One Year With the Nikon Z9

After a yr in my bag, it is time for a recap of the primary 12 months with the perfect digicam I’ve ever owned.

Cameras are like relationships. If you happen to’re fortunate, you’ll meet quite a lot of potential companions all through your life. If you happen to’re actually fortunate, you’ll meet somebody who actually “will get” you and is ready to make your life higher just by them being round. In fact, the higher chances are high that you’ll find yourself assembly a string of people that have most of what you’re searching for in a relationship, but nonetheless lack two or three essential traits that preserve them from being “the one.” Maybe, you attempt to justify away these pink flags. Possibly you are feeling prefer it’s higher to have 51% of an excellent factor slightly than holding out and operating the danger of being alone. In any case, no one’s good, together with ourselves, so to count on perfection from one’s mate is a idiot’s errand. The perfect we are able to actually hope for is somebody who’s professionals far outweigh the cons, and who make the world a greater place to reside.

However, generally, you get fortunate.

I don’t wish to give an excessive amount of credit score to a bit of know-how. In any case, it’s only a instrument on the finish of the day. I used to be an artist earlier than I purchased the Z9. And I’ll be an artist lengthy after this digicam’s race has been run. However after participating in what has felt at occasions like an excruciatingly lengthy search over the past couple of years to seek out the precise “companion” for my explicit fashion of artistry, this final yr spent with the Z9 has felt like I’ve lastly discovered my manner dwelling.

This isn’t going to be a overview a lot as it is going to be an exploration of the numerous methods wherein my considerably knee-jerk determination to buy the Z9 has paid off for me as knowledgeable photographer and filmmaker. I gained’t be retyping all of the digicam specs right here. Yow will discover that on 1,000,000 and one completely different web sites. Going again to my relationship analogy, nice specs are type of like initially seeing a possible mate and deciding whether or not you discover them to be fairly or good-looking. It’s vital. But it surely’s hardly the entire image. Much more vital is what day-to-day life is like with them by your facet. So, I’ll be speaking much more about practicality than megapixels.

Neither is this essay an effort to get you to buy a Z9. What I hope comes by on this essay is that the Z9 has confirmed to be the proper match for me. However that doesn’t imply that it’s the proper match for you. All of us have our personal distinctive set of wants, so what’s good for the goose isn’t essentially what’s good for the gander.

So, why has the Z9 been such an excellent match for my workflow? Listed below are just some of the methods my funding has paid off.

Streamlining My Gear Wants

If you happen to’ve ever learn any of my earlier articles, you might be most likely nicely conscious that I’m a very long time Nikon-ian. From my very first digital digicam, the Nikon D200, till immediately, my main digicam for nonetheless images has at all times carried with it a Nikon badge. I’ve shot with just about each model in the marketplace. Partly, it is because, irrespective of how good a digicam is, some jobs merely name for various instruments. For example, capturing a large-scale marketing campaign which can require a medium format megapixel beast is not possible to maintain within the household within the absence of a Nikon medium format choice (though I’m discovering medium format far much less mandatory lately).  

I additionally get an opportunity, due to my facet hustle writing for this web site, to check out just about each digicam in the marketplace that strikes my fancy. On multiple event, this has led to me falling in love with a digicam or product from a non-Nikon supply and including it to my equipment. So, I’m removed from resistant to the charms of different manufacturers and might genuinely see the advantages every brings to the desk.

Along with that, as my profession has veered additional and additional again in the direction of my origin as a filmmaker, my gear closet has additionally discovered itself overcrowded with extra video first choices within the type of bigger cinema cameras or extra video pleasant choices. Nikon isn’t practically as established but within the cinema world (though that has the potential to vary with the Z9), so generally going with different manufacturers is solely a matter of practicality.

