The reports and rumors have been getting more prevalent as time has passed. Photographers have been clamoring for the Nikon Z8 for a while now, and for excellent reasons. When most of us saw what the Nikon Z9 could do and how they improved it with firmware updates, we were excited for a smaller, more affordable model. Now it seems like Nikon won’t be the butt of jokes anymore. At least, I hope that my excitement isn’t clouding my judgment and that Nikon doesn’t disappoint the photo community.
Firstly, know that this post is being penned with the intention of photographers first. We understand that some of you shoot videos. But there are a ton of us that don’t care at all about video. More importantly, many of us think video these days belongs in camcorders or something else. It’s 2023, and we no longer need to be shooting video the same way we did with the 5D Mk II. Having a Bolex-style camcorder or something similar to the old Sony Handycams and Canon HV cameras with interchangeable lenses would be much better.
So yes, we’re sure the Nikon Z8 will do all kinds of video recording. But it doesn’t matter to us, and it doesn’t matter to our audience.
It can go without saying that Nikon has done quite the landscaping job with the autofocus of their higher-end cameras. The Z7 II and Z6 II haven’t been touched in a long time in that department. And honestly, those two cameras should have probably never been released. But the Z8 is expected to have the autofocus of the Nikon Z9.
So how has it improved? Well, animal and human detection have become a whole lot better since the Z9’s release. It’s faster overall, better at tracking, etc. But it’s still not as simple to use as Sony’s.
I’m curious to see how it has improved with low-light autofocus and people of color. Pretty much every camera is hot garbage when it comes to focusing on this critical market segment. Traditionally, it’s always been because of how the Japanese tested. There are multiple online stories about it from accredited publications (besides us.) Here’s one from Vox that applies to film — but the lasting results have also been applied to autofocus over the years.
But Nikon could and should do something different instead of just meeting Canon and Sony at what they’ve got. Canon recently added better autofocus detection for horses, while Sony added insect detection. And it’s crazy to think that Japanese companies prioritize all these other subjects over other human beings.
A Top Control Dial Like the D800 Series
This is important! Sony only keeps the other top dial available for the a1 and a9 series of cameras. Canon has no dial but buttons instead. The Nikon D800 and other full-frame cameras have always had a top dial for drive control, white balance, metering, and more. This is really needed for working photographers.
Even if this part of the Nikon Z8 met precisely what the Nikon Z9 does, I’d be happy with it. There are so many controls that we need to have access to without moving our eyes from the viewfinder. This is especially the case with working with telephoto lenses. There are many times when I’ve needed to adjust a setting, move my eye from the viewfinder, and the bird I was trying to photograph was gone because of the extra steps.
A New Sensor and Better High ISO Results
It’s been a while now, and Nikon has been using a variant of that 40-ish Megapixel sensor for years. So if it’s in the Nikon Z8, I’m a bit torn. I think 40MP is a gold standard right now for high-level full-frame camera performance when balancing autofocus and resolution. But at this stage, Nikon has to have better high ISO output figured out. With all the AI algorithms in the world, I’d be shocked if they didn’t incorporate it into the camera’s processor.
Of course, that could mean that the battery life might be terrible.
Light Up Buttons on the Nikon Z8
On the Nikon Z9, only a few of the buttons light up. But the Nikon Z8 will hopefully fix this, as it makes much more sense for all the buttons to become illuminated. It’s sometimes so much nicer when you’re in the cold to just be able to hit a button to change a setting instead of using the LCD screen. But the issue is that we need all the buttons to light up. In dark venues, I often need to see if I’m getting the focus right, and hitting the playback button needs to be done in the dark. Sure, there’s the idea of muscle memory. That comes with time, though. And if the Nikon Z8 doesn’t give photographers the reassurance they need, they might just return the camera and return to their old camera system.
The Color Science
Before writing this article, I returned to my Nikon Z9 review and looked at my qualms with the camera. I remember that Reviews Editor Hillary Grigonis left Nikon because of the color science. She became delighted with Fujifilm when she came over to it. And this is something I remembered when working with RAW files.
Compared to Leica, Panasonic, Sony, and Canon, the color science of working with Nikon RAW files in mixed lighting conditions was nightmarish. Many photographers don’t want to spend eternity behind a computer in post-production. So the Nikon Z8 will hopefully have better colors.
More Features for Photographers
Lots of these cameras are often catering more and more to the video market without adding the ergonomics needed for better video. But how about, you know, not forgetting about photographers? Nikon has a wonderful multiple exposure mode in-camera but should deliver a RAW file to you instead of a JPEG. And what about something like live composite? Panasonic and OM System have it. There are also a lot of other techs that have been around but were never implemented.
What am I talking about? We wrote an article back in 2015 about all the Sony PlayMemories features. What about the Long Exposure mode, light trails, or touchless shutter? These things are essential for photographers as AI becomes more and more of a problem.
If you’re saying, “Oh, those are Sony features,” then you’re unaware of how the camera manufacturers work. They all more or less share the same features with one another and bash each other publicly. That said, I hope the Nikon Z8 doesn’t become a political problem between the manufacturers.
Will the Nikon Z8 Have Better Capture One Integration?
Sony has had this for a long time, and so has Fujifilm to a better degree. But Nikon has all these great creative presets, and I’d like to be able to apply them to the RAW files. Then I’d like to be able to edit them in Capture One. It would make the camera a better tool for photographers and reduce our workflows. It might even enable us not to do any work at all.