Fun, Fun, Fun – Nikon Is Back

NIKON Z 8 (14mm, f/4, 1/15 sec, ISO200)

A visit of the NHM Wien (the nature history museum Vienna) can mean only one thing: I have a new camera!

It’s a Nikon! My camera history is long. I bought way too many cameras in my life but the very first one was a Nikon: the F801. My first digital camera was a Nikon: the Coolpix 950 and a little later my first DSLR was a Nikon too: the Nikon D1 that I got second hand in January 2002.

But after my Nikon gear was stolen in early 2007 I switched to Canon for full frame. Later I got hooked on Fuji cameras for my business trips to Asia and when the Fuji X-Pro2 came out in 2016 I sold my full frame gear and went all Fuji. About three years ago I bought a Nikon Z6 as a present for my mother in law and played with the camera extensively. I really liked it and the weight and the size of my bigger Fuji lenses (16-55/2.8, 50-140/2.8) made me reconsider full frame again.

Fast forward to 2024: After long considerations where I almost ended up with a Sony (because of the lens choice) I finally gave in and got myself a Nikon Z8. Here are my first impressions.

NIKON Z 8 (14mm, f/4, 1/15 sec, ISO200)
NIKON Z 8 (21.5mm, f/4, 1/25 sec, ISO90)
NIKON Z 8 (20.5mm, f/4, 1/20 sec, ISO360)

To get this out of the way: this is not a small camera by any standards. It’s much smaller and lighter than the Nikon Z9, often called a baby Z9, but it is bigger and heavier than any camera from the competition. I guess I have to rename my blog to As a consequence I will keep my Fuji X-Pro2 plus 14/2.8, 23/2 and 35/1.4 for the times when I want a compact and light camera.

The camera is bigger and heavier but the lenses are not. Initially I got the following lenses: Z 14-24/2.8 S, the Z 24-120/4 S and the Z 40/4. The 14-24 is lighter than the Fuji XF 8-16/2.8 and the 24-120 is about the same weight as the Fuji XF 16-55/2.8. I also plan to get the Z 70-180/2.8 which is almost 200g lighter than the Fuji XF 50-140/2.8. But that’s on Fuji. Fuji should have tried to make small and light lenses for their small and light cameras. End of rant back to the Z8. Why did I choose the Nikon?

One reason is that I feel right at home. All my Nikons (F801, F100, D1, D2H, D200, D300) had similar operation concepts. And of course the viewfinder. This is the best viewfinder I have ever seen in a camera. It is big and bright and there is no lag. It looks like an optical viewfinder. Forget the reviews that complain about the mere 3.6 MP it looks fantastic. And because the Z8 has no mechanical shutter it never blacks out. In that sense it acts like a viewfinder camera and it is silent too. The Nikon Z8 is practically a Leica M. 😉

NIKON Z 8 (18.5mm, f/5.6, 1/15 sec, ISO450)
NIKON Z 8 (16mm, f/2.8, 1/4 sec, ISO640)
NIKON Z 8 (14mm, f/5.6, 1/15 sec, ISO200)

If I ignore AF performance for a second I’m rather spoiled by my Fuji X-Pro3. The EVF on the Fuji was small but also without lag so it looks like the real thing. The Nikons EVF is just as good but much bigger. My Fuji cameras always nailed white balance where my Nikons almost never did. Well that’s changed. Of course I can’t say since when Nikon fixed that but in the Z8 auto white balance works and that’s a big relief. Same is true for exposure. Like on my Fuji there is hardly the need to use the exposure compensation dial. The difference is that the Nikon exposes a little more conservative in order to protect highlights where the Fuji exposes more to the right. I’m fine with both as long as the exposure meter is not erratic.

The dynamic range of the sensor is great too. I shot inside a rather dark museum on a very bright day and the sensor managed to keep details in the highlights and in the shadows. The reason you don’t see it in my images is because I don’t like that HDR look. It looks fake to me. I grew up with Kodachrome and Fuji Velvia so I like my shadows black and my highlights bright.

Originally I wanted to use the out of camera RAW file for my biog post because they already looked very nice. Especially the colour saturation was surprising. But they looked a little flat though regarding contrast. Of course a RAW file should be flat in order to maximise your options in post processing. I wanted to get past my old plugins that no longer support modern cameras so I looked at the colour profiles and found modern01. I guess this will be my standard colour profile for everything except portraits.

