How good a camera is the Z9 really?

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sh1209

Well-known member
Supporting Member
I can tell you for certain the Z9 absolutely struggles with small stationary birds. I’ve shot Nikon exclusively for 18 years and had the Z9 for four months as well as having both versions of the Z6&7. I sold my Z9 two weeks ago and it was mostly due to size/weight.
 

Joel N

Member
This is meaningless, you will only get more confused. It’s the same old situation between camps. Do yourself a favor by loaning a unit and use it based on your used case, if you encounter any issue that concerns you, check back here for similar experience or advise.
 

hrv

Member
The Z9 is a great camera, however it does have its downsides.
The Eye AF simply isn't that great. Especially when the subject isn't occupying most of the frame or when there are a lot of branches just behind the subject. The AF will simply not grab hold of your intended subject or it will lose it.

When I use my 200-400 zoom, at 400mm I get a lock on a fairly stationary bird that is kind of just hopping along and looking around. But when I zoom out, it quickly loses its lock on the subject, let alone the eye. So in my experience, the Z9 needs either a very clean background, or a larger subject to keep its focus.

I also own a D6 and the light sensitivity of that sensor and its ISO performance is magnificent. The Z9 is no better than a D500 or D850 in that regard.
 

Steve W

Well-known member
Supporting Member
As a newcomer to the hobby as well as awaiting my order of a Z 9, I actually am curious to hear more on your Z9 findings, simply because I haven't read/seen much anywhere else in terms of eye autofocus criticism, so I do find it worth having the discussion if you feel inclined to :)

As to the 50mm f/1.2 being soft until f/2, I may not be looking at images correctly but would love to see images you have of your 28mm f/1.4 compared to images you've taken with the 50mm f1.2. I'm genuinely curious on what you are seeing that would indicate the 50mm f/1.2 is soft at f/1.2? If no 50mm f/1.2 images on your end, here's one I took earlier today of my pooch with Z 6II with the 50mm f/1.2. Had it in animal eye detect and with the thin depth of field, focus/sharpness is right on eye but naturally the fall off is pretty quick in front and behind focus and is soft but that's to be expected I assume? Appreciate the opportunity to learn on my end!View attachment 38524
I want nose detect too......
 

fcotterill

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Its a question that has been beat to death on social media sites but I want to ask it in a different perhaps simpler way of all Nikon users. Its simple "would you trade in your D4S, D5 or D6 for a Z9"?
<Edited>
No prosumer camera, let alone any ILC flagship, works as a Point&Shoot, but rushed reviewers might mislead the gullible into believing a modern MILC flagship is such. Like any camera, the Z9 slips up in certain moments, many of which show up the photographer. Generalization is a the sloppy weakness shared in influencers' attempts to either hype or condemn the Z9. These days this applies too many attempts to review a product. We know the very few reviewers who take weeks, months in fact, to drill into testing the details.

Machine Learning takes this complexity to a whole new level in these latest flagship mirrorless cameras. So there's a quantum change in how the Z9 recognizes patterns, which is above and beyond any current DSLR AF system.b Obviously, there are vast differences between the hardware in a Z9 vs Z7, and even more so between the Z9 vs D850, ie the expeed7 CPU working via dual channels, as well as the Z9's stacked sensor. Oh and the Z9's EVF too. This is all common knowledge, repeated across the www.

There're fundamental reasons why the engineers have invested millions in so many different autofocus modes in a modern ILC; thus the Z9 exploits information off its sensor in different ways, contingent on the subject(s). Optimizing which AF Mode/When/How etc demands committed learning of the photographer shooting a Z9. Customization is crucial as knowing when and where to switch AF modes. Then, the challenge is to hone muscle memory for instant switches. One genuine weaknesses is the Z9 AF can fail to focus on closer subjects, in particular conditions. This foible afflicts all mirrorless cameras. It's widely documented. I've learnt to get around these challenges usually by switching between AF modes. Since the end of February, I've used my Z9 almost every day. I continue to learn new aspects.

