When it comes to the ergonomics of the Nikon Z8, it’s clear that the camera is larger than its mirrorless predecessors. However, this is likely intentional on Nikon’s part. It seems that they are using the Z8 as a way to ease DSLR users into the world of mirrorless cameras, as the design and feel of the Z8 is reminiscent of a DSLR. Overall, the larger size of the Z8 may make it more comfortable for some users to hold and operate.
Because of this, Nikon Z8 may not be the ideal camera for everyone due to its larger size and partly plastic housing, which can make it feel somewhat clunky. If you’re considering purchasing this camera, it’s important to have realistic expectations about its handling. This article aims to provide an honest assessment of what it’s like to handle the Z8, so you can be fully prepared when you unbox it.
Also, be sure to check out my Nikon Z8 Accessories List to see all accessories I’m using.
Table Of Contents
Nikon Z8 Handling
The handling of the Nikon Z8 has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. While there are definitely some positive changes, it took me a while to adjust to the new setup. However, after a few days of shooting with it, I’ve grown to really appreciate it.
Here is what makes it feel so different.
Feels Cheaper Than A Z6
The Nikon Z8 body has a slightly different feel compared to the Z6 or Z7. While it is not a cheap camera, it doesn’t have the same premium feel as smaller mirrorless cameras with magnesium bodies. The front plate of the Z8 is made of metal, providing a solid base for the mount and components. However, the back section of the body is mostly plastic, which is noticeable to the touch.
Every little click and bang with your fingernail produces that cheaper plastic feel, the body also feels more hollow. All the external impact sounds and clicks have this acoustic resonance amplifying everything that echoes through the body. Maybe this “hollowness” is to help with heat, but I don’t really know. It sounds to me like there is a lot of empty space inside the body of this camera and that they could have made it smaller or thinner if they wanted to. My theory is they really want to stick with a more traditional DSLR style to help the D850 converts feel at home in the new mirrorless body.
Buttons & Dials
The rear dial wheel and front dial wheel are very plastic, whereas they were very metal on the Z6. At least the rear exposure comp dial was, I’m not sure what the front dial on the Z6 was made of, but it felt a lot nicer.
I wish the Z8 got the same exposure comp dial carried over from the Z6, but maybe this was a limitation due to the much larger top display.
All the other buttons feel about the same, and they are backlit which is pretty nice.
Some Strange Limitations On Button Customizations
It never really made sense to me why brands often have weird limitations with customizable controls. It really seems like they almost at random pick a few buttons on the body of the camera that don’t have the full set of customization options, or leave out some really useful settings from the “i menu”. Like the ISO sensitivity settings. This is a very strange trend in the camera industry.
The only way you can get to your ISO sensitivity settings to change the minimum shutter speed is to menu dive. I use this feature a lot so it’s kind of annoying since the Z8 has such a larger set of options in the menu compared to the Z8. At least you can add it to the “My Menu.”
Next, there are a few buttons that just can’t be freely customized. For one the Trashcan button cannot be customized. It just sits there, taking up space, only to be used if you decide to delete a file which many people do not do in their camera. Possibly, the logic here is that it’s a pretty important button, and Nikon wants to sort of protect users from accidentally getting in the habit of engaging it for other things.
The Lock Button is another strange one. You can customize the Lock Button, also called Fn3, but you can’t customize them to the same settings as the Fn1 and Fn2. You’re limited. I really wanted this button to be set up as my AF control switch, to switch between AF-S, AF-C, M, etc, but you can’t set it to that. That function is dedicated to the AF control bottom of the bottom left side of the camera, which also cannot be customized.
My issue with this is I cycle through the AF controls a lot, and the placement of the dedicated button on the bottom left of the camera is hard to get used to. Without looking I’m always hunting around, trying to find it, and at least for now until my muscle memory is built, it really slows me down. Let me customize that, so I can change it to Starlight Mode or something I don’t use often but find very useful, then let me have my lock button for my left thumb be my Focus adjustments.
