One of the most anticipated lenses of the Nikon Z mount proves to be well worth the long wait.
The Nikkor Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR lens has been on the lens road map for the longest time, so many are very anxious to get their hands on what might be the best lens bang for the buck.
Coming in at a MSRP of CAD$2299/US$1699, this lens is well suited for the general public who’s interests lay in wildlife or sports photography. The hand-holdability, versatile zoom length, and sharp output makes this a winning lens in many people’s bags.
Key Points of Consideration
There are several key points going for this lens so I’ll summarize them below.
- Versatile zoom range of 180-600mm
- The F-mount counterpart had a zoom range of 200-500mm, so the added 100mm on the telephoto side makes this lens even more useful. Providing an extra 20mm on the shorter side was just the icing on the cake—not to mention it now pairs well with their newly released Z 70-180mm f/2.8 lens.
- Internal zoom
- This is a welcome addition to any lens in my opinion. An internal zoom means the lens itself doesn’t change in size and the weight distribution stays constant throughout the entire zoom range. This is advantageous for anyone putting the lens on a gimbal so they don’t have to recalibrate their settings. Moreover, no exposed moving parts means fewer chances of dust or debris getting into the lens body.
- Short 70° throw
- The throw indicates the amount you must turn the barrel of the lens to go from the minimum to maximum focal length (or vice versa). In this case you only need to turn the barrel 70° to go from 180mm to 600mm. This short range is advantageous as you can move from 180mm to 600mm (or vice versa) really quickly to capture that subject that may have been running or flying toward you. Of course this aspect isn’t going to help if the autofocus can’t catch up to the speed of you changing the focal length. In my testing on the Z 8 and Z 9, I’ve had no issues so far as I tried tracking birds in flight coming in and out of the range of the lens. The short throw also helps for those that can twist the barrel in one swift movement eliminating the need to reposition your hand to get to the focal length you desire. If you’re like me and like to keep the lens foot on the lens, you might find the need to reposition the hand as your grip on the lens gets further away.
- Lightweight (to an extent)
- Weighing in at 2140g with the tripod collar ring, the lens can be hand-held for a period of time. How long depends on your comfort level. I’ve hand-held my Z 800mm f/6.3 (2345g) for almost an entire days’ worth of outdoor photography, so hopefully I can do the same with this lens.
- Function buttons
- The fact they also kept the four function buttons on this lens I feel is a bonus. You can program the button (all with the same function) inside your camera body to do various things like focus recall, which can be helpful to achieve faster focusing on a subject.
Tripod Collar Ring
The tripod foot for this ring is attached to a collar ring that is removable. This design means the entire collar needs to be unscrewed or screwed on. The collar itself weighs approximately 145g. The peculiar thing of this ring is you really need to turn the knob a lot to unscrew or tighten the collar ring on the lens. I would have much preferred only the foot to be detachable, much like you have on their other zoom lenses.
- The included foot is not Arca Swiss compatible so you need to add a plate to the bottom to use on your Arca Swiss compatible tripod head
- The front has a 95mm filter thread
I’m impressed with the image quality coming out of this lens. I’m able to get sharp images throughout making this a great overall telephoto lens to add to your arsenal. With the proper setting and lighting you should have no problems getting quality images.
Many people would no doubt use this lens for wildlife or sports photography. There have been plenty of reviews already with these example images, so I won’t post much more here. Instead, I’ll provide images I took in an urban environment. One morning, I took this lens on my sunrise walk along the lakeshore to see what sort of images I could get with it. I came out with a variety of images, all—or mostly—handheld so you can see that this lens can be used in more than wildlife/sports scenarios. This opening image of the crescent moon was handheld, producing crisp details of the moon’s surface.
All camera settings are written for each image. The longer exposures are set up on a tripod, but I have shot with shutter speeds as low as 1/60th hand-holding this lens producing sharp images. These images have been edited in Adobe Lightroom for colour, exposure, and contrast. Slight noise reduction has been applied when necessary, and re-sharpened slightly to bring back what was lost during noise reduction. None have gone through Topaz products for noise reduction or sharpening.
If you’re wondering if this lens is for you, you have to consider what it is you’re looking for in a lens. This is a great all around lens if you want to capture something far away. It’s ideal for wildlife and sports photography, but as you can see from above, it’s still well suited for general purpose photography if you know how to handle the scenario.
It’s relatively lightweight and I love the focal length range and the short throw, not to mention the added bonus of having a lens function button. It’s priced surprisingly well considering what you get, so I think it’s well worth the investment for you.
As I tell everyone who is thinking on getting new camera gear: If you’re able to, go to your local camera store and check the lens out in person to see how it feels in your hands. If you like what you’re holding, then chances are you’ll like it after you purchase it!
View my YouTube video on what I think about this Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 lens!
Do you have this lens? Do you like it? Let me know what you think of this lens if you’ve ever used it!