Nikon has opened up to TechRadar about why they got rid of the mechanical shutter in the new Nikon Z9 and why it only features an electronic shutter. It seems like a strange move when Nikon has typically had the best and most reliable shutters over the years (with the fastest flash sync speeds), especially when Nikon’s not-a-flagship EOS R3 still utilises one. Essentially it boils down to new faster sensor technology.
Historically, electronic shutters on CMOS sensors have been plagued with one big issue; Rolling shutter. In a chat with TechRadar, Nikon said that an electronic shutter typically takes around 1/200th of a second for a full-frame sensor to read the entire scene. This is a long time in photographic terms. The Z9 sensor’s scan rate, they say, is 12x faster allowing for readouts faster than mechanical shutters.
Nikon isn’t the first to ditch the mechanical shutter although, according to what they told TechRadar, they seem to think they are. The Sigma fp abandoned the mechanical shutter in 2019 in favour of a fully electronic shutter, however, it does suffer quite significantly from rolling shutter issues when taking stills. Even the slight handholding wobble can mean that shots “lean” slightly or look different from one image to the next even on a static scene no matter how steady you try to be – and I’ve seen this first hand while shooting one.
The 45.7-megapixel stacked CMOS sensor and Expeed 7 processor found in the Nikon Z9, Nikon says, let it record the scene 12 times faster than your typical CMOS sensor. This essentially almost eliminates the rolling shutter effects from its electronic shutter, making the mechanical shutter somewhat redundant. And with the only real negative of the electronic CMOS sensor shutter gone, this means you can eliminate all of the downsides of a mechanical system and all of its moving parts that can wear out by simply removing it.
It’s not a perfect system yet, though, and Nikon says they’ve received some rare reports of banding under very specific shooting conditions and that they’re working on figuring out how to counter, but it’s a very positive sign of things to come. It will take a while for electronic shutters to be not only fully refined but also trickle down throughout the rest of Nikon’s range – not to mention spread to other manufacturers – but just the difference between 2019’s Sigma fp and today’s Nikon Z9 shows that it’s almost certainly coming at some point.
It’s not quite a global shutter (I miss cameras with CCD sensors!), but if they can get the readout so fast that it makes no visible difference to the images, then it’s kind of a moot point!
Head on over to TechRadar to read the complete report.