The Nikon Z8 is on track for an imminent launch – here are 5 things we want to see

Nikon Z8 mock up product shot straight on from the front with full-frame sensor exposed
A mock-up of the rumored Nikon Z8 (Image credit: Nikon Rumors)

Nikon’s next mirrorless camera has been a long time coming. Rumors have swirled about the Z8 – poised to be one of the year’s most exciting cameras – for more than two years. But if you’re eagerly awaiting its arrival, the latest rumors look like good news: according to Nikon Rumors (opens in new tab), the Nikon Z8 could be “coming in early May”.

If that’s true, the latest addition to Nikon’s Z series could break cover in less than a month. While this is an exciting development for fans of Nikon’s Z mount cameras, it’s worth noting that Nikon Rumors has also qualified the statement with some uncertainty. Rumors are doubtful by definition, and the meaning of “coming in early May” can be interpreted in a few ways.

Product shot of the Nikon Z9 camera straight on from the front with full-frame sensor exposed

The Nikon Z9 (above) gives us a glimpse of the kind of power that could filter down to the Nikon Z8. (Image credit: Nikon)

It could be that Nikon’s gearing up to fully launch the Z8 next month, or at the very least make an official announcement about its existence – something we haven’t yet seen. Equally, it might mean that Nikon is only planning to start the Z8’s marketing campaign in May. Or that next month is when Nikon will begin presenting the camera internally and to dealers.

So while we’re quietly hopeful that we’ll see the Nikon Z8 unveiled in the next few months, we wouldn’t necessarily bet on a full release happening in May. Still, the evidence does increasingly point towards the new mirrorless model arriving this year, set to slot in between the Nikon Z7 II and Nikon Z9.

Rather than twiddling our thumbs until it does, the latest rumors have got us thinking about what features we want to see on the Nikon Z8. We’ve put together an in-depth Nikon Z8 preview of what we think you can expect to see from the new mirrorless model, but we’ve also outlined some of our top predictions about the Z8’s best features below.

Nikon Z8: What we want to see

1. A Z9 with the body of a Z7

There’s an obvious gap that needs filling between the Z7 II and the Z9 in Nikon’s mirrorless line-up. The real question is how it gets filled – and we’re hoping the answer is with a combination of the two.

The Z9 is Nikon’s most powerful camera ever, with stacks of photographic performance. It’s also big, bulky and heavy. While the Z7 II is no slouch, it’s also more compact than the Z9, with a fantastic control layout and a handy form factor that we praised in our review.

Hands holding the Nikon Z9 mirrorless camera

(Image credit: Future)

In an ideal world, we’d love to see the Z8 borrow some of the Z9’s headline hardware – such as its stacked full-frame 45.7MP sensor – while adopting dimensions closer to the Z7 II. And if recent rumors prove true, our hopes could be fulfilled.

Nikon Rumors (opens in new tab) has described the Z8 as a “hybrid camera between the Z7 and the Z9”. In a mockup shared on the site, the Z8 is positioned as a stepping stone between the two. And comparisons to the Nikon D850 could be more than spiritual: if suggestions are true, the Z8 could be a similar height and width as its pro-grade predecessor, albeit slimmer as a result of its mirrorless setup.

2. 8K video at 60fps

More than one rumor has drawn comparisons between the Nikon Z8 and the Sony A7R V – one of the best professional cameras you can buy. If there’s one way we’d like to see the Z8 top its Sony rival, it’s in the video stakes: the A7R V shoots 8K, but only at 24fps.

The Nikon Z9's electronic shutter in action

(Image credit: Nikon)

We know that Nikon has the tech to record full-frame 8K at 60fps, because that’s exactly what the Z9 can do. But while its dimensions might ape those of the D850, it seems unlikely that the Z8 will have the power to capture footage of that quality – at least without an optional battery grip.

What we hope the Z8 will be able to do, though, is shoot cropped 8K video at 60fps. We also want it to record 8K at 30fps using the full width of the sensor, even if there are time limits for the sake of heat management. Both of these specs would give the Z8 the edge over the A7R V – and make it a properly powerful hybrid for enthusiasts.

3. A high-resolution EVF

For a camera with such superlative performance, the Nikon Z9 doesn’t have the sharpest EVF on the market. At 3.69m dots, it falls short of the Canon EOS R3’s 5.76m-dot viewfinder, and shorter still compared to the 9.44m-dot EVF of the A7R V.

In an ideal world, we would love to see the Nikon Z8 ship with an EVF to match: the specs suggested by Nikon Rumors include a 9.44m-dot EVF. This would give the Z8 a class-leading viewfinder to help it go toe-to-toe with the best mirrorless cameras.

The Nikon Z9 camera's electronic viewfinder

(Image credit: Future)

The problem with this ambition is that it would give the Z8 a sharper EVF than Nikon’s flagship Z9. A more likely scenario is that it arrives equipped with a 5.76m-dot EVF. While this is still more megapixels than the Z9, it creates less of a gulf between the two. In any case, it wouldn’t be the first time that a ‘lower’ model in Nikon’s line-up trumps a ‘higher’ one: the Nikon Z6 II, for example, has higher burst shooting speeds than the Nikon Z7 II.

4. Improved autofocus abilities

The Z9 benefits from Nikon’s best-ever autofocus system, with automatic subject detection and simultaneous 3D tracking. It also has five times more auto-area AF points than the Nikon Z7 II. Yet if the Nikon Z8 is going to compete with the AI-powered subject recognition offered by the Sony A7R V, it may need to take things further still.

The Nikon Z9's sensor

(Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon Rumors suggests exactly that, reporting that the Z8 will offer “improved autofocus”. What exactly this will entail isn’t clear, but we’d hope to see more AF points: the Z9 has 493 to the A7R V’s 693. We’d also like to see further advancements to 3D tracking and subject detection, whether that’s the ability to track more subjects – the Z9 can track 10 – or recognise additional types of subject.

On the one hand, it seems unlikely that the Z8 would usurp the Z9’s headline autofocus abilities. On the other, that’s exactly what it might need to do. What’s more, a firmware update could allow the Z9 to keep pace with any subject-detection enhancements introduced with the Z8.

5. A fully articulating touchscreen

Both the Nikon Z7 II and Z9 feature 3.2-inch touchscreens. The former has a panel that tilts vertically, while the latter uses a dual-axis display that can tilt both horizontally and vertically. Both make it easier to shoot from tricky angles, but neither offers the total framing flexibility of a fully articulating touchscreen. Which is exactly why we want to see one on the Z8.

A tilting screen from the Nikon Z9 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Talk of a vari-angle touchscreen might be conjecture at best, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less appealing as a proposition: many of the best hybrid mirrorless cameras feature articulating displays, including the Canon EOS R5, the Fujifilm X-H2S and the Sony A7R V. A fully articulating touchscreen is therefore another opportunity for the Z8 to step up against Nikon’s hybrid mirrorless rivals.

It’s also one that would make the new model a more versatile all-rounder for both stills and video shooters. We’ve already seen vari-angle touchscreens on the Nikon Z fc and last year’s Nikon Z30, both of which have much smaller bodies than the Z8 is expected to. So we know that Nikon is capable – here’s hoping it delivers.

Chris Rowlands

Formerly News Editor at Stuff, Chris has rarely been able to resist the bite of the travel bug – so he now writes about tech from the road, in whichever Wi-Fi-equipped café he can find. Fond of coffee kit, classic cars and sustainable gear, if there’s one thing Chris loves more than scribbling, shooting and sharing his way around the world, it’s alliterative triplets.