Overall, I conclude the Z9 outperforms my D5 and D850 - including autofocus in almost all contexts. The advantages of the are expanded much more, thanks to all the well known MILC advantages: full frame AF coverage, silent-shooting, having wysiwyg in the EVF, which extends to tweaking the i-Menu. This is old news for most genres, given the Z6 and Z7 have been in the wild since late 2018. The big difference is the Z9 fold consolidated all these features into the wildlife genres. It adds more, including all the high spec video if needed and latterly PreCapture. We can expect the list to keep growing.....
 
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fcotterill

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Besides and beyond cameras, Lenses are as important if not more so: especially as we have so much choice across the Greater Nikon Ecosystem. The Z Nikkors are all solid investments, with the best in this mount rated best in class. This is the consensus, (see links), and includes at least 2 reviews of the 50 f1.2S: rated Excellent and Again, "...most impressive 50mm prime I’ve ever reviewed", and a fourth. These reviewers cannot all be dishonest, surely. This consensus has extended recently to the 3 new Z telephotos (100-400 S, 400 TC, 800 PF). The Z-Teleconverters are also significantly better optics. Cost is the crux for many of us. The FTZ solves many challenges, at least with AFS glass.

There's the fundamental rule of growing a camera system that hasn't changed in decades - 'Marry the Glass, date the bodies', attributed to photographer David Hobby of Strobist fame, it's a one-way door investing in a Z-mount optic: eg the 800 PF but I've no doubts now it's worth the leap. Overall, it's hard not to justify investing in at least 1 PF Nikkor - of which there will soon be 4. In their own niches, each PF Nikkor is a game changer. The practicality is I carry on with a Nikon mixed system, mostly F Nikkors interchangeable across 2 DSLRs and the Z9. I have added a Z UWide, medium zoom (24-120 F4S), and recently 800 PF with both ZTC's. And it's going to be intriguing to watch how Nikon proceeds to roll out Z9 technology across its Z cameras...

In summary, my D850 has worked hard, in it's fifth year. It's pointless to trade in such a reliable camera, with key Mirrorless features in Lview. Both D* flagships keep on delivering.... especially if (1) the subject falls within AF sensor coverage, and (2) adhering to the rule of minimal cropping. Thus I keep the D5 because as we know very well, it's unmatched in keys situations: knowing it will will deliver superb IQ at ISO12800 is reassuring to put it mildly. Nothing's changed since 2016, besides the Z6 sensor creeping up towards the uniqueness of a 20mp sensor, where the D5 and D6 keep their crowns for image quality in lowlight - underscored by their AF engines. In comparison, I try and keep the D850 and Z9 under 3200, the lower the better; 6400 is the cap I set striving for correct exposures (these thresholds were 1600 / 3200 with the D500). As for AFC, the DSLRs rarely grab backgrounds, so +1, but I've concluded the Z9 AF has so many advantages: not least 3D AF mode, and it now has the Custom Area modes analogous to the D6 and RSF Hold etc.

<Edit> Compared against the industry's best DSLRs.... So after 2+ months 'Hands On'. I've concluded the Z9 meets my priority needs + more
 
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Chris K

Active member
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems you can generally predict a photographer’s opinion of the Z9:
  • Nikon shooters: It’s great
  • Sony shooters: It’s awful
I don’t think you should attempt to ask the Internet-at-large if any product is good, because you’ll drive yourself mad attempting to spin all the conflicting opinions into facts.

I think the most you could do is this:

Is the Z9 good at BIF? Yes. Very good. Look at the mountain of sample images from pretty much any photographer as visual proof.

Is the Z9 the best at BIF? Judging by the opinions of photographers with bona fides that one might trust, it appears the A1 has the edge, but the Z9 is still a gigantic step forward for Nikon, and is very good overall.

Is the Z9 best for me? Everyone’s opinion carries different weights to different traits, and will come to a different conclusion. You’re the only one who can answer that for yourself.
 

