Don’t Leave Home Without One!

Sam’s keen eyes watching a Kodiak Brown Bear captured by Z 9 / Z24-120

When heading to new territory, wanting to find that new something, or in this case, wanting a great set of eyes with decades of knowledge behind them, I hire a guide. But Sam is not just a guide! Oh no, he owns the place, he’s the boss too but I just think of him as a dear friend. He’s been watching Kodiak Brown Bears since he was nine, his dad a world-renown guide instilling in him a deep appreciation, love, and knowledge you can’t find in any book. Having “bear eyes” spotting them is one thing, translating what you see into action or inaction, that’s the true gift. Working with Sam was great as he knew pretty darn well on any given day with the tides and weather where we should start our daily quest to watch Kodiak Brown Bears. Yeah, our goal was to photograph them but first, you have to find them. Then you have to watch them and then become part of their world as a guest until finally, you can join them in their world. It’s the knowledge that protects us, gets us close, and most importantly, a witness to the biology, and lives of these gentle giants. Sam is the best I’ve worked with in all my decades with the big bears. We have so much fun watching the bears, at times nailing what they are going to do next and the next moment, totally, totally wrong in the direction they are heading. In either case, the time flies as well as the pixels. That’s why when it comes to Kodiak Brown Bears I love having Sam by my side. I don’t leave home without him!

Z24-120 – Hello Old Friend!

When the F mount 24-120 came out, I was not in the position to purchase one. I arranged a long-term loan of one and fell in love with the lens and its range. When I had to return it, still not in the budget so I went without and missed it terribly. Then I went mirrorless with that, Nikon came out with the Z24-120f4. I saved my pennies and now I actually own one and really love it! Better than the 24-120, the Z24-120f4 complements the Z24-70f2.8 in my kit. I love this lens for two distinct purposes. The first is for aviation when working on projects or static aircraft. I also use it for multiple aircraft air-to-air formations. The second is on a second body on a strap when I’m shooting with the 800f5.6. It’s a great landscape lens! One great update to the Z24-120 is its macro capability. I love that additional asset making the lens even more versatile. Oh, did I mention it’s a great lens when filming video interviews? This is a great lens you want to check out for your own kit!

The Z40f2 – Hidden Gem!

With my entire move to Nikon Mirrorless, my faithful old Nikkor 50f1.4 went to a better home. That left a hole as I really like having that simple, old prime. One use I have for it is my Zoom calls, perfect focal length, and f/stop. That’s when the Z40f2 hit my radar and I gotta be honest, at that really incredible low price, I figured I couldn’t lose so I bought one from Bedfords. I didn’t know a soul who had one so I just went for it. Dang if it isn’t just the sweetest little lens! Really sharp, has great DoF, focuses pretty darn close, and is just an all-around sweet lens! When you go to buy one, you’ll find it doesn’t come with a shade and that currently, Nikon doesn’t offer one for it. I like shades for a number of reasons, the biggest is sex appeal. I went into my shade bin (yeah, I have one of those) and found an old HN-3, the shade for the 35f2. It works perfectly and the 72mm snap cap fits the shade. Being so small and light, I take it with me everywhere. Great little lens you should consider adding to your kit!

Z 9 Firmware 2.0 Dropped – My Settings


Your Z 9 becomes a more awesome tool with the upgrade to Firmware 2.10 (updated 07.06.22)! Here are my Z 9 2.0 Settings and below are the updates that come with the firmware. Updating your firmware can be done by downloading installing yourself or tomorrow via Snapbridge.

Changes from “C” Firmware Version 1.11 to 2.00

  • Note: The changes listed below under “Still Photography”, “Video Recording”, “Displays”, “Playback”, and “Controls” are detailed in the Z 9 Reference Guide (Supplement for Firmware Version 2.00).
  • Note: Some Custom Settings have been renumbered due to the addition of new menu options.
  • Still Photography

