Product photos by Richard Butler
The Nikon Z8 is a mid-sized high-end full-frame mirrorless camera built around the same sensor and processor as the range-topping Z9 sports camera. The Z8 offers the majority of the same features but in a smaller body.
- 45.7MP Stacked CMOS sensor
- Up to 20fps with Raw, 30fps full-sized JPEG
- Pre-burst capture in JPEG modes (up to 120fps for 11MP crops)
- Subject recognition AF and 3D Tracking
- Synchro VR combining in-body and in-lens stabilization, rated at up to 6EV
- 8K/60p video in N-Raw, 4.1K in ProRes Raw
- 8K/30p or up to 4K/60p from 8K
- Choice of ProRes 422 HQ, H265, H.264
- N-Log or HLG capture
- 3.68M dot EVF with dedicated low-lag sensor feed
- 2.1M dot screen on two-way hinge
- One CFexpress Type B, One UHS II SD slot
- Dual USB-C ports
The Nikon Z8 is available now with a recommended price of $3999.
In almost every respect, the Z8 is a match for the Z9, with essentially all the larger camera’s features and capabilities duplicated in a smaller body.
At the heart of it all is the same 45.7MP Stacked CMOS sensor that has parallel readout paths, one for images or video and another to provide the viewfinder feed with minimal lag.
This means it can match the Z9’s 20fps shooting rate with Raw and its 30fps full-frame / 60fps APS-C / 120fps 11MP JPEG shooting modes. The Z8 also provides the option to shoot 10-bit HEIF files (alongside Raw, if you wish), if you opt to capture HDR images using the HLG curve.
The Z8 also offers the pre-burst option that lets it start capturing images when the shutter is half-pressed, then record up to a second’s worth of images when you fully press the shutter. This is available in the 30, 60 and 120fps JPEG modes.
We’re told the Z8 has the same buffer as the Z9, meaning it can record more than 1000 JPEGs or HE* compressed Raws at 20fps. 685 of the less compressed HE Raws can be captured in a burst, or 79 of the losslessly compressed Raws files.
Like the Z9, with its fast (~1/280sec) readout, the Z8 has no mechanical shutter. It does have a shutter shield mechanism that can be set to close when the camera is off, though, to prevent dust ingress when you change lenses.
In terms of video the Z8 can capture 8K/30p video in the ProRes 422 HQ, H.265 or H.264 formats, or 8K/60p in the N-Raw format. 4K video can be shot at up to 120fps (subsampled), or with oversampled footage derived from 8K capture at up to 60p.
|Resolution options||Bit depth||Options|
|ProRes RAW HQ||
|ProRes 422 HQ||10-bit||SDR
||10-bit or 8-bit||SDR
The only major difference is that the Z8 can only record for up to 90 minutes, rather than the 125 minutes offered by the Z9, presumably for reasons of heat build-up.
Like the Z9, the camera uses a base ISO of 200 in video mode for its standard color modes. Switch to HLG and the base state becomes ISO 400, encouraging the use of one stop less exposure to ensure that an additional stop of highlights is retained. N-Log has a minimum of ISO 800, to capture and retain an extra two stops of highlights.
Dedicated airplane subject detection mode
The Z9 could already detect aircraft as part of its vehicle detection mode, but on the Z8 it has been separated out into its own selectable mode. Nikon says separating airplane from general vehicle tracking results in improved tracking accuracy. We’ve had no confirmation from Nikon but we’d be surprised if we don’t see a similar feature added to the Z9 in future firmware.
Conversely, Nikon has added a separate Bird detection mode, distinct from the Animal mode that already includes birds, to the Z9 and has promised to bring this to the Z8 in early 2024.
For users concerned about the battery life offered by the Z8’s smaller EN-EL15c battery, there will be an optional battery grip that provides capacity for two EN-EL15s. As with the grip for the Z6 II and Z7 II, the grip will displace the internal battery, meaning you get two batteries in total, not three.
