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Nikon Z8 Field Report by Marsel van Oosten


Final month, I spent two weeks on the frozen sea ice alongside the coast of Baffin Island, Canada, trying to find feminine polar bears who had simply emerged from their dens with their new child cubs. Figuring out that encounters would doubtless not be nearer than 100 meters, I made a decision the brand new Nikkor Z 600/4.0 TC VR S could be the right lens for this mission. Fortunately, Nikon was in a position to present me with one, and so they gave me the brand new Nikkor Z 400/4.5 VR S lens to check out – the smallest and lightest 400mm prime in its class.

After I arrived at Nikon HQ to gather the lenses, a shock awaited: a prototype of the brand new Nikon Z8 to check within the excessive Arctic. For sure, I used to be excited to strive it out. This has been an eagerly-awaited addition to the Nikon mirrorless lineup, and all I knew had been the numerous on-line rumors. (None as outrageous as my April Fools Z9 Field Report spoof, however nonetheless simply rumors.)

This discipline report is about my preliminary impressions of the Z8 and my experiences within the discipline. I will even write about my experiences with the 600mm and the 400mm on my web site, however I’ll do this in a separate article.

Baffin Island. X marks the spot the place I spent two weeks on the ocean ice.

Baffin Island is the world’s fifth-largest island and a part of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. It’s bigger than all however two US states, however the inhabitants density is simply 0.03/km2. Not surprisingly, the residing circumstances on Baffin are difficult, to say the least.

Canada is house to over 60% of the world’s polar bears, and Baffin might be thought of polar bear central. It consists of extra subpopulations than another place on Earth. Of the 19 subpopulations, 5 of them are inside Baffin Island.

April is the time that polar bear mums and their new child cubs emerge from their dens throughout a interval of simply 4 weeks. That creates a really small window of alternative to seek out and {photograph} them. However this journey was not solely about discovering polar bears with cubs. The spectacular mountainous panorama of Baffin is plagued by big icebergs frozen within the sea ice, and it makes for nice panorama images.

NIKON Z8 + NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S @ 165mm, ISO 64, 1/800, f/8.0 © Marsel van Oosten

First Impressions

Although the idea behind the Z8 is completely different from the Z7 and the Z9, I’ll evaluate the three as a result of it will likely be simpler to grasp what the Z8 is all about.

My first impression of the Z8 was that it felt like a extra compact and light-weight model of my D850. I’ve all the time praised Nikon’s ergonomics; the Z8 doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The grip feels nice in my hand. I like my Z7, however I very a lot favor the beefier grip on the Z8.

1684275760 501 Nikon Z8 Field Report by Marsel van Oosten
The brand new Nikon Z8 appears to be like like a Nikon Z8.

On the Z7, with my index finger on the shutter button, I can barely match three fingers across the grip. On the Z8, there is a little more area for these three fingers, which makes the camera really feel extra balanced in my hand. Nothing beats the Z9 by way of stability and grip, however contemplating the Z8’s far more compact dimension, it feels actually good. Whereas capturing in extraordinarily chilly circumstances, I noticed this additional grip makes an enormous distinction when dealing with your camera with gloves. The Z7 was tougher to seize and function with gloves.

Left: Nikon Z9. Proper: Nikon Z8. © Marsel van Oosten

On the Outdoors

However by no means thoughts the entrance of the camera; the again is far more necessary. I used to be blissful to see that every little thing regarded very acquainted there. There’s little distinction with the Z7, simply more room between the varied buttons. That mentioned, two of the buttons have completely different capabilities now. The picture overview button on the Z7 has moved to the alternative aspect on the Z8 – from the higher left to the decrease proper, the identical as on the Z9. The button within the higher left nook is now known as Fn3 (identical spot as Fn4 on a Z9). This makes a lot extra sense to me.

1684275762 178 Nikon Z8 Field Report by Marsel van Oosten
Identical button placement because the Z9, simply fewer of them.

In comparison with the Z9, button placement is an identical. The Z9 is a a lot bigger camera, so it has an additional row of buttons beneath the LCD display and an additional wheel, joystick, and AF-ON button for utilizing the vertical grip.

