Nikkor Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S PF

Nikon’s super telephoto Z 800mm f/6.3 lens yields crisp imagery in a compact and lightweight package that is priced super competitively.

Not too long ago I had the chance to test out for 11 days the Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S PF lens on a trip to Point Pelee National Park. You can read my blog post on my first birding trip there by clicking the link below.

Read about my birding trip to Point Pelee National Park.

This blog post will highlight my thoughts on the lens rather than go through any technical reviews of it. For all the technical details of the lens, you can consult Nikon’s website located here.

Is this lens for you?

To be able to answer this question, it’s important to understand what type of photography you are going to do with this lens. While it would no doubt be suited for sports photographers (caught on the sidelines), I’ll concentrate my thoughts on wildlife photography for this post.

What kind of wildlife will you shoot?

This lens is well suited for wildlife photography of all kinds, but you’ll have to take into consideration a few things to make the most out of this lens.

Let’s take a look at this chart below:

At 20ft Away on a
45.7mp sensor:
Small
(Birds, Water fowl, etc.)
Medium
(Deer, Wolves, etc.)
Large
(Elephants, Giraffes, etc.)
DetailedY with cropY with cropY
Middle-groundYYX
EnvironmentalY for smaller birdsXX
Approximate range of an 800mm focal length for various sized wildlife at 20ft. away on a 45.7mp sensor.

The left column describes the perspectives of photography you want to shoot. I’ve detailed the three types in this blog post, but here’s a quick summary (click on the images to enlarge them—all shot with the Z 800mm f/6.3):

Detailed refers to getting up-close and personal with the wildlife to see the intimate details such as its feathers, head, eyes, etc.
Middle-ground is a wider perspective where we may see the entire wildlife in the frame in addition to a little bit of its surroundings so we get an idea of where the wildlife was photographed in.
Environmental refers to a wide landscape image where the wildlife is only a small portion of the overall image.

If you analyze that chart you’ll see that if you shoot large wildlife, the only way you’ll get them in an environmental perspective is for them to be considerably far away—perhaps some hundred feet away from you. Any closer and you’ll lose your chance to be able to shoot the middle-ground and detailed perspectives.

On the other spectrum if you shoot small birds, you’ll want to be fairly close to them—around 10-30ft might be a good range for small birds to be able to shoot all three types of perspectives.

This all goes to show that you can expect to take certain types of photos depending on how large the wildlife is and how far you are from it.

Performance

Out of the box (and pouch) I was surprised at how lightweight this lens was for an 800mm f/6.3. It is hand-holdable for an extended period of time even without a tripod or monopod thanks to its 5-stops of image stabilization (5.5 stops when paired with the Z 9). I went hiking at Point Pelee National Park for almost six hours all the while hand-holding the lens. If I needed a break, I would put it on my Cotton Carrier harness (read my blog post on this harness here) to free up both my hands, but that was rarely done as I was too busy looking for birds most of the time.

Part of this reason I was able to hold it for so long is its weight distribution. Heavier on the mount-side of the lens, the front does not weigh the lens down as you hold it, making it comfortable to hold for longer periods.

With excellent sharpness and contrast throughout, I found there to be very little vignetting in any of my images—at least none that I noticed easily.

The closest focusing distance of the lens is 5m, which is a bit closer than the f-mount 800mm counterpart.

On the Lens

The Z 800mm f/6.3 brings you all of your favourite features on a pro lens including one function button on the end and four function buttons near the front, a function ring, a Memory Set button (to automatically move focus to a pre-set position), side strap clips, and a Kensington lock connector.

The tripod leg also comes padded on the inside, allowing for a more comfortable feel for when you carry the lens with it.

If you would like to see all of this in action, you can view my YouTube video below where I show you in more detail what comes with the lens.

Video Walkthrough of the Lens

If you want to see a little more detail on this lens, take a look at my video below where I show you the lens and its accessories.

Overall

Overall it’s a great lens considering what you get at the price-point. For any photographer wanting that extra reach of 800mm, it should definitely be a lens to consider. Use my chart above to give you an idea of the types of photos you can get to see if you can fully benefit from this extra reach.


Do you have the Nikkor Z 800mm f/6.3 lens? Let me know what you think of it!

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