Naoyuki Murakami Executive Fellow and Sector Manager of the Development Sector, in Nikon's Imaging Business Unit. (Image supplied by Nikon).

On the eve of the Z9 launch, we spoke to Naoyuki Murakami, Executive Fellow and Sector Manager of the Development Sector in Nikon's Imaging Business Unit, to learn more about the new camera, and what it means for Nikon's future.

The following interview was conducted via email, and has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

We have heard the Z 9 described by Nikon representatives as a “D3 moment”. What do you mean by this?

I have [also] heard several professional photographers who have used the Z 9 describe the camera as a “D3 moment”. I think it is safe to say that the statement refers to how at the time of the release of D3, it was well received due to the drastic evolution of high-sensitivity image quality performance, and how Nikon began to regain its market share.

Because of the level of innovation and advanced features that enable imaging professionals to create like never before, we believe that the Z 9 will be well received as Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless flagship camera body, which has the high image quality, durable build and high-speed performance to satisfy professionals.

The D3 was Nikon's most powerful DSLR ever when it was released in 2007, and offered a combination of features that redefined expectations for professional cameras across the board. Nikon is hoping that the Z9 will have the same impact in today's mirrorless market.

Are professional photographers more or less important to Nikon now compared to 2007, when the D3 was released?

The professional photographer has [always] been the backbone of Nikon’s history. Flagship models always define who we are and how we respond to their needs. Pros demand the latest technology to do their jobs day and day out and they are always looking for a competitive edge. We are so excited to get the Z 9, our newest flagship mirrorless camera, into their hands and demonstrate our engineering, which has defined our company for more than a century.

For professionals, not only speed, but also the workflow of processes such as shooting, storage, image development, and data transfer from the shooting site to newspaper companies, etc. are very important. We also provide solutions that meet the needs of professionals. With the introduction of NX Field, it has become possible to shoot from new perspectives, and it has been well received by many professional users at sites such as the Tokyo Olympics.

Nikon directly supports photographers. So that photographers won’t miss a decisive moment on site, we will continue to provide maximum support, especially for the immediacy of information (images), by providing solutions such as NX MobileAir and NX Tether.

There is a perception among our readers that Nikon has fallen behind the competition in the mirrorless market. How do you respond?

Because of [our] late entry into the full frame mirrorless market, there was a period where we had to “catch up” in terms of the product lineup of lenses and bodies. However, as you can see from the new lens roadmap released, the lineup of super-telephoto lenses and other important NIKKOR Z lenses continues to rapidly expand at an unprecedented pace.

We have been listening intently to our customers, specifically what they want and need from the Nikon Z mount system. The Z 9 is our response. It answers the wish-list of many customers and we are confident that we will regain our strength through this product and further enhancements to the product lineup.

Sorry, Z7/II, Nikon is calling the Z9 its first 'flagship' full-frame mirrorless camera.

Has Nikon effectively exited the entry-level ILC market?

No, Nikon has not exited the entry-level ILC market. We believe that the entry market is important in order to broaden the base of users, and we have strong product offerings for many kinds of users.

The aim moving forward is to concentrate on mirrorless full-frame middle- to high-end models, but in order to broaden the base of users, we believe that the DX entry level model is also important. We believe in the importance of models that have strong video functions while being more affordable and we're also considering stylish and design-oriented products such as the Z fc that fit seamlessly with the customer’s lifestyle. Please look forward to our future endeavors in this area.

As you can see from the numerous lenses we have announced recently, we are expanding the number of lenses that are compact, lightweight, easy to use and affordable. Nikon has an advantage that our full frame and APS-C lenses are interchangeable, so this includes DX-format lenses such as the versatile new DX 18-140 and even the ultra-compact primes like the 40mm lens announced earlier [this year]. You can see more on the updated roadmap.

Are the Z9’s video features aimed at the existing sports / photojournalist users, or does Nikon hope to capture an additional audience of filmmakers?

The Z 9 offers the most advanced video features in Nikon’s history. It’s unmatched by anything in its class, and it’s perfect for a wide range of users. With its speed, various frame-rates and resolutions and robust build, it is an attractive model not only for sports and journalist photographers, but also for filmmakers, event videography and productions of any scale. Video needs are increasing in journalism and sports. Video specs are also required in the fields of fashion and advertising, and we believe that we can reach such users through the Z 9.

