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What makes the Z 8 great?

Posted on Nov 13, 2023 by Samara Husbands

Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless camera is the ideal tool for filmmakers to expand their horizons

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Every so often a camera comes along that offers specification, form factor, size and price that is just perfect for the market. And this is certainly the case with the Nikon Z 8 full-frame mirrorless camera, which has been an instant sales success, winning launch of the year in our Gear of the Year Awards.

What makes it so special is that it shares lots of the technology from the award-winning flagship mirrorless Z 9, including the same high-resolution stacked sensor, huge choice of codecs and intelligent AF. But it does away with the Z 9’s vertical grip for a smaller form factor that’s better for cinematography, especially in rigs or gimbals where size and weight are crucial.

Weighing just 910g/2lb, the Z 8 body is around 30% smaller than the Z 9, yet still has the stunning 45.7-megapixel sensor with an 8.3K native video resolution. It’s the same stacked CMOS sensor and Expeed 7 processor as the Z 9. Video can be recorded in-camera: 12-bit Raw up to 8.3K/60p or 4.1K at 120p. It also records 10-bit HLG video for HDR. 

In-camera Full HD proxy files are created when shooting internal 8.3K Raw or 4.1K ProRes Raw HQ. The Z 8 can also record 10-bit ProRes 422 HQ internally. 

The choice of ProRes, H.265 4:2:2 10-bit, ProRes Raw and NRAW is unique to Nikon and, in ProRes, there is the option of SDR or N-Log gamma, where the base ISO is 800. The camera can record every resolution and frame rate in 10-bit 4:2:2. Simply put, this is the best Nikon camera for hybrid shooters who film a lot, yet want blackout-free, high-quality stills.

The body still has pro-grade weather sealing, and is the first Nikon mirrorless to feature two USB-C ports, which makes it possible to transfer files while charging. 

The processor is so powerful that the Z 8 has the fastest scanning speed of any comparable camera, which combines with the electronic shutter to virtually eliminate rolling shutter distortion. The sensor, which offers a native ISO range of 64-25,600, expandable to 32-102,400, combines with the fast processor to give lightning-fast focus, silky smooth video and high burst speeds with uninterrupted viewing thanks to a real-time, blackout-free viewfinder. There’s also a four-axis tilting touchscreen monitor. 

A stacked sensor allows phase detection AF to offer tracking for people, dogs, cats, birds, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trains and planes. Subject detection and AF work down to -9 EV for video and stills. And for stills, burst speeds go up to 120fps with full AF/AE and no viewfinder blackout. 

Best of all, if a deep grip with more vertical controls is needed, as well as more batteries for extended life, there is an optional vertical battery grip in Nikon’s Power Battery Grip MB-N12. 

This means the Z 8 and grip is still smaller than the Z 9, but offers similar ergonomics. You can still run it without a grip and it’s far better for filmmaking on gimbals and sliders.

While Nikon has a massive range of native Z mount AF Nikkor glass, legacy F mount Nikkors can be used with adapters and retain autofocus. This is an ideal way to step into the Z mount system without compromise, ideal for imaging professionals who demand the best. 

Originally published in the November/December 2023 issue of Pro Moviemaker.

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