Is the Nikon Z8 the Nikon D850 killer?

Nikon D850 vs Nikon Z8

It’s finally time to say goodbye to my Nikon D850. Hello Nikon Z8…

Updated on the 7th of Septemeber 2023.

I have been using my Nikon Z8 now since the 30th of May 2023 and it hasn’t left my sight since, yes I haven’t sent it back for either of the recalls as of yet. I will though over the next month or so.

I was lucky enough to get one of the very first Z8’s in Ireland and from the very first second I picked it up I knew the D850 was in trouble. Ok, so maybe I told a little lie there and the very first time I held my Nikon Z8 I was actually dissapointed with it, I will get into that stupid thought below in a lot more detail.

Crazily after 3 months of using the Nikon Z8 I now have a new best friend and in all honesty for the first few weeks of using the Z8 vs D850 it all felt a bit strange and I felt I was cheating on my D850. Yes, they were similiar but there was something very different about the Z8 something new and something very exciting.

Nikon Z8 Vs D850 Feel and grip.

The Z8 feels like a proper camera or should I say it feels like the D850 which has to go down as my most loved Nikon camera ever. The D850 could do it all and trust me I pushed it to its extremes and it became not just a tool I used but my best photography friend. 

The camera grip is nearly identical to the D850 and the weight and feel of the camera are very similiar also, the D850 is heavier but in honbesty there isn’t much in it. The Z7ii and Z6ii have smaller grips so they just don’t fit in your hand as well and they also don’t really feel like proper cameras. 

Yes, I know that statement might seem a bit stupid but anyone that has gone from a D850 to either the Z6ii or Z7ii will I am sure tell you it takes a bit of getting used too.

The transition from the D850 to the Z8 is very straight forward though and easily done.

Before we go any further I should say this isn’t about having the latest gear or photography snobbery this is merely my thoughts on how I could now finally be happy with a mirrorless camera. 

In the video below OI talk you through my inital thoughts on the Z8 and its grip or feel. 

My road to a Mirrorless camera was a bumpy one.

Just a bit of back story (please skip it if your not interested) I bought the Nikon Z6ii for video use and continued to use my D850 for photography then 2 years ago I bought a Z7ii to replace my D850.
I could never warm to the Z7ii, yes the Z7ii is a great camera but it’s no D850. Then again the Nikon D850 has to go down as the best DSLR camera ever made. So it had massive shoes to fill and it just couldn’t quite do it.
The Z7ii felt so different and the AF was just not as good as my D850, which meant for 2 years I struggled with it in the hope the next generation would just be more of a camera. I have another more in depth section on the Z7ii below.
There is no doubt that mirrorless is the future and it always has been but it was a future I was very slow to adopt to. As a fulltime photographer (I nearly said that horrible word “Professional” there) I am very dependant on my equipment so I change cameras every two years at least to keep mine updated and also to keep my shutter counts low too of course. At the end of the day it’s just another business expense for me but it’s still something I am seriously passionate about and love hence this article.
Let me just say I am a long time Nikon user and I currently own 6 Nikon camera bodies and 4 of them are still DLSR’s. So I wanted to love the Z7ii but just couldn’t or at least not in the same way. 

The Nikon Z8 vs D850 everyday use.

The Nikon Z8 is the very first mirrorless camera that could not only keep up with my D850 but completely surpass it in a lot of ways. 

It’s FPS capacity is just mind blowingly good, the AF (Auto Focus) is great, it feels great in the hand, it balances nicely with my workhorse 24-70 F2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8 too of course and then we get to the amazing video capabilities of this camera which is where it truly destroy the D850.

The video output out of this camera is world class and with the new Z series lenses the AF is super quick and accurate as lets face it Nikon cameras were not known for their video capabilities, that’s all changed now though with the Z8 and Z9 cameras.

Now this is one of those funny points that has nothing to do with the camera itself but yet it’s what makes the Z8 so much better than the D850 and that’s the Z series lenses, they are just razor sharp and honestly one of the  things I love about mirrorless cameras now. 

