Nikon Announces the Lightweight NIKKOR Z 600mm f/6.3 VR S Supertelephoto Prime

Nikon Announces the Lightweight NIKKOR Z 600mm f/6.3 VR S Supertelephoto Prime

Sports and wildlife shooters looking for great reach without the aching back can rejoice. Nikon today has announced the new lightweight NIKKOR Z 600MM f/6.3 VR S supertelephoto prime lens.

Nikon has made a lot of smart moves in recent years with regards to their mirrorless product lineup. But I think one of the best moves they made was to focus their attention on building up their lens lineup right out of the gate. In a short number of years, they have rolled out a stunningly well-rounded lineup of glass ranging from super wide to super long with virtually every new piece of glass receiving the highest marks for sharpness and performance.

At the longer end of the spectrum, they’ve now got telephoto and super-telephoto options for all phases of the sports and wildlife market. The high-end lenses that cost as much as your car but come with flawless image quality. The more budget friendly alternatives that still produce a world-class image but for a more reachable price point. And now, they’ve decided to take aim at one of the simple truisms of sports and wildlife photography. The cost of performance is not only counted in dollars but also in weight.

Well, the new NIKKOR Z 600mm f/6.3 VR S should solve that issue while, once again, continuing to provide top-grade optics for a demanding market segment. With a total length of only 11 inches and a weight of roughly 3 lbs (1,390 g), the lens is the lightest in its class. With a center of gravity intentionally positioned closer to the body side of the lens barrel, it promises to provide optimal balance when panning with fast moving subjects like sports cars or birds in flight.

The use of the Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element helps the lens maintain its smaller size while also significantly reducing chromatic aberration. The lens is compatible with both the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, which would expand the lens’ range to 840mm and 1200mm respectively, providing even more reach in a travel-friendly package. The lens is dust- and drip-resistant and comes equipped with both a Normal VR mode as well as a Sport VR mode depending on what is called for in the situation. The lens takes video shooters into account as well, with the lens designed to minimize focus sound and focus breathing when in operation.

The lens should hit shelves in late October and is expected to retail for $4,799.95.

So, what do you think? Is this the lens you’ve been waiting for?

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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I wonder how it compared to the Sigma 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG DN OS when it comes to image quality, especially given the price is like 2.5x more expensive for the Nikon lens. I am interested in seeing if it can do at least twice the quality at 600mm.

Considering the F mount version of the Sigma is 3.5 inches longer (plus the FTZ adaptor) and double the weight, the cost would seem to be justified. As the article states, all of the Z lenses have received the “highest marks for sharpness and performance”, so there is no reason to expect anything different here. A better comparison would be to the recently released Nikon Z mount 180-600 which is only 1.5 inches longer and a pound or so heavier than the 600. It is also $200 less than the Sigma and has internal zoom. Regardless, Nikon continues to impress with its Z mount lens offerings, especially for telephotos and tele zooms.

In theory this was the lens I was waiting for but not at that price point. Im sure its a great lens but if i am spending $5000 then I expect faster than 6.3.

Good luck finding a mirrorless 600mm prime faster than f/6.3 for $5k. The Sony, Canon and Nikon f/4 versions are all well over $10k. You can get the F-mount version for about $4k (but unfortunately it does not come with a sherpa ;-). If they made this new lens any faster, it would undercut the 600/4 and the 800/6.3 and would be much larger. So, seems to be priced right given the size/weight. I prefer the flexibility of a zoom and will be sticking with the 180-600 f/5.6-6.3. It is all the lens I need and a relative bargain at $1700.

I think most people will. This is the problem. They had an opportunity to make this a revolutionary lens but instead it is just: "Why should I buy it?"

For less money, I can have a 400 4.5 + 1.4 TC which is similar size/weight, more versatile and I'm sure, almost identical optical performance.

For much less money I can have the 180-600@6.3 which based on samples I've seen so far is just as sharp wide open for wildy less. Is the weight difference worth almost a 3x price hike?

This lens is the spiritual successor to the 500PF.

The 200-500 was $1400 and the 500PF was 3500 so the price delta was 2.5x for a big jump in optical performance, much lighter, better weather sealing.

The 180-600 is $1700 and this lens is 4800 so the price delta is 2.8x for what appears to be no jump in optical performance (mostly because the 180-600 is so good, not that this looks bad), MUCH poorer close focusing, roughly equivalent weather sealing just to get a lighter package.

In essence, they are asking to pay a bigger premium over the budget zoom for less benefit for a lens that really isn't pro tier because its too slow.

I just can't see this lens being a hit.

Budget shooters will pick the 180-600
Mid-range shooters will pick the 400 + TC
Higher budget shooters will pick the 800PF
And elite budget shooters will get the big exotics.

The niche for this lens is really narrow. I can't think of any shooter who would be better off with this lens over the existing offerings. In what situation is this lens the right choice?

You should check out the reviews that are now coming in on this lens, pre-production as well, think they say it all it's a stunning lens. Also a 1.3 of stop difference between 5.6 and 6.3 you won't notice that in speed or depth of field.
Compare it to the f4 then that's a different story but you're paying three times the price of this lens.
I think this will suit a lot of people however the Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR Lens will be a better buy for some.

I never said it wasn't a good lens. I'm sure its optically fantastic. I bet its an amazing lens. My argument is that at its price point for a 600 6.3 it just isn't the right lens for almost anyone because there are already lenses that do what it does for cheaper or better or both.

Why would I choose this lens over the 400 4.5 + TC for $1000 less? The 400 is optically fantastic, just as lightweight and it would mean I have 400@4.5 for low light or 560@6.3 for when I need more reach. The 400 also can focus 2.5m away instead of this which caps out at 4m away. It basically does everything this lens can do, but better and cheaper.

I'd also add that all the reviews so far are from Nikon ambassador types who generally will not say anything bad about lenses on release date, so take all the reviews with a grain of salt.

Finally, 1/3 isn't nothing, it's a 1/3 of a stop. In broad sunlight, sure, it doesn't make a big difference, but if you are photographing birds in low light, every single third stop absolutely matters and can be the difference between getting the shot and not. Every third of a stop you lose is a third of a stop more ISO which is a decline in image quality. High ISO performance is certainly getting better but at the end of the day less ISO = more better always. (With a few exceptions such as depending on the camera blown out highlights but that's a whole different discussion)

You make some good points. It definitely a niche lens. I suppose someone who already has the 100-400 might pick this over the 400/4.5. Also, there are many people who don’t like zooms, so a 400, 600, 800 combo of hand holdable primes might make sense for them. These are obviously small markets, but not non-existent.

It looks nice but the price is very steep... Maybe with an integrated 1.4x that would be more attractive!

I must admit, Nikon are crushing it right now with their super telephoto lenses! Certainly food for thought if I decide to leave the Sony ecosystem

I wonder what a PF 70-200mm f4 would look like !