Nikon Got Rid of the Mechanical Shutter in the Nikon Z 9: What Does This Mean for Photographers?

Nikon Got Rid of the Mechanical Shutter in the Nikon Z 9: What Does This Mean for Photographers?

Nikon has just recently announced the Nikon Z 9, a flagship camera with some incredible features. The autofocus, high-resolution sensor, and overall speed might put the Nikon Z 9 ahead of the competition. However, the most curious thing about this new camera is the fact that it does not have a mechanical shutter. 

Mechanical shutters have been used in cameras for almost as long as cameras have existed. Even when the industry shifted over to digital cameras, mechanical shutters remained. The main reason for this was because cameras just couldn't read data off the sensor fast enough. 

Most cameras currently on the market use a rolling shutter system to read data from the sensor. This is essentially a method whereby the sensor will read the data from top to bottom. For many applications, this is perfectly fine. However, if you're shooting a fast-moving subject, the rolling shutter mechanism can introduce distortions.   

This is predominantly the reason why camera manufacturers couldn't get rid of the mechanical shutter; until now of course. The Nikon Z 9 might be the first-ever full-frame, professional flagship camera to go without a mechanical shutter. On the spec sheet, it states that the Nikon Z 9 has a flash sync speed of 1/200s. This has been the standard for most cameras therefore there are no compromises with the Nikon Z 9. Some reviews online have described the actual sync speed for the camera to be around 1/260s.     

Why This Is Useful

The Nikon Z 9 is the first professional camera to go without a mechanical shutter. The biggest benefit of this is that the Z 9 has fewer moving parts. Moving parts in a device can be prone to failure. And a mechanical shutter is one of the more important elements in the camera that can be prone to failure. 

It's for this reason that most professional cameras have a rating for how many shutter actuations they can potentially manage. For example, the Nikon D6, the previous flagship model was rated up to 400,000 shutter actuations. The risk of the shutter failing increases the more you shoot with a camera. 

However, the Nikon Z 9 does away with the mechanical shutter altogether preventing this kind of failure. The Nikon Z 9 is likely to last longer and potentially has a lower chance of failure. For customers and professionals alike, this is a welcome benefit. 

Nikon Z 9 High-Speed Flash Sync? 

Electronic shutters so far have been less capable than mechanical shutters in some key areas. These include the ability to capture fast-moving subjects without distortions and flash synchronization. 

Previously, cameras with electronic shutters could not read the sensor quickly enough to sync with flash at reasonable speeds. This is obviously changing now with cameras such as the Sony Alpha 1, The Canon EOS R3, and the latest camera the Nikon Z 9. The Nikon Z 9 is said to be able to read the whole sensor at a speed of around 1/260s. This means it can comfortably synchronize with flash at 1/200s, the industry standard for normal strobe shooting. 

However, currently, there's no information relating to the high-speed sync capabilities for this camera. The fact that the Nikon Z 9 does not have a mechanical shutter means that it won't synchronize with flash at faster shutter speeds in the same way. As of right now, there's no clear information on what this means for the Z 9 and whether it can manage speeds faster than 1/200s flash synchronization. 

Getting Rid of the Shutter Button Should Be Next 

Removing the mechanical shutter in the Nikon Z 9 is definitely a great step forward. Sensor readout speeds are increasing and Nikon is on the right track with how it is developing its camera systems. The next thing that I believe camera manufacturers should remove is the mechanical shutter button. This is the only other moving part remaining in many professional cameras.

The reason I think this is a good idea is that the whole mechanism takes up far too much space that could be better utilized. As of right now, most shutter buttons on cameras only offer two operations. Engaging the autofocus and taking a picture. Replacing the current mechanical shutter with a touchpad or something similar might be a better option.

With a touchpad, there's the potential to add more features. These could include things like being able to move the focus point around, shooting with progressively faster frames per second depending on how hard you press the touchpad, and the potential for programming custom operations.

