Z9 Bits and Pieces

  1. I've long had a back and forth with some about how well the Z9 focuses in low light. My results seem better than their experience. When it finally sunk into my head that the focus decision wasn't coming from a pre-Picture Control data stream, a little Aha! moment happened: what's your Picture Control? Since then I've surveyed the folk I was debating with. They're all using the Auto Picture Control and haven't really changed any parameters. I'm using the Neutral Picture Control with one parameter changed: Sharpening. While it's really difficult to get any repeatable, controlled evidence that this creates a difference, it sure seems like a clear difference when I change between Auto (at defaults) and Neutral (sharpened considerably) in a low contrast scene of 1/40, f/2.8, ISO 3200. 
  2. There's a new battery in town that seems to work fine in both the Z9 and the MH-33 charger: the Power2000 ACD-800 (available at this site's exclusive advertiser, B&H). Curiously, it's listed at 3800mAh (the EN-EL18D is 3300mAh). So far, the Power2000 is the only third party battery I've found that reliably works in the camera, in the camera during USB-C charging, and in the MH-33 battery charger. I did find it curious that my EN-EL18D battery suddenly asked to be calibrated after using the Power2000 for one session, but I'm finding that the EN-EL18D is asking to be calibrated much more often than the earlier EN-EL18's. That's been true of both my experience and that of all the other Z9 users I know.

Here's a question that came up that needs to be answered: "If I record raw 12-bit 8K video at 60 fps, I'd be getting the same thing as if the camera were set to NEF 12-bit and had a 60 fps mode, right? I can just extract a video frame to get a still."

Probably not, for a number of reasons. First, 8K video is 16:9 aspect ratio and can have a bit of a crop with certain settings (e.g. Electronic VR), so you wouldn't be getting 8256x5504 pixel images. Best case is that you get 8256x4644 pixels. Second, if you set N-Log, which you probably should, the "data" is no longer linear, but now sports a non-linear curve to try to preserve dynamic range. Third, autofocus works differently in video as the camera tries to avoid abrupt changes that are jarring in video (though you can "tune" this some with Custom Settings #G6 and #G7). You'll certainly end up with some frames that aren't in focus. Next, if you also want to use the video as video, you'd probably be keeping the shutter speed down near 1/60 in order to get the frame-to-frame blur we associate with most film/video work. The minute you start cranking the shutter speed up to, say, BIF-necessary levels (1/2000+), the video looks artificial and is probably no longer usable when cut into normal video. Meanwhile, you can't extract a still from the raw video recording methods (at least with current firmware), so you'd have to frame extraction with a third party video editor, which at this point is mostly DaVinci Resolve (the only one that really understands Nikon's NEV files at the moment).

In short, you've got a lot of hassles approaching "fast stills" via the video method. I prefer the C30 approach (full frame JPEG at 30 fps), as it's both simpler, uses the still aspects of the camera, and if set right, generates better looking images. 

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