The Sony a1 is one of the best cameras ever made, regardless of genre – it does everything from wildlife to landscape photography well. But so does the Nikon Z8! Despite the price differences, these two cameras have a lot of similarities, and the “better” one isn’t immediately clear. So how do the Nikon Z8 and Sony a1 compare? Read on to find out.
Nikon Z8 vs Sony a1 Specifications Comparison
|Camera Feature||Nikon Z8||Sony a1|
|Announced||May 2023||January 2021|
|Sensor Type||Stacked CMOS||Stacked CMOS|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 7||BIONZ XR|
|Resolution||45.7 MP||50.1 MP|
|Sensor Dimensions||35.9 x 23.9 mm (Full Frame)||35.9 x 24.0 mm (Full Frame)|
|Sensor Pixel Size||4.35µ||4.16µ|
|Low Pass Filter||No||No|
|IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization)||Yes||Yes|
|Base ISO||ISO 64||ISO 100|
|Max Native ISO||ISO 25,600||ISO 32,000|
|Extended ISOs||ISO 32-102,400||ISO 50-102,400|
|High-Resolution Sensor Shift||No||Yes|
|Focus Stack Bracketing||Yes||No|
|Pre-Shoot Burst Mode||Yes (JPEG only)||No|
|Fastest Shutter Speed||1/32000||1/32000|
|Longest Shutter Speed||900 seconds||30 seconds|
|Continuous Shooting (Mechanical Shutter)||No mechanical shutter||10 FPS|
|Continuous Shooting (Electronic Shutter)||20 FPS||30 FPS|
|Notes for High FPS Shooting||20 FPS figure is for .NEF files (full-res JPEG at 30 FPS; DX JPEG at 60 FPS; 11 megapixel JPEG at 120 FPS)||Compressed raw at 30 FPS (uncompressed and lossless compressed raw at 20 FPS)|
|Buffer Size (Raw)||Over 1000 frames (20 FPS)||155 frames (30 FPS), 238 frames (20 FPS)|
|Autofocus System||Hybrid PDAF||Hybrid PDAF|
|Low-Light AF Sensitivity (f/2 Lens, ISO 100)||-7.5 EV||-4 EV|
|Standard Flash Sync Speed||1/200||1/400|
|Maximum Video Bit Depth (Internal)||12 bits||10 bits|
|Maximum Video Bit Depth (External)||12 bits||12 bits|
|Raw Video||Yes||Yes, externally|
|8K Maximum Framerate||60 FPS||30 FPS|
|4K Maximum Framerate||120 FPS||120 FPS|
|1080P Maximum Framerate||120 FPS||240 FPS|
|Additional Video Crop Factor||No||No|
|Video Recording Limit||90 min||780 min|
Physical and Other Features
|Slot 1 Type||CFExpress Type B||CFExpress Type A, or SD (UHS-II)|
|Slot 2 Type||SD (UHS-II)||CFExpress Type A, or SD (UHS-II)|
|Rear LCD Size (Diagonal)||3.2 in||3.0 in|
|Rear LCD Resolution||2.1 million dots||1.44 million dots|
|Articulating LCD||Dual Axis||Single Axis|
|Viewfinder Resolution||3.69 million dots||9.44 million dots|
|USB Type||Type C 3.2 Gen 2||Type C 3.2 Gen 1|
|Battery Life (Viewfinder)||330 frames||430 frames|
|Battery Life (Rear LCD)||340 frames||530 frames|
|Battery Life (Eco Mode)||370 frames||N/A|
|Weight (Body Only w/ Battery + Card)||910 g (2.01 lbs.)||737 g (1.62 lbs.)|
|Dimensions (LxHxD)||144 x 119 x 88 mm (5.7 x 4.7 x 3.5″)1||129 x 97 x 81 mm (5.1 x 3.9 x 3.3″)|
|MSRP, Body Only||$4000 (Check Current Price)||$6500 (Check Current Price)|
|Used Prices||Nikon Z8 Used Prices||Sony a1 Used Prices|
|1The Nikon Z8’s official dimensions do not include the depth of the protruding viewfinder. To match the typical standards today, 5mm were added to the Z8’s depth measurements in this table.|
Summary and Recommendations
Both the Nikon Z8 and the Sony a1 are stacked sensor mirrorless cameras designed for fast action. The specs above go back and forth, but one thing you might notice is that the Sony a1 costs a whopping $2500 more. What do you get over the Nikon Z8 for that extra cash?
The Sony a1 is faster when shooting raw photos, at 30 FPS compared to 20 FPS. It has a slightly higher resolution sensor, but the difference is only about 5MP so you won’t get too much more detail over the Nikon Z8. The Sony also has a slightly higher magnification viewfinder as well (0.9x over 0.8x), and an unusually high flash sync speed of 1/400 second. Then there’s the addition of pixel-shift shooting for high-resolution photography, up to 199 megapixels (although it works best from a tripod of nonmoving subjects).
On the other hand, the Nikon Z8 has a lower base ISO, a pre-release burst mode, internal raw video recording, and a dual-axis tilting LCD. Broadly speaking, it competes at the same level as the Sony a1 despite the lower price – it just depends which features matter to you more. If you’re completely on the fence, the $2500 lower price of the Nikon Z8 makes it a really compelling choice.