How the Nikon Z8 compares to its competitors
The price tag of $4000 puts the Z8 in direct competition with the Canon EOS R5, and it doesn’t look at all bad in comparison. It’s priced somewhere around the cost of the Sony a9 II but its high resolution means it has more in common with Sony’s more expensive a1.
|Nikon Z8||Canon EOS R5||Sony a1||Nikon Z7 II|
|Sensor type||Stacked CMOS||FSI CMOS||Stacked CMOS||BSI CMOS|
|Image stabilization||In-body + in-lens*||In-body + in-lens*||In-body*||In-body*|
|Max burst rate||20 fps Raw
|12fps (mech shutter)
20fps (elec shutter)
|30 fps (lossy Raw)
20 fps (lossless Raw)
|High-res mode||No||9-shot JPEG only||4 or 16-shot, combined on PC||No|
|Viewfinder res / mag||3.68M dots
|5.76M dots / 0.76x||9.4M dots / 0.9x||3.68M dots
|Rear screen||3.2″, 2.1M-dot two-way tilting touchscreen||3.2″, 2.1M-dot articulating touchscreen||3.0″, 1.44M-dot tilting touchscreen||3.2″, 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen|
|Top-plate display||Yes (OLED)||Yes (OLED)||No||Yes (OLED)|
|Video capabilities||Up to DCI 8K/30p (full width), 8K/60p N-Raw, 4K/120||Up to DCI 8K/30p (full width), 4K/120||Up to UHD 8K/30p (full-width).||UHD 4K 30p
(Full width pixel-binned or oversampled APS-C)
|Log video||N-Log, HLG, 4:2:2 10-bit||HDR PQ, Canon Log, 4:2:2 10-bit||S-Log 2, S-Log 3, HLG (10-bit)||N-Log over HDMI only (10-bit)|
|Ethernet socket||Via USB-C adapter (not supplied)||Via optional WFT grip||Yes||No|
|USB socket(s)||2x USB-C||USB-C||USB-C||USB-C|
|340 / 330||320 / 220||530 / 430||420 / 360|
|Card slots||1 CFe Type B/XQD, 1 UHS II SD||1 CFe Type B, 1 UHS II SD||2 CFe Type A / UHS II SD||1 CFe Type B/XQD, 1 UHS II SD|
|Size||144 x 119 x 83 mm||138 x 98 x 88 mm||129 x 96 x 78 mm||134 x 101 x 68 mm|
|Weight||910 g||738 g||736 g||705 g|
On paper, the Z8 doesn’t look particularly impressive in this company. Its specs look a lot like those of the EOS R5, with its viewfinder seemingly leaving it lagging behind. The reality couldn’t be more different: the Z8’s viewfinder’s minimal lag makes it feel more lifelike and better suited for shooting action, while its shooting rate is significantly faster and its quicker sensor readout means there’s less rolling shutter in e-shutter mode. Its AF is some of the best we’ve encountered, and the Nikon has the edge in video with longer recording times and a wider selection of capture modes and codecs.
Body and handling
The Z8 is significantly smaller than the Z9 but is still a pretty substantial camera. Its form factor has more in common with the D850 DSLR than the existing Z6 and Z7 models. Despite the use of magnesium alloy and carbon fiber, the body is appreciably heavier than those models, too. Nikon says it’s weather-sealed to the same degree as the Z9.
The grip is very similar to the one on the D850 and the dials very similarly placed, meaning it will feel immediately familiar to existing Nikon users. There’s a well-positioned AF joystick on the back of the camera and a variety of customizable buttons, including the now-standard pair of function buttons next to the lens mount on the front of the camera.
On the camera’s left shoulder is the control binnacle that’s been common to high-end Nikons dating back more than two decades.
|The Z8 has Nikon’s 10-pin accessory port but also an AF mode button, just out of shot on the lower right of the image.|
Like the Z9, the Z8 has an AF mode button on its lower left front, just where the traditional MF/AF-S/AF-C switch was on the company’s DSLRs. Holding the button and nudging the front dial changes the AF drive mode whereas spinning the rear dial changes AF area mode.
|The Z8’s viewfinder doesn’t have the most impressive specs but the real-world performance is very good, especially when trying to follow and anticipate action.|
The Z8 has the same viewfinder as the Z9, which means a rather low-sounding 3.69M dots (1280 x 960px). However, the low-lag feed delivered from the parallel readout design of the Stacked CMOS chip means it gives one of the most responsive, lifelike viewfinder experiences we’ve yet had. Nikon says it’s able to preview HLG footage, which suggests it’s a panel that can achieve HDR brightness levels.
Like many high-end Nikons, the Z8 has buttons that can illuminate for when working in low light.
The Z8 becomes the first camera we’ve seen to include a pair of USB-C ports. This allows the use of one port for tethering or data transfer while the other is reserved for charging or powering the camera.