These are fairly minor complaints, and I’m actually really grateful we have these new sets of buttons, but further customization would be really nice, as I like to get crazy with my customizations.
Fn1 & Fn2 Buttons
They kept the Z9 Fn1 and Fn2 buttons. I’m not sure why they chose to go with smaller buttons instead of the bigger buttons of the Z6 and Z7 which were a little easier to press, but, these buttons are great and I use them all the time.
I still worry about the leatherette around this area and wish Nikon just kept a hard material all around the buttons. On my Z6 the rubber grip around the buttons was completely destroyed from my fingernails hitting it and digging into it. The design of the hand grip just wasn’t done very well to mitigate this.
You can already see it starting to wear after only a few days of owning the camera.
This is just a bad design for people with larger hands. It needed to have a smoother transition from the body to the grip like Fujifilm cameras do, or just let that section of the camera be magnesium like a Sony camera.
Probably my favorite feature of the Z8 is the 3-way tilt screen as we see in the Fujifilm X-T bodies. It’s so useful for landscape and portrait shooting.
The only problem with the Nikon implementation of this screen is it feels very bulky compared to the Fujifilm design. Granted, the Nikon screen is larger, but it does feel very plastic and clunky.
Separate Custom settings Bank & Shooting Menu Bank
This is more of a features complaint rather than a build and handling complaint, but I really don’t fully understand the logic of separating Settings and Shooting modes into separate banks. Just give me one bank that combines them both, and if people feel like they need more customization, just give me 8 instead of 4 custom banks.
I can’t really think of an instance where I would change a Shooting Bank but not also want Customer Settings as well. Like when I put my camera in Landscape shooting mode, I have to change not only Shooting Bank but also the Custom Settings Bank, because I also need my Landscape mode to have a different “i menu” that gives me access to interval timer and HDR settings and extended shutter speeds as well as different customized button configurations.
Maybe that’s just a Nikon thing, but it seems unintuitive, especially since there is also a third option for “Extended Menu Banks, which adds memory for the exposure and flash modes. If they are going to add a toggle for “Extended Menu Bank” then also just add a toggle to each Shooting Bank to allow it to include the Custom Settings. Boom done, life easy.
Very Loud IBIS Lock
The Nikon mirrorless cameras have a locking mech that holds the sensor in place when the camera is turned off or when the menu is accessed – likely to save battery. Some of the mirrorless cameras by other brands don’t have this and when the camera is off, you hear this constant rattling and shaking from the sensor slapping around. It’s a nice feature.
However, the IBIS lock or the engaging and disengaging of the IBIS is loud in the Nikon Z8, it clicks and amplifies through the body at probably twice the volume of the Z6 and Z7. It’s distracting, especially if you were to shoot in a quiet environment. The only way to turn off this constant loud clicking of the IBIS lock which engages every time you open a menu, is to put the camera in silent mode. So set up your “i menu” with the silent mode option, so that way when you need to do a lot of customizing and menu diving, you can just engage silent mode so the camera isn’t always slapping and clicking at you like some DSLR mirror.
Also, when you’re trying to hold to do a long exposure with IBIS, you will hear this whining or whizzing sound from the IBIS which was not as audible on the Z6 and Z7.
Be also sure to check out this guide on the Fastest Memory Cards for the Nikon Z8.
Nikon Z8 Eurgonomics Conclusions
The Nikon Z8 body, while not as premium-feeling as its predecessors the Z6 and Z7, does offer some nice improvements such as additional buttons and a vertical tilting screen. It may take some time to adjust to the new design, but overall it is a more user-friendly camera. However, it falls short in terms of the premium feel of the Z6 and Z7 bodies.
Hopefully, in future versions of this camera, they can carry over some of the same external improvements of the Z8, but marry that with the more premium Z6/Z7 design.
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