Lots of Speculation, Few Answers

It's interesting that, with one week left before Nikon introduces the Z6 II and Z7 II that a rumor post about a future "Z9" is all anyone seems to want to talk about. 

Let's start with this: I know there was a "mule" out there that Nikon was testing for their high-end mirrorless camera. It sat in a D5 body, actually, making it invisible to anyone looking at it. The F-mount on that body was basically just considered an FTZ by the internals ;~). I'm not sure if things have progressed to a true mirrorless prototype yet. Probably, given that Nikon has incredible incentive to have such a model at least in limited use at the 2020NE Olympics. 

I'm not at all sure about the rumored specifications being discussed, though. They seem in conflict with the product definition and target user. 20 fps at 45mp at 12-bit Lossless Compressed is 730MB a second, which would be right about at the limit of what CFexpress card slots in the camera would be likely to achieve. But more to the point, at anything above ISO 2400, the existing 45mp sensor would be at a noise deficit to the current D5/D6 sensor, by at least a half stop at ISO values I tend to use shooting sports/events. Moreover, I have a hard enough time dealing with 20mp image files as fast as my clients want, so 45mp would make my problem HC (Hors Category). So something doesn't seem right with the rumored sensor/frame rate specs. Unless you consider this rumored model an R5 competitor, not an A9 competitor. 

But wait, you say, what about "binning" or mRaw? Binned (or sRaw), we'd get 4128 x 2752, or 11mp. Not really enough pixels, plus we'd have the aliasing associated with that. At mRaw we get a 24mp image, but the file size savings aren't much, we get baked in white balance and linearization, there's lossy compression of data, and color information is compromised in shadows. Oh, and on the current cameras, the buffer is reduced. No, I don't want that, either. 

So I'm perplexed about why I'd want a 45mp "high speed" camera. The Nikon Rumors listed specs feel a lot more like a Z7 II Pro to me than a D6 replacement. 

Which brings me back to the Z6 II and Z7 II. It seems interesting that press that might normally be under embargo at this point prior to a product launch are all currently running articles about what they'd like to see changed or added. If they aren't being disingenuous and risking their relationship with Nikon, this would seem to imply that next Wednesday will just be a "surprise." Okay, we'll probably get details a day early thanks to a Nokishita Tweet, but I'm betting that the subsidiaries don't yet know the full story, either, and will be scrambling to update their Web sites just like the rest of us. Normally at this point in a significant product launch, NikonUSA personnel would have made a trek to Tokyo to get fully debriefed. In this pandemic, I'm not sure that could or would have happened. New York, where NikonUSA is headquartered, is still on mandatory quarantine orders for such travel.

What am I expecting? I'm expecting Nikon to address all the major issues that people had with the original Z6 and Z7, and perhaps sprinkle a couple of tasty new bits in, as well. Slots and power were the big two physical complaints. The Z5 dealt with those, and I expect the Z6 II and Z7 II will follow suit. While focus performance was dealt with in firmware updates, there's still more that could be done. The Z6, in particular, could use 10-bit internal video coding. But to me, the thing I'll be looking for most closely is whether Nikon heard and understood the subtle handling issues, particularly where it comes to controlling the AF Area mode during shooting and focus confirmation in AF-C. My own current "wish list" has expanded out to more than 30 items (I need to update that page). But I'll be perfectly happy with what I've just mentioned getting addressed.

I've written it before and it bears repeating here: the Z6 and Z7 are excellent cameras. I've been using them as my primary cameras for everything other than sports, and without regret. My expectation is that the II announcement is going to "dial in" these two models to keep them highly competitive.

It really isn't bodies that are Nikon's problem at the moment, after all. There's a strong need for more lenses. With Canon being very aggressive with apertures, there's also a need for Nikon to be more imaginative and innovative with the lens set, as well. Then there's Speedlights and accessories to consider. The weakness of the Z System is not the bodies. Next Wednesday will just make that more obvious.

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