The NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR is a compact and lightweight consumer-grade telephoto lens, specifically designed for Nikon’s mirrorless DX cameras. It was announced together with the ultra-compact Z DX 16-50mm VR and Z50 mirrorless camera in October of 2019. While not as compact as the collapsible Z DX 16-50mm VR, it is still a relatively small lens that is extremely lightweight at 405 grams, making it an ideal choice for travel photography.
It is a great companion to the Z DX 16-50mm VR. Together, these lenses cover everything from wide-angle to super-telephoto focal lengths (24mm to 375mm in full-frame equivalent). Although the lens retails for $350 MSRP, it can be purchased at a fraction of that price when bought as part of the Z50 two-lens kit.
The lens is comprised of a total of 16 elements in 12 groups, one of which is an extra-low dispersion element that helps reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations. Just like its smaller brother, the 50-250mm VR comes with a stepping motor, which delivers quiet and fast autofocus performance. The lens also features optical image stabilization that is supposed to provide up to 5 stops of compensation.
It is important to note that the Nikon Z DX 50-250mm VR is only designed to be used on Nikon’s Z-mount DX mirrorless cameras, such as the Z50. It will not work on Nikon F-mount DSLR cameras. When mounted on full-frame Nikon Z cameras, the image will be automatically cropped by 1.5x.
Let’s take a look at the lens in more detail.
Lens Handling and Build Quality
As a consumer-grade budget kit lens, the Nikon Z DX 50-250mm VR has an all-plastic construction. Although the plastic seems to be quite durable, it does not feel as thick as the plastic used on Nikon’s high-end full-frame Z-mount lenses. And that’s to be expected, as Nikon’s engineers were probably doing what they can to keep the weight of the lens as low as possible. Still, the lens feels great when handled, providing a good balance on the Z50.
Although it is also of a retractable design that keeps the lens barrel short when not shooting, it is not as compact as the F-mount Nikon DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II. That’s because the lens is designed for the short-flange Z-mount, and it provides an extra 50mm of reach on the long end. Lastly, it is also optically more complex with three extra elements in comparison. When the lens is in its retracted position, turning on the camera shows a prompt that asks to extend the lens before shooting. Rotating the zoom ring counter-clockwise (when viewed from the top back) extends the lens barrel considerably, and once you reach 50mm, the lens clicks into place, allowing the camera to shoot. At 250mm, the lens almost doubles in length. The zoom ring is quite smooth and comes to a hard stop at 250mm. There does not seem to be any play in either direction.
Thanks to the focus-by-wire design of all Nikon Z mount lenses, the focus ring is actually a programmable control ring. By default, it adjusts lens focus, but you can set it up to control lens aperture or exposure compensation through the camera menu.
The plastic lens mount has a total of four locking ears, which do a good job of keeping the lens tightly attached to the camera body. Unfortunately, there is no rubber gasket on the back of the lens to keep dust off the camera mount. Unlike the Z DX 16-50mm that has a slightly extruded lens barrel that wraps around the mount, my copy of the Z DX 50-250mm was fairly flat on the mount side.
The back of the lens has a visible glass element, which moves in and out while zooming with the lens. It moves quite deep into the barrel at 250mm, exposing some of the inner parts of the lens. You might want to keep this in mind when changing lenses – if you don’t want dust getting into the lens, make sure to retract the lens first.
The lens is not weather-sealed. Although I did not have any issues with dust and sand when shooting in remote areas of UAE, Jordan, and Turkey, you might need to be more careful when shooting in extremely dusty and humid conditions.
The front element of the lens is easy to reach and clean. The 62mm plastic filter thread is easy to attach filters to, and you should have no problem using thick filters on this lens, without having to worry about extra darkening of the corners in your images.
The Nikon Z DX 50-250mm VR does not come with a lens hood, but you can buy the HB-90A lens hood separately for $35.
The focusing on the Nikon Z DX 16-50mm VR is fully electronic, thanks to its “focus-by-wire” stepping motor (STM). This means that when the camera is turned off, moving the focus / control ring does absolutely nothing – it only gets activated when the camera is powered on. Unfortunately, this also causes focus to get reset when the camera is turned off and turned back on.
A big negative of the lens design is its relatively slow maximum aperture. The lens starts out at f/4.5 when shooting at 50mm (already a small maximum aperture), then slows down to f/5 at around the 85mm mark, then to f/5.6 at 200mm. If you zoom all the way to 250mm, you are limited to the maximum aperture of f/6.3. Not ideal, especially when shooting in low-light conditions, as there is simply not enough light reaching the camera to keep up with fast enough shutter speeds. Thankfully, optical image stabilization does a great job of keeping camera shake in control in such situations.
On the plus side, focus-by-wire results in an incredibly fast and quiet autofocus operation. Although focus accuracy can vary for fast-moving subjects, and when shooting in low-light environments (it is not a lens designed for indoor use), it is generally very good in normal daylight conditions. Turning on “Low-light AF” is certainly beneficial in low-light conditions, but I would recommend turning off “Built-in AF-assist illuminator”, as it is useless for illuminating subjects over long distances.