We plan to add a significant amount of functionality for video creators with firmware updates, including 12bit RAW video and 8K60p

It is a model that firmly responds to video needs with various and powerful specs, such as Nikon’s first 8K video recording; extended shooting time up to 125 minutes, full frame 4k 120p, plus internal recording of HLG and N-Log. It also has the world’s largest 9 types of subject detection available in stills and video, and more. Besides that, it can also appeal to video creators who want to produce the best quality videos with minimum crew.

With a growing collection of NIKKOR Z lenses and access to more than 360 F-mount lenses with the FTZ adapter, directors are given a variety of lenses to fit a production or add a distinct look to their project. We will also plan to add a significant amount of functionality for video creators with firmware updates, including 12bit RAW video and 8K60p [which] will be added in Nikon’s new N-RAW video format. The Z 9 will continue to evolve.

Does Nikon regard 3D AF tracking as a professional cameras-only technology?

3D-tracking has been an extremely popular AF feature, and in response to strong customer requests, the Z 9 is the first mirrorless camera to be equipped with a 3D-tracking function. We believe that while this is an extremely powerful, pro-grade feature, the technology is not only for professional cameras, but it can be enjoyed by various users on every level.

The basic function of the 3D-tracking function is to capture a moving subject and keep focusing on the acquired subject, making it an effective function not only for sports scenes shot by professionals and enthusiasts, but also for scenes shot by general users for subjects such as moving dogs or birds.

The Z9 reintroduces and updates 3D AF Tracking - one of the standout features of the company's high-end DSLRs lines, which was sorely missed in the Z6 and Z7-series cameras.

Thanks to advancements in technology, our engineers have been able to integrate Subject detection technology, which is a major technical element that supports 3D-tracking. The Z 9 can simultaneously detect nine types of subjects, the largest number [of any camera] in the world.

To realize this simultaneous detection with high-speed continuous shooting at 20 frames per second, it was necessary to speed up the algorithm using deep learning technology. The process of tuning required time, continuing until the final stages of development. In addition, the AF area is wider than that of SLR cameras, and tracking performance is superior to that of the D6. There is also a function called auto detection for determining a subject type that other companies do not have. I am confident that users will be pleased. We will consider installing it in other models in the future according to market trends and target users.

What change in technology allowed you to bring 3D Tracking to the Z9?

Multiple technological developments were required to introduce high-performance 3D-tracking into a mirrorless camera. It was made possible by improved basic performance by the high-speed readout from the image sensor, and significantly faster speed of the image processing of EXPEED 7, our new image processing engine. Essentially, 3D-tracking is realized through various high-performance technologies, and by efficiently linking those technologies together. For high-speed continuous shooting at 20 frames per second, where the effectiveness of 3D-tracking stands out, more accurate AF information and subject position information are required between shooting frames.

With the Z 9, it has become possible to perform high-performance subject position detection even between frames, with an algorithm that uses high-speed AF information calculation and deep learning technology - all without interruption at a high frame rate of 120 fps.

How does stacked CMOS sensor technology enable faster sensor read rates?

Stacked CMOS sensor technology is an innovation that has a lot of potential. By arranging large-capacity memory together with high-speed processing circuits in the stacked area, a high scan speed is realized because there is more room for circuitry to increase transfer speed as well as a high-speed memory integrated into the pipeline, faster readout and frame rates equivalent to those of a mechanical shutter is possible.

The stacked CMOS sensor at the heart of the Z9 is what enables many of its most powerful features. Stacked CMOS technology is now employed by all of the 'Big Three' manufacturers, unlocking incredible speed, for both stills and video shooting.

Additionally, the evaluation of the image sensor’s standalone performance, as well as the evaluation of the image sensor's interaction with the camera and lenses, are considered seriously with the image sensor testing that is performed at the development stage. Nikon's own strict standards are applied to testing, including testing of a broad range of ambient temperatures, based on assumptions of professional use to verify usability in extreme conditions.

There are situations, such as concerts, that use colored LEDs cycling at fast rates that prove problematic for electronic and even electronic first curtain shutters. How have you addressed this issue?

There is no difference between the mechanical shutter and the Z 9’s electronic shutter. Although it depends on the LED frequency, the issue becomes less noticeable when the shutter speed is lowered. The Z 9 has a very fast electronic shutter scan rate, so the user is not more likely to see banding with its electronic shutter.

Does offering a base ISO of 64 come with any trade-off in high ISO image quality performance?

