Nikon Z9 review: Full Specs (Buy or Not)

Nikon Z9 review: Full Specs (Buy or Not)

Nikon Z9 review: Full Specs (Buy or Not)

1300 1000 Avinash Sharma

The Nikon Z9 is a powerhouse mirrorless Nikon camera especially for professional wildlife and sports photographers. The Z9 is the first professional camera to arrive without a mechanical shutter. That’s right, there’s no physical curtain moving up-and-down in front of the sensor when you take a shot. 

A bold statement of intent that shows Nikon’s confidence in its new stacked 45.7MP full-frame CMOS sensor and Expeed 7 processor. Together, these two things deliver what Nikon claims is the “world’s fastest sensor scan rate”, which has repercussions for both video and stills.

Now let’s have a look at the specifications of the world’s best mirrorless camera.

Some key Spacifications of Nikon Z9

Sensor45.7Mp back-side illuminated stacked sensor
Image ProcessorExpeed 7
AF Points493 hybrid phase/contrast detect AF points
ISO range64 to 25,600 (exp. 32 to 102,400)
Stabilization5-axis, 5.5 stops (up to 6 stops with specific lenses)
Max shutter speed1/32,000 sec
Video8K up to 60p (via firmware update), 4K up to 120p • 8- or 10-bit H.265, 10-bit Apple ProRes 4:2:2 HQ (firmware), 12-bit in-camera ProRes RAW HQ (firmware)
ViewfinderSuper-bright OLED, 3.69m dots, 100% coverage
Memory cards2x CFexpress Type B
LCD3-inch bi-directional tilting touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Max burst20fps RAW (up to 1,000 buffer), 30fps hi-res JPEG, 120fps lo-res JPEG
ConnectivityWi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB-C, headphone jack, mic jack
Dimensions149 x 149.5 x 90.5mm
Weight1,340g with battery and memory card (1,160g body only)


The Nikon Z9 is a traditional-looking mirrorless camera like the Canon EOS R3 that’s designed to appeal to those making the switch from a DSLR.

In the hand, it feels like a flagship Nikon camera should – rock-solid and ergonomically refined. It’s an old-school design, but the Z9’s body is 20% smaller than the beefy Nikon D6, and the deep, comfortable grip is ideal for both horizontal and vertical shooting. In the spirit of bulldozers like the Nikon F4 from the 1980s, it’s also built like a tank, with a magnesium alloy body that’s fully weather-sealed. Only the Canon EOS R3 can claim to offer this kind of ruggedness in the mirrorless world.

Also coming from Nikon’s DSLRs is an AF mode button for quickly switching between manual and autofocus. And round the back is a handy feature that we enjoyed during our short play – a dual-axis monitor that tilts 90-degrees in both horizontal and vertical directions.

We’ve seen something similar before on cameras like the Fujifilm X-T3 and Panasonic S1H, and the Nikon Z9’s monitor doesn’t flip around to face the front like the latter’s display. But given the Z9 is predominantly for photographers, this is likely fine for most buyers – and the ability to see what you’re shooting from low angles in portrait or landscape orientations is a real bonus. Particularly for the pros who are increasingly being asked to deliver stills and video in portrait format to suit phones and tablets.

The Nikon Z9’s info display also handily rotates when you turn it into portrait mode, which helps you avoid craning your neck. And the i-menu seen on the Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II also returns here, giving you quick one-button access to 12 customizable functions like ISO, white balance and flipping between raw and JPEG.

One of the main sticking points for DSLR users who’ve been considering switching to mirrorless is the electronic viewfinder. As if to confirm that it’s killing off the DSLR, Nikon claims the Z9’s EVF has absolutely no lag or blackout, giving you a continuous real-time view that’s akin to an optical viewfinder. This EVF is also a super-bright, 3,000-nit panel that certainly looked crisp and clear in our brief time with it.

One of the downsides of the Nikon Z9 lacking a mechanical shutter is that its sensor no longer has that built-in protection from dust. So Nikon has added a new sensor shield, which drops down when you remove the lens. Like the Nikon D6, the Z9’s rear buttons are also illuminated to help you find them in the dark, although this can be turned off if you’re looking to remain a little more inconspicuous.

Autofocus and burst shooting

The crucial areas of autofocus and burst shooting are ones that need lots of real-world testing. But on paper, the Nikon Z9 has jumped forward in both areas to sit at the mirrorless top table occupied by the Canon EOS R3 and Sony A1.

While cameras like the Nikon Z6 II offer good autofocus, they’ve always lacked the sophistication of rivals when it comes to tracking faces, eyes, and animals. Well, the Nikon Z9 catches up here – not only does it track people (including faces, eyes, heads, and upper bodies), animals (bodies, eyes, and heads), and vehicles (cars, motorbikes, planes, and trains), it claims to offer class-leading simultaneous subject recognition.

This means the Nikon Z9 can recognize up to ten different types of subjects in a single frame and track them all individually.

In terms of autofocusing power, the Nikon Z9 is a big leap forward from the Nikon Z7 II, offering five times as many auto-area AF points as that camera – these are the AF points that can automatically detect a subject in the frame and acquire focus. And Nikon says that it offers better subject-tracking across the frame than the previous flagship Nikon D6. Again, we’ll need to do some real-world tests to confirm this.

