Image taken with the Nikon 180mm-600mm Lens

September 5: Moving cautiously

The Story Behind the Shot

I purchased my very first wildlife lens way back in 1999, it was the Nikon 500mm F-4 S lens. I kept that lens for almost 20 years, until the Nikon 200-500mm F 5.6 lens came out. I sold the big glass and this lens was my go to wildlife lens. Much easier to handhold and this allowed me to get many wildlife images without lugging around the tripod that I needed with the big glass and handholding allows the photographer to be so much more mobile. In the last few weeks Nikon has now come out with a new wildlife lens: 180mm-600mm F5.6-6.3 VR S lens. I quickly sold my 200-500mm and am now the proud owner of this new lens.  So this write-up is about this new Nikon wildlife/sport/action photography lens.

Zoom Control: The zoom is all internal as compared to the 200-500mm which is external and extends or contracts the lens. This internal zoom makes it so much easier to walk around with the camera/lens connected to my Black Rapid Strap. Using the zoom ring it is only about 1/4 turn to go from 180mm-600mm so to zoom from one end to the other is extremely fast.

Focusing: Speed of focusing is always both the camera and lens, so I will just mention that the focus sliders are very easy to get to for switching from  M/A or focusing depth. They are located right next to where the lens mounts to the camera. Many of the other sliders are further down the lens and usually covered up with my Lens Coat sleeves. Closest focusing distance: 180mm = 4.27 Ft.  600mm = 7.8 Ft. Speed of focusing? I would compare equal to the 200-500mm but no comparison to the fixed focal length of those that are F-4 such as the 500mm/600mm etc. It is a balance a photographer has to decide; I like the versatility of variable compositions with a zoom and for me the focus speed is satisfactory for 90% of my wildlife photography. But this is a decision individual photographers need to make for their style of photography.

Vibration Reduction: Advertised at 5.5 stops as compared to the 200-500mm at 4.5 stops. So far the lowest I have handheld is 1/250 second @ 900mm (900mm = crop mode) and every image was hair sharp. Eventually as fall approaches and I go after Whitetails let's see how it performs at 1/100 second. But my guess it will do great! Anything slower a photographer really needs to use the tripod.

Aperture: On the 200-500mm it is F 5.6 regardless of the zoom range. On the 180mm-600mm at wide open it is 180mm F 5.6 and at 600mm F 6.3, which means 1/3 stop  change as you zoom. I never saw any change as far as speed of focusing etc. and just 1/3 stop would have minimal effect on depth of field. Of course if aperture is set F6.3 or more it stays the same throughout the zoom range. 

Tele-convertors: Over the years I have used convertors on my zoom lenses even though they are best used on fixed focal length lenses. A 1.4 X will change aperture one stop so a F 5.6 lens becomes a F-8 lens. One of my main reasons for purchasing this lens is the increase of 100mm from the 200-500mm lens. As of now I do not intend to purchase the 1.4 X convertor, but time will tell. The only time I used the converter was when photographing small perching type birds which is a very small part of my photography. I would only use a convertor in very good light. 

My Evaluation: As of writing this article I have had this lens for about 10 days and have taken over 1500 wildlife images at local parks around my area. The lens is very sharp at all focal lengths, the zoom is very easy and fast to go from 180mm-600mm, well balanced for carrying on my Black Rapid Strap, very easy to handhold, tripod collar can be easily removed (I always leave mine on) lens controls are very accessible, priced very competitively, so if you are a Nikon shooter that does wildlife, sports, action type photography I highly recommend this lens be in your camera bag.

Above image: Green Heron on the hunt

Camera: Nikon Z8

Lens: 180mm-600mm @ 435mm

ISO 3200

F-8 @ 1/250 second

EV -1/3

Manual Exposure

Cloudy WB


Editing: Lightroom Classic and Photoshop

Topaz NR