8K has a new king, and it’s the Nikon Z9 (sorry, Canon and Sony)

8K has a new king, and it’s the Nikon Z9 (sorry, Canon and Sony)
(Image credit: Nikon)

The Nikon Z9 is finally here – and it's first act has been to snatch the 8K throne from its competitors, and crown itself the undisputed king of 8K video. 

An addition to its other headline features, such as its astonishing 120fps continuous stills shooting, the Nikon Z9's biggest party trick is its ability to record 8K 60p video – something that neither the Sony A1 nor Canon EOS R5, its competing 8K contemporaries, can match. 

•  Nikon Z9 review

What both cameras can match is the Z9's standard 8K 30p resolution – however, both bodies are slave to austere recording limits. As the entire photography world is well aware, after the release of the EOS R5, shooting at 8K causes cameras to produce an incredible amount of heat. Overheating is a serious issue, with the R5 being able to record around 20 minutes of 8K footage before having to shut down.

It's astounding, then, that the Nikon Z9 can record 8K 30p video for 125 minutes without interruption – and thanks to it featuring unlimited recording, it doesn't even have to be restarted every 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Even more impressive is that this benchmark was set with the camera shooting in hot desert conditions, rather than a carefully climate controlled lab. 

Quite how Nikon has been able to achieve this, we're not sure. When asked, the company pointed us to the Z9's magnesium alloy body with high electromagnetic shielding and heat-emission performance. 

The camera also offers a formidable choice of codecs and recording options, with 8- or 10-bit H.265, 10-bit Apple ProRes 4:2:2 HQ or 12-bit in-camera ProRes RAW HQ – and even if you only want to shoot in 4K, you can still do so up to 120p. 

There is, however, a caveats to the Z9's too-good-to-be-true performance: it doesn't actually do all of this yet.

Along with other features on the camera, the 8K 60p capture and ProRes codecs aren't available at launch, and will only be possible when a firmware update introduces them sometime in 2022. Which is a frustration, but perhaps we can cut Nikon some slack given all the production problems that have plagued the industry this year.

Either way, the Nikon Z9 has usurped its rivals to become the ruler of the 8K domain. Yes, the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro 12K can outgun it in the 8K (not to mention 12K) stakes, but that's a dedicated cinema camera; as far as the best professional cameras go, Nikon has just achieved an enormous coup.

• Read more: Canon EOS R3 vs Nikon Z9

Pre-order the Nikon Z9 from Adorama (US)
Pre-order the Nikon Z9 from B&H (US)
Pre-order the Nikon Z9 from Park Cameras (UK)
Pre-order the Nikon Z9 from Ted's Cameras (AU)

Read more: 

Best Nikon cameras
Best Nikon Z lenses
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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.