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.
An electronic shutter can be problematic when using flash but thanks to the speedy read-out of the Z8’s sensor, it can be used with flash and has a maximum sync speed of 1/250 sec. However, with flash units that support Auto FP (focal plane) high-speed sync, it can shoot at up to 1/8000 sec, which is good news fo anyone wanting to shoot with flash at wide apertures in bright sunlight.
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. The downside of shooting HEIF images is that they are not currently widely supported.
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. When the Energy saving (photo mode) option is activated in the menu, and the viewfinder is used to compose images, CIPA testing indicates that the Z8 can capture 340 images on a single battery charge. Turning off the Energy saving mode reduces the life expectancy by 10 images. Composing images on the Z8’s monitor with the Energy saving mode on extends the battery life to around 370 shots, while turning off the energy saving option reduces the battery life to approximately 340 shots in CIPA testing. However, if you shoot in burst mode, you can expect to get around 2280 shots whether energy saving is activated or not and however the images are composed.
In CIPA tests, the Z9’s battery last for around 740 shots when the viewfinder is in use and 770 whne the main screen is used to compose images.
In real-world shooting, however, you are likely to get more images from a single battery charge than CIPA testing indicates. Over the course of two days shooting with the Z8, for example, I captured 438 images and 22 short clips of 4K of video on one batter charge. I was shooting raw and Jpeg images so there were 876 stills files in total.
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.