FB101

Well-known member
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems you can generally predict a photographer’s opinion of the Z9:
  • Nikon shooters: It’s great
  • Sony shooters: It’s awful

The problem is that if you read the thousands on posts on this website, that is absolutely not how either group views the camera. Actually, the rest of your post is far closer to the consensus you'll find here.

Many here have or still shoot both. You'll get a wide range of responses but most points of misalignment are mostly about handling and ergonomics which are very personal, not about the inherent technical qualities of each camera - the Z9 has the edge on some, the A1 on others, how it shakes out is very personal indeed.
 

grossidm

Well-known member
Keep in mind this is solely my experience.

I use both the D6 and Z9 (and D850). I'll preface this with the fact that aside from the 50mm f/1.2S, I have yet to use a Z lens on the Z9. I use the Z9 with the 600FL and 500PF.

If you asked me which camera I trusted more to "get the shot" with birds - without question I'm choosing the D6. That said, the Z9 is my first mirrorless, so I'm not nearly as proficient with it as a DSLR. The D6's AF smokes the Z9. The 3D tracking is superior and AF acquisition is nearly instantaneous. What it doesn't have however is edge to edge focus points, eye-AF and a 45MP sensor. Those are the 3 things that sold me on the Z9. Well, that and all the great Z lenses they're releasing.

In "perfect" conditions, the Z9 [mostly] works as advertised. In less than perfect conditions not so much. It loves focusing on the BG regardless of what focusing mode I use. From what I understand, that's not a Z9 thing though - it's a mirrorless thing. Initial AF acquisition regardless of mode is often a struggle. I use the manual focus ring a lot. Once it's locked you're gold. The struggle getting there can be very disappointing at times. The Z9 is my first camera with eye AF. I'd say it's more reliable than not, but it's really just an added bonus when it works. I don't rely on it. Experience and technique more than make up for eye-AF in my opinion. At least for now.

That's it though. Those are my only legitimate complaints. They're big for what we do though. Everything else is exactly what I was expecting.

ISO performance is closer to the D850 than the D6. Which was expected.

The battery is sufficient, but still can't compete with the D6.

It has fantastic ergonomics and the weather sealing seems just as good as the D6. I shoot both in awful conditions and both are great. That flippy screen sometimes worries me, but nothing has broke yet.

All said, the 800PF will likely be the determining factor on whether or not I continue sinking money into Nikon mirrorless. If the AF complaints remain with native glass I may consider selling the few mirrorless things I have and maybe add an A1 to the mix. I'm not a brand nerd, I'd likely end up shooting Nikon, Sony and Fuji - and that's just fine. Each has a purpose.

I feel like the internet over-reacted to the Z9. It's a great camera, but only to the point of proving that Nikon is finally caught up and in the mirrorless game. Trickle-down tech from the Z9 and whatever replaces the Z9 will likely be real winners here. The Z9 is just a place to start.
 

StevieJSmall

Member
Supporting Member
I want nose detect too......
Just stop the aperture down then ;)

I'm sure you know f/1.2 won't get you eyes and nose in focus unless your snout is on the same plane as your eyes and unless it's a pug/bulldog/other flat nosed dog breed or animal, won't see that happen with my little guy, ha :) Unless of course I get him at a side profile...hmmm...challenge for another time :)
 
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Saint

New member
I traded in my D5 and 500 PF which I loved for birding, just a nice setup to use. I did it because their value was better than I expected, and mirrorless seems to be the future for all new camera and lens development.
 

