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61MP Nikon Z8 full-frame mirrorless camera rumored to launch in 2020

(Image credit: Nikon)

Chatter arose last year about a high-end Nikon full-frame mirrorless camera that is slated to join the Z7 and the Z6. At the time, Nikon executives confirmed to Japanese news outlets that a mirrorless version of the company's pro-level sports DSLR, the Nikon D5, was being developed. It's likely that this high-specced full-frame mirrorless shooter – currently dubbed the Nikon Z8 (not its official name) – might be announced this year.

In April 2019, Nikon was rumored to have signed an agreement with Sony to purchase the IMX455 sensor, which is a 61.4MP 35mm full size CMOS sensor capable of handling 12-bit 8K video. If true, it won't be the first time Nikon has used Sony sensors and probably won't be the last.

Then a new Z series camera design patent leaked in August last year, with many expecting that to be the high-resolution Nikon Z8 pro mirrorless shooter. According to a screenshot from what is allegedly the Z8's Japanese user manual, the rumored camera will also have 12-bit, 14-bit and 16-bit raw options.

It's also expected to have in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and dual card slots – one for SD memory cards while the other supposedly for CFexpress.

While there's still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the Nikon Z8, the camera maker will definitely be under a lot of pressure to outdo the Canon EOS R5, which is shaping up to be, perhaps, the most powerful mirrorless camera yet.

Resolution over speed

If the rumors of the sensor resolution are true, then the Nikon Z8 is unlikely to be the mirrorless cousin of the D5 (or even the newly announced Nikon D6). The sports DSLRs have 20+ megapixel sensors so that they have the processing power and bandwidth to shoot at high burst speeds – a must for sports photography. 60MP sensors will use up a huge amount of power and, thus, will likely not be able to cope with continuous shooting speeds of 12fps or higher.

While the sensor itself is capable of 8K resolution outputs, we're not sure the Z8 will be able to match the EOS R5's video specs if Nikon uses its current Expeed 6 imaging engine under the hood. Unless there's a brand new, more powerful processor being developed, the Z8 might fall short in the video specs department.

That said, the arrival of the Z8 is necessary if Nikon is to stay competitive: the Canon EOS R5 aside, Nikon needs something to compete with the likes of Sony's Alpha A7R IV as well. Moreover, it's about time Nikon released a new Z series full-frame camera. If the Z8 arrives this year, it will be the first since the Z7 and Z6, although the crop sensor Nikon Z50 did join the ranks last year.

There's also whispers of a replacement for the Nikon D850 high-resolution DSLR as well, although other than it possibly using the same 60MP sensor, there's no other word on it.