Nikon Z9 Hands-On: Jen Pottheiser’s thoughts on the flagship camera

Photographer Jennifer Pottheiser had the opportunity to use Nikon’s new Z9 camera. She shares her real-world experiences with her and explains what to expect from the next pro-level powerhouse.

Jenn Pottheiser is a New York-based commercial photographer who has a long list of corporate, editorial and commercial clients such as JP Morgan Chase, the National Basketball Association, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the Walgreens Boots Alliance. She recently had the opportunity to photograph with the Nikon Z9 and spoke to PetaPixel about experience and what photographers can expect from the company’s next pro-level shooter.

Photographer Jennifer Pottheiser photographing a boxer with the Nikon Z9

Photographer Jennifer Pottheiser photographing a boxer with the Nikon Z9

Pottheiser says she comes from a background where she mainly toured with the D6, and from that perspective the new body felt comfortable.

“It looks like a pro body,” she says. “It’s tough and stable, balanced, and everything is where I want it to be. The Z9 has the familiarity and muscle memory of the D6, but the body is lighter and has all the benefits of mirrorless. I love that it’s all I want, all wrapped up in one. I no longer need to use a body for the portraits and a different body for the action.

Portrait of a boxer taken with the Nikon Z9

Portrait of a boxer taken with the Nikon Z9

One of the most curious features photographers have with the Z9 is its autofocus performance. In that regard, Potthheiser says it’s beyond expectations.

“Eye detection and autofocus with 3D tracking are so reliable that I have the confidence to take pictures in environments I’ve never dreamed of,” she says. “It allows me to approach my shoots differently and have the freedom to have fun! It also gives my subjects the freedom to move! No more gaffing on the ground guiding my subjects to stay in their zone. The camera is unlike anything I have ever used before.

To really challenge the autofocus, Pottheiser took the camera to a tennis court.

“I had our athlete run the baseline and the autofocus was perfect; but it was not unexpected, ”she says. “Then I asked our athlete to run towards me for a drop shot. I was using eye detection and filming 120 frames per second and with the athlete running at full speed, straight on me, the camera didn’t fail! It was absolutely amazing.

Below is a Z9 sequence of an athlete moving along the baseline:

tennis player chasing a ball along the baseline

And below is a second sequence of another athlete heading towards the camera:

The above two sequences were shot at 120 frames per second and compiled from the resulting still images. Below is a pair of sample photos taken from this last footage (click to view full size):

“When working with multiple subjects or in a crowded field, I would also consider using the 3D tracking mode to set my priority on a single player and continuously follow them as they move around the field,” adds. she does. “I get these frames and then I think, well, let’s see what else we can do – and it’s fun! “

The Nikon Z9 has one major distinguishing feature that sets it apart from any other pro-level camera before it: it does not have a mechanical shutter.

“I don’t miss the mechanical shutter at all,” Pottheiser says. “I’m so in love with everything the camera has, I don’t care what isn’t there anymore. With the adjustable volume on the shutter, it’s the best of all worlds! Quiet if I want it. , a shutter sound if I want to feel like I have a mechanical shutter.

Pottheiser says that when shooting sports, the viewfinder experience, in particular, is extremely important to her. She says it needs to be comfortable for long periods of shooting, but also precise and fast enough to keep pace.

“The blackout-free viewfinder is extremely useful for tracking subjects and tracking action, whether in the field or in the studio,” she says.

“Each of the new body features makes me more confident in what I do as a professional and allows me to look better for my client. The autofocus is out of the ordinary, the silent shutter helps in many situations, the blackout-free viewfinder makes shooting so much easier, the built-in Wi-Fi in the camera is so much more reliable. This camera is all in one and ticked each of my boxes for what I want in a body.

“There is nothing I can compare the Z9 to – it is unlike any other body I have ever used.”

Pottheiser says she’s really happy with most of the physical design choices Nikon has made on the camera.

“Next time I see a Nikon engineer, I have to give him a safe hug!” After a tough 2020 for so many of us, the fact that we can still use our CFexpress cards in the dual card slots, reliably use our F mount NIKKOR lenses with the new FTZ II mount adapter and use our batteries in the D5 and D6, we can save money by making the transition to a fully mirrorless system, ”she said.

“The Z9 battery life was exceptional and lasted well beyond its rating – I’m confident with a dedicated Z9 battery,” she adds.

“The engineers also lit the buttons so we could see when shooting in the dark and thus less presses of the camera menu buttons with simple toggles for quick settings. I loved the bright and transparent experience with the EVF, but the LCD screen also rotates the metadata that is visible when you orient the camera in an upright position, which is extremely useful.

“The only complaint I’ve heard about the Z 9 comes from my digital technology which has had more files than it knows what to do with. Engineers have literally thought of everything with the Z 9. I can’t wait to have mine!

Image credits: All photos are by Jennifer Pottheiser and posted with her permission.

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