  • • Added Wide-area AF (C1) and Wide-area AF (C2) AF-area modes.
  • • In photo mode, the control panel now shows additional information for long time-exposures, including the elapsed time and time remaining.
  • • High-speed frame capture now features “pre-release burst” recording.
  • • Changed the procedure for choosing a color temperature when Choose color temperature is selected for white balance.
  • • Changed the size of the area the camera uses to meter values for Preset manual white balance.
  • Video Recording
  • • Added Wide-area AF (C1) and Wide-area AF (C2) AF-area modes.
  • • Changed the procedure for choosing a color temperature when Choose color temperature is selected for white balance.
  • • Changed the size of the area the camera uses to meter values for Preset manual white balance.
  • • Added display zoom ratios of 50% and 200% for use during video recording.
  • • The control panel now displays the current frame size and frame rate in video mode.
  • • Made the following additions to the VIDEO RECORDING MENU:
    • – Added N-RAW 12-bit (NEV) and ProRes RAW HQ 12-bit (MOV) RAW video recording options under Video file type.
    • – Added Extended oversampling.
  • • Made the following additions to the CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU:
    • – Added a View video info option for Custom Setting g1, Customize “i” menu.
    • – Added a Fast AF-ON option for Custom Setting g2, Custom controls.
    • – Added Fine ISO control (mode M) in position g8.
    • – Added Extended shutter speeds (mode M) in position g9.
    • – Added Brightness information display in position g14.
    • – Added Red REC frame indicator in position g17.
  • • Made the following addition to the SETUP MENU:
    • – Added a 1080i (interlaced) option under HDMI > Output resolution.
  • Displays
  • • Made changes to the Viewfinder only and Prioritize viewfinder monitor modes.
  • • Added release timing indicators for high-speed frame capture.
  • • Made the following addition to the CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU:
    • – Added High fps viewfinder display in position d20.
  • • Made the following additions to the SETUP MENU:
    • – Added Lo 1 and Lo 2 options under Viewfinder brightness > Manual.
    • – Added Auto temperature cutout.
  • Playback
  • • Added a Motion blend option under Retouch in the playback “i” menu.
  • • Added Save consecutive frames to the options available in the “i” menu while video playback is paused.
  • • Users can now skip all but the first shot in each burst when paging through pictures in full-frame playback.
  • Controls
  • • Made the following additions to the CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU:
    • – Added Focus point selection speed in position a14.
    • – Added a Recall shooting functions (hold) option for Custom Setting f2, Custom controls (shooting).
    • – Added to the list of controls that can be assigned custom roles using Custom Settings f2 (Custom controls (shooting)) and g2 (Custom controls) and added Save focus position and Recall focus position to the roles that can be assigned.
    • – Added Switch focus/control ring roles in position f11 (as of April 20, 2022, this feature is available only with NIKKOR Z 70–200mm f/2.8 VR S lenses).
    • – Added Prefer sub-selector center in position f13.
  • • Made the following addition to the SETUP MENU:
    • – The settings saved and loaded using Save/load menu settings now include those for Delete pictures from both slots and Filtered playback criteria in the playback menu.
  • Other Changes
  • • Added support for NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S lenses.
  • • The sizes available when pictures are downloaded using SnapBridge version 2.9.0 or later now include 8 megapixels (4K) in addition to the existing Original format and 2 megapixels options.
  • • Options highlighted in the “i” menu can now be selected using the center either of the sub-selector or of the multi selector for vertical shooting.
  • • Controls to which Recall shooting functions has been assigned using Custom Setting f2, Custom controls (shooting), can now be used in this role while the camera is connected via USB to a device running software such as NX Tether or NX MobileAir.
  • • Made changes to autofocus for improved reliability, focus tracking, and low-light subject detection.
  • • Fixed the following issues:
    • – Horizontal lines would in rare cases appear in pictures taken in modes P and A.
    • – Stopping aperture down below f/5.6 with AF-C chosen for focus mode and Focus selected for AF-C priority selection would sometimes disable the shutter release in high-speed frame capture mode.
    • – Slow-moving subjects would sometimes not be in focus in pictures taken in focus mode AF-C at apertures faster than f/2.8.
    • – Selecting ON for Exposure smoothing during interval-timer photography when a non-CPU lens was attached would cause gradually worsening overexposure throughout each series of pictures.
    • – Attempts to connect to SFTP servers configured using macOS would fail with an error unless the home folder was selected as the destination.
    • – When users switched from one custom settings bank to another storing a different setting for Custom Setting a9, Focus mode restrictions, the focus mode setting stored in the second bank would not be recalled; instead, the setting for the first bank would continue in force and could not be changed.
    • – The camera would sometimes stop responding if a picture was taken with ON selected both for Picture review in the PLAYBACK MENU and for Photo flicker reduction in the PHOTO SHOOTING MENU.
    • – Messages in some languages would sometimes overflow the display.

Z 9 Firmware 2.0 Announced

In so many ways, we have a new Z 9 with Firmware 2.0! Below is a list of all the true upgrades Firmware 2.0, available April 20th brings to the Z 9 (Z 6II & Z 7II get updates as well). Nikon dropped a webpage and great video today just to explain the firmware, that’s a first! And it just goes to show how extensive the firmware update truly is! Once it’s posted, I’ll post an update Settings page to help jump start you’re using the new upgrades and putting this bad boy to work to creating your visual story!