The one slight down side of the Z8 vs D850 is that the batteries just dont last as long, I could do a day long fashion shoot with a single battery in my D850 and still has battery power to sapre at the end of the day. With the Z8 I am nearly empty on my second battery.

Then again batteries are not exactly expensive and they are totally the small investment. A word of warning here is to go for original batteries in your Z8 as it doesn’t like 3rd party ones and most of the time it wont work with them.

At the end of the day both the D850 and the Z8 are amazing cameras but I know which one I will be pciking up for my next shoot and it jus thas to be the Z8. So if you are stuck on the fence and unsure if the Z8 is worth the upgrade from the D850 then I can tell you it certainly is in my mind anyway.

Backstory with my D850.

I just want to stress here that I am not saying the Z8 is better than the D850 only that I think I can finally be happy with a mirrorless body now and not look at my D850 sitting on a shelf and wonder should I use it for this shoot?

The D850 is the one reason why I kept my F-mount 70-200 F2.8, 24-70 F2.8, 35 F1.4, 50 F1.4, 16-35 F4, 105 F2.8, 85 F1.8 and 24mm F2.8 lenses.

My Nikon D850 is my best photography friend and my partner in crime, we have had so much fun over the years and shared so many beautiful experiences together that it is honestly going to be hard to say goodbye to it.

Edit… I have actually said goodbye to my D850 now but I was very happy to see it go to a very deserving and loving home.

It’s actually going to be incredibly hard to say goodbye and the camera that makes me finally sell my D850 is going to have to be something special… Is this where the new Z8 comes in?

With all the chatter I am hearing through contacts and sources at Nikon and specs being dropped I really believe this could be the one to finally kill off my D850. 

Update the Z8 truly is the D850 killer in almost everyway, this camera is a true monster and yes it pains me slightly to say that.

The really weird thing for me is I have never felt this way about any other camera before, my D850 has become like my friend which is probably why after I bought the Nikon Z7ii I just let the Z7ii sit on my shelf for 3 months after only using it a few times. It just didn’t feel right to me.

That is how deep of a connection I have with my D850 and if I am honest about it I feel there is an understanding and a trust there that I never developed with my Z7ii even to this day. Yes, I know how to use the camera and it’s my day to day camera now but I am still a bit more nervous using it.

Feel free to skip the Z7ii section below if it’s of no interest and continue on to my Z8 vs D850 story.

Nikon Z7ii

I upgraded to a Nikon Z7ii in the last 2 years ago nearly now and it has been a slightly bumpy ride let me explain why…

It all started with me buying the Nikon Z6ii and then the Z7ii, I was now officially not only flirting with mirrorless cameras but owning them and it was simple for me I would just swap over in the next month or so once I built up the muscle memory with my new camera. This is where the problem started for me and yes it could just be me and maybe I am too clinical or too much of a perfectionist… you can decide on that one.

The Z7ii in my eyes will always be good camera but it’s AF system just isn’t right and yes I know you can change settings for specific scenes to get the shot but when split seconds decide between you getting the shot or not that’s just not good enough in my eyes again even with the right settings you can still miss focus on it.

The miss ratio with my Z7ii was just too high and yes I know some of reading this will say he is complaining about a miss ratio of less than 2% which is just nuts and for most people that would be nuts. When you do this professionally and you have company directors, models, Hair and Makeup artists on a shoot not only is time money but so is every photograph you take. You need to do everything in your power to ensure they are all perfect. So when you upgrade cameras and the results go backwards that’s not a positive step.

I will give you this example I would do a fashion product shoot and take 700 to 800 photos in a day and I knew with the D850 I might just slightly miss focus on a max of 5 to 8 shots on a shoot. Now in saying that I knew at the time I missed focus as it was usually my fault with maybe only one or even two of shots being the cameras fault.

On the same shoots with the Z7ii I would come back with at least 15 to 20 shots that missed focus half way through a shoot (the first one had nearly 40 out of focus) and I would have been concentrating even harder on focusing and still missing more. That for me was always too much of a difference, I tried the Z9 one day and it was bang on every time, just like my D850 only it was honestly just too big and bulky for me.

