Kodiak Brown Bear captured by Z 8 / Z600f4 @840mm

The Z 8 is a delightful, powerful, fun camera that I really have enjoyed getting to know this past two weeks. When I get any new piece of gear, I wed myself to it for the first couple of weeks to get to know all it has to offer and problems it solves in my visual storytelling. I got the Z 8 for one main task, wed to the Z400f4.5 for bird photography. As it turned out the first ten days, the Z 8 has spent 90% of its time attached to the Z600f4. But no matter what it’s attached to, the Z 8 performs beautifully. In fact, there is only one thing I’m not thrilled with. And that is it being called the Z 9‘s “little brother.” Being a little brother, I think the Z 8 is better than that!

Getting right to my thoughts, how does the Z 8 stack up against the Z 9? That’s the biggest question I had from the start. What is “given up” in the smaller, lighter Z 8 (compared to Z 9)? In all reality, the loss of GPS and smaller battery (which video does inhale) is basically it. Yes, there are some features added, one card slot is now a SD rather than CFexpress and one Fn button has been moved but other than that, the Z 8 is not a little brother but a stand alone mini giant! All that I have come to expect from the Z 9 I found in the Z 8. The AF performance, frames per second, programmable everything, killer EVF performance and most importantly, file quality are in the Z 8 as delivered by the Z 9. The only one feature I miss is the loss of the vertical firing button found on the taller, heaver Z 9. I think that’s the big attribute of the Z 8 that some of missed, its smaller and weight less than the Z 9 but with all the performance of the Z 9!

Many have asked if I “like” the Z 8. That’s a resounding YES! Some of asked if the “reduced” weather sealing is an issue? I had it out in the Alaskan rain getting nice and wet and it just kept clicking. So from that anecdotal evidence, I’d say no. One person asked what I feel is the most important question about the Z 8. What’s the shooting experience like? That’s very important to me and I was so pleased with the fun the Z 8 includes in its performance. Like I mentioned, the majority of the time it was connect to the Z600f4 while I was with the Kodiak Brown Bears. It made it easy to keep my attention on the bears, the story and not it. I need gear that doesn’t require my attention, just does it job and does it well. The one thing that took a little while to wrap my head around was the battery use shooting video. In that department, the Z 8 does not perform like the Z 9 but it shouldn’t. The Z 8’s battery is much smaller while producing the same video as the Z 9. I was disappointed in myself as it would seem that I didn’t take good care of my older ENEL15 batteries. They work just fine in the Z 8 but I had just left them in an uncharged state for the past year or more. They don’t want to hold a charge so I picked up new EN-EL15c and all is well.

Picking up the Z 8 and shooting with it was seamless as it is just a more compact, lighter Z 9. This includes its setting which for the most part are the same as those in the Z 9. I was actually not planning on doing any kind of video or field report since in my mind, the Z 8 is already proven as it is basically a Z 9. I’ll be honest with you, the interest in the Z 8 really has overwhelmed my inbox so I felt I needed to put some words to my thoughts. I can answer the #1 question now that I’ve been asked about the Z 8. Do I recommend the Z 8 or the Z 9? You want to save money, weight and size, the Z 8 rocks! You want all the bells and whistle and sex appeal, the Z 9 is your camera! I can tell ya that after this short time of 14k images, 10 days of intense shooting with the Z 8, my first thoughts are, this is one sweet camera that I’m so glad is now part of my kit.

And with that, I’m off for an air-to-air tonight with, yep, you guessed it, the Z 8!

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