Really, the best thing that Nikon shooters could hope for is that the once-duopolist camera maker would use a Sony sensor. Nikon doesn’t fab sensors anymore, but recent previous cameras maintained a certain sort of tribal pride in being “designed” by Nikon and manufactured by Sony.
To what degree those sensors really differed from off-the-shelf Sony dies remains unknown. Now comes word that Nikon is using sensor designs patented by Sony, which may indicate there is less Nikon juice in the sensor cocktail.
Which will matter not a bit to shooters of the new Z9, few or none of which care what brand name is etched into their chips deep inside their weather-resistant gripped bodies.
Contrary to much online commentary that is soon to ensue, Sony’s semiconductor outsourced fabrication services is perfectly capable of producing sensors from third parties like Nikon without leaking design technology to its own camera division. Intellectual property language in contracts prevents Sony from stealing ideas explicitly set out as innovations, but it does not prevent Sony’s fabs from gaining additional production and manufacturing know-how.
As Nikon has reduced its operations, and particularly its manufacturing, over the past two years, sensor design and production were obvious areas to outsource, given that – at the time – Sony sensors easily bested those of Nikon’s main competition, Canon. Now that Canon’s new sensors appear to be the equal of Sony’s in many respects, things will get interesting.