In fact, Canon has already filed a patent for an electronic shutter button, so this isn't a completely alien concept. It's likely that several of the major manufacturers are already mulling over designs for a touchpad-type electronic shutter button. Something like this may not be immediately popular, however, this has been the case for several new camera features. For example, many photographers disliked the electronic viewfinder when it was first becoming a thing. This has obviously changed as electronic viewfinders have improved. A touchpad shutter button may not be immediately popular, however as new features get added and the technology improves the mentality towards it may change. If the touchpad can produce some haptic feedback then it may make it easier for photographers to adopt. 

Final Thoughts

Moving over to a mirrorless camera design has allowed camera manufacturers lots more flexibility to innovate. Features such as the shorter flange distance which has helped improve lens design. Removing the mirror box has reduced the number of moving parts and also reduced the number of potential points of failure. This has also allowed for electronic viewfinders that offer far more features than a conventional optical viewfinder.

We're seemingly moving to a point when cameras will have absolutely no moving parts. The mirrorless design was just the first major step in that direction. Removing the mechanical shutter mechanism in the Nikon Z 9 is a bold and noteworthy moment for the camera industry. Nikon has done something quite wonderful and this could open up even more innovations from camera manufacturers. Ultimately, this is definitely an exciting time to be a photographer. 

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49 Comments
Fra Kresch's picture

No touchpad on cameras, please. Try using a touchpad while wearing gloves. The shutter button makes perfect sense, because it offers haptic response, for god's sake.

M M's picture

Exactly. With buttons you can feel them without looking. The more the better for things like sports photography.

Fristen Lasten's picture

Exactly. I could text better with my Blackberry than my iPhone.

Jim Bolen's picture

Yeah, would really be a stupid idea to remove the button.

STEVEN WEBB's picture

It's easy to find nice gloves with touch-pad sensitive finger tips, so that should not be a problem. And touch sensitive pads can be programmed to give a haptic response. Muscle-memory can be developed, probably with only a little practice, for a touch pad over a button. Welcome to the 21st century. Get ready for more changes and innovations. Things are like they've always been: adapt and change as technology changes, or get left behind.

Fra Kresch's picture

I'll gladly remain left behind, concerning shutter buttons, if possible. ;) Yes, I know there are touch-pad sensitive finger tips gloves. On the other hand, I am not aware of any good mountaineering touch sensitive gloves. Or even skiing gloves. (I am sure there are some because of phones.) Well, I don't like the idea of a camera which determines my wardrobe choices. :)

Perhaps there are some good touch sensitive gloves. I still prefer a bloody button to a touchpad. I even prefer a shutter button on a phone - even without gloves. Because I can feel the button. No touchpad can ever provide similar response, I am afraid.

And for the record, I owned the R with it's touchpad gimmick.

Innovation for the sake of innovation is stupid.

Jason Frels's picture

Change for the sake of change is not advancement.

M M's picture

Apple just gave up on the Touchbar because it turned out to be useless. Not every innovation makes products better.

Jason Frels's picture

The home button on the iPhone 8 that I still use has a ring around it that you can feel with your finger and it does have haptic feedback that simulates a click when you press it though it doesn't actually move like a button. That could work, but it wouldn't be as good as a traditional shutter button.

M M's picture

Haptic feedback could be ok. I just don’t want it to end up like touchscreen screen such as cell phones or a lot of the latest cars where you always have to look at the display to do something. For things like sports and wildlife you need to be able to use the device without looking at it.

Paulus van Aken's picture

Excactly my idea, touchscreen has it's pro's, but you always have to look what you' re doing. Physical buttons can be handled on feeling them, so you can have your attention where it is needed

jim hughes's picture

Seems many people think anything that makes a camera more like a phone is a good idea - even copying the phone's nightmarish ergonomics.

winzehnt gates's picture

Exactly. Even on my smartphone, I rather use the volume rocker as shutter release than the touchscreen.
You can't beat mechanical feedback for something as important as the shutter button. (The same goes for any kind of clicking dials.)

