The Nikon Z 9 is Nikon’s flagship professional full-frame mirrorless camera. It’s capable of shooting 45.7MP images at 20 frames per second in raw, or 30fps in JPEG, with continuous autofocus tracking. A new AI subject detection AF system is capable of recognising multiple kinds of subjects, and the camera can also record 8K video. Boasting professional build quality and control, the Nikon Z 9 costs £5,299 body-only.

Nikon Z9 at a glance:

  • £5,299 body-only
  • 45.7MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor
  • ISO 32-102,400 (extended)
  • 20fps continuous shooting in raw
  • 3.69m-dot electronic viewfinder
  • 3-way tilting touchscreen
  • 8K 30p video recording for up to 2 hours
  • 5-axis in-body stabilisation

Over the past year, we’ve seen a series of high-end full-frame mirrorless cameras whose capabilities decisively surpass anything their DSLR predecessors could offer. At the start of 2021, the remarkable Sony Alpha 1 kicked things off with its ability to shoot 50MP images at 30 frames per second. Then in September, Canon’s EOS R3 appeared offering 24MP at 30fps, but with game-changing eye-controlled autofocus for selecting subjects for tracking. Nikon was the last of the big three to reveal its hand, but its flagship Z 9 might just be the most accomplished of all.

Nikon Z9 with Z 24-70mm F2.8 S

The Nikon Z9 is the firm’s flagship professional camera

In fact, the Nikon Z 9 offers a combination of high-end specifications and professional-level build that simply hasn’t been seen before. It can shoot 45.7MP raw files at 20fps for more than 1000 frames in succession, increasing to 30fps if you switch to JPEG-only. Drop the resolution to 11MP, and the Z9 will run at an astonishing 120 fps. It can also record 8K video for several hours without overheating. Crucially, it promises the pro-level control setup and extreme durability that’s essential for photographers who make a living from their cameras.

Technically, the Z 9 breaks new ground in being the first camera of its type to eliminate the mechanical shutter completely. Instead, it relies entirely on a high-speed, low-distortion electronic shutter that’s enabled by its use of a stacked CMOS sensor. Both the Sony Alpha 1 and Canon EOS R3 employ similar technology, but only Nikon has been brave enough to take it to its logical conclusion.

Nikon Z9 in hand

With its dual-gripped design and hefty construction, the Nikon Z9 is a real heavyweight

This decision appears to have paid off in one crucial respect, as doing without this complex, expensive component helps make the Z 9 significantly less expensive than its rivals (although at £5,300, it still isn’t remotely cheap). But is this a step too far with current technology?

Nikon Z9: Features

Previously, Nikon split its pro-spec DSLR line between high-speed sports and action models such as the 20MP D6, and high-resolution cameras for wedding, portrait and studio work like the 45.7MP D850. But with the Z 9, Nikon has aimed to produce a single camera that can do anything a professional photographer might need. It matches the D850 for resolution, while being capable of shooting considerably faster than the D6. Throw in a brand-new AI subject recognition autofocus system and 8K video recording, and this represents a considerable step up over anything Nikon users have seen before.

Nikon Z9 stacked CMOS sensor

Nikon has built the Z9 around a brand new full-frame stacked CMOS sensor

 In terms of headline specifications, the Z 9 uses a 45.7MP full-frame sensor that offers ISO 64-25,600 as standard, and ISO 32-102,400 extended. This means it doesn’t match the ultra-high values offered by the 20MP D6, which provides ISO 102,400 as standard and a staggering extended ISO 3,280,000.

But this is more than made up for by its sheer speed, with even the top 120fps rate still coming complete with continuous autofocus and tracking. Impressively, this is said to work with over 100 Nikon lenses, including F-mount DSLR lenses via the FTZ adapter, as well as native Z-mount optics.

Nikon Z9 USB-C charging

The hefty battery can be charged in the field using a USB-C PD powerbank

Nikon has achieved these speeds by using a stacked CMOS sensor, which employs a memory layer beneath the light-sensitive pixels for ultra-fast readout. This design practically eliminates distortion from rolling-shutter effects, while also providing a blackout-free viewfinder feed during continuous shooting.

The Z 9 also boasts Nikon’s most advanced autofocus system yet, with AI-based subject recognition to detect and track focus on people, animals and vehicles, including cars, motorbikes, trains and planes. It comes with a significant advantage over rival systems, in that you don’t have to specify in advance what you’re shooting; the camera will switch seamlessly between them. However, you can easily choose a specific subject if you prefer via the onscreen i-menu.

