Nikon Z9 is now 10 times better with latest firmware upgrade

A Nikon Z9 being used to photograph a motor sledge
(Image credit: Nikon)

The latest Nikon Z9 firmware update re-establishes the flagship camera as the feature king of the Z lineup, following the parity achieved by the recent Z8. 

The meaty new update broadens the gap between the Nikon Z9 and the Nikon Z8 – aka the "baby Z9". Firmware 4.0 includes a raft of upgrades to suit photographers and videographers alike, with headline features including a trail camera-like Auto Capture mode, along with ISO200-equivalent video capture and improved 3D tracking. 

But it’s a simple addition that will perhaps prove most popular, given that the pro-grade behemoth will finally enable users to choose from a modest roster of customizable shutter sounds. 

Pre-Release Capture has been improved, too, which is another boon for wildlife and sports photographers that need to react to lightning-fast subjects before they fire the shutter. As such, the Pre-Release buffer has been increased tenfold, from 30 to 300 seconds. 

The plethora of upgrades looks set to further cement the Z9's position as one of the best professional cameras on the market. Though, if you’re still not sold, the Z8 still boasts the vast majority of its larger sibling's pro-grade features, presented in a smaller body and for a more palatable price.

Nikon Z9 Firmware 4.0 upgrades

  • Auto Capture
  • Lo 2.0 setting in N-Log
  • Customizable shutter sounds
  • Ten-fold increase in pre-release buffer
  • Improved 3D tracking
  • Exposure Delay Mode 
  • More customizable controls
  • Better manual focus user interface
  • Playback enhancements
  • Finer bracketing increments
  • Better metering for interval shooting
  • Nikon Z DX 12-28mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ VR support 

Auto Capture detects moving subjects and fires the shutter or starts recording of its own accord (Image credit: Nikon)

Auto Capture is arguably the most significant addition. Effectively turning the flagship mirrorless into a very expensive, very advanced trail camera. 

This function can be used to capture both stills and video, and you can control how the camera behaves by setting it to (or combining) any of the following criteria: Motion enables you to define the direction, speed or size of the subject, Subject Detection gives you the ability to pinpoint a person, animal or vehicle, and Distance triggers the camera when a subject enters a designated distance range. 

As Nikon puts it, "Mount your camera, set your Auto Capture criteria and walk away." And while we don’t recommend you stray too far from your expensive pride and joy, this looks to be a very useful addition for sports photographers who need an out-of-reach camera on the touchline and wildlife photographers who are prone to nodding off while waiting for hours on end in a hide. 

The new Lo 2.0 settings promises more detail in the shadows when shooting N-Log footage (Image credit: Nikon)

Auto Capture isn’t the only headline update, though. Videographers can capture more detail than ever thanks to a new Lo 2.0 setting when shooting N-Log footage. This ISO200-equivalent option reduces noise, for richer shadows. The High-Res Zoom function – introduced in firmware V3.0 – has been given an update, too, with its formerly 3-speed zoom now boosted to 11 speed options. And 1080p 4x and 5x slow-motion footage can now be captured in-camera, with the slo-mo baked in, meaning no editing is required. 

A small quality-of-life update that's sure to prove very popular is the ability to finally customize the Z9's shutter sound – but don’t worry, we’re not going to be exposed to a barrage of 120fps farmyard sounds or honking horns any time soon. The four options are entirely practical, with three designed to replicate DSLR, film and rangefinder shutters as well as an electronic beep.

An increased pre-release capture buffer reduces the chances of missing a fleeting moment (Image credit: Nikon)

Elsewhere 3D-tracking also gets a boost, to better accommodate smaller and faster subjects, and Exposure Delay Mode makes its Z9 debut. More functions can be assigned to custom controls, while more controls can be customized. 

The manual focus user interface has been updated, so the distance between the camera and the focus position is displayed on the Z9 or compatible lenses. The Playback screen for stills and video also features a few quality-of-life improvements. You can set smaller aperture increments when bracketing. And Interval Shooting metering is more accurate, to boot.

Whether or not any of these updates will eventually find their way onto the Z8 remains to be seen. If the Z9's firmware updates are anything to go by, though, we're looking forward to what Nikon has in store. 

You might also be interested in the best Nikon cameras, as well as the best Nikon lenses across the range and the best Nikon Z lenses specifically for its mirrorless bodies. 

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Mike Harris
Technique Editor

Mike is Deputy Editor for N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine, and brings with him over 10 years experience writing both freelance and for some of the biggest specialist publications. Prior to joining N-Photo Mike was the production editor for the content marketing team of Wex Photo Video, the UK’s largest online specialist photographic retailer, where he sharpened his skills in both the stills and videography spheres.  

While he’s an avid motorsport photographer, his skills extend to every genre of photography – making him one of Digital Camera World’s top tutors for techniques on cameras, lenses, tripods, filters and other imaging equipment, as well as sharing his expertise on shooting everything from portraits and landscapes to abstracts and architecture to wildlife and, yes, fast things going around race tracks.