Buff-tailed coronet
Posted in News
12/11/2022

Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S Field Test

Earlier than the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lands in our new lens testing lab, I gathered some experiences with it over two weeks of hen pictures in Latin America. How did the Nikon 400mm f/4.5 carry out below the equatorial solar? I’ll cowl that in my discipline evaluation of the lens in the present day.

Buff-tailed coronet
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 7200, 1/640, f/4.5

Construct High quality

Lengthy telephoto lenses are likely to see intense use within the discipline and want to carry up below skilled use. The Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 has a mixture of metallic and plastic building, together with a primarily plastic barrel. The impression it leaves me is superb. The supplies encourage confidence, nothing wobbles anyplace, and the rings function easily.

Personally, I think about the usage of high-quality plastics quite constructive in a telephoto prime like this. Plastics are lighter than metallic, they usually have a tendency to withstand on a regular basis mechanical shocks higher. Plastic lenses are much less heat-conductive than metallic, so that they don’t really feel as chilly. What about their sturdiness and longevity? I wouldn’t fear concerning the longevity of plastic, contemplating how lengthy it appears to final within the Great Pacific garbage patch. However metallic most likely nonetheless has the benefit there.

To make sure that the inner elements, and particularly the electronics, don’t undergo from the climate, the 400mm f/4.5 has mud and climate seals. Nikon says that it’ll face up to dripping water, and that mirrors my expertise with the lens within the rain. It wasn’t an issue in any respect. As with prior Nikon telephoto lenses, the construct high quality general is superb.

Buff-winged Starfrontlet
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 5000, 1/1250, f/5.0

Dealing with

The very first thing that involves thoughts if you decide up the Nikon 400mm f/4.5 is how extremely mild it’s. Up till now, the king of light-weight has been the Nikon AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF – however even that lens has to bow to the lightness of the brand new 400mm. (And the burden distinction isn’t simply because that is 400mm as an alternative of 500mm; the 400mm lens has a wider most aperture, in any case.)

Particularly, the burden of the 400mm f/4.5 S lens is 1245g. When you mount Nikon’s 1.4x teleconverter on it – making a 560mm f/6.3 – the mixed weight is 1465g. By comparability, Nikon’s F-mount 500mm f/5.6 PF weighs 1460g, not counting the mandatory FTZ adapter wanted to apply it to a Nikon Z camera. Wildlife photographers who’re making an attempt to journey mild might hardly discover a more sensible choice than the Z 400mm f/4.5.

As for the controls, a welcome change from the basic telephoto lenses of the f-mount period is the implementation of the operate ring. I exploit mine for fast ISO adjustments in handbook mode, mixed with the dwell histogram to see the brightness of my pictures. It’s been extra helpful than I anticipated.

Hummingbirds fight_02
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 2800, 1/1250, f/5.0

Alongside the operate ring are operate buttons, that are carried over from earlier Nikon telephoto lenses. I exploit them along side the Reminiscence Set button in an effort to retailer a focusing distance within the lens’s reminiscence, after which recollect it rapidly. When you’re taking pictures at a hen feeder, for instance – or a department the place the birds hold touchdown – undoubtedly give this characteristic a strive.

Golden-naped tanager
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 900, 1/640, f/5.0

I solely have minor points with the lens’s dealing with, which I already lined in my article evaluating the 400mm f/4.5 in opposition to the 400mm f/2.8. Primarily, the tripod collar has some design flaws, together with the potential for overtightening, and a non-standard tripod foot. I additionally don’t just like the lens hood’s locking mechanism as a lot as on the Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S. These complaints don’t overshadow the remainder of the lens’s dealing with, however I’d be remiss to not level them out.

Picture High quality

The Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S has 19 lens parts in 13 teams. These parts embody one ED (Further-low Dispersion) ingredient, two Tremendous ED glass parts, and one SR (Brief-wavelength Refractive) ingredient. The SR ingredient helps right chromatic aberration, and is basically liable for the lens’s mild weight.