Nikon Z9 subject selection

Nikon’s new subject-detection AF can recognise people, animals, birds and vehicles

Alternatively, there are 493 manually selectable autofocus points and a choice of 10 AF-area modes. Making a welcome debut on the Z-series is Nikon’s 3D-tracking, which will be familiar to its DSLR users.

Like Nikon’s other full-frame Z-series cameras, five-axis in-body image stabilisation is on board and rated for up to six stops of shake suppression. When used with an optically stabilised lens, the two systems work together, with the lens taking on correction for vertical and horizontal shake.

Nikon Z9 sensor shield

This may look like a shutter, but it’s actually a shield to protect the sensor from dust during lens changes

One notable new feature is a shield that protects the sensor when the camera is switched off, which is particularly welcome for those who need to change lenses in dusty conditions.

To reduce the storage demands when shooting high-res files at high speeds, Nikon has introduced a high efficiency raw file format that promises to significantly reduce file sizes without any loss of detail. What it doesn’t do, though, is take any strain off your computer when it comes to raw processing.

Nikon Z9 high efficiency raw

A new High efficiency raw format enables considerably smaller file sizes

The firm has also added new AI-based auto white balance algorithms and is promising more accurate rendition of a diverse range of skin tones.

Video specs are also very impressive. The Z 9 can record in 8K resolution at 30 fps and Nikon says it’ll keep going for hours without overheating. Alternatively, it can shoot 4K at up to 120fps using the full width of the sensor. There’s a choice of 8-bit or 10-bit colour, with efficient H.265 compression to keep file sizes down.

Nikon Z9 ports

Nikon Z9 ports: ethernet, microphone, headphones, HDMI and USB-C

As befits a pro camera, extensive connectivity options are built in. There’s an RJ45 ethernet port and built-in high-speed Wi-Fi that supports sending images to a news desk via FTP. In principle, it’s even possible to connect the Z 9 to a smartphone via USB-C for transferring images over mobile data networks using the NX MobileAir app, but this wasn’t available at the time of writing.

More prosaically, the cameras is fully compatible with the SnapBridge app for connection to a smartphone, which supports both remote control over Wi-Fi and image transfer for sharing.

Nikon Z9: Key features

Nikon has consciously designed the Z9 to closely resemble its D6 pro DSLR

Nikon Z9 card slots

Nikon has equipped the Z9 with dual slots for CFexpress Type B / XQD cards, which are fast but very expensive

  • Remote release: A 10-pin socket for Nikon’s MC-30A wired release is placed just below a PC-sync flash connector on the front left shoulder
  • Storage: Dual card slots accept either CFexpress Type B or XQD cards. They can be used either sequentially or simultaneously in backup mode, or raw files can be recorded to one and JPEGs to the other. But they’re much more expensive than SD cards
  • Illumination: Flicking the power switch to the right lights up both the top-plate display and most of the buttons on the back
  • Power: Nikon has used the same EN-EL18 type battery as the D6, with the ‘d’ version being compatible with in-camera USB charging. It’s CIPA rated for 740 shots per charge, but will deliver many times that in burst mode
  • Connectivity: An RJ45 ethernet port is built-in for transmitting images to an FTP server, along with 5GHz Wi-Fi. There’s also a full-size HDMI output, a USB-C port, and microphone and headphone sockets
  • F-mount compatibility: Nikon DSLR lenses can be used via the £249 FTZ 2 adapter, complete with autofocus (when using AF-S and AF-P optics) and stabilisation. The older FTZ adapter will also work, but its tripod mount cramps access to the vertical grip

Nikon Z9: Build and Handling

In design terms, from the front the Z 9 looks like a slightly shrunken version of Nikon’s professional D6 DSLR. It boasts an integrated vertical grip that houses a hefty battery, along with a viewfinder housing that’s styled to resemble the firm’s DSLRs much more than previous Z models. In contrast to the Canon EOS R3, Nikon says its body is just as robust as its pro DSLRs, thanks to a fully weather-sealed magnesium alloy shell.

Nikon Z9 in use

The heavyweight Nikon Z9 feels extremely robust in your hand and is extensively weather-sealed

The Z9 certainly feels pretty bomb-proof in your hand, and in my hands it survived some heavy winter showers with no ill effects. But in exchange, it’s notably heavy at 1340g. While that’s about 100g lighter than the D6, it’s over 300g heavier than the EOS R3, and nearly twice the weight of the Sony A1 without its add-on grip.

