The Nikon Z9 is already a hugely impressive video camera, and it's on course to be a unique one thanks to a firmware update that'll bring support for the Apple ProRes Raw format – a feature DJI had to remove from the DJI Ronin 4D cinema camera before its recent launch.
When it launched the Z9 last October, Nikon promised that a future update would make its flagship the first mirrorless camera to support Apple ProRes Raw HQ, a codec that promises to combine the editing ease of Apple ProRes with the flexibility of raw video.
And now the camera giant has confirmed that, despite the recent news of the DJI Ronin 4D having to remove support for ProRes Raw, it's still planning to bring it to the Z9 in that update, which still doesn't have a release date. Nikon told YM Cinema "the future firmware update will allow for capture of 12-bit raw video formats. These formats include N-RAW (Nikon’s original RAW video format) as well as ProRes RAW HQ."
The reasons why DJI had to remove support for ProRes Raw from the Ronin 4D just before the camera started shipping still aren't clear, but it's likely to do with the codec's patent issues, which forced another manufacturer, Kinefinity, to remove internal support for ProRes Raw from its Mavo Edge camera.
The US company Red Digital Camera, which makes high-end pro video cameras like the Komodo, has a patent on compressed raw video formats, and this means that manufacturers who want to support codecs like Apple ProRes Raw on their cameras need to pay Red royalty fees for the privilege. Back in 2019, Apple tried to challenge Red's patent, but failed.
This all means that, despite Nikon's confidence about the Z9 supporting ProRes Raw HQ in the future, it's not impossible that there could be a last-minute change, like we saw with DJI and Kinefinity. For now, though, the Nikon Z9 remains one of the most powerful hybrid cameras you can buy – with or without that ProRes update.
Analysis: another string to the Z9's bow
The Apple ProRes format has been around for 15 years, and has become an industry standard for professional video editors, thanks to its support in the likes of Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve. It was even recently added to a phone for the first time when Apple released the iPhone 13 Pro.
It's still pretty rare to see cameras support the internal recording of ProRes, though, and in particular the ProRes Raw format. This is partly because the files are pretty huge, making it a high-end feature for pros only, but also due to the patent issues that Kinefinity, and likely DJI, ran into.
It's more common for cameras to support the external recording of Apple ProRes via recorders from the likes of Atomos, which made a licensing agreement with Red back in 2019 for the support of compressed raw formats including ProRes Raw.
Pro video shooters would be keen on a camera with internal support for ProRes Raw, though, because it could remove the need to use external recorders like an Atomos Ninja V in their workflows.
Whether the Nikon Z9 will become the first mirrorless camera to support ProRes Raw internally remains to be seen, but for now the company is confident that it will be. And that could prove to be a bonus for the Z9 over its rivals, as professional photographers are increasingly being asked to shoot a mix of stills and videos.
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Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.