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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 seemingly not be nearer than 100 meters, I made a decision the brand new Nikkor Z 600/4.0 TC VR S can be the right lens for this undertaking. 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. Evidently, 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 area report is about my preliminary impressions of the Z8 and my experiences within the area. I may also 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 barely 0.03/km2. Not surprisingly, the dwelling 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 some other 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

Despite the fact that the idea behind the Z8 is completely different from the Z7 and the Z9, I’ll evaluate the three as a result of it is going to 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 really like my Z7, however I very a lot want the beefier grip on the Z8.

1684274868 657 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 way more compact dimension, it feels actually good. Whereas capturing in extraordinarily chilly circumstances, I spotted 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 Exterior

However by no means thoughts the entrance of the camera; the again is far more vital. I used to be pleased to see that the whole lot regarded very acquainted there. There may be little distinction with the Z7, simply more room between the assorted buttons. That stated, two of the buttons have completely different capabilities now. The picture evaluation button on the Z7 has moved to the other facet 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 referred to as Fn3 (similar spot as Fn4 on a Z9). This makes a lot extra sense to me.

1684274869 729 Nikon Z8 Field Report by Marsel van Oosten
Similar button placement because the Z9, simply fewer of them.

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

Lots of the buttons on the Z8 are customizable, which I discover very helpful. I’ve, for example, moved the picture evaluation button to Fn1 on the entrance, the place I can entry it even simpler and sooner with out shifting 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 a couple of of these attempting to stuff the Z7 in my camera bag. The viewfinder housing appears a bit taller than the one on the Z9, however that may be an optical phantasm.

The entry door to the playing cards is a bit completely different. I’ve by no means favored the one on the Z9, as I discover it troublesome to slip the recessed button down after which towards you. Capturing in scorching circumstances with sweaty fingers 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 larger brother, which I discover particularly helpful when capturing vertically from floor degree.

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

The scale distinction between the Z8 and the Z9 is critical. The Z8 is lots smaller and lighter, principally 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 connected. Till now, I used two Nikon Z9s and a Z7. I’ll now change the Z7 with the Z8. Despite the fact that the Z8 is bigger than the Z7, I can nonetheless match my customary 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 facet, 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 offers me tremendous quick access to the gear, and having the our bodies and lenses assembled saves me valuable time and dirt bunnies. Whereas the sensor protect works effectively on the Z8 and Z9, mud collected 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-compulsory battery grip for the Z8: the MB-N12. This implies you may preserve 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 connected Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4.0. I don’t want the grip for panorama images to take pleasure in a extra compact and light-weight camera.

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

The grip design differs enormously 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 could first take the EN-EL15c battery out of the Z8 and take away the door. You may 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 can be just like the one for the D850. On that physique, you may preserve the EN-EL15 battery within the camera if you add the grip. That grip can maintain a robust EN-EL18 battery, which, together with the EN-EL15, gives 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 offer round 1.8x longer battery life than the only in-camera battery. The grip includes a USB-C port for connecting to an exterior energy supply in the event 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 connected 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 after I added the grip to my Z8 with a lens connected. 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 subsequent day, I charged the batteries and tried once more. That’s after I received an error message on the display warning me that I ought to solely use authentic Nikon batteries. I’ve a number 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. Undecided if that is merely a prototype glitch or if the ultimate grip will solely take the unique batteries, however I wished 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 might not be a stroll within the park. Dressing for the chilly is pretty simple, nevertheless it’s extremely vital to do it proper.

For photographers, the fingers are all the time the best problem. It’s simple to maintain your fingers heat, however to {photograph}, you could 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 fingers 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 should not for camouflage however for conserving my fingers and fingers hotter. © Marsel van Oosten

General, all of the camera gear carried out very well within the chilly. We spent, on common, 9 hours outdoors 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 typically 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 way 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 purpose to make use of the grip and have two batteries as a substitute of 1.

