The Nikon Z9 is already one of the best reviewed pro cameras of the year but next week it should get even better thanks to a free firmware upgrade. In particular, Firmware 2.0 will give Nikon’s flagship mirrorless camera new pro cinema and fast-action photo features including 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,” Nikon said.
Nikon also announced that its Z6 II and Z7 II will see improved autofocus (AF) and other enhancements with firmware v. 1.4. Like the new Z9 firmware, v 1.4 for the Z6 II and Z7 II will be available for free on April 20, 2022.
Nikon also announced today it is developing the MC-N10 Remote Grip for its Z-series mirrorless cameras. The MC-N10, an accessory that allows remote control of Nikon Z-mount mirrorless cameras via a wired connection, will be available at a later date, Nikon said.
And finally, Nikon said it will release the MC-CF660G CFexpress card in June 2022. The MC-CF660G ($729) is a 660GB CFexpress (Type B) memory card that can achieve a maximum read speed of approximately 1700 MB/s and maximum write speed of approximately 1500 MB/s, which makes it suited for video/still shooting with the Z9
But it’s the new firmware for the 45.7MP Z9 that should draw the most interest since it expands the options of this full-frame hybrid camera for filmmakers, videographers, photographers, and other content creators.
“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,” Nikon said in a press announcement this morning.
“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.”
Here’s a rundown of the key video and photo features available with Firmware 2.0 for the Z9, according to Nikon’s press announcement this morning.
Videography and Cinema Upgrades for the Nikon Z9
- 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. RAW video allows for more latitude with tonality, with a range of more than 68 billion colors for flexibility when grading or consistency as part of a multi-camera production.
- Nikon’s new N-RAW raw video format records a large amount of scene information, yet is a significantly smaller file size, allowing for more recording time and less intensive workflow. N-RAW footage can be recorded in the following formats: 8.3K 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 sharper and cleaner 4K content.
- A Red “REC” frame indicator on the monitor and viewfinder has been added during recording to more easily identify when 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 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 more precise and smoother 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 Z9
- According to Nikon, “for the first time in a mirrorless full frame camera, the Pre-Release Capture feature acquires hard-to-predict moments easier than ever before,” 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 can be 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 star trails and long exposures, Firmware 2.0 enhances the Z9’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.
Pricing and Availability
The new firmware updates will be available to download for free starting on April 20, 2022 at Nikonusa.com, and via the SnapBridge app soon afterwards. Further details about the MC-N10 will come at a later date. The new Nikon MC-CF660G High Performance CFexpress Card will be available starting in June for a suggested retail price of $729.95.