Hands-On Impressions of the Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 for Wildlife

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Wildlife photographer Steve Perry took the newly-announced Nikon PF 800mm f/6.3 VR S lens for a test drive and has shared his opinions on what to expect from the super-telephoto prime.

Perry was given the opportunity to shoot with a pre-production version of the lens, so there may be some differences between his photos and experiences versus what will be seen with the final production model. Additionally, due to the shore time he had with the lens and because it is not a final release version, he wasn’t able to put it through his normal range of tests. That said, Perry was able to capture a lot of fantastic images and was able to form some preliminary opinions of the new super-telephoto prime.

Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S

Perry says that not only is the lens just as durable as Nikon’s other big prime lenses, he feels that it is even more robust than the 300mm or 500mm PF lenses. There have been some concerns that the relatively affordable pricing of the lens meant that there would be some build quality corner cut, but Perry says he did not notice any of them in his testing.

He adds that the change in the control ring design is an improvement over the previous generations, and found that by placing the programmable control ring in the middle (as opposed to near the base of the lens), he found that it was easier to jump from the function buttons and focus rings and back, which allowed him to keep his focus on his shots.

Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S

Perry also says that he was impressed with the sharpness of the images at slower shutter speeds with VR enabled. Nikon says the new lens comes with 5.5 stops of VR performance when paired with the Z9 and Perry states that normally with a lens of this type, he never shoots below 1/800th as his “keeper rate” falls considerably if he does.

However, the new PF 800mm f/6.3 lens outperformed his expectations and provided him with an impressive amount of sharp and usable images when shooting handheld all the way down to as slow as 1/200 of a second. This “keeper” rate alone was reason enough for Perry to start referring to the lens as a “game-changer” for wildlife photographers.

“I’m tentatively going to say that this is the best stabilization I’ve used with any lens from any brand,” he says.

Perry describes the bokeh and background separation as “almost dreamlike” in its rendering, which he says does a great job of isolating wildlife images and removing distracting elements.

Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S

Perry agrees with Nikon’s design decisions regarding the weight distribution of the lens. He says that the shifted center of balance allows him to rest it in a more comfortable position and resulting in a better hand-held experience. This design allowed him to get into position faster than he could with other lenses and gives him more time to capture fleeting moments that happen so often when trying to capture nature in the wild.

Below are a series of images that Perry captured with the pre-production model of the PF 800mm f/6.3 VR S:

Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S
Captured with a preproduction NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S

For more from Steve Perry, be sure to check out his YouTube Channel and website.


Image credits: Photos by Steve Perry.

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