The Nikon Z8 Mirrorless Camera Review.
This is the camera that brought me back to Nikon! See my NEW Nikon Z9 Review HERE
By Steve Huff
Hello once again to all! Today I am going to write about my experience with the Nikon Z8 camera from the viewpoint of an ENTHUSIAST. That is exactly what I have been for the last 25 years now (with a brief stint or three of pro work throughout the years).
I am a guy who loves cameras, who loves gear and who loves taking photos to make memories of those slices of my life that I may forget in my older years. I appreciate the gear as much as the process of going out and finding images, but these days I am very picky about what I actually buy for my own use. It would take a lot to pull me from the Leica SL series that I have owned and shot for the last eight years. Also, I am not one who stresses or worries about tech specs. Instead, I place value on ay camera that feels good in the hand, has class leading AF for photo and video, is simple to use, works great for small manual adapted lenses and can do top shelf photo as well as video without issues.
I do not hire and photograph models for my reviews nor do I need a camera that is small or light. All I need is something that works well, is a joy to use and gives me quality way above my iPhone.
For me using a camera is all about documenting memories and life. I do not look for perfection in imagery or lenses, I usually avoid it.
I have taken so many photos over the last 15 years, probably over 120,000 images. Ten years from now when many of those memories from 15 years ago may be faded from my own memory, the images I captured will always bring me back to those times. I have always said that a camera is much more than a tool to snap a photo. For me, it is about as close as we can get to a time machine. With a camera we can “go back in time” to look at old photos and videos we have taken. I have images from every week of my life starting from when my son was born 27 years ago.
For me that is what a camera is all about. It’s a tool that connects us to our memories and I have always enjoyed using quality tools that allowed the inner artist in me to shine through. While I do use my iPhone 13 for photos, they are no where near the quality I have captured with mirrorless cameras over the years nor can it touch this camera that I will talk about today, the Nikon Z8.
I have always loved shooting manual focus lenses wether vintage or new modern vintage. With mirrorless we can shoot almost any lens we desire and the Nikon Z8 can handle just about anything with the right adapter. The sky is the limit as to what kind of lens you can use with these modern day cameras.
The Z8’s strengths and uniqueness are more about the amazing specs, IQ, video features, EVF and the unique fact that it only has an electronic shutter (which is the future, for sure).
The Nikon Z8 is GETTING TONS OF LOVE, and rightly so.
This camera has been hyped to no end by the countless number of YouTube influencers out there these days. The raves by the very few I trust made me very curious about this mini Z9. I wondered how it would compare to my beloved Leica SL2S that I have had since it was launched (in both black and reporter).
Before the SL2S I owned the original SL, since it was launched in 2015. In fact the Leica SL system has been my all time favorite camera for photography over the last several years. I have had no desire to move to any other brand or even try other cameras until now. I was content and happy with what I have and I have been for a long while now.
My G.A.S. had finally faded but this talk of the Z8 had me a bit pumped to try one.
Why? Well, I was able to handle and shoot with a Nikon Z9 a few months ago and I really really really enjoyed it. A lot. More so than the Canon R3 I tried not so long ago. More so than the latest Sony or the Sony A1 flagship which I didn’t care for, and didn’t review after 2 weeks of use. Not that the A1 is a faulty camera, it’s not. In fact it’s one of the best you can buy today in mirrorless. I didn’t care for the A1 because it uses the same style of body as the other Sony’s and for $6500 I would have expected more. It just did not inspire me to use it as my Leica SL and SL2-S body did. Also, it was seriously just way too much tech for me at the time and I was happy with what I had.
For those that like smaller bodies, the Sony A1 is remarkable and probably the best you can buy in the mirrorless world. But me, I would never pay that kind of cash for a Sony body, even if it washed my dishes. For those who do not know, I only review cameras or audio gear when I would buy it with my own cash for myself. I do not review things I do not like as that would be a waste of my time.
A random snapshot memory from the Sony A1 shot in Jan 2021. I had one right before it was launched. I never did review it nor publish any images form it. It just didn’t inspire me.
As for that Z9 experience though, the feel, the response, the ergonomics, the smooth and realistic EVF, the external dials and buttons and shutter protector just shouted out “technical marvel” to me with the Z9.
There are more reasons I loved this large Z9 and while the size is large and really meant for the challenges of pro work, the Z9 felt great in my hand and felt amazing shooting one little frame at a time with a manual focus lens. It was a dream to shoot and it costs less than a Leica SL2 and SL2-S, or even the Sony A1 and Canon R3.