All these issues collectively meant that my gear closet was starting to seem like the United Nations of digicam gear. Just a little of completely every little thing. This sounds enjoyable in idea. However, in actuality, it meant that I needed to not solely purchase a bunch of various cameras, but in addition utterly completely different units of lenses, completely different units of equipment, and be taught completely completely different menu techniques from job to job. This was each costly and a bit annoying.

Even with two Z9s now in hand, there are nonetheless jobs which require me to lease completely different digicam techniques. As a director and cinematographer, my jobs usually predictably name for bigger cinema cameras. And, pretty much as good because the Z9 is, some jobs merely want a much bigger extra devoted system to suit with the wants of the manufacturing.

However what the Z9 has allowed me to do is to significantly reduce down on the variety of occasions I must both lease extra gear or look outdoors of the Nikon ecosystem to perform the job at hand. Merely put, the Z9 can just about do every little thing. It’s obtained greater than sufficient megapixels to deal with 99% of my images work. The autofocus in each nonetheless and video is wonderful. This permits me to each reduce down on time and sometimes reduce down on personnel on budgets with tight timetables and restricted assets. 

It’s not a devoted cinema digicam, however, if we’re being sincere, there’s little or no separating it from most cinema cameras in an identical value vary. The truth is, I’ve regularly been on jobs the place I’ve a separate cinema digicam system, however find yourself simply utilizing my Z9 as a substitute as a result of it was a extra environment friendly instrument for the job. After I do decide to lease a bigger cinema digicam system, it’s usually on account of shopper expectations, the wants of my collaborators, or file necessities. But it surely’s hardly ever as a result of the Z9 is incapable of doing the job at a really excessive degree. So, on jobs the place I’m working solo or don’t have the price range to herald an Alexa degree system, I’ve completely no hesitation in capturing with the Z9.

It Has Confirmed Itself Once more and Once more

I made a promise to myself in January of this yr. I used to be not going to let a scarcity of cash cease me from making artwork. I’ve at all times been on the productive facet of the ledger on the subject of launching tasks. I’m not somebody who takes no for a solution. If I wish to make one thing, I’m going to discover a solution to make it.

However, in prior years, growing inventive aspirations and power monetary restrictions have usually led to me having tasks able to go that I merely can’t execute due to the assets required. In January of this yr, my decision was to easily create my artwork, it doesn’t matter what. This meant that, even when I didn’t have the cash to lease the digicam, lights, gear, and so forth. that I’d like, I used to be simply going to discover a manner, someway, to get the tasks finished with no matter instruments I had in hand. 

This has led me to make use of the Z9 on every little thing from industrial campaigns, to private high quality artwork tasks, to industrial promoting, to narrative movie productions. You title it, I’ve shot it with the Z9 previously 12 months.

But it surely was greater than merely getting the productions finished. When a number of of the movies I created screened theatrically in numerous festivals alongside different films shot with the perfect cameras from Arri, RED, and Sony, not as soon as did I get even the smallest remark about my footage not having the ability to stack as much as these different tasks. The truth is, greater than possible I’d get feedback on how good the movies appeared rapidly adopted by questions of what system I used to shoot them. Multiple well-established filmmaker was greater than just a little shocked to be taught that the picture they had been admiring had come off of a Nikon Z9 and never one of many trade stalwarts.

That is, in fact, to not say that these greater priced techniques aren’t the bee’s knees. I’d be more than pleased to get up this Christmas with an Alexa Mini LF underneath my tree (or at the very least the cash to purchase one). However the expertise has confirmed for me the well-worn adage: it’s not the gear, it’s the artist. By repeatedly taking part in side-by-side with the perfect within the enterprise, each within the nonetheless and video world, the digicam proved to me that the gear already in my bag may get the job finished. The one limitation was me.

It Retains Getting Higher

It’s common observe lately for just about all digicam producers to place out their merchandise in a single type, then add completely different options over time by firmware. The quantity of distinction between authentic type and firmware-updated mannequin varies by the product. However only a few cameras I’ve owned have improved a lot for the reason that preliminary launch as my Z9.

