Home | Reviews |Nikon Z8: hands on

Nikon Z8: hands on Review

Nikon Z8 in hands

Price when reviewed



Our Verdict

While there are photographers who like a dual-gripped camera, there are plenty who prefer the smaller size and lower weight of a single-gripped camera with the option to add an upright grip if they need it. This is borne out by the fact that the question I was asked most often about the Nikon Z9 when it was first announced was ‘how heavy is it?’

The Nikon Z8 lives up to its billing as the ‘baby Z9’, by being significantly smaller and lighter yet having a virtually identical specification. It’s also around 10% lighter and 15% smaller than the very popular Nikon D850. The Nikon Z9 won lots of plaudits when it was announced and its specification still stands out. It looks like the Nikon Z8 could be inline for a few awards as well.


  • Smaller & lighter body than Nikon Z9
  • Advanced AF system with subject detection
  • Weatherproof build


  • No mechanical shutter
  • Shorter battery life than Nikon Z9

What is the Nikon Z8?

The Nikon Z9 was announced in October 2021 as the company’s flagship full-frame mirrorless camera. Around 18 months later, the Nikon Z8 has been announced and dubbed the ‘baby Z9’. It earns that moniker by dint of its smaller body yet almost identical specification.

The Nikon Z8 is smaller than the Z9 because the Z9 is a dual-gripped camera, while the Z8 has a single grip and it accepts the Nikon EN-EL15c battery instead of the Z9’s larger EN-EL18b battery. In other respects, the Nikon Z8 has a very similar specification to the Z9, sharing the same 45.7MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, Expeed 7 processor, Intelligent AF system and impressive shooting credentials, including 8K video capability.

Nikon is aiming the Z8 at a wide range of photographers (including wedding, wildlife, landscape and portrait shooters) and content creators or filmmakers on a budget. It’s seen as the true replacement for the popular Nikon D850 DSLR, combining speed with high resolution in a single-gripped body.

The Z9 is one of the most highly-rated cameras of recent times. However, its arrival during the pandemic hampered its manufacturing initially so that demand by far outstripped supply. According to Nikon, that should not be the case with the Z8.

Read: Nikon Z8 vs D850 key features compared


  • Camera type: Full-frame mirrorless camera
  • Announced: 10th May 2023
  • Lens mount: Nikon Z
  • Sensor: Full-frame (FX 35.9 x 23.9mm) 45.7MP stacked backside illuminated (BSI) sensor
  • Processing engine: Expeed 7
  • Sensitivity: ISO 64-25,600, expandable to ISO 32-102,400
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: 20fps for up to 1000+ raw (high efficiency) files or 685 raw (high efficiency *) files, 30fps for up to 1000+ normal-quality Jpegs, or 120fps normal-quality 11Mp Jpegs
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with phase and contrast detection
  • Phase detection points: 493
  • Subject detection: People (eyes, faces, head and torso), animals (whole bodies and heads and eyes for cats, dogs, birds and ‘other animals’), cars, motorbikes, bicycles, trains and aeroplanes.
  • Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) that can work in tandem with lens-based stabilisation (VR)
  • Video resolution: 8K (7680 x 4320): 30p (progressive)/25p/24p, 4K (3840 x 2160): 120p/100p/60p/50p/30p/25p/24p, Full HD (1920 x 1080): 120p/100p/60p/50p/30p/25p/24p
  • Video file format: MOV, MP4, NEV
  • Video compression: N-RAW (12 bit), Apple ProRes RAW HQ (12 bit), Apple ProRes 422 HQ (10 bit), H.265/HEVC (8 bit/10 bit), H.264/AVC (8 bit)
  • Viewfinder: 0.5-inch 3.69-million-dot, 3,000-nit OLED viewfinder
  • Screen: 3.2-inch 2,100,000-dot 4-way-tilting touch-screen
  • Storage: Dual XQD/CFexpress
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): TBC
  • Weight: 910g
Nikon Z8 front/side


As I mentioned earlier, the Nikon Z8 has the same full-frame (FX 35.9 x 23.9mm) 45.7MP stacked backside illuminated (BSI) sensor and Expeed 7 processing engine as the Z9. The stacked design of the sensor and its fast scan rate (still the world’s fastest) plays a key role in enabling the snappy of performance of the Z9 as it can read data out very quickly. This is crucial for responsive subject detection and focusing, so it’s great to see the same sensor and processor combination in the Z8.