Here are the announced features of the new Firmware 2.0 coming April 20th:

Videography and Cinema Upgrades for the Nikon Z 9

  • Addition of internal N-RAW video recording up to 12-bit 8.3K 60p and 12-bit ProRes RAW HQ up to 4.1K 60p. The power of RAW video allows for extreme latitude with tonality, with a range of more than 68 billion colors for flexibility when grading or consistency as part of a multi-camera production.
  • Nikon’s new N-RAW raw video format records a vast amount of scene information, yet is a significantly smaller file size, allowing for much more recording time and less intensive workflow. N-RAW footage can be recorded in the following formats: 8.3K 60p, 24p, or 4.1K 120p, 60p, 30p, 24p while in full frame/FX mode, 3.8K 120p with a 2.3x Crop, or 5.3K 60p, 30p, 24p with a DX (1.5x) crop.
  • The N-RAW format also creates an mp4 proxy file, which is efficient for previewing, quick transfers or edits on the fly.
  • 4K UHD 60p footage can now be oversampled from 8K footage, allowing for the sharpest and cleanest possible 4K content.
  • A Red “REC” frame indicator on the monitor and viewfinder has been added during recording to easily identify when video is being captured.
  • A Waveform monitor has been added to confirm the brightness levels and position of the subject while recording.
  • A new dedicated video info display gives various video recording settings at a glance, such as frame size and rate, audio settings, codec, bit depth and HDMI output settings, all of which can be confirmed on a single screen. Additionally, a frame rate/size display on the top control panel helps to confirm when the rear monitor is difficult to view.
  • A “Fine ISO control (Mode M)” enables exposure adjustment in increments of 1/6 EV for ultra-precise and smooth changes in exposure.
  • The Fast AF-ON function allows a user to assign different AF speeds to separate controls. From a slow rack focus to a fast transition, two speeds are now assignable on customizable buttons to improve video shooting efficiency.
  • To enable slow shutter video recording of extremely dark scenes or intentionally introduce blur when shooting video in M mode, the shutter speed can be set at a slower than 1/frame rate.
  • With select frame rates and resolution settings, the user now has the ability to save consecutive frames in a selected section of video footage as a series of JPEG images while the playback is paused.

Still Photo Upgrades for the Nikon Z 9

  • For the first time in a mirrorless full frame camera, the Pre-Release Capture feature acquires hard-to-predict moments easier than ever before3, allowing for the burst capture of images up to a full second before the shutter is fully pressed.
  • Twenty types of Custom Wide-Area AF selection patterns have been added, giving the user more control over what part of the frame they want to focus on, which can also work in conjunction with subject detection. This is useful for a variety of sports and situations such as volleyball or a finish line. Twelve additional patterns are available for video capture.
  • The new Retouch menu feature, “Motion Blend” creates an in-camera overlay from a series of subject movements from continuous shooting into a single picture in-camera. For example, a snowboarder’s aerial can be captured from start to finish sequentially in one finished frame.
  • AF stability, tracking performance, and subject detection in low-light situations have been enhanced.
    When reviewing images, users now have the option to skip to the first shot in a given burst.
  • For capturing amazing star trails and long exposures, Firmware 2.0 enhances the Z 9’s Long Exposure display to include a live count of the exposure time. Users also can now dim the viewfinder further and with greater precision to preserve power and their night vision.

Additional Functionality Upgrades:

  • The Z 9’s Real Live Viewfinder is arguably the most impressive EVF available, and the only one that provides a truly blackout free view. Firmware 2.0 adds the high fps viewfinder display function to increase the refresh rate to 120 fps for an even smoother, more lifelike view.
  • Auto Exposure (AE) has been enhanced to have more stable exposure with human faces, such as when a subject turns away from the camera and then faces it again, or when the composition changes.
  • Improved “Prioritize viewfinder” monitor mode gives a familiar shooting and review flow.
  • “Prefer sub-selector center” is added to the custom menu, improving the operability of the sub-selector.
  • Improvements in AWB even when the scene changes rapidly and adjustments to “Choose color temperature” and preset manual WB.
  • A new custom setting: Focus Point Selection Speed allows users to adjust the speed that AF points can be moved through the frame.
  • For confirmation of high-speed shooting, visual shutter release indicators appear clearly on the display and the Real Live Viewfinder.
  • Enhanced memory set/recall function enables instant recall of several focus positions.
  • “Recalling shooting functions (hold)” is now added to the conventional “Recalling shooting functions,” enabling the users to maintain the recalled function without continually pressing a button.
  • Option to switch focus/control ring roles helps photographers who don’t need manual focusing employ the control ring.

SmallRig Z 9 L-Plate Elegance

SmallRig Z 9 L Plate bottom

When you look at the price, you gotta wonder, but SmallRig delivers killer products! I have blogged about many and most think of SmallRig as a video accessory company. They do excel there but they make many plates for our gear which are simple, really well designed, and inexpensive ($69!). I’m showing you the bottom because it exemplifies what I’m saying. There is the main attachment screw holding the L-Plate to the Z 9. It’s in a moving slot so if you are needing to access the end of the Z 9 for plugging in cables, no problem. The non-twist is a screw you can use or not. And the silver alien head thing on the left is an easily used screwdriver to work both of the screws that are in a slot held in my magnets. Then you have a bunch of other attach points around the L-Plate for attaching other SmallRig items. All this and it weighs nothing but is one hundred present rock solid. I just love the SmallRig Z 9 L-Plate elegance!
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