Nikon Z9: Flagship camera dispenses with the shutter

Nikon has been hyping the release of their new Z series flagship ‘Z9’ for weeks now. Much was already known about the specs of this camera – 8K 30 (at launch with 8K 60 coming in a firmware update in 2022), 4K 120, 45 megapixel stills, 20 fps shooting at full size, 120 fps shooting at 11 megapixel in JPEG. But the two details that were revealed today were the biggest – first, the Z9 doesn’t have a mechanical shutter. Now, all mirrorless cameras have the ability to shoot via an electronic shutter. But the Z9 is the first serious mirrorless camera to dispense with the mechanical shutter altogether.

One of the main reasons the mechanical shutter continues to live in most mirrorless cameras is something called “rolling shutter”. It’s a phenomena that occurs when shooting with an electronic shutter and the camera is panned while shooting, resulting in the contents being skewed during the pan. This is essentially due to the camera processor not being fast enough to process the data being fed from the shutter properly. Mitigating rolling shutter in stills and especially video is the holy grail on the path to eliminating the mechanical shutter. The benefit of dropping the mechanical shutter are immense. The mechanical shutter is one of the most fragile parts of the camera, and is one that usually has a rated lifespan of actuations before it becomes inoperable and needs to be replaced. So dropping the mechanical shutter should make the camera easier to manufacture and give it a longer lifespan.

The other detail that was a bit of a surprise was the price. $5499. While this is about $1000 more than the Sony Alpha A9 II, of which this camera will be competing with, it is also a more ‘pro’ offering in terms of body ergonomics and features. Most people (myself included), expected this camera to be a good $1000 more, since the D6 – which this camera is intended to replace – costs $6499. And it costs $500 less than the comparable Canon R3. So bravo to Nikon.

Time will tell if the Nikon Z9 will convince pro shooters to stay with Nikon. But if Nikon can manage to produce enough of these, I suspect they will have a hit with pro stills shooters and pro video shooters alike.