That fast readout time is also essential for keeping rolling shutter distortion at bay as, like the Z9, the Nikon Z8 doesn’t have a mechanical shutter. This means it relies completely on an electronic shutter. A key advantage of an electronic shutter is that the camera can be completely silent, alternatively, there’s the option to have an artificial shutter noise. It also means that the usual constraints of wear-and-tear on a traditional mechanical shutter are not an issue. Plus, the the electronic shutter enables faster shutter speeds – up to 1/32,000 sec in the case of the Nikon Z8 and Z9. As well as enabling very fast-moving action to be frozen these fast shutter speeds are useful for shooting with large aperture lenses in bright conditions.

As in the Z9, the Z8’s sensor and processor combination enables it to shoot full-resolution raw files at 20 frames per second (fps) for over 1000 images when a suitable CFexpress card is in use.

It’s also possible to push the shooting speed to 30fps in C+ mode and record full-resolution normal-quality Jpegs. Or, the resolution can be dropped to 19MP with a DX crop, to enable the Z8 to shoot at 60fps. Dropping to 11Mp raises the continuous shooting rate to 120fps – still with full AF and exposure metering capability.

In addition to Jpeg and NEF raw files, the Nikon Z8 can be set to record HEIF files which capture 10-bit colour and greater dynamic range than the usual 8-bit Jpegs.

Nikon Z8 autofocus

The Nikon Z8 inherits the Z9’s excellent autofocus system complete with the remarkably sensitive and ‘sticky’ subject detection system that is informed by deep-learning artificial intelligence (AI). Consequently, it has 493 AF points, 405 of which are Auto-area AF points, and there’s a long list of AF area modes including 3D-tracking AF.

In a change from the Z9, ‘Airplane’ detection has been separated out from Vehicle mode and it has the ability to hierarchically detect the whole ‘plane, the front end of the ‘plane and the cockpit. If the ‘plane gets close enough for the pilot to be visible, it can also switch to focusing on them. The complete list of the Z8’s detectable subjects is, people (eyes, faces, head and torso), animals (whole bodies and heads and eyes for cats, dogs, birds and ‘other animals’), cars, motorbikes, bicycles, trains and aeroplanes.

Nikon Z8 video features

Nikon is launching the Z8 with the same video features as the Z9 has after its firmware upgrades. This means that it can record 8K video at 24, 25, 30 or 60p in-camera and 4K video can be shot at frame rates up to 120p. What’s more, it can shoot 8K 30p video for up to 90 minutes and 4K 60p video for over 2 hours without overheating.

There’s also support for N-Raw, ProRes Raw, ProRes 422 HQ and Log/HLG video, which means the Z8 can record in 8-bit (Mov H.265 or MP4 H.264), 10-bit (Move H.265 or ProRes 422 HQ with SDR, HLG or N-Log profiles) or 12-bit (N-Raw and ProRes Raw). In addition, the Z8 has Nikon’s usual Picture Control options including ‘Flat’ for a little extra flexibility in post and the Creative options for those who want to get the look in-camera.

The Z8 also has 24-bit linear PCM sound recording and is compatible with the Tascam digital adapter CA-XLR2d-AN (sold separately).

Other useful video features include a Red Rec Border around the image frame when recording, Focus Peaking, Zebra Stripes, Waveform, Fine ISO Control (in 1/6 EV steps), Lunar Focus capability, Custom AF Speed and Tracking, Timecode Linking, Raw Proxy File and a dedicated Video Info Display.

