Nikon has just released the next big firmware update v2.20 for the Z6 and Z7 cameras that adds CFexpress support. In addition, the company has announced its paid service upgrade to add ProRes RAW video recording to both cameras.
For $200 plus shipping, Nikon will upgrade any Z6 or Z7 camera with ProRes RAW video support (12-bit 4K or 12-bit Full HD), allowing the cameras to output high-quality video via their HDMI ports. A compatible Atomos video recorder such as the Ninja V with the latest firmware update must be used in order to take advantage of this feature. Once patched, the Nikon Z-series cameras (especially the Z6, since it uses full sensor width for video) will become the most capable video recording mirrorless cameras on the market. Those who have purchased the Nikon Z6 Filmmaker’s kit bundle will receive the firmware update for free.
Why is Nikon Charging for RAW Video?
If you are wondering why Nikon is charging money for the ProRes RAW video, it has to do with its licensing. This means that Nikon either has to charge this fee up-front as part of the cost of the camera, or charge select users who specifically want to add ProRes RAW video support to their cameras. I think we should all be happy that it is an optional upgrade, as I don’t think the higher price tag of these cameras would be fair towards those who don’t care about video features at all.
Those who thought that they would be getting this upgrade for free, I think considering that other manufacturers like Canon charge a fee to add simple Log recording (while Nikon provides that for free), and considering that no other mirrorless camera manufacturer even offers ProRes RAW video support in any of their cameras (only high-end professional video cameras have it), it is fair for Nikon to charge $200 for it. The thing is, very few people will actually be sending their Z-series cameras to get this upgrade anyway, but those who are seriously into video production, will now add the Z6 to their list of cameras to buy for their video work. At $1700 (plus $200 ProRes fee), the Z6 is the cheapest option on the market to make high quality video. And the Z6 filmmaker’s kit, which includes the Atomos Ninja V, is now a pretty sweet deal at $3,700, and it comes with the free ProRes upgrade.
Those who don’t care about the ProRes RAW video recording capability will still get support for the next generation CFexpress memory cards, which can record at insanely fast speeds (theoretically up to 4 GB/sec with CFexpress 2.0) when compared to XQD cards. Since both memory card types have identical form factors, there is no need to physically change anything on the Z-series cameras (as well as other Nikon DSLR cameras with XQD card slots) in order to use CFexpress. Once firmware is updated to support CFexpress cards, they will just work.
At the moment, Nikon has only been able to test Sony-branded CFexpress cards, so the release note says that only those cards are officially supported and tested. However, this does not mean that other CFexpress cards that are out there will not function – many owners of CFexpress cards by other manufacturers have already been reporting that their cards are working fine after the Z6 / Z7 firmware update. Once Nikon tests other brands, I am sure they will add them to the list of officially supported cards.
How to Update to Nikon 2.20 Firmware
If you are ready to upgrade your Z6 or Z7 camera with the latest v2.20 firmware, go ahead and visit the below link to download the firmware update:
From there, click on the “Mirrorless Cameras” link, select “Z Series”, then click one of the links for Z6 or Z7. Once you download the firmware, follow my article How to Update Firmware on Nikon Cameras to update the camera firmware. Make sure to fully charge your camera battery before proceeding.
What About Other Firmware Features?
While it is surely exciting to see Nikon release all these firmware updates, many of us wished that Nikon would provide other critical firmware updates and fixes, such as the ability to turn off all information on the LCD screen, or improvements to autofocus tracking features. I have already written a long post on my Nikon Z firmware update wishlist, which has many critical features that are lacking on these cameras. I really hope Nikon takes these seriously and provides at least part of the critical fixes in the next iteration of firmware updates. The Nikon Z-series cameras are already excellent, but Nikon needs to push software features even further to stay competitive. Nikon has already recognized that software is a big part of success of mirrorless cameras, but now it is time for the company to start rolling out the much-needed updates.
Here is the official press release from Nikon:
MELVILLE, NY (December 16, 2019 at 11:00 P.M. EST) – Nikon Inc. is pleased to announce the release of firmware Ver. 2.20 for the Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 full-frame mirrorless cameras. This firmware update offers several improvements that make these cameras even more powerful, including the addition of support for the next generation memory card, CFexpress. Additionally, Nikon has announced that beginning today, service to install RAW video output functionality will be available for those wishing to add enhanced professional video capabilities.
Support for CFexpress, the New Standard for Speed and Durability
Updating Z 7 and Z 6 firmware to Ver. 2.20 enables the use*1 of CFexpress*2 cards. CFexpress cards are robust and reliable, and support even faster data transfer than XQD cards for a smoother and more efficient photographic workflow.
