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Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Field Test

Earlier this year, I used to be fortunate sufficient to go to the tropical Andes with two nice companions. I’m not referring to the group of good individuals who went with me to {photograph} the wonders of the native nature. I’m speaking concerning the two 400mm telephoto lenses we took alongside.

You will have examine my expertise with the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 a number of weeks in the past. Now I’d prefer to share with you my subject expertise with the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S.

Tanager fight
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm, ISO 900, 1/500, f/4.0

Construct High quality

It’s stating the apparent to say that this lens is well-built. That’s form of anticipated within the value vary that this lens falls in, at $14,000.

However as large and durable because the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 lens seems visually, it manages to keep away from extreme weight. Fairly the opposite! For a number of generations in a row, we have now seen the load of Nikon’s super-telephoto lenses lower. Let me exhibit this pattern with a number of milestones.

In 1994, Nikon launched the primary autofocus-equipped AF-I 400mm f/2.8D ED-IF lens. Solely the fittest photographers may carry this 6.6 kilo (14.5 pound) monster within the subject. Capturing handheld with it? Overlook it.

Twelve years later got here the AF-S 400mm f/2.8G ED VR. Its weight was already a extra bearable 4.62 kilos / 10.2 kilos.

Then in 2022, Nikon comes out with the present model, which weighs simply 2.95 kilos / 6.5 kilos! You possibly can carry two of those lenses for lower than the load of the 1994 lens alone.

Golden-tailed Sapphire
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm, ISO 1250, 1/1600, f/5.6

This can be a consequence that has undoubtedly made many photographers completely satisfied. Particularly these whose biceps will not be educated by every day arduous work. To not point out the airways’ reducing weight limits.

However again to sturdiness. Through the two weeks that I had the chance to field-test the lens, I didn’t encounter any circumstances that will problem it. Atypical rain didn’t trigger any issues for the lens sealing. The occasional drop on the entrance of the lens was very straightforward to wash up because of the Fluorine coating. (Though by constant use of a deep lens hood, drops might be averted fairly simply.)

I did, nevertheless, come throughout one minor criticism concerning the sturdiness of the lens. I’ve already talked about it in earlier articles, however let me repeat it. The weak level is the screw tightening the tripod collar. Its development is sort of delicate, and utilizing an excessive amount of drive can injury the screw threads. The restore is simple and low cost, nevertheless it shouldn’t be one thing that wants mentioning in any respect.

Additionally, the plastic cap that protects the Kensington lock slot (arms up whoever makes use of it!) pops off far too usually. If the lens had been mine slightly than a loaner, the cap would find yourself within the recycling bin the very first day.

A lot for the professionals and some minor cons of construct high quality. However let’s now see how the lens handles within the subject.

Sword-billed Hummingbird
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 400mm, ISO 8000, 1/1000, f/3.5

Dealing with

To say that the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S is gentle as a feather would most likely be an exaggeration. That might maybe be stated of its youthful f/4.5 sibling. As a substitute, as gentle because the 400mm f/2.8 is, it’s vital to do not forget that it’s nonetheless a chunky lens. If for some motive you’re averse to utilizing a tripod or monopod, I like to recommend trying elsewhere.

However, in comparison with its aforementioned predecessors, handheld images is actually attainable. Capturing all day lengthy this manner could be tiring, however I don’t hesitate to detach the lens from the tripod when the scenario requires it.

One instance is the picture you see under. As I crawled by means of a polylepis thicket to {photograph} Tawny Antpitta, I discovered myself holding the camera with one hand, lens pointed ahead. With the AF-S 400mm f/2.8G, I’d have dislocated my wrist holding it this manner. However it was attainable with the Z model.

Tawny Antpitta
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm, ISO 1000, 1/640, f/4.0

This brings us to the following characteristic, and that’s the steadiness of the lens. Whereas the 2007 predecessor is noticeably front-heavy, the present mannequin’s middle of gravity is extra to the rear. This enormously will increase the sensation of lightness. With the Nikon Z9 hooked up, the middle of gravity of the lens is roughly on the bend of the tripod foot.

That stated, I believe that Nikon ought to have made the tripod foot a bit longer. It could not have been mandatory by way of mounting the lens on the tripod, however it might have made the lens a lot simpler to hold. For no matter motive, perhaps to save lots of weight, they made the foot a bit smaller than I’m used to.

