Cat is Out of the Bag — Z9 Development Announcement

After dpreviews' interview revealed a Nikon Z flagship coming "within the year," a few days later Nikon has now provided a full Development Announcement for the new camera. 

It's a Z9. 

bythom nikon z9

Not a lot was disclosed in terms of details: an FX stacked sensor, a new image processing engine, 8K video support, available in 2021. While camera pictured appears to be a D6 body with a Z9 on it, thus has a vertical grip, the footnotes say "the appearance of the camera may differ from the photo." 

I know that some think that a development announcement doesn't include details because they "might change." I doubt that is the reason for Nikon being light on specifics. Nikon wants plenty left to be surprising and create viral marketing replication when they actually do announce the product. (It also appears that we're going to have a tease rollout given the mailing list signup and dedicated page.) It's been very rare in my experience that any significant specification changed from development announcement to launch. Sometimes a number changes slightly (e.g. buffer) or a footnote gets added (e.g. feature works up to x fps). But in terms of the big picture or the major marketing points, no, I'm pretty sure Nikon would have locked all that down at this point. It is true, however, that the Z6/Z7 had autofocus changes via firmware after launch. So another possibility is that a feature/spec doesn't get unlocked at first release because the firmware and testing for it didn't make the launch schedule.

In past Nikon development announcements, the lag from the first announcement to the actual camera being officially released has ranged from a quick couple of months to as much as a year. Generally, though, it appears to me that Nikon does this type of announcement about at the point where the first small scale manufacturing begins (to create official, non-mule, prototypes), which seems about right in order to have official prototypes ready for some to use at the Tokyo Olympics in July. 

The ball's now in Canon's court. I noted in my articles on the dpreview interview that Nikon was playing a FUD game. Canon's going to have to get in that game now, too, methinks. Canon played the tease game with the R5 before official launch, but now they're facing the possibility of the Tokyo Olympics having the Sony A1/A9 Mark II combo appearing all over plus now Nikon Z9 prototypes being used, as well. The R5 does hold up well against that competition in many ways, but if Canon Rumors is correct that a Canon R1 is coming early next year, I'd have to guess that Canon is going to have to reveal that by July. 

The only problems with the FUD game is that (1) you have to produce something worthy of the FUD; and (2) you have to hope that nothing will come along between the development announcement and the official release that lets the winds out of your sails. 

I noted several people on the Internet writing "Nikon didn't have any choice, they need to keep people from moving to the Sony A1." I'd add the Canon R5 to that, too, as 8K is now a thing you have to market against. So it's probably true that Nikon needed to say something that places them in the top arena again. Seven consecutive cameras (don't forget the D780) in what would be regarded as the D5600 to the D850 range puts a lot of attention on the middle of the market. Plenty of money to be made there, for sure, but Nikon has a deep pride in state-of-the-art engineering that's taken a bit of a hit lately because the D6 was lukewarm and the Z7 II didn't push the Z7 past the D850.  

Of course, now all the speculation starts:

  • What are the exact specs and performance?
  • Exactly when and how much?
  • Could a Z90 be twinning behind the scenes (for simultaneous announce)?
  • What is a Z8 going to look like?
  • Will it blend?
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