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Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S Overview: Stellar Optics and Velocity

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Nikon 100-400mm lens

At the moment, the longest-reaching telephoto zoom lens within the Nikon Z-mount system, the Nikkor 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S faces a variety of keen potential prospects who’re going to steadiness its longer focal size with general dimension and price. I can’t say it would disappoint.

Construct High quality and Design

The Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S is a full-frame lens configured with the Z-mount matching the most recent Nikon mirrorless cameras. Measuring 3.9 inches in diameter (98 millimeters) and eight.7 inches lengthy (222 millimeters) in its most compact state, the lens is similar to different full-frame 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lenses available on the market. When the lens is zoomed to the prolonged 400mm focal size, it lengthens to just a little over 10 and a half inches. The lens hood provides one other three inches in size when it’s connected. Even with the full-grip Nikon Z9 digicam physique, I discovered the mixture to be straightforward sufficient to stow away. A variety of greater telephoto lenses require them to be saved vertically in a digicam backpack as a result of there’s not sufficient width within the inside, however this setup may nonetheless be horizontal in my packs because it takes up a lot much less room.

Nikon Z 100-400mm at 100mm.
Nikon Z 100-400mm at 100mm.
Nikon Z 100-400mm at 400mm.
Nikon Z 100-400mm at 400mm.

Weighing 3.2 kilos (1,435 grams), this can be a barely heavier lens than those for different programs such because the Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 and the Canon 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1. I nonetheless didn’t discover it to be uncomfortable to carry up for lengthy intervals of time whereas trying by means of the viewfinder, nevertheless, I’m accustomed to working with heavier lenses.

If you’re already working with an extended prime lens for sports activities or wildlife and searching for a shorter, extra versatile zoom like this 100-400mm so as to add to your package, you’ll discover it to be very straightforward to get together with. It’s gentle sufficient to the place I felt comfy merely holding the digicam physique when strolling round as an alternative of by the lens. In flip, this makes it loads quicker to boost up and begin taking pictures.

Nikon Z 100-400mm front element.

One fascinating construct function of this lens is that it’s the primary to incorporate Nikon’s new “inside steadiness know-how” which signifies that when it zooms out and in, the middle of gravity of the lens has been purposefully decreased by design. That is excellent news to anybody who requires their cameras to be balanced whether or not that be on a gimbal or a video fluid head. Moreover, regardless of not having a locking swap for the zoom, I had no expertise with lens creep. On high of that, I didn’t even have any unintentional shifts backing off of 400mm once I meant to be absolutely zoomed in as I get so typically with different telephoto zoom lenses. Nikon has some magic happening right here as a result of the zoom ring itself isn’t overly stiff and nonetheless feels clean.

On the high of the lens is an OLED panel that may present details about present lens settings. It may be set to show the main target distance, the aperture, or the focal size, and toggle by means of them utilizing the DISP button. Aside from the main target distance, the opposite two appear just a little foolish as choices because the aperture is displayed on the highest display of the digicam a couple of inches away and the focal size might be eyeballed by the lens markings. Even for focus distance the place one might need to tune within the hyperfocal distance, I feel most of us are simply eyeballing it these days with mirrorless cameras and the flexibility to punch in and verify the sharpness on the dwell view picture. It is a function I didn’t have a look at as soon as throughout my evaluate interval which makes me imagine it could possibly be put to raised use or eliminated to save lots of the price.

OLED display on the Nikon Z 100-400mm.
OLED informational show on the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Different options on the lens embrace a programmable management ring, an L.Fn customizable button, and a unique set of 4 L.Fn2 customized buttons. These can all be set to do varied various things as programmed within the menu, however for simplicity’s sake and to keep away from unintentional settings modifications I’ve all the time simply disabled all of them on lenses that function related configurations. It’s vital to notice you may’t make these controls do the whole lot accessible within the common digicam menu, solely a choose few, and this synthetic restrict put in place by folks on the opposite facet of the world on my behalf peeves me. Sony figured this out years in the past to cease making an attempt to foretell what the consumer desires their buttons for and made it a free for all. With Sony, I can press a lens button to ship a picture to my telephone if I would like it to. Perhaps somebody really does, and they need to have the ability to.