By adopting dual conversion gain technology, it is possible to suppress noise to the utmost limit at each ISO sensitivity from low ISO sensitivity to high ISO sensitivity, and expand the dynamic range. The Z 9 not only inherits the minimum ISO of 64, but also achieves an expanded shutter speed of 1/32,000sec, further increasing the creative potential of fast lenses such as the Noct or the Z 50mm F1.2 S.

For example, when shooting outdoors on sunny days at F1.2, optimal exposure, as well as under-exposure for low-key images, are possible. Low sensitivities are required when F1.2 and other fast lenses are used at maximum aperture. With the Z mount system especially, a group of lenses including the F0.95, F1.2 and lenses offer rendering performance that enables worry-free use and maximum sharpness from maximum aperture. Nikon designs with an emphasis on resolution, which is something that can be felt in comparison with all other manufacturers, and is a place where Nikon has a distinct advantage.

Are there other benefits stacked CMOS sensors may bring down the road, other than fast decode rates?

In addition to the numerous other benefits of a stacked CMOS sensor, the Z 9 also realizes dual stream technology. Two simultaneous streams of data, one for live view (including EVF display) and one for still image recording, can be output independently from the image sensor. This is an exciting advancement, allowing for the data to be optimally processed on the engine side, while enabling the smooth appearance and blackout free burst shooting experience of the Real-Live Viewfinder.

What are the most compelling reasons why a Nikon DSLR shooter would move across to the Z9?

The Z 9 is the most powerful Nikon flagship ever, and it will exceed expectations for every genre of photography and video, even surpassing the performance of the D6. There was a large engineering emphasis on creating the best possible AF system, and decisive moments are captured confidently through enhanced performance of the new focus system, Specifically, nine types of subjects (people, dogs, cats, birds, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, airplanes, trains) can be detected – the largest number [of any camera] in the world.

Also, when different subjects are on the screen, the subject to be detected can be chosen without changing the settings. In addition, AF is possible for human subjects that are further away /smaller in the frame, as well as for people with their faces facing sideways or upside down. It’s also the first Nikon mirrorless camera to be equipped with 3D-tracking, which is an extremely popular feature from our line of digital SLRs.

The Z9 is the most powerful Nikon flagship ever, and it will exceed expectations for every genre of photography and video

Compared to SLR cameras, the Z mount system is a smaller and lighter system. It supports excellent operability, such as vertical position operation with an integrated vertical grip and more workflow supporting features than ever before. The Real-Live Viewfinder achieves a view with technological benefits over an optical viewfinder, offering a familiar yet modernized viewfinder experience. Consumers should also consider the extreme advantages and optical technology present with the large-diameter Z mount, which increases the degree of freedom in lens design, contributing to NIKKOR Z lenses that are compact and lightweight, as well as high performing.

The lineup of NIKKOR Z lenses has also been expanded, and we have a lineup of lenses with extremely good performance, from compact and lightweight prime lenses to super-telephoto lenses. Furthermore, in combination with the FTZII, which supports further improved operability, one may continue to use their existing F-mount lenses as well. As with any Nikon camera, there is no compromise when it comes to delivering the ultimate in image quality and reliability.

What have you done in the Z9 to make it feel familiar to your existing DSLR users?

Many photographers who used the Z 9 have commented that they could make the transition without any discomfort from the time they were using SLR cameras. The grip and layout of the operating elements have been considered so that customers instantly recognize a familiar feel and balance that’s comfortable yet highly usable. Since it is mirrorless, the system, including camera bodies are smaller and lighter, (20% smaller than D6) and the rear monitor is larger, with a new tilt mechanism is adopted to improve visibility.

Twenty years of development separate the Z9 (L) from the D1H (right) but many of the essentials (and ergonomic details) are extremely similar, if not unchanged. Professional photographers need the same things now as they did in 2001.

The layout has changed to optimize operation with one hand. We have developed the Real-Live-Viewfinder that allows customers who are familiar with the optical viewfinder to keep track of the subject in real time so that they can see the subject without any blackout, for fatigue free shooting. We are excited for users to experience this.

How important do you think video is for Z9 customers?

The need for video is very important now, and the need continues to grow. The message in Z 9’s tagline, “Unstoppable”, can be seen in the powerful video capabilities: never missing a split-second movement, realizing the continuous and confident capture of decisive moments. The need for video has increased due to the expansion of social media, and the increased need for more online video content [in general], which increases the number of people producing videos as well. Additionally, news and events photographers are increasingly being asked to assume a multimedia role.

