Having tested the Nikon Z9 camera during a production last summer, I can truly say that this is the first all-in-one camera for me. It delivers everything I want and everything I need for video and still photography. And what’s even better, the Nikon Z9 is coming in at such an eye-popping price point that I can’t remember ever being this excited about a new release!
I’m not only psyched because I get to order a new camera today— I am also thrilled because I get to share my new film “Night.”
I directed “Night” earlier this year using a prototype Nikon Z9, and I’m rather happy with how it turned out. “Night” follows a crew of badass female climbers who go bouldering on Flagstaff mountain at night, above the dramatic cityscapes of Boulder and Denver.
This concept arose out of a film I shot a few years earlier called “Morning,” which helped launch the Nikon Z7. The general motif behind “Night” is similar to “Morning” in that it captures outdoor athletes finding unique times of day to pursue their passions. What makes “Night” especially cool is that this conceit offered an interesting way to showcase some of the best features of the Nikon Z9.
Testing the Nikon Z9
The Nikon Z9 represents a major advance for mirrorless camera photography and filmmaking. Perhaps the most exciting news is that the Z9 is Nikon’s first 8K camera, and it can record over 2 hours at 8K full-resolution—HUGE! It can also shoot 120 fps at 4K, which is also mind blowing.
On this production, the Nikon Z9 demonstrated low-light capabilities that left us all impressed. It’s one thing to shoot 8K … but it’s another thing to shoot 8K full-res footage in the middle of the night and have it look so silky.
The power and beauty behind the Nikon Z9 is its EXPEED 7 processor, a new and incredibly fast internal engine that delivers game-changing speeds. From insane auto-focusing capabilities, to eliminating all lag when viewing video on the camera’s LCD or on an external monitor, the Z9 is at the leading edge of what’s possible.
It’s safe to say that the Nikon Z9 is better at focusing than we are! With high-speed autofocus calculations for both still and video, the Z9 gave a new way of thinking about using autofocus on our production. And the specs for stills are objectively impressive: 20 fps RAW with 1000+ image buffer, or 120 fps in JPEG Normal. This is 🤯.
The Nikon Z9 also supports multiple codecs, which is a big deal. We shot this entire piece in H.265, and I’m looking forward to a future firmware update that give us the ability to shoot RAW direct-to-card in camera.
The EXPEED 7 processor supports blackout-free continuous view in the viewfinder, and has a high speed scan rate that essentially eliminates rolling shudder.
On our production, we also noticed another benefit when rigging a Z9 to a drone. Now, we can fly drones and record in 8K with Nikkor glass, but because the Z9 is so much lighter and smaller relative to a comparable cinema camera (e.g., a RED), we can get roughly 20 percent more flight time with the Z9. That’s a big deal.
Speaking of glass, the new FTZ adaptor that’s launching alongside the Z9 allows you to use video plates so you can change lenses more seamlessly—this is nuanced, but if you know, you really know just how important this is! Another great nuance is the full-sized HDMI slot, which proves that this a camera built with real working professionals in mind.
There’s a lot more to say about the specs of the Z9, but make sure you watch “Night” and please enjoy our BTS video that shows the Nikon Z9 in action. (Thanks to Rex Lint for shooting and editing this BTS piece!) Stay tuned for a future Story Behind the Image essay on this really fun production.
Huge thanks to Mike Corrado at Nikon USA for the technical support, and congrats to the entire Nikon Global team for successfully delivering this flagship mirrorless camera!
Thanks to everyone who helped create “Night,” especially our star climbers: Liz Ellison, Lena Palmer, and Shara Zaia! Next time, we’ll shoot a film of you three doing some actually hard bouldering that better showcases your true strengths and skills 😉.
Direction: Corey Rich
Drone & Gimbal: Mike Hagadorn
Production: Brett Willhelm
Technical Support: Mike Corrado
Writing: Andrew Bisharat
Edit: Dane Henry
Composer & Sound Mix: Loretta Edes & Andy Mead
Color: Bligh Gillies
VFX: Luis Abreu