I started saving money for a Nikon 600mm F4 about five or six years ago; I don’t remember exactly when. The lens carries a five-figure price tag so I expected to have to save for more than a couple of years, and in fact it took a bit over three years before I was ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. At that point I went to several different web sites and tried to place an order, but everyone had the lens listed as out of stock. I went back a month later and the lens was still out of stock. Two months, same story. Five months… six months… still no stock. I finally gave up and signed up on one site, asking them to notify me when the lens was in stock. (I should point out at this time that the same thing happened when I tried to buy the Nikon 200-400 F4 zoom. When it finally came in I was too late on my order and they had already run out. The next time it came in stock I didn’t wait.)
A few years later I decided that they must have lost my notification subscription so I logged in and tried to subscribe again. They said I was already subscribed so obviously their system was working. That was over a year ago. I tweeted to Nikon asking for details, and they simply said to be patient, that they were working on them. Apparently the front lens takes several months to make because the glass has to cool very, or shall I say extremely, slowly in order to maintain the optical quality.
Finally a few months ago I got an email notification saying that the lens was in stock again. I immediately went to a couple of different sites (including Amazon) and found that at least two of my typical sources for photography equipment both had the lens in stock. The price was basically the same and both offered free shipping so I ordered from Amazon. (Interesting aside: if you spend that much on an order, Amazon assigns an “order concierge” to make sure everything goes well with your order.) Amazon only had 7 of the lenses in stock then, and when I checked today they were down to 5. My lens came in a few days later, and I was able to take it out for some soccer pictures. While this is not intended to be a full review, I can say a couple of things right away.
The lens is heavy. I knew that going in, but seeing it on paper and experiencing it live are two different things.
The lens is fast! Focus is fast, and quiet due to the silent wave motor technology Nikon uses in their advanced lenses.
The lens is sharp. I was able to take pictures half-way across the youth soccer field and still read the lettering on their uniforms when viewed at full size. Here’s a sample image:
The label on the shorts reads ADIDAS and in the full-size image it’s very clear. As I was looking at the picture I also noticed that the fingers on the soccer gloves were already worn down to some degree, and the gloves had not even been used for an entire season yet…
Finally, the lens attracts a lot of attention from other photographers but non-photographers as well.
I am not highly technical when it comes to evaluating lenses, so my reviews are somewhat subjective. I know what I’m looking for, and from there decide if a lens is meeting my requirements. So far this lens is exactly as advertised. I can hardly wait to take it out for some serious wildlife photography.