Storage and battery

While the Z9 has two slots to accept CFexpress type-B cards, which can also accept XQD cards, the Nikon Z8 has one CFexpress/XQD card slot and one SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot. This news is likely to have a mixed reception. Pro photographers wishing for a smaller alternative to the Z9 may prefer to have two CFexpress card slots, but there are plenty of photographers who have a collection of SD cards that they’d like to use.

The deepest burst depths and highest video resolutions demand that a CFexpress card with a write speed of at least 1500MB/s is used.

As it uses the EN-EL15c battery rather than the EN-EL18c battery, the Z8 can’t shoot for as long on a single charge as the Z9. I’m waiting to hear more about the actual battery life.

Interestingly, the Z8 has two USB-C ports and it’s the first Nikon camera to support USB to ethernet connection. Either of the USB-C ports can be used for charging.

Nikon Z8 rear in hands

Build and handling

I got my hands on the Nikon Z8 as the non-disclosure agreement lifted on 10th May 2023, so I will update this early review with more information and images as soon as I can. Scroll down to see some full-resolution images.

As it weighs 910g, the Nikon Z8 is 95g (around 10%) lighter than the popular Nikon D850, and it’s 15% smaller. It’s also 430g (32%) lighter than the Z9, and 30% smaller. Naturally, the majority of the size and weight saving in comparison with the Z9 is enabled by the fact that the Z8 has just the one grip instead of two. However, those who want to be able to use a vertical grip have the option to purchase the new Power Battery Pack MB-N12 for the Z8.

In terms of control arrangement, the Z8 is a blend of the Z9 and the Nikon Z7 II or Nikon Z6 II, but is perhaps a bit closer to the Z9. Instead of the mode dial of the Z7 II and Z6II, for example, there’s an array of four buttons on the left side of the top-plate with one proving a route to the exposure mode options. The other three buttons access the drive mode, bracketing and white balance options.

The front and rear control dials are also recessed into the body like on the Z9 rather than the rear one sitting on top like on the Z7 II and Z6 II. However, the back of the Z8 looks very similar to the Z7 II and Z6 II as there are fewer buttons than on the back of the Z9.

Nikon Z8 from above with screen out

Nikon Z8 viewfinder and screen

Nikon has given the Z8 the same 0.5-inch 3.69-million-dot, 3,000-nit OLED viewfinder and 4-way tilting 3.2-inch 2,100,000-dot touchscreen as are on the Z9. That’s good news because although there are higher-resolution viewfinders out there, the Z9’s viewfinder is very good. It has the advantage of being blackout free, which makes it easy to follow a fast-moving subject.

The tilting mechanism of the Z9 and Z8’s screen is also excellent as it enables the image to be previewed from a wide range of angles whether you are shooting in landscape or portrait orientation. Furthermore, this is possible without the screen swinging out to the side of the camera, which means it doesn’t get in the way of any of the ports or connected cables.

Nikon Z8 top in hands


I’ve now been able to shoot with the Nikon Z8 for a couple of hours and the recent update to Adobe Camera Raw means I can look at both the Jpeg and raw files. I need to shoot in a wider range of conditions before I pass the final verdict, but as you’d expect given the pedigree of the sensor and processing engine, it produces images on a par with those from the Z9. The autofocus performance also seems just as good. The only shortcoming seems to be that you can’t shoot for quite as long on a single battery charge.

Nikon Z8 image quality

Like the Nikon Z9, the Nikon Z8 controls noise very well for a camera with such a high resolution. There’s just a hint of luminance noise visible when you pixel peep in the shadows of some images shot at ISO 3200 but generally, the image quality remains respectable up to around ISO 6400 and even ISO 12,800 images are good although there is some loss of detail from the raw files and Jpegs. Noise becomes more apparent at ISO 25,600 and while it isn’t especially bad, I’d try to reserve that setting for those occasions when I really need to get a shot. Ideally, I’d make ISO 12,800 my maximum setting.