CFexpress cards use a similar form factor to XQD, eliminating the need to physically modify the camera’s memory card slot. After upgrading, users will be able to use CFexpress as well as XQD cards in their camera interchangeably. In addition to the Z 7 and Z 6, CFexpress memory card support will be added to the Nikon D5 (XQD-Type), Nikon D850 and Nikon D500 digital SLR cameras in the future.
Initially, only limited CFexpress card types are fully supported and the number of supported cards will continue to expand as additional cards are tested and certified (Type B CFexpress cards manufactured only by Sony Corp. Availability date for the cards may vary by market).
RAW video output function (4K UHD and Full HD)
Developed in conjunction with Atomos, this capability enables recording of RAW video, which has greater flexibility for color grading compared to other video formats.
With this upgrade, 12-bit 4K UHD or full-HD RAW video can be recorded*3 to select models of Atomos video recorders*4 connected to a Z 7 or Z 6 camera via a HDMI connector. As RAW video is not subjected to in-camera processing, all information that is outputted from the image sensor is preserved. This abundance of information can later be used in post-production.
The RAW video output capability upgrade can be installed at a Nikon service center and will incur a fee but will be included free of charge as part of Nikon Z 6 Filmmaker’s kit bundles. Those customers in the United States who have already purchased a Nikon Z 6 Filmmaker’s kit (Product #13545) will be eligible to have the fee waived (proof of purchase required). For more details about the Nikon Z 6 Filmmaker’s kit, please visit here.
For additional technical information, equipment requirements and instructions on requesting the RAW video output upgrade, please visit: www.nikonusa.com/RAWvideo.
Price and Availability
The firmware update Ver. 2.20 which enables CFexpress functionality is available now, free of charge. Please visit The Nikon Z series Firmware update page to download and find more information.
The RAW video output upgrade is available starting today and will require installation by a Nikon Service Center. A $199.95* fee will apply.
For more information on the latest Nikon products, including the Nikon Z mount system, please visit www.nikonusa.com.
*1 Type B CFexpress cards manufactured by Sony Corp. only. Operation is not guaranteed with cards from other manufacturers (as of December 2019).
*2 CFexpress is a trademark of the CompactFlash Association.
*3 With the Z 7, full-HD RAW video can be recorded using the FX-based movie format, and 4K UHD RAW video can be recorded using the DX-based movie format. When the Z 6 is used, recording of either 4K UHD or full-HD RAW video is possible with both FX- and DX-based movie formats. See the cameras’ Technical Guide, available from the Download Center, for details on differences between Z 7 and Z 6 specifications.
*4 The Atomos Ninja V supports Nikon RAW video output, and records videos in ProRes RAW format. Operation is not guaranteed with recorders other than the Ninja V (as of December 2019). RAW video output from a Nikon camera is supported by Ninja V firmware Ver. 10.2 and later. See the Ninja V firmware download site.
*5 See our website for instructions on requesting the RAW output options activation service.
*Pricing and availability of the service will vary by region
Not sure if it is included in the wish list… ability to change focus point through the touchscreen when using the viewfinder.
AFAIK it is not supported.
Here’s the text of a comment I posted yesterday about the Z6and CFExpress, which I think addresses many questions:
Here’s a followup to my post yesterday about the new CFExpress vs XQD on a Z6. Today’s experiment involved pushing the Z6 to its limits. Turned on High Speed Shooting and just mashed the shutter. Whether using a CFExpress Card (Sandisk 64 GB), or a SONY XQD, the buffer took exactly 200 compressed, 14-bit RAW photos in exactly the same amount of time to within +- 2 milliseconds. The scenes and lighting and camera settings were identical across both experiments. I then loaded the CFExpress Card into my Blackjet Thunderbolt 3 CFE and XQD reader and imported them into Lightroom. 200 photos, 11 seconds to ingest. I then ejected the card and placed the XQD card into the same reader, exited Lightroom after deleting the CFExpress photos. I then reloaded Lightroom after putting the XQD card into the identical reader. To import the same 200 photos into Lightroom, it took 57 seconds.
So, if you are looking to speedup workflow, it is in ingestion where this makes a huge difference with the right reader. I suspect that this difference scales with the speed of your reader, so I imagine that USB-C readers for both card type and USB-3 readers for both card types will probably give you the same relative speed increases, although not absolutely the same results reported here.
One final point. The 11 second ingestion time for the CFExpress card into Lightroom could be shorter than I timed it to be. It happened so fast that I wasn’t able to coordinate the start/stop of the stopwatch as quickly as I needed to be. I’d barely started the stopwatch when Lightroom had reported everything read in. With the XQD, there was a bigger lag and so I’m reasonably confident in the time.