Wow, this was a modern day camera that had it all, and could do anything, anywhere and at anytime. A better feel, design and specs than the Canon R3 (for my tastes), and a more rugged pro body than the Sony A1. What was NOT to to like for the price?
Sure, the body is an XL size but I remember when I owned the Nikon D2hs and the D3s many moons ago. I loved those bodies and shot with them every day. I made 40 inch prints with my 4MP D2Hs files back then and marveled at the D3’s low light capabilities for the time. I mean I really bonded to those cameras. Something I never really did with Sony or Fuji.
For me, Nikon was neck and neck with Leica in the fact that I truly enjoyed using them. Heck, I even loved my tine with the original Z6 and Z7 and felt they offered more than the competing Sony’s did at the time.
I also loved the little Nikon V1 system when no one else really did. The images I captured with that little camera system were some great memories from a wonderful time in life when my son was growing into his teen years. Today my son is 27 and boy has time been flying by. So yes indeed, I do have fond memories of my times and years with Nikon cameras.
Click image for larger version. This is with the Z8 and the character filled Voigtlander 55 f/1.2 F mount at f/1.2. I use an F to Z adapter and what an experience! Manually focusing the Z8 was a treat, and easier than my Leica SL2S. I also love the colors. These kind of lenses are the antidote to those who only shot with perfection lenses. It’s nice to throw some character in every once in a while. I much prefer lenses like these and this 55 1.2 is becoming a fave of mine.
Just so you guys know of my experience with Nikon, I have also owned the now antique Nikon D100 and D1 when those were NEW as well as the D700. Nikons 1st digital cameras back then were nothing like what they are today but I always enjoyed them, as hobbled as they were compared to todays choices.
It’s a NIKON!
I do not play brand wars or faves as all mirrorless cameras today are superb, even the lower cost models from Nikon, Fuji, Canon and Sony. I give no hate to any company as all of them make tools for everyone to enjoy. But we all know Nikon’s history with photography. As a kid I always lusted after a Nikon. It wasn’t Canon, Sony or Fuji. It was always Nikon.
Nikon is legendary and are known the world over for their history in imaging and they (like all others) also have their own unique “look” with a more contrasty vibe with some very nice poppy colors. Yes, the Nikon look is a thing as is the Canon, Sony and Leica look. While these looks have morphed over the years for some brands, I feel Nikon has stuck with the lifelike, contrasty and colorful vibe they always have had.
While these days other companies like Sony have taken over the lead in sales for some reason (they were some of the first to utilize influencers to review their cameras) Nikon is trying to catch up and I believe they are doing just that with their latest cameras like the Z9 and now Z8.
OK! Let’s get to the nitty gritty. I was excited to try the Z8 as I was personally looking for something new for my camera stable after all of these years. I needed something that could do amazing video now and years into the future, has reliable fast AF for said video and also take gorgeous photos with the ability to adapt vintage lenses. Seeing that my fave vintage lens of all time is the Noct Nikkor, I started to imagine shooting one on the Z8 or Z9. Sure I did and can do this with the Leica SL2S but the Leica can not be used reliably as an Auto Focus video camera as the Z8 can. The Z8 can do it all and from what it seems on paper, do it all with ease and dependability.
This was the first camera to creep into my thoughts in a long while (and the Z9), at least two years. The Z with the Noct…I could be happy with just that one lens for photos. The most beautiful Nikon vintage lens in the world on the most modern Nikon camera? Hmmm.
My video on the Noct Nikkor, a CLASSIC!
The last Nikon camera I reviewed was the very 1st Nikon Z6 and Z7 and I really enjoyed them though they had some quirks. Being the first real full frame Nikon mirrorless cameras, they initially had slow focus, only a single card slot and a smaller body than what I was used to in the older models like the D100, D1, D3, D2Hs and eventually Z9.
From the old Nikon DF, another Nikon I really enjoyed and owned in Silver.
Some people like a larger camera anyway and if I can be honest, some of those old mirrorless bodies were just too small to feel comfortable in the hand (early Sony, Olympus, Panasonic) . Cameras like the Z8 and Z9 are meant to feel substantial, bring a level of confidence and also be sturdy for use in all kinds of weather scenarios and by true professionals. In reality, these are for pros, and you can tell when you hold the Z8 or the Z9 that they mean business.