Steeping up to the upper expansion settings sees a marked increase in the level of noise and loss of detail. There’s a cross-hatched pattern to the noise in raw files when they are viewed at 100%, and the Jpegs looks smudged in places. I’ve seen far worse, but you’ll want to avoid going above ISO 25,600 if you’re aiming to create aesthetically attractive images. These high settings remain useful for record shots and must-have images.

One area where Nikon Z-series cameras have impressed is with their dynamic range and the Nikon Z8 doesn’t disappoint. The highlights don’t burn out too quickly and the shadows don’t become inky-black too readily. If you’re photographing a high-contrast scene at a low ISO setting you can expect to be able to brighten the shadows by around 3EV or more without noise becoming a major issue and the colours going wayward.

Nikon Z8 autofocus performance

Although the Z9’s subject detection and autofocus performance was very good at launch, they have been improved with firmware updates. The Nikon Z8 benefits from the these firmware updates and more, and I found it does a great job of recognising humans in the frame, it’s very quick to latch onto their eyes. That makes shooting portraits very easy, and I found it particularly helpful when holding the camera arm’s length above my head to photograph a tall model wearing a large headdress. It means you can concentrate on the composition and be confident that your subject is sharp.

The human eye detection also worked extremely well with some dancers who were running towards me and jumping. The Z8’s AF system kept with them sharp whether I was shooting stills at 20fps or 8K video.

I’m looking forward to testing the focusing system with a wider range of subjects when I get a sample in for a longer test.

One area where Nikon Z-series cameras have impressed is with their dynamic range. Again, I will investigate this with the Nikon Z8, but I’m expecting to find that the highlights and shadows are both retained well. The images should also have good scope for editing which means that in very high contrast conditions, it’s safe to reduce the exposure to protect the brightest areas because the shadows can be brightened significantly without an major issues with noise or colour shifts.

With the Z9, I found that ISO 200 images could be brightened by 3EV or more without issue, I expect comparable images form the Z8 will be the same.

Although the Z9’s subject detection and autofocus performance was very good at launch, they have been improved with firmware updates. The Nikon Z8 benefits from the these firmware updates and more, so it seems a very safe bet that it will do a great job of recognising the subject and focusing quickly. When I shot with the Nikon Z9 recently, I was impressed by its ability to latch onto human eyes in very low light conditions. I’ll be double-checking that the Nikon Z8 can do the same.

Nikon Z8 IBIS performance

Shooting with the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 lens at the 70mm point, I was able to get a few images sharp at shutter speeds as slow as 1/5 and 1/6 second. That’s around 4EV slower than you’d expect without a stabilisation system. I’ll look at this in more depth for our full Nikon Z8 review.

Nikon Z8 sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Nikon Z8.

Nikon Z8 main menu

Early verdict

The Nikon Z8 is a very exciting camera and is very possibly the camera that Nikon D850 users have been holding out for. It has everything we love about the Z9 in a smaller, lighter body. I’m sure this will give it greater appeal for many photographers because I know quite a few who were put off the Z9 by its dual-gripped size and weight. Nikon has also priced the Z8 attractively and it compares well with cameras like the Sony A1, Sony A7RV and Canon EOS R5.

It’s great news that, beyond the impact of using a smaller battery, Nikon hasn’t parred back the specification of the Z8 in comparison with the Z9. It means that those photographers looking for a camera with the performance of the Z9 without the bulk don’t have to make many compromises.

You even get the Z9’s 4-way tilting touch-screen and blackout-free 0.5-inch OLED viewfinder.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Costas Hadjimarcou
Costas Hadjimarcou
21 days ago

Thank you.Very nice review.Excellent images.Are these SOC?