Most of the buttons on the Z8 are customizable, which I discover very helpful. I’ve, as an illustration, moved the picture overview button to Fn1 on the entrance, the place I can entry it even simpler and sooner with out transferring my thumb away from the AF-ON button.

Fortunately, the Z8 has the identical eyepiece because the Z9, not the one from the Z7 – I’ve ripped just a few of these making an attempt to stuff the Z7 in my camera bag. The viewfinder housing appears a bit taller than the one on the Z9, however that could be an optical phantasm.

The entry door to the playing cards is a bit completely different. I’ve by no means appreciated the one on the Z9, as I discover it troublesome to slip the recessed button down after which towards you. Taking pictures in sizzling circumstances with sweaty palms makes this much more difficult. I discover the Z8 door a lot simpler to open.

As soon as opened, there may be area for 2 playing cards: one SD (UHS-II) and one CFExpress sort B. I might have cherished two CF slots, however alas.

The Z8 has a dual-axis articulating display like its greater brother, which I discover particularly helpful when capturing vertically from floor degree.

left: Nikon Z9. Proper: Nikon Z8. Identical look & really feel, however smaller. © Marsel van Oosten

The scale distinction between the Z8 and the Z9 is critical. The Z8 is quite a bit smaller and lighter, largely due to the built-in grip of the Z9. For wildlife images and enormous telephoto lenses, I like my Z9. It’s tremendous well-balanced, and the built-in grip is a necessity. Nonetheless, when utilizing medium telephoto lenses, and particularly wide-angle lenses, it’s a lot nicer to make use of a smaller physique. The Z8 is simpler to handhold for a very long time, takes up much less area in my camera bag, and has much less weight to lug round.

I all the time journey with three our bodies with lenses hooked up. Till now, I used two Nikon Z9s and a Z7. I’ll now exchange the Z7 with the Z8. Although the Z8 is bigger than the Z7, I can nonetheless match my normal wildlife equipment in my Gura Gear Kiboko camera bag. In different phrases, one Z9 with the Nikkor Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S on one aspect, one Z9 with the Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S, and now the Z8 with the Z 24-70mm f/4.0 S on the opposite.

The bag’s design provides me tremendous quick access to the gear, and having the our bodies and lenses assembled saves me treasured time and dirt bunnies. Whereas the sensor protect works effectively on the Z8 and Z9, mud amassed will ultimately find yourself on the sensor.

From left to proper: Nikon Z7, Nikon Z8, Nikon Z9. © Marsel van Oosten

The Battery Grip

Nikon has designed an non-obligatory battery grip for the Z8: the MB-N12. This implies you possibly can maintain the physique compact and light-weight or flip it into an nearly Z9. This flexibility is nice as a result of I’ll use the Z8 as my main panorama images camera or my third wildlife images camera with an hooked up Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4.0. I don’t want the grip for panorama images to get pleasure from a extra compact and light-weight camera.

The MB-N12 battery grip for the Nikon Z8. ©Marsel van Oosten

The grip design differs significantly from all the opposite Nikon grips I’ve used. As a substitute of getting a small electrical connector, it now has a big battery-sized protrusion protruding from the highest. To make use of the grip, you have to first take the EN-EL15c battery out of the Z8 and take away the door. You’ll be able to retailer the door in a devoted opening within the grip. You then insert the battery-shaped half into the battery chamber and use the screw to attach the grip to the physique.

I’m not too enthusiastic about this design for a few causes. I hoped the grip could be just like the one for the D850. On that physique, you possibly can maintain the EN-EL15 battery within the camera while you add the grip. That grip can maintain a robust EN-EL18 battery, which, together with the EN-EL15, offers a ton of battery energy. I’ve managed to shoot 12-hour night time time-lapses with my D850 like that.

In the meantime, the MB-N12 solely holds two EN-EL15c batteries, which give round 1.8x longer battery life than the one in-camera battery. The grip contains a USB-C port for connecting to an exterior energy supply when you want extra. A cool characteristic is that one of many batteries might be hot-swapped for on-the-fly battery switching. Additionally, batteries might be charged contained in the grip even when not hooked up to the camera.

left: Nikon Z9. Proper: Nikon Z8 with battery grip. © Marsel van Oosten

Including the grip to the Z8 considerably will increase the scale of the camera. I might solely barely shut the zipper of my camera bag once I added the grip to my Z8 with a lens hooked up. Additionally, the ergonomics are fairly completely different in comparison with the Z9’s vertical grip. On the Z9, your thumb is comparatively near all 4 buttons subsequent to the multi-selector. Utilizing the MB-N12 takes some finger gymnastics to function these buttons whereas capturing verticals.

