Nikon Learn & Explore

Z 9 Firmware Upgrade for Bird Photographers

Firmware version 4.1 adds Bird Mode for improved AF and Tracking

Nicolas Stettler photo of a shore bird in silhouette on the beach

© Nicolas Stettler

When the Nikon Z 9 flagship mirrorless camera was announced, it seemed the ideal camera for the bird photographer. With hardware features like a 45.7MP Stacked CMOS BSI sensor and the most impressive Nikon EXPEED 7 processing engine to date; along with subject detection from deep learning, Eye Detection AF for people, pets and birds and much, much more—many thought it was the perfectly designed camera. 

Then firmware 2.0 came out with new features for both video and still photographers—the Z 9 seemingly changed the game. With the addition of the Pre-Release Capture feature, you could now go back in time and capture moments too fast for your reaction time. And you could do it shooting 30 and 120 frames per second!

Nicolas Stettler photo of a flamingo in silhouette against a deep orange background

© Nicolas Stettler

The Z 9 would get even more powerful with firmware 3.0 which added even more speed and smarts. Enhanced tracking for erratically moving animals (think birds) and low-contrast focusing improved an already highly accurate, fast and intelligent AF system. Another feature added was High-speed frame capture+ at 60 fps with full AF and AE capabilities on every single frame!

Firmware 4.0 brought with it Auto Capture, offering wildlife and sports photographers the ability to remotely mount their Z 9 cameras, set the subject criteria and wait for the images to happen. Enhancements brought to the Z 9 by that firmware update also included improved 3D-tracking for small and fast subjects like birds erratically flying through the sky, along with enhancements to Pre-release capture that increased the time the camera is activated to 300 seconds.

Nicolas Stettler photo of a small bird on top of a tree

© Nicolas Stettler

And… now there’s the latest firmware update, version 4.1 which is again upping the ante for bird (and airplane) photographers.

[Bird] mode

Improved overall AF detection and tracking performance for birds, compared to [auto] or [animal] modes to give you a higher chance of detecting birds, even against busy backgrounds. Other improvements include improved detection for not only birds in varying situations like perched or in flight, but detecting them quicker, and when they’re smaller in the frame. Bird mode also improves detection for unique-looking birds like colorful or long necked birds. 

Tracking of birds in diverse scenes has been enhanced as well, including when they’re in rapid motion.

Autofocus is enhanced too, to improve the camera’s chance of focusing on birds in flight—and stay locked onto the bird, not shift to the background.

Nicolas Stettler photo of a brown bird in flight with wings spread

© Nicolas Stettler

When you can put your trust in the camera’s autofocus, subject detection and subject tracking to the point that you can just concentrate on your subject, having the confidence that you will be able to get the image, that’s the moment of freedom. Freedom to experiment, be creative, push the envelope in what you thought was possible. The freedom to elevate your photography to the next level.

Whatever the situation, the technology in the flagship Nikon Z 9 has you covered: solo birds, flocks, parents and chicks, sudden moves, the things you can’t anticipate. When you know you’ve got the shot, you can move onto trying different positions, vantage points, compositions, and more. It gives ‘working the subject’ a new meaning.