With that said, these are also for guys like me who label themselves more as an enthusiast. Those who love to shoot for the fun of it and those who enjoy using the latest gear. The Z8 and Z9 is not just for pros but they are truly pro level bodies that can be used by anyone who wants to part ways with the $3999 or $5500 it takes to get one. While made for professionals, these bodies are being used by more enthusiasts that anyone it seems.
BRING IT ON
Yes, I was excited to see what this new Nikon Z8 would be like compared to my Leica SL2S so I was able to borrow one for a couple of weeks. I’ll say it now, WOW, what a camera. So much has changed since the Z6 and Z7 (originals) and it was very fun shooting this camera. B&H Photo sent me the Z8, the 24-70 2.8 and the 50 1.8. I also shot it with adapters to mount M lenses and it did not disappoint.
Two more with that Voigtlander 55 f’1.2 on the Z8 – Click images for larger and better versions!
Do I prefer it to my SL2S?
Well, not at first. In fact on the first day I wasn’t a fan. That is because it took a few days to learn the menus, the buttons and everything else that was new once again to me. The AF modes are confusing if you are coming from another brand. It may take a few days of menu diving to fully understand it all.
Using the Leica for the last few years was a breeze. The Sl2S is simple, easy, and minimal when it comes to the menus. I love that about the camera. The Nikon Z8 has bloated menus full of settings for anything you can imagine. I also wasn’t a fan of the EVF right out of the gate as I felt the Sl2S was sharper. After some time though, the EVF of the Z8 truly impressed me and showed me that an EVF is not all about resolution.
After a week or so I started to really enjoy the Z8 and I am now at the moment that I am having a hard time sending it back! It’s that good. Many say it is like the Nikon D800 or D850 from the DSLR line years ago. That was considered one of the finest Nikon DSLR models ever made so the fact that many said the Z8 is like a mirrorless version of that camera is a very good thing (I think it is better).
Also, if I didn’t mention it yet, the Z8 is nearly identical in specs to the $1500 more expensive Z9.
Today after a couple of weeks of use I much prefer the EVF in the Z8/Z9 vs the Sl2s as it’s more fluid, clear and smooth. The colors of the EVF also have more pop than the SL2S and it’s just a smooth and more realistic experience. It is very true that in photography we must connect with our subjects and the EVF in the Z8 and Z9 allow us to do that with a clarity and realism that some EVF’s lack.
The Auto Focus of the Z8 for photos is lightning quick with the 24-70 2.8 and there is some hunting at times with the 50 1.8 but overall a lightning fast experience and leagues above any previous Nikon I have shot with. Nikons 3D tracking in the Z8 worked very well for taking photos, and it shows they have come a long way since the Z6 and Z7 first launched. I left the camera on 3D tracking for most of my shooting and it seemed to just work and work well.
Nikon 50 1.8 Z
For video, the auto focus is only just behind Sony (worlds best tracking AF IMO) and Canon (2nd best IMO) for Auto Focus and it may be tied with Canon. The Z8 AF for video is also excellent and rarely fails but the tracking is just not as sticky as the Sony or Canon models in my experience.
UPDATE: After more use with the Z9 (which I now bought and own) I have learned more about the Auto Focus with video and now that I have figured out what mode to use for what it’s really just as good as Sony and Canon for subject detection and eye tracking. No complaints.
The AF is indeed world class and not a weak point of the camera. It’s rather astonishing and for a Nikon, incredible.
Nikon has also been updating the heck out of the Z9 now on V4 firmware. The auto shooting feature is astonishing and Nikon has said it will come to the Z8 via an update. I would love to set one up in my backyard and have the camera automatically shoot bird pics as well as deer. I love what Nikon is doing with updates as it shows commitment.
The Z9 (and soon Z8) can literally be used as a camera trap for subjects who will never even hear the camera fire a shot or now you are taking their image. I am talking about wildlife here. With the silent shutter, and auto capture it is a game changing feature IMO. I expect to see Sony copy this soon.
These two with the Nikon 24-70 Z lens
Probably the most complete video “camera” available today
The video specs of the Z8 are insane. It’s wayyyyy more power than I need (or will ever need) but I can shoot at HD, 4k or even 8K. I can also shoot 4k 120FPS full frame and that’s awesome as many of the lower tiered bodies can only do up to 4K 60. There are modes to shoot in Pro Res or RAW video as well, all IN CAMERA. The camera also has face and eye detect as well as animal detect modes. It has a mode that will automatically distinguish between what it sees.