Now that I point out the tripod foot (and now I hope somebody from Nikon reads this), why don’t you lastly make it Arca Swiss suitable? If I had been to purchase the lens, I’d add an Arca Swiss compatible replacement for the tripod foot to my cart immediately. What a waste! After I take a look at some Sigma or Olympus lenses, I see that it may be carried out. By the way, an off-the-cuff search on the web exhibits that I’m removed from alone on this opinion.

Black-mantled Tamarin
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm, ISO 7200, 1/640, f/4.5

However let’s transfer on to the opposite options of the lens. There’s a drop-in filter slot within the conventional place, with an upgraded ergonomic lock. I’ve by no means personally used filters on tremendous teles, however I can think about circumstances the place a polarizing filter could be useful. When you {photograph}, say, surfers with the lens, this slot will most likely not be with out its makes use of (because it was for me).

Let’s check out the controls. The primary lever you’ll encounter together with your proper hand prompts the built-in teleconverter. I’ll come again to this characteristic later, as this is without doubt one of the major causes you would possibly wish to purchase the lens. I hope I didn’t give away the purpose too quickly. On the left facet, Nikon has positioned the A-M (Autofocus-Handbook) swap. Just under that’s the autofocus vary limiter.

Built-in Teleconverter 400mm
The built-in 1.4x teleconverter swap

I reached for the autofocus vary limiter very often with this lens. In any case, if I do know that I’m going to {photograph} an animal that can positively not come inside 6 meters of me, why not inform the lens and camera? The consequence then is that the camera will ignore the vary between 2.5m and 6m, which results in even sooner autofocus than earlier than.

Questioning the place all these switches from the earlier technology went? Gained’t we miss them? I don’t assume so. Switching VR mode between Regular and Sport is shortly accessible by urgent the i button, for instance.

The opposite “lacking” swap, the one which determines the behaviour of the buttons in entrance of the lens (L-Fn2), would even be considerably redundant. There are a number of causes. This quartet of buttons can now be mapped to quite a lot of capabilities. These wouldn’t be coated by a easy swap.

Furthermore, Reminiscence Recall can now be activated with none switching. That’s as a result of a brand new Fn ring has been added for the Reminiscence Set/Recall perform. The L-Fn2 button can then be assigned for one thing helpful like AF-On or AF-area mode.

In entrance of the lever activating the teleconverter, there’s a Reminiscence Set button. This can be utilized as a substitute for the Fn ring to save lots of the main target place. You’ll be able to see within the picture under the place it’s situated. It’s fairly distant although, so customers with shorter fingers might want to loosen their grip on the camera.

Memory Set

Of the controls, I haven’t but talked about the focus and management ring. The previous does precisely what you count on it to do, which is to manually focus when wanted. I used the management ring for publicity corrections within the case of semi-auto mode (M + Auto ISO) or for fast adjustment of ISO worth in guide mode. For these functions, I discover the management ring extra ergonomic than the normal button + dial mixture. However it may be straightforward to hit by chance, so remember that you simply don’t change your settings unintentionally.

To finish the checklist of controls, I’ll point out the final button, marked L-Fn. Whereas this may be mapped for quite a lot of duties, it’s utterly out of attain of my fingers. It’s attainable that you could be discover a use for it. If that’s the case, let me know within the feedback under. My knowledge is, you don’t have to assign each button to one thing 🙂

Golden-tailed Sapphire_02
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 400mm, ISO 11400, 1/800, f/3.2

Picture High quality

In a phrase, distinctive. I gained’t go into any theorizing, as a result of the arduous information will come from Spencer’s lab measurements. Somewhat, I’ll share with you my impressions from sensible use.

The largest promoting level of this lens by way of optical high quality is superior sharpness and distinction even with a totally open aperture. The second greatest promoting level is that utilizing the built-in teleconverter doesn’t detract noticeably from its qualities.

You pay such a fortune for a lens just like the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S primarily as a result of it really works nice broad open, isn’t that proper? Thus, the one sensible motive to cease down the lens is to get extra depth of subject.

Toucan barbet_3028
A small crop (about 6 megapixels) from the 45-megapixel Nikon Z9. NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm, ISO 900, 1/400, f/8.0

With the distinctive optical qualities of this lens, the excessive decision of the Z7 or Z9 instantly begins to make sense. Though I typically have a reluctance to crop my pictures, I discovered that the information produced by this glass might be cropped fairly extensively. Even pictures cropped to a measurement smaller than APS-C are nonetheless filled with particulars and boldly printable. That’s, assuming your hand or topic hasn’t gotten shaky.