At some stage, my MB-N12 stopped working. I figured it was both as a result of it was a prototype or too chilly, so I eliminated it. The following day, I charged the batteries and tried once more. That’s once I received an error message on the display warning me that I ought to solely use authentic Nikon batteries. I’ve quite a lot of third-party EN-EL15 clones as a result of they’re cheaper, and that is the primary time I’ve had this occur. After I swapped them for the actual deal, the grip labored once more. Unsure if that is merely a prototype glitch or if the ultimate grip will solely take the unique batteries, however I needed to say it regardless.

The Z8 has the identical dust- and drip-resistance efficiency because the D850. © Marsel van Oosten

Within the Field

The 2 largest challenges on this journey had been discovering the polar bears and coping with the tough circumstances. Life within the excessive Arctic might be brutal for people and camera gear, so I knew it could not be a stroll within the park. Dressing for the chilly is pretty easy, but it surely’s extremely necessary to do it proper.

For photographers, the palms are all the time the best problem. It’s straightforward to maintain your palms heat, however to {photograph}, you have to take off your tremendous heat mittens and function the camera with liner gloves. Holding a camera at -30C is like holding a piece of ice. Your palms get very chilly in a short time, particularly your shutter finger. I used particular photographic mittens by The Warmth Firm that helped, and I added felt tricks to the shutter buttons on the camera and the grip. This made them hotter to the contact, and simpler to seek out whereas sporting gloves.

I additionally put LensCoat neoprene covers on all my lenses for added consolation and security. At -30C, you don’t need any naked pores and skin to the touch the metallic lens.

Neoprene covers will not be for camouflage however for maintaining my palms and fingers hotter. © Marsel van Oosten

Total, all of the camera gear carried out very well within the chilly. We spent, on common, 9 hours exterior every day, and I by no means had any points. The Z8 carried out flawlessly apart from one little factor. Altering playing cards requires you to push the cardboard in, in order that the inner spring pushes it out once more. On the coldest days, I observed the playing cards got here out very slowly or solely a bit. I generally had to make use of my nails to tug them out. Once more, I don’t know if that is merely a prototype problem.

Battery Life

On this journey, I used two Z9s and the Z8. The EN-EL18d battery within the Z9 is great in excessive chilly. A totally charged EN-EL18d lasted me a full day. The EN-EL15c is far more affected by the chilly – not solely whereas capturing but in addition when it was simply sitting within the camera inside my bag. This was an additional cause to make use of the grip and have two batteries as a substitute of 1.

My Gura Gear Kiboko bag stayed exterior within the freezing chilly for 2 weeks. © Marsel van Oosten

I ought to add that in all the journey, I all the time saved my camera bag exterior. Inside our tent, it received too heat or too humid, and I didn’t need to danger inflicting any condensation inside my gear. I solely took the playing cards and batteries inside. The Z8 minimal working temperature is rated -10C, however it might clearly deal with much more chilly than that. Word that the Sony ⍺7RV and the Canon R5 minimal working temperature are rated at 0C.

On the Inside

The Z8 menu is similar because the Z9, so no surprises there. That mentioned, there are some variations between the 2 cameras. Listed below are some issues the Z8 presents that the Z9 doesn’t:

  • The power to shoot 10-bit HEIF photos
  • A portrait impression stability and a pores and skin softening settings
  • Two USB C terminals, one among which is devoted to communication (however no LAN or Synchro terminal)
  • Vertical playback in vertical orientation
From left to proper: Nikon Z7, Nikon Z8, Nikon Z9. © Marsel van Oosten

And listed below are some issues that Z9 has that the Z8 doesn’t:

  • Steady video recording time of 125 min. in in 8K/30p, vs 90 min. for the Z8
  • Built-in vertical grip and longer battery life attributable to bigger battery
  • Constructed-in GPS (however the Z8 can do GPS by your cellphone)
  • CFExpress card for second slot, relatively than SD

When you’re like me, you’ll have a look at these variations and say: That’s it? Yep, that’s it. I could also be unaware of 1 or two others, however I doubt they are going to be vital. Primarily based on the specs alone, the Z8 is, due to this fact, actually a mini Z9. Smaller, lighter, cheaper, however simply as highly effective.