4K 120 FPS is astonishing and smooth thanks to the IBIS in the Z8 body. I am getting much better results in this area vs my Sony FX3 (when I use the S&Q mode of the FX3).
The camera also uses either SD or CFexpress cards. I have used it with both but when I put in my 512 GB Sony TOUGH CFexpress card the camera can just shoot whatever you want it to shoot without lag or issue. I had this card from 3 years ago when I was testing a Canon 300 MKII cinema camera and I am so glad I kept it. Much better than SD cards and they can handle anything the camera can throw at them.
The more I used the Z8 the more I was falling for it. I enjoyed the feel, the EVF, the colors, the ease of focus and the speed when using AF lenses. It was growing on me and it was then I decided I wanted either a Z8 or Z9 to replace my SL2s and Sony FX3! Yes indeed I am ready to make the switch for my photos and video work and condense it all down to one body.
It could replace the FX3 for video easily and also replace the SL2S for photos. Just what I needed.
I’ve always enjoyed Nikon cameras. This one is from the old V1 from back in the day visiting my Aunt with my Mom when my Uncle was sick. I took that camera everywhere.
I am not a guy who ever shoots at any kind of crazy speed frames per second. In fact I could be happy with a camera that shot one frame per second. It’s how I have always shot. The Z8 is a monster in this area and can shoot 120 FPS when set to JPEG small. That’s insane. Imaging shooting for 10 seconds and getting back well over 1,000 images. No thanks, but it’s nice to know it is there as you can truly capture that defining moment using this technique. If you shoot RAW (which is always best) the Z8 can do 20 FPS. Impressive indeed.
This could be a sports monster and I suspect it will be just as the Z9 has become for many. It’s also a wildlife monster. Then again, the Z8 is just a MONSTER no matter what you want to shoot (video or photo). In fact, It’s the most complete camera I have ever shot with, both the Z8 and Z9.
The Nikon Z 50 1.8 is your typical fast 50 at a 2023 affordable price, here on the Z8. The colors are pure Nikon. See it here.
NO MORE SHUTTER
The Z8 does not use a shutter, just like the Z9. Nope, no shutter. At first I was unsure about this but soon I realized it was the way to go.
In fact, this camera is like a mini Z9, for the most part. It’s not built to quite the same level but the Z8 even has the nifty sensor cover/protector of the Z9. Yes indeed, the Z8 feels a lot like shooting the Z9 but in a smaller form.
The EVF has no blackout, there is no shutter sound (though you can use the fake sound Nikon supplies) and shooting this camera is as stealthy as it gets besides for the size of course, which can throw that silence out the window. You will be noticed more with a camera of this size.
As for specs, you can read all about those RIGHT HERE but I do not worry myself with small details or the crazy specs. I only worry about how it shoots and the results it brings for my use. This camera is a spec monster and will do whatever you need it to do. From this point on I will just talk about the experience of using the camera for video and for photos.
The first two with the Voigtalnder 50 f/1, third with the Voigtlander 55 1.2. All wide open. The 55 1.2 is not the sharpest tool in the box when shot wide open but the 50 f/1 matches the Leica Noctilux for $12k less.
THE EXPERIENCE, and ONE NEGATIVE
So here is the best part of the review as it’s my thoughts on this camera after two weeks with it.
When the Z8 arrived and I removed it from the box I was surprised at just how large it was. It did remind me a bit of the D700 (size wise) from way back in the day but more refined and of course with all new modern day features. There are buttons for EVERYTHING on this camera and it’s really kind of the opposite of cameras like like the more Zen like but much slower SL2S.
Where the Leica is more Zen the Nikon is more “SUPER CAMERA” and that is exactly what it is. It has speed of operation and focus, it has crazy video capabilities, even allowing to shoot Pro Res in camera. The frame rates and resolutions available are the best I have personally seen in any mirrorless camera, ever. It seems so complete and pretty packed with features that matter (unlike some that are more gimmicks). I can see this body lasting quite a few years before an update.
I loved shooting manual lenses with the Z8 as well and found I could even trust the peaking and yes, even when shooting at f/1. In this regard it was easier to focus than the SL2S with manual lenses. The files to me also seemed better from the Z8 than my SL2S. I mean in color, sharpness, etc.
