Mirrorless cameras by now have proven to be as capable as DSLRs and have even surpassed them in most ways too. However, with Nikon, there are currently only two mirrorless cameras that are suitable for fast action like birds and demanding wildlife: the Nikon Z9 and the Nikon Z8.
With Nikon DSLRs, we have the D500, which is far cheaper than the Z9 and even the Z8. For most wildlife enthusiasts, the full frame Z9 and Z8 cameras are too expensive. Therefore, Nikon should make a mirrorless D500 replacement.
Why should Nikon do this? There are quite a few reasons.
#1: The Z9 and Z8 are very expensive
Actually, the Z9 is a lot of camera for the money, so I’d consider it a fairly good “deal”. However, its absolute price of $5500 USD makes it far too expensive for most people. Even the Z8 at $4000 USD is a lot of money.
Plenty of wildlife photographers would be better served with an Z APS-C camera that is at least as capable as the D500. It does not even have to have all the AF capabilities of the Z9, just 80-90% of them, and something that is just as bit better than the Canon R7 would be ideal.
In my opinion, brand loyalty is worth something, and Nikon should reward brand loyalty with a mirrorless D500 replacement, so that there will be a place for the thousands of D500 shooters without deep pockets.
#2: The Z9 is a heavy brick
Even if I had the Z9, I probably would not want to shoot with it much because it is a heavy brick at 1340g. Now consider the Nikon 800mm f/6.3. This is a phase-fresnel lens that is suppose to be a lighter alternative to the traditional 600mm f/4. However, the Nikon Z9 + 800mm f/6.3 is almost exactly the same weight as the Sony A1 + 600mm f/4 (which is only 50g heavier).
Although some people like the heft, a gripless Z90 would be so much more comfortable for most people.
It is true that the Nikon Z8 is almost exactly the same weight as the D500, but it’s still too expensive.
#3: Most wildlife photographers crop to ASP-C levels with birds
Chances are, Nikon’s most popular wildlife lens will end up being the recently released Nikon NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR. With such a lens, about 50% of the time, most people will be cropping to APS-C levels if they are shooting birds.
So much of the time, the advantage of the full-frame sensor won’t even be used. Of course, when it is used, it will provide more IQ, but for a lot of people, this simply isn’t worth the price of full-frame.
#4: Other companies are doing it
Three other companies already have smaller-sensor action cameras. Canon proved that people are interested with the R7 at $1500, Fuji did it with their X-H2S at $2500, and OM SYSTEM did it with the OM1 at $2200. All of these cameras are so much easier on the wallet than the Z9, and would be much more suitable for most wildlife photographers.
I do realize full-frame has some serious advantages, but most photographers and most situations will not benefit much from them, so we need a Nikon camera that will fill this gap. Nikon’s APS-C offerings are seriously lacklustre with the Z50, Z30, and Zfc, so they really need to fill this gap.
Nikon also has some unique lenses like the 500PF or 400mm f/4.5, which would be amazing on a crop-sensor camera like a Z90. Thus, it would be much nicer to stay with Nikon and use these amazing lenses rather than go to one of the other companies which lack these.
#5: Future full-frame Z action cameras will still be too expensive
Chances are, the AF from the Z8 and Z9 will trickle down into other full-frame cameras. Maybe the Z6III and Z7III will be closer to the R6 and R5 respectively, which are Canon cameras that destroy the current Z6II an Z7II. However for wildlife, the Z6’s resolution is just too low. However, even if the Z7III has enough AF power, it will be too expensive. The current Z7II is $3000USD, whereas as a Z90 would likely be $2000, which is still much more friendly for budget-conscious shooters.
Nikon needs a mirrorless D500 replacement. Not only would it be an amazing success for Nikon, but it would allow a lot of shooters to get into wildlife who would never want to spend over four grand on a full-frame camera. Of course, wildlife enthusiasts do have other options, but that means either sticking with the F-mount D500 (which I am doing), or move to another brand. If Nikon made a mirrorless D500, moving to another brand would not be necessary for anyone who wants an crop sensor AF beast.