Alongside the Z30, Nikon also just formally announced the $3250 Z 400mm f/4.5 S, shipping in mid-July. This lens isn’t much of a surprise since it was already on the roadmap – plus it had plenty of hands-on previews from YouTubers last week – but it’s still an exciting sight.
The lens construction diagram looks like this:
It’s interesting that Nikon has added two Super ED glass elements and one SR element, which are both among Nikon’s newer lens innovations. Super ED glass minimizes chromatic aberrations even more than ED glass. SR glass (short-wavelength refractive glass) also is meant for correcting chromatic aberrations, and Nikon says it “allows for more flexible optical designs, which allows for compact, lighter lenses to be designed.”
What’s missing on the lens, in a bit of a surprise, is a Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element. A PF element is Nikon’s usual way to get a lightweight and compact supertelephoto. There’s one found on Nikon’s 300mm f/4 PF, 500mm f/5.6 PF, and 800mm f/6.3 PF lenses, all three of which are lighter than similar lenses on the market.
However, the lack of PF elements doesn’t change the fact that the 400mm f/4.5 is a relatively small, light lens. It slides in nicely with the PF lenses already in Nikon’s lineup. Here’s how it compares to those lenses in weight, length, and front filter thread size:
- 300mm f/4 PF: 755 grams (1.7 lbs), 148mm long (5.8 inches), 77mm filters
- Z 400mm f/4.5: 1245 grams (2.7 lbs), 235mm long (9.2 inches), 95mm filters
- 500mm f/5.6 PF: 1460 grams (3.2 lbs), 237mm long (9.3 inches), 95mm filters
- Z 800mm f/6.3 PF: 2385 grams (5.3), 385mm long (15.2 inches), no front filters (140mm front diameter)
As you can see, the 400mm f/4.5 could moonlight as a PF lens and no one could tell just by looking at the specs.
Something worth noting is the weight of the Nikon Z 1.4x teleconverter: 220 grams. This means that the 400mm f/4.5 is practically identical in weight to the 500mm f/5.6 PF if you use it with the teleconverter, at which point it becomes a 560mm f/6.3. You’d actually have a lighter package overall with the Z 400mm f/4.5 once you consider the FTZ adapter. Further, the Z 400mm f/4.5 is a bit lighter than the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, which weighs 1435 grams / 3.2 pounds.
What about the price of the 400mm f/4.5? It’s not a cheap lens at $3250, but it’s in line with prior releases from Nikon – actually a bit better than usual. Maybe this graph looks familiar, copied from my earlier article on the 800mm f/6.3’s unusually low price. The well-priced lens #21 is the 800mm f/6.3, which still holds the record as the best price/entrance pupil ratio of any Nikon telephoto prime:
Meanwhile, the 400mm f/4.5 slides in right here:
It’s not as unusually well-priced as the 800mm f/6.3, but it’s still a good value compared to Nikon’s usual trend. Hats off to Nikon for that. Still, prospective buyers should note that the $3250 MSRP is higher than that of the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S and Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 S, which retail for $2600 and $2700 respectively. If you’re on the fence between these three lenses, maybe the price will sway your decision.
Beyond the lens’s size and weight, it has a rather pedestrian maximum magnification of 1:6.25 (AKA 0.16x), a 9-blade rounded aperture that should result in beautiful bokeh, and VR with 5.5 stops of stabilization (6 on the Nikon Z9 and any future cameras with Synchro VR support). You can read the full specifications on Nikon’s website.
I’m impressed with the 400mm f/4.5’s near-perfect MTF chart. Nikon certainly knows how to make sharp supertelephoto lenses.
The big question is whether this lens is right for you, or if you’d be better suited with one of the other long lenses available in Nikon’s lineup. There are at least four reasonable alternatives.
- Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 S: It’s slower by 2/3 of a stop, which affects low-light performance (including low-light focusing) and depth of field correspondingly. The two lenses are similar in size and weight, so the question is down to whether you prefer a zoom or a prime.
- Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S: With a 2x teleconverter, you’ve got a 140-400mm f/5.6 lens. The Z 400mm f/4.5 (or Z 100-400mm) is a better way to reach 400mm to if you’re starting from scratch. But if you already have the 70-200mm f/2.8, should you add the 400mm f/4.5? I tend to say no; add the F-mount 500mm f/5.6 or Z 800mm f/6.3 instead for better differentiation.
- Nikon F 300mm f/4 PF: It’s not a 400mm lens, although with a 1.4x teleconverter, it can be. (It’s a 420mm f/5.6 at that point.) You’d be stuck with the chain of FTZ adapter + 1.4x teleconverter if you go that route on the Z system. But it’s the least expensive option of the bunch ($2000 not counting the teleconverter) and still has impressive performance.
- Nikon F 500mm f/5.6 PF: It’s not a 400mm lens, either, but in the other direction. If you’re set on a lightweight supertelephoto for the Z system, this remains an excellent option and costs about the same as the new 400mm f/4.5. The FTZ adapter is less bothersome at these focal lengths, so it simply comes down to focal length vs focal length, and aperture vs aperture. The 400mm f/4.5 is probably more versatile of the two, since it does become a 560mm f/6.3 with the 1.4x teleconverter.
Although these lenses are meant for similar purposes, the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 doesn’t really step on the toes of the others. That’s because the f/4.5 aperture, which is 2/3 of a stop brighter than f/5.6, is important to some photographers. In low light environments, or in situations where you want maximum subject-background separation, 2/3 of a stop makes a noticeable difference.
If you’re deciding between these various lenses, I’d say the zooms make the most sense if you need maximum flexibility, but the 400mm f/4.5 would be my choice for longer-lens shooters. I’d also pair it with the Nikon Z 1.4x teleconverter to get 560mm f/6.3 capabilities.
That said, if you already have one of the four lenses above, I don’t think you should also buy the 400mm f/4.5. After all, you’re already capable of covering 400mm (or 500mm), so it’s probably not worth spending an additional $3250 just to do so at 2/3 stop wider aperture. Either keep your existing lens, or sell it and replace it with the 400mm f/4.5.
I expect the Z 400mm f/4.5 to sell well. It will most likely be out of stock for a while upon release, which is the new story with the Nikon Z system. (On a related note, I wonder how much higher the application rate is for NPS membership these days?) If you want to get on the waitlist, you can do so here at B&H.
Nikon’s full press release for the 400mm f/4.5 is below.
Nikon releases the NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S, a super-telephoto prime lens for the Nikon Z mount system
June 29, 2022
Compact and lightweight body with superior sharpness and clarity for easy handheld super-telephoto shooting
TOKYO – Nikon Corporation (Nikon) is pleased to announce the release of the NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S, a super-telephoto prime lens that is compatible with full-frame/FX-format mirrorless cameras for which the Nikon Z mount system has been adopted.
The NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is a super-telephoto 400-mm lens that offers both superior sharpness and clarity, in a compact size with light weight. Handheld shooting is easy with the lightest*1 weight in its class, approximately 1,160 g (excluding tripod collar), and a total length of approximately 234.5 mm, providing superior agility and reducing fatigue over extended shooting sessions of wildlife including birds, and sports photography. Use of the Z TELECONVERTER TC-1.4x or the Z TELECONVERTER TC-2.0x extends the focal length of this prime lens to 560 mm or 800 mm, respectively*2, expanding its power of expression with the ability to bring distant subjects even closer, and dynamic rendering. In addition, the lens offers excellent balance by shifting the center of gravity closer to the camera for more stable operation during handheld shooting.
The NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S belongs to the S-Line*3 lens series that pursues the ultimate in optical performance. It is constructed with effective arrangement of one ED glass element, two Super ED glass elements, and one SR lens element. This contributes greatly to the compact size and light weight while delivering superior optical performance in which chromatic aberration is suppressed. The adoption of Nano Crystal Coat also contributes to effectively reducing ghost and flare effects, achieving clearer images and accurate depiction of even the finest details of distant subjects.