This turns into extra problematic when an optically-stabilized lens comparable to this doesn’t function a Vibration Discount mode swap to toggle between Regular, Sport, and Off. Including insult to harm, you may’t set one of many customized lens buttons to take care of this shortcoming (or any customized button on the digicam itself). Since Regular VR mode acts fairly completely different than Sport in that the viewfinder picture and focus factors will soar when the shutter is pressed, it’s not all the time preferable to have most compensation and I’m switching between modes loads relying on my circumstance.

One strategy to make this variation is to enter the “i” fast menu by urgent the button and hunt it down, faucet it or transfer the arrows over to it, choose the brand new VR mode by tapping or arrowing over and urgent OK, then exit out of the fast menu by half-pressing the shutter or another button. Or I can dive into the total menu with a equally prolonged course of. Both method, it’s so excessive to vary one thing of this a lot significance and I’m truthfully baffled.

Nikon Z 100-400mm mounted to Nikon Z9.

Popping out of the weeds a bit, I’ve three different quibbles with the lens. One is that the main target limiter swap solely has the choices of Full or three meters to infinity. After going into all the difficulty of including a bodily swap, why not make it helpful within the different path too? Second, the tripod foot is detachable with out instruments which is nice, but it surely’s additionally missing out-of-the-box usefulness for a majority of individuals with out having a built-in Arca Swiss dovetail. Lastly, the lens hood has a launch button that’s actually onerous to seek out and press even when you already know what you’re searching for. It’s tiny and sits fully flush with the hood, plus is similar ribbed topography as the encompassing materials.

Ending this part on a optimistic be aware, the Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 is a part of the Nikon’s “S” collection of higher-quality lenses which partly means it has a weather-sealed design and Fluorine coating on the entrance factor for straightforward cleansing. Any early opinions of a lens won’t ever have the ability to communicate to real-world sturdiness, this one included, however Nikon has an especially lengthy historical past of lenses which are constructed to final and once they say one thing has “excellent dust- and drip-resistant functionality” and included in its upper-echelon “S” collection of lenses, I’m inclined to imagine the claims.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Picture High quality

Contained in the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, there are 25 parts in 20 teams together with six Tremendous ED and two ED parts. These particular parts assist right for chromatic aberrations, and Nikon’s ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coatings work to scale back flaring and ghosting. All through taking pictures for the previous couple of weeks, I noticed no shade fringing to any noticeable diploma and was additionally impressed by the flare management in harsh backlit conditions. In conditions the place different telephoto lenses I’ve used can be an entire wash of distinction and element, the Nikon Z 100-400mm holds on and will get the shot. There’s nonetheless some minimal ghosting that may crop up in backlit conditions, however I didn’t see a variety of it.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

The lens has an aperture vary of f/4.5 to f/32 at 100mm and f/5.6 to f/40 at 400mm. Capturing large open, the aperture breakdown appears to be like like this: 100mm to 124mm is f/4.5, 125mm to 184mm is f/4.8, 185mm to 269mm is f/5, 270mm to 359 is 5.3, and 360mm to 400mm is f/5.6.

The lens has a rounded nine-bladed aperture that produces round bokeh on the middle of the body. Shifting outwards in the direction of the perimeters, the bokeh balls flip extra into slanted cat-eye shapes. There’s a slight rim to the bokeh balls however general it appears to be like glorious. Out-of-focus areas are in a position to cleanly soften away and don’t comprise busy harsh edges.

Testing for middle sharpness at 100mm, f/4.5 was fairly good for being large open with probably the most enchancment simply one-third cease down at f/5. At f/11 it’s in all probability at its peak sharpness but it surely’s all a wash within the mid-ranges. Between f/20 closed down all the best way to f/32 it does drop in sharpness, however truly nonetheless appears to be like good and completely usable contemplating the diffraction it’s battling. The nook sharpness at 100mm will get significantly higher at f/6.3 and is at its finest at f/11.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.
Cropped from 400mm.