It is usually pleasing that the lens retains its qualities even when specializing in distant topics. Not that this Goliath was supposed as a landscaper’s instrument, nevertheless it’s good you can confidently use it for these functions in case you’d like. After I used this lens to {photograph} the distant peaks of volcanoes, or the forest-covered slopes of the Andes, the quantity of element was unbelievable. On this respect, the advance over earlier generations is admittedly nice.

Andean cloud forest
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 400mm, ISO 64, 1/80, f/7.1

Past the optical efficiency, the lens has a sure versatility that many related lenses lack. Telephoto prime lenses are usually thought of pretty area of interest instruments. However the built-in teleconverter implies that this lens acts, to me, extra like a zoom than a chief. The flexibility to immediately swap to a 560mm f/4 lens is intoxicating.

Frankly, that’s the characteristic that gained me over probably the most. With the built-in teleconverter, the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 has leapfrogged most different supertelephotos by a kangaroo’s tail size. Immediately you end up utilizing it in conditions the place you wouldn’t have had time earlier than. On high of that, you essentially cut back the chance of dropping your teleconverter someplace, breaking it, or getting grime or raindrops in your lens through the change.

White-whiskered Puffbird_400mm
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 400mm, ISO 6400, 1/60, f/4.0
White-whiskered Puffbird_560mm
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm, ISO 6400, 1/60, f/4.0

The lens can be suitable with Nikon’s two exterior teleconverters, specifically the TC-1.4x and TC-2x. The TC-2x makes extra sensible sense to me, since it may flip the lens into both an 800mm f/5.6 or a 1120mm f/8.

In fact, focusing, sharpness and distinction will endure considerably. However not past what I’d name unacceptable ranges. The larger challenge at these focal lengths is an optical component that nobody has rigorously designed, polished, or coated: the air. Atmospheric distortion is painful at such lengthy focal lengths.

Nonetheless, to my eye, the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S with the TC-2x teleconverter is a far cry higher than the Nikon F-mount 400mm f/2.8 G with the TC-20E III. The advances in optics mixed with the bigger lens mount actually made a distinction.

To summarize, in case you purchase the TC-2x teleconverter together with this lens, you get:

  • 400mm f/2.8
  • 560mm f/4 (inside TC)
  • 800mm f/5.6 (exterior TC-2x)
  • 1120mm f/8 (inside TC plus exterior TC-2x)

That’s fairly a line of lenses, don’t you assume?

Common Potoo_1120
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Z TC-2x @ 1120mm, ISO 800, 1/320, f/9.0

How does this lens behave in robust backlight? Is its anti-reflection coating actually as highly effective as Nikon claims?

Nicely, once I handle to get it for an expedition to sunnier elements of the world, I’ll be completely satisfied to report again. The tropical forests of the Andes will not be the African savannah, and sunshine is scarce there. Nonetheless, I can’t complain concerning the distinction from what I noticed. Solely as soon as, when utilizing the built-in teleconverter, did I see a little bit of purple fringing when pointing at a strongly backlit treetop in opposition to the sky. I by no means encountered this in different pictures.

Focus Pace and Accuracy

After earlier, less-than-convincing autofocus experiences with sure tailored F-mount lenses, I used to be lastly completely impressed with the Nikon Z system. This lens refocuses so shortly, easily, and silently that I needed to confirm that autofocus was really working by focusing at infinity. The “Silky Swift” VCM Autofocus System – a wild advertising identify if I’ve ever seen one – does its job very properly certainly.

Andean Guan
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 400mm, ISO 10000, 1/1250, f/4.5

The lens focuses most shortly with topics which are considerably removed from the camera. Let’s say round ten meters / ten yards. Right here, the lens motor has to place within the least effort when refocusing.

However, with fast-moving objects near the minimal focusing distance, the lens motor should work more durable. This isn’t distinctive to the 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S; what is exclusive is how properly the lens performs even at these distances.

NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 400mm, ISO 125, 1/640, f/3.5

Does this imply you’ll by no means take an out-of-focus image once more? Completely not. No lens is magical, and it nonetheless requires cautious selection of your AF space mode, plus good response time. However the 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S has one of the best focus velocity and efficiency of any lens I’ve used earlier than.

Vibration Discount

Nikon says that along with IBIS within the Z9 (Synchro VR), the brand new vibration discount used within the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 means that you can shoot with shutter speeds as much as 6 stops slower than ordinary. In fact, your camera holding method will play a job right here – and it’s of no use in case your topic is transferring shortly, since VR and IBIS solely negate camera motion, not topic motion.