With a maximum aperture of f/4.5, the NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S realizes three-dimensional rendering that makes the intended subject stand out. It is also equipped with an optical vibration reduction (VR) mechanism that provides a superior compensation effect equivalent to shooting at a shutter speed 5.5 stops*4 faster, which is the highest among NIKKOR Z lenses*5. In addition, a stepping motor (STM) supports fast and precise AF control for certain capture of erratically moving subjects, including those engaged in sports. The NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S demonstrates superior agility and rendering power over a wide variety of scenes, supporting professional and advanced-amateur photographers.
Nikon will continue to pursue a new dimension in optical performance while meeting users’ needs, contributing to the development of imaging culture, with the hope of expanding possibilities for imaging expression.
- *1 Among f/4.5 and slower lenses, including those with a focal length of 400 mm, for interchangeable-lens cameras equipped with a full-frame (35mm  equivalent) image sensor available as of June 29, 2022. Statement based on Nikon research.
- *2 AF performance may deteriorate depending on the subject, brightness and focus position regardless of the camera body, causing inaccurate focus, slow focusing speed or flashing of the focus indicator.
- *3 The S-Line is a grade of NIKKOR Z lenses that demonstrate outstanding optical performance, adhering to a high standard of design principles and quality control.
- *4 Based on CIPA Standard. This value is achieved when attached to a camera with full-frame/FX-format sensor, with the camera’s VR function set to “NORMAL”.
- *5 As of June 29, 2022.
- Focal length can be extended to 560 mm with the Z TELECONVERTER TC-1.4x and 800 mm with the Z TELECONVERTER TC-2.0x.
- Focal length can be extended up to 600 mm-equivalent without a teleconverter by setting the camera’s image area to [DX (24×16)] format.
- Effective arrangement of lens elements has realized a more compact and lightweight lens.
Handheld shooting is easy with the lightest weight in its class of approximately 1,160 g (excluding tripod collar) and a total length of approximately 234.5 mm.
- Chromatic aberration is significantly reduced via the adoption of one ED and two Super ED glass elements. In addition, the adoption of an SR lens element controls short-wavelength light that is difficult to compensate, achieving highly precise chromatic aberration compensation.
- Nikon’s original Nano Crystal Coat is adopted to effectively reduce ghost and flare effects.
- Use of the shallow depth of field of this super-telephoto lens with its maximum aperture of f/4.5 produces large bokeh for more three-dimensional rendering.
- Employs an optical vibration reduction (VR) function with an effect equivalent to a shutter speed 5.5 stops faster, which is the highest among NIKKOR Z lenses.
- Synchro VR is available when paired with the Z 9, achieving even more powerful camera shake compensation — equivalent to a shutter speed 6.0 stops*1 faster — with in-camera VR combined.
- The employment of an STM ensures high-speed and accurate AF with quiet operational sounds.
- Superior dust- and drip-resistant performance*2 and anti-fouling performance with the adoption of fluorine coat.
- Employs the Memory Recall function*3 that instantly recalls focus positions that have been stored in advance, via pressing a button to which [Recall focus position] has been assigned.
- A design considering video recording including a focus-breathing compensation function which effectively reduces shifting of the angle of view when focusing, and stable exposure.
- *1 Based on CIPA Standard. With the camera’s VR function set to “NORMAL”.
- *2 Thorough dust- and drip-resistance is not guaranteed in all situations or under all conditions.
- *3 The cameras compatible with this function are the Z 9, Z 7II, Z 6II, and Z 30 only, at the timing of product release. When using the function, the firmware for cameras must be updated to the latest version. For other models, this function will be supported via later firmware updates.
The website Xitek published an interview [in Chinese] with the Nikon engineers who designed the 400 f4.5S. They stated they tried a faster PhaseFresnel design, but finalized on ‘traditional’ optics: to quote – ” In fact, during the research and development, we tried to use PF lenses, and conducted basic design research such as F4.0, but in order to realize the product concept of “small size, light weight, and convenient use”, we finally chose the best solution of F4.5″
They also avoided a 400mm f4, because of size and weight and higher price. “Considering the balance of the product, we set it as F4.5 to guarantee its portability…..In terms of product development concept, we pursue the portability and cost-effectiveness of this lens, which is the same concept as the Z 800mm lens.”
An SD element was actually used in the 80-400 f4.5-5.6G VR which was released back in 2013, 9 years ago.
What is “An SD element”?
