New Year, New Camera

Hands on with the Nikon Z9

Over the last two days, I have been putting Nikon's newest flagship camera - the Z9 - through it's paces whilst photographing Coventry's Three Spires Guildhall production of Sleeping Beauty at Warwick Arts Centre. On the first night, I shot on my trusty D5 along side the Z9 so that I could compare the results from the two camera systems. Just for fun, I also use my Z6.
Wots . . . uh the deal?

The Z9 is Nikon's new flagship mirrorless camera which was launched in October 2021. I was lucky enough to be one of the first customers to lay their hands on one when it was delivered on Christmas Eve. I must have been a very good boy indeed for Santa to bring it a day early!

Most of our customers think of us a a company that covers sporting events, such as equestrian, and offering on site printing. However, we also cover theatre production shoots and this seemed an ideal place to try the new camera.
Stage and theatre photography is a very challenging environment in which to try a new camera for the first time - hence the reason that I also took along my existing camera bodies.
What makes it difficult?

I know, it's not like I am standing outside in the fog or the snow, so why is theatre photography challenging? In a word - lighting. Photographers know that lighting is key to great imagery. Sports photographers generally make use of what light is available whereas studio photographers have total control over their lighting. Stage photographers have to cope with lighting that is constantly changing both in brightness and in colour.

To counter this, I always shoot theatre shows manually: I set the aperture and shutter speed by hand. When shooting using a DSLR, I had to make an educated guess as to the setting used. Switching to a mirrorless camera for this is a game-changer as I can see how the image will look before I take the shot.

Of course, the Z9 isn't unique when it comes to being mirrorless. What separates it from the others is that Nikon have married mirrorless with a truly amazing autofocus system.

The camera is capable of identifying the subject matter, locking on to their eye and keeping it in focus - at up to 120 frames per second. For me, this is a game-changer.

 I have to say that I've been very impressed with the Z9. Ergonomically it feels very familiar - it has a reassuring weight in hand and feels very robust. The focussing system is exceptional and the auto-white balance coped very well with the varying lighting conditions. My only negative comment would be to do with the noise in the image when compared to the  other two bodies: the Z9's images are considerably more noisy than the other two cameras.

I suspect that I am probably being unfair as the resolution of the Z9 is far higher than either of the other two cameras and that when the prints are done, the noise won't be noticeable. I will say this though, even at high ISO values, the colour rendition from the Z9 is brilliant. Gone are the days when noisy images were muddy in colour.

Of course, image noise can also be dealt with with the likes of Topaz Denoise - so it's not the end of the world.

All in all, I am really pleased with how the camera performed and look forward to the next event which will be showjumping in a couple of weeks time.