Curious about the video capabilities of the Nikon Z 8? Look no further than this comprehensive review. Today, we’re going to unpack the Nikon Z 8 and help you decide if it’s right for you. We’ll cover everything you need to know, from the camera’s 8K N-RAW video to its 45.7-megapixel stills. For this review, we tested out the Z 8’s autofocus, rolling shutter, low-light performance, dynamic range and more.
If you’re considering the Nikon Z 8 for your next videography project, this is definitely the review for you. Let’s explore together what the Nikon Z 8 can do, how it compares to other cameras and the pros and cons of using it for video.
Getting to know the Nikon Z 8
The first thing you need to know about the Nikon Z 8 is that it has a 45.7-megapixel full-frame stacked CMOS sensor that can shoot up to 8K 12-bit N-RAW internally at up to 60 frames per second. In 4K, it can record 12-bit N-RAW video at up to 120 fps. In addition to huge 45.7 MP stills, the Z 8 also lets you export 33 MP stills from video recordings.
The Z 8’s high-res sensor ensures the camera records clear detail. Plus, a high bit-depth and RAW recording mean the Z 8 can capture a lot of color information and dynamic range in both photos and videos. The higher frame rate options allow you to capture smooth cinematic slow-motion video. And you can do all of this without needing an external recorder. As another bonus, the Z 8 doesn’t crop the image, even at the highest frame rates.
There’s another benefit to shooting with such a high-resolution sensor, even if you don’t plan to shoot 8K video. When shooting 4K, the Z 8 oversamples from 8K to provide a more detailed image.
In addition to 12-bit N-RAW, the Z 8 also records 12-bit ProRes RAW HQ, as well as 10-bit ProRes 4:2:2 HQ for those who prefer a ProRes workflow. At the same time, the camera can record Full HD proxy files while capturing in ProRes RAW or N-RAW to streamline ingest and editing.
What’s the big deal about bit depth?
When we talk about bit-depth, we’re talking about how many bits of color information are recorded for each color channel. In the case of 8-bit video — the standard for most consumer media — there are eight bits available for each color, meaning there are a possible 256 shades of each color: red, green and blue. This multiplies out to a possible 16.77 million colors; that’s how many different colors can be rendered in 8-bit video.
Bumping up a couple of bits in bit-depth might not seem like a lot, but the number of possible colors rapidly increases as you move from 8-bit to 10-bit to 12-bit and beyond. In fact, while 10-bit video can reproduce around 1.07 billion colors, 12-bit video boasts an astounding 68 billion possible colors.
The result is better color accuracy and precision, better dynamic range preservation, more flexibility in post and more latitude when it comes to compositing and visual effects. As you can see, more bits are definitely better.
Dynamic range and N-Log
When shooting in RAW formats, you get more flexibility and control over your color grading and exposure adjustments in post-production. Adding to this, any of the RAW shooting options in the Z 8 can be combined with the N-Log picture profile. Shooting in N-log will allow for more control over the final look of the image in post-production. While the footage may initially appear less visually appealing due to its flat and desaturated look, it provides a solid foundation for color correction and grading in post-production.
Both N-Log or HLG color profiles allow you to preserve more information in the highlights and shadows. This gives the Nikon Z 8 an impressive dynamic range. We measured the camera’s dynamic range using a dynamic range chart, which features a series of backlit rectangles. Each rectangle is one stop darker than the one preceding it.
When we tested the dynamic range of the Nikon Z 8, we saw a maximum of 14 stops of dynamic range. That was when shooting in N-RAW with the N-Log color profile. In the real world, the Z 8’s 14 stops of dynamic range allow that camera to capture more details in challenging lighting situations.
On the other hand, while the N-Log picture profile performs great, its usability could use some work. We got lost trying to find the N-Log setting in the camera’s menu. It’s a bit hidden, so here’s how to get there: Once you are at the resolution you want to shoot at, navigate to the right in the menu to find the function.
To evaluate the Nikon Z 8’s low-light performance, we compared apparent noise levels at different ISO settings across a series of gray cards ranging from light to dark. When you’re shooting, you can expect a noise-free image at ISO 3200 and below. You might notice some noise at ISO 6400, but it’s acceptable.
However, when you get to ISO 12800, unfortunately, the noise starts to cause color shifting. This is when the noise starts to show inaccurate colors, especially in very dark areas of the frame. We wouldn’t recommend shooting at that level or above since this color-shifting effect can be extremely distracting to viewers. Keeping the ISO setting at 6400 and below is ideal for professional use cases.