The 2013 AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR had one element made of Nikon Super ED glass:
The 200mm f/2 lenses as well, Nikons had them awhile. The 80-400mm G is pretty sharp if you get/got a good copy. Not a bad lens, it was the first edition that stinks. So slow autofocus and bad image quality! The 200-500mm is way better and cheaper compared to the original 80-400mm AF-S that was the affordable long lens of the digital frontier days! So we’re spoiled with options now for sure!
Yes, Patrick, Nikon Super ED glass was, I think, first used in the 2004 AF‑S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G IF‑ED VR:
The NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S demonstrates that, to make a compact telephoto lens, diffractive optics technology (such as Nikon Phase Fresnel) is neither sufficient nor necessary.
I am only interested in comparing the Z 400mm options.
400mm F2.8 completely of the radar and having recently sold a G version, I am compromising the image quality and am now looking for a much more portable and hand holdable lens with this focal length.
My interest is to see how flexible a lens can be without too much compromise for the sharpness, the 100 – 400 F4.5 -5.6 and 400 F4.5 are looking to be ideal.
The recent comparisons witnessed between the 400 F4.5 and 100 – 400 F4.5 – 5.6 are showing the Prime has a slight improvement in Sharpness over the Zoom Lens.
I will assume?, a post fix will iron this difference out to having little significance.
The Prime with a 2X TC and compared to the 800mm Z PF has been very wanting in sharpness when viewed as a comparison, I don’t know how much a post editing sharpening will produce a closer match?
This is one to be further investigated.
The Prime with 1.4 x TC compared to the 500mm PF will give a focal length closer to 600mm with a 1/3 stop loss as the trade off.
I have not seen a comparison of the Prime and Zoom with a TC attached.
I have learned from another source the Zoom is quite well rated, tests have shown at a same Focal Length and Aperture, the Zoom shares tha same levels of sharpness as the 70-200 F 2.8 Z and the same source is making it known the
100 – 400 with a 1.4 TC is proving to be quite an impressive lens.
I am yet to see the 400 vs 100 – 400 in comparisons using TC’s.
The 400 F4.5 Prime vs 100 – 400 will give a 4.5 vs 5.6 when used wide open, and this will inevitably offer a better OOF Zone when at 4.5.
This is where the decision making gets more interesting !!, the closest focus for the 100-400 f4.5 – 5.6 is 0.75-0.98 vs the 400 f4.5 – 2.5 meter closest focus.
There is a lot of high magnification images to be taken at 0.98 metres, and plenty of Macro Lenses that are with a 105mm Focal Length, the 0.75 metre focal length at 100mm magnification is looking to be very useful.
Does this also mean the Zoom 100-400 can offer an appeal to a much wider range of users, especially those with an interest in working at Macro and out to Telephoto focal lengths.
Does the 100 – 400mm fulfil this role ?
The trade off I am pondering at present hovers around,
A Variable Focal Length that comes with a Loss of Light, Grainier Bokeh – OOF Zone and closer Minimum Focal Distance over a Fixed Focal Length with a Lighter Weight , Improved Light, Creamier Bokeh – OOF Zone with an Increased Minimum Focal Length.
I am looking to head into the Z Technology and this most recent lens release has swayed my thoughts toward the Zoom, then followed up with a 800mm PF as the later lens purchase, if not too impressed with the Zoom and TC.
I’d say that if f/4.5 isn’t critical to your work (and I suspect you wouldn’t be asking these questions if it were), the zoom looks like the better choice. 100-400mm is simply more versatile, both in focal length and close focusing distance. Since both lenses are such sharp optics, I probably wouldn’t base your decision on sharpness, but on other factors instead.
Thank You for your evaluation and reply.
I am slowly selling on my F Mount Equipment and transferring to the Z Technology.
There are options and I am leaning toward to 100-400, but fortunately at present am not needing to pull the trigger on any Z equipment, hence the short notice arrival of the 400 F4.5 added further to the permutations to be considered.
I am also feeling quite confident with the trend toward lighter equipment and this meaning less wide/ less fast lenses are seen, it will not be long before a Software is in use that enables a Bokeh to be adjusted from a less wide lens to be indistinguishable from a wider/faster lens.
