A Nikon Z9 in the hands of a Fuji user

David and Goliath

Captain Ahab and Moby Dick

Popeye and Bluto

You know where I’m going with this, right?

Fujifilm launched their X-H2 camera on 7 Sept 2022. It was exactly the camera I had been waiting for. I was growing a little tired of the current lineup of Fuji X-Series cameras with all their analog controls on the top plate and around the lens. These old-school manual controls were the main reason I got into Fuji originally, when they first launched their classic X100 camera in 2011. But over time, I felt the ergonomics didn’t suit me.

When the X-H2 was launched, it looked more like a DSLR, which was exactly what I was looking for.

I took the plunge and bought what was to become my 10th Fuji camera.

The two cameras side by side: Fuji X-H2 and Nikon Z9 both with similar zooms (70-200mm and equiv). This shot taken with the Fuji X100V

Pressure to go Full-Frame

Within the photography community, there always seems tremendous pressure to go full-frame. Indeed, full-frame is where I was when I bought my first Fuji.

I bought it for fun. It looked good, and it was the kind of camera that was small enough to put in my pocket and take everywhere with me.

At the same time, I had been working as a professional photographer for many years. I was completely invested in full-frame cameras and owned Canon 1D and 5D models.

With Fuji I felt very comfortable though. The cameras suited me in terms of size, weight, performance and cost. They ticked all the boxes. With the arrival of the X-H2 and the new PASM dial, Fuji were finally making a camera that had the ergonomics I wanted. (PASM refers to the top plate dial, which is common on most cameras, allowing you to select: Program mode | Aperture priority | Shutter priority | Manual)

The X-H2 is a pretty extraordinary camera. It has the first 40 megapixel APS-C sensor on the market, superb sensor stabilisation and an eye-detection focusing system that takes all the pain out of tracking things that are moving.


Along come Goliath

When I was offered the Nikon Z9 for a week I didn’t hesitate, not for one second. “Yes please”

I was aware of the camera. Its reputation preceded it.

It is a 46MP behemoth.

This camera was designed for professional photographers shooting under extreme conditions; shooting fast action, sports or wildlife. It will lock on to moving objects and stick to them like glue. To increase your chances of getting the money-shot, this camera will shoot 30 jpgs per second (20 if shooting in RAW). If you shoot at a lower resolution of 11MP, you can rattle off a mind-blowing 120 jpgs per second!

(yes, I did say 120/sec)

The perfect camera for the sports photographer who needs to capture the exact moment the hand makes contact with the ball (Maradona’s beware).

So, it’s hardly surprising I said yes.

Let’s make some comparison with my X-H2 (a pointless exercise, in reality).


What This Comparison is Not

While it fascinated me to compare these two cameras, I had no interest in doing a side-by-side pixel-peeping exercise. It’s pretty bloody obvious which is the ‘better’ camera.

Instead, I wanted to investigate the ‘experience’ of using such a high-end tool. I also wanted to be honest with myself… could this camera help my photography in ways that the Fuji couldn’t?

The camera came with two lenses, a Nikon 50mm f/1.2 prime and the classic 70-200mm zoom, in this case – the f/2.8 VR S (S for Sport).

My Fuji nearest equivalents were the 35mm f/1.4 and the 50-140mm f/2.8.

Bear in mind, the APS-C crop on the Fuji means you have to multiply the focal length by 1.5 to get the full frame equivalent focal length range.

I’m not going to review the lens performance (I not sure I’m qualified) although two factors were obvious… the Nikon lenses weighed more and cost more.

And so to the cameras.

Wafer thin depth of field from the Nikon 50mm f/1.2

Cost Comparison

The figures speak for themselves.

Z9 body: £5300
Fuji X-H2 body: £1900

Nikon 50mm f/1.2: £2300
Fuji 35mm f/1.4: £550 (nearest equivalent. Fuji doesn’t have 35mm f/1.2)

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8: £2600
Fuji 50-140mm f/2.8: £1450

That’s a lot of drinking vouchers Mr Nikon.

Add to that, the Nikon only accept CF Express cards which are way, way, way more expensive that your average SD card.  According to the owner, his two 325Gb cards cost him an additional £1000!

Weight Comparison

Nikon Z9: 1340 g
Fuji X-H2: 660 g

Nikon 50mm lens: 1090 g
Fuji 35mm lens: 187 g

Nikon 70-200mm lens: 1360 g
Fuji 50-140mm lens: 995 g

I set off with the camera over my shoulder to do a circular walk near to where I live, part of which would take me along the Basingstoke Canal. I had only gone a few hundred yards when I turned to Linda (my wife)

”Jeeze, this thing is heavy! I made have made a mistake thinking I can walk 3-4 miles with this over my shoulder”

I persisted.

I remembered all those conversations on social media (back in the day) when mirrorless cameras first started making a name for themselves. Early converts were very keen to point out (ad nauseum) just how heavy DSLR cameras were in comparison.

