The Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is a professional super-telephoto lens for Nikon’s Z-series full-frame mirrorless cameras.
It is described by Nikon as the smallest and lightest 400mm lens ever created by the company.
It features a complex optical structure composed of 19 elements divided into 13 groups, including 1 ED element, 2 super-ED elements, 1 SR element, Nano Crystal coated elements and a fluorine coated front lens element.
This lens features a 9-blade diaphragm that creates attractive blur in out-of-focus areas of the image.
It’s equipped with an Optical Vibration Reduction System that offers 5.5 stops of built-in stabilization and has a dust and drop resistant design.
An internal focusing mechanism means the lens barrel doesn’t move, and it offers a minimum focusing distance of 2.5m (8.21ft) and a maximum magnification ratio of 0.16x , while using 95mm front screw-on filters.
There’s a configurable ring on the lens barrel that lets you control aperture, exposure compensation, or ISO speed.
This lens is also compatible with Nikon Z 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, offering focal length ranges of 560mm and 800mm respectively.
The Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens is available now for £3299 / $3299 in the UK and US respectively. It is designed in Japan and made in China.
Ease of use
Weighing 1245g (2lb 12oz) with the included tripod collar and measuring 23.5cm (9.3in) in length, the Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is a fairly large and heavy lens.
Given the long focal length on offer, this is actually a technological achievement in terms of overall size and weight, more akin to a typical 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
It looks rather unbalanced when used with a smaller sized camera body like the Z6 II that Nikon provided us for testing, as seen in the product photos.
It would be much more comfortable mounted on either the larger Z9 camera with its built-in grip or the MB-N11 battery grip fitted to the Z6/Z7 series cameras.
We were able to comfortably use it for several hours handheld without having to use a tripod or monopod, making it a very versatile, lightweight, and travel-friendly telephoto option.
The build quality is exceptional for what is after all a pro-level lens. With a mostly metal build, the Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S feels very solid in your hand, and it has a commendable metal mount. Note that this lens also has a weatherproof design to help protect against dust and moisture.
There are three switches on the left side of the Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens.
The top one is the first of two customizable L-Fn function buttons. From the main camera menu, you can assign one of 21 different functions to this button, including AF lock, metering, subject tracking, framing grid display, and more.
The middle one is a switch to choose between autofocus and manual focus.
The bottom one is a focus range limiter switch with two settings, Full (Infinity-2.5m) and Infinity-6m.
On the right side is the memory setting button, which you can use to save the current focus distance.
The built-in 5.5 stops of image stabilization are significant when hand-held such a long lens, and the system thankfully works very well, ensuring you can shoot at shutter speeds slower than 1/ 400th while getting clean results (obviously depending on your technique).
When used with the Z9 camera, Synchro VR combines lens and camera-integrated VR systems for up to 6.0 stops of compensation.
Note that there’s no external control on the lens to turn image stabilization on or off, meaning you have to dive into the camera’s menu system.
Unfortunately, there’s also no OLED data display on the lens barrel, like on some of Nikon’s other Z-series lenses.
There is another function button marked L-Fn2 located towards the end of the lens barrel which can also be customized.
There are three other unmarked buttons on the same ring that will duplicate the setting you assign to the L-Fn2 button, ensuring you can always access one of the buttons regardless of how you’re holding the lens.
Towards the end of the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens’ lens mount, there’s the first (and smaller) of the two lens rings. This lens can also be customized.
By default, it’s set to control aperture, but you can also change it to adjust exposure compensation or ISO. Otherwise, you can configure it to do nothing at all.
In the center of the lens you will find the focus ring. It has no hard stops at either end of the focus ring, making it more difficult to focus at infinity.
The ring has just enough resistance to make fine adjustments to manual focus, without having too much flexibility.
The focus ring is ridged and the control ring is knurled, which helps you tell them apart by touch when shooting through the viewfinder.
Right at the end of the lens barrel is a non-slip rubber grip for more stable portable use.
It also helps to add to the high quality and rugged feel of the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens.
This lens was designed to be as fast and quiet as possible when autofocusing. This makes it ideally placed for both stills and video shooting.
Shooting with the lens proves it has almost unerringly accurate and fast autofocus in the majority of situations, with virtually no hunting. It is also incredibly quiet.
A removable tripod collar is included, towards the lens mount end of the lens.
You can position it wherever you want around the Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens, allowing you to attach the camera to your tripod or monopod in any position you need.
A detachable tripod is also included, which has two different tripod mounting threads (one front, one rear).
You can also use the dots on the tripod collar to match the lines on the lens itself to align it perfectly.
The box also includes a large lens hood (HB-105), which fits the 95mm filter thread of the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S, and a lens case (CL-C5) .
The hood locks in place and is reversible so you can downsize the lens for transport and store it at a smaller size.
The Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S offers an angle of view of 6° 10′.
Chromatic aberrations, usually seen as blue or purple fringing along contrasting edges, weren’t particularly apparent in our test shots, appearing only in very high-contrast areas.
When the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens is set to its maximum aperture, there is some light loss in the corners, which you will need to correct in post-processing.
There is a very slight pincushion distortion in the JPEGs and Raw files, but it is not at all pronounced.
The Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is not a macro lens, offering a minimum focusing distance of 2.5m / 8.21ft combined with a maximum magnification of 0.16x.
Bokeh is a word used for out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth/creamy/hard, etc.
In the Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens, Nikon has used an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades, which, combined with the maximum aperture of f/4.5 and the long focal length, gives a very nice bokeh in our opinion.
We realize, however, that bokeh assessment is subjective, so we’ve included plenty of examples below for your perusal.
In order to show you the sharpness of the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens, we provide 100% crops on the next page.