Is a standard 70-300mm not enough reach? The latest pro-level superzoom, the Nikon 180-400mm lens, provides an extra 100mm — and then you can flip a switch to activate a built-in teleconverter for up to 560mm of shooting flexibility. Announced on January 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show — although, not a particularly consumer product — the AF-S Nikkor 180-400mm F/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR is Nikon’s first lens to integrate a teleconverter inside to achieve greater zoom.
Designed for sports and wildlife photographers, the lens uses a constant f/4 aperture. The lens itself covers an 180-400mm range, but a switch on the barrel activates the internal 1.4x teleconverter, which turns the lens into a 252-560mm piece of glass. Nikon says the teleconverter switch is designed to be used with one finger, which allows photographers to adjust the range without taking their eye from the viewfinder.
With fast-paced subjects in mind, Nikon enhanced the autofocus tracking algorithm to keep up with faster subjects, a feature that the company says works best paired with bodies with the 153-point autofocus system like the D5, D500 or D850. A new electromagnetic diaphragm is also designed to enhance the lens’ speed, designed for keeping exposure consistent when using fast burst speeds.
As a high-end telephoto, Nikon also added built-in image stabilization with a rating of up to four stops. Compared to the earlier Nikkor 200-400mm, the 180-400mm doubles the amount of extra low-dispersion elements. This change, Nikon says, is designed for more sharpness and detail to match recent higher resolution and 4K video capabilities in the latest camera bodies.
Big zoom ranges typically mean pretty big lenses, but Nikon made several design decisions focusing on minimizing weight. An updated fluorite element improves balance while decreasing weight while a magnesium alloy construction allows for weather sealing and further weight reductions. The collar — a standard feature on the biggest zooms — has a ball bearing ring so photographers can easily switch back and forth between portrait and landscape orientations. A Nano Crystal coating cuts back on ghosting and flare.
“This lens is a great example of how Nikon continues to push the boundaries of innovation and what’s possible with pro-level optics and high-end imaging equipment,” Nikon’s Director of Marketing and Planning, Kosuke Kawaura said in a release.
Of course, by wrapping up so many high-end features and essentially creating what’s two lenses in one, the 180-400mm doesn’t come cheap. The lens is expected in March with a $12,400 list price.
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