The compromise may have to be the subject isolation is not as indistinguishable.
This when available will make the variants in aperture on the less wide lens even less of a concern, if images are captured in good light conditions.
As this is a Hobby I find myself wed to for many years and do not see the time spent around photography becoming unattractive, I am happy to move over to the Mirrorless Z Technology, no different from Film Photography to Digital DSLR.
All the options able to be put under consideration, will become materialised shortly after I am in possession of a Body that is founded from a Trickle Down Technology of the Z9.
I can’t quite see a need for a Z9, as I have not felt short of opportunities by not having a D5 or D6 as a body.
As I have pondered this transition realising for a extended period of time, there are few things I can share that have occurred during this time.
I find myself looking at the transition from the DSLR to Mirrorless with a few different perceptions.
I have been monitoring the progress of Nikon for a few years, probably since the Z7 and have been setting monies aside since, anticipating the need to have the necessary funds to commence when the most useful equipment for my needs becomes available.
Running Parallel with this is the idea that I would like to be pretty much free from all the DLSR F Mount equipment prior to pulling the trigger on any Z Technology purchases.
The release of the Z9 Body and recent Lens Announcements has been the trigger to commence with moving on the F mount DSLR equipment.
Additionally the transition from DSLR to Mirrorless Systems that I am setting up is an unprecedented experience, and many are familiar with idea of a Transition from the DSLR to Mirrorless Technology, most are quite familiar with unprecedented experiences of late.
In relation to my photography unprecedented experience, not at any time have I been stimulated to investigate and able to watch and analyse a Companies movements in relation to becoming aggressive competitors in a Technology Sector of their Market Place.
With the Nikon Z System this has been able to be followed with an unusual observation for myself, with a documentation of the progress and discussion on the evolving opportunities to become available.
I feel I bought into the Nikon concept of Mirrorless when it was a seedling with a little evidence of having germinated.
I was contented in making a down payment on a fully grown plant that was yet to see the light of day.
Individuals like myself are great for Nikons new direction, Nikon will be beneficiaries of such decision making and continuance of support towards their products.
As a purchaser I expect to be impressed by the available user interfaces and improved opportunities to capture images that are able to impress, so not too much expectation.
My observations through direct experience, is showing undoubtedly that the off shoot of the DSLR user transitioning to a Full Mirrorless equipment in the Camera Bag, is that there are substantial value to be gained from the purchases that can be acquired by an individual who is content to remain an F Mount user, as a result of the increasing amount of F Mount equipment becoming available, resulting from the increase in transitions.
The plummeting prices of of DSLR equipment, that is usually a cost restrictive item, when witnessed at the new seen asking prices is quite something.
In my assessment, and keeping it focused on Nikon, as I have not seen other Brands used item sales recently, it does seem that there might be a renewed interest in photography for a large selection of Nikon users, the Z mount System is responsible, but also, as there is becoming a period when there is a increased volume of usually cost prohibitive used equipment becoming available at very attractive prices for the DLSR F mount equipment, both situations are enough to accelerate a revival in interests to take part in photography.
I recently sold a 400mm F2.8G Lens, and was competing with equivalent models for a sale , where asking prices were being seen to be approaching comfortably under £3000, an offer with a reduction to the asking price, might also have been a consideration to achieve the sale.
To put this into perspective this is not too far off a asking price for a equivalent ‘D Technology ‘ Lens.
With this in mind an individual with an interest in Nikon Equipment and wanting to go into Sports or Larger Subject Wildlife Photography can now with a prudent approach, be able purchase a very desirable lens for monies not seen in the prior to the past half of a year.
Taking the idea a step further a Low Actuation D850 with a 400mm F2.8G mounted can be acquired for approx’ £4500, add a D6 in place of a D850 and the option will cost not too far off £6000.
Is the equivalent in Z Technology going to be somewhere near £18000 to be able to make the absolute most of capturing the same subjects.
I don’t believe that the usual Industries where an income is made from Photography such as Media, Promotion and Wedding are being discriminating between Mirrorless and DSLR recorded Images.
I do believe a professional will exchange their equipment or transition across technologies as it suits their work flow, as potential time saving is on offer.
