Field Test of the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S Lens

In the days before Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S arrives in our brand new lens lab for testing I have gathered my observations over the course of two weeks in bird photography across Latin America. What was the way that you think the Nikon 400mm f/4.5 perform in the sun’s equatorial rays? I’ll be covering the subject during my review of the field of the lens this morning.

Buff-tailed coronet
NIKON Z9 + NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S 400mm @ ISO 7200 1/3640, f/4.5

Build Quality

Long telephoto lenses are more likely to be used extensively in the field and have to withstand professional conditions. This Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 has the combination of plastic and metal construction and a mostly plastic barrel. What it gives me is outstanding. The materials give me confidence, there is no wobble and the rings work well.

Personally, I find the use of premium plastics to be a good thing for a telephoto prime such as this. Plastics are lighter than steel and are able to withstand impact shocks with greater ease. Lenses made of plastic are less heat-conductive than metal, and therefore do not feel as cold. How durable are they and how long is their long-term durability? I’d not be concerned about the long-term durability of plastics, given how long it is expected to be able to endure within the Great Pacific garbage patch. However, metal may have an advantage in this regard.

To make sure that the internal components including the electronics don’t suffer from weather conditions The 400mm f/4.5 features weather seals and dust filters. Nikon claims that it can stand up to water drips and is in line with my experience using the lens when it rains. The lens was not a problem for me at all. Similar to previous Nikon Telephoto lenses The build quality is top-notch.

Buff-winged Starfrontlet
NIKON Z 9 and NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S at 400mm ISO 5000, 1/1250, f/5.0


First thing that pops into your the mind when you look at this Nikon 400mm f/4.5 is the incredible lightness it is. The most lightweight lens has been that Nikon AF-S500mm f/5.6E F – however, even that lens must be a bit heavier than the 400mm. (And the difference in weight isn’t due to just the fact that this lens is 400mm instead of 500mm, but the 400mm lens also has an aperture that is larger in the end.)

Particularly for the specific lens, what is the mass of this 400mm f/4.5 S lens is 1245g. If you put Nikon’s 1.4x Teleconverter onto it – creating 560mm f/6.3 the total weighs 1465g. For comparison, Nikon’s F mount 500mm f/5.6 F-mount weighs 1460g not including the adapter that is required to use it with the Nikon Z camera. Photographers of wildlife who wish to travel light can’t come across a better camera over Nikon’s Z 400mm f/4.5.

For controlling the lens, a nice departure from the traditional zoom lenses of the f-mount period is the introduction that function rings. I’ve used mine for rapid ISO adjustments in manual mode, and by the real-time histogram in order to observe how bright my photos. It’s more efficient than I had hoped for.

Hummingbirds fight_02
NIKON Z 9 and NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S 400mm ISO 2800 1/1250, f/5.0

The function ring is accompanied by the function buttons, which were used in previous Nikon zooms. I utilize them along and the Memory Set button in order to record a focusing distance within the lens’s memory and then quickly recall it. If you’re photographing at a bird feeder, as an example, or at a tree that is where birds are always landing make sure to consider this feature.

Golden-naped tanager
NIKON Z9 + NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S at 400mm ISO 900, 1/640, f/5.0

I have only minor concerns regarding the lens’s handling which I have already addressed in my review in which I compared it with the 400mm f/4.5 against the 400mm f/2.8. Most importantly, the tripod collar is a bit of a issues with its design, such as the possibility of overtightening as well as a non-standard tripod foot. I don’t also like the mechanism for locking the lens hood like in it. Z 400mm f/2.8 TCT VR. These concerns don’t obscure the the lens’s performance however, I’d be remiss not mention them.

Image Quality

Its Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S includes 19 lens elements that are divided into 13 groups. They include an ED (Extra-low dispersion) element as well as two super ED glass elements as well as the SWR (Short-wavelength Refractive) element. The SR element is used to correct the effects of chromatic aberration. It is responsible for the lens’s lightweight.

While the lens doesn’t have Nikon’s most potent (at at least, according to its market) ARNEO coating for reducing flare, it does have Nano Crystal Coating and Super Integrated Coating that do similar work. However, I’m not able to discern the difference between the coatings that reduce flare in real-world situations however, so I’m going with Nikon on their word. If you’re interested in an ARNEO coating you can find it within Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, and those with more pricey Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC and 600mm F/4 lens with TC.

What I’m more interested in is the results in actual. Is that 400mm f/4.5 S reach a high enough standard?

It certainly does for me. First of all, the clarity of the lens is astonishing, at times it’s almost unbelievable. If you have one of Nikon’s high-resolution mirrorless cameras such as Z7 II or the Z7 II or Z9, you can enlarge the cropping area of this lens without issue.

It’s not that I would suggest cropping to avoid problems. When I first began wildlife photography, I was using the 6MP camera. Every photo was sacred, as it helped me how to compose as precisely as I could. Any cropping of the image was a major loss in quality. Although my camera of today is much better but I am still averse to this practice, and would recommend that you follow the same.

If you have to crop the image, here’s a sample from the photo of an azure-vented Puffleg I shot at 3000m over sea level, at the Ecuadorian Andes. The image illustrates a hummingbird eating the flower:

Sapphire-vented puffleg
NIKON Z9 + NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S at 400mm ISO 5000, 1/1000, f/5.6

But, the hummingbird is not the only animal that appears in the photo. I didn’t realize the fact that I’d captured an entire ecological ecosystem before zooming in to 100 percent. Do you also see it? There tiny mites that are on the hummingbird’s beak.