One thing that is cool is that there is now an M lens adapter for the Z mount that will also AUTO FOCUS your Leica M mount lenses on the body. Stay tuned for my thoughts on this.
I also loved that when I went out at night to shoot some video I could activate the light up buttons, making it so easy to see them in the dark. Low light shooting is very good but still not up there with the best that Sony or even Canon offers. Even so, I have no complaints at all. I think most cameras these days do well in good and low light as sensor tech has really gotten so much better from just 3-4 years ago.
The Z8 and Z9 can do low light and these days there really are no bad low light cameras. What we can do today is so far ahead of what we could ever accomplish with film. We have become spoiled : )
My video on using the Z8 with the lovely 50 f/1 from Voigtlander.
“The FX-format 45.7MP BSI stacked CMOS sensor offers a useful combination of resolution, fast readout speeds, impressive clarity, and minimal noise. The stacked design contributes to reduced rolling shutter while the BSI designation ensures improved noise levels when working at the top end of the extended ISO 32-102400 range. Also, the 45.7MP resolution and full-frame sensor size hit a sweet spot that benefits photographers working in detail-oriented genres as well as enables recording video at resolutions up to 8K.
As for image quality it is still very much Nikon. It’s pretty contrasty if you shoot JPEGS out of the camera, but that is how I remember most Nikon bodies over the years. The RAW files are outrageously good and I was able to save highlight and bring out shadows as well with minimal noise.”
This is a medium weight camera but lighter than the Z9. With the 24-70 f/2.8 attached it felt nicely balanced but the 24-70 f/4 is a nicer feeling combo as it lightens it up. With the manual lenses it felt AMAZING! Like a rock solid body in my hands. I also enjoy the top display and those dedicated buttons for ISO, EV, MODE, etc. It makes it easy to get to where you want without having to dig into the menu.
The IBIS inside of this body is also great and bests any Sony I have tested in this area as Sony’s implementation of IBIS stinks for video use.
With the Z8 you can shoot video and with IBIS activated it will smooth out those shakes very well. It’s not gimbal like but it is up there with the better implementations of IBIS that I have used. It’s REALLY good. I shot this entire video with the Z9 (which would have been the same with the Z8).
The battery is fair/decent and this is the main weak spot of the Z8 IMO. The Z9 battery is quite a step up and one of the pros of the Z9. You do pay the price there with a heavier camera but the battery in the Z8 you may need a few spares (I’d have 2 spares if it were me). This will vary depending on how you shoot but video eats the battery up quickly it seems. Many say they need a battery every hour or two, so you may want to pick up a couple of spares if buying the Z8. I didn’t feel I needed a spare for my limited shooting but if I shot more longer form video or high FPS then I would need a couple more for sure.
Nikon Z 50 1.8 on the Z8 – That contrasty Nikon vibe I saw in the V1, D2Hs, D700 and the Z7. The Nikon greens are here in full effect.
The LCD screen on the back is not to my preference but it may be for you. I do get it as it is useful for challenging angles.
The LCD swivels out left and right, up and down but is not able to be flipped out to use as a display if you are filming yourself for something. I make videos DAILY as I run three YouTube channels. I do use the swivel out screen on my Sony FX3 so if I switched to a Z8 or Z9 I would have to go the external monitor route.
I would have much preferred that Nikon went the way of Sony, Canon, etc but the way they did it is great for those who want to get low or weird angles. It’s very unique though and for photographers the right choice. I will say that as impressive as the video is here, this camera is also built to be a photo monster. It’s equally video and photo centric, and it does both extremely well.
UPDATE: I now appreciate the fact that Nikon made the LCD as they did. It’s great for shooting behind the camera and it took me some time to really get to learn it. Also, I bought THIS external monitor for the Z9 for when I am in front of the camera. It is affordable and does all I need.
Top 50 1.8 – Bottom 24-70 2.8
I have been looking to upgrade from my SL2S to a mirrorless body that is both a killer photo machine and amazing video machine, all in one. I looked at (and rented) the Canon selections, but the Z8 and 9 have better specs for less money. I tested the Sony A1 back in 2021 but I was never in love with the smaller Sony’s bodies as they feel cramped to me these days when I compare them to something like a Nikon Z8 or Leica SL2. I prefer some heft to my camera bodies.
I looked at others as well but the Nikon just seemed to give so much more for less. It seems like a bargain in the world of near flagship and flagship cameras. After using them both I can be 100% confident in saying that these two cameras from Nikon are the best buys in the pro market for mirrorless cameras. They are just stunning. I feel these are two of Nikons best ever digital cameras.