But frankly, you can’t go wrong either way. Both of these cameras are amazing machines for almost any genre of photography, so pick one and don’t look back!
I find it odd that no-one is talking about the fact that the z8 does not allow for shooting in uncompressed raw format. This is a big deal for someone who photographs birds of prey and therefore routinely works with 1:1 cropping to obtain desired results. The “lossless” applies until cropping enters the equation. The file sizes of the z9/z8 are just a bit larger than my old 24mp DSLR unit. Data is Detail. I was hoping Nikon would correct this option with the z8. I will wait to see if this is addressed in a firmware update.
I am not sure what you mean since lossless means no data is lost.
“2. Lossless Compressed – as the name implies, lossless compression means that a RAW file is compressed like an archive file without any loss of data. Once a losslessly compressed image is processed by post-processing software, the data is first decompressed, similar to what happens to archived data contained in a ZIP file. Lossless compression is the ideal choice, because all the data is fully preserved and yet the image takes up much less space.
On every camera I shoot with, I always default to Lossless Compression, because it is the most efficient way to store RAW images. There is no benefit of shooting Uncompressed RAW …”
— Compressed vs Uncompressed vs Lossless Compressed RAW Options by Nasim Mansurov
Don’t overlook the fact that the Sony only shoots 30fps in lossy compressed raw. Or that with High Efficiency Raw which has a barely perceptible decline in IQ (and if you are shooting this way you are not trying to get the last little bit of IQ out of your images), the Nikon has an unlimited buffer. Or that Sony hasn’t provided any firmware updates while Nikon has provided numerous firmware updates.
Now just in case you think that I am a Nikon fanboy, I am sure that Sony will sort this out and leapfrog Nikon and then we are back to the old normal leapfrogging pattern. That will be a relief, as we can now focus on our respective systems knowing that a little patience will give us whatever the competition comes up with.
Good points! Sony will probably respond with another offering that solves current problems. Competition is certainly good!
As a long time Nikon (D)SLR shooter, I am glad to see Nikon fully back in the game. Sometimes I regret jumping ships to Sony mirrorless a few years ago but when I did, Sony’s AF and lens lineup were way better than Nikon’s. And I appreciate how most Sony GM lenses are smaller and lighter than the competition, or feature a dedicated aperture ring, but I still miss Nikon cameras ergonomics.
I hope the increased competition will put a bit of pressure on Sony’s prices, the A1 (and A9 II) looking distinctively overpriced in my opinion.
We’ve all been there… time to jump ship back to home base :)
Kidding of course! All mirrorless systems are very good now, and competition is fierce, which is great for us end users – we have the luxury to pick.
Not quite fierce enough to get Nikon to produce anything in the same league as the Canon R7. I’d also go for their 100-500 ahead of Nikon’s 100-400 (plus TC – Canon’s 1.6x gives you 800mm while Nikon’s only gets to 840mm with the TC).
While cameras might leap-frog, lenses don’t tend to, so I’d say that Nikon is still behind the curve – and not looking that it’ll get ahead any time soon.
There are more of us who can afford £1,500 for a camera than £4,000. I’m close to an R7 plus 100-500 for the price of a Z8 body.
That is very true. I still wish Nikon would release a true D500 replacement…if they don’t the Z8 it is when I actually do replace by D500!
Canon ruined its super tele reputation by repurposing EF to RF and passing off shorter lenses with added TCs as longer lenses.
I think the better one is clear Jason :) the Z8 has a far superior handling and menu system that much I can tell you. And with tech being so close among competitors these days, to me it comes down to handling/interface/lens lineup. Nikon has a more attractive game in all three segments to me, including pro support as well.
Personally, I would choose between them entirely on lenses! The Z8 has lenses like the 400 f/4.5, 800PF, and 400mm/600mm with TCs. I am eyeing that Z8 now in fact…
I have a Z9 and an a1. I have used them both extensively all over the world for my work. I don’t choose sides, I just reach for the best tool for the job on the day. Sometimes it’s Nikon, sometimes Canon and sometimes Sony. The a1 autofocus is better than the Z9 for fast-moving objects, so the same will be true of the Z8. I have ordered a Z8, so I’m not here to knock it at all. It’s going to be great, and for a fantastic price. Probably the best all-rounder on the market. But I do think it’s worth acknowledging this AF difference. Your current recommendations makes no mention of AF differences, yet I count the a1’s autofocus as its number one flagship feature. The Z8/Z9 focus is close. No doubt about it. But if I want to give myself the best chance of nailing a difficult shot, I reach for the a1 every time. Is that worth the $2500 difference most people? Probably not. But it’s at least worth mentioning that the a1’s absolutely killer feature is the lighting fast and absurdly sticky AF.
I will trust Thom on this. He has used, tested and written about both the A1 and Z9. He basically says they are both the same with minor advantages to both in specific situations.
Besides these nitpicks, people that think the Sony is better have probably not tested the Sony against a Z9 with the latest firmware update. People that think either are better have probably not learned the system.
I have two Z9 bodies, two Z7ii bodies and one D850 bodies. For each body I have read everything that Thom and Steve Perry have published and practiced – over a hundred hours with with each and then carefully dialed in what I need with the settings.
Unless you have done all this, I don’t believe that you can really say. I haven’t because I don’t use Sony. But who am I going to trust for advice. It is going to be the guy that has done all of this and carefully protects his reputation by being objective as possible.