Nikon has announced the Z8 full frame mirrorless camera, a product that sits in between the older Z7 II, and the flagship Z9 from which it inherits many things!
In this comparison preview, I’ll highlight the most important differences you need to know. But first, here is an extensive list of all the features the two Nikon cameras have in common:
- 45.7MP full frame BSI stacked sensor
- ISO 64 – 25,600 (32 – 102,400 extended)
- Expeed 7 image processor
- No mechanical shutter (electronic shutter only, with blackout-free live view)
- Hybrid AF system with 493 points, 120 AF calculations/s, 3D Tracking and advanced subject detection
- -9EV AF sensitivity in low light (measured at f/1.2 with the starlight view mode, firmware 3.0 required for the Z9)
- Drive speed up to 20fps with RAW, 120fps with JPG (11MP), Pre-Release Capture option available
- 8K 60p, 4K 120p, N-Log, HLG (all internal)
- 12-bit RAW video and Prores HQ 10-bit 4:2:2 (internal)
- 5-axis stabilisation (up to 6 stops with Synchro VR and compatible lenses)
- 0.5-in OLED EVF with 3.69M dots, 120fps, 0.8x magnification, 23mm eyepoint
- 3.2” 4-axis touchscreen LCD with 2.1M dots
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1. Dimensions and Controls
The first and most obvious difference is the size: the Z9 is larger and heavier than the Z8. Nikon states that the 8 model is approximately 30% smaller.
- Z8: 144 x 118.5 x 83 mm, 910g
- Z9: 149 x 149.5 x 90.5 mm, 1340g
Both cameras are fully weather-sealed. Nikon says the Z8 exceeds the build quality of the D850, although I suspect the Z9 remains superior in this department. That said, the Z8 looks very robust, thanks to the use of magnesium alloy and a new pro grade carbon fiber composite.
The larger size of the Z9 allows for more physical controls: there is one extra function button on the front, three buttons on the rear, and the drive mode dial at the top. Some of these buttons are back-illuminated, a detail you will also appreciate on the Z8.
Also note that both cameras have the small LCD on top that displays useful shooting information.
2. USB Ports
The Z8 has two USB ports, both Type C: one is dedicated to power delivery (to use with a powerbank for example), whereas the other is with compatible accessories. This is a clever idea: you can extend the camera’s battery life while still having another USB port left for tools such as the MC-N10 Remote Grip for example.
Both cameras have a full sized HDMI port, as well as a flash sync port, audio input and output (3.5mm jack).
The Z9 also has a LAN (Ethernet port). With the Z8, you can use a USB C to Ethernet adapter for the same purpose.
3. Memory Cards
The Z9 uses two CFexpress Type B cards, whereas the Z8 has one slot for CFexpress and one for SD UHS-II.
CFexpress cards have a faster writing and reading speed. They are required when recording high quality video (12-bit RAW, Prores) and help the camera clear the buffer more quickly.
The Z8 uses the smaller EN-EL15c battery (the same as the Z6 and Z7 cameras), so the battery count per charge is lower, as expected: about 340 shots with the EVF, or 370 with the LCD monitor (Energy saving mode On).
Note that the older EL15a and EL15b can also be used on the Z8, but they are not compatible with power delivery via the USB port.
The Z9 battery is much bigger (EN-EL18d), allowing the camera to achieve 740 and 770 shots respectively.
As always, please note these are official CIPA measurements, you can achieve more than that in real life. For example, after 3400+ images of birds in flight and various 8K and 4K short clips, I still had 59% left on the Z9.
Note that the Z9 has a built-in vertical grip, whereas for the Z8 there is an optional battery grip that can be purchased separately, the MB-N12.
5. Continous Video Recording
The Z8 can record 4K 60p video without interruption for approximately two hours, and 8K 30p for 90 minutes, according to Nikon’s own testing at 25˚C.
The Z9 has no limits in 4K, and can do two hours in 8K. This is not surprising really, as the larger body allows for better heat dissipation. Still, the Z8 looks promising on this front.
Of course, we should wait for more real world reviews to assess how good the Z8 at managing internal heat.
Another thing to consider is that the data above doesn’t take into account the battery capability: the smaller unit of the Z8 can only last for 85 minutes, whereas the Z9’s is rated at 170 minutes for video.
6. HEIF format
The Z8 can save photos in the 10-bit HEIF format, in addition to 14-bit RAW and 8-bit JPG.
HEIF allows for more tonal gradation on compatible HDR device, but it is not a very popular format yet, and can present some compatibility issues with photo editors.
The Z9 doesn’t have the HEIF option, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets implemented later on via firmware.
7. Airplane Subject Detection AF
The Z8 and Z9 can recognise humans, animals (including birds) and vehicles (trains, cars and motorbikes). They can also detect planes but on the Z8, this has become a separate setting rather than being included in the Vehicle category.
Apparently, according to Nikon, having a separate setting for aircraft improves focus accuracy. I expect this update will be given to the Z9 via a firmware update.
8. Portrait features
Nikon has added two new features for portrait photographers on the Z8.
The first is called Portrait Impression Balance, and allows you to have more precise control over the hues and brightness of skin tones.
The second is Skin Softening and, as the name suggests, it makes the skin of a person softer and smoother, whithout affecting the hair or eyes. It can work for up to three people in a single photograph. I’m assuming this is valid for JPG files, and for video.
Nikon also said it has improved auto white balance for human subjects. Again, I expect all these new features to be implemented on the Z9 at some point.
9. Location data
The Z9 has built-in GPS. Once enabled in the menu, you can record location information for every photo taken, and visualise that information later in the map section of various software such as Lightroom.
The Z8 doesn’t have built-in GPS. The alternative solution is to use bluetooth and the Snapbridge app on your mobile device.
The Z8 is less expensive, starting at the retail price of $4000, £4000 or €4600.
The Z9 can be found for $5500, £5300 or €6000.
The battery grip for the Z8 costs $350 / £350 / €400.
Nikon Z9 Review for Wildlife and Bird Photography
I rarely get carried away with a new camera announcement, especially without first hand experience, but I have to say I really like what I’ve seen so far with the Z8. I’m confident writing this because I’ve already tested the Z9, and the Z8 shares the same sensor, processor, AF capabilities, drive speed and even the same video specs! This is unusual for Nikon. They used to differentiate more between the flagship model and the one that sat below. But in this case, the Z8 is truly a baby Z9.
Of course, there are a few compromise like the smaller battery, but otherwise I think many photographers will be happy to spend less and have a smaller body without sacrificing anything concerning image quality and performance.
I imagine some of the new features, software wise, introduced on the Z8 will make their way onto the Z9. Nikon has done a very good job with firmware updates lately, and I hope the Z8 will get the same treatment in the future. In fact, they have already confirmed new features will be added such as the Auto Capture function and the possibility to lower the base ISO down to 200 when shooting video with N-Log.
Check price of the Nikon Z8 on
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