Nikon continues its very pleasing trend of continually improving its cameras through firmware updates. In the past, new firmware only removed bugs, but nowadays it also adds new features. If you look back in time, the flagship Nikon Z9 has already received so many of them that it would be enough to make a brand new camera. So what’s been added to the photographer’s arsenal with firmware version 4.10?
The autofocus of the Nikon Z9 is very capable. But as I’ve mentioned in several of my articles, its capabilities quickly dissipate when the Z9 can’t recognize the subject you want to focus on. This hasn’t usually been a problem with static or slow moving subjects. The problem occasionally arose with the most agile creatures on the planet, birds.
The Nikon Z9 tends to be pretty good at recognizing birds whose appearance fits the standard bird scheme. Anything that looks more or less like a sparrow is no challenge for the Z9. By that I mean any bird with a relatively compact body, a short neck, a beak that is neither too short nor too long, no strange crests on the head, legs that are just right, and plumage that is not too extravagantly colored. Of course, with more than 10,000 species of birds, there are many that don’t fit this scheme.
When confronted with such a feathered creature, the Z9’s autofocus was a little confused. As you can see in the example of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. A print screen created in Nikon NX Studio shows that the Z9 is unsure where this bizarre inhabitant of the Andean forests has its eye.
On the other hand, I was sometimes shocked by the Z9’s ability to find the eye where even the experienced eye of a predator often searches in vain. One such example was an encounter with a long-tailed potoo. When searching for its eye, look for the red square that marks the active focus point.
Birds that are bathing, preening, flying at unusual angles or hunting can also give the Z9’s autofocus a hard time. In general, the Z9’s autofocus may not perform optimally with birds that look very different from those in a standard field guide and are in complicated settings.
The new firmware takes all of the above into account and in version 4.10 introduces a new dedicated [Birds] mode to the subject detection options, along with [Airplanes], which we already know from the Nikon Z8. Tracking performance for fast moving birds should also be improved, as well as the ability to distinguish a bird from high contrast backgrounds such as forests, rocky mountains, or a glistening body of water.
If you bought the Nikon Z8 thinking it was a small Z9 and are now upset, don’t despair. According to Nikon’s press release, similar firmware changes are planned for the Z8 in the first half of 2024.
Official Sample Images
Alongside the announcement, Nikon released the following sample photos to show situations where the new firmware should be an improvement:
NIKON RELEASES THE UPGRADED FIRMWARE VERSION 4.10 FOR THE NIKON Z 9 FULL-FRAME MIRRORLESS CAMERA
MELVILLE, NY (October 4, 2023) – Nikon is pleased to announce the release of firmware version 4.10 for its flagship full-frame/FX-format mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z 9.
New dedicated [Birds] and [Airplanes] subject detection options have been added with firmware version 4.10. The [Birds] option increases overall detection performance for birds. In addition to increased detection and AF performance with complicated and high-contrast backgrounds such as forests and rocky mountains, this option adds the ability to quickly detect birds in various states, including flying, perched, and even those with unique-looking appearances. Tracking performance with rapidly moving birds are also increased for a smooth shooting experience that ensures you will never miss a crucial moment when photographing birds. Adding the same [Airplanes] option built into the Nikon Z 8 enables reliable detection of airplanes regardless of their size. This option offers increased detection capabilities with dark scenes and those that include busy backgrounds.
Furthermore, in a firmware update planned for release in the first half of 2024 for the Nikon Z 8, the dedicated bird subject detection option will be added, alongside the airplane option available from the camera’s initial release. Other improvements in functionality are also planned.
Nikon will continuously meet users’ needs through firmware updates that expand the functionality of its cameras. The latest firmware and instructions for download and installation can be found here.
Nikon Inc. is a world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and technologies for photo and video capture; globally recognized for setting new standards in product design and performance for an award-winning array of equipment that enables visual storytelling and content creation. Nikon Inc. distributes consumer and professional Z series mirrorless cameras, digital SLR cameras, a vast array of NIKKOR and NIKKOR Z lenses, Speedlights and system accessories, Nikon COOLPIX® compact digital cameras and Nikon software products. For more information, dial (800) NIKON-US or visit www.nikonusa.com, which links all levels of photographers and visual storytellers to the Web’s most comprehensive learning and sharing communities. Connect with Nikon on Facebook, X, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok,Vimeo and Flickr.
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Specifications, equipment, and release dates are subject to change without any notice or obligation on the part of the manufacturer.