Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S PF | Why This Big Lens is a Big Deal!
After a few exclusive sneak peeks on Youtube from some very talented Nikon wildlife & sports photographers, the Nikon Nikkor Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S PF was indeed announced! Don’t let this unique new optic slip past your radar unnoticed, however, because it is indeed kind of a big deal! The Nikon 800mm PF will cost about $6,500 and weighs 2.3 kg, (~5.25 lbs) making it an exciting option for action sports & wildlife photography.
The lens is now available for pre-order and should begin shipping this month. We’ll have an in-depth review hopefully soon, especially now that we have a Nikon Z9 in-studio!
Why is this lens undoubtedly going to be a game-changer? I’ll talk more about this after the official specs, but here is the bottom line: This lens reaches 800mm with flagship-level optical performance and build quality, and does it for a fraction of the cost of most other “big gun telephoto” lens options that usually cost well over $10K. In fact, other 800mm primes that offer an f/5.6 aperture, (a mere 1/3 of a stop brighter) …cost $13-16K.
With the high-speed flagship Nikon Z9 now shipping, Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless Z mount is looking incredibly attractive for telephoto action sports/wildlife photography. In this realm of (relatively) portable and affordable lenses, we have this new optic, while on the other end of the spectrum we have highly exotic, unique optics such as the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S. (With a built-in 1.4x teleconverter, it essentially offers both a 400mm f/2.8 prime and a 560mm f/4 prime in one lens!)
By the way, both of these new lenses are completely unprecedented and unrivaled, compared to the competition. But, more on that after the spec sheet…
Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR PF S Specifications
- FOCAL LENGHT & ANGLE OF VIEW: 800mm, 3° 10′ angle of view (FX)
- LENS MOUNT(S): Nikon Z (full-frame mirrorless)
- APERTURE & RANGE: f/6.3 to f/32, rounded 9-blade diaphragm
- STABILIZATION: Yes, 5.5 stops optical VR
- AUTOFOCUS: Stepper motor type AF
- MANUAL FOCUS: Yes, electronically controlled,
- OPTICAL CONSTRUCTION: 22 elements in 14 groups, PF (Phase Fresnel) 3 ED, 1 SR element
- MECHANICAL CONSTRUCTION: Magnesium alloy, weather-sealed
- MAGNIFICATION & FOCUS DISTANCE: 16.4 ft (5m) 0.16x magnification
- FILTER THREADS & HOOD: rear drop-in 46mm filters, locking, reversible hood
- SIZE: 5.6 x 15.2 in (140 x 385mm)
- WEIGHT: 5.25 lbs (2385g)
- PRICE: ~$ 6,499
(B&H | Adorama | Amazon)
Why All Wildlife Photographers Should Notice This Lens
As I mentioned, in the past a pro 800mm lens would cost well over $10K. In fact, even at 600mm, the current Nikon, Canon, and Sony lenses all cost over $12,000. This new Nikkor costs almost half that, (and is almost half the weight too!) …and yet is physically in the same category in terms of build quality.
Optically? I don’t like to jump to conclusions, but these big telephoto lenses are always flawlessly sharp. I expect this gold-ring 800mm lens to easily resolve all the megapixels you could ever want. The only downside will be, of course, that the PF (Phase Fresnel) optical design could make your bokeh appear a bit more distracting, in select situations.
Judging by the bokeh in the sample images, it is safe to say that Nikkor PF optics are unlikely to be a deal-breaker for anyone who is keen on reaching 800mm with this level of portability in a fully professional, weather-sealed kit. In short, Nikon’s PF technology is almost magic, with virtually no downside.
What about those existing 800mm primes? Currently, only Nikon and Canon offer them. Sony has yet to reach 800mm. Canon’s brand-new RF 800mm f/5.6 and Nikon’s DSLR-mount 800mm f/5.6 are all incredibly expensive at over $16,000, and massively hefty at ~10 lbs or ~4.6 kg.