The smaller body is in part made possible by the use of a smaller battery. In this case, it’s the same EN-EL15c that’s used by most of Nikon’s mirrorless cameras. It’s a 16Wh unit, meaning it’s around half the capacity of the battery used in the Z9. This sees the camera deliver CIPA ratings of 340 shots per charge, if you use the rear LCD, and 330 if you use the viewfinder. Turn on energy saving mode and these figures rise to 370 and 340 shots per charge, respectively.
By Richard Butler
The Z9 is one of the most impressive cameras I’ve ever used, and the Z8 is essentially the same camera but in a body I might be able to carry around and at a price that I could reach with the sale of fewer internal organs. All good then, yeah? Gold award and we all go home happy?
It’s not quite that simple. Yes, the Z8 offers a very impressive spec and, like the Z9, backs it up by delivering that spec: no nasty rolling shutter surprises in e-shutter mode, no dropping to 12-bit readout when shooting bursts. If anything, the Z8 and Z9 outperform their specifications by providing such a responsive viewfinder experience, despite the seemingly middling resolution of the EVF panel.
But while the Z8 is hugely capable, and aggressively priced for what it does, it’s still hitting the market for $700 more than the Nikon D850 did, at launch. So what do D850 users get for that 20% premium?
What we wouldn’t expect is for them to get a significant improvement in image quality over their current camera. From what we saw in the Z9, the 45.7MP Stacked CMOS sensor appears to be an evolution of the BSI chip in the D850, so any IQ improvements are likely to come from the ability to use the newer Z-mount lenses. Synchro VR, which delivers up to 6.0EV of correction (per testing to the CIPA standard) should also help deliver maximum detail more often.
But what anyone upgrading from the D850 will certainly get is a faster camera with a much more advanced AF system, with points that range much further across the frame. So if you’re a wildlife shooter or wedding photographer, for instance, the Z8 will shoot much faster, nail the shot more often, and provide options such as pre-burst to make sure you get the critical moment.
Similarly, wedding and event photographers who are expected to capture video as well as stills will find the Z8 a much more supportive companion. Even if you don’t use its most advanced video modes (and it joins the Z9 in being arguably the best-specced hybrid camera on the market, at the moment), it has a series of refinements, such as a full-sized HDMI port and the option to capture flexible 10-bit Log footage internally, that haven’t been available on Nikon’s smaller models before.
Landscape shooters might not be so readily won over by these capabilities, and may feel that, say, a Z7 II delivers just as much, if you don’t need the Z8’s out-and-out performance speeds.
But, to be blunt, my initial impression of the Z8 was ‘what more would anyone need?’ It’s a sentiment that has a habit of being out-paced by technology’s continued improvement, but the all-round capability of the Z8 is hard to argue with. The fact that its specs compare favorably not just with the Canon EOS R5 but also the pro-priced Sony a1 says a lot.
I’m sure there’ll be some disquiet about the use of non-matching memory card formats and, perhaps, some griping about the viewfinder resolution by people who’ve not had a chance to experience it. But if those are the biggest concerns about the Z8, then I’d argue that Nikon’s done an impressive job.
Our test scene is designed to simulate a broad variety of real-world subjects with different colors, textures, and levels of detail across the chart. We capture images of it across the ISO range and in bright and low light to assess overall image quality.
Unsurprisingly, the Nikon Z8’s output is a match for that of the Z9, deliveringcomparable with its immediate fast/high-res peers. ComparisonLink:5809, text=”Noise levels” } are also in line with the competition (the Z8’s noise is rendering a little lighter here but the actual amount appears to be the same as the Z9).
Defaultis a touch punchier than that offered by Canon or Sony and, while the lighter pinks can lead to skin tones that aren’t to everyone’s taste, the yellows are very well reproduced and we’ve always liked the results. does a decent job of maintaining detail as the ISOs rise, with a little grittiness left behind in giving the impression of detail. The is a touch more aggressive than Canon or Sony’s but not to the degree of exhibiting overshoot halos or any other such unpleasantness.
Dynamic range is also a match for that of the Z9, which is to say that there appears to be a tiny read-noise price to pay for the sensor’s added speed. But we’re talking about minor differences that only become apparent when you push to the extremes of the camera’s shadow range. Even the most demanding landscape shooters are likely to find the Z8’s Raws have plenty of flexibility.
The Z8’s autofocus system will be familiar to users of Nikon cameras and, in particular, to Nikon DSLR shooters. You’re given a choice of AF area, ranging from a single point up to the full area, with the ability to specify custom sizes of rectangular AF zones between those two extremes. There’s also the DSLR-style ‘3D Tracking’ which gives you a single AF box that locks onto whatever is underneath it, then follows it around the scene. This is the way that most other brands are moving towards, so it’s good to see Nikon bring it to its mirrorless cameras.
