Last month, I had the opportunity to test out our rental Nikon Z8 body during a short road trip out to the Thompson-Okanagan region of BC. As I pretty much only shoot wildlife, that is what I concentrated on this trip. My friend from Seattle had rented a cabin on a lake, and when she got there, realized there were two bedrooms, so she invited me up. How could I refuse? My first stop was in an area that was a victim of wildfires in 2021, where all the trees are charred, and the undergrowth is just beginning to regrow. One of the first animals to take advantage of this new growth are rodents that can hide in the grass, which in turn provides plenty of sustenance for predators. The result of this high concentration of rodents is a relatively dense population of Great Gray Owls in the area. Knowing this, my first stop was a family of Great Gray Owls. This particular nest originally had five owlets, but due to some unfortunate incident (I don’t know what) it was down to four by the time I got there a week or two after they fledged. I was privileged to be able to spend a few hours alone with them, watching multiple feedings, and having the curious owlets fly down to within just a few metres of me. The owlets would gather back at their nest and wait for Ma & Pa to drop off food, all while screeching loudly, an indication that they are hungry. The owlets will be mostly dependent on their parents until the end of summer, at which point they will be chased out of their territory to fend for themselves..
The adult owls have the most amazing camouflage, and are very difficult to spot, but if you see a tree with bright yellow eyes, there’s probably an owl in there somewhere! I was very surprised at how the Z8 was able find the eyes of the owl and lock focus – very impressive!
The next day, my friend and I borrowed a boat and went out on the lake to photograph a Common Loon family. This family had two young chicks, who were still small enough to hitch a ride on Ma’s back. Super cute! Again, the Z8 performed admirably, not having any trouble locating the eyes of the birds.
I found the Nikon Z8 to have an excellent AF system, and the thing I really like about it is how configurable it is. You can vary the height and width of the AF area to suit your needs, and still retain eye recognition, which rivals like the Canon R5 cannot do. However, I feel the R5 recognizes the eyes of a greater number of animal species than the Z9/Z8 siblings, but having said that, the much more customizable AF systems of the Z9/Z8 can give you more keepers under the right conditions, and used properly. Stills image quality is excellent, even at higher ISO ratings, and is probably the best camera at base ISO, which is 64. The video quality of the Z8 is also fantastic, although you will need a high end computer to efficiently work on the higher quality video files. All in all, the Nikon Z8 is a joy to use, and is definitely one of the best new cameras currently on the market.
The Nikon Z8 is available to rent for $225/Day or Weekend.