In addition to a wealth of high-quality video format options, the fast readout speed of the sensor also reduces the effects of the camera’s rolling shutter. Indeed, the Nikon Z 8 displays surprisingly little rolling shutter effect. We looked for the rolling shutter effect by shooting a vertical post and quickly panning the camera back and forth. Even at high panning speed, we saw minimal rolling shutter effect.
This makes the Z 8 a great choice for capturing fast-moving subjects or any other situation where you need to move your camera quickly.
How it feels
On the hand, the camera feels quite hefty. It has a body-only weight of 1.8 pounds with a deep front-hand grip to make the weight manageable. Plus, the Z 8 camera body is sealed to protect against moisture and dust. It also includes a sensor shield to keep your sensor safe during lens changes. The illuminated buttons are a nice touch, as well.
Nikon touts the system’s overall compactness with its carbon fiber and magnesium alloy construction. However, it’s about on par with similar cameras. In any case, the camera’s powerful internal recording does mean you won’t need an external recorder to capture high-quality video. All of this positions the Z 8 as a good option for shooting handheld video, especially when you consider our next feature up for discussion: image stabilization.
To our delight, built into the Nikon Z 8 is a 5-axis in-body image stabilization system to reduce camera shake. Nikon promises up to six stops of shake reduction. This is useful when you’re shooting handheld or using a gimbal or a tripod.
To test the effectiveness of the Z 8’s stabilization system, we compared the footage shot while walking on uneven ground with and without stabilization. Watching the footage back, we found that turning on stabilization improved our shot dramatically. And because it uses sensor-shift stabilization — not electronic stabilization — image quality and resolution are not affected when the system is on.
While this stabilization system does not eliminate all the bumps and jostles that come with handheld camera work, it does help. We can’t say that it’s perfect, but if you don’t have any other form of stabilization, the Nikon Z 8’s IBIS is extremely handy.
Nikon promises a sophisticated autofocus system that can perform even in super low-light shooting situations. They say it’s Nikon’s most advance AF system to date. With its 493-point hybrid autofocus system, the Z 8 can track subjects with eye, face and animal detection. Throughout our testing, the camera managed to keep a subject’s face in focus even when they were walking or running toward it.
As we experimented with the autofocus system, we found that adjusting the sensitivity and speed of the focus to the type of subject matter we were shooting made a big difference. The camera offers custom settings for AF speed and tracking. There is also a custom Wide-AF mode, which provides more precise control over the focus area.
We recommend setting the autofocus to match your shooting situation for the best results. Overall, the camera did a great job finding and holding focus.
The Nikon Z 8 has a 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen monitor that has a resolution of 2.36 million dots, providing sharp and clear images and videos. Another boon: The rear monitor offers a brightness of 2100 nit. That’s super bright. With this display, it’s easy to see what you’re recording, even in bright sunlight or when shooting in HLG.
The display also has a touch AF function that lets you tap on the screen to select your focus point. Plus, another quality-of-life feature for astrophotographers is the Z 8’s warm display colors option. When turned on, this casts the camera menu in red tones and reduces the overall brightness of the screen.
While we love the brightness and clarity of this display, we were disappointed that it’s not fully articulating. That means there are some shooting situations where you won’t be able to see the monitor. Because of this, it’s not a good choice for vlogging or other use cases where you need a monitor that flips all the way around to the front of the camera. Even if you don’t vlog or present to the camera, you still may find situations where this monitor configuration is limiting — shooting a top-down sequence for a cooking tutorial, for example.
Shoot assist tools
The Nikon Z 8 includes a number of useful shoot assist tools, including a red REC border that makes it easy to be sure that you are actually, truly recording. The standard lineup of shoot assist tools is here, as well, with focus peaking, zebra stripes and a waveform monitor, all of which ensure precise focus and exposure. Additionally, ISO Fine Tune allows you to refine your exposure in 1/6 EV steps.
Other handy features include timecode syncing, an audio attenuator, slow shutter speed options and what Nikon calls Hi-Res Zoom. This is an electronic zoom function, but it takes advantage of the Z 8’s high-resolution sensor. That means it provides sharper images than electronic zoom features in other cameras we’ve tried.
The Nikon Z 8 has two card slots, one CFexpress Type B and one SD UHS-II. We would have liked to see the same media accepted in both card slots, but it’s great to at least have the option to shoot using the faster CFexpress card format.
