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Nikon Z9 release date, price, specs and rumors

Nikon Z9
(Image credit: Nikon)

The Nikon Z9 is the camera giant's long-awaited flagship full-frame camera – and judging by the growing number of official teaser videos, we won't have to wait much longer to see its full announcement.

Nikon has now released two short promo videos for the Z9 – and we've included them both further down this page, along with our thoughts on what they reveal about the pro mirrorless camera.

Nikon has promised that the Z9 will 'surpass' the Nikon D6, its current top-of-the-range DSLR. This means we can expect it to take on both the Canon EOS R3 and Sony A1, and perhaps offer a compelling middle ground between those two powerhouses. 

As the spiritual successor to the Nikon D6, the Nikon Z9 is also something of a watershed moment for pro cameras, as it marks the end of an era where DSLRs were the format of choice for professional photographers.

We've rounded up the official and rumored specs for the Nikon Z9 below, plus the extra details that Nikon's teaser videos have revealed – including the camera's two-way tilt screen, which is a first for the camera giant.

Nikon Z9 release date and price

The Nikon Z9 is expected to be released by the end of this year, with Nikon Rumors previously claiming it will arrive in "the fall of 2021". That means we should see a full launch during either October or November.

Right now, all Nikon has officially said is that "information regarding the release of this product will be announced at a later date". But with the Z9's first two teaser videos arriving on October 5 and October 13, it feels like Nikon is starting to ramp up for a full announcement.

Nikon Z9

(Image credit: Nikon)

How much is the Nikon Z9 likely to cost? There is no official word on this yet, but it's naturally expected to be considerably pricier than the likes of the Nikon Z7 II. In fact, it will be part of an interesting new category of mirrorless cameras aimed at both demanding professionals and enthusiasts with big budgets.

Right now, the latest speculation is that the Nikon Z9 will cost between $6,000 and $7,000, which would likely equate to around £6,000 / AU$10,700. These are currently very rough guesses, but that price tag would put it in similar territory to the Sony A1, which costs $6,500 / £6,500 / AU$10,499.

At that price, there are several very attractive competitors. You could spend a little less on the Fujifilm GFX100S, which has an even larger medium format sensor, but slower burst shooting. The Z9's rumored price is also roughly twice as much as the Nikon Z7 II – though as we'll see, the Z9 does promise to take Nikon's mirrorless cameras to another level.

Design and EVF

The first official teaser video for the Nikon Z9 (below) arrived on October 5, and gives us a good look at the camera's design.

With its large battery grip, it has much more in common with the Canon EOS R3 than the Canon EOS R5 and Sony A1. The Z9 dispenses with the Nikon D6's second rear display, but that simple monochrome mode screen is unlikely to be a huge loss.

More interesting is the Z9's rear screen, which the teaser video reveals to be a two-way tilting screen. Like the displays we've seen on the likes of the Fujifilm X-T3, this lets you tilt the display up or down in landscape mode and in portrait orientation, too. But it does also mean that the rear screen is unlikely to be fully articulating, which may be a slight limitation for video shooters.

The Nikon Z9's top plate looks similar to the Nikon D6, with a four-way controller on the left for changing modes and adjusting the bracketing and a top screen that looks similar to the one on the Nikon Z7 II.

The main ergonomic difference from the Nikon D6 is that the buttons that traditionally sit to the left of the screen on Nikon's flagship DSLR (for going into the menus, and zooming into previews) have now been moved to sit below the d-pad.

Otherwise, we can expect the Nikon Z9 to be lighter than the monster 1.27kg Nikon D6, and its shutter to be a whole lot quieter. That is a major benefit for covert nature and sports photography. 

Being a mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z9 of course has an EVF (electronic viewfinder) rather than an optical viewfinder. The only word on this display so far is that it will be blackout-free – in other words, it won’t 'strobe' as you shoot bursts of photos. But we don’t yet have any information about its resolution.

We’d like to see the Nikon Z6 get a 9.44-million dot EVF in the camera, equivalent to 2048×1536 pixels. But will we get one? The rumors suggest not.

Nikon is yet to use such a high-resolution EVF in its mirrorless cameras. But Sony has already used a panel of this quality in the Sony A7S III and Sony A1. It’s about time Nikon caught up, as such an EVF would also likely have a 240Hz refresh rate. 

That’s the dream spec we are after, Nikon Rumors suggests the Z9 will instead have a 5.67-million-dot EVF (1600 x 1200 pixels). This is based on its less-than-tech-packed approach to the Nikon D6, although the pieces of slightly dated tech in that camera can be attributed to Nikon’s focus on mirrorless. DSLRs don’t get as much love as they once did. 

Sensor and burst shooting

The Nikon Z9 is part of a new class of mirrorless cameras that matches high sensor resolution with burst shooting speeds that beat plenty of pro sports DSLRs.

One of the few specs that Nikon has confirmed is that the Z9 will have a newly developed stacked FX sensor. This is an exciting prospect – stacked sensors have faster read-out speeds than the current generation of BSI (backside-illuminated) sensors, which means the Nikon Z9 should offer improvements to burst shooting, autofocus and viewfinder latency compared to its current Z series models.

What we don't yet know is what the Z9 sensor's resolution will be. Back in October 2020, the rumors suggested it would have a 46MP full-frame sensor with a maximum burst speed of 20fps. But speculation has shifted towards the Z9 matching the Sony A1 with a 50MP sensor.

