Nikon supercharges the Z8 and Z9 with flagship autofocus features

Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
(Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon has just released a new firmware update for its flagship Z9 camera that adds two more subject recognition modes to the autofocus algorithm: birds and planes.

Interestingly, airplane subject detection was present at launch in the Nikon Z8 – temporarily making it the flaggier flagship. However, now the Nikon Z9 gains the ability to detect birds as well – a trick that its little brother doesn't have. 

• Nikon Z8 vs Z9 head-to head comparison – what are the differences?

Not yet, at least. However, the Z8 will also be getting the autofocus algorithm for birds in an upcoming update in the first half of 2024, along with "other functional improvements".

So the Nikon Z9, once again, has a little more swagger right now. "Firmware Ver.4.10 adds new modes for 'bird' and 'plane' to the Z9's subject detection," says Nikon

"'Bird' mode improves overall detection performance for birds. In addition to improved AF performance and detection in complex, high-contrast backgrounds such as rocky mountains and forests, it also quickly detects birds in a variety of conditions, including those in flight, perched, and birds with distinctive appearances. 

"It also has improved tracking performance for fast-moving birds, providing a smooth shooting experience that will ensure you never miss a crucial moment when photographing wild birds. 

"The 'Airplane' mode, which is also included in the Nikon Z8, allows stable detection of aircraft regardless of the size of the subject. The detection ability in scenes with various objects reflected in the background and in dark scenes has been improved."

You can download the latest Nikon Z9 firmware here

(Also, yes, it is the second time recently that I've made the Superman reference at the top of the page. Sue me, I'm having Henry Cavill withdrawal.) 

Take a look at the best Nikon cameras, along with the best Nikon Z lenses for mirrorless and the best Nikon lenses for DSLRs as well. 

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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.