We believe that support for 8K frees users from boundaries between video and still images

The Z 9 was developed with the aim to enable the capture of decisive moments without stopping even in harsh conditions. The Z 9 has achieved 8K 30p recording time of maximum approximately 125 minutes, so that the video creators who are a target user of the Z 9 can confidently shoot their decisive moments (for example, an animal’s unpredictable behavior).

There is also a need to cut out still images from videos, and we believe that support for 8K frees users from boundaries between video and still images. The operability when cutting still images out of such videos is also made very smooth – it is a point that we were very particular about.

Which aspect of the Z9’s development represented the biggest challenge to the team?

[Development of the] Real Live Viewfinder was [only] made possible by incorporating the dual stream technology in the image sensor and engine. The benefit of the Real Live Viewfinder can be felt when shooting while looking through the viewfinder and repeating continuous shooting of several shots.

Additionally, I would answer AF performance, which has been greatly improved by the high-speed calculation of the processing engine and the evolution of factors such as deep learning technology used in the algorithms. The development process includes tuning and testing, and this is done by accumulating a large amount of live-action data.

We faced some difficulties because there weren't many sporting events with the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we rented a venue and invited university athletes to compete just for our live-action shooting in a safe manner.

What benefits have you been able to take from the faster body-to-lens communication of the Z mount?

Since larger amounts of lens data can be exchanged at high speed between frames of high-speed continuous shooting, it mainly contributes to the improvement of AF accuracy.

The pixel count of the Z9 is the same as the Z 7II: will the Z 9 be able to deliver the same image quality?

The image quality of the Z 9 is superior to that of the Z 7II in a few different ways. For still images, the faster scan speed minimizes rolling shutter distortion. Additionally, there is also improved stability in automatic white balance, and improved rendering of sunset scenes through higher performance of natural light auto WB. There is also improved flash control when using all types of speedlights, and the other benefits of the stacked sensor and EXPEED 7 to dynamic range and noise suppression.

This shot of the Z9 alongside the Z7 II highlights its comparatively bulky form factor. While smaller than the D6, the Z9 becomes the largest and heaviest of today's crop of flagship full-frame mirrorless cameras.

Compared to the high sensitivity of the Z 7II, the noise in the flat area is particularly low. Compared to the D6 used by many sports photographers, the Z 9 is better suited to the [needs] of a sports photographer who shoots with a need for cropping, since the number of pixels is large. Additionally, when the high-sensitivity noise reduction is set to Strong, the roughness of the image can be reduced.

For video creation, the camera is capable of high-definition 4K UHD 30p image quality by oversampling from 8K UHD, while the Picture control Auto function is further optimized for video footage that comes out straight of the camera.

Why does the camera read the sensor out slower in 12-bit video mode than in 14-bit stills mode?

With still images, scan speed is prioritized, while video is set appropriately according to each video mode. To make the appropriate setting, the scan speed, image quality, and recording time (power consumption) are balanced.

How much of your manufacturing capacity do you expect to be allocated to DSLR, in the future? (Compared to mirrorless)

Due to market conditions, we are currently focusing on the development of mirrorless products, which are a rapidly growing portion of the market. Development of digital SLR products will be determined based on future market trends. Of course, we will continue to provide solid production and support in order to satisfy existing digital SLR users, including lenses and accessories.

What have been your biggest operational challenges over the past 18 months of the pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic and the chip shortage has affected nearly every industry around the world. The delays in production have been caused by delays in the arrival and distribution of necessary parts, which have occurred due to a combination of factors, including the impact of the global shortage of semiconductor supply, as well as the spread of COVID-19.

We anticipate that issues will continue throughout the year for many manufacturers, and we are working diligently to adapt to meet consumer demand

Adjusting to this market is a constant challenge, where we have to frequently adapt to continue operation with as little impact as possible, adjusting the necessary parts on a daily basis.

We anticipate that issues will continue throughout the year for many manufacturers, and we are working diligently to adapt to meet consumer demand. We want to thank our customers for their patience.

Do you feel that Nikon is in a stronger position now than it was pre-COVID?

I firmly believe that Nikon is in a stronger position now than before the COVID-19 pandemic. We have made a lot of strategic choices to adapt to the changing market and meet the needs that we were hearing from our customers. We targeted new users with a new heritage model, the Z fc which has been a major success. We are also focusing on video and compatibility with third parties for the benefit of the consumer.

The retro-styled Nikon Z fc (R) alongside one of the cameras that inspired it, the film-era FM2.

