NIKKOR Z 70-180mm f/2.8: “Light, compact and a great all-rounder”

Ricci Chera Tried and Tested 12 jan. 2024Leestijd: 4 min
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The longest of the new affordable f/2.8 trinity lenses from NIKKOR is small but perfectly formed, says Nikon School’s Ricci Chera

First impressions

The first thing you notice is the size and weight. You’re getting that mid-telephoto package but with greater portability. As great as the NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S is, for some people it’s either too big, too heavy or too expensive. The 70-200mm is also an internal zoom mechanism, so it stays the same length, whereas the 70-180mm is much shorter when collapsed, meaning it’s easier to place in your bag, to store or to take with you. You won’t need a tripod or monopod either. The other big advantage, especially for people coming from a kit lens, which usually has a variable aperture that closes down as you zoom in, is the constant f/2.8 aperture. So whatever length you decide, you still get that great blurry background and shallow depth of field.

Ricci Chera
Natuur en wilde dieren
What’s in my kitbag?
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Best use cases

I shot both wildlife and street and I think this is a really good lens for travelling. If you don’t want to have an all-in-one zoom like the NIKKOR Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR, a great two lens set-up would be the NIKKOR Z 28-75mm f/2.8 and this 70-180mm. Nice and bright with the constant f/2.8 aperture, they will give you huge flexibility whatever you’re shooting.

 

In your local park, the 180mm will get you really close to birds and other animals, but this is a lens that also goes through some of the traditional portrait lengths, too – 85mm, 105mm, 135mm. So it covers a lot of ground in a lens that’s still quite small and compact. If you’re really into portraits, you’re going to get even greater benefits from the f/1.8 prime lenses, but the 70-180mm is a great all-rounder choice.

 

At Nikon School, we get a lot of questions about best lenses for taking pictures of local sports events, kids playing football, doing gymnastics and that sort of thing. The NIKKOR Z 70-180mm f/2.8 is a great choice for that sort of environment, where you’re pretty close to the action.

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Key tips: go in close

The NIKKOR Z 70-180mm f/2.8 can focus quite close up. Even at 180mm, the minimum focus distance is around 85cm, so you can be close to the subject while also zooming in. It’s not a macro lens, but you can get some nice macro-style effects, especially when using a teleconverter.

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Try a teleconverter

This is also the shortest NIKKOR lens that will take a teleconverter, so a 2x teleconverter will take you all the way to 380mm focal length. There’s a payoff in the aperture, which will reduce to f/5.6, but at 360mm that’s not the end of the world and you’ll still get great subject separation. As above, the use of the 2x teleconverter also makes the reproduction ratio of the camera 0.96 which is extremely close to true 1:1 macro.

 

Good things come in threes

Along with the NIKKOR Z 17-28mm f/2.8 and the NIKKOR Z 28-75mm f/2.8, this gives you a ‘trinity’ of lenses that could cover everything you’ll ever want to shoot but at a much more budget-friendly price point than the professional trinity (the NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S and Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S). All the lenses share the same 67mm filter thread too, so no need to buy separate filters for each lens.

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Make autofocus work your way

The autofocus on the NIKKOR Z 70-180mm f/2.8 is lovely and smooth, so great for video work. Plus, there’s a setting on the camera where you can ask it to move the focus either faster or slower, which this lens reacts really well to. So if you want things to either snap to focus or slowly change, depending on how you want to tell your story, that’s the way to do it.

 

Go manual and get creative

Try manual focus, too. The focus ring on the NIKKOR Z 70-180mm f/2.8 has a pretty short ‘throw’ so you only have to move it about a quarter turn to go from 70mm to 180mm (plus the ‘standard’ focal lengths the lens covers are marked on the barrel for ease of use). That means you can get to the focal length you want quickly and not miss a shot. Manual focus is great for video, too, so you can have full control over how the focus changes as you shoot a scene.

Nikon magazine 90-Second NIKKOR, assets for video series.

90-Second NIKKOR: NIKKOR Z 70-180mm f/2.8

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