In terms of control setup, the Z9 will be instantly familiar to users of Nikon’s pro DSLRs. Almost its entire surface area, aside from the handgrips, is taken up by buttons and dials. As a result, pretty much every important setting can be changed quickly using a dedicated external control.

Nikon Z9 top controls

A detailed status screen on top shows camera settings at a glance

By default, front and rear dials set the aperture and shutter speed respectively, while top-plate buttons provide access to ISO and exposure compensation. A prominent AF-ON button and a joystick for positioning the focus point are placed within easy reach of your thumb, along with an ‘i’ button that allows a further range of settings to be adjusted easily with the camera up to your eye. All these controls are replicated across both grips for vertical and horizontal shooting.

Nikon Z9 release mode dial

The release mode dial has a small locking button in front

A prominent release mode dial is situated on the left shoulder, giving access to low- and high-speed continuous shooting and the self-timer. The exact shooting rates and the timer delay are all user customisable, and there’s a further custom position that can be set to any of the camera’s shooting rates, including the 30fps and 120fps options. Meanwhile focus modes and AF-area settings are readily changed via a button on the left side.

Nikon Z9 focus mode button

A large button on the lower front left is used to change focus modes

On the back, the layout is very much like existing Z-series models. There’s no space for a D6-style column of buttons to the left of the screen, so these have been rearranged to be easily accessible using your right thumb. Additional buttons beneath the screen are used for setting white balance and image quality and adding voice notes to images. The rear buttons can be illuminated for shooting in the dark with a quick flick of the power switch.

Nikon Z9 rear controls

Almost the entire back of the camera is covered in buttons and dials

Finally, three buttons on the front are set to switch between custom camera setups (which Nikon calls Shooting menu banks), select the image area (FX, DX, 1:1 and 16:9), and toggle the viewfinder display to a clean, uncluttered view. When set to DX crop, the Z9 still offers 20MP resolution, which makes it a great option for distant subjects such as wildlife.

Nikon Z9 front controls

There are three function buttons on the front, labeled Fn1, Fn2 and Fn3

In principle, Shooting menu banks are a handy way of switching quickly between different camera configurations. But one notable catch is that they don’t include the release mode, even when the dial is set to its custom position, so it’s all too easy to find yourself shooting landscapes at 120fps if you’re not careful. Also, while you can give the settings banks meaningful names, the camera won’t show these in the viewfinder when selecting them via the Fn1 button.

As expected for a pro camera, almost every control is user customisable. For example, you can reconfigure the dials to give direct access to exposure compensation or ISO in the P, A and S modes. Most of the buttons can be reassigned to a broad range of options, for example to engage 3D-tracking AF with a single press.

Nikon Z9 flash and remote port

Nikon Z9 PC sync and remote release ports

Impressively, it’s also possible to configure buttons to change a whole group of settings with a single press, using the ‘Recall shooting functions’ option. For example, you can set the AF-ON button so it also activates 3D-tracking, subject recognition, continuous shooting, and switches to S mode with a suitably fast shutter speed. This would be perfect for reacting quickly to moving subjects, except mysteriously, the ability to switch from AF-S to AF-C is missing.

Nikon Z9 external battery charger

Nikon supplies this USB-C external battery charger in the box. It’s small and light enough to use in the field with a powerbank

The camera’s vast array of physical buttons is nicely complemented by the touchscreen, which can be used to set the AF point, operate the menus, and browse images in playback. Nikon’s menu system is every bit as long and complex as you’d expect from a pro camera, but mercifully built-in help is available to explain most (if not quite all) of the options. If you do find yourself changing certain settings frequently, you can assign them to a custom My Menu, but this is a rather long-winded process.

Nikon Z9 Kensington Lock

There’s a Kensington Lock connector on the vertical grip, which is handy for photographers who need to set up remote cameras securely

If I have one minor bugbear with the Z9’s handling, it’s that the buttons on the vertical grip are a bit too easily pressed by accident when you’re holding the camera in landscape format. They can be locked by flicking a switch around the vertical shutter button, but it would be helpful if the camera could be set to ignore them when it’s being held in landscape format.