You read that right: If you are willing to accept f/6.3 instead of 5.6, you can save almost ten thousand dollars. Yup… Ten. Thousand. Dollars.
Alternately, you can always throw a teleconverter on an existing 400mm or 600mm lens, of course. But, again, even a 400mm f/2.8 and a 2X teleconverter will set you back about $13K, from any brand. Plus, if teleconverters are an option then it’s only fair to mention how the 800mm can “easily” be turned into a 1120mm or even 1600mm lens with the 1.4x or 2x Z-mount teleconverters, respectively.
Of course, if you’re looking for affordable ways to just get to 800mm, then you may be aware of another unique lens: the Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM, which costs a mere $999. However, it’s a vastly different class of optic compared to the new Nikon 800mm. The RF 800mm is a collapsible, non-L lens with hobbyist-grade build quality, and of course, there’s the painfully slow aperture of f/11. In my opinion, the build quality and slow aperture make it basically unusable for serious work in all conditions except fair weather and bright sun. The price difference puts these optics a world apart, of course, but the bottom line is that if you’re okay with f/11 then a far better use of your money would be to put a 2x teleconverter on a 100-400mm lens.
Speaking of uniqueness and innovation, or a lack thereof, my opinion would not be complete without mentioning that Canon had the guts to just re-mount their old/existing DSLR-mount 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 telephoto flagship lenses for their RF mirrorless system. I would have given them kudos if the decision to “recycle” the DSLR lenses had resulted in a more affordable mirrorless option, since the existing optical formulas are excellent. However, the “new” RF 600mm f/4 is, you guessed it, $13,000. Their forthcoming 800mm f/5.6 is a new optical formula, but again, it will be a nearly $17,000 lens.
Is Nikon The Most Innovative Camera Brand?
So, Nikon really is hitting the sweet spot of performance versus portability and price with this Nikkor Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S PF, and I predict that it will be wildly popular, especially with the new Nikon Z9 hitting shelves now. The Nikkor factory will not be able to make these lenses fast enough.
Once again, Nikon always seems to hit the nail on the head when it comes to balancing innovation with real-world practical usefulness, and sheer value. Make no mistake, this is yet another highly competitive game-changer.
This is why, in my opinion, Nikon will continue to be relevant, even dominant, in the fiercely competitive market of flagship pro cameras and lenses. Some impatient folks may struggle to be comfortable with the “get it right the first time” attitude and pace that Nikon has toward developing new technology, such as mirrorless autofocus capabilities. However, in the grand scheme, just look at cameras like the Nikon Z9 versus the Sony A1 and Canon EOS R3. All were announced within months of each other, and the Nikon has some serious advantages and tricks up its sleeve. In other words, Nikon isn’t “behind” at all.
As usual, there is a delicate dance being done by each camera manufacturer as they try to slightly differentiate their products and offer unique advantages. Each system will have unique opportunities to really impress certain photographers.
Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S PF | Press Release
ALL THE DISTANCE, HALF THE WEIGHT1: THE NEW NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S PUTS OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE WITHIN REACH
The Longest Focal Length NIKKOR Z Super Telephoto Lens is Here, Providing Overwhelming Reach in a Surprisingly Compact & Lightweight Design
MELVILLE, NY (April 6, 2022) –Today, Nikon Inc. announced the NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S super-telephoto lens for Nikon’s Z series of high-performance mirrorless cameras. This new S-Line full-frame lens gives aviation, sports, bird, and wildlife photographers a super-telephoto focal length to fill the frame with fantastic clarity at extreme distances. The new NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S is approximately 48% lighter and 16% shorter than its F-mount counterpart, due to the use of a PF (Phase Fresnel) lens element. While the NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S benefits from the latest optical technologies for maximum sharpness and fidelity, its significantly lighter weight makes it easier to trek out to the best vantage point, and shoot comfortably, even handheld or with a monopod.