It is also the case that the buffer fills and clears in virtually the same amount of time for XQD and CFExpress cards. While I don’t have Sony CFExpress cards, I dont think it matters. Nikon didn’t change the PCI pipeline in the camera with a firmware upgrade. The major speed boost is in ingestion time, and to the extent that cardscare being read significantly faster, building previews takes less time.
How can any of nikon benefit from cfexpress in camera when no one can outmax a qxd card at 440 mb ? Different reports shows around 200 – 250 mb max from z6,z7,d850 and d500
Guess my Nikon NPS representative lied to me about the D4s getting an update, but when he said that it would that was like 7 months ago so obviously something changed. Oh well I don’t really care that much as I don’t think the D4s would really benefit from an update to CFexpress cards. I’m pretty sure XQD is already faster than the camera can write or keep up with. The newer XQD cards are already extremely fast and there is no way the D4s could write fast enough to benefit from CFexpress! However I was hoping for the update to save a little money on cards as supposedly CFexpress should eventually be cheaper than XQD. At least my D500 will be updated, but I don’t think I’ll want to be using both and I’ll probably just stick with XQD!
Well done Nikon. Keep it coming!
Nasim, regarding your wish list of critical updates that you sent to Nikon some months back, did you receive an acknowledgement or response to it?
John, didn’t get any confirmation or response…
Nasim, perhaps you can share here the email where one could write to Nikon?
HD10, I don’t think you need to do anything special – just send them the link to the article and request it to be sent to Nikon engineering.
It would be nice if other readers tried to do this as well, perhaps with more people Nikon will listen!
Perhaps Nikon will listen as Sony grabs more market share!
John, decided to try and send an email to Nikon support about this. Here is the reply I got today:
“We thank you for your comments and suggestions regarding our products. Nikon strives to take all possible steps for the improvement of its products and relies heavily on our research and development departments. Although we appreciate your feedback we are unable to discuss future product development.”
All I asked was to forward my email to Nikon engineering…
That’s the “Japanese Great Wall”, to keep out negative feedback or too many Emails. Pity it also keeps out positive feedback like yours, Nasim, as your suggested improvements would be such a benefit for all of users.
Sigma remains also behind that wall, they don’t show a direct mail address. Hmm, Email address, but they have a post address – maybe it’s time to write some comments and suggestions about their RAW-converter.
Back to Nikon: They don’t even tried to appear as if they care about feedback, they just tell “we rely on our research and development departments (and they know better than you…)”. I once also tried to suggest a little improvement to make the front cover sliders a bit less slippery as they often slipped out of my dry fingers. The Nikon.ch rep at least said “thank you, we’ll pass it forward to Nikon Japan, but as Switzerland is a small country…”
But turning it around: would I like to read user Emails day-in, day-out? I’m sure there would be some good ones but also a lot of flame. Do you know a company which is listening? Or even corresponding?
Naseem i updated my d7500 firmwqre with yhe 35mm f1.8 lens still on. What will happen now?
Muhammad, nothing will happen…
One reads the CF Express standards/specs are not proprietary, so there is no licencing overhead that Sony rakes in for XQD. Costs per unit media should be lower for CFExpress. Basic message – don’t buy any more XQD media.
We must not stop demanding overdue Fixes and tweaks to Nikon Z Firmware. The key fixes are long overdue, especially to Custom options. The most glaring of these missing features in Z Nikons are standard in DSLRs, but Nikon dropped what works ?! An owner should not be crippled by lack of options in configuring a Z6 or Z7.
That’s a good point, but CFexpress is quite expensive at the moment – I personally wouldn’t rush buying those until the prices come down a little.
Fully agree with you on the firmware updates!
Nasim, will use of CFexpress cards (over XQD) improve the buffer of my Z7?
The buffer remains the same, so, no. But it might be emptied a bit sooner, so it will affect the time the camera is blocked until it can record another burst.
Just take care – I once was wonderiing if Lexar of Sony XQD would be faster or would give a longer burst number. I depends less from the brand but a lot wether the card is fresh or erased or formatted. Ever since I hesitate to format the card after emptying it. It stays quicker if I fell it up and then erase it.
Bent, since the cards are faster, as long as the camera itself is capable of writing at such speeds, the buffer emptying speed will also increase. So yes, it should result in more images you can shoot in a burst.
A bit offtopic: What about the Nikon D4 or D4s and CFexpress support? Will it ever be released? I highly doubt it, but that would be great. What will happen to XQD? It will probably die. But what happens then to all the Nikon D4 and D4s users? Those cameras are still top notch and will be for quite a while.
Jan, that’s an interesting question. I don’t think Nikon ever promised support for CFexpress on those cameras – perhaps the memory card module does not support it in the first place (unlike D5, D850, etc).