Nikkor Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR

Having recently added the Nikon Z8 to my camera bag, I’ve made the decision that it’s time to start upgrading my lenses to the Z mount. After the Nikkor Z 24-120mm f4 that came in the Z8 kit, my first addition is the Nikkor Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR.

Why Buy This Lens

When I purchased my Z8, I did so with the 240-120mm f4 lens and the FTZII mount adapter. I fully intended to use my F mount lenses I have been using with my D850 on the Z8. After my first outing shooting motorsport with the Z8, I realised it was going to be a pain. I think the problem stems from the fact I am using a combination of Z-mount and F-mount lenses. If I were using all F-mount or all Z-mount, it wouldn’t be a problem at all.

Let me explain. The problem for me was the constant removing and replacing the FTZ adapter depending on the lens I was using. If I was using all F-mount lenses, the adapter could simply remain on the camera. If I was using all Z-mount lenses, there would be no need for the adapter.

I came to the conclusion that as I’ve already made the transition to a mirrorless body, it follows that I should migrate to native lenses. The technology in the Z8 is so far advanced from the D850, I can’t see me reverting to an SLR. Lens technology has also progressed significantly in the past few years. The new S-Line Z-mount lenses are far superior to the F-mount lenses I currently own and test show them to be much sharper.

What to Upgrade

I’ve purchased a significant number of lenses in my time, some good and some bad. I have a plethora of F-mount FX and DX format lenses. Some I use and some I haven’t used for a long time. Over time, I’ve learned what works for my style of photography and what doesn’t. With my D850, I have reduced the number of lenses I use frequently to just a handful.

  • Nikon 16-35mm f4
  • Nikon 28-300mm f3.5-5.6
  • Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3
  • Sigma 150-600mm f5.6-6.3
  • Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro

I will, over time, upgrade all these lenses to native Z-mount lenses. For now, the decision is which order to upgrade them in. If you read my ramblings frequently, you’ll know my current favourite photography genre is motorsports. My most frequently used lens for motorsports is the Sigma 100-400mm. I find it’s a good combination of reach, weight and balance when coupled with my Z8. It’s also very sharp.

I was all set to place an order for the Nikkor Z 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 to complement my 24-120mm f4 when Nikon announced a new lens.

Nikon Announce the Z 180-600mm

On June 21st 2023, Nikon announced two new lenses. One being the Nikkor Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3. The other was the 70-180mm f2.8. What got my attention was the price of the 180-600mm. While the Nikkor Z 100-400mm lens is £2599, the new 180-600mm was priced at a relatively inexpensive £1799, £800 less.

The eagle eyed among you will notice I also have the Sigma 15-600mm lens in my list of most frequently used DSLR lenses. This is because my most photographed subject after motorsport is wildlife. Although I do also use the 150-600mm for motorsport as well, it just depends how close I can get to the fence.

Given my lack of time out shooting at racetracks recently, and most of my shooting being birds in the garden. I now had a decision to make. I’d get more use out of the 180-600 in the short term, rather than the 100-400. That’s without taking into consideration the cost saving. But I would still want the 100-400 come summertime.

The Waiting Game

I placed a preorder with Wex, quite soon after the announcement. I didn’t know exactly when I would get my hands on the lens but was hoping it would be similar to the lead time of my Z8. It turns out it wasn’t. Nikon failed to anticipate the demand for this lens and the interest generated by the YouTubers that got their hands on the pre-release. The lens got great reviews and a lot of people wanted to get their hands on it.

It took close to two months for the lens to arrive, but I finally have my hands on it. I’ve only had time to do some quick tests in the garden with it, and I am yet to try it out in the field.

First Impressions

This lens will be a replcement for my Sigma 150-600mm, so my impressions are based on a comparison with that lens. The first thing I noticed is the size. I’d done comparisons of the relative dimensions before I purchased it and the difference looked negligible on paper. In reality, it’s quite a bit larger and heavier. The table below show a comparison.

Comparison of the specifications of the Nikon 180-600mm and Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary

One of the reasons for the difference in length is that the Nikon lens is internal zooming. This means it does not extend when zooming out to 600mm. The Sigma lens extends, so it’s more compact when zoomed back to 150mm. The difference in diameter is minor and both lenses take the same 95mm filters.

What I Like about the Nikkor 180-600mm Lens

Overall this lens feels like a quality product, probably in part to it’s weight. I like that this lens does not extend when zooming, it makes it much easier to handle and easier to balance on a gimbal. The lens collar and tripod foot have two strap attatchment points which is a good addition over the Sigma, which has none. I do not use these personally, but I can imagine they are ideal for anyone that uses a strap like the Peak Design sling.

As far as image quality, in the limited testing I’ve done, I would say it’s at least as good as the Sigma, if not slightly better overall throughout the whole zoom range when at it’s widest aperture. Most of the testing I’ve done has been on a gimbal or static, so I can’t speak to the effectiveness of the VR compared to the Sigma.

This lens isn’t one of Nikon’s S line lenses, so doesn’t have the same weather sealing as some of the higher end lenses, but the internal zoom will certainly help in this regard. I would have no worries about taking this out in the same conditions I would use my Sigma lens. As performance goes, I’m surprised this lens hasn’t been given an S designation.

There are plenty of customisable function buttons on the lens body, and when coupled with the Z8 the possibilities for customisation are almost endless. I do find the balance of the lens awkward and sometimes the buttons can be hard to reach however.

What I Don’t Like

I know I’ve only had this lens a short time and am yet to try it out in the field, but at this point there isn’t much I don’t like. I have a few minor niggles with it, but nothing that would put me off recommending it.

The tripod collar leaves a lot to be desired. Firstly you have to almost fully unscrew it in order to rotate the lens in the collar. There is very little in the way of friction to control how easy is it to rotate. It seems it’s either tight, or almost completely undone. The other problem I have with it is that there is no inbuild arca-swiss compatibility, meaning if you want to attach it to a tripod or gimbal, then you also need to add an arca swiss plate to the tripod foot. Why Nikon can’t just manufacture a foot with the appropriate machining is beyond me.

Sample Images from the Nikon 180-600mm

  • Sample image from the Nikkor 180-600mm lens
  • Sample image from the Nikkor 180-600mm lens
  • Sample image from the Nikkor 180-600mm lens


The Nikkor 180-600mm is an upgrade to my Sigma 150-600mm lens, and I’m glad I added it to my kit. It’s a solid lens with a lot of upside and very little downside. It can’t compete with the more expensive zooms or primes, but at a cost of under £2000, it’s a great entry to mid level lens for sport and wildlife.

I hope you found my thoughts useful, if you want to know more about the Nikkor 180-600mm lens, you can check out the product page on the Nikon website. If you’re interested in buying the Lens, there are links to some UK retailers below.

Andy Signature