Nikon Z8 vs Sony Alpha 1 - Head-to-head Comparison
The Sony Alpha 1 was first announced on January 26th, 2021, while the new Nikon Z8 was announced on 10th May 2023. Both are flagship 35mm full-frame mirrorless cameras.
Now that we know everything about the Sony A1 and Nikon Z8, it's clear that they actually share a lot of similarities when it comes to their core specifications and features, so which one should you pick?
We're bringing you this in-depth Nikon Z8 vs Sony Alpha 1 head-to-head comparison to help you choose between these two full-frame mirrorless cameras.
You can also read our detailed Sony Alpha 1 review to find out exactly what we think of it.
Sensor and Processor
The Sony A1 has a 50 megapizel sensor and the Nikon Z8 has a 45.7 megapixel sensor, giving the Sony a slight edge in out-and-out resolution, although you'd probably be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two in the real world.
Both cameras also have a stacked, back-side illuminated sensor. A stacked sensor increases the imaging speed for faster burst shooting (more on that later), whilst the BSI Back Side Illuminated) element has the potential to improve the low-light-imaging capability.
The native ISO range of the Nikon Z8 is 64 to 25,600, which can be expanded down to ISO 32 and up to 102,400.
The ISO range of the Sony Alpha 1 runs from 100 to 32,000, which can be further expanded down to ISO 50 and up to ISO 102,400.
Pixel Shift Multi Shooting
The Sony A1 has a special multi-shot shooting mode in which it takes 16 different images which can be combined using the Imaging Edge desktop software to produce a single, 199-megapixel image.
Amazingly, you can even use flash during this process if required thanks to the sensor's fast readout speed. Note that this mode only works by keeping the camera absolutely still and for non-moving subjects.
In stark contrast, the Nikon Z8 doesn't have any such equivalent mode.
The Z8 is the second ever Nikon camera to offer 8K recording - UHD 8K 60p/30p/24p video can be recorded with no crop.
It also offers a variety of frame rates up to 120p, again using the entirety of the frame with no crop factor, and 4K UHD video oversampled from 8K is possible when recording in the 30p/25p/24p modes for even greater sharpness and detail.
Internal recording with 10-bit color and 4:2:2 sampling is supported via the ProRes 422 HQ and H.265 codecs, and you can extract high-resolution still frames from 8K footage and save them as individual 33 megapixel JPEG files.
The Sony A1 also has a headline-grabbing 8K video mode, which along with the Canon Alpha 1 and Nikon Z9 and Z8 makes it one of only four digital interchangeable lens cameras to offer this feature at present.
The Sony A1 offers 8K/30p 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS video recording with 8.6K oversampling, in addition to 4K 120p 10-bit 4:2:2 and FullHD at 240fps movie shooting capabilities, and can output 16-bit Raw video over HDMI.
There is one key video difference between the two cameras - the Z8 can record 8K/30p for 90 minutes and 4K/60p for over 2 hours without overheating, while the Sony A1 has a 30 minute advisory limit, but is allegedly able to continue recording for longer than that.
Both cameras support a fastest shutter speed that goes all the way to an incredible 1/32,000th second.
The A1 also has a mechanical shutter with a top speed of 1/8000th second, whereas the Z8 doesn't actually have a mechanical shutter at all.
The Sony Alpha 1 the Sony A1 can shoot shoot black-out free at 30fps with the electronic shutter for 165 JPEG frames or 155 Compressed RAW images, although the top speed is only 10fps when using the mechanical shutter.
It also offers a 20fps burst mode at 50 megapixels for up to 400 JPEGs and 238 Raw files (Compressed, Lossless or Uncompressed)
If you want even faster burst shooting, though, the Nikon Z8 takes things to another level by being able to shoot at up to 120fps depending on the file format.
The Z8 offers 120fps burst shooting - yes, 120fps - but only at 11 megapixel resolution.
If you choose to shoot full-resolution 45 megapixel JPEGs, the rate drops to a still impressive 30fps, and then down again to 20fps for full-resolution 45 megapixel Raw files.
The Z8 features Nikon's most advanced auto-focusing system. It has a 493-point phase-detection AF system which includes 405 auto-area AF points, with 100% frame coverage.
The Sony A1 has an AF system with 759 phase detection points that cover approximately 92% of the image area.
