Nikon Z9 gets major 3.0 firmware update with ‘High-Res Zoom’ mode, AF updates and more: Digital Photography Review


Nikon has announced a firmware version 3.0, a significant update that improves upon existing features and adds new features to Nikon’s high-end full-frame mirrorless Z9 camera system.

High-Res Zoom

New to the Z9 with firmware version 3.0 is High-Res Zoom mode when shooting 4K video. This feature starts by capturing oversampled 4K video from the full width of the 8.3K sensor and slow crops in until it switches over to capturing the 4K APS-C 1.5x crop section of the sensor.

This will effectively provide a 2x digital parfocal zoom without having to ever touch the lens attached to the camera. The footage will be less sharp, since it’s no longer using oversampled video once you’re at the 2x zoom, but our initial tests with it show the transition is fairly seamless.

This feature can be controlled using the Fn1/Fn2 buttons, left/right buttons on the multi selector, or with the Fn ring or control ring on compatible lenses. Using the buttons cause the High-Res Zoom to be done at one continuous speed while using the control rings allow for adjusting the zoom as fast or slow as needed based on the speed the ring is turned.

C60 Mode for continuous shooting

Now, in addition to the current C30 and C120 continuous capture mode options, the Z9 offers a C60 mode that will split the difference. This mode will capture roughly 19MP still images at 60fps in DX mode.

Autofocus improvements

Nikon has also updated the autofocus system on the Z9, improving low-light performance by 0.5EV compared to previous firmware. 3D-tracking mode has also been improved. Now, subject tracking will be ‘stickier’ to ensure foreground objects don’t pull focus away from the subject when it goes behind something. Focus points can also be changed to red now for better visibility against certain subjects. Tracking of fast-moving animals has also been improved when using ‘animal’ subject detection.

Other features

The High-Frequency Flicker Reduction mode Nikon brought to the Z9 stills with firmware version 2.10 is now available for video and Nikon has added Timecode synchronization and UltraSync Blue to the Z9. That means it’s now possible to use a single wireless remote to control timecode across multiple Z9 cameras and Atomos’ UltraSync Blue is now supported over Bluetooth.

Other features include more Custom functions by allowing the remapping of more buttons on the camera (including the Record button), a new Vertical Playback Display for viewing content in vertical orientation, an Auto Series Playback function for automatically displaying multiple frames from a single burst and playback and a full format function that can completely delete data from compatible CFexpress Type B cards.

Firmware verison 3.0 for the Nikon Z9 is free to download from Nikon’s website. You can see more information about the firmware update in the press release below:

Press release:

Nikon releases upgraded firmware version 3.0 for the Nikon Z 9 full-frame mirrorless camera

Firmware 3.0 Adds Nearly 20 More Features + More Powerful Performance to Nikon’s Mirrorless Flagship

MELVILLE, NY (October 26, 2022)– Nikon Inc. has announced yet another substantial update for the Nikon Z 9, bringing more powerful performance and added features to what’s widely regarded as the most capable full-frame mirrorless camera available. Now available for free download, the firmware 3.0 update is the second major update to the Z 9 this year, adding enhancements to video and photo capture, usability, operability, autofocus and so much more.

“Firmware 3.0 not only demonstrates Nikon’s commitment to addressing our customers’ needs, but also our continued support to update products to their full potential for the benefit of our users,” said Jay Vannatter, Executive Vice President, Nikon Inc.

Both video and photo shooters as well as creators will see impressive benefits from the new firmware with this update. Some of the more notable features include a new Hi-Res Zoom function¹which provides the effect of additional optical zoom for 4K video, and a new C60 High-Speed ​​Frame Capture+², enabling 60 fps still shooting in DX-format. Firmware 3.0 also includes enhancements to the AF as well as upgraded display and operability, such as increasing the number of buttons that can be used as custom controls.

Starting today, Z 9 owners can visit the website here to download firmware 3.0 for free. Nikon will continuously meet users’ needs through firmware updates that expand the functionality of its cameras.

