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Nikon Z9 teardown reveals how Nikon achieves blackout-free shooting and an impressive heatsink

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Kolari Vision has finished its teardown of Nikon’s new flagship mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z9. Kolari provides specialized lens filters and infrared and full-spectrum conversions of cameras, so they’re well-versed with taking cameras apart and seeing what’s going on under the hood.

The Z9 is Nikon’s first Z-series camera to include a pro-style design, like Canon’s new EOS R3. The Z9 is a true professional camera with the specs to match, including a new 45.7MP stacked sensor and 8K/60p video recording. The Z9 records full-resolution RAW images at up to 20 frames per second, 45MP JPEG images at 30fps, and 11MP JPEGs at 120fps. The Z9 also has a brand-new 3.69M dot OLEV EVF with reduced lag and greater brightness.

As soon as you remove the lens and capture an image, you’ll notice that the Z9 lacks a mechanical shutter, marking a bold new direction for the esteemed camera maker. Kolari points out that the shutter frame used a non-magnetic plastic material, which means you’ll need a mag-mount to use Kolari’s clip-in filters for Z-mount.

kolari nikon z9 teardown removing screws viewfinder
Credit: Kolari Vision

After discussing the Z9’s features and design, Kolari Vision’s Alex and Jared start disassembling the Z9. They started from the bottom, removing parts of the bottom plate and cutting through copper foil tape. They then removed screws from many places on the camera, including the bottom plate, side plates, camera rear, and viewfinder area. Once the screws are removed, the entire back plate can pop off, including the four-way tilting LCD. Fortunately, there’s nothing to be done with the complex display mechanism.

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Removing the Z9’s backplate. When you remove the backplate, the entire four-way tilting LCD mechanism comes with it. Credit: Kolari Vision

Once the back plate is removed, you can see the camera’s internals, including an entire an extensive set of ribbon cables. The Z9 includes many buttons, more than the Z7 II, so a lot of information must be transmitted through the camera.

This teardown is our first look at the Z9’s motherboard, including its EXPEED 7 processor. The processor is surrounded by a custom heatsink frame that transfers heat from the processor to the camera’s shell. Alex writes, ‘[Nikon] went for a more minimalist design with it, keeping it open and off the other connectors, creating better guidance for the heat.’

kolari vision nikon z9 teardown removing heatsink frame
Removing part of the Z9’s heatsink. Credit: Kolari Vision

The image sensor includes screws that hold the sensor down against springs. Nikon added holes to provide access to the sensor screws. Nikon adjusts the sensor position to ensure that it’s perfectly calibrated and parallel to the focal plane. The sensor must be calibrated to avoid focusing errors. Kolari’s infrared conversions replace the sensor glass, so they often need to calibrate the sensor to fit the new glass. The new access holes will make it much easier for a technician to fine-tune the sensor position without repeatedly taking the camera apart. Another nice aspect of the design is that the connection between the battery and the board is accessible, making repairs easier.

kolari vision nikon z9 teardown motherboard
Nikon Z9 motherboard. Credit: Kolari Vision

Next is removing the heatsink, which includes numerous thermal pads beneath it. From here, we see that the Z9 has two sensor ribbons. These are how the Z9 achieves truly blackout-free shooting. The camera runs data from its sensor to the processor/displays and memory cards separately using the pair of sensor ribbons.

Once all the ribbons are disconnected, the motherboard is removed. The card readers are on opposite sides of the board, like with the Z7 II. Nikon also soldered all the ports on the board. Compared to the Sony a1, which includes detachable flex cables for many of its ports, the Z9 will be more difficult to repair if there are any problems with ports.

kolari vision heatsink frame 1 nikon z9 teardown
Credit: Kolari Vision

Beneath the motherboard is another layer of the camera’s heatsink frame. Once this frame is removed, there’s full access to the image sensor. The full-frame sensor is a standard size, but the sensor array looks quite big with the IBIS system. The IBIS is locked in place to reduce the risk of damage when not in use. Many IBIS systems float freely when not in use.

Kolari concludes, ‘The Z9 camera combines the classic features we’ve seen in Nikon’s DSLRs of the past and new innovations never before seen. If you’re a DSLR shooter who’s been holding off on mirrorless cameras because of the battery life, EVF lag, or because you (for some reason) don’t like cameras being small and lightweight, then this is the mirrorless camera you’ve been waiting for.’ To see many more detailed photos of the Z9 throughout the teardown process, click here.

kolari vision nikon z9 teardown all parts
Credit: Kolari Vision

If you have a Z9, or any camera, you’d like converted to full-spectrum or infrared, visit Kolari Vision to check out your options and learn more. You can also check out their filters if you don’t want to take the plunge with full conversion.



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