Impressively the Alpha 1 can also focus in light levels as low as -4EV (when used with an F2 lens), but the Nikon Z8 can focus in light levels as low as -9EV when used in the Starlight mode.
Thanks to the Expeed 7 processor, the Z8 offers a wide range of deep-learning artificial intelligence based AF tracking modes.
Subject tracking works for humans, dogs, cats and birds, the latter even in flight, plus vehicles, including planes, trains, bicycles and motorbikes.
The new Z8 rather surprisingly additionally recognises aircraft as a subject - either the whole body, front or the cockpit.
The Alpha 1’s deep-learning AI can recognise cats, dogs and birds, focusing on their bodies, faces or eyes, but it doesn't recognise vehicles.
Body and Design
This is one of the biggest differences between the new Nikon Z8 and 2020's Sony Alpha 1.
The Sony A1 largely follows the tried and tested design of seemingly almost every previous Sony Alpha camera - if it ain't broke, don't fix it again seems to be the mantra for the flagship Alpha camera.
In terms of size, the Sony A1 is much smaller and lighter than the Z8, weighing in at 737g body-only with a battery fitted and it measures 129 x 97 x 70mm.
The Z8 is 30% smaller and 430g lighter than the flagship Z9, which has a dual-grip design, but at 910g it's substantially heavier than the Alpha 1.
Both cameras can still be used with an optional battery grip if you'd prefer to have a larger body with portrait controls and extended battery life.
The Nikon Z8 has a magnesium alloy body that is both dust- and weather-resistant, just like the D6 DSLR, with both of those cameras offering the same level of weather-proofing as each other.
The Alpha 1 is the most well-built Sony Alpha camera that we've ever reviewed. The front and rear and the top-plate are all made out of magnesium alloy, and all of the external controls are weather-sealed against both dust and moisture.
The Nikon Z8 has an excellent in-body five-axis image stabilisation system which provides up to 6 stops of compensation when paired with certain Z-series lenses that also have their own built-in Vibration Reduction (VR) system.
The Sony A1 has a very good 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization system, but it only provides up to 5.5-stops of compensation.
The new Sony A1 has an incredible 9.44M-dot OLED Quad-XGA electronic viewfinder with 0.90x magnification and a refresh rate of up to 240 fps which ensures no black-out.
The Z8 uses a much lower resolution 3.69M-dot, 0.8x-magnification OLED electronic viewfinder that also refreshes at 120fps, perfect for tracking your subject whilst shooting at up to 30fps.
So Sony clearly wins this battle with its large, very high resolution viewfinder.
The Nikon Z8 uses a four-axis vertically and horizontally tilting 3.2-inch, 2.1M-dot LCD screen.
Whilst not quite as versatile as a fully articulating, vari-angle LCD, the Z8's screen works very well for both portrait or landscape-orientation shooting.
You can tilt it upwards to face you in either mode, whilst still being centrally located which make it easier to compose with than a screen that flips out to the side.
The Sony Alpha 1 has a slightly smaller 3.0-inch LCD screen with only 1.44 million dots of resolution, a screen that has again featured on many previous Alpha models.
The screen on the A1 can be tilted up by 107 degrees and down by 41 degrees.
The Nikon Z8 has one UHS-II SD card slot and one ultra-high speed CFexpress Type B slot.
Both of the Sony A1's dual slots can be used for either SD UHS-I/II compliant memory cards or CFexpress Type A cards, making it a little more versatile.
The Sony A1 uses exactly the familiar NP-FZ100 battery that all the other recent Alpha camera use, which provides up to 430 shots when using the viewfinder and approx. 530 shots when using the LCD monitor.
The new Z8 uses the much smaller capacity EN-EL15C battery that's also used by the Z7 II, Z6 II and Z5 cameras, providing a CIPA-rated 300 shots maximum achievable from a full charge.
The price of the new Nikon Z8 is surprising, thankfully in a good way - Nikon have aggressively priced it at £3,999 / $3,999 body only in the UK/US.
This is significantly cheaper than the Sony Alpha 1, which is currently priced at £5,879 body only in the UK and $6,500 in the US.
The new Nikon Z8 takes almost everything that we loved about the flagship Z9 and squeezes it into a much smaller, lighter and crucially significantly cheaper body.
Despite being 3 years older than the Z8, though, the Sony A1 is still a competitive product that is well worth considering.
So what do you think? Would you choose the new Nikon Z8 or the Sony Alpha 1, and why? Leave a comment below!