NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR: “A real go-to lens for wildlife enthusiasts”

Ricci Chera Tried and Tested 06 sept. 2023Lectura: 5 min
Bird photography by Ricci Chera for Nikon Magazine's Tried and Tested series. These photos were taken using the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR

The new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR is put through its paces by Nikon School’s Ricci Chera

Nikon School training specialist and wildlife photographer Ricci Chera was one of the first to use the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR. We followed him on a birding trip to the coast to shoot everything from soaring gannets to shy puffins with this affordable and agile super-tele zoom lens. Here’s how he got on.

 

First impressions 

Handling the 180-600mm for the first time, it was really well balanced, with the majority of the weight in the middle of the lens. I had it on a new Nikon Z 8 and took the removable tripod collar off. As a package, it felt really comfortable shooting handheld. It also has a very similar controls layout to the other Nikon Z mount lenses, which makes it easy to pick up and use straightaway. 

 

 

Ricci Chera
Naturaleza y vida salvaje
What’s in my kitbag?
Bird photography by Ricci Chera for Nikon Magazine's Tried and Tested series. These photos were taken using the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR
Best use cases

The 180-600mm focal length range offers huge flexibility and creativity for many different types of photography. However, this lens will mostly be used by photographers who love to shoot wildlife, aviation and sports. I’m a wildlife photographer, so it was perfect for me to go out and shoot birds with. 180 mm is wide enough to allow larger subjects to fill the frame or for subjects that unexpectedly get closer to you. And the reach of the 600 mm focal length is great for smaller, very skittish subjects like birds and mammals. It’s also great for subjects you can’t get physically close enough to, like aircraft or cars on a racetrack.

Bird photography by Ricci Chera for Nikon Magazine's Tried and Tested series. These photos were taken using the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR
Performance in a real-world scenario

I took the NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR on a recent trip to the coast, attached to my new Nikon Z 8, to shoot sea birds. The day started misty and then when it lifted it was a pretty cloudless sky, so there were different light conditions to test in. There were three main things that stood out for me.

 

First, was the ability to quickly zoom in or out. The zoom ring has a very short throw, only requiring a 70° turn to go from 180 mm to 600 mm. This makes all the difference when dealing with very fast, erratic subjects. Birds are often moving directly towards or away from you. 

 

Second, the speed of focus is very snappy and accurate. A lens like this is often used for capturing subjects that move quickly and erratically, so fast, accurate focus is always important. The lens focuses fast, can easily snap from one subject to another and, even if the subjects gets really close, the lens can focus on a subject 1.3 m away. The images are really sharp.

 

Third, was image quality. The lens makes use of an aspherical element with six ED glass elements to combat chromatic aberrations – all of which means it retains the same great image quality throughout the zoom range. Lenses with such large focal lengths can also suffer from vignetting, so steps have been taken in the lens design to remove it wherever possible.

Bird photography by Ricci Chera for Nikon Magazine's Tried and Tested series. These photos were taken using the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR
Bird photography by Ricci Chera for Nikon Magazine's Tried and Tested series. These photos were taken using the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR
Usefulness for video

Like all lenses, the NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR is designed with video in mind. Control dials are smooth and clickless, removing unwanted noise when recording – especially useful when wildlife shooting. The lens is designed to limit focus breathing, and will also show less exposure variance when adjusting aperture while recording video.

Bird photography by Ricci Chera for Nikon Magazine's Tried and Tested series. These photos were taken using the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR

Ricci Chera’s key tips

 

Don’t forget it’s a zoom!

The lens offers such long reach at 600 mm that it’s common to see photographers using a lens like this at 600 mm all the time. Don’t forget to zoom the lens out to capture a wider shot, or environmental shot of the subject, from time to time. A picture of an animal in its environment can tell much more of a story than a very tight shot of an animal on its own. Also get accustomed to using the zoom ring. The ability to quickly zoom the lens in or out when following an erratic subject can make or break a picture.

 

Make use of the function buttons

Often customisable function buttons around the barrel of a lens are reserved for higher end, more expensive glass. I’m glad to say Nikon has kept the buttons on this lens, which is fantastic at this price point. These buttons can be used for various useful features,* such as:

 

  • Switching autofocus modes
  • Activating autofocus
  • Storing focus positions
  • Recalling shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings

 

*Some features are camera body dependent

 

Shooting things such as wildlife or sport, you often don’t have time to stop and change settings via the camera body or menu system. Assigning functions to the buttons on the lens means you can instantly change and be ready for the shot.

Bird photography by Ricci Chera for Nikon Magazine's Tried and Tested series. These photos were taken using the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR
Go even farther with a teleconverter

If you find that even 600 mm is too short, you can extend the 180-600mm even more with a Z mount 1.4x or 2x teleconverter. These can take the 180-600mm all the way up to 1200 mm for really distant subjects.

 

What I love about the lens

The NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR is a fantastic lens for enthusiast wildlife photographers. Being a wildlife photographer myself, it’s great to see lenses that allow more and more photographers to get out and capture great images of the wildlife around them. Normally 600 mm is reserved for much more expensive, higher-end lenses, but this will allow many more of us to get those amazing shots and I think it will probably end up being a real go-to lens for a lot of people.

Bird photography by Ricci Chera for Nikon Magazine's Tried and Tested series. These photos were taken using the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR

Opciones de uso compartido

Inspiration for all levels

Featured products

Discover the NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR

Lectura: 2 min
nikon-image
Anatomy of a Lens28 jun. 2023Nikon Team

The new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR

Lectura: 2 min
nikon-image
Hot Shots 28 jun. 2023Nikon Team

Get the most from your NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR super-tele with these tips and tricks

Lectura: 2 min
nikon-image
Deep Focus21 jun. 2023Nikon Team

Inside the numbers on the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR

nikon-image

For limitless creativity