With this in mind there are very good opportunities to acquire equipment that will enable a individual to expand their aspirations at a very fair price and as for lenses, maybe at a value where there is not a depreciation in value to be projected that would be of a concern.
As for Projected depreciation in value, this is undoubtedly going to be a consideration that will arise for any of the purchases made for the creating a Camera equipment based on the Z system, for the hobbyist, when the market is not starved of sale items, I am sure there will be an interest in this inevitability .
Price clearly comes into this.
Z cameras are said to be cheaper to produce but that hasn’t filtered down to the buyer. The performance of a Z5 doesn’t exceed a D610. What the Z5 does enable is a decent, lightweight, 2 lens landscape solution thanks to the 14-30 and 24-200 (and as an old codger, I say ‘thanks for that’). But for for the price-sensitive hobbyist, F-mount aps-c DSLR is still the better option for non-static subjects, at which my D7500 and 70-200/f4 and 300f4/D leave my Z5 dead in the water.
This 400/f4.5 would be a very ‘nice to have’, but it exceeds my £1,200 per unit price cap – and will only be any use when Nikon brings out a decent aps-c Z mount camera.
I am also interested in the 400mm range and after much deliberating and sleep loss, have decided to go the 400 4.5 with x1.4tc. I have the trinity of Z zooms and would never part with my 70-200, but as I am getting into motorsports more I am a bit short at 200mm
I purchased the x2tc and found it just ok for sharpness but biggest failing was focus, where I found the af to stray and hunt far more on the Z9.
I would love to see a rigorous test between this 400+1.4TC and the 500 PF. I don’t think I have ever seen a case where a lens+TC could compete with a similarly spec’d bare prime. In this case I still suspect the 500PF would win but maybe lens design is different now. In any case that would be something I would want to know if I were buying a long, lightweight prime for the first time, because if the 400+TC were sufficiently weak, I’d still go for the 500PF.
We’ll make sure to do that test for the lens review! I lean toward thinking the 500mm PF as well. But whichever ekes out the win, I feel confident that either will be producing extremely sharp results, if the 400mm’s MTF chart reflects reality.
The question isn’t so much whether the 400 + TC can match the sharpness of the bare 500 (that’s probably a “no”), but whether the combo is “good enough” for typical applications (and visibly better than e.g. the 100-400 + TC), no?
Yes, and I think both lenses will clear that sharpness hurdle easily. There’s also more to a lens than sharpness. Bokeh and focusing differences may play a role too (400mm + TC compared to 500mm + FTZ will be an interesting test of focus performance).
I would love to know too. Especially the the Bokeh. I’m using the 500pf for outdoor headshots rendering everything completely creamy. And because its 500mm the entire head gets compressed in the DOF. But Its still heavy for my wife who is also a photographer and we use a Monopod.
If the 400mm can deliver that creamy creamy bokeh and it’s not as heavy, I might get it.
400 f2.8E with TC14 III is a serious competitor. It is excellent in all respects
Unlikely to be one for me.
There is no point in putting this on a Z5. I’d sooner have a 300/f4 on my D7500 (and the money in my bank).
It looks like it needs a minimum of a Z6II. For that, I’d need to trade in my D7500. But do I want to risk having to send the Z6 back to Nikon, as I have the Z5, so leaving myself without a camera? (The Z5 has been back once and might have to go again. And my D7500 was defective from the start so that had to be replaced. My confidence in Nikon’s quality control isn’t high.)
For this money, I’d sooner go for a 500mmPF.
Between this lens and the 500mm PF, my opinion – pending real-world tests – is pretty simple. The 400mm f/4.5 looks better if you’re mirrorless-only, and the 500mm f/5.6 PF looks better if you shoot both mirrorless and DSLR (or DSLR only). In your case, the 500mm or 300mm PF lenses seem like the way to go.
Dedicated mirrorless shooters are a different story. Since the 400mm f/4.5 can be used with the excellent Z 1.4x teleconverter to get a 540mm f/6.3, there’s little this lens seems to be missing compared to the 500mm f/5.6 PF. Especially since the 500mm lens must be used with the FTZ adapter.