Sam Antha's picture

Does removing the shutter change physically or optically the »Bokeh«? Saw a video of a youtuber a while ago... can anybody comment? Sorry if you feel this question is stupid. 🙂

Thatcher Freeman's picture

Interestingly you can find examples where the "electronic curtain first shutter" mechanism will result in ugly bokeh when used at very short shutter speeds. Using an entirely mechanical shutter or only an electronic shutter avoids this problem because the bokeh artifact comes from the different distances of the first and second shutter from the sensor (https://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/116682/why-does-electronic-fir...)

Really, if your electronic shutter is fast enough, it's no worse than having a mechanical shutter. It would be interesting if we could reach a point where global shutter sensors are good (and cheap) enough to exist in photo cameras.

Paulus van Aken's picture

Doesn't anything to the bomen of anything else. Shooting in live view on a DSLR works the same.

Robert Nurse's picture

I do like that screen set up though. It would make shooting down low much more comfortable for us old guys.

charles hoffman's picture

No moving parts other than the lens or its elements

Wow
Cameras 0f 2025 can be as modern as cellphones of 2013

jim hughes's picture

PLEASE do not even joke about replacing the shutter button with a touchpad. Some marketing guy at Nikon might hear you and think you're serious.

Nothing you could name would be more of a dealbreaker for me than replacing buttons and switches with a you-know-what.

Jim Bolen's picture

Yep, if my brand of choice would replace the shutter button with a touchpad throughout the entire line, I would switch companies for my next camera.

sam dasso's picture

How is removing the mechanical shutter beneficial for a huge camera body like Z9? Half the size Sony or Canon manage to have both. And how 400000-500000 actuations is not enough? With new models introduced every year or two by the time you get to shutter failure your camera would be obsolete

M M's picture

You don’t have shutter noise for example. The camera can be made smaller and cheaper. And over the long run you can probably do a lot of interesting things with a fast electronic shutter vs a mechanical shutter once you have enough computing power.

Paolo Bugnone's picture

No shutter noise, no vibrations, less mechanical complexity (just look how "affordable" the Z9 is for its specs), less power usage, more reliability.
Disadvantages: non that I'm aware of.

sam dasso's picture

Both Sony and Canon have both electronic and mechanical shutter - your choice for somebody who is worrying about noise or vibrations.

Paolo Bugnone's picture

My point is why would you mantain the mechanical shutter when it has no benefit over the electronic one? It only makes some sense in the A1 because it can give you 1/400 flash sync speed, apart from that it's completely useless.

jim blair's picture

Go ask apple how well the touch bar worked out for them.. stupid idea.

Stuart C's picture

Thats your opinion, my experience with the touchbar has been positive.

winzehnt gates's picture

Touchscreens are fine when you're supposed to look at the screen while using it. Because of that, touchscreens work fine for smartphone apps.
Touchscreens give bad user experience when you have to look elsewhere, e.g. into the viewfinder, while guessing how far your finger is from the touchscreen. I love the touchscreen on my smartphone, but when taking images, I use the volume rocker as shutter release.

Stuart C's picture

What has any of that got to do with the Apple touchbar?

Paulus van Aken's picture

The Idea behind it. The fact that soms people love to do everything on sight?

Dave Melges's picture

This is so painful to read. Aside from the subjectively bad idea to get rid of the physical shutter release, which really has nothing to do with the subject, there is, total about 3 sentences of ACTUAL information here, spread out over about 11 paragraphs.

Either wait til you have answers to important questions, or bravely keep it shorter next time, this is a Tweet mushed out to sound like an article.

Michael Morris's picture

I have been using Nikon cameras for over 50 years. Not once have I experienced a shutter failure. Not once have I experienced a failure of Mirror system. What the systems have going for them is years decades of experience in design and application to reduce chances of failure. The removal of the mechanical shutter could have been for a cost reason because Nikon has been in the red for so long and pulled out all the stops to develop this camera whose autofocus comes close but doesn't surpass Sony's developments. It's just clearly not as fast.

Fristen Lasten's picture

...pulled out all the stops...

shhh. don't give them ideas.

Brandon Hopkins's picture

I had an F4s shutter self destruct a few years ago. The blades were all bent when I opened it up... but yeah, my other Nikons have been pretty reliable, and to be fair, they are old cameras at this point.

