Nikon’s announcement of the soon to be available 180mm – 400mm f/4 with a built-in 1.4x Tele-converter has raised eyebrows and interest from many long-time users of their legacy 200-400 f/4 zoom lens. This updated lens is a highly anticipated and much-appreciated addition to the excellent Pro Zoom Line of Nikon Lenses.
Disclaimer: I do not own the lens yet. I had an opportunity to experience first-hand look and feel only. I have no personal images taken with the lens. Based on what I saw and how well this lens is made, I have placed my pre-order.
Nikon has listened carefully to the user community who use the older 200-400 workhorse by introducing a NEW lens designed for professionals adding in every aspect of Nikon's newest technology The 180mm - 200mm f/4 includes a wider FOV on the low end and adding every new lens technology Nikon currently has to offer in the new zoom.
Having used the 200mm – 400mm many times and I like many users needed two things – longer reach and wider field of view - that is the reason we use zooms. Nikon pulled this off with an exquisite design + added all their latest lens technology include weather Seals everywhere for ultimate protection in almost any weather condition, also take a look at all the Nikon nomenclatures A/M, E, ED, FL, IF, M/A, N, SIC, SWM, VR – quite impressive.
Optically speaking this lens ranks superior in this zoom range and it should. Eight - yes 8 ED elements with one fluorite element to keep the weight down, this lens is complex and very well engineered. When I was holding this lens it was pure joy, well balanced, weighty but very manageable for a lens of this caliber. Fit and finish is stunning to say the least.
Who is this lens target to - Professionals who are willing to shell out the nearly $13,000.00 for a top of the line pro level lens without compromises, to state the obvious. I can assure you many wildlife travelers struggle with decisions about which lens to carry on their journeys to Africa and abroad or even around North America, due to the ever-growing weight restrictions for air travel. This lens might just be that perfect match for the Wildlife/sports photographers on the go and this lens is certainly built to extremely high standards and withstand outdoor use in any weather – makes we want to buy one - and I did:)
The built-in Teleconverter is ingenious, and Nikon's’ statement – when you need it you need it fast, and this design certainly offers that. I am not sure if the back F – Mount will facilitate another external TC or not, I would hope it would allow the full range of current TCs.
At 7.7 pounds this is not an overweight lens for what you get, and actually weights in the lower range of Nikon Super Telephotos, but weights more than Nikon’s 500mm @ 6.8 lbs, Less than the 400mm at 8.3lb, and the 600mm 8.4 lbs, to be fair the 180mm -200mm includes the always ready TC 1.4x.
The key buying points and target audience for this lens is:
1. The built-in 1.4TC
2. The zoom range.
It is hard to compare this 180mm – 400mm f/4 to a prime lens because simply primes do not zoom without your feet, and with action/sports that footwork is simply not enough. The one comparison might be with Nikon's 200-500mm f/5.6, but at the end of the day I would hardly attempt a comparison to the 200mm-500mm f/5.6 to the 180mm – 400mm f/4 in the weather survivability or lens flexibility test.
For those who shoot mostly primes, the Price Tag simply does not make much sense because you can acquire a 500mm f/4 ED FL for $2,300 less – Then take the $2,300.00 left over and buy Nikon 200mm-500mm with money to spare for accessories.
IMHO this fills that niche for a Nikon Professional Level zoom, replacing the aging 200-400 f/4. The new lens is built for extreme conditions, with all the bells and whistles to keep a Pro satisfied.
For the non-pro take a look at the 200mm-500mm f/5.6