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Nikon Z9 First Real World Thoughts from a Concert

The Starting Line, December 17th 2021, Franklin Music Hall. Philadelphia PA. (click here for full-res exported jpegs with all meta data )

This was the first concert I got to shoot with the Nikon Z9. The lighting at this venue is not very good, as you can see, there was not a lot of front light. Without a front “white wash” or “spot lights”, your images will be all over the place. Without the spot or white wash, you have to bump your ISO higher than normal, and work the files a lot more in post. With all of that being said, I still love the files I get from a Nikon. The cameras SUPER QUICK when it comes to taking photos. I shot it only in 20 FPS mode as you can’t get RAW files at 30 FPS. Plus, you don’t exactly need 30 FPS in this situation. (i wont be using 30 because it’s JPEG).

In terms of Auto Focus, the focusing boxes were all over the dam place due to the lack of light in the face. It might find the eye in some situations, then jump to something else because there wasn’t a lot of light. Stephen was at the show shooting with the Canon R3 and ran into the same problem with the face detect and eye af bouncing all over the place. What I can say, is the Nikon glass all the way around is slower focusing then Canon and Sony. Especially the 1.8 lenses, they are not as quick as I would like. The 70-200 is better, but in my experience using all flagship systems, the Nikon lags behind with focus speed. With that being said, it’s lightyears ahead of the Z6 and Z7 and I could use it without an issue. I think I would on occasion miss some images that the Sony or Canon wouldn’t miss, but it would be fine.

In terms of Banding, I did run into some issues caused by flickering LED lights. This is normal for all stacked sensor cameras from the a9 to a1 to Z9 and R3. The Canon and Sony’s offer you variable shutter speeds to try and match the flickering. The issue there, when you have multiple types of LED lights, there’s no way to match all of them. As a last resort, the a1 and R3 also have a shutter and the Z9 does not. Stephen switched the shutter on and if he was above 1/400th of a second, even with the mechanical shutter, he still saw some banding. I felt the Z9 with Flicker mode on and off (it does not have variable shutter speed) did a very nice job. There’s only so much you can do with these LED lights and I think the Nikon handled it really well. This was just a crap lighting situation that really pushes all cameras to the extreme. This is just one concert setting, I shot with MUCH BETTER lighting the next night and got some great images, I will share those another time.

Another issue I ran in to, it’s hard to know when you’re taking photos when you can’t hear the digital shutter noise. Theres white lines that show up around the outsides of the frames, but it’s mostly out of my field of view. So it’s hard to know when you’re shooting unless you take your eyes away from the subjects, which I don’t want to do. In fact, I handed the camera to my friend Richie to give it a shot, he took 350 images in 3 minutes because he said “there’s no indication i’m taking photos”. Canon puts a box more in the middle of the frame so you know when you’re shooting.

It’s been a while since i’ve uploaded all the FULL RES-edited jpegs for people to see, but it was time to do it again. I will have a lot more to say about the Z9 as I continue to use it. The good news is, i’ve shot two concerts, birds flying and a basketball game so far. Is it perfect….no, is it horrible, far from it. It has it’s quirks, it needs some tweaks and I will pass my findings back to Nikon and everyone else who’s interested.