The story goes that for the first time, I was able to go on a month-long vacation. I still had vacations, but I used to get a maximum of two weeks off. So we decided with a handful of friends to go to Central America, Costa Rica to be exact.
Once these were established, I began to panic because I didn't have a lens with a focal length longer than 200mm. Some friends even encouraged me, I quote from memory: "if you go there without a tele (where there are over 800 species of birds) I will kill you with my bare hands !", this being Doru Panaitescu. And so, as I said, I started the search.
Everyone (reviewers and influencers) is ready to show you either the cheapest products or to promote the most expensive ones, but mid-range products are not talked about as much as they should be, and I think the reason is simple, a good product sells itself!
Same is the case with the lens pictured above... which isn't necessarily cheap, but not obscenely expensive either. It has superior "S" optics, but no gold/yellow ring and no special ARNEO coating which it is rather known in the technical specification papers.
I was tempted by the new Nikon Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR for the price and the 600mm focal length, especially because I had good experiences in the past on the F-mount with the old 200-500mm, only it was new to the market and in the UK (where I live since the pandemic) it was still not in stock. Z 400mm f/2.8 or 600mm f/2.8 are just beautiful dreams but unimaginably expensive. So realistically I kept looking at the Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, this Z 400mm f/4.5 and the older 500mm f/5.6PF, for aperture - price - size/weight - utility.
The prices for the three lenses mentioned are close so I excluded that from the comparisons. For wildlife, I prefer the fixed focal length, so I thought that this 400mm is newer, a bit brighter than the 500mm PF, comparable in size to the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 but lighter by about 200g, so I bought it and well I did!!
I will not go into technical details because you can find these on the website of any photo-video shop, but I will only say what made the difference for me.
It has a maximum aperture of 4.5 which is very good because it handled in low light
Weighs 1.16Kg (without the tripod leg) which makes it easy to handle and carry all day
It's fast, quiet and the image quality is superb
It has stabilization (helps me a lot when shooting in low light)
Cost under £/€/$3000 (as of August 2023)
I use Nikon Z6II but I believe that on Z8 or Z9 the lens shines even more in performance! (although I haven't had a chance to test yet). But the best explanation lies in physical evidence, so see for yourself in the photo gallery!