By continuing to focus on video accessory partnerships, we aim to expand the entire ecosystem. The Z 9 will be released within this year, and as our mirrorless flagship, it is a strong model that is up to the competition with the latest in imaging innovation, with special consideration on creating the most powerful video performance in Nikon’s history.

Additionally, we have made efforts to engage with consumers both online and in-person, with programs such as the free educational content, the Creator’s Hour, the Nikon Photo Contest’s judging process and award ceremony held online and winning works displayed in street exhibitions. As a result, we were able to reach new types of users.

How will you increase Nikon’s market share of the full-frame mirrorless market?

We will strengthen our presence with the Z 9, our mirrorless flagship model, which boasts the highest performance in Nikon history. The Z 9 offers new technologies, including powerful AF, as well as capture performance, video performance, ergonomics, and more. These are all benefits and innovations that will be expanded to future models.

The features and performance in the existing models such as the Z 7II, Z 6II, and Z 5 will continue to be evolved and enhanced, with continuous firmware updates within the limits of the hardware For example, on October 19th, we released firmware updates for the Z 7II and Z 6II to add functionality based on user feedback.The Z 9 is an excellent example of best-in-class video features. Moving forward, we will continue to strengthen the advanced video functions and capabilities of full-frame mirrorless cameras, aiming to increase full-frame market share.

With a majority of manufacturing moved to Thailand and China, will Nikon maintain a manufacturing base in Japan at all, in the future?

Production is concentrated at Nikon’s production base in Thailand, at Nikon (Thailand) Co., Ltd., but there is no change in quality. “Made by Nikon” quality is guaranteed. The Nikon Thailand factory was established in 1990 and has been manufacturing cameras and interchangeable lenses for approximately 30 years.

Interchangeable lens production will continue at Tochigi Nikon Corporation in Japan. There are no plans to close Sendai Nikon. Sendai Nikon will continue to contribute to Nikon and its imaging business by manufacturing highly functional, high-precision camera components, and developing parts production technologies and highly complex equipment.

How do you plan to balance the need for high-end lenses to match the Z9 with the needs of the typical Z5 user? What are your priorities?

It is certain that one our top priorities is to continue to expand the range of lenses to meet the needs of the market, with lenses for professional and casual use. On October 28th we released a new roadmap. Along with the Z 9, we have also heard consumers asking for more telephoto options. We have answered this with lenses suitable for the Z 9, including the 400mm F2.8 with a built in teleconverter which was announced on October 28, and the 800mm super telephoto lens, newly added to the roadmap, which has been updated to include more lenses.

One our top priorities is to continue to expand the range of lenses to meet the needs of the market, with lenses for professional and casual use

We have also received requests for more casual and affordable lenses for those shooting with both entry-level full frame and DX-format cameras. The new 28mm and 40mm announced recently are a perfect for the Z 5 or Z 50, and the DX 18-140 announced on October 13 expands our APS-C lineup with more options.

Why the use of stepper motors in Z lenses as opposed to linear motors? Can we expect to see faster focus group in future S-series lenses?

There are many reasons we have chosen to use STM motors instead of linear motors in most NIKKOR Z lenses. First is that STM motors are excellent in responsiveness and quietness despite their small size and lighter weight. The small size and light weight increases the degree of freedom in designing the mechanical mechanism, and also is beneficial to video recording to minimize sound. In order to maximize the responsiveness of STM motors, Nikon has developed its own dedicated drive IC (integrated circuit). It enables a synchronous control drive that synchronizes multiple motors at the micron level.

Regardless of the product size, multi-focus is achieved, ensuring high focus accuracy and smooth focus drive for attractive video shooting and close-up shooting. A linear motor is an effective power device for driving a larger and heavier lens group at high speed, but is inefficient for smaller and lightweight products, as it requires a separate sensing function, making it not space-efficient for smaller products or products with multi-focus.

For future S-Line lenses, we intend to continue to achieve high-speed AF with thoroughly optimized control, mechanical mechanism, and power device, aiming to combine it with the optimum drive system according to the shooting subject and environment.

The just-announced Z 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 S is a versatile telezoom lens, but like the rest of the current Z-mount lens lineup, it uses stepper motors for autofocus. This makes focus quiet and efficient, but linear motors are typically faster.

Why does AF micro adjustment option still exist in Nikon’s mirrorless cameras?

With mirrorless cameras, basically there is no need to use the AF micro adjustment function, since AF happens on the sensor side. However, some customers have a need to make fine adjustments according to their tastes, and the Z series is equipped with this function to meet this need, as we always want to integrate customer feedback and maximize customization.

