Nikon Z8 Preview

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Nikon Z8 Preview
Nikon has introduced the Z8, alongside the Z9, targeting professional photographersMore Info. Many features of the Z8 have been inherited from Nikon's flagship Z9. The stacked sensor and AI-based autofocus, in particular, make this camera appealing to nature photographersMore Info. Nikon's cameras previously lacked this autofocus, while Canon had already incorporated it into smaller models like the R5, R6, R6 Mark II, R7, R10, and R50. A Nikon Z8 was long overdue because the Z7 and Z7 II couldn't compete with Canon's EOS R5, especially in terms of autofocus. The Z8 even surpasses the R5 with its stacked sensor, eliminating rolling shutter effects, and maintains a consistent 14-bit color depth per color channel when using the electronic shutter. The Z8 appears to be a significant advancement for Nikon. Now, let's delve into the technical specifications of the Nikon Z8, which are also available on Nikon's website.

Specifications of the Nikon Z8

Like the Nikon Z9, the Z8 features a multi-layered (stacked) full-frame CMOS sensor with a resolution of 45.7 megapixels, producing images at 8256 x 5504 pixels. While it's not confirmed whether a low-pass filter is in front of the sensor, Nikon typically omits them in their newer models, likely also in the Z8. The sensor is equipped with 5-axis sensor-shift VR (IBIS) and is movable. The Z8 employs a Hybrid AF, utilizing both contrast and phase detection for focusing. It offers 493 focus points when using single-point AF. Alongside the standard single-point AF, options include pinpoint AF, dynamic focus area (S, M, and L), wide focus area (S, L, C1, and C2), and automatic focus point selection. The Z8 supports 3D tracking in photo mode and subject tracking AF in video mode. It also features AI-based subject recognition, capable of identifying vehicles, animals (including birdsPicture Gallery), and people. The Z8's AF operates within a range of -7 to +19 EV, and even -9 to +19 EV in the starry sky view, making it slightly more light-sensitive than the Z9.
The Nikon Z8 can capture up to 120 frames per second at 11 MP reduced resolution or up to 20 frames per second at normal resolution. The shutter speeds range from 1/32000 to 30 seconds, extendable to 900 seconds in manual exposure mode, and it includes a Bulb mode for longer exposures.
The camera utilizes an electronic shutter exclusively, with no mechanical shutter. ISO sensitivity ranges from ISO 64 to ISO 25600 and can be extended from ISO 32 to ISO 102400.
The electronic viewfinder covers 100% of the frame, with a 0.8x magnification and 3.69 million dots. The viewfinder brightness is adjustable manually. The touchscreen monitor tilts both vertically and horizontally and has a resolution of 2.1 million dots. The Nikon Z8 is equipped with two memory card slots, each compatible with CF-Express Type B or XQD and SD, SDHC (UHS-II), or SDXC (UHS-II compliant).
The camera's dimensions are approximately 144 x 119 x 83 mm, and it weighs 910 grams (including battery and memory card).

AF Performance of the Nikon Z8

Canon has already integrated the almost essential animal eye autofocus (including birdPicture Gallery detection) for nature photographersMore Info in their entry-level cameras, prompting Nikon to catch up in this field. Up until now, only Nikon's flagship, the Z9, could recognize birdsPicture Gallery and their eyes. Nikon had nothing to offer against Canon's R5 or R6. The Z7 II and Z6 had noticeably weaker AF systems than Canon's R5 and R6. With the Nikon Z8, Nikon has introduced a serious competitor to the R5 since the Z8 can now automatically detect and focus on birdsPicture Gallery' eyes. This significantly enhances the success rate in nature photography.

Yellow Wagtail The animal eye autofocus of the Nikon Z8 recognizes birdsPicture Gallery and their eyes, greatly simplifying the work for nature photographersMore Info.

