Nikon Z 6 / Z 7 – Focusing on Video Quality, Explained

As Nikon and Atomos have announced, the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 full-frame mirrorless cameras will output RAW video signal via HDMI and the Atomos Ninja V will record it in high-quality ProRes RAW format. During CP+ we spoke with Shoji-san from Nikon, about this new capability. Please note that CP+ is a local show taking place in Japan and as such, most Japanese company representatives speak Japanese only. We chose to highlight this subject and bring you the video in Japanese with English subtitles. (Please turn CC on if needed)

As you might already know, in January 2019 Nikon and Atomos have announced that the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 full-frame mirrorless cameras will be able to output RAW signal through HDMI and the Atomos Ninja V recorder will be able to record that stream as a high-quality ProRes RAW video. My colleague Olaf wrote a nice article about the announcement titled “Why Atomos ProRes RAW Recording for Nikon Z7 and Z6 Could Change our Industry”. Give it a read if you haven’t already.

Shoji-san states that Nikon received feedback from their pro photographers, who are being asked to also shoot video next to photo, by their clients, nowadays. That’s why Nikon decided to include pro video features in their cameras. As the company does not have any cinema cameras range to protect, they can include whatever innovative feature they can, in their mirrorless cameras.

At the moment, both Nikon cameras record in 8-bit H.264 internally and up to 10-bit with N-log externally in ProRes 4:2:2. Soon, these cameras will be able to output 12-bit RAW signal and the Atomos Ninja V will record the footage into ProRes RAW. The function was developed together with Atomos. We didn’t get any information on when exactly the RAW output will be available, yet.

One important piece of information Shoji-san did share with us (without disclosing too much about future plans), is that Nikon is closely looking at the possibility of including high-quality internal recording in their future cameras. Reading between the lines, we won’t be surprised if some sort of internal high quality recording will be available within a reasonable timeframe…

What do you think of Nikon cameras outputting high-quality RAW signal? Would you consider buying one of their cameras because of the new feature? Let us know in the comments underneath the article.

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 Andy Welch
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While it’s a cool feature for sure, Nikon’s implementation of raw won’t be much of a threat to the cinema cameras. What it comes down to is the AD conversion. Let’s take the Arri Alexa as an example. It takes the linear output from it’s 14-bit ADCs and converts it to either 12 bit log ProRes or raw . This log 12 bit signal derived from 14 bit AD conversion allows it to deliver over 14 stops of dynamic range. The Nikon uses an off the shelf Sony sensor that has 12 bit ADC (video mode), which means that the linear raw will have more gradients than 10 bit log footage but won’t have more dynamic range- only 12 stops theoretically.

Lukedriftwood
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Lukedriftwood

ARRI uses two 14bit ADCs to merge into a 16bit linear stream, then it’s scaled to 12bit log RAW.

 Andy Welch
Member

True, but I was figured that was superfluous info! The point was that while both the Nikon and the Alexa deliver 12 bit raw, the quality will not be the same. It will be interesting to see if Nikon tries to do some floating point magic like Sony did with the FS5/FS7 linear raw output.

Guy McLoughlin
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Guy McLoughlin

ARRI is the exception, I don’t think there are any other cine cameras that use this “live HDR” method of obtaining a wide dynamic range. ( I’m guessing it’s locked off by ARRI patents )

 Andy Welch
Member

Right, most just use 16 bit ADCs. However, all of that is irrelevant to my point, which is that cinema cameras (ARRI, RED, Sony, etc) deliver a much more dynamic range in their 12 bit raw signal than the Nikon implementation will. 12 bit logarithmically encoded raw derived from 16 bit conversion will trounce the Nikon’s 12 bit linear raw derived from 12 bit conversion.
In other words, the fact that the Nikons can output a raw stream isn’t a big of a deal as some people have made it out to be.

 Andy Welch
Member

Note: I should have said “…deliver much more dynamic range in their raw signal…” instead of “12 bit raw signal”. RED, ARRI, etc use different methods to compress their raw streams but they all derive that stream from a high bit depth readout from the sensor (16 or 14 bit).

 antoine amanieux
Member
antoine amanieux

as usual it is the companies that do not sell pro video camera that will give us best video quality sich as raw video from prosumer cameras. now that ninja V can record raw, i bet the next one to send raw externally will be fuji and it will never come to sony, panasonic and canon as they have pro video cameras to upsell.

Terry
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Terry

We purchased a Nikon Z7 solely because of the promise of output in RAW. Who wants the nonsense of shooting in LOG?

Oscar Goldman
Guest
What Haveyou

Well, good move then. You want to talk nonsense, talk Sony STILL putting out only 8-bit video with decimated color. Egads.

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