Is the Nikon Z9 the Best Wildlife Camera Ever?

The last few years have seen a slew of new and impressive cameras. Nikon's newest mirrorless body has been turning heads, so one veteran wildlife photographer takes it into the field to give an honest review.

I am a big fan of Jan Wegener — he's a brilliant and experienced bird photographer — and so when he tried out new equipment, it's well worth your time.

The new Nikon Z9 is Nikon's answer to Sony and Canon's professional-grade hybrid bodies. They have all been a tremendous success across the board, but now they are being pitted against one another. Wegener even claims that the Z9 performs better in the field than the brilliant Sony a1. The Z9 also has the video capabilities many hailed in the Canon R5: 8K.

Wegener's comparison is primarily focused on photography as opposed to video and there are some fascinating results. It's firstly important to stamp out any GAS that may be happening: the image difference between the Z9 and the R5 and a1 is mostly negligible, so the hands-on is mostly useful to Nikon shooters.

The Z9 is undoubtedly a successful release from Nikon who has come under criticism in recent years, which is great to see. Do you think it will spark Nikon's rise back to prominence? Will you be buying one? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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Got a Z9. I come from shooting Canon and RED for about 10 years before switching to the Z6 a few years back and getting the holy trinity of new S lenses. I can't compare it with its current competitors though since I haven't tested those out (came VERY close to buying an A1). I bought the Z9 for the 8k60p NRaw since my work is mostly video and it's a lot cheaper than the A1.

Since I've gotten my Z9, I've been very happy with the results, hit rate, and colours and even considering selling the RED (video highlight rolloff with Nikon's LUT is pretty bad - but I've created my own LUT that really improves things).

It's a great camera, Nikon's got great glass (and recent firmware allows some of its focus by wire lenses - 70-200mm S - to focus linearly, which is absolutely rad).

I have been out of the photography world for the last 5 years due to a spinal injury. I was using a Nikon D500 at the time and had been a Nikon user since the D200. Yes, I am ancient! Lol Anyway I was a professional freelance nature photographer. I am going to be getting a new camera within the next couple of weeks. One thing that leans me to the Sony side is Sony's extensive mirrorless lens lineup and especially their long fast primes. Nikon has dragged their feet getting their z lens lineup and at 65 years old, i can't wait for them!

I decided to post this before watching the video and give my impressions after 3 weeks with a Z9. Until recently, I shot with Sony and have experience with pretty much all of their cameras for the past several years, including the A1, A9, A7R4(and predecessors). I ended up switching to Nikon(yes, that seems crazy). My experience with newer Nikon is the D500, Z7, Z7II and Z5. I can't speak for Canon's AF, but I am pretty familiar with Sony. IMO, the Z9 runs with the A1 and A9, and any differences are more likely user or due to different testing scenarios. My gut feeling comparing Sony A9/A1 to the Z9 is that the Z9 seems less likely to jump to the BG, and it seems better at regaining focus if it does lose it. With Sony's, once they find that BG, they don't want to let go very easily. The complaints about Sony's menus system, IMO, are non-starters, if you use the camera sufficiently, you'll learn it and then it will be second nature. Where I see the A1 has the edge is animal eye-AF, Sony seems a bit more sure-footed once it finds it, whereas the Z9 seems to back off to face or shape quicker. I expect future firmware updates will improve it. While I haven't used the R5, from what I've seen and heard, rolling shutter is prevalent, whereas the A1/A9/Z9, it's not an issue. The Z9 is far superior to Sony in terms of ergonomics, at least for me, however, I do wish the vertical grip was an accessory instead of built-in as it adds a lot of weight and size compared to the A1, but it does give my fingers a place to go, unlike the bare Sony A series where my last two fingers seem to fight for a place to live. All in all, I think the Z9 sits in the same league and we're splitting hairs trying to crown one as the best over the others. Eye-AF, I've not used, and I'm not sure if it matters, but then again, I haven't used it. Cheers
Edit: I noticed in the video he mentions ACR for raw conversions. I have ACR and Capture One, and C1 is superior at this moment, although it does not support the high efficiency formats at this time.