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

I ought to add that in your entire journey, I all the time stored my camera bag outdoors. 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 probably clearly deal with much more chilly than that. Notice 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 stated, there are some variations between the 2 cameras. Listed here are some issues the Z8 provides that the Z9 doesn’t:

  • The flexibility to shoot 10-bit HEIF photographs
  • A portrait impression stability and a pores and skin softening settings
  • Two USB C terminals, one in all 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 on account of bigger battery
  • Constructed-in GPS (however the Z8 can do GPS by means of your cellphone)
  • CFExpress card for second slot, fairly than SD

When you’re like me, you’ll take 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 area.

Dealing with

I actually loved the Z8 for handheld pictures 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 under, 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 wished to remain fairly a distance away to get a extra pleasing perspective, and the 70-200mm was excellent for that. As a substitute of taking a single horizontal body, I made a decision to zoom in to 165mm and shoot 12 vertical photographs to create this panorama.

On this journey, I noticed a number of bears. As we tried to remain 100m away from any bear, I shot most bear photographs with my Z9 and Z 600/4.0 TC VR S lens. Nonetheless, from time to time, a bear determined to test 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 simple to select up with one hand, and straightforward to handhold whereas following the motion. The picture under is from a kind 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 equivalent: 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 well these darkish areas with out introducing any noise.

Many cameras at this time are near ISO invariant, which implies that growing ISO in-camera gives an analogous degree of picture high quality as brightening the picture in post-processing. The Nikon Z8 and Z9 should not absolutely ISO-invariant cameras. As a substitute, they’ve twin acquire sensors that swap at ISO 500.

In different phrases, the whole lot from ISO 64 by means of 400 could possibly be precisely simulated on the Nikon Z8 by brightening ISO 64, and the whole lot from ISO 500 onward could possibly be precisely simulated by brightening ISO 500. If you wish to preserve issues easy, keep away from overexposure within the highlights, even when it means taking a darker picture 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 photographs 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 airplane spotters will probably be excited.

Of the wide selection of AF modes to select from, I usually use Pinpoint for panorama images and really static wildlife, Dynamic Space S for issues which can be shifting predictably, and 3D-tracking for critical motion and/or after I need to preserve my topic in a really particular spot in my body.

The 3D-tracking labored completely on the skidoos, however polar bears being fairly gentle towards a brilliant background was typically 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 personalized 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 best 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 a tremendous 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 test us out. 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 a number 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 attempting to autofocus in heavy snow or rain.

I nearly forgot to say the Pre-Launch Burst operate. 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 the rest that requires excellent 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 equivalent. This is without doubt one of the the reason why I’ll change 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 want to not change lenses within the area – for mud and for velocity causes. The Z7 is a a lot slower camera, however the photographs even have a unique look to them, and I clearly want to have similar-looking photographs from the identical scene.


You’ll hear folks name the Z8 a hybrid camera as a result of it’s a photographic powerhouse and a really critical video camera, able to inner 8K uncooked video. Being a photographer, I didn’t shoot a lot video. Every time one thing cool occurred, I wished to take images, not movies. I did, nevertheless, 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 executed but, however I shot a brief take a look at clip to see how the sensor would choose 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 nearly the identical because the Nikon flagship camera, solely smaller, lighter, and cheaper. Surprisingly, the largest variations are on the surface. On the within, the place it issues most, issues are primarily the identical. Even the utmost body fee is strictly the identical.

When you wished a Z9 however couldn’t afford one or thought it was too huge, the Z8 would be the excellent different. It’s well-balanced, as highly effective as its larger brother, but in a smaller package deal. My solely negatives are the design and batteries of the non-compulsory 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 excellent. The ready checklist goes to be very lengthy.

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

Concerning the Creator

Marsel van Oosten is an expert nature photographer and demise metallic connoisseur from The Netherlands. He’s the world’s solely photographer to have gained 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 known as MOTHER – A Tribute to Mom Earth.

Marsel at present 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 outline of Marsel’s work might be discovered on his website.

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

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