The New NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Lens Is a Wildlife Photographers Dream Come True

January 19, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Lens With Z9 Camera @ timlaytonfineart.comNikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Lens With Z9 Camera @ The brand new NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR lens is well beyond anything I expected to see from Nikon.  This lens along with the Nikon Z9 mirrorless camera is about to change wildlife photography and videography forever.  

In all fairness there are other flagship mirrorless cameras that are definitely a peer to the Z9, however, if you are invested in big glass on Nikon, the decision is pretty easy to stick with this amazing camera. 

My gear for wildlife photography prior to the release of the Z9 camera and NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens included two cameras (D5, D850) and primarily two key lenses, the 600mm F4 and the 400mm F2.8 and the occasional use of the 300mm F2.8 or 500mm F5.6 PF.  While this setup is good, it can't compete with the Z9 camera and new NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens.  This lens and camera combo is definitely next-level gear by anyone's standards. 

In this article, I share the key things that I am most excited about in this new lens and as soon as mine is delivered, I will take it out and create some new images to share with you.  Mine is on pre-order with Nikon Professional Services, so I should be in the first wave of photographers to receive it once it is officially released for shipment. 

My Nikon Z9 Resource Page For Wildlife Photographers


Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Lens timlaytonfineart.comNikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Lens

1 - 400mm F2.8 at 46MP on Z9 (world class - unmatched image quality and 1.5 lbs. lighter)

2 - 560mm F4 (with internal 1.4TC at 46MP on Z9.)  There is no reason to buy a 600mm F4 E FL lens in my mind.  Why use an adapted lens when you can get a native Z 400mm F2.8 and use the internal TC?

3 - 600mm F2.8 (in DX mode at 24MP on Z9).  Yes, you are reading this correctly.  By leveraging the high megapixel status of the Z9 and state of the art optics on the 400mm lens, I can take advantage of this option within a split-second in the field.  

4 - 840mm F4 (with 1.4TC + DX mode at 24MP on Z9).  This one is a mind blowing game changer that was never possible before and absolutely no image quality loss or loss of AF performance. 840mm at F4 is mind blowing and 24MP is what I shoot at now with the D5 and D6, so I know I can make very big prints if needed.  

The price of this new NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR lens will be a major deterrent for most wildlife photographers, so I will walk you through how I rationalize buying such an expensive lens.  

I don't care who you are, $13,995 dollars is a lot of money.  It is in the league of crazy expensive in my book.  First, if you are a professional wildlife photographer, or you want to create world-class wildlife photography images, then this is the price of admission if you want to compete with the big boys.  

This lens has no peers in the Nikon lineup and the fact that I can sell my current 600mm F4, 400mm F2.8, and TC's not only pays for this new lens, but it helps pay for some of the Z9 camera too.  This is also a native Z lens, so I get to ditch the FTZII adapter too.  Not everyone will have this option because you were not already invested in pro-level wildlife glass.  

Several years ago when I rented the current model 400mm F2.8 and 600mm F4 lenses for a week to make sure they were what I expected, it was all over for me because it was like the clouds parted and sunshine was on my face.  I figured out a way to make those purchases over a 4 year period and now, I can carry that investment forward into this new glass. 

The fact that I can go out in the field and take my smaller and lighter Z9 with the smaller and 20% lighter Z 400mm F2.8 lens is a big deal.  I effectively have four lenses in one mount without any requirements to add or remove parts and no concern about image quality issues while still working at F2.8 or F4 from 400mm to 840mm is truly remarkable.  This is game changer level stuff in my world.  

I want to underscore how powerful all of this is...

If you have ever shot any of Nikon's 400mm F2.8 lenses, then you know they have no peers in terms of sharpness, AF, resolution, etc. I shoot mine wide open on a regular basis and I am always astounded at the image quality.  

Within a split second I can switch from shooting the 400mm at F2.8 to 560mm at F4.  Nikon placed the TC switch in the perfect place to allow for this to happen.  I am still shooting at the cameras full 45.7MP capabilities and 20 FPS RAW.

Then, by programming a custom button, I can enable DX mode to add 1.5X reach to the native 400mm F2.8 or the 560mm F4 lens for a 24MP image.  While in DX mode with the 400mm at F2.8, I get a 600mm at F2.8, and when the TC is activated it gives me the 560mm at F4, and I get an 840mm F4 equivalent.  

As wildlife photographers we get our best opportunities in marginal light.  This is a key reason why F2.8 and F4 is such a big deal.  It can literally mean the difference between getting the image or not and everything from the image noise to beautiful bokeh is in play.  

In regards to the DX mode on an FX format camera, knowledgable researchers tell us that you will lose some of that dreamy bokeh, about 1 stop it would appear, and we know there is some type of impact on effective ISO performance at lower light levels. 

We know this because when we compare DX to FX cameras, these issues have already been studied and identified.  I think the key with DX mode in the scenarios that I have described in this article is if you are in decent light the potential ISO performance issues won't really matter and the depth of field issue is also subject to a variety of variables.  For example, the distance between you and the animal and the distance between the background and the animal.  I know from first hand experience that you have get very nice bokeh at F5.6, but all the stars need to be in alignment for that to happen.

Once the lens arrives, I will do some extensive testing and share the images with you and we will let the images tell the story.   

What a fun and wonderful time to be a wildlife photographer. 

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My Nikon Z9 Resource Page For Wildlife Photographers

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