Where the Z8 and Z9 Still Miss

I've got a ton of Z9 experience now under my belt, and a large amount of Z8 experience, as well. Both cameras have been through significant firmware updates to get them to where they currently are two of the best camera options available from any maker.

That said, Nikon has left a lot of fruit on the tree that needs to be picked and put into the Z8/Z9 pies. What follows is my basic view on the things that are still left undone. 

  • Rationalize the menus. I'm going to start with this one because the firmware updates to the Z8 and Z9 showed just how poorly Nikon is thinking about menus. We have long scrolling lists where we don't need them, modes that set the available other modes, lack of logical grouping, unclear hierarchies, and much, much more. It's not that Nikon hasn't noticed and done nothing: we now have a NETWORK menu instead of jamming all those options into SETUP. We also have seen RETOUCH move to playback only, where it belongs. Still, overall, it doesn't feel like there is a clear, guiding effort being done to clean everything up. Moreover, each new feature that appears seems to just add new clutter where someone had just done a little bit of tidying up and pruning, as HEIF proved. 
  • Complete the customization options. Why subject detection, metering, and a small number of other items don't have an immediate button customization—other than abusing Recall shooting functions for something it wasn't intended for—I don't know. As I've reported to Nikon several times now, these are big items to a working photographer in journalism, wildlife, or sports, and still significant items for everyone else. Look at the Nike logo, Nikon, and Just Do It.
  • Provide a real load/save option. Another item I've reported to Nikon several times. The current save/load (and even U#/Banks) options are badly conceived, poorly executed, and absolute nightmares for users. All of that would be fixed by simply providing named settings files, and then adding a customization option to pull them up via button or button+dial. Indeed, this option would also make banks more useful, as that allows sub-customization within a customization. 10 named settings files and four banks means one heck of a lot of depth to the on-the-fly reconfiguration options.
  • Add a raw Pre-release capture option. We know it can be done. We don't know what the maximum frame rate would be, but it wouldn't matter, we'll still take it. The real issue here is that Nikon is taking a shortcut for the Pre-release option choices, where they reconfigure the camera into a "video" mode behind the scenes. I want FX and DX raw options in the list, and I don't care how they're created behind the scenes. Even 5 fps Pre-release capture would be useful, but I'm pretty sure that Nikon could do 10 fps and even higher if they'd just get their brains around the demand for this function.
  • Better address strobe/speedlight usage. The Z8 and Z9 are professional cameras, which means that a number of us use them in the studio, and in situations where we are trying to control the light. I can't believe someone influential in this respect such as McNalley hasn't behind the scenes chastised Nikon on this and set them to task. Light is one of the fundamental elements of what makes a photo a photo (let alone a great photo). Trial and error coupled with focus misses in strobe managed light is not what we want. Thing is, a modern Nikon camera knows when a trigger or flash is in the hot shoe and active. Why doesn't that automatically reconfigure the camera to be optimally set for that situation (with user customization, of course)?  We know that low ambient studio light might make the focus system struggle, so where's Nikon's solution for that? Is Elvis (that flash-y guy) still in the building?
  • Clean up the multiple image release modes. The options that deal with multiple images, such as Focus shift shooting, Multiple exposure, HDR (overlay), Interval timer shooting, and Auto capture are all a mess of random settings, have no ability to create custom sets you can instantly load, have had features come and go for no apparent reason, and are buggy. These are supposed to be useful shortcuts (tools) to do something beyond a basic image capture. What's happened is that they've become random "almost ready for prime time" thoughts that give Nikon users headaches every time we dip into them.

While I see others asking for things like more EVF resolution, higher frame rates, and global shutter, those things are probably more Z8 II or Z9 II items. Those will come with time. However, the things I list above are clear "misses" with the current cameras. There's no reason why they can't be done with a firmware release to make the current iterations near perfect.

I should point out that we had a total of 36 (!) Z8 and Z9 cameras in Botswana at work during my two recent workshops in April. With that big a sample in a demanding environment, it's pretty easy to see what users are complaining about and struggling with. As it turns out, most of those were things I've been complaining about since day 1 with the Z9. 

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