TCSTV Nikkor Z 400mm f4.5 VR S Hands-On Review

There has been a lot of anticipation and excitement for the new Nikkor Z 400mm f4.5 VR S lens. So much so that TCSTV’s Dave and Evelyn got their hands on a pre-production unit so they could test its agility and speed! Although it’s not the final product, Dave and Evelyn were blown away by the performance!

The Nikkor Z 400mm f4.5 VR S lens is a super-telephoto prime lens that is impressively compact. From the get-go, Dave noted how for a 400mm lens, it’s not much bigger lengthwise than a 70-200, making it an excellent option for travelling. When pairing it with the Nikon Z9, it becomes an ideal combo, ready to keep up with the autofocus performance of the camera.

Dave and Evelyn decided that the best way to test out the Z 400mm f4.5 VR S was with birds since this is a 400mm lens. Trekking to get to the right spot wasn’t a problem, since the lens is quite lightweight at 1160 grams. This also means there isn’t a huge worry of lugging around a monopod either, making it easy to move around as the birds come and go. Comparatively to a 400 2.8, Nikon’s Z 400mm f4.5 VR S is an excellent balance of having a reasonably bright 4.5 with background separation, while also being exceptionally compact and portable for travel.

The overall balance of the lens is slightly more towards the back, which pairs nicely with the full-frame Nikon Z9 body. The tripod foot is also very easy to unscrew and remove making it super quick to switch from horizontal to vertical images if using a tripod.

Evelyn was rather impressed by how intuitive and tactile the controls and buttons are, making it extremely easy to make adjustments while still looking through the EVF. There is also a very tactile manual control ring and memory set button so you can go back to a set focus point quickly and easily. Another noteworthy feature of the lens is that it has a Kensington Lock built into it, giving you peace of mind if you were to walk away from the camera and lens.

When looking inside the lens, there are 19 different elements in 13 different groups, one ED element, two super ED elements, plus an SR element! This SR element is quite significant as it greatly helps with chromatic aberration.

Dave was extremely impressed with the quality of the Z 400mm f4.5 VR S, with his images right out of the camera having high contrast and sharp details. He did notice that with the 4.5 aperture, the shutter speed will be a bit slower, however, he didn’t find it to be a make or break, especially with a modern camera, like the Z9 which can handle high ISOs.

Taking a look at the autofocus, which was thoroughly tested with birds in flight, the Z 400mm f4.5 VR S was very quick! Matched with the Z9, the Z 400mm f4.5 VR S was not missing focus and both Dave and Evelyn were impressed with the results. They also noted that with them shooting handheld, the vibration reduction was quite remarkable. With a combined six stops between the Z9 and Z 400mm f4.5 VR S, or five and a half with Nikon’s other full-frame bodies, this is excellent for handheld and lower light.

Overall, the compactness, portability, performance and light-gathering capabilities of the Nikkor Z 400mm f4.5 VR S give it a special place in Nikon’s S-Line. Both Dave and Evelyn were exceptionally impressed and found it to be an excellent option for bird and wildlife photographers on the move.

Check out the TCSTV’s Hands-On Review below to see if you feel the same!

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