Thoughts on the Z8 C2.00 Firmware Update

Updated: 2/10/24

Sometimes I have to complain about my customers ;~). It seems that everyone is now sending me an email asking if I'll update my Complete Guide to the Nikon Z8 to cover the new C2.00 firmware. This is akin to asking me "have you gone out of business?" If I do decide to answer such emails I've learned to also include "I don't have a target date for when I'll be done with that." 

I'll repeat: yes, I'm working on a revision to my book, no I don't know when it will be done.

I understand that you want to know how these features work. But there's a lot more to things than just adding a quick rehash of Nikon's sparse Supplemental Manual. For instance, Pixel shift shooting. While most people are just asking "does it work"—yes, it does—they're missing something that Nikon glossed over: you can now set a button+dial customization for it. I have to find all these little things, integrate them into 1000+ pages of already dense material, rationalize customizations with other choices, and much more to justify a new edition of a Complete Guide. 

I do have some comments about the firmware update, however. 

  • Nikon continues to have an issue with firmware update completion. If you start a firmware update, walk away, and come back to find the screen black and press the shutter release partway, the camera will spring back to life as if it is finished updating. Virtually all of the firmware update issues I've encountered or helped others with can be attributed to this "finishing up" issue. The proper way is to monitor the camera during an update, wait for the "Turn off the camera" message, and turn off the camera. If for some reason you don't do that and have an issue: (1) try resetting the camera; or (2) reinstall the firmware update and wait for the message and do what it says. What appears to happen—and things vary with how a camera is set at the time—is that update completion not done correctly can leave the camera in an indefinite state. Some variables are muddled, and then when you try to go and do something, you encounter a bug because of that. This problem is totally on Nikon, and Nikon customer support doesn't know the drill I just wrote about, above, so will do silly things like say "send the camera back to Nikon for repair." It doesn't need repair. What needs repair is the way Nikon handles update completion. 
  • Auto capture is interesting, but seems like beta work still. First off, the UI is totally bonkers for Auto capture. Second, sequence and settings seem nuanced in a way you can't figure out until you actually do trial and error. Third, there are times when it won't seem to work, and it's difficult to tell whether or not you did something wrong or the camera did. In general, it works well with well considered settings on a largish recognized subject that isn't moving too fast. 
  • Nikon continues to think that Type A, Type B, etc. are meaningful names for options, probably because they don't know what the option actually is and how to describe it. For example, the shutter sound Type: one of the primary benefits of the five sounds is that people with frequency-based hearing issues can find a sound that they hear more clearly. However, this then gets strange when you start using high continuous bursts, as the sounds aren't that well thought out in terms of that. Nikon needs a Product Marketing Manager who knows what they're doing, and has enough authority over the engineers to keep them from just "doing some engineering things" and moving on to another problem.  
  • People have asked for focus distance info forever, but be careful what you ask for. In manual focus, you're now shown a remarkably precise focus distance (e.g. 0.43m, or 43 centimeters). I can pretty much guarantee that the distance isn't exactly .43m, nor can you just measure a distance to subject and set that using this new gauge (partly because ED glass focuses differently at different temperatures). There's also a lot of lag in presenting you the current distance. The usual reason people ask for distance is to calculate DOF, which opens up another can of worms: which theory of DOF are you going to apply? 
  • Yes, autofocus performance changed, but don't ask me how (yet). First up, we have the new Birds subject choice. That's something that seems to work like the Z9 change, but I still have more testing to do. But buried in the notes for the update are suggestions that other things changed, as well, particularly 3D-tracking. But one thing every Z8 user should note is that Nikon is now saying previous firmware versions didn't recognize AF fine-tuning options correctly when subjects were detected. I hate these vague and obscure "something changed" notes, as it takes me quite a bit of time to reverse engineer what really happened. Nikon really needs to let a couple of technically minded pros talk to the engineers in Tokyo, so that we can convey to Nikon users what Nikon marketing is incapable of. 
  • Not noted by most was an interesting change. NX MobileAir can now download and upload Save menu settings files. It seems that this is Nikon's response to all us pros asking for a better solution for settings files. It isn't great, but it's a step. Simple ask: when we download from the camera, let us name that file; when we upload from the mobile device, let us pick a named file. Done. (Well mostly; this is still a two-step process that requires a USB-C cable and we want a one-step internal-to-the-camera process that can be controlled by buttons.)
  • NikonUSA is back to being NikonUSA. Despite my asking for early access to the update and willingness to sign an NDA, that didn't happen. What also didn't happen is that NikonUSA marketing didn't even send me the press release when they did release the firmware update I knew was coming. 
  • Sad to say, there are some clear bugs in the new firmware. Perhaps if Nikon had actually let me test the new software in beta (see previous bullet), they might have gotten fixed prior to release. I've found a half dozen instances so far—typically a sequence—which all seem to have a similar characteristic: a feature/button stops working temporarily (in extreme situations, the camera freezes). Cycling the power almost always "fixes" the problem. This indicates to me that a variable of some sort is not getting updated properly or a loop/condition is not correctly cleared. I've also heard from users about similar problems. Hopefully, they'll get fixed. 
  • Yes, there are undocumented changes. I've found several already and am having to change wording nuance in my book. Moreover, there are some behavior differences that might trip some up. On the Z6/Z7, for instance, Exposure delay mode wouldn't allow AF-C focus to continue during the delay. On the Z8, it does (though I seem to detect a brief pause at the start of the delay). 
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