However, some resolutions and frame rates require faster cards with higher write speeds. For example, the list of approved memory cards for RAW video internal recording is much shorter than the list of approved cards for other formats. You can find the full list of supported cards for the Nikon Z 8 at nikonimgsupport.com.
The mismatched card formats will be especially annoying for photographers looking to maximize burst shooting frame rate since the SD card won’t be able to keep up in terms of frame rate or buffer capacity.
Back to video, the Nikon Z 8 can record up to 125 minutes in 4K at 60 frames per second and up to 90 minutes in 8K at 30 frames per second. The specific limit varies depending on how the camera is set up — and the capacity of your recording media. Heat and battery life can also play a role in the camera’s maximum possible record time.
One of the most impressive features of the Z 8 targets wildlife and sports photographers: burst shooting. With the Z 8, you can shoot RAW photos with JPEG proxies at up to 20 fps. In the JPEG Fine format, that jumps to 30fps. This will give you lots of high-quality options to choose from when shooting unpredictable or fasting moving subjects.
However, if you need even more speed, you can choose to shoot photos in JPEG Normal DX Crop Mode at up to 60 fps. Or, you can shoot 11 MP JPEGs at 120 fps for a huge number of photos to choose from. This is combined with the camera’s Pre-Release Capture feature, which saves shots from the second before shutter release. Together, these features can help you capture even the most elusive moment.
The Nikon Z 8 uses the same EN-EL15c battery as the previous Z cameras — with the Z9 excluded. The battery life is up to 100 minutes, but that will greatly differ depending on what you are shooting and how. We could always go for more battery life, but this seems about on par with other similar cameras.
Luckily, however, if you want never-ending power, the Z 8 supports USB charging and power delivery via a USB-C cable. Other connection options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a full-size HDMI port and an additional USB-C port for communication.
When testing the camera’s battery, we wanted to see how the Z 8 camera performed at its limit. So, we shot some 8K N-RAW video at 60 frames per second. Additionally, we cranked the camera’s screen brightness all the way up and tested the camera indoors at 77 F. Initially, we expected the camera to overheat after a few minutes because that’s what a lot of other reviewers experienced. However, the camera ended up going for a whole hour without any problems. We were blown away by how well the camera handled the 8K N-RAW video mode. It didn’t overheat or shut down at all during our test.
But there was a catch: The memory card we used got really hot after just 10 minutes of recording. The camera warned us that the card was too hot, but we ignored it and kept going. We didn’t have any issues with the camera, but we were worried about the card. If repeatedly exposed to these conditions, the heat could shorten the card’s lifespan or cause it to fail. When considering battery life and overheating, the crutch is the size of the memory card. When using a 512 GB card, we could only hold 12 minutes of 8K 60p N-RAW video. That equates to having to change cards more often than we had to concern ourselves with overheating or battery life. But because CFexpress cards are not cheap, the cost of production and storage afterward will be major issues. We were using 512GB Lexar Professional Diamond CFexpress cards, which retail at more than $500 each. We would need at least five of them to record an hour of video. That’s a lot of money for just one hour of footage. Sure, you could go back and forth between two or three cards, but that forces the production to now need a system with enough storage to offload the data.
In the marketplace
Competing with the Nikon Z 8 we have the Canon EOS R5 and the Sony a7R V. All three of these cameras offer high-resolution full-frame sensors and a great selection of matching lenses. In terms of both pricing and image quality, the three cameras are a close match, so let’s focus on what’s different about each of them.
Canon EOS R5
While the Nikon Z 8 shoots 8K at up to 60 fps, the Canon EOS R5 tops out at 30 fps in 8K. However, the Canon features more autofocus points with its proven Dual Pixel CMOS AF II autofocus system. Canon also promises improved subject tracking with Deep Learning. However, the Canon trails behind Nikon in terms of burst still photography, offering only 12 frames per second compared to the Nikon’s 20 fps RAW and 30 fps JPEG burst shooting.
For solo presenter-camera operators, the R5’s 3.2-inch touch-enabled rear display can flip completely around. This means you can monitor the shot while standing in front of the camera.
Sony a7R V
The Sony a7R V stands out for its tactile controls. It’s also the lightest of the three cameras compared here, giving it an ergonomic advantage. Additionally, the rear display combines the best of both the Nikon and Canon design with a screen that both tilts and flips out.