Nikon Z9: Viewfinder and screen

On paper, the Z 9 promises a similar viewing experience to the Z 7II. Its 3.69m-dot electronic viewfinder provides 0.8x magnification, while the rear touchscreen is a 3.2in, 2.1m-dot unit. There are, however, some significant difference. The Z 9’s EVF is brighter – indeed Nikon claims that it’s the world’s brightest – and it can also provide a blackout-free view during continuous shooting. Instead, a flickering frame around the preview image acts as a visual cue when you’re taking pictures.

Nikon Z9 viewfinder

The Z9’s electronic viewfinder is large, bright and clear

In practice, the EVF is truly excellent, providing an extremely bright, detailed view. It may not be as large as the Sony Alpha 1’s 9.4m-dot, 0.9x unit, but it serves its purpose just as well. As usual it can show comprehensive shooting data, including a live histogram and electronic levels simultaneously.

Nikon Z9 articulated screen

Here you can see the complex 4-hinge articulation mechanism on the Z9’s rear screen

By default, the viewfinder previews colour processing and depth-of-field, while exposure is simulated across a +/-3 EV range. Alternatively, delve into the menus and you’ll find a View Mode (photo LV) option that neutralises colours, disables exposure preview and brightens shadows, all in a bid to mimic the optical viewfinder of DSLRs.

Nikon Z9 tilt screen in use

The screen design facilitates waist-level shooting in portrait format

The rear screen has also had a major upgrade, in that it can now tilt upwards by 90° when shooting in portrait format, as well as tilting up and down when the camera is held in the landscape orientation. This is a similar approach to several Panasonic and Fujifilm cameras, and I think it’s the best screen design for stills shooters in how it facilitates shooting at awkward angles. It can’t be set facing forwards, but I doubt Z9 users will care one bit. It isn’t affected by the View Mode setting, but instead always previews colour and exposure.

Nikon Z9: Autofocus

Perhaps the Z 9’s most important new feature is its AI subject detection autofocus, which represents a step forward compared to anything we’ve seen before. Both the Canon EOS R3 and Sony Alpha 1 use similar technology, but the big difference here is that you don’t have to pre-select what kind of subject you want the camera to recognise (human, animal, bird or vehicle).

Nikon Z9 fox sample image

The Z9’s subject detection works with multiple subject types simultaneously, including animals. Nikon Z9, Nikkor-Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 310mm, 1/1000sec at f/5.3, ISO 12,800

Instead, the Z 9 simply picks out what it sees, outlines it in the viewfinder, and then proceeds to track focus on it around the frame. When there are multiple possible subjects in the frame, you can select between them using the joystick, which works well but isn’t quite as seamlessly intuitive as the Canon EOS R3’s eye control.

Nikon doesn’t demand you always have to use subject recognition, of course. You still get a full set of AF modes, so you can position the AF point manually, or use 3D-tracking that works in a familiar fashion for DSLR users, following a specified subject based upon colour, size and distance.

Nikon Z9 airliner sample image

The Z9 outlines subjects it recognises in the viewfinder, then tracks them across the frame. Nikon Z9, Nikkor-Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 400mm, 1/800sec at f/5.6, ISO 1600

No matter how you use it, though, the Z 9’s autofocus system works near-flawlessly almost all the time. Regardless of whether the subject is static or moving, or in the centre or corner of the frame, it just nails focus with a remarkable hit-rate, even if you’re shooting at 20, 30 or 120 fps.

Naturally it’s not quite perfect, and like all such systems the AI subject detection isn’t totally accurate. For example, when shooting birds with the 100-400mm telezoom, I found it had a certain habit of latching onto details like twigs and frustratingly refusing to shift focus onto the clearly recognisable bird slightly behind. Occasionally, it’ll indicate that it’s found spurious faces in random areas of the image.

Nikon Z9 heron sample image

In this situation, I had to switch to a manually selected focus point. Nikon Z9, Nikkor-Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 400mm (600mm equiv in DX crop), 1/1000sec at f/5.6, ISO 3600

But we’re rather splitting hairs here – for almost anyone buying a Z 9, its AF system will be far quicker and more reliable anything they’ve used before.

Nikon Z9: Performance

Professional photographers require a camera that’s ready to use the instant they need it, and this is exactly what the Z 9 provides. It starts up the moment you flick the power switch, and thereafter responds instantly to both the physical controls and the touchscreen. Once you’ve got used to how it works and have tweaked it to your liking, the Z9 gets out of your way and lets you concentrate on taking pictures.