That sounds too good to be true, so I puzzled how the Z8 would carry out within the discipline.

Dealing with

I actually loved the Z8 for handheld photographs with the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S and the Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lenses. These lenses are nearly the identical dimension as each other and, coupled with the Z8, made for a really balanced setup. Though our main focus was polar bears, we spent appreciable time capturing distant landscapes and icebergs. For the picture beneath, I requested our information Cyle to climb the iceberg so as to add a way of scale and journey. Are you able to see him?

12-image panorama. NIKON Z8 + NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S @ 165mm, ISO 64, 1/500, f/8.0 © Marsel van Oosten

I needed to remain fairly a distance away to get a extra pleasing perspective, and the 70-200mm was good for that. As a substitute of taking a single horizontal body, I made a decision to zoom in to 165mm and shoot 12 vertical photos to create this panorama.

On this journey, I noticed quite a lot of bears. As we tried to remain 100m away from any bear, I shot most bear photos with my Z9 and Z 600/4.0 TC VR S lens. Nonetheless, now and again, a bear determined to verify us out or stroll proper by us – too shut for the 600mm. For these dynamic moments, I all the time had the Z8 with the tremendous light-weight 400mm f/4.5 prime near me. It was straightforward to select up with one hand, and simple to handhold whereas following the motion. The picture beneath is from a type of moments.

NIKON Z8 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 500, 1/2500, f/9.0, handheld. © Marsel van Oosten


The Z8 has the identical twin coating sensor because the Z9: 45.7 MP (stacked CMOS), protected with a sensor protect. The ISO sensitivity vary can be an identical: 64-25,600, expandable on each extremes. The dynamic vary of the Z8 could be very spectacular. In high-contrast conditions, like capturing an approaching skidoo within the snow, I might simply meter for the highlights and ensure they don’t blow out, whereas ignoring the blacks – understanding that I can very simply get better these darkish areas with out introducing any noise.

Many cameras at this time are near ISO invariant, which signifies that growing ISO in-camera offers an identical degree of picture high quality as brightening the photograph in post-processing. The Nikon Z8 and Z9 will not be absolutely ISO-invariant cameras. As a substitute, they’ve twin achieve sensors that swap at ISO 500.

In different phrases, every little thing from ISO 64 by 400 may very well be precisely simulated on the Nikon Z8 by brightening ISO 64, and every little thing from ISO 500 onward may very well be precisely simulated by brightening ISO 500. If you wish to maintain issues easy, keep away from overexposure within the highlights, even when it means taking a darker photograph and brightening it later (particularly above ISO 500).

I’ve not particularly examined the excessive ISO efficiency of the Z8, however I’ve shot very usable photos with my Z9 at ISO 25,600, so the Z8 will probably be no completely different. With an f/1.2 lens, the Z8 has an AF detection vary from -7 EV to 19 EV, dropping to -9 EV utilizing the Starlight View setting.

NIKON Z8 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 500, 1/2000, f/7.1 © Marsel van Oosten

Autofocus Efficiency

On the danger of getting repetitive, the Z8 has the identical image-processing engine and autofocus capabilities because the Z9. The one distinction I noticed was the Devoted Airplane topic detection setting, no matter that’s. I don’t shoot airplanes, however I’m positive the aircraft spotters will probably be excited.

Of the wide selection of AF modes to select from, I sometimes use Pinpoint for panorama images and really static wildlife, Dynamic Space S for issues which might be transferring predictably, and 3D-tracking for severe motion and/or once I need to maintain my topic in a really particular spot in my body.

The 3D-tracking labored completely on the skidoos, however polar bears being fairly mild towards a brilliant background was generally difficult in sunny or closely backlit circumstances. If the one AF mode doesn’t give me the outcomes I’m after, I rapidly swap to a different by urgent a custom-made button and rotating a dial. It takes lower than a second. With so many AF modes, I like to recommend you strive all of them in varied circumstances to study to select the proper one when it issues most.