Along with an appealing form factor, the Sony a7R V also has the highest pixel count of the three with its 61-megapixel full-frame Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor. The a7r V touts a five-axis image stabilization system capable of providing up to 8-stops of stabilization. Along with 8K video at up to 60 fps, the Sony also features 4K 16-bit RAW output, matching Nikon in this regard.
The Nikon Z 8 offers striking image quality for both video and stills — especially thanks to its 12-bit N-RAW internal recording. Plus, it features a reliable autofocus system, minimal rolling shutter and high frame rate recording.
While the camera has a lot of features that make it ideal for video production, it also has some drawbacks. The battery life is a bit short and the price may put it out of reach for some. The screen also lacks the full range of motion we like to see.
Regardless, the Nikon Z 8 is a great choice for those who want a capable 8K video camera that doesn’t skimp on crucial photography features.
- 8K 60 fps
- Advanced autofocus system
- Weather-sealed construction and rugged body
- Various video formats and codecs
- 4K 120 fps
- Short battery life
- The screen doesn’t fully articulate
|Actual: 52.37 megapixels
Effective: 45.7 megapixels (8256 x 5504)
|35.9 x 23.9 mm (full-frame) CMOS
|Built-in ND filter
|Stills and video
1/32000 to 30 seconds
0 to 900 seconds in manual mode
64 to 25,600 (Extended: 32 to 102,400)
|Center-weighted average, highlight-weighted, matrix, spot
|Aperture Priority, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority
|-5 to +5 EV (1/3, 1/2 EV steps)
|-3 to 17 EV
|2,500 to 10,000 K
Presets: Auto, Cloudy, Custom, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Preset Manual, Shade
Up to 20 fps at 45.7 MP for up to 1,000 frames (RAW)
Up to 30 fps at 45.7 MP for unlimited frames (JPEG)
Up to 60 fps at 19 MP
Up to 120 fps at 11 MP
8256 x 5504
6192 x 4128
4128 x 2752
|1:1, 3:2, 16:9
|Image file format
|Internal recording modes
|H.265 4:2:2 10-bit
UHD 8K (7680 x 4320) at 23.98/25/29.97 fps
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98/25/29.97/50/59.94/100 fps
ProRes 422 HQ 4:2:2 10-bit
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98/25/29.97 fps
H.265 4:2:0 8-bit
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98/25/29.97 fps
H.264 4:2:0 8-bit
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98/25/29.97 fps
1920 x 1080p at 23.98/25/29.97/50/59.94/100 fps
7680 x 4320 at 23.98/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps
|External recording modes
UHD 8K (7680 x 4320) up to 29.97 fps
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160)
|Sensor crop modes
4K (3840 x 2160)
1080p (1920 x 1080)
|Built-in microphone type
|Two-channel 24-bit 48 kHz LPCM audio
|Media/memory card slot
|Slot 1: CFexpress Type B / XQD
Slot 2: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
|1 x HDMI output
|1 x 1/8-inch / 3.5 mm TRS stereo headphone input
1 x 1/8-inch / 3.5 mm TRS stereo microphone input/output
|1 x USB-C input
|1 x USB-C data output
1 x Nikon 10-pin control input
|2.4 / 5 GHz Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n), Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)
|Mobile app compatible
|Yes: Android and iOS
App name: SnapBridge
|4-axis tilting touchscreen LCD
|Top: status display
|Built-in electronic (OLED)
|Viewfinder eye point
|Viewfinder diopter adjustment
|-4 to +3
|Auto and manual focus
|Continuous-Servo AF, Manual Focus, Single-Servo AF
Phase Detection: 493
|-9 to +19 EV
|First-Curtain Sync, Off, Rear Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync/Red-Eye Reduction
|External flash connection
|14 to 104 degrees F / -10 to 40 degrees C
|0 to 85%
|1 x EN-EL15c rechargeable lithium-ion, 7 VDC, 2280 mAh (Approx. 340 shots)
|Tripod mounting thread
|1 x 1/4-inch-20 Female (Bottom)
|1 x hot shoe mount on camera body
|Material of construction
|Dimensions (W x H x D)
|5.7 x 4.7 x 3.3-inches / 144 x 118.5 x 83 mm
|1.8 lb / 820 g (body only)
2.0 lb / 910 g (with battery, recording media)
|Box dimensions (LxWxH)
|9.55 x 8.3 x 6.05-inches