In addition to the AF area, you can specify a subject type for the camera to look for. This includes humans, animals, vehicles or airplanes. There’s also an ‘Auto’ mode that looks for all four subject types and an ‘Off’ mode, that prevents the camera from being distracted by recognized subject types, if that’s not what you want to focus on. Conversely, there’s a menu option to stop the camera falling back on generic AF if it can’t find a recognized subject.
Subject detection is only active when using the zone, all area or 3D tracking AF area modes. It will look for subjects in and near your specified AF area but won’t jump to a recognized subject if you’re trying to select something some distance away, so for most shooting you won’t need to constantly turn subject detection on and off.
As you’d expect from a camera whose hardware is shared with Nikon’s current pro-sports camera, the Z8’s autofocus is spectacularly good. The combination of fast viewfinder refresh and quick, sticky subject tracking (both with and without subject recognition) is really impressive.
We shot some bike racing with the Z8 and lent the camera to a music photographer who usually shoots with Nikon D750 and Z6 II, and who came away impressed by how precise and reliable the focus was.
The camera isn’t utterly infallible, of course. The bright, flickering screens behind the singers at Taylor Swift’s show caused the AF some problems, and even adjusting the ‘Blocked shot response’ setting couldn’t convince the camera to stay locked on a cyclist as we panned to follow them behind a large tree, but these are the only instances of failures we encountered while capturing thousands of photos shot in a range of circumstances.
We’re also aware that, despite birds being one of the subject types the ‘Animal’ detection mode has been trained with, that the Z8 isn’t as strong a birding camera as you might reasonably expect. Nikon has said it is working to bring a dedicated bird detection mode to the camera, which we hope will improve the performance, but it’s a style of photography we weren’t in a position to explore during this review.
Along with the Z9, the Z8 is Nikon’s most capable video camera to date, offering a wide variety of shooting modes and options (too many for us to fully test, frankly). It’s worth looking closely at the camera’s capabilities and considering your preferred workflow: do you need the control over sharpening, white balance and lightness that N-Raw brings or does N-Log buy you enough flexibility?
Nikon has updated the LUTs it offers for N-Log processing, meaning you may find a Log workflow is less time-consuming. That said, you’ll still need to use N-Raw if you want to capture some 8K/60p footage for slow-mo moments. At present N-Raw is only supported by Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve editor but Adobe says it will be adding support to Premiere.
As you’d expect, the camera’s 8K footage is derived from 8K capture. Unlike Canon’s EOS R5, the Nikon shoots its 8K video in the 16:9 aspect ratio, rather than the wider 1.89:1. Even in 8K mode, readout is a very respectable 13.6ms
4K capture is very detailed with the detail level dropping in theand . However, it’s worth noting that the Z8 has the ‘ ‘ option that was added to the Z9 in firmware 2.0. This derives 4K/60p video from the full 8K capture, so give a performance , albeit with faster battery drain.
We’ve not shot any especially demanding projects on the Z8 but in all but its most demanding video modes it’s seemed happy enough shooting for over an hour. It’s not fan-cooled, so don’t expect pro video camera levels of stability if shooting in direct sunshine, but we’ve not experienced anything that gives us undue concern in this regard.
You shouldn’t be surprised to find that rolling shutter is very well controlled in the Z8. It’s not reading its sensor quite as fast as for stills (where it appears to read 12 rows at a time), but there’s likely to be a drop to 12-bit readout mode, so video is nothing like 1/12th the speed of stills mode. Instead, we measured a rolling shutter rate of 14.4ms for the majority of the camera’s modes, which is fast enough that you’ll never particularly need to worry about rolling shutter. A couple of the modes (H.265 4K/120p, subsampled 60p and ProResRAW 4.1K/60p) deliver a rate of 4.9ms, which is exactly 3x faster: suggesting it’s skipping 2 of every 3 lines to deliver these faster modes.
The Z8’s Stacked CMOS sensor allows up to 8K/60 capture and very well-controlled rolling shutter. The stabilization is good, rather than great, though.
The Z8’s image stabilization does a good job of stabilizing the camera if you try to hold it still, but can become a little more jittery and erratic if you try to walk with the camera, even with its more active ‘Sport’ mode engaged.
Additional, digital stabilization (which Nikon calls Electronic VR), is available in the H.265, H.264 and non-Raw ProRes modes at up to 4K/60p, adding a 1.25x crop. Applying digital stabilization smooths out some of the small, quick vibrations but doesn’t particularly improve the smoothness of larger movements.
