Gear Photography

Frame further & focus faster with Nikon’s Z 400mm f/2.8

This new super-telephoto prime offers next-level tech for amazing sports and wildlife pics - at a price

If you’re the kind of person who needs to magnify distant subjects and who also has £13,499 in their pocket, then the Nikkor Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S is going to be right up your street. Previously teased at the launch of the pro-level Z 9, it promises to deliver the pinnacle of reach and quality for sports, wildlife and nature photographers.

This is Nikon’s first super-telephoto prime designed from the ground up for its new Z mount mirrorless cameras and as such it packs in a tremendous amount of innovation. For starters, it’s the first to offer a new ‘Silky Swift Voice Coil Motor (VCM)’ focusing system which uses magnets instead of gears to move the focusing elements, delivering “higher initial speed, higher accuracy and the smoothest, most silent operation of any Nikon AF drive system.” For even greater accuracy and speed, the system also has an ‘optical ABS (absolute) encoder’ that detects and communicates lens position information with extreme accuracy.”

There’s also a new Memory Focus feature wherein you can save a focus position using the Memory Set button on the barrel, focus away and then snap back to the saved position just by rotating the customisable Fn ring. Minimum focus is 2.5m and there’s a limiter switch giving Full and 6m to infinity settings. 

© Roie Galitz

Optically, it’s also the first Z lens to use a new ‘Meso Amorphous Coat’, which claims the highest anti-reflection performance in Nikkor lens history. Able to deal with shooting into strong, low sun, or scenes with multiple direct light sources in the frame, no matter what their angle, the coating uses particles “smaller than nano level to eliminate ghosting and flare.” The lens’s construction is 25 elements in 19 groups and it features ED, Super ED, and SR glass elements to counter chromatic aberrations.

Built in teleconverters are becoming more common in these top-end lenses as they allow manufacturers to design specifically for the optics in question. The Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S has an integral 1.4x converter, turning it into an effective 560mm f/4 lens. If you want even more reach, it also supports the Z Teleconverter TC-1.4x and Z TC-2.0x, topping out an effective 784mm f/5.6 and 1120mm f/8 respectively. 

There’s also optical Vibration Reduction with a 5.5 stop rating, which is vital in longer lenses, and especially so when employing the integral or additional teleconverters. Synchro VR is available when this lens is paired with the Z 9, taking performance to over 6 stops. 

Naturally at this level, the  Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S promised impressive build at the lightest weight possible, with the balance of the lens engineered to be nearer the rear for improved handling. At 2950g and 156x380mm, trekking around with it shouldn’t be too much of a burden either. It also has weather sealing around all moving parts to keep dust and moisture out and a fluorine coating on the front element. It comes with a hood, cover, bag, and there’s an integrated filter slot to use 46mm drop-in models, too. Get saving!

© Matthias Hangst
© Roie Galitz
© Matthias Hangst
© Roie Galitz