Happily, many birds have a behavior of alternating durations of exercise with transient moments of obvious stillness. When you make the most of these moments, you may get occasions someplace round 1/30 sec even when capturing handheld. I nonetheless strongly advocate a monopod or tripod underneath these circumstances, nevertheless it’s not inconceivable.

Even at 1/10 second handheld, I sometimes received sharp pictures. However at such publicity values, it’s most likely finest to pack up your gear and go away for a late dinner as an alternative.

Red-headed barbet
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm, ISO 2200, 1/640, f/4.0


The Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S isn’t an affordable lens. It’s not even an costly lens. For the worth of $14,000, it is a could-have-bought-a-car lens.

Till lately, this lens was the most costly Z-mount lens in Nikon’s lineup. It was dethroned from that place by the Nikon Z 600mm f/4, for which you’ll pay an astronomical $15,500. (For the document, Nikon’s most costly lens stays the Nikon AF-S 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR for DSLRs, with a price ticket of $16,300.)

So, is the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC worth? That’s relative. Any lens that earns its hold – or that brings its person a lot pleasure that they forgets how a lot it price – might be thought of worth.

Let’s take a look at it from a distinct angle. In comparison with slower lenses just like the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S or Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, the f/2.8 most aperture will let you shoot in decrease gentle circumstances. Because it occurs, probably the most attention-grabbing issues in nature normally happen on the very starting or, conversely, the tip of the day. That could be a powerful sufficient argument for some photographers to purchase it.

On the similar time, let’s examine the worth of the lens to choices from different manufacturers. Sony presents an analogous lens for $11,998 and Canon for $11,999. After we add the worth of 1.4x teleconverters into the equation, which is round $500, Nikon comes out as the most costly of the trio. And the opposite two lenses are little question on related optical footing.

So, roughly $1,500 is what you pay for the teleconverter to be built-in slightly than separate. Is that an excessive amount of? You’ll have to evaluate for your self. I can see it both approach.

Rose-faced parrot
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm, ISO 1800, 1/500, f/5.0


With the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens, Nikon has taken one other large step into the professional phase of the mirrorless market. For a comparatively very long time, Z customers had been pressured to make use of tailored supertelephoto lenses from the F-mount period. Though these lenses are optical marvels of their very own, they nonetheless couldn’t benefit from the benefits of the brand new mount. With the arrival of the flagship Nikon Z9, it was already clear that if Nikon was to retain its professional prospects, it must give you a severe professional telephoto lens.

And that’s precisely what occurred. Is the brand new 400mm f/2.8 lens optically higher than its speedy predecessor? To be trustworthy, in the true world, we’d most likely search for variations with a microscope. Solely with teleconverters will you see any large variations, and that’s extra a press release on the F-mount teleconverters than the lens itself.

When you’re doubting whether or not the built-in teleconverter and f/2.8 aperture are definitely worth the cash, then I’ve excellent news for you. You may get very related optical efficiency and autofocus velocity from the less expensive and lighter Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S. The roughly $10,000 you save might be invested in a visit to a tropical vacation spot to stimulate the willingness of locals to guard their treasured wildlife.

Simply be warned, don’t ever lease the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8, as a result of its built-in teleconverter is a rattling addictive factor.

Tawny-bellied Hermit
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 400mm, ISO 5000, 1/1250, f/4.0

However I do nonetheless have one criticism. There’s a well known saying that “you be taught by making errors.” I completely agree. Which is why I’m asking, what number of occasions will Nikon, Canon, Sony, and plenty of others need to repeat the identical mistake earlier than they lastly get it?

I’m speaking concerning the tripod foot. I actually don’t perceive why most producers nonetheless stubbornly produce these ineffective tripod toes that nearly everybody replaces instantly with some Arca-Swiss suitable ones. The tripod foot on this case may be a bit longer to make the lens simpler to hold. (I perceive that it was tempting to knock the load of the lens right down to underneath three kilograms, although.)

Crimson-rumped Toucanet
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S @ 400mm, ISO 560, 1/500, f/3.2

However let me not finish this subject take a look at with criticism. These are all comparatively minor complaints about an in any other case excellent product. If value isn’t a deterrent – and you’ll profit from the benefits that make the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S stand above the present competitors – then there may be nothing to consider. That is most likely one of the best lens I’ve ever used within the subject, and it units new requirements in virtually each approach.

Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Field Test
  • Optical Efficiency
  • Construct High quality
  • Worth

Photography Life Total Score

#Nikon #400mm #f2.8 #Field #Test

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