Virtual reality

Nikon Z 800mm f / 6.3 VR S review

The Nikon Z 800mm f / 6.3 VR S is a pro-grade super-telephoto prime with powerful reach and an impressive set of high-end features. There’s no getting away from the fact that super-tele lenses are typically big and heavy. However, thanks partly to the inclusion of a Phase Fresnel element the Z 800mm certainly is not massive and, at 2,385g, you do not need to be a bodybuilder to tackle handheld shooting. By comparison, the Nikon Z 400mm f / 2.8 TC VR S (opens in new tab) and Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM (opens in new tab) are both noticeably heavier, weighing in at 2,950g and 2,860g respectively.

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Full-frame: Yes
Autofocus: Yes
Stabilization: Yes
Lens construction: 22 elements in 14 groups
Angle of view: 3.17 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum aperture: f / 32
Minimum focusing distance: 5m
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.16x
Filter size: Rear, 46mm drop-in
Dimensions: 140x385mm
Weight: 2,385g

Key features

There’s 800mm of key feature in this lens. The monster super-telephoto reach is particularly ideal for bird photography, as well as for action, sports, wildlife and pretty much any time you can not get as close to the subject matter as you might like. It can even come in useful for landscape photography, when you want to compress perspective for creative effect.

The slightly narrower aperture and use of a Phase Fresnel element enables this lens to be just half the weight of Nikon’s latest 800mm F-mount prime. (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Although undeniably a big and heavy lens, it is relatively compact and lightweight for an 800mm prime. The Phase Fresnel element helps to boost image quality as well as enabling a downsized design, and it’s joined in a high-quality optical path by three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and one SR (Short-wavelength Refractive) element. 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 dual linear stepping motors, while voice coil motors power the optical 5-stop VR (Vibration Reduction) system. Effectiveness is boosted to 5.5 stops in Synchro VR mode, which teams up with the in-body stabilization of full-frame Nikon Z system cameras.

A lockable tray towards the rear end of the lens enables the use of 46mm drop-in filters. (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

The lens comes complete with a drop-in 46mm filter slot and is compatible with Nikon’s Z-series 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters (opens in new tab)should you ever feel that even 800mm does not really cover the distance.

Build and handling

Build quality feels of a consummately professional standard, with a tough, solid and extensively weather-sealed construction. As you’d expect, the lens comes complete with a tripod (opens in new tab)/ monopod (opens in new tab) mounting ring and strap lugs. There’s also a security-conscious Kensington lock. Supplied accessories include a lockable hood, padded strap and high-quality slingback padded soft case.

As with build quality, handling is fully pro-grade. The customizable manual focus ring operates with smooth precision and there are plentiful onboard controls. At the rear there’s an A / M focus mode switch, an autofocus range limiter which can lock out the short end between 5-10m, a customizable L-Fn button and a Memory Set button for storing a custom focus distance.

(Image credit: Matthew Richards)

(Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Further forward there’s a secondary customizable control ring which can be assigned to the likes of ISO, exposure compensation and aperture. The last of these works well for stepless aperture control during video capture, at which the lens excels with minimal focus breathing. Next up is a rank of four L-Fn 2 buttons, situated at 90-degree intervals around the barrel lens, ideal for autofocus on / hold functions.

(Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Performance

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