Mid-priced zooms appeal to anyone who doesn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on telephoto lenses.
Nikon is adding a pair of lenses to its growing Z mirrorless library. The Nikkor Z 70-180mm F2.8 and Nikkor Z 180-600mm F5.6-6.3 VR are very attractive to enthusiasts and other photographers buying mid-range photographic equipment for use with long-lens subjects such as sports and wildlife. It’s no coincidence that they arrive on the heels of the Nikon Z 8, an aggressively priced (for its class) high-speed camera that’s well-suited for use with long lenses.
Z 70-180mm F2.8 looks familiar
The Z 70-180mm F2.8 is the third mid-priced F2.8 zoom for the Z system, after the 17-28mm and 28-75mm. Like the others, its optical formula and feature set match lenses from third-party lens maker Tamron. So while Nikon doesn’t announce it, we expect its version to offer the same level of performance as the Tamron 70-180mm F2.8, a lens that’s exclusively available for Sony E cameras.
The Nikkor Z version costs a bit more ($1,249.95) than Tamron ($1,199.99), but is sold and supported by Nikon, and offers support for Z teleconverters, a feature missing from the Tamron-marketed Sony edition.
Nikkor Z 70-180mm F2.8 at Z 8 (Credit: Nikon)
The Z 70-180mm F2.8 is built with a dust and drip resistant barrel, and has anti-stain fluorine on its front element. It doesn’t include the Vibration Reduction (VR) system of Nikon’s top-tier Z 70-200mm F2.8 VR S ($2,699.95), but the issue is lessened since all full-frame Z cameras include stabilized sensors. However, owners of DX-sensor models like the Z 30 will have to live without stabilization.
The lack of stabilization is a shame, because at around 6.0 x 3.3 inches (HD) and 1.8 pounds, the Z 70-180mm is a good lightweight telephoto lens for a crop-sensor camera, but skip virtual reality helps keep the size and weight of the lens down.
The Nikkor Z 70-180mm is scheduled to be available in mid-July at the aforementioned price of $1,249.95.
Internal zoom sets Z 180-600mm apart
Nikon chose to create a new optical formula for the Nikkor Z 180-600mm F5.6-6.3 VR rather than rely on a partner. This zoom is designed for photographers who want to capture scenes where you can’t get too close to the action. It’s a good choice for close-ups of wildlife and for covering team sports from the sidelines or the stands. Like most long telezooms, its aperture makes it better suited for outdoor use in the sun.
Nikkor Z 180-600mm F5.6-6.3 VR on Z 8 (Credit: Nikon)
At $1,699.95, the Z 180-600mm is Nikon’s most affordable long lens for the Z system, though to be fair, the other options to date are primes with exotic features like a built-in teleconverter (the Z 400mm F2.8 TC The $14,000 VR S is a good example) or an ultra-light phase fresnel lens like the $2,999.95 Nikkor Z 400mm F4.5 VR S.
The Z 180-600mm packs some premium features, despite mid-tier pricing. It includes seals for protection against dust, drips and fluorine, along with an internal zoom action that offers fewer points of entry. The internal zoom is a big plus for a decently heavy lens (4.3 pounds), as it helps keep the center of balance stable when changing focal lengths.
Nikkor Z 180-600mm F5.6-6.3 VR in use (Credit: Nikon)
Stabilized optics are a must for this long lens, even with an IBIS camera, and are included here. The Z 180-600mm also works with teleconverters and can be combined with DX-sensor cameras for greater effective range.
Nikon expects August availability for the $1,699.95 Nikkor Z 180-600mm F5.6-6.3 VR.