High-resolution domain studies have been performed in Pb(Zn1/3Nb2/3)O3-4.5%PbTiO3 (PZN-PT) single crystals via piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM). Irregular domain patterns with the typical sizes 20–100 nm have been observed on the (001)-oriented surfaces of unpoled samples. On the contrary, (111) crystal cuts exhibit normal micron-sized regular domains with the domain boundaries directed along allowed crystallographic planes. The existence of nanodomains in (001)-oriented crystals is tentatively attributed to the relaxor nature of PZN-PT where small polar clusters may form under zero-field-cooling conditions. These nanodomains are considered as the nuclei of the opposite polarization state and can be responsible for the smaller coercive field for this particular crystal cut. However, local piezoelectric hysteresis performed by PFM on the nanometer scale indicates similar switching behavior of PZN-PT for both investigated crystallographic orientations. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.