This could be one factor if the initially launched Z9 had numerous bugs that wanted fixing. However honestly this wasn’t the case. Model one was already giving me every little thing I wanted after which some. When firmware 2.0 got here alongside and introduced with it not solely the promised Nikon uncooked video format but in addition waveforms, essential to any filmmaker, I used to be in hog heaven. When model 3.0 got here alongside and began providing issues like energy zoom capabilities in addition to a greater solution to synchronize timecode, I just about didn’t know what else to say.

To not say that the digicam is ideal. No digicam is ideal. But it surely’s positively reaching the purpose now the place I genuinely don’t know a lot else they might put into the digicam that isn’t already there.

It Has Saved Me Cash

I understand that is an odd factor to say a couple of $5,500 digicam, however this digicam has really saved me cash. How precisely? Nicely, the best level of comparability is the Canon R5. I like the R5. I owned it for a pair years, and it shot numerous nice photographs and movies for me. So, to be 100% clear, this isn’t meant as bashing of the R5. That digicam is completely nice. However because it was one of many cameras that I owned personally and used an amazing deal previous to getting my Z9, it makes for an apt comparability.

As I said, the R5, which, at $3,900, is available in $1,600 cheaper than the Z9, was an incredible workhorse. But it surely had one main flaw. It overheated. Not rather a lot. However, it appeared as if it at all times overheated on the precise flawed second. And, for me at the very least, it at all times appeared to overheat in conditions the place I didn’t count on warmth to be an issue: capturing stills, on not-so-hot days. Once more, it didn’t occur rather a lot. But it surely did occur, even after the newest firmware updates. So, I at all times had at the back of my thoughts that my digicam may cease at any time. Despite the fact that this may not be the case. So, it gave me another pointless factor to fret about on set.

This drawback was fixable. If I mounted an exterior recorder for all issues video, it appeared to unravel the issue. However that causes two new issues. One, it took away the system’s dimension benefit, as a result of I now needed to account for the gangly monitor hooked up to the highest (or rig it up utterly). And two, this meant I had to spend so much extra money to buy a monitor and the related equipment. I did discover a solution to get the R5 to go well with my wants on demanding manufacturing days. However doing so nearly eradicated the comfort elements and prices elements instructed by the initially decrease buy value.

The Z9, compared, has every little thing I wanted in a single piece. Sure, it is larger and costlier. However I don’t want to purchase the rest, so the prices don’t multiply. It by no means overheats, even when capturing 8K for hours on finish. And the battery life is phenomenal. I can shoot a whole day with one or two batteries on a traditional video manufacturing (endlessly for stills). With most cameras, I must rig up a V-mount energy resolution which solely additional provides to subsequent prices. With the Z9, it’s just about set to go together with restricted interference.

In addition to energy and monitoring, the digicam’s potential to file a number of inside codecs additionally provides it a significant benefit. For my very own movies, I choose the Nikon uncooked video format. However some shoppers are utilizing modifying techniques or workflows which make that impractical. Fortuitously, since day one, the digicam has been capable of file ProRes 4:2:2 internally. So there’s a ready-made format for shoppers the place you might be merely going to shoot it, hand it off, and go on about your life with out having to fret about compatibility points. And once more, all this comes with out having to purchase any extra equipment.

In the end, the digicam saved me essentially the most cash as a result of it afforded me the chance to dump lots of my different cameras. As a result of the digicam is so able to doing every little thing that I personally require to do my job, I now not wanted to journey to set with so many disparate techniques. So, I may dump the R5 and switch it into extra Z glass for the Z9. I even offered off an older cinema digicam as a result of I now not wanted it for run and gun jobs. That’s to not say I don’t nonetheless lease different techniques when the job requires it. But it surely does restrict the variety of cameras I must personally personal and preserve. I should select to make use of or preserve a special system. However now, it is a option to preserve them, slightly than a requirement imposed on account of one thing missing in my fundamental system.