Jordan Steele's picture

Dear lord, no. I despise how many industries think that because some times touch screens and things like that are good for some tasks, they therefore are good for all tasks. It's become prevalent in the auto industry too, and I hate it. Physical controls are being replaced with capacitive touch controls in areas where they absolutely should NOT be replaced. In cars, things like volume, cruise control, etc are being moved to capacitive controls and it leads to distraction while you try to accurately touch something, or it leads to spurious input. Both are terrible.

With a camera, tactile controls are a godsend. Yes, touch screen controls can be nice for some functions, like selecting a focus point while the camera is on a tripod, or swiping through images or menus. They are NOT good for quick, muscle memory controls that require finesse. We will get tons of accidental shutter activations, or the inability to use the camera at all if you don't have the right touch capable gloves in the winter. If a high end camera moves to touch controls for shutter activation or other key controls, it is 100% a deal breaker that I would never buy. Canon already tried some aspect of this with the touch bar, and when I reviewed that camera, I found it to be the single worst control I've ever used on a camera. Please for the love of God,. No.

Paulus van Aken's picture

Precicely!
Very well written.

Cars with touchscreens, would never buy one.

Jim Bolen's picture

Yep, I still like knobs for things like volume, HVAC controls, etc.

Deleted Account's picture

There are two options for using a faster shutter speed and flashes: HSS and H-Sync. While most flash manufacturers only use HSS (which degrades flash performance), at least Broncolor and Elinchrom offer H-Sync up to 1/8000s. It does not matter whether the shutter is mechanical or not. Distortion also occurs with mechanical shutters and they are generally never faster than 1/250s (focal plane shutters).
Replacing the shutter release button with a touchpad: That's absurd, sorry.

Paulus van Aken's picture

Indeed, focal plane schutters do give some distorsion, mostly unnoticeble, but in the old days, wheels of moving cars got oval, hence the speed indication in comics.....

Deleted Account's picture

Close to 40 years ago I photographed the Matterhorn when I was a passenger in the front seat of a 4-seater plane with a propeller engine flying around it. Just for fun I set the Nikon FA to 1/4000 and photographed through the propeller. It looked very strange. An extreme example. But that's why almost all racing cars are photographed with a panning movement of the camera as they pass you horizontally.

Jeff R's picture

I was at a Z9 event in Walnut Creek last week and the Nikon Rep there mentioned that flash high speed sync tops out at 1/20,000.

Black Rock's picture

"Getting Rid of the Shutter Button Should Be (the) Next Stupid Idea".

There, I fixed it for ya' :D

Tarek El Wazzi's picture

There is nothing better than the feel of buttons on ur camera. Especially the shutter button. Image a wedding, sports or event photographer tapping on a screen to take each shot. How weird would that be. There is something missing when using a touch screen. Just because it is everywhere, it doesn't mean it should be everywhere on cameras as well.

Bert Nase's picture

My shutter button can do three operations! It can also measure (i.e. trigger) the exposure....

Colin Robertson's picture

"The next thing that I believe camera manufacturers should remove is the mechanical shutter button. This is the only other moving part remaining in many professional cameras."

What? What about the dials and other buttons? How about the memory card and battery doors? How is the shutter button any different? IMO the shutter should be the LAST thing to remove on a "real" camera.

William Faucher's picture

Considering the shutter button paragraph is inflammatory, controversial, and very obviously something nobody wants or needs, I'm going to go ahead and assume the author put that in there to generate emotion from its readers. Any engagement is good engagement I guess.

Usman Dawood's picture

Would have been a potentially valid claim if it were in the title or lead image, but that's not the case. Also, out of the thousands upon thousands of people that have read the article, a tiny fraction of people have commented. Not all of them disgaree so I think you're reaching here.

Jan Nielsen's picture

Isn't the sensor a moving part ? When IBIS is used ?

Jeff R's picture

Regarding the flash high speed sync - I was at a Z9 event in Walnut Creek last week and the Nikon Rep there mentioned that flash high speed sync tops out at 1/20,000th second, and that without flash the shutter maxes out at 1/32,000th 👍🏻