Sapphire-vented puffleg_crop
NIKON Z9 + NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S @400mm ISO 5000, 1/1000, f/5.6

It’s a great benefit of lenses with high resolution. Another benefit – which will be appreciated even without pixel-peeping – is to use lenses equipped with the teleconverter.

Teleconverters can degrade any optical quality that the lens provides. In this instance however, there’s plenty of options to remove! Its Nikon Z 1.4x teleconverter pairs exceptionally effectively with the lens and any sharpness it can take away will not be a cause for concern. Its Nikon Z Teleconverter TX-2x is definitely usable however it’s maximum aperture f/9.0 is just too small for me.

In addition to other optical properties The chromatic aberration of this lens is well-corrected. It is not often seen in your photos. Flare is a different area in which the lens is able to do excellently, despite the absence in ARNEO coatings. It’s true that I don’t photograph in high-intensity backlight with telephotos often, but sometimes an opportunity presents itself – like the image that follows of the Rufous-booted racket-tail located in eastern Andes. It is pleasing that the backlight causes no flare or decrease in contrast in the picture:

NIKON Z9 + NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S @400mm ISO 900, 1/1000, f/4.5

There’s also the issue of the term bokeh. It is difficult to establish objective standards for. Thus, strictly speaking, the bokeh effect of this lens of 400mm f4.5 is extremely pleasing. This is evident even in normal lighting conditions, as well as in backlit situations that have specular highlight (which can strain the lens’s blurring effect slightly).

Even if there are sharp, out-of-focus areas or light sources in your photograph the lens blurs them nicely. There aren’t a lot of visible artifacts and only little hints of distinct edges. This is one reason I’m pleased that Nikon did not opt for the phase-fresnel design of the lens that is 400mm f/4.5 S. Although a phase-fresnel element could have helped reduce the lens’s weight, it’s not a huge difference The reality is that PF lenses generally have more anxious bokeh (although there are some exceptions).

In any event this 400mm f/4.5 S blows out backgrounds with ease.

Brown violet-ear
NIKON Z 9 and NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S at 400mm ISO 800, 1/800, f/4.5

Accuracy and Speed of Focus

This lens’s focus isn’t built on an “Silky Quick” motor, like the one you’ll find within Nikon’s Z 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4. However, the weaker stepping motor performs effectively on this lens, likely due to the lack of heavy glass in the lens that allows it to move swiftly. The lens is able to focus in a flash.

Focus accuracy is very high Also, the focus accuracy is high. I would suggest that under normal lighting conditions this camera is similar to larger and more costly Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S when it comes to focus.

But it is true that when the focusing distance is close to the limit (which will be 2.5m) then the AF performance begins to deteriorate somewhat. Many telephoto lenses have trouble in these situations but it’s not like this lens with a focal length of 400mm f/4.5 S is worse than other options however it is something to be aware of if you are photographing smaller, more distant subjects.

In any other situation, including birds that move fast, such as the one below the focus of this lens is more efficient than what my eye can see.

Andean guan
NIKON Z 9 and NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S at 400mm ISO 4500 1/3200, f/5.0

Vibration Reduction

Nikon promises to reduce vibrations by 5.5 stops for the majority of Nikon Z cameras. with the exception of the Z9 that is rated at six stop of VR.

In real life the amount of reduction in vibration is contingent on your ability to maintain the camera’s steady position It doesn’t need to be much if the subject isn’t still. My highest shutter speeds handheld were around 1/10 second when using Sport Mode VR, and 1/6 second when using Standard. This was however in the case of a stationary object. In actual practice, none my subjects from the real world stopped for long enough to permit sharp photographs beyond 1/30 seconds.

Personally, I prefer using VR when in sports mode because there’s less picture shift visible in my viewfinder once I release the shutter. This is especially evident with telephoto lenses that are long. This means that you must determine if the more stable viewfinder in Sports mode will be worth 1 stop less performance in terms of VR for your requirements.

Rufous Antpitta
NIKON Z 9 and NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S @400mm ISO 2200 1/250, f/4.5


Apart from its size and weight you consider to be the most significant advantage that the 400mm f/4.5 VR S? It’s the price/performance equation.

At $3250 The 400mm f/4.5 is approximately 25% the cost that the $400mm f/2.8 which offers about 98 percent of the image quality. The main reason for getting the higher-end lens isn’t to improve image quality, or to get faster focusing, but to get an extra 1.3 stop of brightness for dark conditions, as well as the built-in telescope converter.

Another lens that you might consider as an alternate is Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, which is a bit cheaper at $2700. While it’s an issue, I believe that the possibility of using the 1.4x Teleconverter and then use that 400mm f/4.5 as 560mm f/6.3 makes it the ideal option for photographers that shoot only wildlife. Also, it gives you an additional 0.7 stops of brightness to use when shooting in dark environments. However, the 100-400mm offers the flexibility of longer lens lengths, so it’s all down to the conditions.

In any event I believe that this Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is an outstanding value for money.

glossy flowerpiercer
NIKON Z9 + NIKKOR Z400mm f/4.5 VR S at 400mm ISO 4, 1/1250 f/5.0


I have only a few negatives about this lens. Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S. A simple redesign of the tripod collar could enhance the quality of the lens than it is. This doesn’t mean it’s the ideal telephoto lens for all users – you could prefer the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 or the 800mm f/6.3 or one of the more exotic supertelephotos. However, it’s a great choice for photographers who shoot wildlife. I think it’s Nikon’s top general-purpose lens for wildlife since at least 500mm f/5.6 the PF. Perhaps even.I hope that you find this overview of the field lens helpful.