NIKON Z 8 (15.5mm, f/5.6, 1/15 sec, ISO64)
NIKON Z 8 (17.5mm, f/2.8, 1/20 sec, ISO280)
NIKON Z 8 (24mm, f/4, 1/25 sec, ISO2200)
NIKON Z 8 (14mm, f/4, 1/15 sec, ISO720)
NIKON Z 8 (24mm, f/4, 1/25 sec, ISO720)

Today’s cameras are crazy: Excellent high ISO, image stabilised sensors with high dynamic range, eye-AF and 3D tracking. Photography today feels like fishing in a barrel. It’s almost too easy. But that’s exactly how a professional camera should work. Professional cameras have to ensure that your keeper rate is high and that you don’t loose  images because of technical issues.

Of course a walk through a museum is not a real challenge. Those exhibits are not going anywhere. But meanwhile I also shot some portraits, a cat and some street photos. The “eye detection AF 3D tracking” worked just perfect. It’s unbelievable how small the face can be in the frame and the camera still can detect and track it. On my Fujis I never had a problem with tracking because I gave up on it early and found my workarounds.

I can’t definitely tell how good the camera is for action because I haven’t shot any action yet and also because I don’t have a fast long lens yet. The lens I used the most is the Z 14-24/2.8 S and on such a lens practically everything is sharp if you shoot at f5.6 or f8. So no action shooting so far but what I can already tell is that this camera feels very much like my Nikon D2H, the fastest camera that I have ever owned. Do I need that speed? No, for 90% of my shooting I don’t care about how fast my camera is but it’s still nice to have a fast camera just in case.

NIKON Z 8 (18mm, f/5.6, 1/20 sec, ISO125)
NIKON Z 8 (40mm, f/5.6, 1/50 sec, ISO640)
NIKON Z 8 (40mm, f/4, 1/50 sec, ISO400)

I also briefly shot with the Nikon Z 40/2 which felt like a tele lens after shooting with the Z 14-24/2.8. It’s obvious that the Z 40/2 is a different class of glass. 😉 For the money it is a nice lens though just don’t expect razor sharp and contrasty wide open. It’s a lens which is best shot stopped down to f4 or f5.6 but it shows some nice character at f2. Maybe that is too critical. I really think it is a nice lens but there has to be a substantial difference to one of the best Z-lenses that costs 10 times more.

Before I bought the 14-24/2.8 I considered the 20/1.8 prime. I didn’t think that I would need that wide. But the 20/1.8 is not a small lens and the 14-24/2.8 is not that much bigger and heavier. I finally gave in and got the 14-24/2.8 because it is for sure lighter than the 20/1.8 plus the 14-30/4 together.

The images below demonstrate how wide 14mm on full frame is. The first image is taken with 24mm. It’s not possible to take a step back because there is a railing. So with a standard zoom you can’t cover this beautiful enclosure. Zoom out to 14mm and voila: now the image covers the cabinet, the bust on the left and the chairs on the right. Of course you don’t need 14mm all the time but it’s very nice to have it when you need it.

NIKON Z 8 (24mm, f/4, 1/25 sec, ISO560)
NIKON Z 8 (14mm, f/4, 1/15 sec, ISO360)
NIKON Z 8 (14mm, f/4, 1/15 sec, ISO280)

Currently I’m still learning the camera. Today I had the problem that I changed my aperture without noting it. The problem was that I assigned aperture to the control ring on the lens to mimic my Fuji. That makes no sense. I quickly changed that. Now the control ring has no function assigned to it. There are so many ways to set things or buttons to assign functions to it is almost overwhelming. I’m not used to that. I love to keep it simple. That’s why I love the X-Pro bodies from Fuji so much. But as I have mentioned above I going to keep one of my Fujis plus the small primes.

Yes the Nikon Z8 is a complex camera with a ton of buttons but that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep things simple. Aperture is set on the front dial and if in M-Mode shutter speed is set on the back dial and exposure compensation is not necessary because the freaking exposure meter in the Nikon Z8 gets it right all the time.

NIKON Z 8 (20mm, f/5.6, 1/20 sec, ISO400)
NIKON Z 8 (24mm, f/2.8, 1/25 sec, ISO360)
NIKON Z 8 (24mm, f/4, 1/25 sec, ISO72)

Final conclusion of my first impression. The Nikon Z8 is good, really good. With static subjects the Nikon Z8 almost feels too powerful. Too much camera. It’s like doing your grocery shopping in a Ferrari. There is no need for all that power. It’s fun though. Same thing with the resolution. Of course I don’t need 45 MP. It’s fun though. And unless I shoot sport or other action I don’t need a blackout free viewfinder either. It’s fun though.

That’s what the Nikon Z8 is: serious business but most of all fun, fun, fun. Nikon is back and after a break of 17 years Nikon is also back in my bag. And like with a good old friend that you haven’t seen in ages it takes only a couple of minutes to continue where you left off. It’s like you never lost touch.

NIKON Z 8 (40mm, f/4, 1/50 sec, ISO220)