By Jean Rydberg
The Nikon Z8 is one of the most important camera announcements for underwater photographers of the past decade. Find out why it's better than the Z9 for shooting underwater, and why everyone who's still shooting a D850 should be seriously considering an upgrade.
Anyone thinking of taking a Z9 underwater should be seriously considering this camera. The Z9 is 40% larger than the new Z8, and will increase your housing size and weight proportionally.
The Z8 literally has all of the great photo and video capabilities of the Z9 and squeezes them into a much smaller package. You’ve got 45 megapixels, you’ve got 120 frames per second, you’ve got 8K N-RAW video, it’s pretty much anything you could ask a camera for in 2023.
Anyone already shooting a Z9 is going to own a spare camera body, and I suggest making it the Z8 and using that as the body you take underwater.
Who is shooting the Nikon Z8 underwater?
It’s a no brainer that my D850 shooters out there will finally have their perfect entry point into a mirrorless system. You’re going to appreciate the image quality, dynamic range, and a killer autofocus system. And if you’re a hybrid shooter you’ll be blown away by the video this camera is capable of.
The Ikelite 200DL underwater housing for the Z8 is designed to be lightweight, intuitive, reliable, and field serviceable. Our products are made in the USA and backed by a team of customer service staff who dive and use the equipment.
Ikelite has the only housing that allows you to clearly see the camera and o-ring after assembling the system.
If you’re shooting an Ikelite Dry Lock 200DL housing then your ports, DL1 TTL converter, and other accessories will come right over with you to the new housing. Double check the Z-mount port chart because lens positioning is a little different especially for those older F lenses that now need an adapter. Autofocus is still great when using AF-S or AF-P lenses with the FTZ converter so there are no worries there.
Trade Up Program
If you’re shooting an older Nikon in a housing with the original four port lock system, do check out our Trade Up Program which will give you a credit towards the purchase of a new housing and lens ports.
Dry Lock Port System
The central feature of the housing is the simple and reliable Dry Lock DL port mount. You’re already going to be traveling with several pounds of camera and lenses, so traveling with the lightest dome ports on the market will help to keep you within the airline luggage allowances.
We have a couple of dozen lenses on our Nikon Z mount port chart and we continue to add new compatibility information as it becomes available. If you want to know more about a specific lens that’s not listed on our charts please just shoot us an email.
Sensor Dust Cover
When you have the lens off the camera, the camera has a really cool dust protection feature for its sensor. These blades that look like a shutter open and close automatically when the camera is powered on and off.
Damaging your sensor practically means needing a whole new camera, the Nikon Z8's dust cover keeps you protected.
Optional USB Charging Bulkhead
We recently introduced a major innovation in underwater photography which is the ability to charge your camera and offload photos without taking it out of the housing. The Nikon Z8 camera is quite large, making the hyper flex USB-C cable a very tight squeeze inside of the housing. We are sourcing a low profile right angle connector which will allow you to make the connection more easily inside.
High Speed Shooting
The Nikon Z8 supports full autofocus and autoexposure tracking at up to 120 frames per second, making it one of the two fastest cameras on the market- the other being its big brother the Z9. While you’re probably not going to be shooting quite that fast underwater, it is an incredible feature for people who also shoot cars, airplanes, sports, and any other fast moving subject.
The Z8 comes without a built-in flash so you will be adding an external flash via the hot shoe either on the surface or underwater. The maximum flash sync speed is 1/200th of a second.
The Ikelite bulkhead on the top of the housing is the most reliable electrical bulkhead connection in the industry. Electrical flash triggering has zero lag and zero missed signals.
The Z8 is compatible with our DL1 DS Link TTL Converter which allows you to really take advantage of the camera’s burst shooting capabilities by automatically adjusting strobe output based on your distance to the subject. This is critical when your subject is moving towards you and you don’t have the time to change the position or power knobs on your strobes.
If you prefer to shoot fiber optic strobes you can add the optional Fiber Optic Transmitter which is a quick installation.
Either way, burst shooting is possible when you’re using our professional grade strobes.
We pioneered underwater TTL flash exposure for DSLR and Mirrorless cameras and the DL1 DS Link Nikon TTL Converter is the next iteration of our world renowned Nikon TTL flash circuitry.
I do find the Z8 to be a little short on exposure control dials with only two, one on the front and one on the back. But it’s enough for most shooting situations and it will be a familiar setup if you’re coming from the D850. I would most often set them for shutter speed and aperture when shooting photos, or aperture and ISO when shooting video.
I do find this to be a bit of a limitation on the camera when coming from the Canon R5 which offers three customizable dials, and the Sony a7R V which offers FOUR customizable dials.
You can easily switch back and forth between the viewfinder and the rear LCD screen while you’re shooting inside of the housing. I find myself using the rear LCD screen more and more - often exclusively - and you can keep in mind that you’ll save battery life when shooting with the LCD screen. If you are a hardcore viewfinder shooter, you can upgrade the housing’s standard optically enhanced viewfinder to a higher magnification 45º or straight viewfinder.
The Z8 is a little skimpy on viewfinder resolution compared to the current competition with only about 3.6 million dots. The Sony a7R V has almost three times as many which does mark a difference if you're primarily a viewfinder shooter.
Although we tend to prefer using the rear LCD screen underwater, our viewfinders provide enhanced viewing of your camera's viewfinder while creating space for your regulator, making composition more comfortable.
The Nikon Z8 has a CIPA battery rating of 340 shots per charge which will cover you on most days of shooting underwater. The power save features of the camera work so well and you will typically get plenty of shots out of this camera on a fully charged battery.
No matter what camera you’re shooting, I recommend setting the power standby mode to about 30 seconds. The camera will automatically go to sleep if you haven’t changed a setting or taken a photo in that time. Wake the camera back up by half-pressing the shutter button. You can half press the shutter as you bring the housing up to your face and once you get into that habit you will be amazed at the battery life you get out of your camera.
Alternatives to the Nikon Z8
If you’re not already living in the Nikon universe, then I would recommend considering the Canon R5 or the Sony a7R V cameras instead. Both have better lens choices in addition to being smaller and lighter. The Sony maxes out image resolution at an incredible 60 megapixels.
I think a lot of the choice depends on the lenses you own. If you already have some classic F-mount lenses like the 8-15mm Fisheye, then you’re money ahead to stay in the Nikon camera-verse and shoot the Z8. If you’re starting from scratch, there are so many great contenders out there and I tend to gravitate towards something lean and mean like the new Canon R8.
The Nikon Z8 is a totally incredible camera to shoot underwater right now. I would recommend it to anybody, and if you take it underwater you are going to get some amazing photos and video. The camera is top-of-the-line in terms of technology and it is a perfect fit in the 200DL Underwater Housing.
Get the gear: 200DL Underwater Housing for Nikon Z8 Mirrorless Digital Cameras # 71069
Reach out to us by email to email@example.com for advice on equipment and underwater photography. Happy shooting!
Jean Rydberg, daughter of Ike Brigham, became President & CEO of Ikelite in 2006. Prior to that, she wisely pursued a degree in Astronomy & Astrophysics to prepare herself for the challenges of running a technology-driven manufacturing business with global distribution. Jean fully embraces the need to travel outside of her hometown of Indianapolis to experience good diving. She believes that any camera is capable of amazing results in the right hands, and anyone can become a great photographer given the right advice. When she's not working she's spending time with her husband, cats, and two daughters (though not necessarily in that order).