Nikon Z 180-600mm review and just how good is it really?

A robin sitting on a branch with the Nikon Z 180-600mm lens next to it.

If you are wondering just how good the Nikon Z 180-600mm lens is then you are in exactly the right place, join me as I deep dive into its build quality, performance (over different focal lengths with images), features, sharpness, vignetting, focal range, usability, weight and even more in my comprehensive Nikon Z 180-600 review.

First things first, I bought this lens myself a few months ago and I have to say it has more than surprised me consistently ever since. This lens truly is a remarkable bit of kit which you will see for yourself further down this review as I explain not alone what I love about it but how it completely puzzles me this lens costs so little. Before we get into that though let’s get into my first thoughts…

Nikon Z 180-600 Review First Thoughts.

On opening the box I was quite surprised by the amount of lens you get for the money here and let me just be very clear about this, this is a big lens, but in saying that it’s beautifully made which is one of the first things you will notice about it. It feels like an S-Class lens and not something you should be getting at this price point.

Both the Zoom and focus rings feel beautifully smooth, the switches feel solid just as you would expect from Nikon. The lens body itself has that traditional chunky built like a tank feel to it and overall you would be very easily forgiven for thinking this lens costs twice as much as it does.

You have your focus limiting switch and Auto Manual focus switch on the side of the lens and four  L-fn lens buttons (they can’t be programmed individually).

The zoom ring has a nice width to it so it’s always easy to and everything is just super impressive about the Z180-600 until you get to the lens collar. While there is nothing really wrong with the lens collar, it just doesn’t feel like your traditional Nikon Lens collar but I would prefer Nikon to put the money into the lens rather than the collar so I am not complaining at all.

I immediately started to really like the 180-600 and after months of using it, that feeling has only grown. It is my best value Nikon lens of all time I think purely down to its quality and the sheer volume of lens you get for your money.

This brings us to its size and weight now of course so let’s find out about that next.

I also have my Nikon Z 180-600 Review video below if you would prefer to watch that. I also have a second video further down the page where I look at just how sharp is the 180-600 across its focal range and if there is a sweet spot, so make sure to check that one out also.

z 180-600 Size and weight.

This lens weighs in at 1995g or nearly 2kg which is not light but remember this is a high-quality varifocal lens that reaches all the way up to 600mm so it was never going to be light. With 25 lens elements inside this lens managing to keep it below 2kg in weight is very impressive.

The lens itself balances reasonably well on the camera and while I have used it on both the Nikon Z9 and the Nikon Z8 it does balance better on the Nikon Z9 but it also works well on my Nikon Z8 and surprisingly it doesn’t feel too front heavy.

When it comes to size then it’s not surprising this lens is reasonably big at 315.5mm from the mounting flange to the end of the lens.

For storage though with the lens cap on and the base end cap on you need 336mm of space in total, my storage cabinet (Ikea Kalax unit) is 337mm high so it just fits in there thankfully.

It’s 110mm in diameter then so as you can see it does take up a bit of space, like any longer focal length lens would of course.

In short, this means this is not a lens you just casually throw into your bag, but when you need it you do really need it and boy does it perform.

Build Quality

As I already mentioned above the build quality of this lens is exceptionally good, it’s solid, weather sealed and it just feels chunky, I mean that in more of a built-to-last way. It feels like any other Nikon lens so rest assured you should be very happy with the build quality.

The best part of the 180-600mm lens is that all the focusing and zooming is done internally which is a huge positive. Some larger zoom lenses have external zoom and focusing mechanisms which means the lens stretches as you zoom in and adjust focus, I have found this makes the lens more unstable when you are using it on a tripod as the center of gravity varies dramatically when all that weight moves about so having this internal zooming design makes using the lens a lot easier.

A man pointing at the Nikon Z 180-600mm lens

Price

The Nikon Z 180-600mm F5.6-6.3 lens is currently retailing for around $1,695.- or €2,099.- (Nikon Ireland price) depending on what part of the world you live of course. Which for what you get is a crazy low price and in my mind totally worth it. Incidentally isn’t it crazy how much the price changes between say Ireland and the USA?

You can check the latest price for the Nikon Z180-600mm lens here on Amazon.
These prices were correct at the time of doing this Nikon Z 180-600 review.

Auto Focus Speed

As you can see in the video above the AF speed is surprisingly fast on the 180-600 and I wasn’t expecting it to be that quick. In the test I did I focused on a relatively close object and then focused on the cliff edge which was well over a mile away and the camera jumped between the two very quickly and not only that but it lock on in a very positive manner also.

Now it’s obviously not as fast as a prime lens but it’s no slouch either. Again in the video above I was photographing some wildlife in fairly extreme conditions and I had no serious issue getting in focus shots of birds in flight and that was before Bird AF was available on the Nikon Z8.