“This 800mm lens is smaller and lighter than ever imagined, which is a true testament to Nikon’s advanced optical expertise as well as the next-generation technology that’s at the core of the Nikon Z system,” said Jay Vannatter, Executive Vice President, Nikon Inc. “This latest NIKKOR Z lens is not only surprisingly easy to carry, but also gives photographers the fast focus response, intense sharpness, and beautiful color reproduction they need to create amazing images from extreme distances.”
The new NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S lens is built with an emphasis on comfortable usability and extreme optical performance. The Phase Fresnel element is optimally positioned to minimize ghosting and is combined with three Extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements and one Short-wavelength Refractive (SR) element to effectively suppress axial chromatic aberration. From the sharp contrast of small branches to the finest feathers of distant birds, every detail is rendered with stunning precision. The NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S was engineered with close attention to balance, as the lens’ center of gravity is positioned closer to the user’s body to enhance smooth panning motion while tracking swiftly moving objects such as a falcon in flight or banking plane.
Primary features of the NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S:
- Extreme super-telephoto capability for Z-series photographers with an 800mm focal length that brings distant subjects in close, with incredible clarity and sharpness.
- Easy to pack and carry, weighing in at approx. 5.25lb (2385g) with a reduced footprint of 5.6 in. x 15.2 in.
- Features Nano Crystal Coat, as well as an optimized shape and location of the PF lens element that contributes to a reduction in ghosting for maximum clarity. This is especially useful when shooting into the sky or in the vicinity of bright light sources.
- The optical VR function provides a superior compensation effect equivalent to shooting at a shutter speed of 5.0 stops2 faster. When paired with the Nikon Z 9, an effect of 5.5 stops is achieved with Synchro VR activation.
- Built to pro standards: Rubber gaskets keep dust, dirt, and moisture out of the moving parts and the lens mount.3 The barrel is constructed of robust magnesium alloy, offering an ideal balance of strength and lightweight. The front element has Nikon’s nonstick Fluorine Coat, which repels oil, moisture and smudges, and easily wipes clean.
- A Memory Recall function4 instantly recalls focus positions that have been stored in advance, via pressing an assigned button. This function makes it simple to quickly acquire an anticipated subject on a branch or perch.
- Customizable controls include four L-Fn2 buttons and one L-Fn button, to which a wide variety of functions can be assigned to suit users’ preferences, including subject tracking, AF lock, playback and more. A customizable control ring can also be assigned to adjust ISO, aperture and exposure comp.
- The focal length can be extended to 1,120mm with the Z TELECONVERTER TC-1.4x, and 1,600mm with the Z TELECONVERTER TC-2.0x while maintaining outstanding resolution5. Users of high-resolution cameras such as the Z 9 and Z 7II will appreciate the ability to also shoot in DX mode for even further extended reach (1,200mm).
Pricing and Availability
The NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S lens will be available starting in April 2022 for a suggested retail price (SRP) $6,499.95*. For more information about the latest Nikon products, including other NIKKOR Z lenses and the complete collection of Z series cameras, please visit nikonusa.com.
- The lens alone represents a 48% reduction in weight, or a 49.6% reduction in weight based on lens plus FTZ mount adaptor when compared to F-mount counterpart, the AF-S 800mm f/5.6 E FL ED VR lens.
- Based on CIPA Standard. This value is achieved when attached to a camera with full-frame (Nikon FX-format) sensor, with the camera’s VR function set to “NORMAL”.
- Thorough dust- and drip resistance is not guaranteed in all situations or under all conditions.
- The cameras compatible with this function are the Z 9, Z 7II and Z 6II only at the timing of the product release. When using the function, the firmware for cameras must be updated to the latest version is required. For other models, this function will be supported via later firmware updates.
- AF performance may deteriorate depending on the subject, brightness and focus position regardless of the camera body, causing inaccurate focus, slow focusing speed or flashing of the focus point.