Remember I could be hand holding this camera for 6 to 8 hours continuously.

The Z9 also wasn’t in stock, so I decided to wait and after trying Sony, Canon and Panasonic cameras I just couldn’t do it, they all just felt so foreign in my hand.

The one issue I have had with mirrorless cameras is the height of the grip and my small finger keeps falling off so I use a SmallRig L-Bracket to stop that happening. The good news here is the Z8 is going to be taller than the Z7ii (not quite as tall as the D850) so that shouldn’t be an issue anymore.

Low Light AF, I know this won’t affect most people reading this but if you are shooting in low to very low ambient light the Z7ii struggles a lot more with focus than the D850 did. For me personally it always made me uncomfortable and nervous using it, which all meant you were concentrating less on the shot and more on the focus so I found the camera was working against me in that way. As you can imagine the out of focus shot was exactly the one the customer loved.

Nikon Z8 vs D850 and why the Z8 is going to be the one for me.

That’s very simple, the AF system is going to be a lot better (we now know it is), with practically the same AF system going into the Z8 as the Z9 we have the AF problem solved by the looks of things. A far higher burst rate, far superior video performance, lighter and of course the crowning glory the range of Z series Lenses.

The Z line up of lenses out there right now are fantastic, the Nikon Z 24-70 F2.8 is sublime, it’s also nice and light too. It totally kills my F mount 24-70 F2.8 in terms of overall sharpness.

The Z 70-200mm F2.8 is awesome also and the 35mm, 50mm and 105mm primes I have are spot on, the UWA 14-30mm F4 lens is a cracker also. The Z series have killed my F mount line up of lenses for me all I am waiting for now is the body to match them.

With that in mind I just think the Z8 is going to be the one that personally kills my D850 as it’s lighter, smaller, has a higher burst rate, better video performance and of course the Z series of Lenses… how can the D850 compete with that? 

The simple answer is it can’t and that’s why I am super excited about this new Z8 camera. It’s not about a shiny new camera it’s about a proper professional full frame mirrorless camera from Nikon that is easy to carry around and it just works. Pairing that with undoubtedly some of the best mirrorless glass out there and you have a sure fire winner.

If you are using a D850 today then sadly I have to say… we will all have to make the jump to mirrorless one day, it’s the way technology is going. For the D850 lovers out there like myself I have only one question for Nikon and that’s will this camera have the same heart as my D850? Will it be the same friend and will we bond and create memories together?

I hope to have a serious answer to this question after using the camera a good few times in the next two weeks.

I guess for now we can only imagine how that will all work out and maybe I am the only photographer out there that this bond with his D850.

Update from the original blog

Today, I am using the Z8 on it’s third commercial shoot and my Z7ii will be my back up for the day. So far I am loving the Z8 and apart from the shutter noise I can’t call it a sound really 🙂 I have no complaints.

The last firmware update has helped the Z7ii a lot but it’s nowhere near the D850 or the Z8, I have this kind of understanding now with my Z7ii where it knows I like it but just don’t love it and when the time comes I won’t hesitate to sell it. The Z8 has already become my new best photography friend and I feel while our relationship is still very new it feels like an old one I remember fondly (D850) .

Originally, I was told to expect and announcement about the Z8 in October 2022 with a product launch being announced in the first quarter of 2023 at the earliest that could be delayed by a month or two due to component shortages etc…

It’s nearly time for the Z8 to hit the streets everywhere… Are you going to buy one? Will you make the jump from the D850? Has the Z8 got what it takes to make you jump to mirrorless?

I guess we will see very soon but I already know the answers to those questions and I am waiting for mine 🙂

I have a Neewer Q4 review here where I put this 400 watt High powered battery strobe to the test on my Nikon Z8.

See you out there,


Ps… If you are working for Nikon and want to send me out some Nikon products for testing then don’t be a stranger go on and hit that contact me button you know you want too 😉