Focus breathing for Video use.

Anyone thinking of using the 180-600 for video use again should be very happy with this lens as it again its focus is positive and relatively fast but more importantly there is very little focus breathing as you can again see in the video above. Even when the focus shifts from objects over a mile apart there is only a very slight amount of focus breathing.

How easy is it to the 180-600mm lens?

This lens is very easy to use and what I personally love about this lens is if you lose your subject while you are zoomed in you can really quickly flick the zoom ring back to 180 and find the bird and quickly zoom back in again and get the shot.

Now that in itself is great but my favourite part is the short throw of the zoom ring which means less than a quarter of a turn will take you from 180 to 600mm so it’s super easy and quick to do. I normally just turn my wrist get my subject and flick my wrist back to where I was which takes an instant to do.

Some lenses need you to turn the zoom ring nearly a full turn which means letting go and retwisting the lens to zoom in or out which is a bit of a pain, the short throw ratio on the 180-600 is a real winner here though.

The only slight criticism I would have of this lens is that the lens l-fn functions buttons are just out of reach but hey that’s only a very small complaint and could be a personal thing also.

A seagul with a blurred background shot with the Nikon Z 180-600mm lens

Overall sharpness at different focal lengths

Overall the performance of this lens is very and its sweet spot is from 180 up to 400mm as it seems to be very sharp in around that range. Now just to clarify a prime lens would of course still be sharper and the Nikon Z 100-400mm is also fractionally sharper so that’s something to keep in mind here.

Once you go over 400mm I have found its sharpness ever does drop ever so slightly and you need to stop down the lens another stop to help pull back some of the sharpness, now this lens is still incredible up to 500mm so please don’t get me wrong here and this is all pixel peeping and zooming in at 200% to see these differences.

Once you go over 530 to 550mm I have found it does drop down slightly again and if you watch my video below I compare shots side by side at 500mm and 600mm and you can see the 500mm shot is ever so fractionally sharper. Again this is all pixel peeping at 200% but I do feel at 600mm you can just about see it and this is why so many people say it’s not as good as a prime lens.

Then again the prime lens has no zoom and cost twice the price at least generally speaking so please do remember that. Overall though I have to say what you get this lens is truly incredibly. I would buy it straight away tomorrow morning knowing all this.ave absolutely no regrets in buying it.

My video below shows you exactly how sharp the 180-600mm lens is across its entire focal range and I also look at what Aperture works best for optimal centre and corner sharpness in your photographs. How much vignetting you can expect and if distortion is a problem also.

How sharp is the 180-600 at 600mm?

The answer to that question is very sharp considering everything this lens does it simply shouldn’t be this good.
As I mentioned above if you buy a prime lens yes it will be sharper that’s obvious really but then again a prime lens is firstly going to cost you a lot more money and secondly, you have to zoom with your feet with a prime lens so yes there are pros and cons to both.

Using the 180-600 with a 2x teleconverter

Yes, I used the Nikon Z180-600 with a 2x teleconverter and the results were reasonable considering you have now got a 1,200mm lens in your hand. I have side-by-side shots of the moon below with the 600mm cropped photograph being sharper than the 1200mm teleconverter shot.

While the cropped 600mmm shot is sharper (look at the craters) you have to remember it will also be a lot lower resolution as a result, there is always a trade off in Photography.

You can also see some test chart shots in the video directly above which highlight how well this lens works.

Overall though the lens worked well with the 2x teleconverter but the 1.4x telecoverter would be the better option here if you are going to use it regularly.

Two photographs of the moon both taken with the Nikon Z180-600mm lens with text showing the focal length of each shot

Review Conclusion.

I can’t fault this lens and would buy it again in a heartbeat tomorrow if I didn’t already own it. It’s so incredibly versatile and a pure joy to use, I love the short zoom throw, the weather sealing and of course all the zooming and focusing being done internally.

This lens punches well above its weight and in my eyes, it’s a pure knock-out bit of kit, on a side note if anyone every breaks into your house hit them with this lens, it’s sure to knock them out and you can be nearly guaranteed it will still work afterwards.

If you would like to turbo boost your photography skills today then why not checkout my Photography workshops here.

I also have a lot of Photography tips and tricks here on my Landscape website if you want to check them out.

See you out there,

Kieran.

My in-depth Nikon Z 180-600 Review: Sharpness, Focus etc..

If you are wondering just how good the Nikon Z 180-600mm lens is then you are in exactly the right place, join me as I deep dive into its build quality, performance (over different focal lengths with images), features, sharpness, vignetting, focal range, usability, weight and even more in my comprehensive Nikon Z 180-600 review.

Editor's Rating:
4.8