Nikon Z9 Tower Bridge Sunrise sample image

With its 45.7MP sensor, the Z9 is capable of superb image quality. Nikon Z9, Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 165mm, 1/640sec at f/8, ISO 100

With no mechanical shutter, it’s also capable of being completely silent. For many professionals, this allows shooting in situations that previously wouldn’t have been possible, and unlike Nikon’s pro DSLRs, you can continue to use the viewfinder. Alternatively the camera can play a fake shutter sound, which can provide reassuring feedback when you take a picture. Crucially, in the thousands of images that I shot with the Z 9, I didn’t see any negative effects attributable to the electronic shutter, such as rolling shutter distortion.

Face and eye detection lets you concentrate on composition when shooting portraits. Nikon Z9, Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at 70mm, 1/250sec at f/6.3, ISO 1800. Model: Simone Jane Piper, MK Model Management

When it comes to continuous shooting, in my testing the Z 9 didn’t quite achieve Nikon’s promised 20fps for 1000 frames. But what it delivered was no less extraordinary. Using a Lexar Professional 64GB CFexpress card with a rated write speed of 1000 MB/s, I found it maintained 20fps for 6 seconds in full-resolution raw, before slowing down slightly to a sustained 16.5fps. But then it just kept on going until the card was full, ultimately recording a burst of 2638 frames in 159 seconds.

You won’t get quite the same level of performance from older XQD cards. But with a Sony 32GB G-series card rated at 400MB/s, I found the Z9 shot at 20fps for 2 seconds, before settling down to 10fps until the card was full. This is still pretty impressive stuff.

Nikon Z9 heron in flight sample image

With its high shooting speed and deep buffer, the Z9 is great for shooting moving subjects. Nikon Z9, Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 220mm, cropped

This also highlights the importance of Nikon’s new high-efficiency raw file format, which keeps file sizes below 25MB, compared to 55MB for the Z 7 which shares the same sensor resolution. This is crucial for maintaining such high speeds, and there’s no apparent drawback in terms of image quality. However, it’s worth knowing that if you switch to the obtusely named ‘High Efficiency *’ option, which prioritises quality over size, the average file size increases to about 35MB and shooting speeds slow down.

Nikon Z9 DX crop parakeet sample image

The 20MP DX crop setting is ideal for shooting distant subjects. Nikon Z9, Z-Nikkor 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 400mm (600mm equiv in DX crop)

This in turn leads onto battery life. In the Z 9, the EN-EL18D is rated for 720 shots per charge, which sounds like a considerable step backwards from the D6’s 3580. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for concluding that it represents just 6 seconds shooting at 120fps. But really, this reflects that the CIPA standard battery-life test represents taking single shots at discrete intervals, and breaks down completely with this kind of high-speed camera. If you take a lot of high-speed bursts, you can shoot many thousands of frames without making a massive dent in the battery level indicator.

Nikon Z9 light art sample image

This shot showcases the sensor’s dynamic range. The camera JPEG was almost entirely black, with most of the detail here pulled up in raw processing. Nikon Z9, Nikkor-Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at 46mm, 1/30sec at f/2.8, ISO 64

When it comes to metering, the Z 9 performs very well, to the extent that there’s rarely any need to use anything other than Matrix mode. It does a great job of avoiding clipping highlights irretrievably, without generally erring too much towards underexposure. On the odd occasion that it might need some compensation, you can see that clearly in the viewfinder.

Nikon Z9 sample image

Nikon’s JPEG colour rendition is generally very attractive. Nikon Z9, Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at 24mm, 1/125sec at f/9, ISO 1000

Nikon’s updated AI-based auto white balance system is also worthy of praise; I mostly used the Natural Light Auto mode, and found it delivered flawless colours almost all the time. In particular, where Nikon once veered towards over-neutrality in golden-hour light, it now does a brilliant job of enhancing those colours without looking unreal.

Nikon Z9 sunrise image sample

Natural Light Auto white balance did a fantastic job with these sunrise colours. Nikon Z9, Nikkor-Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at 25mm, 1/15sec at f/8, ISO 800. Unedited camera JPEG.

As a result, you can usually trust the Z 9 to deliver superb results in JPEG mode. This is crucial for a camera that pros need to rely on to deliver finished files directly to their newsdesks. Nikon’s colour rendition is generally very attractive, if perhaps not quite a match for the industry-leader in this regard, Fujifilm. The in-camera high-ISO noise reduction works particularly well, giving much cleaner images and stronger colours than Adobe’s raw processing (which is now looking distinctly outdated).