Though the lens lacks Nikon’s strongest (at the very least based on their advertising) ARNEO coating for decreasing flare, it has Nano Crystal Coating and Tremendous Built-in Coating, which do the identical job. Frankly, I can by no means inform the distinction between any of those coatings for decreasing flare in follow, so I assume I’m simply taking Nikon at their phrase. If you need the ARNEO coating, you’ll discover it within the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, in addition to the dearer Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC and 600mm f/4 TC lenses.

What I care about extra is the efficiency in follow. Does the 400mm f/4.5 S attain a excessive sufficient customary?

Nicely, it actually does to me. For one factor, the sharpness of the lens is wonderful, generally virtually stunning. On one in every of Nikon’s higher-resolution mirrorless cameras just like the Z7 II or Z9, you may crop extensively with this lens and not using a downside.

Not that I essentially advocate cropping your method out of hassle. After I first began wildlife pictures, I used a 6MP camera. There, each pixel was sacred, and it taught me to compose as precisely as doable. Any cropping of the picture meant a giant degradation in high quality. Although my camera in the present day has rather more decision, I nonetheless hold this behavior, and I like to recommend you do the identical.

But when it’s worthwhile to crop, right here’s an instance from a photograph of a Sapphire-vented Puffleg, which I took at 3000 meters above sea degree within the Ecuadorian Andes. The picture reveals a hummingbird feeding on the flower:

Sapphire-vented puffleg
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 5000, 1/1000, f/5.6

Nevertheless, the hummingbird is much from the one animal within the {photograph}. I didn’t discover that I had captured a whole small ecosystem till I zoomed in 100%. Do you see it too? There are tiny mites on the hummingbird’s beak:

Sapphire-vented puffleg_crop
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 5000, 1/1000, f/5.6

That’s an thrilling benefit of high-resolution lenses. One other benefit – one that you just’ll recognize even with out pixel-peeping – is utilizing the lens with teleconverters.

Any teleconverter takes away from the optical efficiency of the lens. On this case, nonetheless, there’s lots accessible to remove! The Nikon Z 1.4x teleconverter pairs extraordinarily properly with this lens, and no matter sharpness it takes away just isn’t sufficient to be of concern. The Nikon Z Teleconverter TC-2x is actually usable too, though the utmost aperture of f/9.0 is just too slim for my style.

As for different optical traits, the chromatic aberration on this lens could be very properly corrected. You’ll not often discover it in your images. Flare is one other space the place the lens does properly, regardless of the dearth of ARNEO coatings. I admit that I don’t shoot in sturdy backlight with telephotos fairly often, however often the chance arises – for instance, the picture beneath of the Rufous-booted Racket-tail within the jap Andes. Pleasingly, the backlight causes neither flare nor a lack of distinction within the picture:

Racket-tail
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 900, 1/1000, f/4.5

Then there’s the query of bokeh. This parameter is unattainable to seek out goal standards for. So – purely subjectively – the bokeh of the 400mm f4.5 could be very pleasing. That is true each in regular conditions and in backlit circumstances with specular highlights (which are likely to pressure a lens’s background blur a bit extra).

Even when there are shiny, out-of-focus factors of sunshine in your picture, this lens blurs them properly. There aren’t many seen artifacts, with only a tiny trace of outlined edges. That is one cause why I’m glad that Nikon didn’t go together with a phase-fresnel optical design on the 400mm f/4.5 S. Though a PF ingredient might have diminished the lens’s weight even additional, PF lenses are likely to have extra nervous bokeh (though there are exceptions).

In any case, the 400mm f/4.5 S blows out backgrounds like a appeal.

Brown violet-ear
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 8000, 1/800, f/4.5

Focus Velocity and Accuracy

Specializing in this lens isn’t based mostly on a “Silky Swift” motor such as you’d discover in Nikon’s Z 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4. Even so, the comparatively weaker stepping motor focuses extraordinarily properly on this lens, most likely as a result of there isn’t a lot heavy glass contained in the lens to maneuver rapidly. The lens can focus in a heartbeat.

