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Half the size, one quarter the price – the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is announced

A 400mm f/4.5 barely larger than a 70-200mm f/2.8? That's impressive.(Image credit: Nikon)

Teaser videos for the new Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S appeared days ago, but now the embargo has lifted, the news is official and the full details are here. This new 400mm super-telephoto is smaller lighter than the ‘unicorn’ 400mm f/2.8 Nikon announced months ago (which is still on back-order) and it’s WAY cheaper.

‘Cheap’ is relative, of course. The new Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S still weighs in at over $3,000, so it’s outside the reach of all but professional photographers and the most committed amateurs. But that’s still a huge $10,000 less than the huge Nikkor Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S. We were lucky enough to get one of these in for review, but it seems the buying public are a lot less fortunate, as you can’t seem to get them anywhere.

So will Nikon’s new 400mm f/4.5 VR S do instead? It’s not just lighter and cheaper… we’re hoping it’s also going to be more available!

The new Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is massively cheaper, smaller and lighter than the Nikkor Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S, a lens that is still on back-order. (Image credit: Nikon)
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Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S key features

The key point about Nikon’s new 400mm lens is its size and weight. Nikon says it’s designed for “extreme portability”, and comparisons we’ve seen show it’s barely larger than the average 70-200mm f/2.8. The 1,245g weight is less than half that of the Nikkor Z 400mm f/2.8, and the overall length of the new lens is just 234.5mm.

Not only that, Nikon says the weight of this lens is kept close to the camera body to make it easier to track and pan with moving subjects. This lens is image-stabilized too, and Nikon’s optical VR system gives a claimed 5.5-stop advantage – or 6 stops if used with the Nikon Z9’s Synchro VR.

It may be a lot cheaper than the Nikkor Z 400mm f/2.8, but the Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is also an S-Line lens with high-end optical construction. (Image credit: Nikon)
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The Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S does not have an in-built teleconverter (unlike the f/2.8 version), but it is compatible with Nikon's TC-1.4x and TC-2.0x Z teleconverters. (Image credit: Nikon)
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Although the Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is a lot cheaper than the hard-to-get f/2.8 lens, it’s still designed to the highest professional standards as one of Nikon’s top S-line lenses. It uses Super ED, ED and SR glass elements for aberration control, Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coat to control flare and a fluorine front element for easier cleaning.

As well as ‘advanced’ weather sealing, the lens has fully customisable L-Fn buttons, a silent control ring and a memory-set button to save focus distances.

The f/4.5 maximum aperture is a stop-and-a-bit slower than the f/2.8 lens, but with a 400mm focal length it should still give very tight depth of field and great background separation.

Unlike its bigger brother, the Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S does not have an integrated 1.4x teleconverter, but it is compatible with the Nikon Z  TC-1.4x and TC-2.0x Z teleconverters, sold separately, which can extend its focal length to 560mm or 800mm respectively.

Nikon says the size and the weight of the Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S “put it in a class of its own”, and we’re not going to argue. Given the S-line quality but much lower price compared to the monster f/2.8 lens, it’s likely this lens will be in high demand – so let’s hope that doesn’t cause the same supply issues.

The Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S is due to arrive in stores on July 14. Fingers crossed! (Image credit: Nikon)
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Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S price and availability

Nikon says the Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S will go on sale on July 14, at a price of $3,247/£3,299/AU$5,499. If it hits that date and stock is available from the word go, we wonder if a lot pros queuing for the 400mm f/2.8 will cut their losses and buy this instead.

• US: Pre-order the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S at B&H (opens in new tab)
• US:
Pre-order the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S at Adorama (opens in new tab)
• AU:
Pre-order the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S at Ted's Cameras (opens in new tab)

Read more:

Best Nikon Z lenses
Nikkor Z 400mm f/2.8 review
Nikkor Z 100-400mm review

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Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.