The Nikon Z9 has far and away the most advanced video specs of any Nikon camera yet. Not only can it shoot true 8K video (rather than just 8K timelapses like the D850 and Z7 II), but it can capture that 8K video at 60p 12-bit RAW and record internally to your memory card.
That’s a whopper of a feature, and well beyond the needs of most videographers. But even for more “normal” requirements, the Nikon Z9 doesn’t disappoint. It’s capable of 10-bit internal N-log video as well, plus 4K slow motion up to 120p.
The video below shows clips from the Nikon Z9 at various quality settings, including 4K 120p slow motion and 8K 30p. I’ve uploaded it to our YouTube channel, which does support 8K playback, although you need you be viewing the video in Chrome with extremely fast internet. (Even then, the 8K option may not show up, and you may only be able to view the video in 4K or 1080p.) With those caveats, here it is:
Obviously a compressed video uploaded to the web won’t show the full capabilities of the Nikon Z9, but then again, there are few display methods out there that will. So, for much of this section, I’ll be showing crops from individual frames extracted from 4K and 8K video to demonstrate their performance in a way that’s visible online.
Nikon Z9 Video Options
There is a huge range of available options for the Nikon Z9’s video quality. And the way the options vary isn’t exactly obvious or predictable. That’s why I present to you Photography Life’s Gigantic Nikon Z9 Video Feature Availability Chart™!
|H.264 (8-bit)||H.265 (8-bit)||H.265 (10-bit)||ProRes 4:2:2 HQ (10-bit)||ProRes RAW HQ (12-bit)||N-RAW (12-bit)|
|Standard Tone Mode||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|N-Log Tone Mode||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|HLG Tone Mode||No||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|1080p up to 60p||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|1080p up to 120p||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|4K Support||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (4.1K, 2.3x crop)||Yes (4.1K, 2.3x crop)|
|4K up to 60p||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (4.1K, 2.3x crop)||Yes (4.1K, 2.3x crop)|
|4K up to 120p||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes (4.1K, 2.3x crop)|
|8K Support||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes (8.3K)|
|8K up to 60p||No||No||No||No||No||Yes (8.3K)|
|Uncropped FX Option||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|DX Crop Option||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|DX Crop Supported Resolutions||1080p||1080p, 4K||1080p, 4K||1080p, 4K||5.4K||5.4K|
|DX Crop Supported Frame Rates||24p to 60p||24 to 60p||24 to 60p||24 to 60p||24p to 30p||24p to 60p|
|2.3x Crop Option||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2.3x Crop Supported Resolutions||N/A||1080p, 4K||1080p, 4K||1080p||4.1K||4.1K|
|2.3x Crop Supported Frame Rates||N/A||100p or 120p only||100p or 120p only||100p or 120p only||50p or 60p only||100p or 120p only|
Yes, it’s a huge number of choices, but hopefully this chart will make it easier for you to wrap your head around them. Now you can easily see what to use if you want to shoot 4K 120p (H.265 or N-RAW, but not H.264 or ProRes), shoot with a 1.5x DX crop in slow motion (anything except ProRes RAW), shoot at 2.3x with at least 4K resolution (anything except H.264 or ProRes 4:2:2) and so on.
There are two other video quality options on the Z9, but they’re more niche: “Video Quality (N-RAW)” and “Extended Oversampling.” The first only affects your image quality when you shoot Nikon’s 12-bit N-RAW. It roughly doubles your file size and provides slightly less RAW compression. On the other hand, “Extended Oversampling” only applies when you’re shooting 4K video at 50p or 60p. It gives you better detail and high ISO performance, at the cost of a bit of battery life. I recommend leaving Extended Oversampling on, and adjusting Video Quality (N-RAW) based on your project’s requirements – which I’m sure you already know if you’re shooting RAW video.
Just a final note, the Nikon Z9’s RAW videos in NEV format are not supported by some video editing and import software. For hybrid photo/video shooters out there, note that Adobe Lightroom at the moment cannot import NEV videos, and instead converts them to a low-resolution MP4 when you try. So, don’t rush to format the Z9’s memory card until you’re sure that the RAW videos have transferred properly onto your computer!
4K vs 8K
In a controlled environment, I see a difference between 8K and 4K even when 8K is downsampled, as shown here:
Since most displays cannot even come close to approaching 8K, this is the main difference that a typical viewer will ever be able to see. Of course, if you do have an 8K display lying around somewhere, it’s approximately 4x the resolution of 4K. The difference in megapixels is 8.3 versus 33.2, so if you have some way to display it, there’s obviously a serious difference.
In terms of real-world footage, I do notice some benefits to shooting 8K, even when displayed on a non-8K monitor like my 5K iMac. There is extremely fine detail up close, surpassing 4K if you look closely. However, the 4K recording options on the Z9 are going to be enough for most requirements.
As for whether you should shoot RAW video or not, for most videographers, it won’t be necessary. After all, the Nikon Z9 already shoots 10-bit internal N-log recording, which is more than enough for most users. RAW video is an “if you need it, you already know” situation. But it can help you get that last bit of dynamic range, high ISO performance, or post-processing malleability if you’re willing to go through the time-consuming process of editing RAW videos.
Other Video Settings
With many of the video options on the Nikon Z9, your chosen picture control settings will have a substantial impact on the final appearance of the video, including colors, white balance, sharpness, and noise reduction.
To get a more malleable video file, it’s usually best to leave most of these corrections at basic, lower-contrast values. However, the Z9 is a bit of an exception. Because most of the Nikon Z9’s video options have an N-Log Tone Mode, that’s the better choice if you need malleable files.
So, I actually recommend setting your Z9’s video picture controls to more standard values that you think will cut down on your editing time. That way, you can grab a quick video at H.264 or H.265 with the Standard tone mode when you don’t want to edit it, and jump to H.265 (10-bit) or higher with N-log when you’re willing to do some video editing.
Finally, an interesting new video setting on the Z9 as of Firmware Version 3.0 is something Nikon calls “High-Res Zoom.” This allows you to film in 4K video and digitally zoom mid-shot without lowering the video’s resolution. You can use the control ring on your lens to vary the speed of zooming in or out. Not all videographers like the look of zooming mid-shot, but if you want this feature, it’s a pretty cool addition to the Z9 that you won’t find on many other cameras.
Nikon’s video options on the Z9 are remarkable and complex. Hopefully this section of the review helped you wrap your head around the different choices. At the end of the day, most videographers will never need 8K 60p RAW recording, or even half of what the Z9 offers in its fastest data-pushing video modes. But when you need it, you need it – and there aren’t many other tools on the market with these capabilities.
On the following page of this review, I’ll go through the feature differences between the Z9 and the Sony A1, Canon EOS R3, Nikon Z7 II, and Nikon D6 in detail. So, click the menu below to go to the next page, “Z9 Competitors.”