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Nikon Z8: “true successor to the Nikon D850”?

re: Nikon Z8 and Nikon Z7 II

Nikon Z8

Nearly five years after the Nikon Z7, the about $3998 Nikon Z8 brings the latest functionality and Nikon’s best-in-the-business haptics to current standards.

Nikon calls the Z8 the “true successor to the Nikon D850”, an odd claim supported by a crude size/weight/haptics matchup comparison.

Deemed the true successor to the D850 DSLR and the smaller follow-up to the flagship Z9, the Z8 hits a sweet spot in terms of size and performance. It is 30% smaller than the Z9 and 15% smaller than the D850.

The marketing analogy is crude and superficial, given the wildly differing feature sets, but it does make it clear that the the D850 is the end of an era. On one point it hits too closely to reality however: no change in sensor resolution after five years!

Worse, the best image quality for most purposes remains the Nikon D850, at least according to DXOMark. Moreoever the D850 is blissfully free of PDAF pixels, which invariably show up in a nasty way when an image is pushed hard in 'post'. That’s why a Nikon D850 monochrome can look great with no streaks. How does inferior image quality make sense in a “successor” camera?

NO... the Z8 is not a successor to the D850, but a much more expensive jack-of-all-trades, geared to high-speed shooting and 8K video, NOT peak image quality. But if Nikon says it is the successor to the D850, then be happy with it, cause that’s all your getting.

Specifications include:

  • 45.4MP (8256 x 5504) FX-Format Stacked CMOS Sensor, 35.9 x 23.9 mm
  • Lightweight Design, 30% Smaller than Z9
  • 8.3K 60p N-RAW, 4.1K 60p ProRes RAW
  • 8K30p and 4K120p Video, 10-Bit Internal
  • Up to 20 fps Raw, 30 fps JPEG Shooting
  • 493-Point AF, AI-Based Subject Detection
  • Blackout-Free Real Live Viewfinder
  • 3.2" 4-Axis Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • CFExpress Type B and SD Memory Card Slots
  • 5 GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

The feature set is solid and excellent, but only a few things distinguish it from its primary competitor, the Sony A7R V. Ignoring video features, I would call out the following as most significant:

  • Carbon fiber + magnesium alloy construction makes for lightweight yet robust body.
  • Improved IBIS with some Z lenses.
  • Sensor shield to keep dust off the sensor as well as special anti-dust sensor coatings.
  • Backlit buttons, a boon for night shooting.
  • Blackout-free viewfinder.
  • Electronic shutter (only).

Unexpected disappointments after waiting five (!) years:

  • Same 45-megapixel resolution sensor as Nikon Z7. While 60MP is not much more than 45MP in practice, it is a bit disappointing if only for reasons of digital artificats such as moiré and color aliasing.
  • The blackout-free (nice!) EVF only 3.69MP vs 9.44MP for Sony A7R V.
  • Still no pixel shift.
  • Still no frame averaging (nor for Sony).
  • Simple built-in wireless remote capability like Sony does not exist; requires dongle attached to camera, which is unacceptable in cost, bulk, etc.

Lens lineup

The native-mount lens line is now quite robust, and should not be an issue for the vast majority of photographers. Native-mount lenses now includes most of the best Cosina Voigtlander APO lenses, which are reference-grade performers.

And Zeiss Milvus and Zeiss Otus ZF.2 can be used like any Nikkor F-mount lenses using the Nikon FTZ lens adapter. Sony FE lenses can also be attached using various electronic lens adapters. Except that Nikon has discontinued the only good solution for doing so.

Nikon Z system...Voigtlander for Nikon Z...

Nikon Z8

Glenn K writes:

Thankfully, the Nikon Z7 II still works with Nikons ML-L7 Bluetooth remote (like Sony's). I have the two piece systems Nikon uses on their "pro" systems. I understand the need for multiple channel communication in the studio... but it sucks in the field.

The Z7 II still has about 2/3-1 stop of better PDR than the Z8/Z9 according to PhotonsToPhotos, so they are of no interest to me at all (sans for their multi-tilt LCD screens).

DIGLLOYD: the Z8 has a crappy remote control setup for field use costing nearly $300 just to take a picture wirelessly—great for pro use on fixed setups with multiple cameras or very specialized uses... otherwise a nuisance and hassle. Compare that to the Sony RMT-P1BT Wireless Remote Commander with no shitty dongles to attach to the camera.

As for dynamic range, the D850 is still king in Nikon world and Z7 II next best. The Sony A7R V is even better, and just keeps looking better and better in context. “Me too” cameras that offer no advantage really do not have a place in this market unless some specific feature is worth it.

Still, I’ll give the Z8 a workout and see how it goes—the Z8 looks to be a fantastic all-around camera with many positive aspects especially if you also do video or sports.


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