Jump to content

Nikon Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 WR VR Lens Review

Recommended Posts

  • Editor

Image ©NikonUSA


The Nikon Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR lens is probably one of the most anticipated and eagerly awaited lenses for Z mount in a long time.


Initially, I was not really looking for something this long until I was shooting an outdoor sporting event and needed something longer than the 70-180mm.


At $1699 MSRP new (2023), this lens is probably also one of the best deals in a lens of this type. Full specs can be found on the NikonUSA website, if you are interested in that.


Before we get into the meat of the review here are some items to help decipher the shots that I took

Looking at the EXIF at the top of each image the 35mm Eq field shows the true field of view, including DX crop mode.


180-600mm = normal in FX mode, no teleconverter
900mm = 600mm + DX crop mode
1200mm = 600mm + TC 2.0x
1800mm = 600mm + TC 2.0x + DX crop mode


Disclosure – images were post processed to my liking and in various styles. Some were processed from RAW and others may be out of camera JPG.

Also note – every image in this review was shot hand held. No tripod, no support. I really wanted to see how far I could push it.





This is quite the large lens when compared to other lenses in the Z line up. It clocks in at just under 5 pounds. Some people may find that too much. If so, you may want to consider working with it on a tripod.


The zoom ring falls right in hand and is easy to turn. About a 1/4 turn and you can go from 180 to 600mm.

I do find that with lenses that have the multi-function ring or manual focus ring behind the zoom, I tend to bump it by accident sometimes. Might be an issue for others as well. Just something to consider.


Zoom and focus are internal, so nothing will push in or out during normal functions of the lens.


The front element is big, coming in at 95mm, so if you need filters, they will cost you more than other lenses. In addition to the large filter size, the lens hood is quite big as well, but proportionate for the size.


There are 4 programmable function buttons on the lens that can be used for various options if you so choose.

During the review period, I worked with the lens exclusively hand held. I had no issues with fatigue due to weight. No issues of handling either when it counted.


The lens is very solid feeling in its build. It uses plastics, but the construction is confidence inducing.




Weather Sealed
Nikon rates this for dust and drip resistance along the same level as an S line lens!



Image Quality
So here is what most want to know. Yes, this lens is sharp! Wide open, very usable. From 180mm all the way through to 600mm, I’d have

no problems using this lens at any and all focal lengths or apertures.


When used with the Z TC 2.0x teleconverter, there is some degradation in image quality, but this can be mitigated by just adding a little bit more sharpening than your normal – at least that is what I found out with my testing. I even want to say that the lens performs better with the TC 2.0 on it than the 70-180mm lens did and the 70-180 wasn’t bad by any means!


Images speak louder than any of my words, so please judge the results I’ve been able to get from this lens.


The one thing that some may not like is that the 2.0 TC turns the f/6.3 aperture (toward the 600mm end) lens into an f/13. Given the great high ISO performance of the newest cameras and shooting in good light and getting a proper exposure, you can get some fantastic images with this combo. At 180, the 5.6 aperture goes to f/11 – but you are then getting a focal length of 360mm.






For the range and the size of the lens elements, focusing is very fast. On the Z8, the lens locks on with confidence and precision. There is a focus limiter switch. The full range and then one that goes from infinity to 6 feet.


I was able to track flying white egrets with no problems and static bird shots in very challenging conditions. Check out the images in this post to see what I mean!


Focusing does not appear to be impacted in any of the tests that I have conducted with the TC attached.


Something to note. When using VR on this lens in normal VR mode, you’ll notice that after you take an image, the viewfinder will “jump”. This is due to the way that the VR and IBIS work to get the shot, there is a slight lag on the refresh. This was weird at first, but now I don’t mind it. If it is something you do not like, turn the IBIS mode to SPORT in camera and then the “jump” will go away.





VR (Vibration Reduction Stabilization) / IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization)
VR will be dependent on the lens and or camera body used. Nikon rates the 180-600mm at 5.5 stops. With the TC in use, VR is not restricted and is fully functional. It works rather well. As mentioned previously, every image in this post was taken hand held, so you can see that the combo of the Z8 IBIS and the lenses VR are very, very effective.


I’ve been using this lens exclusively hand-held with all the images in this review. EXIF data is provided at the top of each image, so you can see the capability of the stabilization system in the examples themselves.





Bottom Line
If you think about what you are getting with this lens, the range, the size, the weight, the image quality – this could very well be one of those much sought after lenses for many many years.


Yes, it is almost 13 inches from mount to end of the filter ring (the lens hood makes it even longer) and just shy of 5 pounds, so some people may not like lugging it around – but as a specialized lens for FX and DX lenses, I’m loving what it has to offer for the price.


While it is not an “S” line lens, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference just looking at the images. We are at a point and distinction that really only photographers care about, but clients/viewers would not really be able to tell the difference.


A slight ding for the Z 180-600mm?
Nikon could have satisfied the tripod users by adding in an Arca Swiss compatible tripod mount.


Bottom Line = Highly Recommend.

This lens will need to be used for a bit and understood before you can really get the most out of it. Once you do, though, it can serve you well and be another awesome tool in the bag when needed. It took me just 2 sessions to figure it out. What helped me was all the years shooting with the Olympus EM1 Mark II and the Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II lens. After many outings with this lens, I learned how to get the most out of it. It likes faster shutter speeds and days with lots of light – so I took those lessons learned there and have had success using those with the Z 180-600!


Had this kit been around when we did our Yellowstone National Park trip years ago, I would have been over the moon to carry it. I think that this will be a staple for the birding, wildlife crowd for sure, but if you have good light, this might even be a great option for sports shooters as well. The max apertures may have some wanting for more subject/background separation, depending on the camera distance to subject and subject to background distances.



Shooting from a blind through tall grasses









shot through chain link fence









  • Like 4

See my content here:

http://www.visualohio.com | BESTLIGHTPHOTO BLOG | 500px Profile & Pics


I shoot Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Pentax and Leica.  Probably not enough!  LOL

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Editor

And just a few shots to show the ridiculously good combo that is the Nikon Z8 and the Z 180-600/5.6-6.3 WR VR.  1/50 and 1/60 of a second at 600mm and DX crop mode, and then further cropped!  


Shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom.





See my content here:

http://www.visualohio.com | BESTLIGHTPHOTO BLOG | 500px Profile & Pics


I shoot Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Pentax and Leica.  Probably not enough!  LOL

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fantastic Review, thank you. I'm sitting here waiting for it delivery today. 

  • Like 3

Flatland Charlie

Nikon cameras & a few Nikkor lenses, dozen or so

Photo with an attitude!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

By visiting this website you are agreeing to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy & Guidelines.