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Nikon Z 600mm F/4 TC Lens Review

John Riley has been putting the Nikon Z 600mm F/4 TC super-telephoto lens to the test, capturing sample photos of otters and other wildlife.

| Nikon Z 600mm F/4 TC in Interchangeable Lenses

Nikon Z 600mm F/4 TC Lens Review: Nikkor Z 600mm F4 In Action | 1/125 sec | f/8.0 | 45.0 mm | ISO 400

Take a 600mm lens, give it an f/4 maximum aperture, then combine it with an 840mm f/5.6, mix together and produce a terrific new sports and wildlife optic for the Nikon Z mirrorless cameras. This is exactly what Nikon have achieved, thanks to including a built-in teleconverter that can be dialled in at will. As if that were not enough, add 5.5 stop vibration reduction and the whole can even be tolerably handheld. There is a price tag to this wizardry, but we'll come back to that later in the review. For now, we take the Nikkor Z 600mm f/4 TC VR S, mount it on the 45MP Nikon Z7 body and venture out to see how it handles, as well as running the lens through the usual technical tests. Let's see how we did.

Nikon Z 600mm F/4 TC Handling and Features

Nikon Z 600mm F/4 TC Lens Review: Nikkor Z 600mm F4 Front Oblique View | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 100
Imagine that the camera body has been loaded up with three and a quarter bags of sugar and it gives an idea as to what this 3260g lens feels like in use. It's heavy. However, when first picked up, from its size we expected it to be much heavier than it actually is. It is very well-balanced and this does make it much easier to handle. Before anything else though, it is necessary to update the firmware on the Z7 body. It is more than not all the functions working without an update, it is everything at a full stop as the camera will not play until it is done. As it happens the process is quick and easy.

The lens is still large, even if fairly compact when compared with some DSLR lenses. It measures some 165mm (6.5”) in diameter and 427mm (17.3”) in length. There is a large round lenshood supplied and this is simply pushed into place and secured by a knurled knob. There is no filter thread at the front of the lens as 46mm filters are inserted in a slot at the back. The enormous front element would be very vulnerable, but with the hood in place is very well protected. It has a Fluorine coating to repel dust, dirst, grease and moisture. There is also dust and moisture sealing throughout the lens.

Starting at the front of the lens, we first find the four L-Fn2 buttons, equally spaced around the body. These can be programmed via the camera menus. Behind this is the Fn ring, which can be rotated to recall any memorised focus distance. Continuing, there is the control ring which can also be programmed for various functions, such as a silent aperture ring (ideal for videographers) or exposure compensation. The manual focus ring is generously sized and affords an excellent grip. As expected, being electronic in operation it is utterly smooth. It is also damped to just the right degree to make manual focusing easy but not so easy that the ring can be accidentally moved. Focusing is down to 4.3m, for a maximum magnification of 0.14x. Switching the TC in does not alter the minimum focusing distance, so the magnification then becomes 0.2x.


Nikon Z 600mm F/4 TC Lens Review: Nikkor Z 600mm F4 Left Side | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 36.0 mm | ISO 100
AF is driven by SSCCM Silky Swift Voice Coil Motors supported by an optical ABS encoder that ensures fast, accurate and virtually silent AF operation. When coupled with the 5.5 stop Synchro VR then the way the lens focuses, locks and the image stabilises is quite a remarkable effect in the viewfinder. The VR is quite up to spec as well and makes a dramatic difference to the sharpness, even when mounted on a tripod. The instructions do note that on a tripod VR can be left switched on to stabilise tripod shake, and this can be borne out by comparing resolution figures with and without VR. With camera bodies without Synchro VR there is 5 stops advantage, but either way, it is dramatic and very useful. Hand-held ultra-telephoto photography becomes so much easier and the results are so much better.

The tripod collar ring is loosened using a small knob and the orientation of the lens can then be rotated accordingly. Also on the tripod collar are two strap eyelets, a very sensible addition for securely carrying the lens. Within the tightening knob is the attachment for a security cable, another sensible addition.

The L-Fn button is also programmable from the camera menus, and in addition on the opposite side of the lens barrel, we have the memory set. Just behind this is the A/M switch for auto or manual focus and the focus limiter with just two choices of either full range or infinity to 10m.

The built-in teleconverter is another boon, and this is switched in and out with a large lever. There is also a lock to prevent the lever from being accidentally nudged and spurious results being found. The optical components thud into place and the 600mm f/4 lens becomes an 840mm f/5.6. Quality is maintained, and if that is not enough then the lens is also compatible with the Z series 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters.

Finally, the filter slot can be withdrawn and the filter drawer allows the use of 46mm screw-in filters. There is an optional polarising filter assembly C-PL460 that comprises a complete drawer with the ability to rotate the polariser.


Nikon Z 600mm F/4 TC Lens Review: Nikkor Z 600mm F4 Rear Oblique View | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 100
Lens construction is 26 elements in 20 groups, of which the teleconverter comprises 7 elements in 4 groups. There are 3 ED (Extra Low Dispersion), 1 Super ED, 2 SR (Short Wave Refractive) and 2 Fluorite elements. Fluorite elements in particular are expensive and difficult to manufacture. The diaphragm comprises 9 blades, for improved bokeh, although at 600mm and 840mm out-of-focus backgrounds are pretty much par for the course. Apart from the previously mentioned Fluorine coat on the front element, Nikon uses elements with meso-amorphous and nano crystal coats.

There is a caveat in the instructions that the lens has a magnetic field and should be kept away from magnetic storage such as credit card strips. Checking this with a magnetic compass there is a magnetic field but it is quite localised and does not extend very far from the lens. I don't keep my credit cards pressed up against lenses, so all is well.

There is no doubt this is a great lens to use and most of the time it ended up being used handheld. The Imatest shots were done using a tripod, still using VR as the results were better that way, not by much but enough to make a slight difference. A tripod with the head loosened is a good way to use the lens, but a monopod was found to be a bit unwieldy and I quickly discarded it. Carrying the lens takes a bit of care as it is large and unwieldy, but the cost is a powerful incentive indeed to making sure it is duly cosseted. This is a great and obvious choice for sports and wildlife photographers, although for sure there will be some who use it for fashion shoots and any other genre that takes the imagination.


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4 Apr 2023 1:31AM
So why not test the optical performance of the lens with the built-in? I would like to know how it compares to the 800mm f/6.3 lens.
4 Apr 2023 9:09AM
Ideally, I would have run the resolution tets at 800mm as well, but when this review was done the weather was atrocious and I had to have a slot where I could be sure it would not rain and damage the test chart. That chart is large, very large, so for very long lenses we have to move outside. That means a clear day with no wind is needed, and certainly with no rain as any rain would damage the very expensive chart. Doing the 600mm tests was as much as we dared do before the next squall hit, and we were lucky it all held off long enough for that.

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