Category Archives: Reviews

Nikon 180-600mm Tests: Wildlife Images

Backyard wildlife images with the Nikon Z9

I got my hands on a Nikon Z9 to do more testing with the Nikon 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR Z Nikkor lens. With the Z9, autofocus is very fast and accurate (much faster than my old Z6). More importantly, animal eye-detection makes focusing on wildlife a breeze. You can get my wildlife and bird photography settings for the Z9 and Z8 cameras here.

I chose to leave these images un-cropped so you could get an idea of the framing. All of these subjects were within 5-10m from me. I shot all of them at 600mm and wide-open at f/6.3. Click any image to enlarge it.

One thing I will say about this combo, the Z9 and the 180-600mm have a combined weight of over 7lbs (3,300g). If you’re not using a monopod, hand-holding this lens will get tiresome after awhile. With a the Nikon Z8, you’re still dealing with a 6.3lb kit. (I certainly noticed it, although I was also at 9000′ (2743m) elevation…

Check availability of the Nikon 180-600mm Z Nikkor lens here (doing so helps support this site)

Least chipmunk (Tamias minimus) having a snack. 1/2500s f/6.3 ISO 640 (auto) @600mm Nikon Z9
Chickadee waiting its turn for the feeder. 1/2500s f/6.3 ISO 4500 (Auto) @600mm Nikon Z9
Up close with the Least chipmunk (probably about 4m away). 1/2500s f/6.3 ISO 800 (Auto) @600mm Nikon Z9

Nikon 180-600mm : Examples with Z teleconverter 1.4

The lens + teleconverter combo is sharp, but autofocus slows down

I went out again with the Nikon 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 Z Nikkor, and this time I used the Z teleconverter TC 1.4x. This combination delivers the equivalent of a 250-840mm f/8-9 lens. Again, I’m still using a Nikon Z6 body, so autofocus performance is slower than what you’d see with a Nikon Z8/Z9.

Autofocus definitely slowed down a bit when using the teleconverter, but once focus was acquired it did a good job of staying locked in. What I found from my test shots was that sharpness across the frame was still excellent, even wide-open. Stopping down to f/11 improved edge sharpness slightly, but not enough to make me feel like I needed to do so. I feel that if you can handle the light-loss penalty (1-stop), and reduced AF performance, go ahead and use this combination wide-open. It’s very very good.

Here are a few full-resolution sample images from the Nikon 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 Z Nikkor + Nikon Z teleconverter 1.4x. Click on any image to view it full-size.

Nikon 180-600mm Z Nikkor Lens: Casual Testing

Looking at sharpness and bokeh with neighborhood subjects

Walked around the neighborhood yesterday with the Nikon 180-600mm Z Nikkor and my Nikon Z6 body just to test the lens and see how it handled. I plan to get out to a better location soon, but my casual backyard tests suggest that this lens is quite excellent. Obviously, I need to find some better subjects (coming soon). But I just wanted to post a few un-cropped images from the Nikon Z6 so you can get a sense of sharpness and bokeh. I’ll have a Z9 to test with this lens in the coming weeks.

Juvenile flycatcher
Juvenile flycatcher in the neighborhood (un-cropped image). Click to see the full-size image. 1/2000s f/6.3 ISO 560 at 600mm
Barbed wire fence. This photo does a good job of showing the edge to edge sharpness with the Nikon 180-600mm Z lens. 1/2000s f/6.3 600mm (click to enlarge).
No parking sign: I took this photo to look at how out of focus highlights were rendered by the 180-600mm Nikkor Z lens. 1/2000s f/6.3 ISO 720 (click to enlarge)

Nikon 180-600mm Z Nikkor first impressions

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
Nikon 180-600mm lens in the author's hand
The Nikon 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 lens is quite a handful, but not hard to handle.

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.

Quick Compare: Nikon 180-600mm vs. Nikon 200-500mm

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.

Check pricing and availability of the Nikon 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 Z Nikkor lens here.

The Image Doctors #142

Nikon 800mm f/6.3 PF lens review

This week, we’re joined by our good friend and colleague, Eric Bowles. Eric is the Director of the Nikonians Academy, and he recently purchased the Nikon 800mm f/6.3 PF lens for Z-mount. We sit down to discuss his initial thoughts on this super-telephoto lens, and how he’s been using it in his own photography.

Example Images (© Eric Bowles)

South Dakota – Custer State Park
Packing the 800mm f/6.3 PF lens in a Think Tank backpack