I just returned from 10 days of photographing in the south Texas bird blinds, and the shooting was so good I took over 30,000 images. Crazy, right? Migrants and colorful nesting birds kept the action going all day long. While I was there I got a note my new Z 800mm F6.3 lens was ready to be shipped, so I had it sent down to the hotel. What better place to try out this new lens than on small perching birds.
When I took the lens out of the case I was in shock. Weighing just over 5 pounds, this lens felt incredibly light. It comes with a nice padded case which is great for carrying the lens through airports. The hood has a simple recessed button that clicks/unclicks the hood in place. I much prefer this design rather than having a knob that sticks out on the lens hood.
My first day with the lens was a true test of how much I was going to use this lens. Since I didn’t have a plate to use on the lens foot, I hand held the lens all day long. The VR stabilization on this lens is fantastic; I was very impressed that I could hold the lens steady at 800mm. The 800mm is well balanced, and honestly, it was very comfortable hand holding it.
The next day I found a plate to attach to the lens, and mounted it on my gimbal head for another day of photographing birds. If you photograph birds you probably wish you could get closer. You don’t want to disturb the bird, but you want to fill most of the frame for a tight shot. The 800mm makes this happen. One challenge I found using the lens was getting my hand to eye coordination on target. You are working with very narrow angle of view, so aiming the lens takes a little practice.
Autofocus was snappy. This lens feels like my 600mm in terms of autofocus speed. I did find it was useful to use the focus limiter switch so the lens wasn’t hunting through a distance range I didn’t need. Also, I set a focus recall distance for about 15 feet (about where the feeders were) so all I had to do to focus was hit one of the buttons on the front of the lens barrel.
Image quality was just incredible. First, sharpness was as good as I have ever seen on any long prime telephoto. Even the micro feathers around songbird eyes were tack sharp…impressive! And bokeh was fantastic. I love how my 600mm F4 can isolate a subject and sandwich it between soft planes of focus. The 800mm at F6.3 does exactly the same thing, maybe even better than the 600mm. This lens is going to be incredible for wildlife.
The price $6500. Not cheap, but not as pricey as many of the big primes. A portrait or travel photographer is probably not going to be interested in this lens. But if you are a wildlife photographer, especially a bird photographer, this is a lens to consider. I wasn’t sure I was going to like shooting at 800mm, but after a few days of bird photography I’m totally hooked. This is one fine piece of glass.