NorthernFocus

Well-known member
Supporting Member
No prosumer camera, let alone any ILC flagship, works as a Point&Shoot, but rushed reviewers might mislead the gullible into believing a modern MILC flagship is such....
This is a good point. And significant. Many people bought/are buying the Z9 somewhat out of desperation because it is Nikon's only offering that's a truly competent action shooting MILC. A lot of people are jumping from D7500/500/850 straight to the Z9 having never owned a "flagship" body before. And many people believe that for the price the camera should do everything for them automatically. In fact what we're paying for with "flagship" bodies is the technology and the camera is more difficult to use. The same was true for D3/4/5/6 and is now true for the Z9. In this and other forums I read a lot of posts by people who simply don't know what they are doing and are overwhelmed/exasperated by the technology. I myself am frustrated for the first time having to take the time to really learn and understand the AF system and how it "thinks". To-date I've always reverted to the predictable single point/group area AF modes rather than letting the camera make decisions for me. Now there is really no choice other than single point and I'm not quite good enough to hold a single focus point on BIF. So it will take time in the field and more than a few expletives to get proficient with the camera.
All said, the 800PF will likely be the determining factor on whether or not I continue sinking money into Nikon mirrorless. If the AF complaints remain with native glass I may consider selling the few mirrorless things I have and maybe add an A1 to the mix. I'm not a brand nerd, I'd likely end up shooting Nikon, Sony and Fuji - and that's just fine. Each has a purpose.

I feel like the internet over-reacted to the Z9. It's a great camera, but only to the point of proving that Nikon is finally caught up and in the mirrorless game. Trickle-down tech from the Z9 and whatever replaces the Z9 will likely be real winners here. The Z9 is just a place to start.
This mirrors my thought exactly. Over the past couple of years I've sold off my kit to position myself for the switch to MILC(not necessarily Nikon). Trying out the Z9 was a natural step because I already have the F mount lenses. But in spite of what the camera bodies have to offer the decision on which system is the same as it has always been. It's more about the lenses. I love the PF lenses. The 500PF has kept me with Nikon thus far and now the 800PF(if I can ever get my hands on it) may keep me here long term.

When I go on serious shoots I like a tripod/prime lens/high rez body plus a second body with a long zoom hand held. Nikon doesn't currently offer anything that I'm willing to use for that second body nor a (native)zoom lens to fill the gap from 800mm down. So my plan is to go with the Z9/PF primes as my tripod kit and an A1/200-600 as my handheld kit. Side benefit is that I can resolve the Z9/A1 debate for myself :rolleyes:
 

Barbara

Active member
When I go on serious shoots I like a tripod/prime lens/high rez body plus a second body with a long zoom hand held. Nikon doesn't currently offer anything that I'm willing to use for that second body nor a (native)zoom lens to fill the gap from 800mm down. So my plan is to go with the Z9/PF primes as my tripod kit and an A1/200-600 as my handheld kit. Side benefit is that I can resolve the Z9/A1 debate for myself :rolleyes:
Same here, except I can't handhold the 200-600 and so go with 100-400 plus 1.4 TC..
 

agdoherty

Member
Supporting Member
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems you can generally predict a photographer’s opinion of the Z9:
  • Nikon shooters: It’s great
  • Sony shooters: It’s awful
I don’t think you should attempt to ask the Internet-at-large if any product is good, because you’ll drive yourself mad attempting to spin all the conflicting opinions into facts.

I think the most you could do is this:

Is the Z9 good at BIF? Yes. Very good. Look at the mountain of sample images from pretty much any photographer as visual proof.

Is the Z9 the best at BIF? Judging by the opinions of photographers with bona fides that one might trust, it appears the A1 has the edge, but the Z9 is still a gigantic step forward for Nikon, and is very good overall.

Is the Z9 best for me? Everyone’s opinion carries different weights to different traits, and will come to a different conclusion. You’re the only one who can answer that for yourself.
As someone who uses the z9 for jobs, it's very interesting to hear from folks who focus on wildlife more than anything else. Obviously I'm on this forum because BIF and wildlife are something I want to learn more about, but as someone who uses the z9 for typical portrait/landscape/event photography, plus educational video production work to a much greater extent now, it's a super option for a one-man-band. The internal 4-8K prores/raw video recording saved me thousands alone by not having to invest in multiple external video recording hardware setups for multi-camera work, plus the camera body was cheaper too. The eye AF for humans makes focus issues for the types of work I do almost a thing of the past and I can run two cameras at once solo, though obviously Sony would do just as good a job here. For all the work the z9s do right, not being peak BIF was obviously not a deal breaker for why I picked it up, but it's very interesting to see people's opinions on the topic. I have been very happy, and chose the Z ecosystem over sony when the z7 came out because I preferred how the camera worked for me, but I also haven't tried a sony since ~2019. Since BIF isn't my primary use i'm not really in a spot I need to worry about the minor differences and I've been enjoying it a lot. I generally prefer a larger camera body (came to Z7 from a 5d mkii with a grip), so the z9 fell right into my personal sweet spot and is the first flagship I've ever considered picking up because it covered all of my needs/wants in a camera, even if it's not 100% the best at everything.
 