I also remember thinking to myself at the time, that weight was never an issue before cameras went Mirrorless, why is it suddenly an issue now? Before mirrorless appeared, we just accepted that ‘cameras weighed what they weighed’.

But now, having used Fuji crop-sensor cameras for the last few years, I felt the pain of a heavy camera again. But this wasn’t a heavy DSLR, this was a heavy mirrorless. All the promises of lightweight mirrorless cameras had strangely evaporated.

But here’s the strange thing…. the longer I spent with this new heavyweight slung across my shoulder, the less I noticed it. Half an hour into the walk, and I had all but forgotten how heavy it was. Weight, for me at this point, was subjective. This was good news.

Let’s be clear, it is a heavier camera than my crop-sensor Fuji, and it feels it. It is double the weight. But in reality, I didn’t find it a problem. It’s what you get used to… and there’s also an element that if we want something to be uncomfortable, it invariably will be.

My wife Linda walking through a corn field near where we live. The 200mm focal length coupled with the wide f/2.8 aperture produces a lovely narrow depth of field and compression of perspective.


I love the ergonomics of my X-H2.

The Nikon was better.

To put all this in perspective, Canon has the best ergonomics of any camera I’ve used. Canon cameras, particularly the higher-spec ones, have the right controls in the right place. Their rear control wheel is genius, it just works. Exposure compensation is a breeze.

Canon and the two cameras we’re looking at today, all have back-button focus. Of the three, Fuji’s is the least nice to press. Nikon and Canon buttons are nice and big, difficult to miss and in both cases the tactile feedback is very satisfying.

For me, I’m only really interested in the more important controls from the perspective of ergonomics. Control of the shutter, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation and focus/exposure lock. Access the focus system is also crucial, it needs to be quick and intuitive. If I want to change the type of focus from a single point to multiple points that track moving objects, it needs to be quick and easy. I found it very intuitive on the Nikon.

Although there’s a lot more buttons on the Z9 body, they are everywhere (many of them programmable), it was never confusing. Because it’s a pro-body, many of the buttons and controls are duplicated for those occasions when you rotate the camera 90° to shoot in portrait format.

Nikon wins the ergonomics because the larger body means its buttons are bigger. Bigger buttons are easier to find when you’re groping around while your eye is peering through the viewfinder. The Z9 has the additional bonus of illuminated buttons for low light work.

The passing paddle-boarder on the canal was no challenge for Nikon’s 3D tracking focus. But, I just liked the photo!

Working With…

This is a difficult thing to quantify.

I have really enjoyed using the Fuji X-H2. It is the Fuji I always wanted (but didn’t realise until the last couple of years). It’s the right size and weight for my hands. The grip is perfectly balanced and the controls are all in the right place for easy access.

It has sophisticated focusing with the eye detection I need when photographing moving people. It will detect and lock onto eyes of anyone you point it at, or pets or birds… and will lock onto virtually any moving object in the frame, including planes, cars and bikes. Using the back-focus button you can lock onto anything visible in the viewfinder – and it doesn’t seem to matter where that object moves, it stays locked on it.

Most DSLR cameras have maximum shutter speeds of 1/4000 sec. Top end DSLRs will go up to 1/8000 sec. Most mirrorless cameras with electronic shutters push the limits even higher, to a staggering 1/32,000 sec. The X-H2 has an eye-watering top shutter speed of 1/180,000 sec!

The Nikon tops out at 1/32,000.

That aside, in nearly every other way, the Nikon out performs the Fuji. And so it should. The focusing is noticeably more ‘sticky’ that the X-H2. Nikon calls it 3D focusing. It’s been around a while, so they’ve had a chance to perfect it.

As the pigeon in front of me took to the sky, the Nikon Z9 locked on it’s focus and didn’t let go.


What didn’t I like about the Nikon Z9?

The only real negative gripe I have with the Nikon Z9, is that I can’t afford it. If Nikon were to offer me one tomorrow, I’d bite their hand off.

So no surprises here.

It is an extraordinary camera that few photographers can afford. There will be some who can afford, but will prefer to go with Canon or Leica or perhaps a medium format camera. If you can afford to spend £5300 on a camera and are willing to spend multiple thousands more on the lenses, you will have a truly exceptional tool in your hands. It might just be the best camera that Nikon has ever made (until the Mk ll comes out).

How do I, as a Fuji user, feel about the experience? Do I want to change to Nikon?

As good as the Z9 is, I have become quite philosophical about cameras and gear in general in recent years. There was I time when I was always changing, upgrading every time a new model came out. I have even enjoyed the benefits of Canon pro-body ownership over the years.

These days my buying decisions are based on a quiet confidence. The confidence of knowing that with few exceptions, it’s not the camera that gets the shot, it’s the guy who’s pressing the button. Some cameras just make it easier.

Kevin Ahronson

Kevin is a full-time professional photographer and has been teaching photography since 2009. He founded the Hampshire School of Photography where he runs photography workshops and gives one to one mentoring to photographers at all levels, from complete beginners through to those who want to turn professional

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