Testing middle sharpness at 400mm reveals large open at f/5.6 decently good and with submit sharpening, I don’t see an issue. I discovered that it’s going to be the sharpest at f/7.1. Stopped down f/32 by means of f/40, the lens produces its most mushy photos and prompts warning working at these ranges. Checking the nook sharpness at 400mm, I noticed that at f/7.1 the picture will sharpen right here significantly and at f/13 it’s at its finest.

I additionally examined the vignetting after disabling the digicam’s built-in picture corrections. At 100mm, the vignetting is kind of heavy and large open at f/4.5 wants appreciable compensation to even out the publicity. Fortunately, the vignetting clears up drastically only one click on down at f/5. By f/8 the vignetting clears to the far corners and to do away with it fully I can cease right down to f/14. Taking a look at 400mm, the story is analogous the place the vignetting is heavy at f/5.6, however with every one-third cease down it clears significantly till f/8 the place it’s solely on the far corners. To clear it, f/13 appears to be like to do the trick.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.


In a jumble of phrases, Nikon makes use of a “Multi-Focus Stepping Motor AF System” contained in the Z 100-400mm. There are two stepping motors (STMs) that drive the focusing parts and in good gentle, I’m in a position to snap the autofocus to anyplace close to and much within the blink of a watch. Monitoring in good gentle with this lens additionally assures many in-focus pictures when firing off a steady burst of photos. I used to be in a position to make use of animal autofocus monitoring on the Z9 with this lens to {photograph} my canines working quick towards the digicam with only a few missed pictures.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.
Shot at 400mm.
Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.
Shot at 100mm.

At 100mm, the shut focus distance is simply 2.46 toes (0.75 meters) and at 400mm its 3.22 toes (0.98 meters). Capturing shut focus at 400mm provides a decent 0.38x magnification and may be very helpful in making this one lens extra well-rounded. I can shoot very shut and really tight, and with the megapixels afforded by the Z9, crop down additional to make photos look macro in spirit.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.
Shot at shut focus distances for 100mm and 400mm.

Principally Killer, Nonetheless Some Filler

Judged on optics alone, the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S is a powerful piece of glass that may produce high-quality photos in any lighting scenario. It has the flexibility to get sharp outcomes by means of strong lens design, competent autofocus pace, and 5.5 stops of vibration compensation. On the identical time, it creates pleasing buttery backgrounds that place all its sharp give attention to the topics. The shut focusing skill and potential of including 1.4x and 2x teleconverters make it a flexible addition to anybody’s package.

The construct of the lens makes an attempt so as to add some newer options just like the OLED display with varied real-time informational readouts and customizable buttons and a programmable management ring, however there are at the moment a variety of blind spots and admittedly, boring concepts within the implementation that make it much less compelling in apply than they sound on paper.

Shot with the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Are There Alternate options?

Because the Nikon Z-mount continues to be comparatively new, there haven’t been any true alternate options produced but that match the $2,700 Z 100-400mm. Loosely related could possibly be the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens that prices a harsh $14,000. It’s an enormous prime lens with a built-in teleconverter that provides two stops of sunshine large open compared to the 100-400mm and 400mm.

On the opposite finish of the spectrum for people who personal a Nikon DX APS-C digicam physique, a comparable focal size lens can be the Nikon Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR which prices a lot much less at $350. Whereas providing related framing because the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens on full-frame, the 50-250mm is extra compact and light-weight, albeit with extra fundamental optics and design.

With the Nikon FTZ II adapter, after all, any F-mount lens might be introduced over to the Z mount which opens up extra prospects for a wider vary of older various choices.

Ought to You Purchase It?

Sure. Total, the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S is a pointy and quick lens with few issues that may’t be fastened by firmware updates.

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