Wes Peterson

Well-known member
I can tell you for certain the Z9 absolutely struggles with small stationary birds. I’ve shot Nikon exclusively for 18 years and had the Z9 for four months as well as having both versions of the Z6&7. I sold my Z9 two weeks ago and it was mostly due to size/weight.
Not my experience at all. FW 2.0 has made a significant improvement finding and following the eye of little birds. I have no Issue shooting warblers at 1000mm deep in the sticks and leaves.
 

sh1209

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Not my experience at all. FW 2.0 has made a significant improvement finding and following the eye of little birds. I have no Issue shooting warblers at 1000mm deep in the sticks and leaves.
Im guessing its my bad. User error, I suppose.
 

Chris K

Active member
As someone who uses the z9 for jobs, it's very interesting to hear from folks who focus on wildlife more than anything else. Obviously I'm on this forum because BIF and wildlife are something I want to learn more about, but as someone who uses the z9 for typical portrait/landscape/event photography, plus educational video production work to a much greater extent now, it's a super option for a one-man-band. The internal 4-8K prores/raw video recording saved me thousands alone by not having to invest in multiple external video recording hardware setups for multi-camera work, plus the camera body was cheaper too. The eye AF for humans makes focus issues for the types of work I do almost a thing of the past and I can run two cameras at once solo, though obviously Sony would do just as good a job here. For all the work the z9s do right, not being peak BIF was obviously not a deal breaker for why I picked it up, but it's very interesting to see people's opinions on the topic. I have been very happy, and chose the Z ecosystem over sony when the z7 came out because I preferred how the camera worked for me, but I also haven't tried a sony since ~2019. Since BIF isn't my primary use i'm not really in a spot I need to worry about the minor differences and I've been enjoying it a lot. I generally prefer a larger camera body (came to Z7 from a 5d mkii with a grip), so the z9 fell right into my personal sweet spot and is the first flagship I've ever considered picking up because it covered all of my needs/wants in a camera, even if it's not 100% the best at everything.

You’re not the only one. I shot people and closeups at least as much as wildlife, although this time of year (and during Fall migration) I’m usually out shooting birds.

I’m not saying other cameras can’t do what the Z9 can do, but I have zero complaints for any type of photography. I handles everything I throw at it with no difficulties. I can see I might get an extra 5% performance out of an A1 or GFX100S or OM-1 for some edge cases, but honestly, if I can’t get a photo with the Z9, it’s my fault, not the camera.

Im guessing its my bad. User error, I suppose.

Perhaps? But there’s so many variables it’s impossible to say. I’d look at it this way: you are a better photographer with an A1 than with a Z9, and you’d be a masochist to use a Z9 anyway simply because others say it’s a good camera.
 

Joel N

Member
Have you ever notice the differences between a lady shooter such as your wife or a lady friend. They are more incline to think harder on how to get the shot that they want using what they know rather than comparing the technical ability or marvel of the camera. They don't even talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the camera over another system or even want to know all the ocmplexity. To them is basic and simple, photography, if you only teach them to use single point af, they will stick with it and make the best out of it.

Experiences are always different between everyone, and we are all bias to a certain degree, even the legal system recognise this and till this day it still holds true. So let's just keep this objective and civil.
 

