Nikon Learn & Explore

Z 9’s Night-Vision Video Adventure: If It Were Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It

Inspired by Corey Rich’s video, we’ve decided to climb over a few of the important things we want to talk about to get right to the peak point. 

The big reveal: In the end, when Night and its behind-the-scenes companion piece had wrapped, been through post and declared done, Corey, who devised and directed it, told us this: “The Z 9 is the best camera I’ve ever put my hands on.”

“And….?” we said, figuring it was only going to get better.  

“And it’s an incredible film-making tool,” he added, “and this is the first time in my professional career where there’s one camera that’s the best video camera and the best still camera. If you’re just a filmmaker or just a still photographer, you get the Z 9. It’s optimized for both stills and video, and as a pro who shoots both, it’s the best in both worlds.”

We’d like to add that nothing beats real-world proof that something special has come along—not what’s happened in the past or what’s promised for the future. The here and now is what matters, especially to the professional, and Corey will tell you that the job of the pro can be summed up in one phrase: “Get what’s needed.” 

The Z 9’s got that covered.

© Corey Rich

Z 9 - Hard work, high tech and accomplished athletes: What it takes to get to “Now we just play.” 

The Rest of the Story

The concept of the video came from Corey’s strength—compelling outdoor, adventure and lifestyle images. “Still photography or video, my goal is to show the audience something surprising, a glimpse of a world they didn’t know much about or didn’t know even existed,” he says. “Climbing at night is one of those worlds—and my roots are in rock climbing.”

So out he went to shoot video at 8K, at night, with two vans loaded with gear and a crew of camerapersons, techs and grips, with three avid, skilled climbers and their four-legged companion. “In a way, night climbing is very practical,” he says. “The reason folks do it is because they want the cold temperatures so their skin will stick to the rock. That was a basis for the shoot: take the viewers on a short tour of that world.” 

And along the way prove out the capabilities and versatility of the Z 9 to not only shoot 8K at night, but handle mixed lighting, quickly grab focus and hold it through the climbers’ maneuvers, provide no-noise exposure at ISOs ranging from 1250 to 2500 and in general push the capabilities of the camera.

“We found a great location on Flagstaff Mountain in Colorado, with the Denver-Boulder skyline in the background, which of course was more challenging for the camera—exposing for city lights, moonlight, headlamps and LED fill-lights.” 

Difficult, maybe... but you’re there, you’re pros. Rig the jib arms, set out the lights, trust the technology.

The truth is, Corey had confidence in the camera right from the start—it was Nikon technology and the specs were off the charts. “But nothing could have prepared us for what the camera could do in the field. We understood the potential, but we needed to take it out and shoot video at night, at 7,000 feet, with headlamps on rocks…that’s where the proof is.”

And that proof made it itself clear right from the start. “The real breakthrough for me is the Z 9’s next-level autofocus—it’s incredible,” Corey says. “I mean, AF video in low light? For the first time I was saying, and the crew was saying it, too, that there were situations out there where the Z 9’s autofocus was doing a better job than we could do. That was a breakthrough. 

“And then, in post, looking at the quality of the 8K file from daylight and low-light shooting—that was incredibly impressive. Shooting 8K—that in itself was something special, and we were able to use 8K footage for the rewind sequence at the start of the video, right after the coffee shop scene, about ten seconds of flash-forward images. That was possible only because it was 8K. We could crop, speed up, turn and spin images—you have the quality to do all of that. A lot of the $50,000 cinema cameras on the market today don’t shoot 8K. Not that the Z 9 will take over Hollywood, but 8K is special.” 

Corey and the crew used a number of NIKKOR lenses for the video. Some daylight scenes were shot with the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR and the new FTZ II adapter. Drone shots were done with the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S on the Z 9. “The night shots were best handled by the Z primes,’ Corey says. “We shot wide open with the Noct [NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct]—it was the lens on the camera for the top of the rock scene at the end—and we also used both of the 50mm primes [NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S and NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S]. The primes’ footage was stunning. Those lenses allowed us a stop or two more exposure. And that new adapter makes for great handling of the camera for filmmakers.” 

…this is the first time in my professional career where there’s one camera that’s the best video camera and the best still camera.

The Connection 

We ended our talk with Corey with a bit of appreciation of the art and craft involved in the making of Night. We asked him about the climbers’ gestures, particularly a sweep of an arm that suggests a move over a particularly difficult part of the rock. You see those moves in the coffee shop, then at the climbing site, then on the rock as the effort succeeds. They are what you need to know about the climbers, their camaraderie, dedication and determination.

The connection between moments that give viewers insights into an unfamiliar world and a camera that captured the moments with perfect clarity is nothing less than the storyteller’s connection to the viewer. 

We think that’s pretty special.


© Corey Rich

Z 9 - Corey Rich reaches back to his roots in rock climbing to create a video that combines skilled climbers, a breakthrough camera and a challenging time frame.

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