Lens review

Nikon Nikkor Z 400 mm f/4.5 VR S

Nikon Nikkor Z 400 mm f/4.5 VR S
23 May 2024
Maciej Latałło

1. Introduction

Full frame telephoto 400 mm devices can be found in a line-up of practically every major manufacturer. The most expensive ones are as fast as f/2.8 and small wonder they cost a fortune – after all their huge exit pupil, amounting to almost 143 mm, limits both the physical dimensions of the lens and costs of its production. As a result, contemporary lenses of this type could cost several thousand dollars.

Nikon Nikkor Z 400 mm f/4.5 VR S - Introduction

That's why most of producers try to offer a bit slower models in this class and it seems 4/400 parameters would be a preferable choice. Only it isn't. The problem is that the exit pupil amounts to exactly 10 cm, a borderline between instruments for ordinary mortals and models designed for professionals. On the one hand you get these horribly expensive 2.8/400, but also 4/500, 4/600, or 2.8/300 instruments, on the other hand you see these slower 5.6/500 6.3/600 or 4/300 models.

As 4/400 parameters lie exactly on the borderline between these two groups many producers shun them. Canon is an exception to that rule but in that case they employed DO technology with these parameters and their lenses remained expensive anyway. Maybe that's why, several years ago, Canon offered also the 5.6/400 model.

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Still some producers chose another tactics. 4/400 parameters are too expensive and they would be a weak supplement of the line-up when compared to the 2.8/400 model; still, perhaps it makes more sense to reduce the aperture fastness a bit and offer something like 4.5/400. The aperture reduction by 1/3 EV makes the exit pupil decrease to 89 mm, noticeably less than 100 mm offered by 4/400. As a result the lens can also be smaller, physically lighter, and cheaper.

Nikon Nikkor Z 400 mm f/4.5 VR S - Introduction

Once upon a time Minolta decided to follow that path and their AF 400 mm f/4.5 APO G model was both well-known and popular. In the era of mirrorless systems Nikon chose exactly the same option and in June 2022 they presented the Nikkor Z 400 mm f/4.5 VR S. Courtesy of Nikon Polska, we were lent one specimen of that lens for testing purposes and now we can present the results of our full test – enjoy!

You are also invited to get acquainted with our test procedure, described in the article "How do we test lenses?" If you feel it’s still not enough, please go to our FAQ section where you can find some further explanation.

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