According to Nikon Rumors, Nikon has tested 46MP, 50MP and 60MP sensors for inclusion in the Z9, but the most tips it's received are for the 50MP sensor. This would appear to make the most sense – after all, the Nikon Z7 II already has a 45MP sensor, while a 60MP chip might have knock-on effects for its speed and buffer when shooting bursts.

Whatever sensor Nikon has gone for, the Z9 is predicted to have a max burst shooting rate of 20fps – that's very quick, but wouldn't quite match the Sony A1's 30fps top speed when using its electronic shutter.

Nikon Z9

(Image credit: Nikon)

Indeed, the Nikon Z9’s rumored specs are much closer to those of the Canon EOS R5, which is available for $3,899 / £4,199 / AU$6,899. It’s enough to make you question the Z9's rumored $6,000-$7,000 price, or these core specs. 

But Nikon can win us back with a buffer that makes the 20fps more useful in a pro context. There are no leaked specs for burst duration, but the Canon EOS R5 taps out after 180 raw files, the Sony Alpha A1 after 96 lossless raws (or 82 uncompressed ones).

The Z9's native ISO range is rumored to be 64-25,600, with two extended modes above that. ISO 51,200 and 102, 400 are the standard steps above 25,600. However, the only real point of interest here is that the base ISO appears to be lower than the ISO 100 of the Nikon D6, Sony A1 and Canon EOS R5.

AF and video

The Nikon Z9 will reportedly have 'improved' AF, but this seems likely to refer to its ability to track objects: faces, eyes and animals, rather than necessarily the number of focus points. 

Other Z-series mirrorless camera have a number of focus points roughly relative to their resolution. And this suggests the Z9 will have a number of AF points similar to the 493 of the Nikon Z7 II

We expect the Nikon Z9 to use a similar core system, too, of 'hybrid' focus points that can use either contrast-detect or phase-detect autofocus. Real-world performance improvements are likely to stem from the Nikon Z9’s new Expeed processor.

The Nikon Z9's second teaser video (above) reveals a bit more about its 8K video powers. The video strongly hints that the 30-minute recording limit seen on the likes of the Nikon Z6 II has finally been removed on the Z9, which is no doubt thanks to the improved cooling that's possible with its larger body.

But the teaser suggests that the Nikon Z9's 8K video powers could be even more powerful than its rivals, with the potential to continuously record 8K video clips for as long as 80 minutes. 

The video doesn't confirm that this is happening internally, or reveal any info about bit-rates or codecs, but the suggestion is that it could trump the Canon EOS R5 and Sony A1 when it comes to 8K recording limits.

If the Nikon Z9 has a 46MP sensor, rather than 50MP or 60MP, then it's likely that less downsampling will be needed. Take 16:9 8K and map it onto a 4:3 aspect sensor and you end up with a 44MP chip, close to 46MP. It may not use downsampling at all, too, instead cropping just slightly at 8K to use its 'native' pixels. Its other video shooting skills are likely to match the Sony A1's, which means 4K at up to 120fps. 

Nikon Z9

(Image credit: Nikon)

Blackmagic RAW and Apple ProRes RAW support are likely to be baked in, too. These are available in the Nikon Z7 II and Z6, but only through a $200 upgrade that makes you send your camera back to a service center. 

With these kinds of pro-level features, the Nikon Z9 is an obvious candidate for the 8K raw feature of the Canon EOS R5. However, we’d also like to see some efficiency compression involved to avoid the CFExpress-chewing bit rates of the R5. Without that, 8K footage is a much less friendly feature, eating through expensive storage at a rate of knots.

Battery and connectivity

Nikon will reportedly introduce a new battery for the Z9 called the Nikon EN-EL18x. But this name does not help us out particularly as, for example, the “EN-EL15c” of the Nikon Z7 doesn’t not relate direct specifically to its capacity in mAh or Wh. 

Still, you can expect much better stamina than the Nikon Z7, which is rated for 420 shots using the rear LCD. We expect a slightly modified take on the Nikon D6’s battery, which has 3,300mAh capacity.

Consistent with its status as a pro camera, the Nikon Z9 is likely to have a Gigabit Ethernet port as well as the usually GPS and Wi-FI connections, plus USB-C. 

Card slots are reported to be two slots that accept XQD and CFExpress Type B cards. There’s no cheap option here, but a pair of CFExpress Type B cards would be a great (and necessary, in some cases) fit for both intensive burst shooting and 8K video capture. 

Nikon Z9

(Image credit: Nikon)

Early impressions

The Nikon Z9's teaser videos so far have ramped up the hype for the flagship full-frame camera – and its rumored specs suggest it could live up to the growing expectations. The Z9's stacked full-frame sensor and ability to shoot 8K video for long periods is an exciting combo for pro Nikon shooters, though that's about all we know so far in terms of confirmed features.

From the image and preview videos that have been released so far, it seems the Nikon Z9 will differentiate itself from rivals like the Sony A1 and Canon EOS R5 by having a larger, pro-friendly body that will allow owners of cameras like the Nikon D6 to switch easily.

Based on the rumored specs so far, the Nikon Z9 seems to roughly match the performance level of the Canon EOS R5, with the higher price of the Sony A1. And so far there’s no word of anything as ambitious as the rumored specs for the Canon EOS R1, such as a global shutter. 

With the Nikon Z9 expected to be fully revealed soon, there may be more compelling features we don’t know about yet. We'll be sure update this page as soon as they emerge through credible rumors, more teaser videos or official confirmation.

Nikon Z9

(Image credit: Nikon)