With the animal eye detection you are much faster photographing wildlife birdsPicture Gallery. There's no need to set the focus point, and the shutter can be triggered as soon as the subject appears in the viewfinder. More images usually result in more successful shots, and it's less likely to miss the right moment. However, the best subject recognition is of no use if the focus doesn't work properly. Unfortunately, the Nikon Z7 and, to a lesser extent, the Nikon Z7 II had notable issues, especially with moving subjects. This is no longer expected to be the case with the Nikon Z9, and since the Nikon Z8 has adopted the autofocus system of the Z9 almost one-to-one, similar problems are not anticipated here.

Image quality of the Nikon Z8

The image quality of the Z8 is expected to be nearly identical to that of the Z9 because both cameras use the same sensor. These Nikon cameras excel at reproducing even the finest details. This is due to the absence of a low-pass filter in front of the image sensor, which is typically designed to prevent moiré artifacts but can have the side effect of slightly softening the image. Nikon takes the risk of moiré artifacts, but in return, the image files are visibly sharper in a 100% view. However, how does the actual moiré artifact formation look in practice? Because moiré artifacts can occur even in cameras from other manufacturers despite the presence of a low-pass filter. In my experience, there is hardly any noticeable difference in moiré formation between images with and without a low-pass filter in today's high-resolution cameras. In my opinion, Nikon is taking the right approach here - aiming for more "natural" sharpness and yet fewer noticeable artifacts. The color reproduction of the Nikon Z8 is very good, as expected from Nikon. Green tones are highly saturated. Skin tones appear slightly more pleasing to me in the Canon EOS R5, but this is likely a matter of personal preference. The noise performance at higher ISO settings is excellent, although, in my opinion, the Canon EOS R5 has a slight edge here. I will report more on this when I have the opportunity to work with the Z9 over an extended period.

Fokus bracketing and focus stacking with the Nikon Z8

Like all of Nikon's newer models, the Nikon Z8 also features focus bracketing. With this function, the camera captures multiple photos of the subject, each with a slightly shifted focus point. These images can then be combined into a focus stack either in-camera or at home using a computer. The resulting focus stack exhibits a significantly extended depth of field compared to a single image. This technique is primarily applied in macro photography at magnifications near 1:1 or larger, where the natural depth of field is typically only a few millimeters or less.

Deer When photographing fungiPicture Gallery with caps like these two Saffrondrop BonnetPicture Gallery , it's a good idea to take a series of photos with different focal points and then combine them into a stack. This approach helps ensure that the entire structure of the caps, from the front to the back, is captured sharply in the image.

The technique of focus stacking is also used in landscape photographyMore Info when both the very close foreground and the background need to be in focus. This method helps achieve a greater depth of field, ensuring that elements in both the foreground and background are sharp and clear in the image.

Body and handling of the Nikon Z8

The Nikon Z8 is a well-designed camera, with a weight of 910g, which is only about 200g heavier than the Nikon Z7 II but significantly lighter (by 430g) than the Z9, while delivering similar performance. The camera is comfortable to hold and lacks the Z9's large battery and vertical grip, making it a more portable option for those who don't need those features. The menus are organized in typical Nikon fashion, making them easy to navigate for those familiar with Nikon's menu system. The camera body is noted for its high-quality construction, and it features the option for rear button and display illumination, making it suitable for use in low-light conditions, such as in a dark hide or nighttime shooting.
I have to concern about the relatively weak EN-EL15C battery used in the Z8, which is the same battery found in the Z7 and Z7 II. This limitation becomes noticeable, especially when capturing focus stacks, as the battery can drain faster than expected, leading to interruptions in the focus stacking process.


The Nikon Z8 is a professional mirrorless camera with outstanding image quality. It features a highly capable hybrid autofocus system with advanced subject recognition, ensuring sharp images even in challenging conditions. The camera has an integrated image stabilizer and an all-electronic shutter, reducing the risk of shuttershock blurriness. The stacked sensor eliminates rolling shutter effects. The only drawback is the relatively weak EN-EL15C battery.
Despite the battery limitation, the Z8 is significantly more affordable than the Z9 while delivering nearly identical performance. This makes the Z8 a great choice for those who need great image quality and autofocus performance and can do without the vertical grip of the Z9. We highly recommend the Nikon Z8...

Article from 2023-11-05


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