DaveR

Active member
Not my experience at all. FW 2.0 has made a significant improvement finding and following the eye of little birds. I have no Issue shooting warblers at 1000mm deep in the sticks and leaves.
I found this as well. A significant amount of my shots are small birds often in amongst twigs and branches and the FW 2.0 has made this much easier. I'm still experimenting with the new custom AF boxes but I'm finding these very good for focussing on small birds and then using RSF-hold on a button to switch to a larger box and faster shutter speed instantly for BIF.

I'm loving the new 120fps EVF for action. Smooth as silk and I've not noticed any significant battery drain.

For all this I'm using a 500pf with a 1.4TC and the FTZ. I'm expecting the 800pf native Z lens I have on order to further improve focussing performance. If the new Z mount 400mm comes in at around f/4 I may even consider dumping the 500pf and getting a Z 1.4TC. I'm thinking a 400pf and the 800pf and the Z TC's would be pretty much ideal for me. No other camera system offers anything comparable to these lenses and for me this is one of the main reasons I stuck with Nikon. It's Nikon's optics and the Z lenses are really starting to deliver.

It's taken me a few months but I'm really loving using this Z9 now that I'm feeling more comfortable and confident with it. So to the original poster's question I would say the Z9 is an outstanding camera with the choice of some innovative and high performance glass to complete the package.
 

Barbara

Active member
Have you ever notice the differences between a lady shooter such as your wife or a lady friend. They are more incline to think harder on how to get the shot that they want using what they know rather than comparing the technical ability or marvel of the camera. They don't even talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the camera over another system or even want to know all the ocmplexity. To them is basic and simple, photography, if you only teach them to use single point af, they will stick with it and make the best out of it.
I know this is based on your experience and you mean well, but please don;t generalize about "lady shooters." I am one who is thoroughly enjoying the complexity of my A1 and will equally enjoy learning and using my Z9 when it arrives.
 

Joel N

Member
I know this is based on your experience and you mean well, but please don;t generalize about "lady shooters." I am one who is thoroughly enjoying the complexity of my A1 and will equally enjoy learning and using my Z9 when it arrives.
Hi Barbara, I meant this as a compliment rather than anything else. Apologies for the poor choice of wordings.
 

DsD

Member
Supporting Member
This is a good point. And significant. Many people bought/are buying the Z9 somewhat out of desperation because it is Nikon's only offering that's a truly competent action shooting MILC. A lot of people are jumping from D7500/500/850 straight to the Z9 having never owned a "flagship" body before.
Ah, interesting if not salient thesis. This resonates with me and 90% spot on; I guess I am one of the "many people" you allude to.

I almost upgraded to the D-850 last year when it was offered for $2,500.00 and I still have a bit of a hankering for it at this price today. Yet the writing seems to be on the wall concerning DSLR's future. Plus, I was not convinced that the earlier Nikon MILC's truly got out of the Minor Leagues. At least/last the Z-9 has stepped up to the plate in the Majors. Is it destined to be an All-Star? I don't know. But like many here, I'm in my early sixties and can't afford to play the waiting game much longer.

However, the need for the latest and greatest auto, do it all for me, camera is not driving my decision. My quest is based on the need for a better tool that may help me overcome some vision acuity issues (real or imagined) and MILC appears to be that better tool. And hearing those of you that have/had the D-850 and loved it but find the Z-9 mostly better in all ways have me persuaded to buy the Z-9. I am sure it will be a work in process; if the Z-9 (also meaning mirrorless) doesn't significantly aid my vision deficiencies, then so be it. At least I will have tried and can then evaluate if I remain in the wildlife photography game or not.
 

KirstyM

Active member
I know this is based on your experience and you mean well, but please don;t generalize about "lady shooters." I am one who is thoroughly enjoying the complexity of my A1 and will equally enjoy learning and using my Z9 when it arrives.
I’m glad you picked that up Barbara, because I felt it was deeply condescending. I’m loving my Z9 and setting up my personal preferences and learning the complexities, for myself, without any “male friend“ teaching me how to turn it on.
 
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