A Huge Firmware Update Is Coming to the Nikon Z 9 on April 20th

A Huge Firmware Update Is Coming to the Nikon Z 9 on April 20th

Some big new things are coming to Nikon’s line of mirrorless cameras.

Now, of the literally hundreds of articles I’ve written for Fstoppers over the last several years, I do believe that this is the first time I’ve ever written about a firmware update. Generally speaking, these are rather staid affairs, more akin to brushing one’s teeth than an exciting evening out on the town. Quite frankly, there’s usually not a lot to talk about. In fact, I’ll admit to being one of those people who don’t even always bother to perform firmware updates on many occasions unless the camera being affected has been exhibiting particularly bad behavior.

But early purchasers of the Nikon Z 9 have been promised an amazing set of new features in a second round of firmware ever since before the camera’s release. To be fair, the camera does perfectly well without any updates. Since receiving my Z 9 in late December, the camera has gone from a curiosity to an absolute necessity for me. A bit like a petulant child who refuses to leave his favorite toy at home, it’s become the camera that I want to take everywhere. Even on some jobs where technical specs or specific project requirements give me the option of choosing other gear, I can’t help but to try and find a way to shoot with the Z 9 instead.

Especially on the video front, where I have a host of rental options for cinema cameras to capture footage for any given project, I still find myself preferring to shoot with the Z 9 whenever possible. I’ve rolled over a hundred hours of footage through my Z 9 by this point and created a lot of work I’m proud of while getting super comfortable with the sensor and resulting footage. I’ve also already processed thousands of still frames through the Z 9, even producing a couple images that have won me a few awards that I’ve long hoped to achieve, and allowing me to create art on my own terms.

Needless to say, almost six months in, I’m still loving my Z 9. So when I saw a press release today suggesting that the camera was about to get even better, much better, I had to pass along the news.

Video Updates

From my intro, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the real headline features for me personally in firmware 2.0 for the Nikon Z 9 come on the video front. The biggest headline being the introduction of the .NEV Nikon 12-bit raw video format at up to 8K 60p and oversampling at 4K UHD 60p. The format allows you to retain a maximum amount of information from the scene, yet produces smaller video files which are easier on your editing system. For those who want an even smaller file, there will be an option to shoot raw video in 4K as well as 8K. Having been frustrated in the past by other cinema cameras that force you to shoot at the highest resolution when shooting raw, being able to shoot at lower resolutions and still retain the power of raw video is a major benefit.

But much to my surprise, the new firmware update also introduces more things incredibly important to the filmmaking workflow, including a built-in waveform monitor as well as the ability to create proxies while filming to help nail exposure and speed up your post-production workflow respectively. They’ve made enhancements to the user interface as well by adding different video centric info layouts as well as the ability to have the outside of the frame light up red when in record mode. As someone who has trouble with my eyesight, this more obvious red box around the frame will be a godsend for confirming when I am, or am not, rolling.

The camera also now will allow for more fine-tuned exposure adjustments in 1/6th increments. The press release also mentions a new Fast AF-ON function, which allows you to more quickly change the racking speed when shifting focus between subjects. I have no idea how this will work, but I can’t wait to try it out.

Still Photography

Oh, and have I forgotten to mention that the Z 9 is, in fact, a great still camera — top of the class in my opinion. With the new firmware update, you will now be able to have a pre-release option when shooting hard-to-capture moments. Similar to video cameras, which offer pre-roll modes which can constantly capture just a bit of footage before you hit the record button to give you cushion, in case you're late on the trigger, the pre-release button will allow you to capture potentially vital frames even before you have time to react and press down on the shutter. This feature could be a lifesaver if you're a photojournalist or a bird and wildlife photographer or another type of shooter who depends on being ready at every moment.

They’ve improved AF performance in low-light situations and new subject detection patterns for AF tracking. They’ve improved the viewfinder performance as well. I’ll be interested to see that, as the Z 9’s current blackout free viewfinder is already among the best I’ve used in a mirrorless camera.

Z 6II and Z 7II

Users of the Z 6II and Z 7II haven’t been left out of the fun. Version 1.4 of the firmware for the Z 9’s smaller siblings will include improved autofocus performance. The press release specifically notes that it addresses the tendency of those cameras to want to focus on the background in lieu of your subject from time to time. I’ve encountered that problem more than once on the Z 6II and am happy to see the issue being addressed. The update also includes the ability to use linear focus with select lenses to add more functionality to the range.

The new firmware will be available on April 20th. And, at least this time around, this won’t be a firmware update I’ll want to miss.

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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These updates will be great! 👍🏻

I think that, in a time of chip shortages, adopting a strategy like this, releasing new features to existing bodies, is brilliant. It keeps your existing customers happy rather than looking at what else exists (-not that there's a lot out there that tops this model, but the strategy is brilliant and would be even more amazing if used with lower end models.)