What About Stills?

If you happen to aren’t somebody who cares about video, you might need discovered my essay up to now a bit heavy on the filmmaking dialogue. Since that’s a giant a part of what I do, it’s arduous for me to keep away from that a part of the dialog. But it surely additionally appears that the dialogue of why the Nikon Z9 is nice for stills is a far shorter clarification. It’s a Nikon.

As I mentioned, I’ve been utilizing Nikon cameras for my nonetheless images for twenty years. It’s secure to say that I just like the picture that their cameras produce. My determination to maneuver on from the best DSLR ever made, the Nikon D850, had completely zero to do with picture high quality. Slightly, I wanted higher video manufacturing capabilities in the identical physique as my nonetheless shooter.

However, simply in case you get the concept I now not am utilizing the Z9 to shoot stills, suppose once more. Within the final 12 months I’ve shot extra award-winning nonetheless photographs than ever earlier than. This isn’t to say that the photographs had been higher due to the digicam. However my enjoyment and ease with capturing this explicit digicam allowed me to be extra comfy and artistic. For each private {and professional} functions, I haven’t felt the necessity or want to select up another cameras when selecting to take photos in earnest. I did buy a Z fc for portability and style decisions. However, the Z9 is just a no brainer when cash is on the road.

Greater than particular person specs and even sensible benefits like autofocus pace, the Z9 has confirmed itself to be environment friendly and reliable as a nonetheless shooter. It suits completely in my hand. This may differ for you relying in your hand dimension. However, for me, the bigger physique is strictly what I needed and feels extremely comfy over a protracted shoot. The aforementioned autofocus pace is a giant improve in my view. Though I can’t say focus has ever actually been an issue for me with earlier Nikon techniques. However, as a result of the Z9 makes focusing really easy, it frees me as much as deal with creativity as I can belief the digicam to carry focus the place I want it.

I gained’t drone on an excessive amount of about stills just because the reply is straight and to the purpose. It will get the job finished like a Nikon ought to. It does it dependably and with out grievance. It will get out of the best way and simply enables you to be inventive. And, in spite of everything, isn’t that what we finally need out of our instruments of the commerce?  

Can The Digital camera Nonetheless Get Higher?

In fact the Z9 can get higher. I’m not 100% certain how. However Nikon has shocked me a lot up to now that I can’t wait to see what they do subsequent. I believe a lot of the methods wherein Nikon can enhance aren’t the kind of issues that may be addressed by way of firmware and is perhaps extra a matter of constructing out the encompassing system. Being a filmmaker, I personally would like to see a giant physique cinema digicam from Nikon that may have the identical fundamental imaging capabilities however in a type issue just a little extra frequent to movie manufacturing units. Possibly name it a ZV9 or one thing like that. Likewise, they might do a smaller low-light beast model much like one thing like Sony’s a7S III. Neither of these choices would substitute the Z9, however slightly complement it and assist construct out the system.

With the present Z9, I want to see the addition of false shade in a future firmware replace for publicity in video. I’d additionally wish to see them proceed to extend their timecode choices by way of Bluetooth. They addressed this a bit within the final firmware replace. Wish to see them proceed in that path. With the MC-N10 grip accent, I see they’re beginning to add extra equipment. This too can be key to rising the system.

As you may most likely collect from the above monologue, I’m actually pleased with my determination to buy the Z9 a yr in the past. Honestly, after I first positioned the order, I wasn’t 100% certain that I even wanted the digicam and every little thing it needed to provide. It was extra of an impulse purchase for later reconsideration. However, after having mine for a yr now (and buying a second one virtually instantly), I actually have discovered a digicam that I count on to be my workhorse for a few years to come back. No extra want for continuously watching digicam evaluations in quest of one thing that may assist me do my job higher. I’ve discovered what I want. And that’s the Most worthy factor of all.