What are the biggest opportunities that you see for Nikon in the future?

With more and more people creating on their smartphones for social media, creative expressions are diversifying in both still images and videos, especially among young people with high aspirations. We believe that because of this, the need for better imaging is expanding and becoming more apparent, and that this is a very big opportunity for Nikon.

Due to the diversification of camera usage and targets, such as a focus on video, we are shifting to a strategy to provide a total solution through the provision of software and apps that supports the creator. These include the new NX MobileAir, NX Tether, NX Field, and NX Studio.

We believe that what customers fundamentally desire is the excitement, enjoyment, resourceful execution of the process that lies ahead of their shooting experience. Nikon will continue to meet the needs of professional users by leveraging our strengths such as reliability and optical expertise while, strengthening functional value such as we have endeavored with the evolution of the Z 9’s AF and video.

Additionally, we will provide an enjoyable imaging experience that aligns with the lifestyle of our customers. [For example] the familiar nostalgia aimed at by Z fc’s heritage design and satisfying physical controls. Whether a customer is looking for an affordable full frame camera with good video features, or the ultimate in high-resolution image quality, we will have a camera and the accompanying lens selection to meet their needs from multiple perspectives.

Ultimately, we aim to heighten the experience of imaging together with our customers, and to be a brand that is supported by our customers. By doing so, I believe we can stimulate the imaging market as a whole.

Editor's note: Barnaby Britton

We knew about the Z9 for some time before it was officially released (a quirk of pandemic - era launch scheduling, and not always the case) and in recent weeks I've had the distinct impression that Nikon's engineers and executives were waiting with increasing impatience to be able to share it with the world. I wrote recently about what Nikon means by "a D3 moment" and in this interview, Murakami unpacked that a little further, pointing to the "drastic evolution of high-sensitivity image quality performance" which made the D3 so impactful, and drawing a parallel with the Z9's combination of "high image quality, durable build and high-speed performance"

Is there a stacked CMOS Z8 in the works, with a smaller form-factor? I'd put money on it, in 2023 if not 2022. For now though, I'll bet that the Z9 will attract a certain number of D850 owners - assuming Nikon can keep up with demand.

In the background of the Z9 launch, of course, is the ongoing Covid pandemic. The human tragedy is immense and ongoing (5 million dead, at the time of writing) and ditto the disruption to global infrastructure. That's why Nikon is committing only to shipping Z9 orders 'within the year'. Despite the stress, Mr Murakami believes that Nikon is in a better position now than it was before the pandemic, thanks to decisions that the company made (and in some cases I'm sure were forced to make) to connect with customers, and respond to their needs in a unique and challenging period. Mr Murakami points to the success of the Z fc, which was launched during the pandemic, and, encouragingly, tells us that while the focus right now is on high-end and professional full-frame mirrorless, entry-level DX (APS-C) remains an important market for Nikon.

Whether the Z9 on its own will win back Nikon's lost market share is uncertain (and probably unlikely) but it has certainly made a splash - not least because of its pricing

The great thing about so-called 'flagship' products is that sooner or later, the technology can be expected to trickle down into more consumer lines. I have no doubt that this will be the case with future Z-series cameras, and Mr Murakami all but confirmed we'll see 3D AF Tracking return to non-pro ILCs in the future. This is great news, as is the commitment to "continuous firmware updates" to the Z6 II and Z7 II

It's clear that Mr Murakami is excited for photographers to start shooting with the Z9, and it is notable that he describes it as Nikon's "first flagship mirrorless camera". The Z7 and Z7 II might have been at the top of Nikon's Z-series lineup for three years, but clearly, for Nikon, 'flagship' means something very specific. There's another parallel with the D3 here, in that after a period of years where first Sony and then Canon started to gobble-up the company's share of the high-end / professional market, Nikon really needs - in Mr Murakami's words - to "catch up".

Whether the Z9 on its own will win back Nikon's lost market share is uncertain (and probably unlikely) but it has certainly made a splash - not least because of its pricing. The Z9 is an expensive camera by any sensible standard, but at $1,000 less than the Sony A1, it's competitively - even aggressively priced. Nikon is hoping to appeal to enthusiast photographers as much as professionals, and it's hoping that $5,500 isn't too much for DSLR holdouts who've been waiting for a true flagship before making the switch to Z.

On that topic, while Mr Murkamio didn't say outright that development of DSLRs will cease, his statement: 'Development of digital SLR products will be determined based on future market trends' is about as strong a hint as we've ever had.

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