My Next Camera

Last we left off, I decided that my next camera would be mirrorless and I compared Nikon, Canon, and Sony’s offerings. I took Nikon off the table because it couldn’t compete but didn’t want to sell all of my gear to join the dark side with Canon or Sony. I decided to buy some used consumer mirrorless cameras from both Sony and Nikon to start to get familiar. I then bought a higher-resolution but older DSLR and sold the mirrorless Nikon. It’s been a bit, so where am I at?

If they could just take the Z9, saw off the vertical grip, and cut $2,000 off the price I’d be good…

I’m waiting for Nikon’s next camera – the Z8, Z6 III, Z7 III or whatever. While Nikon’s Z50 is really, really bad at autofocus speed and tracking subjects, its ergonomics are far better than Sony’s a6100. I do love some of the images I get out of my a6100 but it’s not enough for me to switch systems. I’ll wait for Nikon and I’ll keep my lens collection. I don’t know what Nikon will release next – a 60 MP D850 successor (the long-rumored Z8), an upgraded 24 (or maybe 33 MP) Z7 III, or an upgraded 46 MP Z7 III – but I know I’ll get one of them. I’m setting my budget at $3,000 and picking whatever fits. If it meets my specs, I’ll probably buy it sight unseen and return it if I hate it.

So what am I looking for? Primarily the Z9’s autofocus system in a camera that doesn’t cost $5,500 and have a built-in battery grip. Otherwise I’m looking for the following:

  • Higher resolution
    • I think I want to jump up to a higher resolution camera but I don’t know if 46 MP is what I want. The 33 MP of the Sony a7 IV might be nice. Since Nikon uses Sony or Sony-derived sensors, 33 MP is a possibility for the Z6 III. 46 MP is great, but the read-out is slower (so max fps is lower) and the more dense sensor is more sensitive to camera shake. I’m pretty sure I don’t want something with 60 MP. The files are huge, readout is even slower, and it’s even more sensitive to camera shake for only a 14% increase in horizontal and vertical pixels.
  • High frame rate
    • I want something with a high frame rate, somewhere between 10 and 20 fps with or without electronic shutter. My D750 can hit 6.5 fps, my D500 can hit 10 fps, and my a6100 can hit 11 fps. Many cameras offer 15 and 20 fps. The Z7 II can hit 10 fps with continuous autofocus but only on a single point (no subject tracking), the Z6 II can do 14 fps in the same situation, and the Z9 can do 20 fps without limitation.
  • A deep(ish) buffer
    • My D500 can take 10 RAW images per second for 200 shots before the buffer fills. That’s 20 seconds of continuous shooting! At 20 fps that would give me 10 seconds which would be plenty. Hopefully it will be deeper than the Z7 II, which can only shoot 49 14-bit RAW files, or about 2.5 seconds at my target 20 fps. The Z9 isn’t actually much better at only 79 frames, but becomes pretty awesome when using Nikon’s barely-lossless High Efficiency RAW format at 685 frames.
  • Illuminated buttons
    • My D500 has them. The D850 has them. The Z9 has them. I want them.
  • Customizable autofocus areas
    • The Z9 added this feature through a firmware update and I want it. I really want to create an area that is a vertical third of the frame. That would allow me to quickly move the focus area across the frame while still allowing the camera a bit of auto selection.
  • Pre-Release Capture
    • The Z9 has Pre-Release capture, which captures frames before you hit the shutter; hugely useful in action scenarios where I always press the shutter later than I should. This is probably a pipe dream as it requires the Z9’s expensive (and differentiating) stacked sensor’s fast readout to capture images that fast. I’d take a modified version with a lower frame rate though.
  • High fps JPEG mode
    • The Z9 can capture JPEGs at 120fps as long as the focus is locked. This rate is probably not possible without a stacked sensor, but I’d be happy with a 60 fps version if that’s possible.

So yeah… basically the Z9 without the grip, without the super-fast stacked sensor, and with a shutter. Do the grip and fast sensor cost Nikon an extra $2,000? Probably not, but we’ll see if and when they ever release this camera of my dreams.

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