While I am no longer doing pro photo work for others, I do pro work for myself on a daily basis and my tools are a tax write off as well. I use my cameras for photos and video, to do reviews for lenses, sometimes video of myself talking and yes they do make me money. So I need something that does double duty and does what I need instead of having two different systems. After looking at all options, the Z8 and Z9 tick every box for me.
Some would say “just use a Nikon Z6 for that’ and sure, I could and have. Some say, “use you SL2S for the video with the FX3”, and I have tried. Some might say “what is wrong with the FX3” and to them I say “nothing”.
Again, I am looking for ONE body that will last for years, be bulletproof in build for when I throw it in my truck for a morning drive and the weather I may face. I want one body that does video better than my FX3 and will work with any lens I want to adapt for photos. I want a large easy to use EVF, speed and a great feel to the body when holding. I want something that has a top notch sensor so if I review lenses, I know I am using one that can exploit the lens to its fullest. I want LONG battery life and the ability to power the camera from the wall if needed. I need fast reliable Auto Focus as well.
The Z6, SL2S and FX3 do not do all of this. The Nikon Z8 and Z9 fulfills all of my desires in a modern day do it all camera. This Z8 and Z9 are jack of all trades and masters of all.
Why choose the Z8 or Z9 vs the Nikon Z6 and Z7?
Besides seeming to do better with most M mount lenses than the SL2S does or being less expensive that the “flagship” competition (Sony A1, Canon R3, Leica SL2) while offering more here are a few other reasons I will choose the Z8 or Z9 over the Z6 or Z7 series.
– Flagship build quality with brilliant ergonomics and control.
– Lower light AF sensitivity nails focus even in darker conditions.
– 1 stop better IBIS with select lenses means smoother video and less shake.
– No shutter means no shutter lifespan. I was skeptical of this at first but now think it’s the way of the future.
– EVF has been improved.
– Backlit buttons are a life saver at night.
– Voice memo for field notes can be useful.
– Built in GPS is nice to have for some of you.
– Longer battery life for the Z9, lasts me days if not a week or two.
– Starlight mode for astro is nice.
– Nikon brings back their famous 3D tracking and it is EXCELLENT.
I have had more time with the Z8 (2-3 weeks) vs the Z9 as the Z9 was in my hands for less than a day. The Z8 has really shown me just how good these new Nikon cameras are and how they offer more than the competition for less outlay. The Z8 made me realize that it would be better to own ONE tool that does all I need rather than owning two systems. The Z8 also made me realize that Nikon is leading the mirrorless tech here in 2023.
The Z8 and Z9 are all out beasts and I have never used a finer camera in my lifetime.
So do I prefer the Z8 to the SL2S?
For photos, I still have a soft spot for the Leica as it has been with me for so long. Even with that soft spot I have to admit the Z8 is a very powerful “super camera” and yes I find the IQ, detail and well, everything to slightly best the Leica. That is crazy as I never thought I would say that but here we are. Nikon has done a “thing” and that “thing” is pretty special.
I am starting to feel a bond to this Z8 but I am sending it back to B&H. Mainly because it is has a serial # that is part of the recall of the Z8. Yep, Nikon has recalled a bunch for mount issues and this is one of them. So even if I wanted it, I would not buy this one : ) My guess is that by the time this review is public the Nikon Z8’s that will be shipping will have all been fixed.
Overkill? For me, YES.
This is a camera that is so much more capable than I am as I am not a wildlife or sports pro. It’s a camera that will do MORE than I will ever need. It is a camera that would indeed last me many many years. I just spoke with a guy who still shoots the Nikon D700 and he doesn’t want for more. I can see that being me with a Z8 or Z9 5 years from now as I have fallen hard for a camera for the first time in YEARS. It was the Nikon Z8 that brought me back to Nikon as I am buying a Z9, 100%.
UPDATE: I did. I purchased a Z9, 14-24 f/2.8 and 50 1.8.
I am choosing the Z9 for the extra battery (and B&H is giving an extra FREE battery now), the dual CFexpress slot, the larger more substantial body and the better weather sealing. I also prefer the larger grip feel and the weight doesn’t bother me in the slightest for how I use it. I buy cameras these days to last me years, not months.
