Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S Review
The Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S is a professional-grade super telephoto lens with powerful reach and an impressive set of high-end features. There’s no denying that super telephoto lenses tend to be big and heavy. However, thanks in part to the inclusion of a Phase Fresnel element, the Z 800mm certainly isn’t massive and, at 2,385g, you don’t need to be a bodybuilder to tackle the shotgun. raised hand. In comparison, the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S (opens in a new tab) and Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM (opens in a new tab) are both significantly heavier, weighing 2,950g and 2,860g respectively.
To go up: Nikon Z
Full frame: Yes
Lens construction: 22 elements in 14 groups
Angle of view: 3.17 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum opening: f/32
Minimum focus distance: 5m
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.16x
Filter size: Rear, 46mm insert
There is 800mm of key feature in this lens. The monster super-telephoto reach is especially great for bird photography, as well as action, sports, wildlife, and just about anytime you can’t get as close to the subject as you want. It can even be useful for landscape photography, when you want to compress perspective for creative effect.
While this is undeniably a big and heavy lens, it is relatively compact and light for an 800mm lens. The Phase Fresnel element helps improve image quality while allowing for reduced design, and it’s joined in a high-quality optical path by three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and one SR (Short-wavelength Refractive). The combination aims for negligible chromatic aberration across the entire image frame. Nano Crystal Coat is applied to minimize ghosting and flare, and the front element has a moisture/grease repellent fluorine coating.
The fast and virtually silent autofocus system is based on two linear stepper motors, while voice coil motors power the 5-stop VR (vibration reduction) optical system. Efficiency is increased to 5.5 stops in Synchro VR mode, which pairs with the built-in stabilization of full-frame Nikon Z cameras.
The lens comes with a 46mm filter slot and is compatible with Nikon’s Z-series 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. (opens in a new tab)if you feel like even 800mm doesn’t quite cover the distance.
Build and manipulate
Build quality is of a perfectly professional standard, with a sturdy, solid and largely weather-sealed construction. As you’d expect, the lens comes with a tripod (opens in a new tab)/monopod (opens in a new tab) mounting ring and strap tabs. There’s also a security-conscious Kensington lock. Included accessories include a lockable hood, padded strap and a high quality padded back sling soft case.
As with the build quality, the handling is entirely professional grade. The customizable manual focus ring works with smooth precision and there are plenty of built-in controls. On the back there’s an A/M focus mode switch, an autofocus range limiter that can lock the short end between 5 and 10m, a customizable L-Fn button, and a Memory setting button to store a custom focus distance.
Further along, there’s a secondary customizable control ring which can be assigned values such as ISO, exposure compensation and aperture. The last of these works well for continuous aperture control during video capture, at which the lens excels with minimal focus breathing. Then there’s a row of four L-Fn 2 buttons, located at 90-degree intervals around the lens barrel, ideal for on/hold autofocus functions.
A major performance improvement in practical terms is that this lens gives you freedom of movement without the need to rely on a tripod or monopod. It’s only half the weight of the Nikon AF-S 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR F-mount lens, making handheld shooting relatively easy. Even so, camera shake is an ever-present hazard at such a long focal length, so the VR system with its two normal and ‘Sport’ modes really earns its living, enabling still shake-free shots.
The super-fast autofocus is able to track even fast-moving subjects and, combined with virtual reality, you can be assured of an excellent success rate even for tricky action subjects. The lens isn’t as sharp as the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S (opens in a new tab) but sharpness is still excellent even when shooting at wide apertures, across the entire image frame. The 800mm is certainly more than sharp enough to satisfy the very high resolution demands of the Z 7, Z 7II (opens in a new tab) and Z9 (opens in a new tab) camera body.
Axial and lateral chromatic aberrations are absolutely negligible, pincushion distortion is very minimal and easily corrected, and resistance to ghosting and flare is excellent. All in all, the performance is pretty epic, and when there are no second chances in action and sports photography, this is a lens you can really count on to deliver the goods.
We carry out a range of laboratory tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master test suite. Pattern shots are taken over the full range of apertures and zooms (where applicable), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion, and chromatic aberrations.
We use Imatest SFR (Spatial Frequency Response) graphs and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-distances, over the full range of aperture settings. and, with zooms, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).
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While the f/6.3 aperture rating isn’t exactly ‘fast’, the lens does deliver optimum sharpness when shooting wide aperture. At f/6.3 and f/8, sharpness is fabulous in the center of the image frame and remains excellent right down to the extreme edges and corners. Sharpness drops off a bit at f/11 and narrower apertures, but is still very impressive.
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Across the entire image frame and across the entire aperture range, axial and lateral chromatic aberration is absolutely negligible, even without taking advantage of Nikon’s in-camera automatic corrections.
There is a very slight hint of pincushion distortion, but it is of a very low order and will generally go unnoticed. Autocorrect is available if you feel the need.
This lens gives you telephoto superpowers in a relatively manageable package. The scaled-down construction is courtesy of a modest f/6.3 aperture rating and a Phase Fresnel optical element, a technology commonly used to focus the beam in a headlight. The addition of highly efficient optical VR that works in tandem with IBIS full-frame cameras in the Z system, along with a useful range of handling extras, ensures top quality results every time, with excellent consistency even in handheld shooting. When you need to capture the definitive moment in action, sports and wildlife photography, this is a lens you can truly rely on, and for less than half the price of the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S (opens in a new tab).
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