Baffin Island, Canada
NIKON Z8 + NIKKOR Z 600mm f/4 TC VR S @ 600mm, ISO 500, 1/2500, f/9.0, handheld © Marsel van Oosten

The brand new Nikkor Z 600mm f/4.0 TC VR S with a built-in teleconverter is an incredible lens. Weighing solely 3260 g (7 lb 3 oz), it’s nearly 600 g lighter than the F-mount model and even lighter than the AF-S VR 180-400mm f/4.0 TC. Coupled with the Z8, that makes it not-completely-insane to shoot handheld.

The picture above was a fleeting second – a feminine polar bear and her two spring cubs had been strolling up a mountain slope and briefly stopped to verify us out. Taking a look at their physique language, we determined to remain at a good distance, particularly contemplating the smallest cub regarded underweight. I received this shot by capturing the Z8 with the 600mm handheld, as there was no time to arrange my tripod. Autofocus was swift and correct.

The one occasions I struggled to focus was when there have been quite a lot of ice crystals within the air. The Z8 and the Z9 struggled to autofocus in these circumstances, particularly with the lengthy telephoto lenses. This turned out to be non-camera particular – even my iPhone was unable to focus. It’s similar to making an attempt to autofocus in heavy snow or rain.

I nearly forgot to say the Pre-Launch Burst perform. When chosen, the Z8 maintains a picture buffer earlier than pushing the shutter launch. It information the buffer when the shutter button is pressed. That is extraordinarily helpful when ready for a chicken to take off or anything that requires good timing, though the draw back is that it’s JPEG-only.

4-image panorama. NIKON Z8 + NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S @ 70mm, ISO 64, 1/250, f/11.0, handheld. © Marsel van Oosten

Picture High quality

The picture high quality of the Nikon Z8 is great. I’ve already been capturing with two Z9s for over a year now, and the photographs from the Z8 are an identical. This is without doubt one of the the explanation why I’ll exchange my Z7 with the Z8.

My Z9s are my main (wildlife) our bodies, and I all the time journey with a 3rd physique as a result of I favor to not change lenses within the discipline – for mud and for velocity causes. The Z7 is a a lot slower camera, however the photos even have a special look to them, and I clearly favor to have similar-looking photos from the identical scene.


You’ll hear individuals name the Z8 a hybrid camera as a result of it’s a photographic powerhouse and a really severe video camera, able to inner 8K uncooked video. Being a photographer, I didn’t shoot a lot video. Each time one thing cool occurred, I needed to take pictures, not movies. I did, nonetheless, shoot varied clips at varied settings, and the outcomes look actually good. The high-quality codecs require shade grading in video modifying software program which I’ve not finished but, however I shot a brief take a look at clip to see how the sensor would decide up all of the refined colours and hues after sundown.


My conclusion is maybe a predictable one: The Nikon Z8 is a mini Z9. It’s just about the identical because the Nikon flagship camera, solely smaller, lighter, and cheaper. Surprisingly, the most important variations are on the surface. On the within, the place it issues most, issues are primarily the identical. Even the utmost body price is strictly the identical.

When you needed a Z9 however couldn’t afford one or thought it was too large, the Z8 would be the good various. It’s well-balanced, as highly effective as its greater brother, but in a smaller package deal. My solely negatives are the design and batteries of the non-obligatory grip, and the truth that there is no such thing as a area for 2 CFexpress playing cards. Aside from that, it’s close to good. The ready checklist goes to be very lengthy.

The creator with the Nikon Z8 and Nikkor Z 400/4.5 VR S. ©Daniella Sibbing

In regards to the Writer

Marsel van Oosten is knowledgeable nature photographer and dying metallic connoisseur from The Netherlands. He’s the world’s solely photographer to have received the Grand Slam: the grand titles Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Worldwide Nature Photographer of the Year, and Journey Photographer of the Year. His newest ebook is named MOTHER – A Tribute to Mom Earth.

Marsel at the moment lives in South Africa with producer Daniella Sibbing. Collectively they run specialised nature images excursions for small teams of all expertise ranges to worldwide locations. An summary of Marsel’s work might be discovered on his website.

#Nikon #Field #Report #Marsel #van #Oosten

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