But how about that other crucial spec for sports and wildlife shooters, burst shooting? Here the Nikon Z9 is impressive, even if it doesn’t quite hit the headline top speeds of the Canon EOS R3 and Sony A1. The latter can both hit an impressive 30fps when shooting raw photos, though this is in very specific circumstances (using a CFexpress card with particular lenses in good conditions).

The Nikon Z9, meanwhile, can shoot full-resolution raw at 20fps, and Nikon’s big claim is that you can do this for over 1,000 frames. Again, this is when using ProGrade Digital Cobalt CFexpress cards, but the promise of a near-limitless buffer when shooting at those speeds will light up the eyes of sports, news, and wildlife snappers.

If that’s not quite fast enough, the Z9 does also offer a cropped burst mode that can hit 120fps. Given this only shoots 11MP JPEGs, it’s likely to be a slight niche, the emergency mode for pro photographers – though the fact that it can do this with full AF/AE tracking is impressive. In other words, these aren’t just video frames. Nikon also says that, when you factor in its FTZ adapter for mounting older F-mount lenses, this model is available for over 100 lenses.

Nikon’s decision to remove the mechanical shutter from the Z9 is a bold one. In most cameras, a mechanical shutter is a backup option offering slower burst-shooting rates for those who are concerned about the traditional drawbacks of electronic shutters, namely rolling shutters. This is caused by the read-out speeds of a sensor being unable to keep pace with the movement of a scene, resulting in effects like warped golf clubs.

Nikon says the Z9’s new stacked sensor has the world’s fastest sensor scan rates, which means its electronic-only shutter keeps even fast-moving lines straight. But the slightly concerning caveat is that Nikon claims the Z9 only “virtually does away with rolling-shutter distortion”, which means it’s still possible in some situations. What those are we’ll have to discover during testing, but pro photographers will hope that’s only in very rare circumstances or when shooting video.

Specs and features

The Nikon Z9’s stacked 45.7 MP full-frame CMOS sensor effectively makes it a super-powered version of the Nikon Z7 II, which also offers a 45.7MP resolution but without the stacked chip for speedy read-out speeds.

This resolution gives you significantly more cropping potential than the 24MP Canon EOS R3. The drawback is slightly slower maximum burst speeds than the EOS R3 or EOS R5, which can hit 30fps when shooting raw photos. 

Still, the Z9 does join the select few mirrorless cameras that can shoot 8K video. According to Nikon, it can 8K/30p video continuously for up to 125 minutes, which somewhat puts the smaller Canon EOS R5’s overheating limitations to shame. The slight downside, though, is that some of the Z9’s more exotic video modes are only going to be available via a firmware update sometime in 2022.

The modes unavailable at launch include the ability to shoot in the 10-bit ProRes 422 HQ format internally, along with 12-bit in-camera ProRes Raw HQ recording. Impressively, that firmware update will also allow the Nikon Z9 to shoot raw 8K/60p video internally. 

This would be a first for a mirrorless camera, although it’s not clear exactly when the firmware update will arrive next year, or how long you’ll be able to record for in that 8K/60p mode. Still, for now, you can shoot 8K in 24/30p and get full Eye-detection AF support in all video modes. The Z9 also shoots 4K using the full width of its sensor and includes a 4K/120p mode for slow-mo scenes.

Naturally, you’ll need a big, speedy card to deal with all this data, so the Nikon Z9 has two CFexpress type B slots. The Type B version of CFexpress, adopted by both Canon and Nikon, is larger than the Type A cards used by some Sony cameras like the new Sony A7 IV, but does offer faster 1700MB/s top speeds. This supports the large buffer capacity that Nikon claims will keep the Z9 going for over 1,000 raws in a burst.

Pro photographers, particularly those agencies or newspapers, also need fast transfer speeds, so the Nikon Z9 has an ethernet port for FTP transfers and also has an in-camera Wi-Fi-to-FTP transfer that you can use without a separate transmitter. Lastly, you can also hook up the Z9 to a 5G smartphone via its USB-C port.

Image and video quality

On paper, though, there’s certainly lots of potentials, with a native ISO range of 64-25600 and options to extend these down to ISO32 and up to ISO102,400. Nikon says the Z9 has new algorithms to help process out noise in dimly-lit situations.

The Nikon Z9’s new Expeed 7 processor has also apparently brought improvements to white balance, enabling it to more accurately reproduce skin tones or product colors that’ll mean less tweaking in post-production. This will be welcomed by both sports and commercial photographers, particularly as these algorithms also affect exposure when using flash.

Perhaps recognizing that even professionals don’t have unlimited funds to splash out on multiple CFexpress cards or external storage, Nikon has also introduced a new high-efficiency raw format on the Nikon Z9.

This isn’t a new concept, as previous Nikon cameras have offered ‘small’ and ‘medium’ raw formats that take up less storage. But this new format replaces both of those and lets you deliver 45.7MP photos but with much smaller file size. While a full-resolution image from the Nikon Z9 will be about 50MB, it says this new format will crunch that down to 10-15MB with no noticeable loss in image quality.

Final Words

Nikon z9 is a full power performance camera. And this is also great who are coming from older DSLRs. It’s expensive, of course, but also much cheaper than the Nikon D6 was at launch – and the aggressive price tag ($5,499 / £5,299 / AU$8,999) could even tempt those who had been considering the Canon EOS R3 or Sony A1.