There are a number of noteworthy telephoto alternatives to the Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8, and I wanted to see which ones are the strongest. Below, I’ve compared this lens against the following:
- Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S
- Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S
- Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR
- Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3
If there are other lenses that you wanted to compare head-to-head against the 70-180mm f/2.8, check out our lens reviews page. All of our modern lens reviews have fully comparable test charts.
We’ll start by comparing four lenses at the 70mm focal length:
All four lenses are pretty sharp here, but the standout is the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S, which is simply exceptional from corner to corner. The next sharpest lens is definitely the 70-180mm f/2.8, while the Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 and Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 are roughly tied for third.
Next up is the 100mm range:
The Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is again in first place around the 100mm mark, while the second sharpest of the bunch is the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. Meanwhile, the Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8 is in third place with a solid performance that matches the 100-400mm in corner sharpness (at a given aperture) while being a bit worse in the center. The Nikon Z 24-200mm and Tamron 70-300mm again bring up the rear, with the Tamron’s corner performance being especially weak.
At the 180mm and 200mm range, we’re now at the longest native focal length of three of these lenses: the 70-180mm f/2.8, the 70-200mm f/2.8, and the 24-200mm f/4-6.3.
This time, the lenses are more similar in performance, although the order is very similar. The sharpest is still the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S, while the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S is still in second place on balance. However, the corner sharpness on the Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8 is actually a tad better, so it might take second place if you value corner sharpness over central sharpness. The only difference in the ranking here is that the Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 has surpassed the Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR at 200mm, which is the weakest focal length of the 24-200mm superzoom.
Now we’re into teleconverter territory, at least for the 70-180mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8. Here’s how both lenses compare against one another when the 1.4x teleconverter is used in combination with the lens’s longest focal length:
The sharper lens here is definitely the 70-200mm f/2.8, although both lenses are meaningfully weaker once the TC is attached. I still would be willing to use either lens at this point, even wide open at f/4 – but the resulting images may need a bit more sharpening in post, especially with the 70-180mm f/2.8.
The longest focal length that the Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8 can reach is 360mm with the 2x teleconverter. How does this measure up to the other lenses in the 300-400mm range? (Note that the Nikon Z 100-400mm is shown at both 300mm and 400mm below).
Finally, in the 300-400mm range, the sharpest lens is definitely the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. It’s sharper at 300mm but still stronger at 400mm than anything else here. In second place is the Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3, whose native 300mm focal length manages to beat both of Nikon’s f/2.8 zooms paired with the 2x TC. Meanwhile, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S + 2x TC takes a clear third place, and the Nikon Z 70-180mm + 2x TC brings up the rear.
As I said on the previous page of this review, the 70-180mm f/2.8 is not unusable with the 2x teleconverter, but if you need to reach 300mm or beyond, there are better ways to do it.
Overall, the Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8 puts up a convincing performance against its rivals in sharpness. It loses to the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8, which is no surprise, but I was impressed to see it nip at the heels of the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. It’s a clear step up from the Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 and the Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 in sharpness, too.
This is better performance than I had anticipated, especially since the Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8 has no serious weak points in sharpness throughout the zoom range. The only negative is that it doesn’t handle the teleconverters very well, especially compared to the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8.
The next page of this review sums up everything and explains the pros and cons of the Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8. So, click the menu below to go to “Verdict”:
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