Significant Updates with Firmware 3.0:

  • High-Res Zoom: When capturing 4K UHD video, this feature enables the option for high-resolution zooming which effectively extends the focal range of a lens. 4K UHD footage is captured in 8K UHD resolution, and then gradually cropped to the 4K frame size in real time, effectively doubling the focal length while maintaining the resolution. This is not otherwise possible with digital zoom or cropping in post. Hi-Res Zoom is available regardless of the lens used, allowing users to streamline production and take advantage of prime lenses, or the extremely shallow depth of field of af/1.2 maximum aperture lens. This feature can be assigned to the camera’s Fn1/Fn2 buttons, a lens’ Fn ring or control ring, as well as the left/right buttons on the multi selector. The end result is a smooth, parfocal zoom transition with no loss of resolution. Using the buttons enables zooming at a constant selected speed, while use of the control ring allows users to zoom in or out as quickly or slowly as they like.
  • High-Speed ​​Frame Capture+ C60 Mode for continuous shooting: In addition to the existing C30 and C120 options, High-Speed ​​Frame Capture+ now offers a C60³ option for bursts of continuous shooting of approximately 19-megapixel still images at approximately 60 fps. This feature is in DX mode, which increases effective focal length while satisfying the diverse needs of photographers – especially those in the fields of photojournalism, sports and bird photography who value speed and reach.
  • Autofocus Enhancements: Firmware 3.0 improves upon the Z 9’s powerful AF system, enhancing performance and subject detection. The low-light limit has been extended by 0.5 EV, with accuracy improved in low light and low-contrast conditions. Multiple enhancements have been made to 3D-tracking mode; Focus will be “stickier” on a subject, and less likely to shift into a foreground obstacle that momentarily obscures a subject. Users now also have the option to change the color of focus points to red, which can be useful for shooting in a variety of backgrounds. Additionally, the detection and tracking of fast-moving animals has been improved when “animal” is selected in 3D-tracking.
  • High-Frequency Flicker Reduction added with firmware version 2.10 is now available for video recording.
  • Timecode synchronization and UltraSync Blue: Timecode across multiple Z 9 cameras controlled by a single wireless remote control is now possible4. ATOMOS UltraSync BLUE is now also supported over a Bluetooth connection, enabling the syncing of recording-equipment and/or audio-device timecodes, including equipment from other manufacturers. This is extremely helpful when editing videos recorded in multiple external audio recorders.
  • Vertical Playback Display: Images and the i menu can be displayed in vertical orientation during playback mode.
  • More buttons for Custom functions: The number of buttons that can be used as custom controls and the extension of customizable functions has been increased for smoother access to frequently used functions. This also includes the ability to make the Record button programmable.
  • Auto Series Playback function automatically displays images from the same burst of continuous shooting group after the first image in the burst is displayed in playback mode.
  • Improvements to Flash workflow: The “Show effects of settings” option in View mode (Photo Lv), which reflects exposure settings in the photo live view display has been improved. This update allows users to choose whether the effects of exposure settings are reflected when a Speedlight or remote trigger is attached. This function allows the user to check background exposure prior to shooting, helping to confirm the resulting background exposure in advance.
  • Display enhancements: File Info has been added to the information display, and a focus indicator is now available in camera.
  • “Override other camerasFunction has been added, enabling easy switching between master cameras when multiple cameras are designated as a primary.
  • Support for the FTPS protocol offers faster, safer image transfer with encryption.
  • Reset focus distance during [Focus shift shooting]: During focus shift shooting, the focus position at the start of shooting can be memorized and returned to the initial focus position after a series of shots has been taken.
  • Full format function: When using CFexpress cards that support full formatting, this function can be used to delete data completely to help users maintain maximum performance.

Notes

¹ Hi-Res Zoom is available only with video recording in the following codecs: at ProRes 422 HQ 10-bit (MOV), H.265 10-bit (MOV), H.265 8-bit (MOV), or H. 264 8-bit (MP4) -with image area set to FX (36×24). Restrictions apply to some camera features.

² With AE/AF tracking at an image quality setting of JPEG normal only. The maximum number of frames that can be captured with a single burst is fewer than that possible with high-speed continuous shooting. Use of a Nikon-recommended memory card is recommended.

³ Image area fixed at DX (24 × 16). If a DX lens is attached when C120 is selected, the high-speed frame capture setting will automatically change to C60 and image area will be fixed at DX (24×16). Pre-Release Capture is supported.

4 A signal from the shutter-release button resets device timecodes. Therefore, still images cannot be captured during video recording by pressing the shutter-release button when timecode synchronization is enabled.



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