I just returned from two weeks photographing Aurora near Fairbanks Alaska. I knew it was going to be cold; riding in the hotel elevator the printed weather page on the door said the temp was -25F. But I love super cold weather, and couldn’t wait to try out the Z9 in these conditions. Our first night out the temp hovered around -20F and I had my Z9 on the tripod for hours. Long story short, the camera worked flawlessly. And on top of that, this camera is the best night shooting system I have ever used. Why? Starlight View, Warm Display, backlit buttons and infinity focus make it so easy…more on this below.
First, what about the cold? The camera just didn’t have a problem in these temps. No funny LCD or top panel display glitches. And after four hours of shooting long exposures I was only down two bars…I could have shot all night on one battery. No mechanical shutter in this camera, so no vibration at all, especially if you used a cable release.
Starlight View. This is just incredible. Normally shooting in the dark you can barely see, or not see at all, the composition. Turn on Starlight View in the Z9 and the electronic viewfinder gets super bright, so much so that you can compose in darkness. I could see the scene clearly, as well as the northern light dancing in the sky. Starlight View brightens the EVF, so it is no longer ‘what you see is what you get’. But that is fine, you are shooting long exposures and evaluating images on your LCD after each shot.
Warm Display. Right below Starlight View in the Z9 menu is a Warm Display mode. This will turn the LCD mode from bright white and color to a warm red light…just like using a red headlamp so you don’t impair your night vision. Brilliant! Some displays are so bright they can affect foreground exposures…never an issue with Warm Display mode turned on.
Backlit buttons. Don’t you hate trying to find your playback button in the dark? With the Z9 all the buttons are backlit, so you can easily find the button without turning on your headlamp.
Infinity focus. By default with Nikon mirrorless lenses, when you turn the camera on the lens is automatically set to infinity (this can be changed in the menu to last focus point if you desire). Turn on the Z9 with the incredible 14-24mm F2.8, and you are already set to infinity focus, the right position for star and aurora night photography. No more gaffer taping lenses or wondering where the exact infinity focus mark is…this is a HUGE advantage.
Needless to say, the Z9 was incredible shooting in the cold Alaska conditions. Animal eye detect autofocus nailed every sled dog shot, and night shooting was a breeze. I was still holding onto my D6, but after this trip I will be selling it and buying another Z9. Can’t wait for my next chance to photograph the northern lights in Lofoton Norway.