Nikon has announced an update to Z6 and Z7 cameras that will add 12-bit Blackmagic RAW video support to the cameras via an external Blackmagic recorder. This update will also come to the Z6 II and Z7 II next year.
From what PetaPixel was able to discern, this is the first time any non-Blackmagic camera has announced support for the open-source RAW codec, especially in the hybrid camera space and even more so in the niche full-frame hybrid camera space.
At the very least, this is a first for Nikon.
Blackmagic has previously claimed that its RAW format is smaller than traditional RAW files (like ProRes RAW) which makes it faster to edit, all while delivering top-tier image quality.
Blackmagic RAW is a new and very modern codec that’s easy to use and much better quality than popular video formats, but with all the benefits of RAW recording. Featuring multiple new technologies, such as a new advanced de-mosaic algorithm, Blackmagic RAW gives you visually lossless images that are ideal for high resolution, high frame rate and high dynamic range workflows.
Actually getting access to Blackmagic RAW is a bit confusing, however. Nikon had previously announced support for ProRes RAW recording to an external Atomos recorder, but unlocking the feature required sending your Z6 or Z7 camera in to a Nikon service center and paying a $200 fee to add the capability to the camera. The only noted exception to the $200 fee is for those who purchased the Z6 Filmmaker kit.
“Customers who have previously purchased the ProRes RAW video upgrade for their Z 6 or Z 7 will simply need to download and install a firmware upgrade which is available starting today, free of charge,” Nikon tells PetaPixel. “The initial RAW video upgrade must be performed by a Nikon Service center.”
In order to access Blackmagic RAW, this step will still need to take place, and the process of sending the camera in and getting it back will likely take more than a week.
However, if you’ve already unlocked ProRes RAW on your Z6 or Z7, you can immediately give your camera access to Blackmagic RAW by upgrading to firmware version 3.2 here for the Z7 and here for the Z6.
Support for the Z6 II and Z7 II will come in February, but will still require the cameras be sent in to a Nikon care facility for the same $200 fee.
Nikon does not state why the upgrade for RAW video recording capability requires servicing at a Nikon facility.
You can look at Nikon’s choice to first give this update to the Z6 and Z7 one of two ways. One, Nikon clearly is prioritizing current owners of its mirrorless systems with firmware updates, giving the original iterations of its cameras access first to a technology that hasn’t found its way to any other competitor. Or two, Nikon’s choice here is a bit confusing since the new, much more capable Z6 II will not get support for this feature until next year and does not come from the factory with the capability for RAW video built-in. Buying a brand new Z6 II and needing to spend $200 more might rub some folks the wrong way.
However you choose to look at this, Nikon’s support for Blackmagic RAW is notable, as no hybrid full-frame camera competitor (from what PetaPixel has found) is offering support for the codec.