Autofocus works the same way and, broadly speaking, similarly well to its behavior in stills mode though unfortunately there’s no 3D Tracking mode, instead there’s a ‘Subject-tracking AF’ mode. This is similar but differs in two key ways: you need to press the ‘OK’ button to dismiss it and when you do so it resets to the center of the screen.
Speed and tracking sensitivity for video AF can be set in the Custom Settings menu (options g6 and g7), depending on whether you’re trying to get the camera to maintain focus on a moving subject or whether you want to use AF to gently pull focus to whatever is under your AF point.
We found it to be pretty reliable. Certainly good enough for situations where you can re-shoot if it gets it wrong, but maybe not quite dependable enough for us to feel 100% confident capturing moments that will only happen once. But, particularly with subject type that the cameras can recognize, it’s a system we’d generally choose to use.
By Richard Butler
|What we like||What we don’t|
The Z8 is the best mirrorless camera Nikon yet made, and arguably the best camera it’s ever produced. It’s big, it’s heavy and it’s expensive, but it also includes everything that makes the Z9 one of the world’s best pro cameras and delivers it, undiluted, to a broader audience.
It’s true that with most modern cameras, the limitations are almost always located in the fleshy accessory immediately behind the viewfinder and that you should be able to get the shot with most cameras in most situations. But the best cameras still make things easier (and, who knows, perhaps more fun). And the Z8 makes absolutely clear that it’ll support you to the hilt in most things you ask of it.
Very few of us get to spend a lot of time shooting with pro-level cameras, and the Z8 puts the power of one of the simplest pro-level models on the market into a more affordable body. We’ve seen widespread discussion that the bird detection feature built into animal detection AF isn’t as effective for birding as you might hope: something Nikon says it will address in a firmware update in 2024. But for all the types of shooting we’ve tried, the Z8 has been utterly confidence-inspiring.
|The Z8’s rather large body leaves plenty of room for well-spaced controls.|
The viewfinder is a comparatively low resolution when viewed alongside its peers, but it also has some of the least lag we’ve seen, which you’ll appreciate the moment you try to shoot action with it. Obviously, it’d be nice to have both high resolution and low lag but, for now, that’s the trade-off you need to assess your preference around.
“The Nikon Z8 is probably the best camera I’ve ever used”
The Z8 is also an unexpectedly capable video camera. The high-speed stills shooting and autofocus performance would be enough to justify the use (and cost) of a Stacked CMOS sensor but Nikon has clearly spent its time making sure its capabilities are available to videographers too. 8K/60, for the rare occasions you need ultra-high res slow-mo footage, is only available in the proprietary N-Raw format but beyond that, you get a range of codecs, resolutions and frame rates that should give you options that work well, whatever your workflow. The provision of waveforms and decently reliable autofocus just make it that bit easier to work with. There’s no fan to provide the dependability required for commercial shoots and the camera’s bulk counts against it for gimbal work, but overall it’s a hugely able and usable videography tool.
|Whatever type of photography or videography you’re interested in, it’s hard to imagine the Z8 not performing well.
Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S @ 140mm | ISO 560 | 1/2000 sec | F4.8
On a personal level, the Nikon Z8 is probably the best camera I’ve ever used. It goes toe-to-toe with Canon’s excellent EOS R5 and, for me, comes out on top, thanks to its faster shooting with less rolling shutter, and its more advanced video feature set (waveform displays, oversampled 4K/60, 8K/60 option). The Z8 is big though, in a way that the likes of Sony’s a1s aren’t. Yes, modern full-frame lenses can often be vast and heavy, reducing the importance of small weight and size differences in camera bodies, but the Z8 is still appreciably larger and heavier than its peers.
Ultimately that’s the trade-off: the Nikon Z8 is a camera that excels at almost everything it does (with the promise of improvements in those areas it doesn’t), but it’s a commitment to carry all that capability with you, and it wouldn’t be our first choice for travel, for instance.
D850 owners are already used to the weight and are likely to be stunned by the performance: there’s no real improvement in image quality but there will be an improvement in keeper rate, thanks to stabilization and more advanced AF. If you can live with the bulk, it’s hard to imagine what a better camera would have to offer.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about what these numbers mean.
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Taylor Swift and Capitol Hill Block Party gallery
Review sample gallery
Pre-production sample gallery
All images shot using a pre-production Nikon Z8