The lens Nikon wildlife photographers have been waiting for
When Nikon announced the long-awaited 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 Z Nikkor telephoto zoom lens, I immediately placed a pre-order. This lens is the obvious successor to the 200-500mm f/5.6E VR (F-mount) for native Nikon Z mount. While the 200-500mm Nikkor is a tremendous value and excellent lens, the new native Z lens offers some substantial improvements, notably:
- Internal zoom design with a short zoom ring rotation (70°)
- 4.3lbs (without collar or hood) vs. over 5lbs for the 200-500mm
- Fluorine-coated optics
- 5.5 stops of vibration reduction
- Excellent zoom range from 180-600mm
While few people would argue that a 4+ pound lens is “lightweight,” it’s certainly easier to hand-hold than the 200-500mm. Zooming while shooting is very easy with a very smooth zoom ring and short rotation distance. With the 200-500mm, I sometimes felt that I was cranking the zoom ring all the way around the lens.
If there were any features I’d wished were different on this lens, it would be the tripod collar design (removable collar vs. removable foot), and better focus range limiter options. Nikon only offers full range and a 6m-∞ setting. Other companies sometimes include a short-range setting, too. Keep in mind that at 4.3 pounds (1.95kg), hand-holding this lens for prolonged sessions will still get tiring; you may want to use it with a monopod. The 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 Z Nikkor is over a full pound lighter, but also costs about $1000 more.
In my brief testing, focus seems quick and smooth, but I’ll wait to try it on a Z9 body before coming to any conclusions on speed. The lens has a 9-bladed aperture design, which should help with bokeh. There’s no VR switch on the lens; you turn it on and off via your Nikon Z camera body.
I hope to do some real-world testing of this lens very soon, but I think with its price point of under $1700, Nikon has a home-run on their hands with this lens.