I’ve had a Leica SL variety since 2015 which is now EIGHT years ago! I have had my Sony FX3 since it was launched in Feb 2021, so about 2 1/2 years now. The Z9 can replace both of them, and do better than both when it comes to photo, video and auto focus. A win/win for me.
THE BAD WITH NIKON Z?
All is not perfect with the Nikon Z as the audio preamps in the Z8 and Z9 are horrible.
This means if you want to record video and use an external mic you will need to change some settings in the camera to get usable sound. The preamps for audio inside of these cameras are the worst I have experienced. They sound tinny and have tons of hiss (noise). I almost returned the Z9 due to this after experimenting with audio in camera. With y Sony FX3 I use the Rode NTG3 with the built in XLR grip and my audio is astonishingly good. The Nikon’s do not offer XLR, only the 3.5mm jack which is fine as there are plenty of mics out there from Rode or Sennheiser that will work well if you set it up right.
Since it is the audio inside of the Nikon cameras that is bad (the preamps that boost the audio signal) you must turn down the preamp inside of the camera to no more than level 3. Turn off auto completely. With my Rode Videomic Pro+ and Videomic NTG I have to set them to full output which is 20+ DB on th e+ and 15 on the dial for the NTG. With these settings, and the in camera preamps set to “3” I get clean audio but it still needs a boost in editing. I do this with a bass boost and gain boost. Not perfect, but it works.
This is the only weakness I found with the Z8 and Z9 and they will only affect video users who want to record audio in camera. I also f0und this from Tascam that would allow me to use my NTG3 with the Z9. I may go this route very soon for my studio recordings. The Rode GO and DJI Wireless sound decent but not great with the Z cameras. I own both and a few mics from Rode and Sennheiser. The best for in camera is the Rode NTG set to “15” on the gain dial and the Z set to “3” in camera. This brings a noise free audio that can easily be boosted. Why Nikon uses these bad quality audio preamps in these flagship style cameras is a mystery to me and not many seem to talk about it. But again, it’s the only weakness I have found with these otherwise astonishing cameras. Remember, your in camera audio quality when recording video will depend on the quality of the preamp in the microphone you are using.
The Nikon Z8 is an amazing super camera that can do anything you need or want. It has amazing IQ, video features, super auto focus and the video quality bests my beloved and trustworthy Sony FX3 that I have used for nearly three years now.
It’s like a baby Z9 and for those who want a smaller version of the Nikon mirrorless flagship, this it is.
At $3995 the Z8 is not cheap but it’s just under the Z9 flagship and does pretty much everything that one does in a smaller and lighter body. I mean the Sony FX3 retails for $3899, almost the same cost as the Z8 yet it does not have an EVF, doesn’t have the extensive video specs of the Z8 nor does it have a rugged build of the photo features. In fact the FX3 is painful to use as a photo camera. So this shows that the Z8 is a bargain of epic proportions.
Which is the better buy here? It’s the Z8 for sure.
If you have been eyeballing Nikon, this is one of the best Nikon bodies I have ever shot with. It’s as good as the hype. For me, I prefer it to the competition that is available today as of this writing from Canon and Sony (and I love Canon RF glass) and it sells for LESS!
I can’t wait to explore some telephoto lenses and use the auto shot feature of the Z9 (it’s also coming to the Z8) I have tons of wildlife on my property so if I do get a Z9 I will also pick up a nice tele lens. If I do this, you will hear about it and see it all here!
I am back to Nikon after many many years and it feels good. I still love the Leica SL2S for its zen like approach and gorgeous build/design but it’s time to move on as Nikon has finally made a camera that does everything I need for my work and personal use, and then some. It’s all I need.
Nikon are the first to make a camera that had me want to upgrade after all of this time.
I feel the Z8 and Z9 are the best mirrorless digital cameras made today for photo and video both. Now that I own the Z9 and have been shooting it for photos and video almost daily, I am considering buying a 2nd one. One to stay rigged for video with Atomos screen and Mic and the other for my bag and rural travels for photography and video both. I could go for a Z8 as a 2nd body and may do that now that they are back IN STOCK.
WHERE TO BUY?
I have bought from B&H for decades and never have had an issue. Always speedy shipping and quality service. It’s where I purchased my Z9!
UPDATE: If you are buying a Z8 I would recommend at least two spare batteries bringing the total to three. ESPECIALLY if you shoot video or use the blazing fast FPS of the camera. This is a powerhouse and it will eat the battery fairly quickly when shooting video. You can buy the spare batteries HERE.