Focus accuracy is excessive, too. I might say that below customary lighting circumstances, this lens is akin to the considerably dearer Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S when it comes to focusing.

That stated, when the focusing distance could be very near its restrict (which is 2.5m), the AF reliability begins to say no a bit. Most telephoto lenses will battle in such circumstances, and it’s not that the 400mm f/4.5 S is worse than alternate options right here – nevertheless it’s one thing to remember should you {photograph} smaller, nearer topics.

For anything, together with a fast-moving hen just like the one beneath, focusing with this lens is quicker than my eye can detect.

Andean guan
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 4500, 1/3200, f/5.0

Vibration Discount

Nikon guarantees vibration discount to five.5 stops with all Nikon Z cameras, besides the Z9, which is rated for six stops of VR.

In follow, the quantity of vibration discount relies on your means to carry the camera regular – and it doesn’t matter a lot anyway in case your topic isn’t holding nonetheless. My longest handheld shutter speeds had been about 1/10 second utilizing Sport Mode VR, and 1/6 second utilizing Normal. Nevertheless, this was when photographing a nonmoving object. In follow, none of my real-world topics ever stood nonetheless lengthy sufficient to permit sharp images previous 1/30 second.

Personally, I exploit VR in sport mode, as a result of there’s much less of a picture shift within the viewfinder after I press the shutter launch. This phenomenon is most noticeable with lengthy telephoto lenses. So, you’ll have to determine if the steadier viewfinder of Sport mode is price about 1 cease worse VR efficiency in your wants.

Rufous Antpitta
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 2200, 1/250, f/4.5

Worth

Except for the lens’s weight, what do I see as the most important energy of the 400mm f/4.5 VR S? It’s the value/efficiency ratio.

At $3250, the 400mm f/4.5 is about 25% of the value of the 400mm f/2.8, whereas providing about 98% of the picture high quality. The explanation to get the dearer lens isn’t for higher picture high quality, and even for sooner focusing – it’s for the additional 1.3 stops of sunshine in dim circumstances, and the built-in teleconverter.

The opposite lens you might be contemplating as a substitute is the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, which is cheaper at $2700. Though it’s a little bit of a dilemma, I consider that the flexibility to make use of a 1.4x teleconverter and use the 400mm f/4.5 as a 560mm f/6.3 makes it the higher alternative for wildlife-only photographers. It additionally will get you the additional 0.7 stops of sunshine for taking footage in dim environments. However the 100-400mm has the flexibility of wider focal lengths, so all of it comes right down to your scenario.

In any case, I believe the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is a superb worth.

glossy flowerpiercer
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 4000, 1/1250, f/5.0

Conclusion

I’ve few complaints concerning the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S. Solely a redesign of the tripod collar would make the lens meaningfully higher than it already is. That’s to not say it’s the proper telephoto lens for everybody – you might be extra in want of the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, 800mm f/6.3, or one of many unique supertelephotos – nevertheless it strikes an important stability for wildlife photographers. I think about it Nikon’s greatest general-purpose wildlife lens since at the very least the 500mm f/5.6 PF. Perhaps ever.

I hope that you just discovered this discipline evaluation of the lens to be helpful. We’ll broaden the evaluation with lab information and assessments each with and with out the 2 teleconverters as quickly as doable. Within the meantime, let me know when you’ve got any questions concerning the lens beneath, and I’ll be comfortable to reply. You may as well put your identify on the waitlist right here:

The lens is extraordinarily new, so there aren’t many copies delivery but! However you’ll get one ultimately. For comparability, we simply obtained our copy of the Nikon 800mm f/6.3 for lab testing a couple of days in the past, which we ordered quickly after it was introduced. It’s only a matter of being affected person.

Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S Field-
  • Optical High quality
  • Building & Dealing with
  • Worth

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