Nikon Z9 gets faster and smarter, thanks to free new firmware. About time too?

Nikon Z9 with Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Nikon Z9 with Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S (Image credit: Nikon)

It is always good to hear when camera manufacturers release firmware to the current flagship model, these firmware updates are usually to solve minor issues or to improve upon certain features. In the Nikon Z9's case, it seems to me that firmware updates have been to add features that should have been there in the first place - or that every owner was promised. 

Now you might think that's quite a heavy swipe at Nikon and the Z9, but as a Nikon user for my whole professional life, and basically owning every lens they made from 24mm to 600mm, I'm allowed to be a bit bitter to the camera manufacturer once in a while. 

However, this new update really does bring added benefits to the Nikon Z9 which I think are very cleverly done, some might say even game-changing, but I say clever. If like many others you bought the Nikon Z9 as you wanted the best professional camera that would produce outstanding images at lighting speeds, while also being able to record 8K video - well I think you picked the best camera for the job (when the 8K finally arrived).

In the last firmware update, we saw Nikon implement a lot of speed changes to the camera, mainly increasing the size of the buffer for Jpeg and RAW images in continuous shooting modes, and delivering the promise of 8K. However, with this update you can increase the speed of your DX shooting with the introduction of C60 mode, this new mode will allow the users to shoot 19-megapixel stills at a lighting fast 60 frames-per-second, that's not as high as its 120 frames per second at 12MP, but you're getting a higher megapixel count - and with 60fps you're still going to get all the action. When in DX mode this will increase the effective focal length of your lens while satisfying the diverse needs of photographers, especially those in the fields of photojournalism, sports, and bird photography who value speed and reach. Personally, I think this is a great option, as I was never a fan of the 12MP at 120fps - it sounds great on the marketing material, but 12-megapixels is a little long in the tooth nowadays;  19-megapixels at 60fps sounds like the sweet spot for me, and I can see many others thinking the same.

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Another clever feature the technicians at Nikon have worked on is a function Nikon is calling High-Res Zoom, it is activated while recording in 4K UHD video and features the option for having a 4K crop while maintaining 4K resolution and giving your lens extra reach, think of it as a DX-crop but for video and you halfway there. How this is achieved by the Z9 using the full 8K UHD resolution, and then gradually cropped to the 4K frame size in real-time, effectively doubling the focal length while maintaining resolution. 

Hi-Res Zoom is available regardless of the lens used, allowing users to streamline production and take advantage of prime lenses, or the extremely shallow depth of field of an f/1.2 maximum aperture lens. This feature can be assigned to the camera’s Fn1/Fn2 buttons, a lens’ Fn ring or control ring, as well as the left/right buttons on the multi-selector. 

The end result is a smooth, parfocal zoom transition with no loss of resolution. Using the buttons enables zooming at a constant selected speed, while the use of the control ring allows users to zoom in or out as quickly or slowly as they like, basically giving the operator extreme flexibility while shooting, so you can now only take the lenses you really need, and if you need to zoom in, this feature is there to be used - again, another really handy feature from Nikon - am I turning into a mirrorless convert?

Other video extras include Timecode synchronization across multiple Z9 cameras controlled by a single wireless remote control is now possible, and the newly announced Atomos UltraSync BLUE is also supported over a Bluetooth connection, enabling the syncing of recording equipment and/or audio-device timecodes, including equipment from other manufacturers. This is extremely helpful when editing videos recorded with multiple external audio recorders.

I started this off as quite a harsh, hard-hitting jibe at Nikon for not delivering a camera with advertised features until months after its release, but I have to hand it to them, they have delivered what they promised and are continuing to innovate, improve and design better functions, features and uses for the Nikon Z9. This is a new Nikon where they are evolving a flagship camera to be the best it can be, with the technology currently available, and as an owner that is a reassuring step to continue on with this impressive flagship, or at least an overly welcoming sign that perhaps now is the time to order yours.

Best Nikon Z lenses
How to add the latest Nikon firmware update to your camera
Nikon releases new firmware for the Z9, but should you care

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Sebastian Oakley
Ecommerce Editor

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specializing in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound, and many more for various advertising campaigns, books, and pre/post-event highlights.

He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science, and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is a member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected into BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 

He is familiar with and shows great interest in street, medium, and large format photography with products by Leica, Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, and Sinar. Sebastian has also used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI, and everything in between. He now spends his spare time using his trusted Leica M-E or Leica M2 shooting Street photography or general life as he sees it, usually in Black and White.