With big releases at the end of Q4 2021, Nikon has finally filled out the Z series lens lineup with very formidable lenses. Many are considered the best in their class and Nikon continues to impress with their quality output for the Z series.
The monster release of the Nikon Z9 foreshadowed that high-end, telephoto offerings would be coming soon for the Z system.
The Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S development was announced near the Z9 release, but now it’s official, the first super-telephoto prime for the Z series is released. The 600mm f/4 Z should follow soon, and an 800mm Z is also in development.
All these super teles are niche and ultimately purchased by very few but they happen to be extremely important for certain genres of photography – one of those being wildlife photography.
This new Z 400mm f/2.8 is an exciting lens for many reasons and it continues to keep the bar high for Nikon’s mirrorless lineup.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Lens
- Z-Mount Lens/FX Format
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
- Built-In 1.4x Teleconverter
- Super ED, ED, Fluorite, and SR Elements
- Meso Amorphous and ARNEO Coatings
- Silky Swift VCM Autofocus System
- Vibration Reduction Image Stabilization
- Customizable Fn and Memory Set Buttons
- Weather-Sealed Design
- Rotating Tripod Collar
This lens is no slouch at almost $14,000. But super telephotos have never been on the cheap end. If you want the utmost quality while photographing wildlife, this or the upcoming 600mm f/4 is it. This lens has a host of new design qualities that make it even better than the F-mount 400mm f/2.8, albeit it’s priced at $3,000 more.
The highlights are a built-in 1.4x tele, an overall design that weighs 2 pounds less, and a host of other engineering innovations that have surfaced since the F-mount was released 8 years ago.
Built-In 1.4x Teleconverter
Built-in 1.4x teleconverter allows you to instantly extend your reach to 560mm simply by flipping the right-hand switch.
Since the teleconverter is integrated within the lens housing, it is optically matched to the lens for improved imaging performance and also fully maintains the lens’s weather sealing.
When the teleconverter is in use, this 400mm f/2.8 becomes an effective 560mm f/4 lens
Fast f/2.8 maximum aperture excels in low-light situations and also benefits controlling depth of field to separate and isolate subjects from a busy background.
Helping to virtually eliminate chromatic aberrations, color fringing, and comatic aberrations, this lens features two ED (extra-low dispersion) and one Super ED glass element, two lightweight fluorite elements, and an SR (short-wavelength refractive) element.
The SR element features a specialized high-dispersion design that refracts wavelengths shorter than blue; this helps achieve truly accurate color rendering and also aids in making the lens design more compact.
Refined Anti-Glare Coatings
Newly developed Meso Amorphous Coat offers the greatest anti-reflective performance from a NIKKOR lens, outperforms the Nano Crystal Coat in regard to diagonal incident light, and matches the performance of the ARNEO Coat for vertical incident light.
ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coats are still applied for even more well-rounded anti-glare protection from all angles, and help to suppress ghosting, reflections, and flare for higher contrast and more accurate color response when working in strong lighting and backlit conditions.
Silky Swift VCM Autofocus
Silky Swift Voice Coil Motor (VCM) uses magnets instead of gears to move the focusing groups at higher initial speeds and with greater accuracy and smoothness. A guide bar is also employed, which helps reduce focusing vibrations for greater continuous focusing speeds. (WARNING: Do not use this product if you have a pacemaker or other medical device. The magnet or magnets in this product could cause medical devices to malfunction.)
Using a high-precision sensor from the robotics industry, this lens features an optical ABS (absolute) encoder to detect and communicate lens position information with extreme accuracy to optimize fast and accurate AF performance.
Benefitting video use, the Silky Swift VCM is also especially quiet and the multi-focusing system also greatly reduces focus breathing for greater compositional accuracy when racking focus.
Full-time manual focus override is also possible and an internal focusing design is used, where only the internal lens groups are moved during focusing, to maintain the overall length of the lens during use and to promote faster-focusing speeds.
Minimum focusing distance of 8.2′ and a maximum magnification of 0.17x without the teleconverter in place and 0.23x with the teleconverter in place for working with close-up subjects.
Vibration Reduction image stabilization reduces the appearance of camera shake by approximately 5.5 stops to better enable handheld shooting in low-light situations.
Synchro VR is also supported when paired with compatible cameras featuring sensor-shift VR, which combines in-body VR with optical VR for improved results.
Professional Durability and Intuitive Handling
The updated design weighs 6.5 lb, making it 20% lighter than the F-mount 400mm f/2.8—and this Z-mount version features a built-in teleconverter. The physical design focuses the center of gravity around the tripod mount for smoother, more responsive panning, especially when working atop a tripod or monopod. The tripod mount also rotates for easier switching between vertical and horizontal shooting orientations.
- Advanced weather sealing incorporates rubber gaskets to prevent dust and moisture ingress, the lens body is made from lightweight and durable magnesium alloy, and the front and rear elements have a fluorine coating that easily repels dirt, moisture, and oils and is easier to clean.
- Compatible with optional Z-Teleconverter TC-1.4x and TC-2x to further extend the reach of this lens.
- An intuitive “no-look” control layout puts all of the frequently-used buttons and dials in easy-to-reach locations to prevent the need to move your eye from the viewfinder.
- Store a focusing position using the Memory Set button so you can instantly return to this by position by rotating the Fn ring—perfect for capturing fleeting movements.
- Two customizable L-Fn buttons can be set to configure subject tracking, AF lock, image playback, or other modes. The L-Fn2 button is also accessible from four different locations on the barrel for easy reach.
- Focus limiter switch can constrain the focus range to 19.7′-infinity and 8.2′-infinity ranges.
- A programmable Control Ring can also be used to control aperture, ISO, or exposure compensation.
- Kensington lock support for securing the lens in place during remote shooting sessions.
- Uses drop-in 46mm filters via the included filter holder.
Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special. Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.
Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.
As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.
You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com