Nikon India accidentally posted the release video for the Nikon Z 9 flagship just a bit early, and while they were quick to remove it, photographer and YouTuber Tony Northrup was able to get his hands on it and do a deep dive into the uphill battle against Sony and Canon that the camera will face.
Most revealing of all of his talk about the camera was the point about Nikon’s current state of research and development as it relates to the processing power and speed of the camera. Images shot at 45 megapixels can hit a max rate of 20 fps, which sounds great, until you realize that Canon hit that mark in July 2020 with the (likely) much cheaper EOS R5. Sony’s already past that with the Alpha 1 at a higher megapixel count to boot. For a company that’s seemingly on the ropes, shedding employees and releasing professional Z-mount lenses at a snail’s pace, it’s enough to make one think twice about dropping north of $5K on a camera body that’s potentially a dead end.
Some of the other points that Northrup makes are similar to issues Canon had in its EOS R3 launch materials, namely that there seemed to be a lot of out-of-focus photos when it came to showing the camera’s burst rate. The likely culprit? A camera that’s set to “release priority” instead of “focus priority,” where the camera will fire the shutter regardless of focus. If the camera needed to calculate focus as well, it’s possible that burst rate would get much worse.
Northrup also pointed out that while Nikon’s focus tracking has advanced to include eye-AF for animals, the competition was already there. And the demo videos that showed the tracking focus had areas where the focus jumped unexpectedly, which is concerning when the company had the chance to cherry-pick clips for marketing purposes.
Finally, there’s that dubious claim of 8K video at 60 frames per second, where the company, as Northrup notes, hasn’t even implemented it in the camera yet. It’s a firmware update for later and the limitations of that update aren’t yet known.
In some ways, it seems like Nikon is launching the camera and using its customers and using its customers as beta testers. If focus isn’t on-point at launch, and video features aren’t fully baked, then customers are paying on the good faith that Nikon will come through. The company has built a loyal following based on years of hit DSLRs and quality lenses, but it’s goodwill that’s easily squandered when Canon and Sony have already blazed the same mirrorless trail well before Nikon.
What are your thoughts on the Z 9? Leave your opinions in the comments below.