustments made specifically for videographers. Footage can now be captured at up to 8.3K 60p with Nikon’s new N-RAW format, or up to 4.1K 60p in ProRes RAW HQ. This allows the Z 9 to capture the largest possible color depth and a vast dynamic range for maximum flexibility when color grading and in post-production. Nikon’s new N-RAW (.NEV file) packs all the depth and detail of a 12-bit RAW video into a file that’s half the size of equivalent ProRes RAW HQ files for lighter workflow. The new video options take full advantage of the Z 9’s exceptional full-frame sensor, with N-RAW footage captured at up to 8.3K (8256×4644), allowing for export in UHD or DCI 8K aspect ratios. Shooting at such a high-resolution grants consistency in multiple camera production, or the flexibility of letting users add effects such as zooming, reframing, and trimming when producing 4K content.
Firmware 2.0 for the Z 9 also adds still-photo features, including enhancements to autofocus and high-speed image capture. Imagine trying to anticipate the most decisive moment of a game or action sequence; When shooting at 30 or 120fps in High-Speed Frame Capture+, the camera starts capturing up to one full second before the shutter is fully depressed, giving the photographer extra time to trigger the camera and still capture the most impactful shot. From the instant a receiver jumps for a pass in the end zone, or a bird dives into the water for a meal, the fastest fleeting frames will be captured before a human can physically react. When half-pressing the shutter, the camera can record frames up to one full second before and up to four seconds after the shutter is fully pressed, all with no viewfinder blackout or distractions that would otherwise interrupt the action.
Videography and cinema upgrades for the Nikon Z 9:
- Addition of internal N-RAW video recording up to 12-bit 8.3K 60p and 12-bit ProRes RAW HQ up to 4.1K 60p. The power of RAW video allows for extreme latitude with tonality, with a range of more than 68 billion colors for flexibility when grading or consistency as part of multi-camera production.
- Nikon’s new N-RAW raw video format records a vast amount of scene information, yet is significantly smaller file size, allowing for much more recording time and less intensive workflow. N-RAW footage can be recorded in the following formats: 3K 60p, 24p, or 4.1K 120p, 60p, 30p, 24p while in full-frame/FX mode, 3.8K 120p with a 2.3x Crop, or 5.3K 60p, 30p, 24p with a DX (1.5x) crop.
- The N-RAW format also creates an mp4 proxy file, which is efficient for previewing, quick transfers, or edits on the fly.
- 4K UHD 60p footage can now be oversampled from 8K footage, allowing for the sharpest and cleanest possible 4K content.
- A Red “REC” frame indicator on the monitor and viewfinder has been added during recording to easily identify when the video is being captured.
- A Waveform monitor has been added to confirm the brightness levels and position of the subject while recording.
- A new dedicated video info display gives various video recording settings at a glance, such as a frame size and rate, audio settings, codec, bit depth, and HDMI output settings, all of which can be confirmed on a single screen. Additionally, a frame rate/size display on the top control panel helps to confirm when the rear monitor is difficult to view.
- A “Fine ISO control (Mode M)” enables exposure adjustment in increments of 1/6 EV for ultra-precise and smooth changes in exposure.
- The Fast AF-ON function allows a user to assign different AF speeds to separate controls. From a slow rack focus to a fast transition, two speeds are now assignable on customizable buttons to improve video shooting efficiency.
- To enable slow shutter video recording of extremely dark scenes or intentionally introduce blur when shooting video in M mode, the shutter speed can be set at a slower than 1/frame rate.
- With select frame rates and resolution settings, the user now has the ability to save consecutive frames in a selected section of video footage as a series of JPEG images while the playback is paused.
Still photo upgrades for the Nikon Z 9:
- For the first time in a mirrorless full frame camera, the Pre-Release Capture feature acquires hard-to-predict moments easier than ever before3, allowing for the burst capture of images up to a full second before the shutter is fully pressed.
- Twenty types of Custom Wide-Area AF selection patterns have been added, giving the user more control over what part of the frame they want to focus on, which can also work in conjunction with subject detection. This is useful for a variety of sports and situations such as volleyball or a finish line. Twelve additional patterns are available for video capture.
- The new Retouch menu feature, “Motion Blend” creates an in-camera overlay from a series of subject movements from continuous shooting into a single picture in-camera. For example, a snowboarder’s aerial can be captured from start to finish sequentially in one finished frame.
- AF stability, tracking performance, and subject detection in low-light situations have been enhanced.
- When reviewing images, users now have the option to skip to the first shot in a given burst.
- For capturing amazing star trails and long exposures, Firmware 2.0 enhances the Z 9’s Long Exposure display to include a live count of the exposure time. Users also can now dim the viewfinder further and with greater precision to preserve power and their night vision.
Additional functionality upgrades:
- The Z 9’s Real Live Viewfinder is arguably the most impressive EVF available, and the only one that provides a truly blackout-free view. Firmware 2.0 adds the high fps viewfinder display function to increase the refresh rate to 120 fps for an even smoother, more lifelike view.
- Auto Exposure (AE) has been enhanced to have more stable exposure with human faces, such as when a subject turns away from the camera and then faces it again, or when the composition changes.
- Improved “Prioritize viewfinder” monitor mode gives a familiar shooting and review flow.
- “Prefer sub-selector center” is added to the custom menu, improving the operability of the sub-selector.
- Improvements in AWB even when the scene changes rapidly and adjustments to “Choose color temperature” and preset manual WB.
- A new custom setting: Focus Point Selection Speed allows users to adjust the speed that AF points can be moved through the frame.
- For confirmation of high-speed shooting, visual shutter release indicators appear clearly on the display and the Real Live Viewfinder.
- Enhanced memory set/recall function enables instant recall of several focus positions.
- “Recalling shooting functions (hold)” is now added to the conventional “Recalling shooting functions,” enabling the users to maintain the recalled function without continually pressing a button.
- Option to switch focus/control ring roles helps photographers who don’t need manual focusing employ the control ring.
The new firmware updates will be available to download for free starting on April 20, 2022.
More info on Nikon’s website.