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  • Ed Dozier

Nikon Z9 Pre-Release Capture Shooting Guide

Have you ever been frustrated by being unable to get that peak-action shot, even when you thought you were “ready” for it? Some subjects simply go way beyond human reaction time. Nikon has solved this problem with their Z9 camera: pre-release shooting.

What exactly is pre-release capture shooting? This means capturing photos before you press the shutter. You can configure the Z9 to start taking photos while you half-press the shutter release and then save up to 1 second of these photos when you fully press the shutter, along with all of the shots you take while you keep pressing the shutter release.

While you half-press the shutter, the shots that are being saved up in the camera buffer are simply thrown out once they are over one second old. Actually, you can configure this pre-release buffer to range from 1 second down to 0.3 seconds. You can also configure how long to take shots after you press the shutter fully, from 1 second up to about 4 seconds.

You can take these shots from 30 frames per second up to 120 frames per second. The ‘gotcha’ here is that you can only shoot in jpeg shooting mode, and not raw mode. Maybe a future firmware release will allow raw shooting…

This feature became available with firmware version 2.0. Note that the camera can continuously auto-focus and update the exposure while this form of shooting happens! Amazing processor speed.

Capture the exact peak of action with ease

Configure the Camera

The pre-release capture feature has one of the most complicated setups on the Z9. I’ll try to distill down what controls you need to set and what you need to look for.

Configure the camera buffer

In the Custom Settings menu, select the d4 continuous shooting pre- and post-release buffer size. This is how long to save the shots before and after pressing the shutter button. You can specify from 0.3 to 1.0 seconds of shots to save while half-pressing the shutter button. You can also specify from 1 second to ‘Max’ (about 4 seconds) to save after pressing the shutter release.

Select a picture quality from the jpeg options

Unfortunately, you have to switch to a jpeg-only mode for shooting. The shot above shows my i-button screen, where I select the picture quality.

Pick a jpeg quality. No Raw allowed!

Spin the dial to the continuous ‘Quick Release’ setting

Press the Release Mode to select either 30 or 120 fps

Select either 30 fps or 120 fps

Half-press the shutter release

You’re now ready to start taking photos. Next, you’ll need to half-press the shutter to start continuously-filling the camera pre-release buffer with pictures. Nothing is permanently saved until the shutter is fully pressed down.

You should now start tracking your subject and focusing the lens.

After you note that the subject action you were waiting for has already come and gone, fully-press down the shutter release. The camera will now save the shots in its ‘pre-release’ buffer and also the shots after you pressed the shutter all the way down.

Be prepared to delete a whole bunch of shots. Getting “the shot” means you’ll have a ton of off-peak action shots to get rid of, or else you’ll soon end up filling up your memory card.


Pre-release capture is one of the nicest new Nikon Z9 features. It’s a bit unfortunate that setting it up is so complicated. You now finally have a chance to record that baseball when it smashes against the bat, or the grass hopper as it leaps into the air.



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