Nikon Z9 London City Skyline sample image

Effective IBIS allows you to shoot hand-held at slow shutter speeds. Nikon Z9, Nikkor-Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at 60mm, 0.3sec at f/16, ISO 100.

Nikon’s in-body stabilisation system does a decent job of correcting camera shake when shooting hand-held. With the Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at its wider settings, I was often able to get acceptable shots at shutter speeds as slow as 1 second. More generally, it means you shouldn’t ever have images spoiled by shake at more conventional shutter speeds.

Nikon Z9 night-time sample image

Even at ISO 1600, raw files are very malleable to extensive shadow and highlight adjustments without suffering from excessive noise. Nikon Z 9, Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at 36mm, 0.6sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600, hand-held

Raw image quality is also truly excellent. At low ISOs you get both impressive levels of detail and massive dynamic range, which allows you to pull up dark shadows pretty much as far as any software will sensibly let you. If there’s any difference compared to the Z 7II here, it’s essentially academic. Naturally detail will suffer at high ISOs, but I was still quite happy using the top standard setting of ISO 25,600.

Nikon Z9: ISO and Noise

With its 45.7MP sensor, the Z9 can record an impressive amount of detail. Among its full-frame competitors, it’s only appreciably surpassed by a few 61MP models. At ISO 64, there’s absolutely no visible noise, making for exceptional image quality. By ISO 1600 luminance noise becomes appreciable, but even then, you have to stare at files at 100% onscreen to see it.

Nikon Z9 high ISO image sample

Nikon’s JPEG processing delivers strong colour and low noise at high ISO settings. Nikon Z9, Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at 70mm, 1/80sec at f/5.6, ISO 10,000, unedited camera JPEG

Fine detail starts to blur away at ISO 6400, but it’s only when you hike the sensitivity to ISO 25,600 that noise really has a major negative impact. At this point, Nikon’s JPEGs do a considerably better job of suppressing noise and retaining colour than Adobe’s raw processing. The extended ISO 51,200 and ISO 102,400 settings lose almost all shadow detail and are best avoided if possible.

Below are 100% crops taken from our standard test scene, shot in raw and processed using Adobe Camera Raw. Click on any crop to see the full image file.

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 64, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 64, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 400, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 400, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 1600, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 1600, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 6400, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 6400, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 25,600, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 25,600, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 51,200, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 51,200, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 102,400, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9 test image, ISO 102,400, Raw + Adobe Camera Raw

Nikon Z9: Our Verdict

Few cameras have arrived to quite as much excitement as the Nikon Z 9. It is, arguably, the first mirrorless model to put itself forward as a complete replacement for any professional full-frame DSLR. You could argue that the Z9 doesn’t actually do very much that the Sony Alpha 1 doesn’t already offer, but the big difference is its chunky, robust build, integrated vertical grip for shooting with large lenses, and of course the familiar design and handling for long-term Nikon users. Not to mention the fact that it’ll work with their F-mount DSLR lenses via the FTZ2 adapter.

Nikon Z9 with 100-400mm lens

With the 100-400mm telezoom, the Z9 is a superb sports or action camera

In practice, the Z 9 delivers impressively on its considerable promise. It combines high resolution, breathtaking speed, and professional handling in a body so solidly built that it feels like it could stop a bullet. For current Nikon DSLR users, it’s considerably quicker than the D6 while delivering image quality that matches or surpasses the D850, only with significantly smaller file sizes. And it’s fitted with one of the most impressive autofocus systems we’ve ever seen.

In fact, what’s most striking about the Z 9 is the way you can usually rely on it to identify and focus on the most important subject in the frame, taking one more task off your hands while you just get on with the process of composing and taking pictures. Its ability to shoot at 20fps in raw with reliable AF tracking also gives a higher chance of capturing the perfect moment. Essentially, it’s the final nail in the coffin for the pro DSLR.

Nikon Z9 Tower Bridge sample image

Nikon Z9, Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S at 39mm, 1/6sec at f/11, ISO 64, hand-held

The Z 9 is, however, a big, hefty and expensive beast. With the Nikkor Z 24-70mm F2.8 and 100-400mm lenses I used for this review, my bag added up to 3.5kg. This makes it a specialist tool for demanding jobs, and not the kind of camera that you’d lug around for the pleasure of taking pictures. I also think Nikon could significantly improve how its various custom set-up options work with a firmware update. But this is a minor criticism of perhaps the most impressive and capable camera you can currently buy.

Amateur Photographer Testbench Gold - 5 stars

Nikon Z 9: Full Specifications